Twiddles, the Mud Puppy (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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Introducing Chapter CCCLXIX of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney, Violet Crepuscular deplores the actions of a Scurveyshire mob bursting into Coldsore Hall in pursuit of Sir Robin Banks, the aristocratic thief. “I deplore the actions of the mob,” she confides in the reader, “but I have no choice but to tell the story as it unfolds.”

Lord Jeremy Coldsore and his boon companion, Willis Twombley, the American adventurer who think he’s Sargon of Akkad, can only stand helplessly by as the mob rampages throughout luxurious, ancient, legendary Coldsore Hall. By and by they grow weary of standing helplessly by, and begin to visit some of the rooms through which the mob has passed. In doing this, they discover Wet Willy, an aged footman who has been secretly living in the hall for decades.

“Didn’t my father dismiss you some thirty years ago?” demands Jeremy.

“He did,” says Willy, “but I could hardly leave poor Twiddles to fend for himself, could I?”

Jeremy recoils in horror from the sight of Twiddles, a large Canadian mud puppy. WordPress recoils in horror from showing a picture of it. Suffice it to say it’s a very large salamander with external gills, red and bushy, and a ferocious temper which moves it to snap viciously at the nearest hand.

“Ain’t he cute?” says Willis.

“You’ve been here–with this… creature–all this time?” marvels Lord Jeremy. “What have you been eating?”

“Mostly Wheaties,” confesses the aged footman. “I sneak into the kitchen in the dead of night and steal them.”

Just then they are interrupted by a lusty roar from the mob: they have captured the aristocratic thief.

Here the chapter breaks, owing to computer problems.

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(Got it in after all–I think.)

The Effects of Eating Food Left Over from the Third Crusade (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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As we plod wearily into Chapter CCCLXVIII of Violet Crepuscular’s epic romance, Oy, Rodney, we discover that Black Rodney, the medieval sorcerer who vexes all of Scurveyshire, has again been up to mischief.

“Dear reader,” Ms. Crepuscular begins, “you have doubtless been wondering how the aristocratic thief, Sir Robin Banks, has managed to subsist on provisions left over from the Third Crusade. Permit me to elucidate.” We love it when she does that.

Most food left over from the Third Crusade, she explains, is no longer edible some 600 years later. But sorcery can make it so–up to a point. “And we all know Black Rodney’s favorite target for his spells and hoodoos is Coldsore Hall.”

Now that he has escaped from the antique cedar chest which only has three sides, and consumed all the antique victuals  that have been stored in that room since before the Magna Carta was written, Sir Robin has begun to have thoughts that should not occur to any aristocratic thief at any time.

“I shall emerge from this, my hiding place,” Sir Robin cogitates, “and proclaim a new Crusade! Iceland must be liberated from the Saracens!” History has never been his strong suit. He is much more well-versed in gluttony and drunkenness.

He slams open the door to his hiding place and races up and down confusing corridors until at least he finds an open-air balcony overlooking Coldsore Hall’s scenic driveway and beautifully manicured front lawn. To his delight, he finds an audience already waiting for him. He does not know they have assembled to demand a lower price of ale at The Lying Tart.

“Friends, Romans, countrymen–lend me your ears!” he bellows. This succeeds in gaining the crowd’s undivided attention. In fact, there happens to be a genuine Roman in the throng, one Massimo Jidrool, who thinks the speech is meant especially for him.

“I have come to proclaim the liberation of Iceland from the Saracens! And I–” here he has just enough sanity left to remember that he is wanted for a whole cornucopia of poorly executed crimes: he needs an alias, big-time–“I, Lord Henry de Swivenham, shall lead you!”

Immediately someone down below shouts, “It’s Sir Robin Banks, the aristocratic thief! Get him!”

With a roar like fifty locomotives giving birth to sixty marching bands, the crowd streams into Coldsore Hall, brandishing pitchforks and torches–

“And here, dear reader, I must break off the chapter,” Ms. Crepuscular writes. “I tried a bowl of Mrs. Skinnard’s Baseball Innards, and it has disagreed with me.”

The Whole Thing Freaks Out (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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This is not Coldsore Hall, but it will have to do.

You will have noticed that there is no picture here. Ms. Crepuscular’s computer doesn’t work either. It must be related to mine.

Anyhow, introducing Chapter CCCLXVII–no, I have no idea what happened to Chapter CCCLXVI–of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney, Violet Crepuscular seems to be as confused as I am.

“What a mess those literary critics made of my front yard!” she writes. “I was all day picking up the stones and brickbats. But if they think they can stop me from producing the rest of my epic romance–well, fap! to them. Literature marches on!”

The chapter opens with Sir Robin Banks, the aristocratic thief, back on his feet in the middle of his hideout in an unused wing of Coldsore Hall. How did he get out of the cedar chest, after he’d locked himself in? “I am not going to write Chapter CCCLXVI all over again,” Ms. Crepuscular declares. “Suffice it to say there was a side missing from the chest. The fifth Earl Coldsore, Lord Pratt, acquired this chest from a shady antiques dealer in Cyprus when he went on the Third Crusade and brought it back to Scurveyshire with him when Richard the Lionheart kicked him out of the army for persistent cowardice. Lord Pratt carried the massive chest all the way across medieval Europe–only to discover, upon his return after an incredibly hazardous Channel crossing, that he had somehow lost one of the chest’s four sides. As a consequence, his health deteriorated. His last act was to stow the chest away in that room that no one ever used.”

Reader Thelma Potstock of Double Trouble, New Jersey, wants to know what Sir Robin has been eating, all this time he’s been hiding out in Coldsore Hall. This is a detail which had never crossed Ms. Crepuscular’s mind.

“The room is stocked with provisions left over from the Third Crusade,” she explains.

That will have to do for now. There is some doubt as to whether this installment of the saga can be successfully posted.

A Visit to Coldsore Hall (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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Introducing Chapter CCCLXII of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney, Violet Crepuscular pauses to inform us that the repairs on Coldsore Hall–new roof, in particular–have been completed.

“As you can see by the picture, dear reader,” she writes, “Coldsore Hall is a very impressive-looking building! Several hundred people could live in it quite comfortably. Indeed, I am afraid there are a number of people living in it that Lord Jeremy doesn’t know are there.”

One of those persons, unbeknownst to Lord Jeremy, is Sir Robin Banks, the aristocratic thief, younger (and disinherited) son of the Earl of Fapley. This is awkward: excited by promises of a fabulous reward, every man, woman, and child in Scurveyshire is looking for Sir Robin, who is suspected of having stolen Lady Margo Cargo’s priceless family jewels and world-famous collection of glass eyes.

But we have been told that only Crusty, Lady Margo’s crusty old butler, knows what really happened to the jewels.

“I will now reveal what Crusty knows,” declares Ms. Crepuscular, and then embarks on a recipe for homemade Twinkies filled with Pepsodent. On we go to Chapter CCCLXIII.

“I do not appreciate the threats made against me,” she writes, “to force me to divulge Crusty’s secret. A reader in Namibia has even threatened to mail me a boomslang if I don’t come across. So here it is! Here’s what happened to the jewels.”

It turns out that Crusty himself has taken all the jewels, plus the box of glass eyes, wrapped them all up in a duffel bag… and concealed them in an unused bedroom inside Coldsore Hall! He does not know that Sir Robin Banks the aristocratic jewel thief is hiding in the unused room across the hall. No one else is using any of the rooms in the hall’s East Wing, because legend has it that a vampire has parked his coffin there.

“Further revelations will be made in the next chapter,” Violet concludes. “If you really just can’t wait, I suggest a cold shower.”

Where’s the Lost City? (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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By now most people in Scurveyshire realize that the only place they haven’t looked for the Lost City of Driphdrash is under Coldsore Hall–a serious problem which very nearly caused author Violet Crepuscular to throw in the towel on her epic romance, Oy, Rodney, somewhere back around Chapter CCCLV. Now we’re on Chapter CCCLVIII, which she introduces thus:

“Welcome, dear reader, to Chapter CCCLVIII of my epic romance novel, Oy, Rodney.” She’s off to a good start, don’t you think? “With the entire shire afire with Driphdrash fever, it looks like Lord Jeremy Coldsore’s ancestral home is about to be torn up by the roots. How can he possibly save it?”

A mob of peasants has camped out on the grounds of the hall, clamoring for it to be pulled down so they can get at the lost city.

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to anyone but the author herself–this is entirely her fault–Britain’s most wanted aristocratic criminal, Sir Robin Banks, has gone into hiding somewhere in Scurveyshire. He is markedly similar to another aristocratic criminal, Raffles the Gentleman Thief, only ignorant, functionally illiterate, slovenly, and really quite ugly by anybody’s standards. Why Scotland Yard can’t catch him is one for Mensa to chew over some dark night when they have nothing else to do.

There is no bank in Scurveyshire, so what can he be plotting to steal? “I know you will be upset to hear this,” writes Ms. Crepuscular, laboring under the delusion that most people like to read Oy, Rodney aloud to their families (“Because I have written it chock-full of otherwise unnoticed moral lessons!”), “but Sir Robin’s target is none other than Lady Margo Cargo–that is, her priceless collection of glass eyes and other family jewels. It gives me the vapors just to think of it.”

It ought to be rather easy to commit a crime in Scurveyshire just now, with practically the entire population demonstrating in front of Coldsore Hall and no one but Constable Chumley to maintain law and order. Wrapping up the chapter, Ms. Crepuscular lets the constable have the last word:

“Rill thee mear no brocken bree! I kinna theer yon yerkin tree!”

Coldsore Hall’s New Roof

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Invoking a little-known law enacted in the year 636 by the Saxon warlord Bobby the Nit, Lord Jeremy Coldsore has drafted Professor Saltinus Facehead’s Egyptian diggers to put a new roof on Coldsore Hall. So begins Chapter CCCXLVI of Violet Crepuscular’s epic romance, Oy, Rodney.

Constable Chumley explains the law to Prof. Facehead.

“In yon fillid wi’ King Bobby,” he says, “we fraith the bowyers aw’ mickle groith.” The professor nods sagely, although the constable’s quaint rural dialect eludes his best efforts to understand what has been said. He replies in archaic Portuguese. It is the constable’s turn to nod sagely.

Although the diggers speak no English, and their Arabic is not that hot, either, they throw themselves enthusiastically into their work and in a mere two days, Coldsore Hall has a new roof. The entire population of Scurveyshire assembles to admire it.

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“It’s a miracle!” gushes Lady Margo Cargo. “I wish they’d do my roof like that!”

But when a moderate breeze springs up, the new roof seems to take wing and fly off toward the sunset. It will take some doing to get it back.

Here Ms. Crepuscular breaks in to report on the status of her Pulitzer Prize nomination, filed by her excitable neighbor, Mr. Pitfall.

“I am afraid Mr. Pitfall made an error and submitted the nomination to something called the Patzer Prize Committee,” she writes. “This group hands out prizes for poorly-played chess games. I cannot explain why they have decided to award a special prize to my epic romance, Oy, Rodney.”

The prize awarded is a rusty wheelbarrow. “I’ll have to find space for it on my mantle, somehow,” Ms. Crepuscular says. “It’s going to change the whole look of my living room. Given Mr. Pitfall’s current state of excitement, I dare do nothing else.”

Here the chapter breaks off for want, she admits, of inspiration.

One of the Skipped Chapters of ‘Oy, Rodney’

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Turn we now unto one of the chapters skipped over by Violet Crepuscular in her mad rush to Chapter CCC of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney. Constable Chumley, with Lord Jeremy Coldsore, the American adventurer Willis Twombley, and Johnno the Merry Minstrel peering over his shoulder, at the start of Chapter CCXCIII, is picking the lock so they can search the attic of Coldsore Hall for the missing Marquess of Grone, Lord Cromleigh or whatever his name is. Sheesh, what a sentence!

“Yeer, us’ll see now,” Chumley mutters, “that’s a fithul bricken yairst…”

Click! The door is unlocked. The constable begins to turn the knob–

“By Jove, the attic’s the only place where we haven’t put in any antimacassars to fend off the spirit of Black Rodney,” Johnno is about to point out. But before he can admonish Chumley to be careful, a tremendous explosion nearly hurls the whole group back down the stairs. “Kaboom!” writes Ms. Crepuscular. “I have always found, in describing an explosion, that ‘Kaboom!’ is preferable to ‘Blasto!’ or ‘Boom!'”

When the smoke clears, the door is hanging from a single hinge and half the roof of Coldsore Hall has been blown off. Lord Jeremy, briefly contemplating the cost of repairing it, faints. Twombley just manages to grab him before he tumbles down the appallingly long flight of stairs.

“We never put any antimacassars in the attic,” Johnno remarks.

“A little late for that, ol’ hoss!” parries Twombley.

The constable’s helmet has disappeared, his uniform is in tatters, his hair disarranged, and his face awash with soot. “He looks rather like Wile E. Coyote after one of those Acme sticks of dynamite blows up in his face,” writes Ms. Crepuscular, in an intimate aside, “but of course I can’t mention that because it would be an anachronism.”

The attic is now in considerable disarray. If the missing peer is there, does he still live?

“I shall divulge that in the next chapter, breaking off here to heighten the suspense,” writes Ms. Crepuscular. She has forgotten that this has already been divulged by her writing Chapter CCC before Chapter CCXCII. So there’s no suspense to speak of.

The 300th Chapter of ‘Oy, Rodney’

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In her epic romance, Oy, Rodney, Violet Crepuscular has skipped from Chapter CCXCI to Chapter CCC. “I crave the reader’s indulgence,” she writes, “and I promise to go back and write those intervening chapters as soon as the police stop coming around here to investigate the toothpaste rolls I made for Mr. Pitfall. It was not my fault he ate too many and is now in intensive care at the hospital. Besides which, Chapter CCC is a milestone which I wanted to reach as soon as possible.” Of course, she could have written it first and saved herself the trouble.

This is how we wind up with half the roof blown off the top of Coldsore Hall, the Marquess of Grone found crouching behind some old steamer trunks in the attic with his hair frozen straight up from his scalp, babbling about the ghost of the medieval sorcerer, Black Rodney, stealing his pocket watch, and a whole mob of Scurveyshire peasants, armed with torches and pitchforks, disappearing under the vicar’s backyard wading pool. We have no idea how any of this happened.

Chapter CCC opens with the marquess in bed and Lady Margo Cargo bending over him with a can of fishing worms. He thinks she’s Queen Victoria, with whom he once played Chutes and Ladders.

“Please, my lord, try to concentrate!” Lady Margo coos. “Tell me what these things are, wriggling around inside this can.”

“I’m sorry, Ma’am, Your Majesty, but I am allergic to frumpweed and I wish you would remove it from under my nose,” whimpers the peer of the realm.

“Is he any better today?” asks Lord Jeremy Coldsore, standing in the doorway and doing his best to strike a dignified pose despite having two left feet.

“Oh, much better!” cries Lady Margo. She and Lord Jeremy cannot get married until the stricken peer recovers. “As you can see, those frozen hairs are falling out and his eyes have stopped rolling. But he’s still confused about certain objects.”

“My aunt is still weeping in the garden.” Lady Petunia, the marquess’ wife, has been weeping steadily ever since a piece of the chimney fell on her. And of course there was that business with the sliding board.

“I showed this chapter to my editor,” Ms. Crepuscular interjects, “and he says it’s the best thing I’ve ever written. He is a great believer in skipping chapters. And now I have to stop because the police are at my door again.”

 

The Wedding’s On Again (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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And so we come at last to Chapter CCXC of Violet Crepuscular’s epic romance, Oy, Rodney. Nothing happened in the preceding two chapters except for the installation of Babylonian antimacassars, imported by the London firm of Dombey & Son, on all the furniture in Coldsore Hall. “I am sorry that took up two whole chapters,” Ms. Crepuscular confides in her readers, “but there’s a lot of furniture in Coldsore Hall and I just couldn’t help it.”

Assured that the antimacassars will keep him safe from the malign spirit of Black Rodney, the medieval sorcerer who has been persecuting him from beyond the garve (who can resist such a typo?), Lord Jeremy has plunged into rescheduling his wedding to Lady Margo Cargo. He hopes his Aunt Petunia and her husband, Lord Gromleigh, Marquess of Grone, will give him a vast amount of money as a wedding present.

“You really must stay for the wedding, Aunt!” he urges her. “You and the marquess will be the guests of honor.”

“But Jeremy, my dear–I don’t know where my husband is!”

This is a difficulty. Lord Gromleigh has a habit of hiding in unusual places so he can jump out at people and scare them.

“Oh, he’s just hiding somewhere, Aunt. He’s sure to turn up.”

“But he’s been gone two days!”

With the help of Johnno the Merry Minstrel, Jeremy’s close friend, the American adventurer Willis Twombley starts a room-to-room search for the missing lord. “I tell ya, Germy ol’ hoss, I don’t like this!” whispers Twombley. “The old coot might of hidden in some place that he can’t get out of. This is a big house with a ton of hiding-places in it. What if he laid hisself down in a cedar chest and then couldn’t get it open? Or maybe he ain’t here at all! He might of run away. You never know what one of them peers o’ the realm might do.”

“I don’t see how we can have the wedding with the Marquess of Grone having misplaced himself somewhere in my house!”

“I remember when this happened at the king of Ugarit’s palace: his brother-in-law, the high something-or-other of Phoenicia, got lost in the palace and they never could find him, not even with fifty or sixty servants lookin’ up and down for him.” Twombley sighs. Believing himself to be Sargon of Akkad, he finds these memories of ancient times to be rather bittersweet. “We’ll keep lookin’, but don’t get your hopes up.”

Here the chapter abruptly breaks off with a barely coherent recipe for toothpaste rolls.

Lord Jeremy Gets a Break (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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In Chapter CCLXXX of Violet Crepuscular’s interminable–er, I mean “epic”–romance, Oy, Rodney, Lord Jeremy Coldsore has an unexpected visitor: his aunt, Lady Petunia, now a marchioness owing to her recent marriage to Ponsonby Lord Gwomleigh, eighth Marquess of Grone. They have invited themselves to spend a fortnight with Jeremy at Coldsore Hall.

Lord Gwomleigh is one of those annoying people who walks into a restaurant for the first time and perplexes the waiter by ordering “the usual.” He also has a rather jarring habit of hiding so that he can jump out at people and scare them: not the sort of thing one expects, normally, from an 86-year-old peer of the realm.

But he is also one of the richest men in England, having cornered the guano concession of Bleary Island, and famous for his liberality.

“This is the best luck I’ve ever had!” Lord Jeremy confides to his friend, the American adventurer Willis Twombley. “I’m Aunt Petunia’s only living kin, she’s always been quite fond of me, and I’m sure she can get the marquess to pay off most of my debt!”

“Are we still gonna marry Lady Margo, then, with you not needin’ her money after all, Germy, ol’ hoss?”

Lord Jeremy jacks himself up to his full height, despite stumbling over his two left feet. “Please, Willis! Do you want me sued for breach of promise? Am I such a cad, to break my engagement as soon as I come into money?”

But immediately there arises, as Ms Crepuscular puts it, “a snag.”

Hiding himself in one of the linen closets, Lord Gwomleigh emerges with an expression of mild disgust.

“I say, Coldsore! There appears to be a dead body in that closet! Rather a nasty odor, that!”

It’s one of the creditors shot by Willis Twombley, the discovery of which might prove to be a sticky wicket. (This is a cricket term. I don’t know what it means.) But Jeremy, thinking quickly on his two left feet, replies: “Oh, that’s just poor old Bango, my father’s favorite footman. His last wish was to be entombed in that particular closet–didn’t want to leave the house, don’t you know. There are plenty of other hiding places available, my lord.”

As the marquess ambles off, grumbling under his breath, Jeremy’s mind races frantically as he tries to remember how many other creditors are concealed on the premises, and where.

“We’ll jist have to dump ’em in the swamp,” says Twombley. “Relax, Germy–we’re practically home free.”