Scurveyshire’s Reddle Craze

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Introducing Chapter CCCXCIII (Chapter CCCXCII seemed to be missing) of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney, Violet Crepuscular writes, “Olaf Skraeling’s diabolical plan to win the hand of Lady Margo Cargo by disguising himself as a reddleman has worked too well! All of Scurveyshire has gone absolutely mad for reddle-ing (or should it be ‘reddling’?), and he suddenly has so much business that he has no time to woo the rich widow!”

She takes the opportunity to soliloquize about the pitfalls of crime, adding certain lewd comments about her neighbor, Mr. Pitfall. We will spare the reader. Feel free to tear out those two dozen pages.

Suddenly everyone in Scurveyshire wants everything reddled–doors and windows, dogs, children, tools, underclothes… “They’ve all gone mad!” cries Lord Jeremy Coldsore. They have even reddled the bearded barmaid at The Lying Tart. Desperate to curb the craze, Lord Jeremy summons Constable Chumley and orders him to arrest the reddleman.

“Withy me aw’ yon firthin mizzle, m’lord,” demurs the constable. His keen police instincts aroused, he already knows the reddleman is none other than Mr. Skraeling, and therefor that worst of all malefactors–a fraudulent reddleman.

“Just do it!” sighs Lord Jeremy.

As for Lady Margo, now that her upholstered wooden leg has been duly reddled, she has attempted to play hop-scotch with some of the reddled children. Hopping awkwardly from one box to the next, her glass eye falls out and shatters on the slate. The children, horrified, run away screaming.

“I must now interject my recipe for cat-food turnovers with a dab of toothpaste on the crust,” Violet interjects. It plays hob with the novel’s continuity.

Enter the Reddle Man! (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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Well, she did warn us that Olaf Skraeling is an unsuccessful forger. His forged letter to Lady Margo Cargo, intended to break up her impending marriage (it’s been impending for a long time!) to Lord Jeremy Coldsore has been exposed as a fraud–by a seven-year-old child, no less!

But you can’t keep a bad man down: such is the message of Chapter CCCXCI of Violet Crepuscular’s epic romance, Oy, Rodney.

With his letter to Lady Margo exposed as yet another clumsy forgery, Mr. Skraeling has gone undercover, disguised as a reddle man.

“I know, dear readers,” writes Violet, “that the only way most of you will know what a reddle man is is if you had to read The Return of the Native in high school and for some reason remember it. I thought it was going to be a Tarzan book, myself. But it does feature a character who is by trade a reddle man!” She goes on and on without remembering to tell us what a reddle man is. My best guess is that it’s a man who reddles.

In this diabolically clever disguise, alleged Welshman Olaf Skraeling sets about wooing Lady Margo and stealing her affections. His first step is to offer to reddle her upholstered wooden leg. “No one in London, Milady, would be caught dead with a wooden leg that isn’t reddled!” he declares. “I can do it for you in a single day–as a tribute to your beauty.” Lady Margo, I regret to say, is a sucker for that kind of talk.

“What can I do?” wails Lord Jeremy. “How can I compete with anything so exotic as a reddle man?”

“Chin up, Germy!” says his boon companion, the American adventurer Willis Twombley. Lady Margo still thinks he and Lord Jeremy are the same person. “Why, even a blind man could see that that there reddle man isn’t the real McCoy, but only that varmint Skraeling in disguise. You better let me shoot him. We can dump the body under the vicar’s backyard wading pool.”

“And have Scotland Yard detectives back here quicker than boiled asparagus?” cries Jeremy. “No thanks! No, old chap, we need a plan more subtle than that. We have to expose the reddle man as a fake. Now then, how do we do that?”

“In the next chapter,” Violet promises her readers, “I’ll explain exactly how to go about exposing a fraudulent reddle man. I am sure some of you will find it useful!”

Mr. Skraeling’s Revenge (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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You would think, with the curse of the Bug-Men lifted and nothing left to do but round up the sated chameleons who feasted on the Bug-Men until none were left in Scurveyshire, that all was well and nothing remains but to get Lord Jeremy Coldsore and Lady Margo Cargo married. If only life were that simple.

For Olaf Skraeling, the owner of all those chameleons, double-crossed in his plan to marry Lady Margo himself, has vowed revenge. Introducing Chapter CCCXC (the Roman numerals are getting tricky) of her interminable–sorry, I mean “epic”!–romance, Oy, Rodney, Violet Crepuscular writes, “Olaf Skraeling is a Welshman, dear readers, and all Welshmen are able to do black magic–or at least know someone else who can. Scurveyshire knows Mr. Skraeling as an impoverished and unsuccessful forger, but he is much more than that! He is also a master of deceit.”

On this ominous note, we join Mr. Skraeling as he forges a letter to Lady Margo that’s supposed to be from Lord Jeremy. It reads thus:

“Dear Lady Margo Cargo, Its me Lord Jerramy and this is to tell you that i dont whish to marry you anymore! So you better marry Mr. Olaff Skraeling insted, he is a very nice man! Yours truely Lord Jerramy Coldsore (not a nice man!).”

The crusty old butler, Crusty, hands the letter to Lady Margo on a silver platter.

Upon reading it, she sighs, “How romantic!”

“Eh?” marvels Crusty. “Why, the man’s a total blackguard! You should sue him for breach of promise.”

“You have no romance in your soul, Crusty!”

“And you’re a daft old trout,” rejoins the butler.

“I wonder what’s happened to Jeremy’s handwriting,” Lady Margo muses. “It’s totally changed, I’d never think it was his, except he’s signed it, hasn’t he? Even his signature is totally different.”

“I’m sure he was drunk when he wrote it,” says Crusty.

Ms. Crepuscular closes the chapter: “Will this devious ploy succeed? Will Olaf Skraeling win the hand of the richest widow in Scurveyshire? Will he resort to black magic? The next chapter will tell all!”

Promises, promises…

Lord Jeremy’s Conflict (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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“In Chapter CCCLXXXVIII, we left Lord Jeremy Coldsore confronted with an inner conflict,” writes Violet Crepuscular, introducing Chapter CCCLXXXIX of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney. “With all of Scurveyshire now infested with Bug-Men, does he meet Olaf Skraeling’s diabolical price for releasing his chameleons to eat the Bug-Men, and give him the hand of Lady Margo Cargo in marriage; or does he carry through his plan to marry Lady Margo himself, so that her vast wealth will serve to pay off his myriad creditors and leave him very much in the clover?” Never mind the dilemma: who ever heard of such a sentence?

Lady Margo does not want to marry Mr. Olaf Skraeling.

“I could never marry a Frenchman!” she declares.

“He’s Welsh,” answers Jeremy.

“Foreigners are all the same,” intones Lady Margo.

“He won’t release the chameleons unless you marry him!” cries Jeremy. “It’s the only way to save Scurveyshire!”

“It’ll be a Prussian or a Serbian next,” grumbles Lady Margo. “I thought you loved me, Willis!” She can’t tell the difference between Lord Jeremy and the American adventurer, Willis Twombley.

This conversation goes on for quite a while with nothing being resolved. “Lord Jeremy cannot decide whether to save himself or to save all Scurveyshire,” writes Ms. Crepuscular. “What would you do in his place, dear reader?”

Before the reader can answer, Constable Chumley, thoroughly misunderstanding his instructions, lets himself into Mr. Skraeling’s palatial hovel and releases the chameleons, who have a field day gulping down Bug-Men. The crafty Welshman is considerably upset by this. Meanwhile the Bug-Men flee back to wherever they came from: they just can’t stand chameleons.

“You have cheated me, Lord Jeremy!” growls Skraeling. “But I have powerful friends in high places, and your days are numbered!” He has grown a mustache for the occasion, which he now fingers in a sinister manner, anticipating a gesture made famous by silent movie villains.

The chapter closes with Ms. Crepuscular’s recipe for toothpaste dumplings.

 

How to Get Rid of Bug-Men (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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The problem, as elucidated by Violet Crepuscular in Chapter CCCLXXXVIII of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney (we do not know what happened to Chapter CCCLXXXVII), is how to get rid of the Bug-Men now infesting Scurveyshire. Johnno the Merry Minstrel has been researching it, and thinks he has a solution.

“The bad news is, we’ve got Bug-Men,” he explains to Lord Jeremy Coldsore, justice of the peace. “The good news is that chameleons have an insatiable appetite for Bug-Men. More bad news: chameleons don’t live in Scurveyshire or anywhere else in England. But the best news–” here he smirks charmingly–“is, I know someone right here in town who raises chameleons! He has dozens of them.”

“Well, then!” exults Lord Jeremy. “What are we waiting for?”

“The bad news,” says Johnno, “is… he’s Welsh!”

“So?”

“So Welsh people are notoriously averse to parting with their chameleons!”

“I don’t believe it,” cries Lord Jeremy. “We don’t have any Welsh people in Scurveyshire! Lord Frump chased them all out, after the Wars of the Roses.”

“That’s where you’re wrong, my lord! We have Mr. Olaf Skraeling, the noted forger–and he has a ton of chameleons.”

“Olaf Skraeling is Welsh?” Lord Jeremy is incredulous.

“You could look it up,” says Johnno.

The two of them make a beeline for Mr. Skraeling’s palatial hovel, which they find overrun with chameleons. Here is a picture of one. His name is Ariobarzanes.

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At first they find it very difficult to persuade Mr. Skraeling to unleash his chameleons on the Bug-Men. We are cautioned not to imagine that he keeps all of these little lizards on leashes. “I am averse to parting with my chameleons,” he declares.

“But they’ll eat the Bug-Men!” exclaims Lord Jeremy. “And then you can have them back.”

“Only for a price,” says Mr. Skraeling. Lord Jeremy suspects he’s not really Welsh. It is traditionally an ancient Viking ruse to pretend to be Welsh. But Jeremy, desperate for a solution, replies, “Name your price, and we’ll pay it!”

“My price is this,” proclaims the uncrowned Chameleon King of England: “the hand of Lady Margo Cargo in marriage!”

Ms. Crepuscular draws the chapter’s curtain on this dreadful news.

We Have Hired an Academic Superstar!

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G’day! Byron the Quokka here–patting myself on the back because Quokka University is almost ready to open and I have been instrumental in hiring an academic superstar to jazz up our faculty.

Eat your heart out, Oxford! Cry me a river, Harvard! There’s only one Professor Helmut Shimble, and we’ve got him!

But it wasn’t easy: we can’t afford the kind of salary Prof. Shimble’s used to, so we had to make it up to him in perks. That made for delicate negotiations! To name just a few of those perks:

*The cafeteria has to serve him anything he wants, whenever he wants it.

*He doesn’t have to share his canvas shelter with anyone.

*Everyone will have to read his book, Advanced Principles of Subaqueous Cleftonics, and say they liked it.

*The university will not be informed of the content of his classes.

*No one is allowed in his classroom while he’s teaching. That includes students. He finds students a distraction.

Talk about prestige! This is one of the top ten most famous university professors in the world–almost as famous as that other guy somewhere, I forget his name, he’s on Youtube or something. But the mere presence of Professor Helmut Shimble on campus has instantly elevated Quokka U. to the highest rank of higher education. Three cheers for us!

 

The Vicar’s New Conniptions (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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“I have not forgotten my promise to explain what’s so bad about Bug-Men,” writes Violet Crepuscular, introducing Chapter CCCLXXXVI of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney. “But first we must consider the vicar’s new conniptions.”

The vicar no longer thinks he’s Wally Moon, an American baseball player from the future. That delusion vanished when he discovered a particularly noisome Bug-Man perched atop his plate of falafel. This has plunged him into a whole new set of conniptions. Once again, he is not able to perform the long-awaited marriage of Lord Jeremy Coldsore and Lady Margo Cargo. He is too busy doing head-stands and singing lurid Estonian folk songs.

“Maybe we should find another vicar to marry us,” suggests Lord Jeremy.

“I don’t want us to be married to a vicar,” Lady Margo objects. It takes some time to patch up this failure to communicate. Lady Margo’s crusty old butler, Crusty, subtly implies that “Maybe two people who only confuse each other shouldn’t be married in the first place.”

“I’m not speaking to you, Crusty!”

“You just did, you daft old trout.”

This conversation might have continued for hours, but for a flood of letters from exasperated readers demanding to know what’s so bad about Bug-Men. We deem it unnecessary to provide yet another picture of a Bug-Man. Ms. Crepuscular has no choice but to keep her promise.

“These unnatural little creatures,” she explains, “carry nameless diseases which make lumbago or psoriasis seem like a walk in the park, albeit not a very nice park. They also spread baseless rumors that can start deadly feuds. This is not to be taken lightly!”

Bug-Men can only be brought onto the scene by medieval sorcerers casting evil spells on a community. Once established, they’re very hard to get rid of. They know this, and it makes them cocky.

Johnno the Merry Minstrel is investigating the problem. “Chameleons eat them,” he reports. “They’re scared to death of chameleons. You’d be, too, if you were only the size of a Bug-Man.”

At this point Ms. Crepuscular concludes the chapter: it’s time for her to watch re-runs of The Gong Show.

Bug-Men of Scurveyshire (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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“One of the sure signs that a medieval sorcerer is at work in your community is the presence of Bug-Men,” writes Violet Crepuscular, introducing Chapter CCCLXXXV of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney. “But this is only because after five or six hundred years, a sorcerer’s incantations get a little rusty and tiny errors slip into the formula. This is what attracts the Bug-Men.” Here she obliges us with an image of a Bug-Man (in case you missed it last night).

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Several of these have been spotted at The Lying Tart, causing the patrons to forget their feud over Go-Gro vs. Slo-Gro crayfish food. Several patrons have suffered conniptions. For analysis of this sudden crisis, Lord Jeremy Coldsore, justice of the peace, turns to Johnno the Merry Minstrel.

“It’s a very bad sign,” says Johnno. “But wouldn’t you know it? Black Rodney looks into his crystal ball for another curse to put on Scurveyshire, and the only movie he sees is The Fly–which has a kind of Bug-Man in it.”

“What’s a movie?” wonders Jeremy. Movies have not yet been invented, Ms. Crepuscular reminds us.

“A hundred years from now,” Johnno explains, “sorcerers will produce moving pictures and use them to captivate the public. We know that from Black Rodney’s notes which are preserved in the Scurveyshire Museum of Dreadful Things. The Bug-Men come from movies.”

Here Ms. Crepuscular pauses to defend her use of a blatant anachronism.

“This is not the first time beings from the 20th century have invaded the 19th,” she informs the reader. “In Pskov, Russia, in 1843, a chess player named Marty Cheesecloth amazed Russian chess masters with an opening move that none of them had ever seen before. That’s because Marty was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1956. The czar had him discreetly put away before he could make trouble. And need I add that Pskov was harassed by Bug-Men for several years afterward?”

“So what’s so bad about these Bug-Men?” asks the American adventurer, Willis Twombley. “You can take care of them with a fly swatter. Just don’t listen when they cry ‘Help me, help me!’ Heck, I remember a king of Assyria who used to collect ’em.”

But we will have to wait for the next chapter to find out what’s so bad about Bug-Men.

Bug-Man Sighted!

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Well, I’ve run out of time for putting up posts. That means I can’t show you this genuine, authenticated photo of a Bug-Man.

Sorry. But I have been trying to steer clear of the nooze this weekend, provide a chuckle or two if I can, and a bit of rest for our minds.

Who is the Bug-Man? (It isn’t you!) I know that face from somewhere…

By Request: 3 Duffers in a Rowboat

(My friend Susan has requested “silly stuff” to break the monotony of silly politics. The French police have obliged her.)

I had a friend who was guaranteed to fall into the water every time we went boating. He never failed to fall in. And it always surprised him.

But he had nothing on these three French cops trying to do a bit of flood control in this little plastic boat more suitable to two kids in a swimming pool. Hint: If you’re using shovels instead of oars, you’re doing it wrong.

Inspector Clouseau couldn’t have made a better mess of it.