Revenge of the Lake Smelts! (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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Lady Margo Cargo’s upholstered wooden leg seems to have a life of its own! (How’s that for a lead sentence? Nobody does it like Violet Crepuscular.)

In Chapter CDXIV of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney, Ms. Crepuscular returns to the apocalyptic roller derby match pitting the visiting Ulan Bator Lake Smelts vs. the team from neighboring Plaguesby. Just as the game was getting to the point where none of the spectators would admit to ever having been in Plaguesby, or having any family there, or even knowing where it is, Lady Margo Cargo’s upholstered wooden legs goes flying out into the middle of the rink, instantly become a serious and even deadly hazard.

The Lake Smelts’ star jammer, Minnie Chukutai, is injured; well, rather badly injured, actually; in fact, killed outright. This inspires the Plaguesby squad to score a point while Ulan Bator reels in shocked disbelief.

“Please, dear reader,” inserts Ms. Crepuscular, totally destroying the flow of the narrative, “don’t take this to mean the city of Ulan Bator itself, halfway around the world and oblivious to events in Scurveyshire, has reeled in shocked disbelief. It’s only the surviving Lake Smelts. I almost forgot to mention that their Number Two veeble, Penny Subhoshmakov, has also come to an untimely end, having tripped over Lady Margo’s upholstered wooden leg while skating at some 60 mph.”

Meanwhile, to the horror of her crusty old butler, Crusty, Lady Margo has begun to crawl out onto the rink in an attempt to recover her upholstered wooden leg. This is just as the captain of the Lake Smelts, Miss Cindy Spatzinagatai, raises her several brawny arms and vows vengeance on all of Scurveyshire.

With a chill cry reminiscent of the days of Genghis Khan, the enraged Lake Smelts swarm over the rail…

“‘Tis maith yon abblemart fusstick, m’lord,” observes Constable Chumley. One cannot but agree.

‘Roller Derby Apocalypse’ Continued (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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Introducing the second half of Chapter CDXIII of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney, Violet Crepuscular picks up where she left off after her neighbor, Mr. Pitfall, went to pieces in her living room.

“Dear reader,” she writes, “I think I’ve picked up all the bits of Mr. Pitfall and joined them back together. He looks a little crooked now, but he’s mostly all there again. And now turn we unto Scurveyshire’s roller derby showdown between the Ulan Bator Lake Smelts and the What’s-their-names from Plaguesby!”

With the entire population of the shire gathered around the roller derby rink, this was Tom the Pict’s chance to drive all the English and all the Scots out of Britain and restore it to the Picts, wherever they are. But alas! Tom the Pict has overslept.

His pet snail, Rupert, gestures with his antennae: “You’ve blown it, old sport–missed your chance. It’s too late now, the match has already started.” We are not at liberty to describe Tom’s reaction to this news.

Back at the rink, the Lake Smelts are making mincemeat of the Plaguesby squad. This does not go down well with the spectators. “I could shoot two or three of those Smelt gals,” offers the American adventurer, Willis Twombley. “No one will notice, with all this noise.” But as justice of the peace, Lord Jeremy Coldsore cannot countenance this tactic.

Lady Margo Cargo, overcome with excitement, removes her upholstered wooden leg to flourish it over her head as an encouragement to the Whatevers. But she loses her grip and her leg goes flying into the middle of the rink, causing a massive pileup of skaters and any number of horrific injuries.

“In the next chapter,” Ms. Crepuscular promises, “we shall see whether Lady Margo can get her leg back. It looks like this match is about to get ugly!

“And there’s Mr. Pitfall’s nose under the TV cabinet! Excuse me while I go and return it to him.”

The Invention of Breakfast Cereal (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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When we last saw Lady Margo Cargo, in Chapter CDIV of Violet Crepuscular’s epic romance, Oy, Rodney, she was dowsing perilously close to the vicar’s fatal wading pool. Her crusty old butler, Crusty, is obstreporating every time he has to stop to dig a hole. But in Chapter CDV, they turn up a prehistoric treasure!

Just three bone-breaking feet below the surface, they find a metal plate inscribed with mystic runes. It looks sort of like this:

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“Oh, Crusty!” Lady Margo evaporates. I am not at all sure about her use of that word, but she’s the author. “This is a runic inscription produced by a shaman of the ancient Celtic tribe, the Iguanodon People, unless I am very much mistaken!” (“You probably are, you daft old bint,” grumbles Crusty.) “It must have been buried here sometime around 537 B.C.”

“It’s junk,” opines Crusty.

“Nonsense!” quips Lady Margo. “Can’t you read it? Didn’t they teach you anything in school?”

Easily translating the mystic runes, Lady Margo discovers that the inscription is a recipe for what we would now, in the 21st century, call Store Brand Corn Flakes. “All we have to do,” she says, “is build a factory and start producing these. They’ll sell like hot cakes! The most feverish imagination will hardly suffice to calculate the profits!”

But this is how they get out of venturing close enough to the wading pool to get sucked under. They rush back to Cargo Hall to clean the plate and summon Lady Margo’s solicitor, a man who was once a trapeze artist but had to quit because he kept falling off the trapeze.

“Little do they know,” Ms. Crepuscular writes, “that Lady Margo has mis-translated what is actually a dreadful curse on anyone who removes this object from its burial place. The Iguanodon People are not extinct for nothing!

“And now I shall break for breakfast! It so happens I have a box of corn flakes, along with plenty of mint-flavored toothpaste with which to sweeten them. An experienced romance writer,” she adds, “is always on the lookout for real-life details to plug into her story!”

That’s just what makes her book so wonderful.

A Lovers’ Quarrel (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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Introducing Chapter DCII of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney, Violet Crepuscular writes, “We are still waiting for the wedding of Lord Jeremy Coldsore to Scurveyshire’s richest widow, Lady Margo Cargo. Because she can’t tell the two of them apart, some of the wooing must be done by Lord Jeremy’s boon companion, Willis Twombley, the American adventurer who think he’s Sargon of Akkad. We join Willis and Lady Margo under a romantic grape arbor full of bees.”

“Once we’re married,” Lady Margo asks, “will I be Queen of Akkad? I mean, I’m still trying to find the place, it’s not on any of my maps.”

“Well, sweetness, there must be somethin’ wrong with them maps,” said Willis. “Heck, it’s right next door to Babylon and then some–it’s kind of an umpire.”

“An umpire? You mean like in a cricket match? Surely you should have said ’empire.'”

This rubs Willis the wrong way. “Umpire, empire, what’s the difference? You ain’t gonna turn into one o’ them know-it-all womenfolks who’s always correctin’ her husband, are you? I won’t stand for that!”

Lady Margo removes her upholstered wooden leg and uses it to knock Willis off his stool. “And I can’t stand an ignorant boor, Jeremy Coldsore!” she expostulates. (“I love that word!” declares Violet.)

“I oughta shoot you right now!” erupts Willis. “Erupts”? We are getting stylish here!

“Oh, go shoot yourself, you swaggering lout!” revolves Lady Margo. (This is getting out of hand.) “And as far as I’m concerned, our marriage is off, off, off! You’ll be smirking out of the other side of your face when you see me marry that nice Mr. Twombley!”

“That’s me, you numbskull! Jeremy’s the other one!” expectorates Mr. Twombley.

And so on. The marriage is now in critical danger. Lord Jeremy is not pleased.

“You had to threaten to shoot her, didn’t you?” growls Jeremy. “You know she hates that!”

“Well, old hoss, she got my dander up!” Mr. Twombley pauses to adjust his monocle (which Ms. Crepuscular has not mentioned up till now).

“And here, dear reader, I will break the chapter to heighten the suspense,” adds Violet. “Besides which, too much passion gives me the vapors. I must have a cup of fish-flavored tea.”

The ‘Oy, Rodney’ Cover

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Ms. Violet Crepuscular has taken time out from grinding out chapters of her epic romance novel, Oy, Rodney, to say a few words about that Lord of the Tube Socks cover that she’s been using for… well, years now.

“I chose it originally, dear reader, because the couple featured on the cover were an exact match for how I imagine my two principal characters, Lord Jeremy Coldsore and Lady Margo Cargo,” Violet writes. “Some readers have complained. Tish-tush to them! There are only a few trifling differences between my characters and the cover picture.

“For one thing, Lord Jeremy now has two left feet. This militates against his agility as a ballroom dancer. Other than that, the picture is an exact duplicate.

“The real Lady Margo, it must be admitted, is some thirty years older than the lass on the book cover–with an upholstered wooden leg, a glass eye, and a wig that sometimes is hard to keep straight. She is also missing the hand that was chewed off by a goat, years ago. But aside from these petty details, the cover character looks just like her, pretty much.”

At this point she is interrupted: Dr. Fantod, the life-coaching jumping spider from Rotnest Island, has absent-mindedly wandered into Oy Rodney, intending to provide good advice to whoever needs it. Violet is terrified of spiders and can’t control herself, and Dr. Fantod is lucky to escape uninjured as she flails at him wildly with a rolled-up newspaper. We are not told which newspaper.

Ms Crepuscular objects. “I will not have spiders creeping into my novel from some wretched little island in Australia!” she writes. But it appears she has altogether lost her train of thought. This is a grievous loss to her readers.

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

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[Editor’s Note: I had a thought in the middle of the night. It struck me that I have created several repeating characters for this blog–Byron the Quokka and Dr. Fantod, the life-coaching spider; Joe Collidge; and the whole crowd that inhabits Scurveyshire. What if I were to put them all into one novel? What kind of book would that be?]

Introducing Chapter CCCXCIV of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney, Violet Crepuscular has suddenly realized that Scurveyshire’s current craze for reddling–reddle-ing?–has gotten out of hand. “Dear reader,” she writes, “it appears that Scurveyshire’s current craze for reddling has gotten completely out of hand. Finding myself unable to deal with it artistically, I have decided to bring it to an end.”

It won’t be easy. Olaf Skraeling, posing as a reddleman in a bid to win the hand of Scurveyshire’s rich widow, Lady Margo Cargo, has created a demand that he cannot fulfill. For one thing, he’s out of reddle and doesn’t know where to get more. For another, Lady Margo blames him for her glass eye falling out while playing hopscotch. “Here’s where it gets tricky,” Ms. Crepuscular warns the reader.

You guessed it–one step too close to the fateful wading pool in the vicar’s back yard, and Mr. Skraeling, reddled clothes and all, gets sucked right under! Shloopf! That fatal sound is the last thing Olaf hears.

“Who’s going to pay for my glass eye?” demands Lady Margo. “I thought it was so romantic, the way he reddled my upholstered wooden leg–and now he’s gone!”

Constable Chumley has already stepped in to take care of Mr. Skraeling’s menagerie of chameleons, which creates a suspicion that he somehow maneuvered Olaf into the wading pool’s clutches. The constable refutes the charge: “A’ niffer blayed yon burzey wout a mair windring!” he declares.

Ms. Crepuscular goes on to object strenuously to any proposal to blend marsupials or daft college students into her romance. “It would ruin the whole thing!” she exclaims passionately.

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.

 

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.