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.

Yet Another Obstacle to Wedded Bliss (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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In Chapter CCCLXXVII of Violet Crepuscular’s epic romance, Oy, Rodney, Lady Margo Cargo’s crusty old butler, Crusty, has come up with another obstacle to her marriage to Lord Jeremy Coldsore, whom she thinks is the same person as Willis Twombley, the American adventurer who think he’s Sargon of Akkad. Crusty himself wishes to marry Scurveyshire’s richest widow, so he has to prevent her marriage to Lord Jeremy.

“Bad news, m’lady!” he announces. “I have done genealogical research that shows that you are Lord Coldsore’s cousin. And we all know that cousins shouldn’t marry!”

“Oh, fie, Crusty! Don’t be ridiculous!” Lady Margo replies. “Everybody is somebody’s cousin! If cousins can’t marry, then nobody will be able to get married and the human species will die out.”

“He is your cousin, m’lady.”

“It would be remarkable indeed if he were nobody’s cousin, Crusty!” She sighs: her upholstered wooden leg is fiendishly itchy today. “You’re making me tired. Go to the pet shop and buy some crayfish food for my pet crayfish.” (It appears Ms. Crepuscular has forgotten the crayfish’s name. So have I.)

Meanwhile, as Detective Chief Inspector Magog and Detective Sergeant Dottle work feverishly to frame each other for stealing the locomotive that was, in fact, swallowed by the wading pool in the vicar’s back yard, Jeremy has authorized Scurveyshire’s own Constable Chumley to launch an independent investigation of the incident. “I shall expect your report tomorrow,” he adds.

“Yoiks an’ frather, m’lord–a wee saithit morkin’ a wally!” says the constable. What he means is that he does not know how to read or write, having forgotten everything he ever knew about it. Nevertheless, the investigation must go forward.

“As you can see, dear reader,” interjects Ms. Crepuscular, “this is a deeply subcutaneous societal problem which has no easy solution.” We cannot tell which particular problem she is talking about.

Lady Margo Doesn’t Die (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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Introducing Chapter CCCLXXI of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney, Violet Crepuscular takes aim at her printer, a man named Baskett.

“Everybody in the world thinks he or she can write an epic romance!” she declares. “That includes one Hieronymus Baskett of Popeye’s Print Shop.

“As I wrote the chapter, Lady Margo Cargo dies from a placebo overdose that dissolves her coccyx. This is the sort of thing that tinges a romance with bittersweet realism–kind of like one of those good old Hallmark TV specials in which a lovable, plucky celebrity dies of an incurable disease. You’d think this would have given me a crack at a Pulitzer, but no! Mr. I-Know-All-About-Literature Baskett refused to print the chapter unless I spared Lady Margo’s life. He actually accused me of murder!”

And so in Take Two of Chapter CCCLXXI, Lady Margo does not die, but enjoys a complete recovery from her psychosomatic, subcutaneous (Violet’s word, not mine) affliction and Dr. Fanabla receives a medal from the Queen. Lady Margo’s fiances, Lord Jeremy Coldsore and his friend, the American adventurer Willis Twombley, are quite pleased. Now the wedding can go forward as planned.

“If that’s the kind of syrupy pap the readers want, so be it,” writes Ms. Crepuscular. “I had hopes of turning this into one of those dark and serious Russian novels, but couldn’t get past the obstacle of Popeye’s Print Shop. I even had a Count Kissoff ready to step into the plot as a man who wants to buy Coldsore Hall and turn it into an anarchists’ club. Alas! It seems everyone’s allowed to write Serious Mainstream Literature but me.”

We shall see if Oy, Rodney can continue in spite of this setback.

 

Lady Margo’s Affliction (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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Now that our internet problems seem to have been fixed, Violet Crepuscular can introduce Chapter CCCLXX of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney.

“With all the excitement over the capture of Sir Robin Banks, the aristocratic thief, dear reader,” she writes, “it would be easy to overlook another kind of excitement at Lady Margo Cargo’s luxurious country house. We join her and Dr. Fanabla as the doctor concludes his examination.”

“There’s nothing wrong with you,” says the doctor. The crusty old butler, Crusty, chimes in: “Nothing wrong with her that a new head couldn’t cure!”

“You’re testing for the wrong ailments,” declares Lady Margo. “I shouldn’t have to tell a doctor what’s wrong we me, but here it seems I do. I have a severe case of bryophobia!”

The doctor is nonplussed. “Fear of… moss?” he wonders.

“An inordinate, passionate, crippling fear of moss!” cries the patient. Behind her, Crusty makes a face indicative of mockery, and also a well-known gesture expressing doubt as to his employer’s sanity.

“Have you seen the north side of my house, doctor?” she exclaims. “It’s moss everywhere you look! And on the trees, and in the cracks along the sidewalk, too! Thick, green, awful moss! How am I supposed to even contemplate marriage, with moss just lurking everywhere?”

The doctor attempts to change the subject. “Have you decided which one you’re going to marry–Lord Jeremy or the American adventurer, Willis Twombley, who thinks he’s Sargon of Akkad?”

“They’re the same person, doctor!” Now it’s the doctor’s turn to make that well-known gesture.

“You might as well put her down, doctor,” says Crusty. “She’s as crazy as a bedbug.” “I think we have them, too!” Lady Margo mutters.

“How about I prescribe for you a nice placebo?” asks the doctor.

But Lady Margo is allergic to placebos.

Here the chapter ends, to heighten the already well-nigh unbearable suspense.

Lady Margo’s Grandmother’s Glass Eye (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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Chapter CCCLXIII of Violet Crepuscular’s epic romance, Oy, Rodney, ended with Lady Margo Cargo averse to having her wedding without being able to wear her grandmother’s glass eye, which her crusty old butler, Crusty, has hidden in an unused wing of Coldsore Hall, along with all the other glass eyes and Lady Margo’s jewels. Ms. Crepuscular introduces Chapter CCCLXIV with a selection of fan mail.

“Reader Smokey Burgess, of Fishbowl, Alabama, writes: ‘What’s so special about Lady Margo Cargo’s grandmother’s glass eye? I always say if you’ve seen one glass eye, you’ve seen ’em all.’  And from Mrs. Ellen Melon of Sons of Hercules Township, Michigan, we have, ‘I wore the wrong glass eye for my wedding, and it was the ruin of everything!’

“Well, dear reader, now you can understand Lady Margo’s dilemma! Who wants to risk the ruin of everything?”

Ms. Crepuscular admits that she has been “inundated” with reader mail throughout the week, “not counting those nasty letters from people who tell me I should just stop writing and go soak my head,” she adds. “There are many schools of thought on choosing a glass eye for a wedding, each school bitterly opposed to all the others. I had no idea!”

Meanwhile the aristocratic thief, Sir Robin Banks, hiding out in Coldsore Hall, has begun to wonder if there’s anything worth stealing in this ancient, opulent country house: maybe he ought to peek into some of the other rooms. Comments Ms. Crepuscular, “I think you will agree that this heightens the suspense to a nearly unbearable degree! I had to drink a whole bottle of rum before I could get to sleep last night. Yo-ho-ho indeed!”

Maybe that’s why she has not yet written Chapter CCCLXIV, except for the parts we have already considered here. It has not been much of a performance.

Let’s Have the Wedding Anyhow! (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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Introducing Chapter CCCLXIII of her epic romance novel, Oy, Rodney, Violet Crepuscular praises her protagonist, Lord Jeremy Coldsore, for taking the bull by the horns. “It’s really the only thing you can do when you’re on the horns of a dilemma!” she confides in her readers. And P.S.–Mr. Pitfall is out of jail because no one remembered to lock the door.

In taking the bull by the horns, Lord Jeremy exhorts his fiancee, Lady Margo Cargo, “Let’s have our wedding anyhow! The vicar is free of conniptions, the roof of Coldsore Hall has been repaired, and why should we wait any longer?”

“But I had my heart set on wearing my grandmother’s glass eye and my mother’s pearls, and they’ve been stolen!” wails Lady Margo. She is not aware that her crusty old butler, Crusty, has hidden the jewels and the priceless collection of glass eyes in an unused wing of Coldsore Hall. He has forgotten why he did that. Nor is anyone aware that the aristocratic thief, Sir Robin Banks, is hiding out in the room across the hall from where the jewels are hidden.

“Oh, bother your grandma’s glass eye!” ejaculates Jeremy. “The eye you’re wearing now is perfectly suitable to the occasion. In fact, I rather like it!”

“Oh, Willis, you say the most romantic things!” Lady Margo cannot distinguish between Lord Jeremy and his close friend, the American adventurer Willis Twombley, who thinks he is Sargon of Akkad.

The next two pages of the chapter are blank: Ms. Crepuscular has left them blank to reflect Lady Margo’s indecision. The third and last page features Violet’s own recipe for a six-tiered wedding cake with assorted toothpaste icings. As for Lady Margo, “You can’t rush these things,” writes Violet. “Many a wedding has been ruined by the bride wearing the wrong glass eye for the occasion and being consumed with self-doubt forever afterward.” Apparently this has happened in her family, but not in anyone else’s. Not that I know of, anyway.

 

Can They Get Rid of the Ghost? (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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Economic ruin threatens Scurveyshire! The Lying Tart is haunted!

Violet Crepuscular introduces Chapter CCCXLIX (aren’t Roman numerals cool? We ought to have more of them) of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney: “Dear readers, allow me to introduce Chapter CCCXLIX of my epic romance, Oy, Rodney.

“It has been insinuated by certain lewd persons that I do not know what to do about the White Lady of The Lying Tart. Nothing could be farther from the truth! As a matter of fact, my old next-door neighbor, old Mrs. Pettifog, had a ghost in her house for years. It used to summon unwanted taxicabs to her house. But when she finally turned to me, I was able to send the ghost packing by offering it a dish of my famous toothpaste wontons, also known as Wanton Wontons. So let’s have no more of this loose talk! I am perfectly capable of dealing with a ghost.”

In making this defense, she has lost the thread of the chapter and is unable to get back on track until Chapter CCCLII.

It seems the Wise Woman of the Gaol, who used to be the Wise Woman of the Woods, has gotten rid of the ghost by offering it toothpaste wontons. Not only has the ghost flown the coop, but the landlord at The Lying Tart has now added a popular side dish to his menu.

But none of this seems to advance the efforts of Lord Jeremy Coldsore and Lady Margo Cargo, the richest widow in Scurveyshire (for those reader who have forgotten who she is), to finalize their marriage with a wedding. Meanwhile, the Wise Woman of the Gaol has been released from gaol (they insist on spelling “jail” as “gaol”–Ms Crepuscular is an Oscar Wilde fan, it seems) and is now The Wise Woman of The Lying Tart, and in great demand as a fortune-teller and a source of marital counseling.

And here the chapter comes crashing to an end. No one knows why.