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.

Rodney Repeals the Law of Gravity (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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I could hardly wait to read this chapter; but as usual, Violet Crepuscular’s literary genius has thrown us a curve ball.

“Dear Reader,” she introduces Chapter CCCLXIII of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney, “I simply must share with you my romantic evening with my neighbor, Mr. Pitfall, who has quite forgiven me that episode of inadvertent but well-nigh fatal poisoning. In short, we had a date!”

I don’t see how it could have been much of a date. Mr. Pitfall insisted on dinner at their local Alternative Foods restaurant–“Their termite puffs are out of this world!” exults Ms. Crepuscular–but when he discovered they had only curbside takeout service, she writes, “That lovable Pitfall temper flared up again and he began pounding on the door, demanding to be let in for a proper sit-down dinner. One thing led to another, until finally the romantic silly man was dragged off by police. I might have been arrested, too, had not my lively writer’s imagination inspired me to pretend I was the mayor.” Way to go–why didn’t I think of that?

And so, with the chapter already more than halfway over, we come to the wicked medieval sorcerer, Black Rodney, cursing all of Scurveyshire by repealing the law of gravity.

You might have expected that all the shire’s people, animals, and buildings would float straight up until they left the earth behind and were lost in outer space. That is what usually happens when you repeal the law of gravity. “Imagine the sorcerer’s surprise and disappointment,” writes Ms. Crepuscular, “when nothing happened! It seems this is one of those spells that must be regularly practiced in order to get it right. So this time its only effect was to grow rather unsightly beards on The Lying Tart’s bar maids–and one of them already had a beard, so so what? A most discouraging failure for Black Rodney!”

So what about the aristocratic thief, Sir Robin Banks, hiding out in an uninhabited wing of Coldsore Hall, just across the hall from the room where Crusty the crusty butler has hidden Lady Margo Cargo’s priceless glass eyes and family jewels?

“I will take up those matters,” Ms. Crepuscular promises, “after I find some way to raise bail for Mr. Pitfall. He gets so downhearted when he’s in that holding cell!”

 

Constable Chumley Speaks English (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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We’ve been trying to discover why a policeman with an angry parent in tow knocked on Ms. Violet Crepuscular’s door last week–something to do with handing out toothpaste cookies for Trick or Treat, we suspect. But she has been uncharacteristically mum about it, saying only that “No sacrifice is too great, or too small, to make for good dental hygiene.”

In Chapter CCCXXVIII of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney, we learn that Constable Chumley has been busy rounding up everyone in Scurveyshire who looks like an emoji, in case one of them turns out to be Sir Dorphin Magma, the ace cricketeer who disappeared 20 years ago and may be descended from the evil medieval sorcerer, Black Rodney. Here are some of the suspects.  Image result for images of emojis The jail–er, gaol–is getting a bit crowded.

“Can’t you find a roomier gaol in which to put them?” demands Lord Jeremy Coldsore. “They have a nice one in Plaguesby, maybe they’ll let us use it.”

The constable looks him in the eye and replies, as clear as a bell, “To climb the tree is enough, though the bough makes me cough.”

Lord Jeremy is astonished. “You finally speak a sentence in some comprehensible form of English,” he cries, “and this is it?”

“Feraeth, m’lord, whae bonnith yar grith,” the constable replies, reverting to his quaint rural dialect. It appears his supply of plain English has been exhausted.

Lord Jeremy is growing more and more desperate to marry Lady Margo Cargo, the richest widow in Scurveyshire, to confound his creditors and save Coldsore Hall, which still needs a new roof. Lady Margo is currently in bed with a bad cold, contracted by wandering around in the rain all night clad only in her undies–a sight which, regrettably, has caused a relapse of the vicar’s conniptions. Worse, a violent sneeze has sent her glass eye flying off to some unexplored region of her bedroom. “I can’t marry anyone until I get my eye back,” she declares. Lord Jeremy has searched all around the room for it but hasn’t found it yet.

“And here,” writes Ms. Crepuscular, “I will break off the chapter in order to heighten the suspense. Really, one can hardly expect Lady Margo to appear for her wedding with an eye missing and the vicar spouting panicked gibberish.”

 

Portrait of a Sorcerer (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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In a digression leading, somehow, into Chapter CCCXXVI of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney, Violet Crepuscular describes her Halloween. “Let me first digress on the subject of Halloween night in my neighborhood, dear readers,” she writes. “The children in this part of town all have bad teeth. This is why I hand out toothpaste sandwiches to all the trick-or-treaters. I think this is also why they festooned my trees and shrubbery with toilet paper. It seems no one here is devoted to good dental health.”

But to return to the story–

As slovenly Scurveyshire workmen haphazardly labor to replace the roof of Coldsore Hall, two of them tear away the wallpaper in the attic, revealing, to their terrified amazement, a portrait of Black Rodney, the medieval sorcerer whose curse haunts the hall today. “We are able to reproduce this picture, which was painted during the lifetime of its subject,” Ms Crepuscular writes, “and here it is.” See the source image

Summoned to the attic to see it, Lord Jeremy Coldsore is taken aback by the portrait’s astonishing resemblance to the legendary cricketeer, Sir Dorphin Magma, whose bat is enshrined in the Scurveyshire Museum of Cricket Bats. “It was always easy to pick him out of a crowd,” Jeremy confides in the workmen. “And to think he was my boyhood hero!” He turns to his friend, the American adventurer Willis Twombley. “Send for the constable!” he says. “I want Sir Dorphin arrested immediately!” Only then does he discover that the immortal batsman emigrated to Central Asia some twenty years ago and hasn’t been heard from since.

Constable Chumley elucidates, if that’s the word for it: “Yen sorthy mannikin mote a sweeth back when, I’ll frithit.” Jeremy sighs. “That does leave us in a bind,” he admits.

“I think he must of come back, ol’ hoss, in secret-like, and is hidin’ out somewheres in this here vicinity,” says Twombley. “All we gotta do is find him and shoot him. How’s about I round up a posse?”

“With that sallow complexion of his, he shouldn’t be hard to find,” says Jeremy. “We’ll get to the bottom of this mystery yet!”

Here the chapter ends with a police officer knocking on Ms. Crepuscular’s door, accompanied by an angry parent.