Constable Chumley’s Memoirs (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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Introducing Chapter CCCLXXX of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney, Violet Crepuscular candidly confides in her readers, “Dear Reader, I would not wish you to form the impression that life in Scurveyshire is one of unremitting stress. Normal things happen, too.” She has apparently forgotten the two Scotland Yard detectives who are trying to frame each other for the theft of a locomotive.

One of these soothingly normal things that are happening is, as the chapter’s title might suggest (although you can never be entirely sure about what Ms. Crepuscular’s titles really indicate)–ta-dah! Constable Chumley is writing his memoirs.

Having forgotten how to read and write, he is actually dictating them to the Wise Woman of the Woods, who is now the Wise Woman of Scurveyshire Gaol: she likes it there and refuses to return to the forest.

“Willaday yaither mon greezen hoy, dray boddy, ma’ doon,” he begins. After an hour of listening to this–the Wise Woman peppers the constable with questions about spelling and grammar, which he is not equipped to answer–the prisoner in the adjacent cell goes totally mad and has to be moved to the pet shop. There he encounters Lady Margo Cargo’s crusty old butler, Crusty, who has been sent to buy crayfish food for his mistress’ pet crayfish, Oswin.

“Can’t anyone stop that man from raving?” he inquires testily: for the prisoner is still quite beside himself. The shop owner only shrugs. “It seems Constable Chumley’s discourse is too much for this poor chap,” he says. “Do you want regular Crayfish Chow, or menthol?”

“Menthol,” grumbles Crusty.

“King-size or Economy-size?” This goes on for longer than the chapter lasts.

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

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In Chapter CCCLXXVIII (don’t you just love those Roman numerals? imagine having to use them to do trigonometry) of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney, Violet Crepuscular reveals a revelation.

The vicar has emerged from his conniptions with a new delusion. He now believes himself to be Wally Moon, a 20th century American baseball player who is still many years from being born.

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“I cannot overstate the importance of this!” Ms. Crepuscular remarks in an aside to the reader. “I make this remark in an aside to you, dear reader, because I wish to stress the importance of the name ‘Moon.’ Why the Moon? Why not Mars, or Jupiter, or some other heavenly body? But you will excuse me while I dash into the kitchen to check on my toothpaste tarts.” The next two pages are left blank to represent her absence.

The vicar is confused because he has never heard of baseball; consequently, he does not know what to do. But he does know what he cannot do.

“I am sorry, Lady Margo,” he tells her, “but you are much mistaken in believing me to be your vicar. In identifying myself as Wally Moon, whoever he is, I cannot perform your marriage ceremony.”

He would say more, but at this point Constable Chumley arrests him for impersonating an unborn foreign athlete. Scurveyshire has an ordinance against that, going back to the 13th century. “A’ blithely mack yon frisky glames,” he explains.

With the two Scotland Yard detectives trying to frame each other for the disappearance of the locomotive under the vicar’s backyard wading pool, Lord Jeremy Coldsore feels he can now safely climb down from the tall tree in which he has taken refuge. Imagine his distress when he discovers that he can’t.

“Jist come down the way you went up, ol’ hoss,” advises his bosom friend, the American adventurer Willis Twombley. Here Ms. Crepuscular intervenes again.

“I do not mean to imply that Lord Jeremy has anything that we might properly refer to as a bosom,” she writes. And then: “Oh, no! My tarts are burning!” She rushes off to the kitchen again, leaving the rest of the chapter to the readers’ imaginations.

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.

Enter Sergeant Dottle (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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Introducing Chapter CCCLXXVI of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney, Violet Crepuscular introduces a new character, courtesy of Scotland Yard–Detective Sergeant Elrond Dottle. His presence is necessary because Detective Chief Inspector Chipper Magog, instead of solving the mystery of the stolen locomotive, has fallen passionately in love with a bearded bar maid at The Lying Tart and his let his work slide.

Sgt. Dottle wants DCI Magog’s job and will do anything to get it. Usually what he tries to do is to pin on the DCI whatever crime they happen to be investigating at the time. Sgt. Dottle is an inveterate Clue player, which makes him (compared to some) a formidable detective. DCI Magog despises him and usually tries to frame him for whatever crime they happen to be investigating at the time. Their interpersonal dynamics are the talk of Scotland Yard.

With Lord Jeremy Coldsore refusing to come down from the tree that he has climbed, and taking all his meals up there, Johnno the Merry Minstrel has made an astonishing discovery .

“I say, m’lord!” he shouts from the ground beneath the tree. “It turns out that Black Rodney is not the only medieval sorcerer who’s bedeviling us. There’s another one!”

“Just get rid of that inspector, there’s a good chap!” answers Lord Jeremy from high up the tree. He has heard that DCI Magog plans to interrogate him under torture.

“But m’lord, it’s not just Black Rodney!” cries Johnno. “We have also fallen under a curse by Black Rodney’s long-time competitor, Blue Bodney! And he’s even worse!”

“Oh, bother!” mutters Jeremy.

Here Ms. Crepuscular breaks in with a recipe for toothpaste brownies. “I generally use Pepsodent Super-Whitener for these,” she writes, “but Colgate Xtra-Strength will do as well. I will send a batch to the Pulitzer committee!”

That’s cheating. I think.

Scotland Yard Investigates (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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Somewhere along the plot line, a runaway locomotive was sucked under the wading pool in the vicar’s back yard. It has proved quite difficult to get author Violet Crepuscular to remember this incident, which I believe is pivotal to an understanding of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney. But she returns to it in Chapter CCCLXXV.

All of Scurveyshire is agog (don’t you love that word?) over the arrival of Detective Chief Inspector Frank “Chipper” Magog of Scotland Yard, to investigate the disappearance of the locomotive. After a confidential consultation with Constable Chumley, D.C.I. Magog concludes that Lord Jeremy Coldsore has stolen it.

“What did you tell him that for?” demands Lord Jeremy. “I didn’t steal any perishin’ locomotive!”

The constable shrugs eloquently. “Tis a feerthy croop, m’lord!” he exclaims. “I nippher graned a switter yam,” he adds. (“I was going to say ‘resignedly’,” Violet confides to the reader, “but I decided it made the whole thing sound too much like a Tom Swift episode.”) We are at liberty to wonder just what the inspector thought the constable had told him.

“Chipper” earned his nickname by his willingness to use torture to extract witness testimony, which is why Lord Jeremy has climbed the tallest tree on his estate and refuses to come down. Magog decides to wend his way to The Lying Tart and interrogate the bearded barmaid. We can leave him to it.

“As you can see by this chapter,” writes Ms. Crepuscular, “I do not forget important elements of my story! This is a vile canard put out by those mean-spirited scribblers who are competing with me for a Pulitzer.”

The Quokka U. Film Project

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Lights! Camera! Action!

Byron the Quokka here, with the latest from Quokka University! We’re not open yet, but we’re already dreaming up spectacular academic and cultural triumphs that’ll put us on the map before you can say “Abombalbap!” Actually, I’ve heard some people have a lot of trouble just saying that at all…

But hark! Introducing the Quokka University Film Project! Yes, we will create and release an extraordinary feature film, just as soon as we can raise the money for it. We know you’ll all want to contribute, once you hear what the movie’s going to be about. May we have a trumpet fanfare, please?

Introducing [da-tada-da!]… from Quokka U. Studios…

Oy, Rodney: The Catastrophe. Starring a lot of quokkas, koalas, and wallabies! Mel Gibson wanted to direct it, but we’re going for “the Outback Hitchcock,” who needs no introduction so I won’t give him one.

We wanted Rachel Ward to play Lady Margo Cargo, but she ran away. No problem–Rottnest Island’s full of quokkas who can act the hind leg off a donkey.

We realize we have a lot of big old established universities as our competition, and they’ll do just about anything to stay on top. Well, let ’em try! If we can’t do better than Stanford or some other place like that, we don’t deserve to have a university.

Willis Twombley and the Trojan War (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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To denote the passage of a week in her story, Violet Crepuscular has refrained for a week from writing the next chapter of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney. As a result, she has forgotten the number of the chapter. Her best guess is Chapter CCCLXXIV.

During the week, Willis Twombley, the American adventurer who thinks he’s Sargon of Akkad, has hardly spoken two words. His best friend, Lord Jeremy Coldsore, has begun to worry about him.

“Everything all right, old boy?” Jeremy asks. “You’ve been awfully quiet lately. You’re not worried about the chapter number being wrong, are you?”

“Nah, Germy ol’ hoss, it ain’t that,” drawls Twombley. “It’s this here Trojan War that’s shapin’ up on the horizon. Gonna be a bad one; and the Trojans are allies of mine, so I really ought to do something to help ’em. But I don’t know what. My intelligence has been kinda confused, this past week.” (You can say that again.)

“Uh… Twombley, old son…” Jeremy hems and haws, but finally gets it out, “I hate to be the one to break it to you, but that Trojan War–well, they’ve already had it, haven’t they? And Troy lost. The Greeks burned it to the ground.”

Twombley stares incredulously. “You don’t say!” he cries. “You’re just funnin’ with me, ain’t you?”

“Sorry, old stick, but the war’s over and you’ve missed it. In fact, it happened several thousand years ago.”

“But it waren’t in the newspapers! Holy mackerel! Troy is burned down?” A stream of lurid and objectionable language ensues. Twombley lets out a deep breath, draws his six-gun to make sure it’s loaded, and declares, “Well, it looks like it’s time I shipped the Akkadian army off to Greece and gave them Greeks what for! Damn! I knew that weasel Agamemnon shouldn’t of been trusted! Wait’ll I get my hands on him.”

“His wife and her lover murdered him, old chap,” says Jeremy. Twombley needs some time to take this in.

“Dadburn it,” he said, “it’s this life of exile that I’m livin’, it makes me miss important things. If I was back on my throne in Akkad, this never would of happened! This adventurin’ life, it ain’t proper for a king. But I can’t give it up! I wouldn’t be on that throne for five minutes before one o’ them Babylonian hit squads found me. Look what they did to Julius Caesar! And I told him to watch out for it, too. If he’d listened to me, he’d still be in the saddle.”

Here the chapter ends. It had to end somewhere.

A Traumatic Experience (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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In Chapter CCCLXXI of Violet Crepuscular’s epic romance, Oy, Rodney, the wedding of Lady Margo Cargo and Lord Jeremy Coldsore is off again: the vicar is having a very bad bout of conniptions. But these, we learn, are special conniptions, unrelated to the strange events around the vicar’s backyard wading pool.

“He gets these around this time every year,” says the vicar’s housekeeper, Mrs. Whatsername. “Twenty-seven years ago, he was a young missionary in the Fistula Islands, with a tiny little church in Port Zitzmann. He taught the natives to wear trousers–although to this day they insist on wearing them backwards.”

“What’s so terrible about that?” wonders Jeremy.

“He was at Port Zitzmann when the giant prawns attacked it. He’s never been the same since. When he remembers this traumatic experience, he simply goes to pieces.”

Lord Jeremy nods understandingly. “Bad show, that–I remember reading about it in Sir Ranulph Frump’s Magazine for Precocious Boys. How long do these conniptions last?”

“It depends on how recently I’ve served him prawns for dinner,” explains the housekeeper. “I keep forgetting not to do that.”

Here Ms. Crepuscular breaks into the narrative to relate a fascinating detail of her personal life. “Most of you, dear readers, don’t know this,” she writes, “but when I was 12 years old, I met Hopalong Cassidy–the man himself!–at our local Woolworth’s store. He predicted I would marry a man who owns an alligator farm. I’m still waiting for that prediction to come true!”

While we’re still trying to figure out why she has shared that with us, the chapter comes to an end with a runaway locomotive being pulled under the wading pool, never to be seen again.

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.