Another Curse on Scurveyshire! (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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Introducing Chapter CDVIII of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney, Violet Crepuscular writes, “Nothing happened in the preceding three chapters, so I have left them out. If you want them, please send a self-addressed stamped envelope and a check for $340.99.”

And so, in Chapter CDVIII, with Lady Margo Cargo still under the impression that the plate of ancient runes she found with her metal detector is a prehistoric recipe for Store Brand Corn Flakes, and trying to make them in her lavishly-appointed kitchen, we have an entirely different translation by Johnno the Merry Minstrel–one which reveals that a terrible curse will fall on all of Scurveyshire if anyone digs up the plate and removes it from the ground.

The very day that Lady Margo brought the plate home, a man named Scupper twisted his ankle trying to roller-skate down the sloping roof of his cottage.

“It begins!” says Johnno.

Meanwhile the corn flakes are not going at all well, which is only to be expected, given that Lady Margo’s translation is 100 percent wrong.

“Some of these ingredients seem altogether ridiculous,” she complains to her crusty old butler, Crusty. “Earth from the grave of of a shogun, for instance–they don’t have it in the store! I don’t think we’ve ever had a shogun in Scurveyshire.”

“When I was a boy,” says Crusty, “we had a neighbor who said he was a shogun. He could never find a job.”

Johnno warns Lord Jeremy Coldsore that everyone in Scurveyshire is now at risk. Lord Jeremy feels somewhat put-upon. “What am I supposed to do about it?” he cries. Johnno’s eloquent shrug is worth a thousand words (“None of them printable!” Violet adds).

Here we break the chapter because of exciting news.

“Roller derby is coming to Scurveyshire!” Ms Crepuscular exults. What with television not having been invented yet, it’s truly a red-letter day.


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.

The Lovers’ Quarrel, and the Art of Dowsing

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Introducing Chapter CDIV (what happened to CDIII?) of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney, Violet Crepuscular cites a fan letter she has received from Geoffrey the Dowser, of Ginseng Corners, Australia.

“Dear Mrs. Cripustuler,” he writes, “I have been reading your epic romance novel Oy Rodney for sevrul years and I could not help notcing youve got nothing in it about the ancient and Romantic art of dowsing. Please correct this, or i will stop reading!!”

In a confidential aside to the reader, Ms. Crepuscular rises to the challenge. “It’s as if Geoffrey has read my mind!” she ululates. “I can think of no better way to resolve a lovers’ quarrel than for the offending lover to appease the injured party by presenting her with an Acme Official Dowsing Kit! I had a lovers’ quarrel once, some 30 years ago, and when my boyfriend gave me a dowsing kit, I was off to the races!”

She has quite forgotten that today is Valentine’s Day. Oh, well.

With his author’s example to inspire him, Lord Jeremy has bought Lady Margo Cargo a fully-equipped dowsing kit, complete with Y-shaped willow dowsing rod and an instruction pamphlet.

“Oh, Jeremy!” she gushes. “I’m going to go out right away and find underground water, oil, treasure, and gold!”

Neither of them has thought of what perils might accrue to anyone dowsing in the vicinity of the vicar’s backyard wading pool: follow the flexing dowsing rod to an indescribably horrible doom.

Lady Margo’s crusty old butler, Crusty, has to accompany her with pick and shovel to dig wherever the dowsing rod points to. It has put him in a bad mood. Neither of them notices that the rod’s gyrations are leading them closer and closer to the fateful wading pool–which, when last heard of, sucked down a locomotive and several cars full of passengers.

“And here,” writes Violet, “in the interests of suspense, I must break the chapter. Think of it, dear reader! Will Margo and Crusty be sucked down under the wading pool? Or will they first uncover buried treasure–perhaps a hoard of gold coins deposited by a prehistoric king?” What this really means is that she doesn’t know what happens next.

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.”

Violet Crepuscular’s Fan Mail (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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Introducing Chapter CDI of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney, Violet Crepuscular takes a break from the plot and inserts extractions from some of her fan mail. She is hampered in this exercise by an inability to read. Otherwise she would never have let some of these letters see the light of day.

“It’s not that I can’t read at all,” she hastens to explain. “It’s just that I can’t read stuff that people write.” We are glad she’s cleared that up. “Fan mail,” she adds, “proves that you’ve got readers.”

From Cindy Indy, Rawalpindi: “Dear Ms. Crepuscular, your novel proves to be an effective decay-preventive dentifrice when used in a program of conscientious oral hygiene and regular professional care.”

Ozzie Spore, New York: “Your book is the only thing that keeps me living.”

Ms. June Spumoni, Bad Axe, Michigan: “My pet emu bit and kicked me after I lined his cage with pages from your wretched novel.”

Tom Popocatepetl, Jurassic Park, Hawaii: “How do you spell your name?”

“I have taken some flak for the elegant way in which I got rid of the monsters that had overrun Scurveyshire,” Ms. Crepuscular confides in her readers. She has run out of fan mail and needs to fill the rest of the chapter somehow. Harking back to her days in grade school, she writes in longhand, 100 times, “I must not waste paper.”

The Man With the Coccyx (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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Another milestone: Chapter CD of Violet Crepuscular’s epic romance, Oy, Rodney! It isn’t every book that can boast 400 chapters. Even if some of them are devoid of content.

“The reader will remember,” writes Ms. Crepuscular, “how, in Chapter 399, with Scurveyshire overrun each night by indescribably horrible monsters, the Wise Woman of the Gaol advised Lord Jeremy Coldsore to beware of a man with a deformed coccyx who is carrying a single sandal; and that as soon as he saw such a man, he was immediately to ask him a certain question, the answer to which would instantly send all the monsters back to where they came from.” And how’s that for a sentence?

Lord Jeremy’s boon companion, the American adventurer Willis Twombley–who lately has had doubts as to whether he really is Sargon of Akkad–doesn’t think much of the Wise Woman’s oracle. “It ain’t no more sense than a white pine dog with a poplar tail!” he fumes. [Author’s note: “Mr. Twombley originated this bon mot, which Edgar Rice Burroughs was to use with such telling effect in his literary classic, Savage Pellucidar.”] He is about to shoot her when Constable Chumley shambles into the gaol accompanied by a man with a deformed coccyx, carrying a single sandal, whom he has arrested for strolling down Main Street with no pants on. “Tha wicken yon forthy, M’lord,” he explains.

Lord Jeremy cannot help blurting out, “Where are your pants, man?” Followed instantaneously by the thought, “Oh, fap! That can’t be the question I was supposed to ask him! I’ve made a hash of it, by Jove!”

Ah! But that was the question! There will be no monsters on the streets of Scurveyshire tonight!

In an aside to the reader, Ms. Crepuscular writes, “As you can see, dear reader, sometimes the solutions to the thorniest problems are astoundingly simple! I thought it best to mention this in an aside to the reader.”

The man in question, blithely unaware that he has saved the town from being wiped off the earth by monsters, merely shrugs his shoulders, replying, “I am sorry, my lord, but my coccyx is in such a state that it tears apart any trousers that I try to wear.”

And here we have a chapter break: Ms. Crepuscular must clear some space on her mantlepiece for a Pulitzer Prize.


‘Oy, Rodney’ Triumphs, Wins Pulitzer

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I have to admit this headline is something less than honest. I’m afraid I got carried away by the readership’s enthusiastic support for Violet Crepuscular’s literary endeavors. The only reader who struck a sour note was some literary critic from The Philadelphia Carp who said all copies of her book should be gathered up and burned, and the ashes scattered in outer space. But who listens to literary critics?

So we are free to return to Ms. Crepuscular’s epic romance, Oy, Rodney, Chapter CCCLXXXXIX.

Scurveyshire is overrun with monsters, the result of Constable Chumley inadvertently reciting a very difficult incantation, and people are blaming Lord Jeremy Coldsore for it. Actually it’s Violet’s fault, but they are in no mood to listen to reason. Despairing of help from any other quarter, Jeremy consults with the Wise Woman of the Gaol. He is accompanied by the American adventurer, Willis Twombley, who has spent all his adult life thinking he’s Sargon of Akkad but lately has begun to feel some faint twinges of doubt.

In an intimate aside to the reader, Ms. Crepuscular writes, “I do not mean to imply that Mr. Twombley isn’t Sargon of Akkad, nor have I ever stated that he really is. I ask you, dear reader, to keep an open mind.”

Meanwhile, Lord Jeremy receives an oracle from the Wise Woman of the Gaol:

“Beware of a man with a deformed coccyx, carrying a single sandal.”

“How’s he gonna carry a sandal with his coccyx?” demands Twombley.

“When you see him,” intones the Wise Woman, “you must immediately go up to him and ask him a certain question. And when he answers, the monsters will be whisked back to where they came from.”

“And what is the question?” cries Lord Jeremy.

Looking very wise indeed, the Wise Woman lowers her voice and says, “I don’t know!”

We will have to wait for the next chapter to find out whether Willis Twombley shoots her.

[Editor’s note: We can’t find the traditional Oy, Rodney cover. For the time being, we have made do with a picture of a katydid.]

The Future of ‘Oy, Rodney’

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I don’t know about you, but I need a break from the nooze. That last post had me talking to myself. And besides, there’s another very important matter that needs seeing to.

For the past 16 years (well, it feels like 16 years, I haven’t got the energy to go back and check) I have been presenting chapters of Violet Crepuscular’s epic romance, Oy, Rodney. I have ignored critics who say Ms. Crepuscular should be confined at the Chateau D’If and her manuscripts burned. Besides, I’d feel kind of silly if she won the Pulitzer Prize just days after I discontinued her.

Anyhow, there’s a very sharp division of opinion and people are gearing up as Roman soldiers and fighting over it. Just like in the picture. Somebody’s gonna get hurt if this continues.

So far Ms. Crepuscular has written 399 chapters and has yet to get to the point. It seems, well, heartless to cut her off after all that. And I would not like to encounter her number one fan, Mr. Pitfall, on a dark night. Not with my knee as dodgy as it is.

One consideration here, at least to me, is to celebrate a novelist who has established herself as a master of saying nothing. I think I would like to do a crossword puzzle now.


Scurveyshire Overrun by Monsters! (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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Is it possible that Violet Crepuscular’s epic romance, Oy, Rodney, is crashing to an end? And after only 398 chapters, no less!

Introducing Chapter CCCXCIX–and we are unsure whether she will finish it–Ms. Crepuscular admits that Scurveyshire is now overrun with hideous, horrible monsters and if everybody gets eaten–or absorbed by giant amoebas–there won’t be anything to write about.

“Well, dear reader, I promised you nonstop action and well-nigh unendurable suspense!” she writes. “It is as if I were writing in letters of fire!” We will not go that far.

The latest casualty for Scurveyshire is the bearded barmaid at The Lying Tart, lassoed and devoured by a micro-organism grown to the size of a stagecoach when she goes outside to water down a keg of ale. A nearby pond has always served that purpose.

At his wits’ end, Lord Jeremy Coldsore appeals directly to Ms. Crepuscular.

“You wrote us into this mess,” he cries, “and now you’d jolly well better write us out of it!” This is what comes of fooling around with magical camping lanterns bought on eBay. It could be worse. They had a dybbuk box for sale, too. As one prospective buyer noted, “I want the paranormal in my home!” He should move to Scurveyshire.

“If I end the chapter here,” soliloquizes Ms. Crepuscular, “would that count as finishing the chapter–and would it break the spell?” Is she asking me? You? I mean, how should any of us know?

“Here ends Chapter CCCXCIX!” she proclaims, writing in letters of ink.

We’ll have to wait till next week to see if it works.

The Incantation That Messes Up Everything (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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Introducing Chapter CCCXCVIII of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney, Violet Crepuscular writes, “I am not sure whether to thank a reader named Phoebe for suggesting that Constable Chumley inadvertently speaks the correct incantation for activating the awesome magical powers of this lantern that I paid good money for. It was supposed to ensure my winning of the Pulitzer Prize! But because Chumley spoke it in the context of the novel, and I wrote it down, it has taken effect in the context of the novel (!) instead of in my living room. Which means I’m now writing things I never had any intention to write!”

We find this difficult to understand.

Thanks to the constable, Scurveyshire has now been overrun by indescribable monstrous creatures emerging from under the vicar’s backyard wading pool. They wander the streets by night, piercing the silence with hideous whistling, insane piping, and thunderous roars.Those who’ve actually seen them have all gone raving mad. Ordinary life has come to a standstill.

“I could have warned you this would happen,” intones Ronno the Not At All Merry Minstrel, currently confined in gaol along with the Wise Woman of the Scurveyshire gaol. Ronno was arrested by the constable for getting off the train from Siberia. It seems there was a local ordinance against it, enacted in 1675.

“Well, then what do we do to make it stop?” cries Lord Jeremy Coldsore, who is being blamed for the whole thing.

“We need to establish a profitable cod fishery,” says Ronno.

“Pshaw!” snorts Lord Jeremy. “We’re 150 miles inland–how are we supposed to fish for cod?”

Ronno admits he doesn’t know. As the morale officer of a Siberian prison, the matter of a cod fishery never came up.

Meanwhile, readers have complained that Ms. Crepuscular has not kept her promise to provide nonstop action and well-nigh unbearable suspense in this particular chapter. I am not in a position to help her: my cats are misbehaving.

And the magical lantern’s batteries have conked out, on top of all that.