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The Bishop of Booh (‘Oy, Rodney’)

silly romance novels | Lee Duigon

“Dear reader, we have come to a stressful time in Scurveyshire…” Thus Violet Crepuscular introduces Chapter CCCLII of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney. She then devotes several paragraphs to the feasibility of writing “a dental romance,” whatever that may be. A series of anonymous threats drags her back to the story line.

Scurveyshire’s beloved vicar having chained himself to his night-stand and refusing to leave, the Bishop of Booh arrives by oxcart to remove the vicar by force. Because he’s not a real bishop, he has to make do with an ordinary bathrobe and a birthday party hat. He wears a stern expression that would be unbearably daunting, but for the fact that he carries a stuffed monkey doll which he talks to from time to time. Lord Jeremy Coldsore, justice of the peace, Constable Chumley, representing all that is inarticulate and confusing in the law of England, and Willis Twombley, the American adventurer, are on hand to welcome the alleged bishop.

“Now that you’re here,” says Twombley, “you can turn right around and go back to wherever you came from. We like our vicar jist the way he is, conniptions and all, and we aim to keep him.”

“See how the naughty man talks to Booh-Booh!” The bishop is addressing the doll. “But we know what to do with nefandous people, don’t we, Winkie?” He turns to Lord Jeremy. “I am here to repossess the vicar’s backyard wading pool for non-payment and to pack him off to Manchuria. Take me to the vicarage at once!”

Not knowing what else to do, Lord Jeremy conducts the bishop to the vicarage. The vicar seems them coming and starts screaming imprecations that really must not be repeated here. But the bishop has espied the wading pool and decides to inspect it. Constable Chumley tries to dissuade him.

“Noo, noo, yer thwither! Tis a mortal grathwy syne!”

“Out of my way, you pedipalp!” He clouts the constable with the monkey. There must be a brick in it or something: down for the count goes Chumley.

“I say!” cries Lord Jeremy. But the bishop is already on his way to the pool.

“I can barely describe the infernal horror of this scene!” writes Ms. Crepuscular. “I can’t bear it, I tell you!”

Here she interposes a chapter break to heighten the suspense. But we can probably guess what happens next.

 


The Vicar Gets Canned! (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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Violet Crepuscular introduces Chapter CCCLI of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney, with a caveat.

“Dear reader,” she writes, “you may find the content of the foregoing chapter rather distressing. That’s why I have provided this caveat. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!”

Word has come down from the Bishop of Booh that the beloved vicar of Scurveyshire, conniptions and all, has been fired from his post and transferred to a mission station in Manchuria. “We are removing said vicar for his latitudinarian tendencies,” explains the bishop, “and his failure to complete payment on his back yard wading pool. Please consider this to be subcutaneous.”

Constable Chumley’s reaction speaks for the community: “Luffer yon furd wi’ mickle great theer,” he sighs. This saying immediately becomes the watchword for all Scurveyshire.

The vicar has chained himself to his night-stand and refuses to leave. “I’ll give him subcutaneous!” He roars defiance. Records show that there is no such bishopric as “Booh” and that the current incumbent has been appointed by some charlatan in Kansas. But as Lord Jeremy Coldsore says, as he tries valiantly to avoid intervening in the controversy, “A bishop is a bishop.”

A further notice from the bishop arrives that afternoon: “Don’t make me come down there!”

“I kinda like our vicar,” remarks the American adventurer, Willis Twombley. He then cacchinates in a way that raises doubts as to his sanity. “I do wish he wouldn’t cacchinate!” mutters Lord Jeremy.

The upshot of it all is that the vicar remains chained to his night-stand for the time being because no one knows what to do. It has been some 800 years since Scurveyshire was last visited and reprimanded by a bishop, in the days of Corinius the Pipsqueak. “And that,” concludes Ms. Crepuscular, “is an historical experience that no one wishes to repeat!”


The Fate of a Mysterious Stranger (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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Violet Crepuscular introduces Chapter CCCL of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney, with a recipe for Nebraska Crabcakes with Colgate toothpaste. The less said about that, the better.

Our story picks up with the mysterious stranger who looks like Broderick Crawford behaving erratically. This is of great concern to Lord Jeremy Coldsore. Not only has this mysterious stranger become his rival for the hand of Lady Margo Cargo (the right hand, I think: the left was chewed off by a goat); but it’s impossible to arrest him because of his uncanny resemblance to Sir Osmund Footeball, who has friends in Buckingham Palace and it would be awkward to arrest him by mistake. “Tis a drough theever, M’Lord,” explains Constable Chumley.

While Sir Osmund contents himself with pressing his face to shop windows to frighten the customers, the other Broderick Crawford look-alike has begun to run around Scurveyshire in random directions, keeping it up until he runs into a tree. When that happens, his head makes a resounding Bong!

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This is what he looks like between bongs.

“Ain’t we gonna stop him, Germy?” asks the American adventurer, Willis Twombley, who thinks he is Sargon of Akkad. “I could shoot him.”

“Only to find out we’ve shot Sir Osmund Footeball!” cries Jeremy. “There’d be a spot of trouble over that, old boy!”

Bong! He’s done it again.

By now half of Scurveyshire is watching his maneuvers. Anyone but this stranger would be unconscious by now. And then it happens…

Bong! And this time the stranger’s forehead splits open, revealing a strange collection of gears, push-rods, and valves. He falls backward to the ground and this time doesn’t get up.

“Well dog my cats!” exclaims Twombley. “A mechanical man! Where do you suppose that came from?”

“Not from anyone who wishes us well!” expounds Lord Jeremy. “Let’s find someone to clean up the mess–while we start an investigation.”


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.


Is ‘The Lying Tart’ Haunted?

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Forget Chapter CCCXLVII. I already have.

In Chapter CCCXLVIII of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney, Violet Crespuscular takes us to Scurveyshire’s favorite tavern, The Lying Tart, which is said to have acquired a resident ghost. It has been seen by many patrons while availing themselves of the tavern’s commodious outdoor facilities (“I cannot bring myself to write the word ‘outhouse,'” Ms. Crepuscular confesses).

The apparition takes the form of a headless lady in a flowing white gown , sometimes accompanied by a huge black dog named Chips. She has been seen walking between the tavern and the stables, parading back and forth along the edge of the roof, or skipping directly toward the observer, carrying her head like a basketball. The game of basketball has not yet been invented. She always vanishes just before getting close enough to grab you.

Constable Chumley investigates. His report is grim. “Thy flivven craiths yon cocksie fairn,” he reports grimly. Lord Jeremy Coldsore, justice of the peace, takes notes.

“What’s he sayin’, ol’ hoss?” wonders the American adventurer, Willis Twombley.

“He says she doesn’t have a coccyx,” Jeremy translates. “That’s bad!” mutters Twombley.

Trade at The Lying Tart has begun to fall off, threatening the shire’s economy. It is widely believed that The Lady in White is looking for company. No one wants to be that company.

“This is the work of Black Rodney,” opines Johnno the Merry Minstrel, who is somewhat merrier now that his gizzard has grown back. His opinion is confirmed by the discovery of several cuss-bags in the landlord’s stock of ale. The landlord has tried to cut his losses by offering free beer to the first customer who succeeds in having a conversation with the ghost.

Here Ms. Crepuscular breaks in with a recipe for toothpaste-flavored biscuits. It is clear she doesn’t know what to do about the ghost.

 


Urgent! Historical Note!

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Research by Ms. Violet Crepuscular reveals that Lord Jeremy Coldsore’s great-great-grandnephew, once removed, is now permanently removed.

In fact, this descendant of the Scurveyshire nobility, Mr. Genghis MacShoy, was the last person in Britain executed by a circular firing squad, in 1957–having been found guilty of posing as the Prince of Wales and trying to sell off royal property.

As usual, several members of the firing squad were seriously wounded. This led to the abolition of this particular means of execution.

“That never used to happen when they did it with crossbows,” mused the deer queen.


Coldsore Hall’s New Roof

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Invoking a little-known law enacted in the year 636 by the Saxon warlord Bobby the Nit, Lord Jeremy Coldsore has drafted Professor Saltinus Facehead’s Egyptian diggers to put a new roof on Coldsore Hall. So begins Chapter CCCXLVI of Violet Crepuscular’s epic romance, Oy, Rodney.

Constable Chumley explains the law to Prof. Facehead.

“In yon fillid wi’ King Bobby,” he says, “we fraith the bowyers aw’ mickle groith.” The professor nods sagely, although the constable’s quaint rural dialect eludes his best efforts to understand what has been said. He replies in archaic Portuguese. It is the constable’s turn to nod sagely.

Although the diggers speak no English, and their Arabic is not that hot, either, they throw themselves enthusiastically into their work and in a mere two days, Coldsore Hall has a new roof. The entire population of Scurveyshire assembles to admire it.

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“It’s a miracle!” gushes Lady Margo Cargo. “I wish they’d do my roof like that!”

But when a moderate breeze springs up, the new roof seems to take wing and fly off toward the sunset. It will take some doing to get it back.

Here Ms. Crepuscular breaks in to report on the status of her Pulitzer Prize nomination, filed by her excitable neighbor, Mr. Pitfall.

“I am afraid Mr. Pitfall made an error and submitted the nomination to something called the Patzer Prize Committee,” she writes. “This group hands out prizes for poorly-played chess games. I cannot explain why they have decided to award a special prize to my epic romance, Oy, Rodney.”

The prize awarded is a rusty wheelbarrow. “I’ll have to find space for it on my mantle, somehow,” Ms. Crepuscular says. “It’s going to change the whole look of my living room. Given Mr. Pitfall’s current state of excitement, I dare do nothing else.”

Here the chapter breaks off for want, she admits, of inspiration.


The Scurveyshire Horror (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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Violet Crepuscular attempts to brace her readers for what’s going to happen in Chapter CCCXLIV of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney. “Brace yourselves, dear readers!” she writes. And lets it go at that.

Things have been so hectic in Scurveyshire lately that no one has noticed the gang of 75 native workers–natives of what country, we are not told–frantically digging up half the village common. They are directed by Professor Saltinus Facehead, F.A.P. But early this morning, people finally do take notice: the diggers have unearthed a perfectly hideous colossal sculpture. Here is a picture of it.

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Lord Jeremy Coldsore, Justice of the Peace, and the American adventurer Willis Twombley, weirdo, hasten to the common in response to complaints by everyone in town. They find the professor celebrating with a rather large bottle of The Lying Tart’s cheapest Scurveyshire ale.

“What is the meaning of this?” inquires Lord Jeremy.

“The meaning?” cries the professor. “Why, man, this sculpture is pre-Neolithic–maybe even pre-human! It’s the largest sculpture of its kind in all the world. By Jove! It makes the Americans’ precious Cardiff Giant look like a bauble on a charm bracelet!”

Twombley swiftly draws his six-gun and shoots the hat off the professor’s head. “Watch what you say, ol’ hoss!” he warns. “Us Americans set a lot of store by that there Cardiff Giant. My next shot’ll ventilate you.”

“Have you a permit for this mess?” demands Lord Jeremy.

“My dear boy,” replies Professor Facehead, “I have a personally signed firman from the Sultan of Swat authorizing me to dig anywhere I please, as long as it’s not in his territory. I need hardly point out that the sultan is our own deer queen’s favorite pen pal! So don’t interfere, or you’ll find the Coldstream Guards bashing down your door.”

We are troubled by Ms. Crepuscular’s use of the word “deer” instead of “dear.” She provides no explanation for it. She closes the chapter with news that her nomination for the Pulitzer Prize, entered by her excitable neighbor, Mr. Pitfall, seems to have gone astray. “I should have heard from the committee by now,” she says. “I can’t imagine what could have happened to my nomination.”


A Terrifying Incident! (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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(The reader is advised to read the following chapter in a very dark room, to cultivate a sense of danger. Or something.)

In Chapter CCCXLIII of Violet Crepuscular’s epic romance, Oy, Rodney, Lord Jeremy Coldsore, the American adventurer Willis Twombley (who thinks he’s Sargon of Akkad), and the vicar are making their way home from an abandoned warehouse in Plaguesby, where Lord Jeremy was to meet and marry Lady Margo Cargo, who, alas, has gone to the wrong warehouse in the wrong town.

“Sure is dark out here tonight!” mutters Twombley.

“You could take the paper bag off your head, old boy,” says Lord Jeremy. Twombley hadn’t thought of that. The reader may now turn on a lamp. “That’s better,” Twombley says.

“Halt!”

The unsuccessful elopement party find themselves surrounded by six sinister young men armed with knives and truncheons.

“We’ve got you now, tyrant!” exclaims the leader, a singularly unprepossessing fellow with bulging eyes.

“That’s what you think, buster!” Twombley draws his six-gun and presses it to the vicar’s head. “You all better mosey on out of here, pronto. One more step toward us, and I shoot the vicar.”

“I say!” ejaculates Lord Jeremy. “I say, that’s not quite fair, don’t you know.” The vicar giggles nervously.

“He has us over a barrel, lads,” admits the leader. The ambushers withdraw into the darkness of the surrounding woodland.

“Who the devil were they?” demands Jeremy.

“Babylonian secret agents,” said Twombley. “They’ve been after me for years. That’s Mesopotamian politics for you. Don’t worry, they won’t be back for a while. They haven’t cottoned on to guns yet.”

“The reader may now turn on all the lights and relax,” adds Ms. Crepuscular. “We will attempt the marriage again in a future chapter.”


Tidying Up the Mess (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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Introducing Chapter CCCXLII of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney, which should have appeared last week but didn’t quite make it, Violet Crepuscular confides in her readers:

“Dear reader, I am thoroughly chagrined about the mess made here last week by that Byron the Quokka character! Really, I do not write this epic romance with any kind of marsupial audience in mind! I didn’t get where I am today, writing for marsupials. So here is a Chapter CCCXLII do-over.”

Having ruined her elopement by eloping to the wrong warehouse in the wrong town–in fact, this is the second time in her life that she has done this–Lady Margo Cargo, accompanied by her crusty old butler, Crusty, is alarmed by a series of blood-curdling moans issuing from behind a stack of Acme False Facts. But when Crusty pulls down the crates, they discover the Pottery sisters, Febrile and Facile, who make a habit of hiding in abandoned warehouses.

“It’s only the Pottery sisters, you silly old trout–Febrile and Facile,” Crusty exclaims. “What are you two doing here? This place is supposed to be deserted.”

“Please, sir and madam! We were only chewing gum,” explains Febrile. The twins are often mistaken for a pair of very large insects. This accounts for their attraction to abandoned warehouses.

“I was supposed to get married here tonight,” Lady Margo mutters, “but there’s no groom. I suppose we ought to go home.”

“Please, madam!” cries Facile. “Have a stick of gum first.” Over Crusty’s mean-spirited objection, Lady Margo accepts a stick of gum. It tastes horrible.

“By now,” interjects Ms. Crepuscular, “the reader is surely wondering what Lord Jeremy Coldsore, Mr. Twombley, and the vicar are doing at the other warehouse. That will be elucidated in the next chapter–without marsupials!”


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