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‘Oy, Rodney,’ the Missing Chapter

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“Something magical” was supposed to happen in Chapter CCXXIX of Violet Crepuscular’s epic romance, Oy, Rodney, but for the time being she has noticed that she’d left Chapter CCXXVII unwritten, so she has gone back to that. “The only reason I can think of for having left Chapter CCXXVII unwritten,” she confides in the reader, “is that I was having trouble with my toilet flapper.”

In Chapter CCXXVII, Johnno the Merry Minstrel discovers the biggest cuss bag yet cunningly hidden in the Fourth Earl’s suit of armor, which he wore during the Wars of the Roses and then couldn’t get it off. The presence of the large cuss bag suggests that the earl’s skeleton is not, after all, still inside the armor. Which probably means that the ghost that occasionally appears, and likes to fill the upstairs bath tub with fried gloves, is not the Fourth Earl, as has been long believed.

The cuss bag contains cat hair and other detritus. “The other contents cannot be mentioned in polite society,” adds Ms. Crepuscular.

“It’s a good thing I’ve found this, my lord,” Johnno tells Lord Jeremy Coldsore, debt-ridden master of Coldsore Hall. “If I hadn’t, you would have had a fatal accident involving cat hairs. Only Black Rodney could have thought of that!”

“Well, how the deuce are we to be rid of him!” cries Jeremy. “What have I ever done to Black Rodney, that he should plague me with his sorceries?”

“I think he’s after Coldsore Hall, my lord,” says Johnno. “But let me soothe you with my rendition of ‘Down by the Old Mill Stream,'” which he sings while accompanying himself on the harmonica.

“I still expect something magical to happen in Chapter CCXXIX,” writes Ms. Crepuscular, “but I can’t write it until I get this confounded flapper replaced.”

 


Crusty’s Lament (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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In Chapter CCXXVI of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney, Violet Crepuscular has detoured into an examination of the life of Crusty, Lady Margo Cargo’s crusty butler.

Born Ignatius Mangrove Crusty in 1782, Crusty’s hard-up parents traded him for a chicken. His new master had a thing for frogs and taught Crusty to imitate their mating calls. Tiring of this, Crusty ran away to join the circus but wound up in butler school. He has been Lady Margo’s butler since 1808.

“That is all I wish to say about his life,” adds Ms. Crepuscular, and moves on to Chapter CCXXVIII, leaving Chapter CCXXVII unwritten.

We take up the thread of the story as Lord Jeremy Coldsore, now disadvantaged by having two left feet, hires an Austrian dancing master named Cliff to teach him how to waltz on two left feet: there’s sure to be a waltz danced at the wedding. Little does he know that Cliff is a fugitive wanted for masterminding the theft of several Prussians.

“You know virtually nothing about dancing!” declares Cliff. “Ach, will you please get your hips into it?” That he has to practice with Cliff is embarrassing. “On the count of three, both your feet must leave the floor, coming down again on the count of four. And then, on the count of one, your partner must jump–like so!” He springs a good ten inches into the air. How Lady Margo is to manage this on her upholstered wooden leg is more than Jeremy can imagine.

“It sure don’t look like no waltz to me,” mutters the American adventurer, Willis Twombley. “Looks like some kinda Egyptian polka to me.” To liven things up, he draws his six-gun and fires several bullets at the floor, occasioning more jumping from both dancers.

“That is not how we do it in Vienna!” Cliff complains.

The waltz lesson leaves Lord Jeremy bruised and exhausted.

“In the next chapter,” writes Ms. Crepuscular, “something magical is sure to happen.” We can’t even guess what that might be.

 


The Wine Controversy (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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Something always seems to crop up to jinx a wedding. In Chapter CCXXV of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney, author Violet Crepuscular, in an aside to the reader, recalls her own experience. “If I may digress for a moment, as an aside to the reader, my own wedding was thoroughly ruined by the absence of the groom, a hard-working horseshoe customizer named Sidney. He never showed up for the ceremony, and to this day I’ve never heard from him again.”

Lord Jeremy Coldsore and his friend, the American adventurer, Willis Twombley, find their wedding to Lady Margo Cargo–she thinks they’re the same person–held up by a disagreement over which wine to serve at the reception.

“I’ve already ordered a whole crate of Chateau LaFong!” cries Jeremy. “And that miscreant of a butler refuses to serve it! He insists we serve Chateau D’If, and he has mesmerized Lady Margo to take his side.”

“Ain’t that a school for the deaf, or something?” asks Twombley.

“It’s a notorious French prison,” Jeremy informs him, “and the wine they make there isn’t fit to serve to pigs–and I have heard the pigs turn up their snouts at it. By Jove, I hate that stuff! And I’ve paid for the Chateau LaFong, so we can’t afford for it to go to waste.”

“For my money,” says Twombley, “it’s the Philistines who make the best wine, hands down. We always served Philistine wine at our shindigs.” Twombley believes himself to be Sargon of Akkad. “You should have asked me first, Germy, before you ordered that Chapeau Fungus or whatever it is. I could’ve gotten us a case of Goliath’s Joy Juice, from Gath.”

“I suspect Crusty the butler is trying to undermine this wedding so that he can marry Lady Margo and gain control of her wealth,” opines Lord Jeremy.

“You want I should shoot him?” Twombley asks. And the chapter ends with Lord Jeremy contemplating his options.

“I must add,” writes Ms. Crepuscular, “that I have tried Chateau D’If Red and it really is swill.”


The Annual Scurveyshire Fete (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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In Chapter CCXXII of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney, Violet Crepuscular treats us to the annual Scurveyshire Fete, which has been held every year since 742 A.D., when a Saxon lord named Fulda Basket had to sell off the contents of his castle and made festival of it.

Ancient games, whose meaning has been lost in the flow of centuries, abound: Hit My Hand, Throwing the Titmouse Nest, Dig That Hole, Stone-Swallowing, and many others. Colorful tents spring up everywhere. Booths sell old-time Scurveyshire snacks like grass, cricket pie, and incredibly foul-smelling foot cheese. A festive time is had by all.

Right up until the moment the local folk-singing group, The Five Churls, is sucked under the wading pool in the vicar’s back yard. This puts a damper on the occasion.

“I thought I told the constable to get rid of that pool!” Lord Jeremy Coldsore cries. He has been trying all day to romance his bride-to-be, Lady Margo Cargo, but she has been distracted by the disappearance of the Churls.

“I haven’t finished paying for it yet,” explains the vicar.

“Then we must skip the rest of this chapter,” decides Lord Jeremy.

In Chapter CCXXIII, villagers have begun to complain that the Old Bathhouse catty-corner from the pub, The Lying Tart, has become haunted. As Justice of the Peace, Lord Jeremy is expected to do something about it. Before he can, a mob of sulky peasants burns it down. Only the bathtubs are saved.

“What else can happen to our shire?” wails Lady Margo. She has all The Five Churls’ albums and was looking forward to purchasing the next one.


How Lady Margo Lost Her Husband and Her Leg (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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Chapter CCXX of Violet Crepuscular’s epic romance novel, Oy, Rodney, is something of a flashback.

Lady Margo Cargo seldom reads the local newspaper, The Scurveyshire Serf; so when a stranger asks her, “How did you come to lose your husband–and your leg?”, she answers candidly.

“I took my husband, Sir Largo Cargo, to London to see the monkeys in the zoo, and I’m afraid he just wandered off when I happened to let go of his hand to buy some peanuts. That was fifteen years ago, and I haven’t seen him since. As for my leg, a few days after that, I woke up one morning and it was gone. We looked all over the house for it, but it never turned up.”

Imagine her embarrassment when this story was reported by “The Inquiring Lackwit” in the Serf. She wrote a letter of complaint to the editor: “I thought I was talking to an inquiring lackwit. I didn’t know I was talking to The Inquiring Lackwit! Have you people no respect for someone’s privacy?”

Willis Twombley, the American adventurer who, along with his friend, Lord Jeremy Coldsore, is engaged to marry Lady Margo–she thinks they’re the same person–tries to comfort her. “You want me to shoot that varmint of an editor, li’l honey? We can dump the body in that abandoned mine over yonder.” But Lady Margo is not prepared to go that far.

Lord Jeremy, in his capacity as the only Justice of the Peace in England with two left feet, takes more positive action, ordering Constable Chumley to arrest the editor. “Lock him up and throw away the key! I will not have my fiancee made a subject of public comment.”

“Aith me sore unclunner, your lordship,” replies the constable, resorting to his quaint rural dialect. He obeys the order literally, and now can’t find the key.

Ms. Crepuscular concludes the chapter with an admonition to her readers to avoid conversing with lackwits of any kind.


The Legend of Rodney (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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In Chapter CCXVII of Violet Crepuscular’s epic romance novel, Oy, Rodney, Lord Jeremy Coldsore is up and around again, carefully negotiating stairways with his two left feet and trying to get in shape for his wedding to Lady Margo Cargo, whose wealth will save the ancestral country house of Coldsore Hall from its legion of creditors.

Johnno the Merry Minstrel continues to find cuss bags hidden all throughout the house, evidence that Black Rodney–or someone–is still sneaking in and planting them. Johnno has also found a number of dead bodies, but Jeremy has convinced him to ignore them: “Not an unusual thing in a house as old as this, don’t you know.”

Johnno knows the legend of Black Rodney inside-out, and here shares it with the reader.

“In the days of Henry VIII, before James I made it into something of a fad, witchcraft was but little practiced in this country. Here in Scurveyshire, an otherwise obscure little man named Rodney Swill began to acquire a reputation as a sorceror.

“He started small, with card tricks, but after he made a pact with the devil, his power was such as to terrorize the whole shire. When he forced the people to pay their taxes to him instead of to the crown, King Henry was annoyed and sent his most fearsome executioner to treat Rodney, in the king’s words, to ‘a really fancy hanging.’ But as soon as the executioner arrived, as he was passing under a grove of venerable oak trees, two monstrous tentacles shot down, wrapped around him, and yanked him up into the foliage, never to be seen or heard from again.”

After several more such incidents–now he was running out of executioners–the king sent to Finland for the most feared witch-finder in all of Europe, a Lapp named Mimble. This man was known far and wide as “the Devil’s brother-in-law.”

Mimble coerced a dull-witted peasant woman to present Rodney with a witch-pie; and Rodney had no sooner chewed on a piece of it when he was suddenly consumed in a dreadful fire. The last anyone heard of him was a disembodied voice crying, “I’ll be back!”

“That ain’t the way I heared it,” grumbles Jeremy’s friend and co-groom, the American adventurer, Willis Twombley.

“But that is the way it was!” says Johnno. “And I ought to know, because I’m descended from that very same peasant woman who served Rodney the witch-pie.” [Ms. Crepuscular warns the reader to be suspicious of Johnno: “He may be more than just a merry minstrel who can sing and play the harmonica at the same time.” How much more than that anyone can be, perplexes me.]

Meanwhile, the rat-catcher hired by the vicar has disappeared under the fateful wading pool in the vicar’s back yard…


And Now, Another One…

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What have I done, to deserve all these invitations to review preposterous and sleazy romance novels?

Today I’ve been invited to review “a sensual and supernatural journey” featuring a torrid romance between a “dragon king” who is, inevitably, “darkly handsome,” and a “beautiful and mysterious woman”–they’re all mysterious, in more ways than one–with the loopy name of “Arianrhod Deatherage.” Says the perky publicist, who obviously has an abysmally low opinion of my literary taste, “Happily-Ever-After Meets Modern Empowerment in a Steamy New Paranormal Romance.” Lemmeouttahere.

I wonder what effect it has on the brain, to consume vast quantities of books like this. What does their very existence say about our culture?

Nothing good!

Violet Crepuscular come back, all is forgiven.


‘Oy, Rodney’ Explodes with Action!

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I only wrote that headline because Violet Crepuscular introduces Chapter CCXIV of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney, with the teaser, “Chapter CCXIV of my epic romance, Oy, Rodney, explodes with action!” I suppose it had to, given the total lack of any action whatsoever in Chapter CCXIII, about which the less said, the better. I suspect she may have been impaired while writing it.

Before he can commandeer and hitch up a team of oxen to drag away the sinister wading pool in the vicar’s back yard, Constable Chumley has had to ask the vicar’s permission to do so. This should have happened in Chapter CCXIII. At any rate, the vicar demurs.

“My dear fellow, you can’t do that! I haven’t paid for it yet!”

“Yair, vicar, I screeve a delly mure,” says the constable.

“That’s exactly what I would say, if I were you,” replies the vicar.

At this point Ms. Crepuscular interjects a political observation. We shall pass over it.

Unable to get the vicar’s permission, Constable Chumley abandons that part of his assignment and returns to Coldsore Hall to search for clues that might lead him to Black Rodney’s hiding place. Lady Margo Cargo is present at Lord Jeremy Coldsore’s bedside, feeding him mealworms to speed his recovery. Both are disconcerted when the constable enters the bedroom and begin feeling about under the covers.

“What the deuce are you doing? Stop that!” cries Lord Jeremy.

“M’lord, ’tis nae fairthy twa’ wee trilling clues,” explains the constable.

“He’s right, my love,” says Lady Margo.

But there are no clues hidden in the bedclothes, and Lord Jeremy continues to complain. “Your hands are like ice, Constable! Go look for clues somewhere else!” No one minds when the constable departs to look for clues at the bottom of a tankard of ale at The Lying Tart.

Willis Twombley, the American adventurer who thinks he’s Sargon of Akkad, enters the room. Lady Margo thinks he and Lord Jeremy are the same person, so it always dazzles her to see both of them at once. In deference to her feelings, he exits without a word.


Constable Chumley: Detective (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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In Chapter CCXII of Violet Crepuscular’s epic romance, Oy, Rodney, having discovered that the medieval sorcerer Black Rodney has been secretly planting cuss bags throughout Coldsore Hall, Lord Jeremy orders Constable Chumley to put a stop to it.

Here Ms. Crepuscular feels the need to interject some background material.”I feel the need to inject some background material,” she writes. “It must be stated that Constable Chumley is married; but his wife, Boudicca, left him because she could not understand his quaint rural dialect. She is currently serving as a mercenary soldier in Bolivia, where she is widely known as The Terror of the Andes.”

Be that as it may, the constable reports to Coldsore Hall for orders.

“I demand that you find Black Rodney and arrest him!” says Lord Jeremy. He is still confined to his bed, with his only entertainment provided by Johnno the Merry Minstrel, who can sing and play the harmonica at the same time, although he does neither especially well.

Constable Chumley’s expression turns grave. It’s quite a daunting sight.

“Aye, weel,” he replies, “that’s a snicket fair whittum, m’lord!” He shakes his head. “Gare Rodney, he’s a-flarrin’ tidy skipster, noo miscork aboot it.”

“I don’t care what you call him!” snaps Jeremy. “He’s holding up my wedding! And for heaven’s sake, get rid of that wading pool in the vicar’s back yard!”

“Nae veen, m’lord, ’tis a wallow thing, right enough.” He salutes Lord Jeremy and plods off to do his duty.

“What did he just say?” Jeremy wonders.

“He’ll give it his best shot, Germy,” explains the American adventurer, Willis Twombley, “but he don’t expect he’ll live to tell about it.”

Lord Jeremy sends for Johnno to perform “The Old Oaken Bucket.” This will require him to sing a duet with himself.


The Merry Minstrel (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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In Chapter CCX of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney, Violet Crepuscular abandons her resolve to backtrack to the real beginnings of the story and just goes on as if nothing has happened. Tristram Shandy would have at least apologized for doing so. But this is what makes Ms. Crepuscular one of a kind.

We find Lord Jeremy Coldsore confined to his bed at Coldsore Hall, the result of falling down a marble staircase because he has not yet learned to cope with having two left feet. His friend, the American adventurer Willis Twombley, has brought company to cheer Jeremy while he suffers–a merry minstrel named Johnno the Merry Minstrel.

“I don’t think I can bear to listen to any music just now, old boy,” groans Jeremy.

“Relax, Germy, and jist enjoy it. It ain’t every day you git to hear a feller who can sing and play the harmonica at the same time.” This is Johnno’s one accomplishment. To criticize its execution would be like criticizing a dog for playing poker badly.

Nevertheless, Johnno’s rendition of “I’ve Got Rhythm” brings a tear to Jeremy’s eye and moves him to demand an encore.

“Tell him what else you can do, Johnno,” says Twombley.

“Oh, it’s nothing, really. Only I have a unique ability to sniff out cunningly hidden cuss bags.”

For the remainder of the afternoon, Johnno discovers one concealed cuss bag after another, some of them in astonishing places. One turns up under Twombley’s hat; another, tucked into Jeremy’s underwear. By suppertime they have half a dozen cuss bags ready for the incinerator. Johnno concludes by playing a rousing off-key performance of “Sonny Boy.”

“Looks like your bad luck’s over and done with, Germy!” exults Twombley. “At least until Black Rodney sneaks some more cuss bags into your house. He must have what the Frenchies call ‘a keen desire’ to stop us from gettin’ hitched to Lady Margo and saving Coldsore Hall from your creditors.”

“But now we have the means to defeat him!” cries Jeremy. Johnno accepts his invitation to stay at Coldsore Hall for the immediate future, in return for free access to the wine cellar. In a theatrical aside to Jeremy, Twombley adds, “Hope he don’t find any of the bodies that I stashed down there!”

The chapter ends with a flourish, regrettably misspelled as “flurrish.”


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