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

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“Alas, dear reader!” soliloquizes Violet Crepuscular, introducing Chapter CDXLIII of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney. “What have I done? Amid the clamor of a thousand squeaky toys, who can think straight?”

They can’t get rid of the squeaky toys. All Scurveyshire is enamored with them.

But the good news is, the constant din of squeaky toys has freed the vicar from his conniptions. For the first time in many months, he can get out of bed and spin around on tiptoe until he makes himself dizzy. He can go to his window and make grotesque faces at passers-by. And he can perform a wedding!

“Quick!” he orders his new housekeeper, Mrs. Stalin. “Go find Lord Jeremy and Lady Margo and bring them here so I can marry them!”

Mrs. Stalin wipes her mustache. “You can’t marry them,” she says. “It’d be bigamy.”

Ensues a long and mostly fruitless discussion of what the vicar actually meant. Mrs. Stalin wobbles out of the room. Ever since a mad masseuse made her right leg six inches longer than her left, she has wobbled. “Try it yourself,” adds Ms. Crepuscular, “and you’ll see.”

The bad news is that by the time Mrs. Stalin returns with the happy couple, the vicar has acquired a whole new set of conniptions. They have to tie him to a chair.

“What causes these?” cries Jeremy.

“I think it’s that Mr. Gesunt who sits in the third pew and smells funny,” expounds Mrs. Stalin.”Why don’t you have Constable Chumley arrest him?”

But Chumley is going door-to-door in search of legless amphibians called caecilians, not to be confused with Sicilians. He has only just stopped looking for caecilian footprints. He thinks he may have found some Sicilian footprints, though. “Dinny yon bray frothering!” he explains.

We’ll have to leave it at that for now.

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

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Constable Chumley is searching for caecilians–the legless, blind, secretive amphibians of the tropics, expected to descend on Scurveyshire in great ferocious masses in response to thousands of people squeaking squeaky toys.

“So begins Chapter CDXLI of my immortal, epic romance, Oy, Rodney,” author Violet Crepuscular crepusculates upon her readers. On second thought, there seems to be something oddly wrong with that sentence.

Ms. Crepuscular loses no time in getting involved in a controversy with reader Nikita Khrushchev of Bismuth City, Minnesota. The reader has insisted that there were no proper squeaky toys during the Victorian Era.

“This poltroon, this overcooked frankfurter, this podiatrist in sheep’s clothing–this squirming mealworm, this potted plant that affects human speech!–this annoying little nit!” she writes. “Obviously he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

“Has he never heard of poetic license? Sheesh! History records that the first reliable squeaky toy was created by the Swedish tent-maker, Elvira Madigan, in 1372. It was then put on the shelf until the 20th century, when the worldwide demand for squeaky toys manifested itself. Jumpin’ Jiminy,” she expostulates, “all these illiterate boobs out there who think they can be writers!”

But none of this is getting us to Constable Chumley, is it?

The constable is searching high and low for any caecilians that might have infiltrated into Scurveyshire. He is going house to house, explaining to puzzled homeowners, “Ay dankle yon frought yair doddening.” Johnno the Merry Minstrel reminds him not to waste time searching for caecilian footprints. “Och! Be dander!” cries Chumley. He has, alas, been using almost all his time searching for caecilian footprints.

That’s as far as Violet has got this week. Not even a loaf of pound cake with home-made toothpaste filling can lift her spirits.

‘And Now, Another One…’ (2018)

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I’m always being contacted by publicists inviting me to review their clients’ books. I don’t think I’ve yet said “Yes,” in several hundred tries.

And Now, Another One…

The thing that most amazes me is the appalling sameness of it all–as if there were only one publicist, only one writer, and only one book; the same cliches heaped up, one on top of another; you know what they’re going to say three pages ahead. I mean, this stuff is nutra-loaf for the mind.

If you read this blog regularly, you know that I do do book reviews. I’ll even review books suggested by my readers here, without benefit of a publicist.

But this… this… stuff! out there, boxcar-loads of it, all the same darkly handsome men and mysterious gorgeous women–all of whom need to be picked off in a hurry by a giant chameleon!

Appointment With Doom! (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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Squeaky-toy madness has gripped all Scurveyshire! You can’t hear yourself think, and even the dogs can’t stand it anymore. Worse, questions are being asked in Parliament. “There still is a Scurveyshire? It wasn’t wiped out in the Wars of the Roses?” And the always popular, “What the deuce is wrong with those people?”

Chapter CDXL of Violet Crepuscular’s interminable epic romance, Oy, Rodney, promises to be a turbulent one. And on top of all that, Ms. Crepuscular is thinking of adapting it into a Broadway musical. “I may have to find a way to pull the substitute vicar from Zanzibar out from under the regular vicar’s backyard wading pool,” she gravitates to her readers. “But hey, as long as you’re going to have a stageful of squeaky toys, you might as well take advantage of the music that they make.”

We have a sneak preview, right here, of one of the most popular squeaky toys now being squeaked by everyone in Scurveyshire:

“I have never heard anything so beautiful!” rhapsodizes Ms. Crepuscular. “No wonder the caecilians–” (I thought she’d forgotten those, but no such luck)–“are stirred up all over the tropics: stirred up to go to Scurveyshire!” We are not told why these secretive, little-known amphibians should be irresistibly drawn to the sound of squeaky toys.

“But take a good look around your house!” counsels Mr. Crepuscular. “If you have a dog, you probably have two or three squeaky toys. And where there are squeaky toys, you’ll find caecilians! Well, I mean, you can try to find them. They’re always hiding.”

The Substitute Vicar from Zanzibar (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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Introducing Chapter CDXXXIX of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney, Violet Crepuscular takes issue with “a mean-minded reader from Bad Axe, Michigan” who doesn’t think Scurveyshire has anything to fear from an invasion of caecilians–blind, eel-like amphibians inhabiting the world’s tropics.

“This nay-sayer, this spoil-sport, this tartuffe!” she writes. “I’d like to see any romance she writes! Has she ever even seen a caecilian? Of course not! Has she ever seen how caecilians react when stirred up by the clamor of a thousand squeaky toys? I do wish some of these know-it-all readers out there would just shut up and let me tell the story!”

Meanwhile, the substitute vicar has arrived from Zanzibar to fill in for Scurveyshire’s regular vicar, who is again laid up with conniptions. The substitute vicar, a Mr. Mpombo, speaks only Swahili; so no one understands when he says he’d like to cool off in the vicar’s backyard wading pool. Besides which, the din of all those squeaky toys makes it virtually impossible to hear him.

No sooner has he changed into his stylish Zanzibari bathing outfit, and equipped himself with a rubber duck and life preserver, and skipped merrily out to the pool… than he gets sucked under it, never to be seen again.

“Looks like another postponement of our wedding!” sighs Lord Jeremy Coldsore to his bride-to-be, Lady Margo Cargo.

“What? What’s that you say?” bellows the bride. “I can’t hear over all those squeaky toys.” But try as he might, Lord Jeremy can’t be heard.

“It should be borne in mind that the caecilians have a long, long way to go before they get to Scurveyshire,” Ms. Crepuscular crepusculates. “But mark my words–they’ll be very, very hungry when they get here!”

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(And that’s only the bottom half!)


Here Come the Caecilians! (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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Imagine the clamor of a thousand squeaky toys all being squeaked at once.

“I have imagined it, dear readers!” exclaims Violet Crepuscular, introducing Chapter CDXXXVIII of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney. First squeaked in desperation, then squeaked in triumph as the army of Sea Monkeys flees to Paraguay–“But they know not their peril,” fusticates Ms. Crepuscular darkly. They? They who?

Legless, blind, and slippery, the little-known amphibians called “caecilians” find themselves deeply stirred by the clamor of squeaky toys in Scurveyshire. “They are coming!” writes Violet.

In the meantime, the whole shire–even the forgotten hamlet of Qwlggsyff, which I just remembered–celebrates their victory over the Sea Monkeys. The Lying Tart is in danger of running out of ale. Johnno the Merry Minstrel, who discovered that Sea Monkeys just can’t stand the sound of squeaky toys, has been elected to the Swedish Parliament (they had an empty seat that no one wanted).

“Now would be a good time for us to have our wedding!” Lady Margo Cargo suggests to Lord Jeremy Coldsore. They have forgotten their tiff. “Everyone’s in such a festive mood!”

“I thought the vicar had gone ga-ga again,” replies Lord Jeremy.

“There’s a substitute vicar on his way from Zanzibar,” grafts (really, Violet!) Lady Margo. “I took the liberty of inviting him.”

“Good show!”

Perhaps Constable Chumley best sums up those few halcyon days before the coming of the caecilians:

“Yair frother me tucket, frae nucket!”

Squeaky Toys vs. Sea Monkeys (‘Oy, Rodney’)

The Annual Scurveyshire Fete ('Oy, Rodney') – Lee Duigon

[Editor’s Note: I have to thank Ms. Crepuscular for dedicating this chapter of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney, to Patty and me on our 44th wedding anniversary. And also for the tin of home-made toothpaste sandwich cookies.  –LD]

Violet Crepuscular masterfully–mistressfully?–sets the stage for Chapter CDXXXVII of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney. An army of restive Sea Monkeys demands new worlds to conquer! Scurveyshire’s citizens prepare to fight back with squeaky toys. And in the background lurks The Caecilian.

The what?

One of these:

“We have to face facts,” Ms. Crepuscular lectures her readers. “When you’re dealing with a caecilian, you don’t know which end is which! These South American amphibians, rarely seen even in South America, once dominated the island of Sicily. Now they’re aimed at Scurveyshire. Because the cacophony of a hundred squeaky toys inevitably attracts them!”

The squeaky toys, all of them squeaking at once, will drive the Sea Monkeys back to Paraguay. “But no one,” adds the author darkly, “has survived a full-scale invasion by caecilians. Heck, they don’t even look like amphibians!”

The honest, if not quite all there, yeomen of Scurveyshire even now stock up on squeaky toys, having not even an inkling of the catastrophe that is poised, like sharks around a dying porpoise, to descend on them–

I’m sorry, that last simile was too much for me.

Violet, you’re on your own.


The Sea Monkeys Arrive! (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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Although the rampaging cyclops, having seen the billboards, has fled to parts unknown, the Sea Monkeys ordered by Johnno the Merry Minstrel from that shop in Paraguay have arrived in Scurveyshire. So begins Chapter CDXXXVI of Violet Crepuscular’s epic romance, Oy, Rodney.

Sea-Monkeys creator's widow sues over royalties

“Because this is a romance set in the Victorian Era,” explains Ms. Crepuscular, “the Sea Monkeys brought in to fight the cyclops look just exactly like the creatures in this advertisement, above. Yes, they can be trained–for war! Only now that the cyclops has fled, there’s nobody for them to fight. This is a problem!”

An army of Sea Monkeys with no one to fight–that’s a problem, all right. Ms. Crepuscular blames it on her readers.

“Now I’m stuck with ten thousand heavily-armed Sea Monkeys, and it’s all your fault!” she complains.

It’s a consolation that a host of ten thousand Sea Monkeys takes up not much more space than a pair of cats. In hopes that the problem will somehow solve itself, Lord Jeremy Coldsore appoints Constable Chumley to command the Sea Monkeys. He assembles them for drill on the town common, in front of the statue of a man who looks like an undernourished chimpanzee. No one knows whom it’s supposed to be.

“Yohn right!” screeches the constable. “A’ fare thee gricken–hoosh!” To his amazed delight, the Sea Monkeys execute these maneuvers flawlessly. He indicates to Lord Jeremy that they’re ready to fight and conquer. How he indicates this is one for the books.

Realizing that the Sea Monkeys could easily become a nuisance to Scurveyshire unless they’re placed on the warpath very soon, Lord Jeremy makes a rash decision to order them to attack the neighboring village of Plaguesby. “With any luck they’ll all get stomped,” he adds.

Imagine his horror when the Sea Monkeys quickly conquer Plaguesby and put it under tribute. They immediately begin agitating for a new campaign.

“Great balls o’ fire!” expostulates Jeremy. “What am I to do now?”

“Only one thing you can do, Germy ol’ hoss,” declares Willis Twombley, who has been watching these developments with undisguised interest. “Send for someone or something that’ll chase away the Sea Monkeys. The Babylonians used really scary squeaky toys for that. We can get some at the pet shop.”

Which brings us to the end of this chapter, with more suspense to come.

A Romantic Interlude (‘Oy, Rodney’)

Crusty's Trombone Lessons ('Oy, Rodney') – Lee Duigon

Introducing Chapter CDXXXV of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney, Violet Crepuscular chides her readers for demanding more romance.

“You’d think they’d be satisfied,” she writes, “with a cyclops rampaging about the countryside while the town awaits the delivery of sea monkeys–but no, that’s not good enough! They want this to be a kissing book–ugh! Well, if it’s kissing they want, it’s kissing they’ll get!”

Patching up a lover’s quarrel caused by a difference of opinion between their respective invertebrate pets, Willis Twombley, the American adventurer who thinks he’s Sargon of Akkad, embarks on a hot and heavy smooching session with Lady Margo Cargo, Lord Jeremy Coldsore’s financier. (Shouldn’t that be “fiancee”?) Now that she’s fitted herself with a new upholstered wooden leg, Lady Margo is hot to trot (“You have no idea how distasteful it is to me to have to write such tripe,” Violet interjects.) In the course of this athletic love-making, Lady Margo’s wig falls off, her glass eye pops out, and Twombley’s six-gun slips out of the holster and into Oswin the Crayfish’s aquarium.

“It’s not cheating,” explains Ms. Crepuscular, “because Lady Margo is convinced that Mr. Twombley and Lord Jeremy are the same person. All attempts to demonstrate otherwise have failed so far–but at least her conscience is clear.”

Here she terminates the chapter before things get out of hand.

As for the cyclops, “If nobody cares about him tossing people’s cottages around like basketballs,” Violet concludes, “well, isn’t that a sad commentary upon our time?”

She will spend the rest of the day consoling the neglected cyclops.


Sea Monkeys vs. Cyclops (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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(Hooray! We’ve got our book cover back! It seems they listened when Mr. Pitfall showed up with a shotgun.)

You may remember, from Chapter CDXXXIII of Violet Crepuscular’s epic romance, Oy, Rodney, that there’s a cyclops on the loose in Scurveyshire. It’s the result of another one of those pesky curses laid on Scurveyshire by the medieval sorcerer, Black Rodney. This cyclops has already picked up a whole cottage and tossed it into a nearby pond.

Ah! But Johnno the Merry Minstrel has discovered that cyclopses (cyclopes? aw, who knows) are deathly afraid of sea monkeys. “All we have to do,” he explains in Chapter CDXXXIV, “is confront our cyclops with an army of sea monkeys.”

Amazing Sea Monkeys sea-monkey Mom, Dad,Sister, Brother Figures by : Doll  Hugs Shop | Ruby Lane

Ms. Crepuscular complains that the above picture is much too large for her book and wants it removed. Well, she brought up the whole subject of sea monkeys, didn’t she?

“I had sea monkeys when I was eight years old,” she says, “and they were just the cutest little brine shrimp! My favorite was a shrimp named Ernest Sturdivant–and he didn’t look anything like what they showed on the box.”

But there’s a problem in Scurveyshire–the pet shop’s out of sea monkeys. “We’ll have to send away for some,” exfoliates Johnno. “There’s a store in Paraguay that specializes in them. Allow 16 weeks for delivery!”

“That’s a lot of cottages uprooted and destroyed,” gripes Lord Jeremy Coldsore, justice of the peace.

The solution is to erect a gigantic billboard announcing the eventual arrival of more sea monkeys than you can shake a stick at. It is hoped the cyclops will read it and get out of Scurveyshire while the gettin’s good.

(“These fools are ruining my romance!” complains Ms. Crepuscular. But it’s all her fault.)