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A Poetic Interlude (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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There’s more to Ms. Violet Crepuscular than just Oy, Rodney and bas-cuisine. Earlier this week she acquired a new pet, a freshwater clam named Farfel. She was kind enough to send us a video of him in action.

We are not told what the clam is eating. Maybe a few crumbs of Violet’s toothpaste sandwich cookies.

And now, on to Chapter CCCXVII of Violet’s epic romance, Oy, Rodney.

Terribly disappointed in the advice he’s been getting from the Wise Woman of the Woods, Lord Jeremy Coldsore turns to Johnno the Merry Minstrel. “With a little practice, old man, you, too, could be an oracle. We need someone much more reliable than that silly old trout in the woods. You could do it standing on your head!”

This is precisely what Johnno tries to do. It requires several attempts before he is able to remain standing on his head long enough to act as an oracle. The position achieved, he then makes his first oracular utterance.

“If you would lift Black Rodney’s curse,

And hopefully not make it worse,

Forget those foolish morris dancers:

They’re not the ones who have the answers!

“Instead, resort to axolotls

Confined in one-quart whiskey bottles–”

This is as far as he can get without falling down. But Lord Jeremy is impressed. “Keep it up, man, keep it up!” he cries. “What do we do with the axolotls after we confine them in the bottles?”

“My lord,” gasps Johnno, “I don’t know! And my head hurts something dreadful! Why don’t we get the axolotls first, and then I’ll try again?”

“Oh, very well!” grumbles Lord Jeremy. “It can’t be all that hard to obtain a few axolotls–provided they’re in season, this time of the year.”

Here the chapter ends. “This is how I heighten the suspense and keep the reader reading,” Ms. Crepuscular confides in her readers. “Besides which, I think Farfel might be ready to learn a trick or two.”


Lawsuit-Happy Scurveyshire (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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Nothing much happens for several chapters, so let us move on to Chapter CCCXVI of Violet Crepuscular’s epic romance, Oy, Rodney. This chapter is notable in that it is not able to provide us with any new crepuscularities. Oops…

The Marquess of Groan is suing Lord Jeremy Coldsore because he fell ill when the roof was blown off Coldsore Hall, Johnno the Merry Minstrel is suing the Wise Woman of the Woods for being wrong all the time, and the proprietor of The Lying Tart is suing the vicar for not getting rid of his backyard wading pool, under which quite a few of the pub’s most reliable customers have disappeared. It’s bad for business.

“Maybe I just ought to shoot all these dummies who want to sue everybody,” suggests the American adventurer, Willis Twombley. “We had a whole slew of lawsuits in Babylon once, so we put all the plaintiffs to death and that made the lawsuits go away.” Twombley believes himself to be Sargon of Akkad.

“You can’t shoot the Marquess because the Queen wouldn’t like it,” replies Lord Jeremy, “and you certainly can’t shoot Johnno because we need him to sniff out Black Rodney’s cuss-bags. He found another one just this morning–right under my bed, by Jove! Besides, we still don’t know what the Wise Woman of the Woods meant by warning us of ‘the clam before the storm.'”

“My six-gun’s gettin’ rusty, ol’ hoss,” Twombley complains. He suspects Lord Jeremy, his bosom friend, still harbors some resentment against him for accidentally shooting him in the foot, which is why he now has two left feet. He remains unable to dance properly.

Ms. Crepuscular suddenly shifts gears, subjecting the reader to her recipe for toothpaste icing for chocolate grass cake. “Mr. Pitfall will soon be released from the hospital,” she adds, “and I want to surprise him with it.”


Confronting the Wise Woman of the Woods (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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As we take up Chapter CCCXIV of Violet Crepuscular’s epic romance, Oy, Rodney, we find Lord Jeremy Coldsore very angry that the Wise Woman of the Woods’ prescription for lifting Black Rodney’s curse on the vicar’s backyard wading pool proved completely ineffective, resulting in the loss of three seventh sons of seventh sons who were also expert morris dancers.

“She’ll pay a grim price for that!” he vows, and orders Constable Chumley to arrest her.

The constable demurs. “Naith o’ flurrin’ with yar blymin’ och, m’lord,” he says in his quaint rural dialect. Unmoved, Lord Jeremy orders him to accompany him to the Wise Woman of the Woods’ quaint little cottage in the woods. Willis Twombley, the American adventurer who think he’s Sargon of Akkad, brings up the rear.

At first the Wise Woman of the Woods can’t believe the ritual didn’t work. But upon being told the details of the shameful episode, she shakes her head sadly and remarks, “It’s all your fault, my lord. I never told you to use three seventh sons of seventh sons. That was all wrong! And I fear that this is just the clam before the storm.” No one knows quite what she means by that.

“Enough of this superstitious twaddle!” declares Lord Jeremy. “Constable, arrest that woman!”

“No, my lord–you don’t have time for that!” she cries. “What you need now is a wombat’s womb. It’s the only way to save the shire.”

Lord Jeremy stares at her. “And how am I supposed to lay my hands on one of those? Where is a wombat womb at?”

Ms. Crepuscular writes triumphantly, “Aha! Yet another crepuscularity! Dear reader, we are making literary history!”

[Editor’s Note: If you think I’m kidding, visit http://www.chessgames.com, click on “Chessforums,” then click on my “Playground Player” forum (the one with the little green dinosaur), and scroll down to yesterday’s posts. You will find a host of new crepuscularities devised by some of my enthusiastic chess colleagues. This could become the 21st-century equivalent of the Droodle.]

We are not told how Lord Jeremy is to obtain the womb of a wombat. Ms. Crepuscular is saving that for a subsequent chapter.


The Exorcism of the Wading Pool (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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At last–Chapter CCCXIII of Violet Crepuscular’s epic romance, Oy, Rodney. I have skipped Chapter CCCXII because I couldn’t find it anywhere.

As instructed by the Wise Woman of the Woods, Lady Margo Cargo has hired three men who are each the seventh son of a seventh son, all expert morris dancers, and all named Squeeb MacTavish, to remove Black Rodney’s curse on the vicar’s backyard wading pool. If you don’t understand that sentence, welcome to the club.

All three are now in position to perform the magical ritual, each equipped with an orange beach ball. Looking on are Lady Margo and her fiancees, Lord Jeremy Coldsore and the American adventurer, Willis Twombley, whom she thinks are the same person.

“Ready?” cries Lord Jeremy.

“We are ready, my lord,” answers Squeeb MacTavish–well, answers one of them. Which one doesn’t really matter.

“Then do yer stuff!” shouts Twombley.

With their backs to the pool, all three toss their beach balls into the air, hopefully to land in the middle of the pool. They do, all three of them.

Out from under the pool, with blinding speed, shoot three slimy tentacles, instantaneously wrapping around the three morris dancers and snapping back under with the three men. Gone, all three of them.

“That wasn’t supposed to happen!” Lord Jeremy cries. Twombley laughs, earning a frown from Lady Margo.

“I deplore this man’s laughter at this manslaughter!” she declares.

“And I, dear reader,” exults Mr. Crepuscular, “have executed another crepuscularity!” She is sure this will catch on as a literary technique.

(“Toldja that so-called Wise Women of the Woods is full of it!” grumbles Lady Margo’s crusty old butler, Crusty. “She’s never been right about anything.”)

Here the chapter dissolves into an orgy of self-congratulation by Ms. Crepuscular, too shameful to repeat here.


The Arrival of a Rival (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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Introducing Chapter CCCXI of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney, Violet Crepuscular exults:

“I have introduced a new stylistic flourish to English prose, dear readers! I shall call it the Crepuscularity. ‘The Arrival of a Rival’ is a shining example of the technique! Allow me to provide two more. ‘A Man’s Laughter at Manslaughter,’ and ‘Where Is a Wombat’s Womb At?'” Here she inserts several kissing emojis, which I am unable to reproduce here. For that matter, I am also unable to define “crepuscularity.” What the dickens is she getting at?

We were all waiting to see what would happen when the three seventh sons of seventh sons, expert morris dancers and all named Squeeb MacTavish, attempted to lift the curse on the vicar’s backyard wading pool, following the instructions of the Wise Woman of the Woods. But do we get that?

“Bear with me, dear readers,” Ms. Crepuscular confides in her readers, “as I heighten the suspense by introducing a necessary complication into the plot.”

The complication takes the form of a well-dressed but also very rugged-looking man who shows up at the door of Lady Margo Cargo’s luxurious country house.

“Who the devil are you?” demands her crusty butler, Crusty.

“I was Lady Margo’s girlhood boyfriend, pledged to become her husband after I made good in the world. I then went off to seek my fortune. Now I have returned.” The man pauses to scratch at a livid scar in the shape of an exclamation point. “Please tell her that Mr. Agamemnon Frizzle is here to claim his bride.”

Crusty, whose own marital ambitions have been thwarted by Lord Jeremy Coldsore, is in no mood for the arrival of a rival. (“There! I did it again!”)

“I don’t see no fortune,” he drools. (I cannot explain why Ms. Crepuscular chose this verb.)

Mr. Frizzle grins, a horrifying sight. “And no one saw the lost city of Shopworth, either,” he declares–“until I found it!”

Crusty is perplexed. The city of Shopworth, Saskatchewan, has never been lost, to his knowledge.

Here the chapter breaks–again “to heighten the suspense,” explains Ms. Crepuscular. Or maybe she just doesn’t know what to write next.


The Expert Morris Dancers (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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Chapter CCCX of Violet Crepuscular’s epic romance, Oy, Rodney, is almost too exciting to read. Almost, but not quite.

To exorcise the curse placed by Black Rodney on the vicar’s backyard wading pool, the Wise Woman of the Woods has declared that it is necessary for the seventh son of a seventh son, who is also an expert morris dancer, to stand with his back to the pool and throw an orange beach ball over it while reciting something or other, it doesn’t really matter what. The detective hired by Lady Margo Cargo has found three men in Scotland, who are all each other’s uncles, who meet those qualifications. They have just arrived by train.

The Scurveyshire Brass Band welcomes them with a lusty rendition of “Great Balls O’ Fire.” Willis Twombley, the American adventurer who thinks he is Sargon of Akkad, chases the band away by shooting up their tuba. “I hate the smell of classical music,” he explains.

As the three seventh sons of seventh sons step off the train, Lord Jeremy Coldsore greets them and introduces himself and Lady Margo. The tallest of the trio introduces himself: “Squeeb MacTavish, y’r honor, and pleased to meet yer.” The other two are also named Squeeb MacTavish.

Meanwhile, Lady Margo’s crusty butler, Crusty, frantically warns Constable Chumley to stop the ritual before it can begin. “Our so-called Wise Woman of the Woods is an idiot!” he cries. “Thanks to her advice, I invested my life savings in Fli-Bi-Nite Hair Growth Creme For Men–and look at me!” Only disaster can ensue, he says, if the ritual is allowed to proceed. The constable races to the railway station in time to deliver an urgent warning to Lord Jeremy.

“Thar be shinnims all bymie, M’Lord, whiff dastle cremakins–avant weer doggles!”

“He seems upset,” says Twombley.

“It’s all right, constable,” Lord Jeremy replies soothingly. “We’ll get started as soon as we can get these gentlemen to the vicar’s pool.”

The chapter breaks off with a malediction against archaeologists. Ms. Crepuscular has very strong feelings against their profession.


Scurveyshire’s Shakespeare Festival

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Violet Crepuscular introduces Chapter CCCIX of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney, thus:

“I would be remiss, dear readers, if I made no mention of Scurveyshire’s annual Shakespeare Festival–a great tradition of English village life.”

Tradition has it that William Shakespeare once spent the night in Scurveyshire on his way to Oxford to buy candy, and rented a room at the shire’s most famous pub, The Lying Tart. Unable to get to sleep, he stayed up all that night to write his little-known tragicomedy, Two Damn Fools. “And one of them,” Christopher Marlowe reportedly said after reading the play, “is you.”

A special stage has been erected on the common for the annual performance of this play, which, these days, is only performed once a year, here in Scurveyshire. It is believed that Shakespeare himself disowned the play and always claimed that Marlowe wrote it. This year Two Damn Fools will be performed by an amateur cast selected by Lady Margo Cargo and directed by Reginal Tosspot, the town drunk.

The plot involves a case of mistaken identity resulting in two damned fools inadvertently marrying each other’s fiancees. That’s really all there is to the plot. Had it been written today, it would have been a low-rated BBC sitcom. But during the festival in Scurveyshire, anyone caught attending the play is treated to as much free ale as he or she can drink. This leads to great merriment, and a high crime rate.

Lord Jeremy Coldsore, as current justice of the peace, busily makes his preparations, whatever they may be. “This,” he confides in his friend, the American adventurer Willis Twombley, who thinks he is Sargon of Akkad, “is an unsurpassed opportunity for Black Rodney to plunge the entire community into catastrophic chaos. I have instructed Constable Chumley to hire two dozen special constables.”

“Does he think they’ll be enough?” asks Twombley.

“What he said was,” answers Jeremy, “‘Aye frithin’ mickle dorbies an’ speed yon thores.'”

Twombley nods sagely. “Sounds like he’s got it under control,” he remarks.

[Note: My allergies are killing me today. If there is any fault to find with this installment of Oy, Rodney, it’s still Ms. Crepuscular to blame.]


A Letter from the Detective (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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When we last heard of the two-foot-tall consulting detective, Sir Ranulph Toadsome, he was headed north to Scotland to find the seventh son of a seventh son, an expert morris dancer, the only person who would be able to lift the curse from the vicar’s backyard wading pool. Now we hear from him again, in Chapter CCCVIII of Violet Crepuscular’s epic romance, Oy, Rodney.

Lady Margo Cargo, excited to the point of not noticing that her wig is on sideways, reads the detective’s letter aloud to her fiancees, Lord Jeremy Coldsore and the American adventurer, Willis Twombley, whom she thinks are the same person, and also to a casual passerby who looks like a Prussian entomologist.

“‘Dear Lady Margo (she reads), I have found not one but three men who are each the seventh son of a seventh son, and also expert morris dancers, and I will send them to you upon receipt of their train fare.

“‘You will, however, have to take care in dealing with them, because, by a family quirk that is rather difficult to explain to the layman, all three happen to be each other’s uncles and are extremely sensitive about it. Do not, under any circumstances, offer them any kind of food, and be especially careful not to make any small talk involving uncles. If you can avoid doing either of those things, you will have no trouble with them. Yours truly, Toadsome.”

The casual passerby mutters something in German and abruptly takes his leave.

“Isn’t this wonderful news?” exults Lady Margo. “At last we’ll be rid of Black Rodney’s curse. And then all we’ll have to do, Lord Jeremy, my dear, is find proof that you aren’t already married to someone else.”

“But I am not married to someone else!” cries Jeremy.

“I was, once,” mutters Twombley, “but she was one of those slippery Mede gals and I had to send her back. Every time you tried to hold her, she’d just squirt out of your hands.” Mr. Twombley believes he is Sargon of Akkad.

“We shall let the matter rest here for the nonce,” Ms. Crepuscular confides in her readers, “and take it up again at another nonce.”


The Wedding–at Last! (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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In Chapter CCCVII of Violet Crepuscular’s epic romance, Oy, Rodney, Lord Jeremy, seeing that the vicar has somewhat recovered from his latest bout of conniptions, takes the bull by the horns and decides to go ahead with his wedding to Lady Margo Cargo, the richest widow in Scurveyshire. The quickly patched-together ceremony is held on the front grounds of Lady Margo’s luxurious country house.

“We are met together,” intones the vicar, “to join these two peoples in woolly matrimony. If there is anybody here who knows of any reason why these two should not wed, let him speak now or forever hold his pieces.”

Up from his chair springs a little bald-headed man whom no one has ever seen before. “Ooh! Ooh! I know! I know the reason!” Everybody stares. The vicar smiles benignly, as if he doesn’t fully understand the situation.

“And what, my good man, is that reason?” he inquires.

“It’s Lord Jeremy! He’s already married!

Appalled, Jeremy can only blurt out, “I am not! I am not already married!”

“Prove it!” demands the little man. “Prove you aren’t married!”

This completely stumps Lord Jeremy. He is not the first man to run afoul of trying to prove a negative. The best he can do is sputter, “Why, everybody knows I’m not married, and never have been! Everyone in Scurveyshire knows that!”

“That’s not proof, my lord! If that’s what everybody knows, then everybody is mistaken. You have deceived them!”        ******

Ms. Crepuscular breaks the chapter to bring her readers up to date on the major archaeological discovery made in her back yard.

“It now seems the funny stones are not Carthaginian ruins after all, dear readers, but only a lot of discarded modern bricks, clearly stamped with the label Allen & Bubenick Brick Yards Inc.! In fact, that company is still in business, over in the next township. And the squiggly writing is only a bunch of random scratches, not Carthaginian letters. So they have torn up my yard for nothing, and all those fools in the pith helmets have since made themselves scarce.”

“I am too disturbed,” she adds, “to finish this chapter as it should be finished.”

 

 


An Important Message from the Author (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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In Chapter XX of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney

What? Chapter XX? I thought we had Chapter CCCV last week! Why are we suddenly on Chapter XX? Violet Crepuscular explains.

“Dear readers, I am sure I have a Chapter XX in the appropriate place, between Chapters XIX and XXI, but I cannot recall that there was that much to it. So I might as well rewrite it here, and use it to help you to understand my difficulty in proceeding to Chapter CCCVI.

“In digging up my garden, the oafs from the police turned up some oddly-shaped stones with peculiar markings on them; and as a result, my whole back yard is now being dug up by all these men in pith helmets and I am forbidden to interfere.

“They say the funny stones are the ruins of some Carthaginian thingy and thus a major archaeological discovery–and the government expects me to fund their research! I don’t understand this. They say the squiggly marks on the stones are inscriptions of some kind, but all it seems to say is things like ‘Put this stone in such and such a place’ or ‘For a good time, visit Cindy.’ Meanwhile they’ve made a pig’s breakfast of my yard! I do not propose to invite them in for sandwich cookies.”

Moving on to Chapter CCCVI, what little there is of it, we find Archibald Cruxley, ace reporter for Upholstery World, rather cast down by his failure to interview Lady Margo Cargo about her upholstered wooden leg, the only one of its kind in all of England. He has not been able to stem the flow of Willis Twombley’s reminiscences of famous gunfights in America. Nor does he like the way Mr. Twombley waves his six-shooter every which way for emphasis.

“Man, I thought Ur was a rough town, all full of Chaldees who’d shoot you just to see if their guns was loaded!” Twombley believes he is Sargon of Akkad, on the run from Babylonian usurpers. “And there was fast times in Philistia, too! But there wasn’t none of ’em could hold a candle to Dodge City. You shoulda see what happened when Murderin’ Mike McGurk came to town! Did you know he was a Ghurka?”

On and on he goes. Lady Margo listens intently, lost in fascination. Lord Jeremy Coldsore listens somewhat less intently. And Mr. Cruxley isn’t listening at all. He is thinking he made a serious error in his youth, when he decided not to be a beggar.


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