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.

Mr. Skraeling’s Comeuppance (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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[Editor’s Note: I had a thought in the middle of the night. It struck me that I have created several repeating characters for this blog–Byron the Quokka and Dr. Fantod, the life-coaching spider; Joe Collidge; and the whole crowd that inhabits Scurveyshire. What if I were to put them all into one novel? What kind of book would that be?]

Introducing Chapter CCCXCIV of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney, Violet Crepuscular has suddenly realized that Scurveyshire’s current craze for reddling–reddle-ing?–has gotten out of hand. “Dear reader,” she writes, “it appears that Scurveyshire’s current craze for reddling has gotten completely out of hand. Finding myself unable to deal with it artistically, I have decided to bring it to an end.”

It won’t be easy. Olaf Skraeling, posing as a reddleman in a bid to win the hand of Scurveyshire’s rich widow, Lady Margo Cargo, has created a demand that he cannot fulfill. For one thing, he’s out of reddle and doesn’t know where to get more. For another, Lady Margo blames him for her glass eye falling out while playing hopscotch. “Here’s where it gets tricky,” Ms. Crepuscular warns the reader.

You guessed it–one step too close to the fateful wading pool in the vicar’s back yard, and Mr. Skraeling, reddled clothes and all, gets sucked right under! Shloopf! That fatal sound is the last thing Olaf hears.

“Who’s going to pay for my glass eye?” demands Lady Margo. “I thought it was so romantic, the way he reddled my upholstered wooden leg–and now he’s gone!”

Constable Chumley has already stepped in to take care of Mr. Skraeling’s menagerie of chameleons, which creates a suspicion that he somehow maneuvered Olaf into the wading pool’s clutches. The constable refutes the charge: “A’ niffer blayed yon burzey wout a mair windring!” he declares.

Ms. Crepuscular goes on to object strenuously to any proposal to blend marsupials or daft college students into her romance. “It would ruin the whole thing!” she exclaims passionately.

That Business with the Sliding Board (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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Introducing Chapter CCXCII of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney, Violet Crepuscular writes, “I shall now indulge in a flashback, to tell you, dear readers, all about that lamentable business with the sliding board.” It isn’t really a flashback, because she is now writing chapters out of order. And her editor has not returned her phone calls.

It seems that Scurveyshire’s resident genius, Percy Puce, F.R.S., the Resident Genius, has deduced that although considerable danger lurks below the vicar’s backyard wading pool, “Up on top, within the pool, one is perfectly safe. If only one had some means of entering the water without coming too close to the edge of the pool, one would be able to enjoy a refreshing swim.” The water in the pool is less than a foot deep, but Mr. Puce has some unusual ideas about swimming.

In the dead of night, Percy has workmen come and erect a sliding board just a few feet from the pool. They are too drunk to contemplate the danger of this enterprise. With the sliding board in place, the genius scrambles up the ladder, pauses for a moment at the top to strike an heroic pose, then races down the board as fast as his legs can carry him. “He has learned this trick by observing his pet hamster,” Ms. Crepuscular confides in the reader.

Alas, he slips on the ramp, his feet shoot out from under him, and his body describes an impressive arc through the air as he lands with a crash on his coccyx.

The sliding board itself slides under the pool and disappears. Howling with pain, Mr. Percy Puce disappears, too. The appalling character of the scene penetrates the workmen’s drunken haze and they rush back to The Lying Tart to tell the tale and quaff more ale.

Ms. Crepuscular is interrupted in her artistic endeavors by two police officers pounding on her door.

Editor’s note: I couldn’t find a suitable picture of someone taking a running start and then falling off a sliding board. It isn’t done that often.