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.

Problems, Problems! (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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Introducing Chapter CCCXXII of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney, Violet Crepuscular cautions her readers, “Please exercise caution in reading this chapter, as it contains graphic descriptions of a no-longer approved medical procedure.” In actuality, she seems to have forgotten to write those graphic descriptions, so there’s really no need for any kind of caution here.

Johnno the Merry Minstrel is not so merry lately, as he suffers complications from the gizzardectomy performed on him by Dr. Fanabla. The doctor suspects the gizzard is trying to grow back. This can be a problem when you remove a chap’s gizzard. “The only solution is a transfusion!” declares the doctor. He then proceeds to transfuse blood from Johnno’s left arm into Johnno’s right arm. This seems to do the trick. “They’re going to wind up having to name the Royal Society of Surgeons after me!” the doctor exults.

Meanwhile no charges against the Wise Woman of the Woods can be made to stick, as there is no law in this part of England against buying up all the axolotls in a curiosity shop. As Scurveyshire’s justice of the peace, Lord Jeremy Coldsore has no alternative but to release her.

There is, however, a hitch. “She don’t wanna leave the hoosegow, ol’ hoss,” reports Willis Twombley, the American adventurer. Lord Jeremy has to rush over to the jailhouse to evict her.

“You can’t sell me on leaving this cell,” she replies, with a feeble attempt at a crepuscularity. (Really, Violet, it’s not up to your standard.) “I’d forgotten what a bonny thing it is to have a roof over one’s head and three meals a day prepared by someone else. From now on, you may address me as the Wise Woman of the Gaol.” “Gaol,” Ms. Crepuscular informs us, is how people in Britain misspell the word “jail.” “Even Oscar Wilde never learned how to spell it right,” she adds.

Here the chapter breaks for want of anything more to say.

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.