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

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In Chapter CCCLXXVIII (don’t you just love those Roman numerals? imagine having to use them to do trigonometry) of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney, Violet Crepuscular reveals a revelation.

The vicar has emerged from his conniptions with a new delusion. He now believes himself to be Wally Moon, a 20th century American baseball player who is still many years from being born.

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“I cannot overstate the importance of this!” Ms. Crepuscular remarks in an aside to the reader. “I make this remark in an aside to you, dear reader, because I wish to stress the importance of the name ‘Moon.’ Why the Moon? Why not Mars, or Jupiter, or some other heavenly body? But you will excuse me while I dash into the kitchen to check on my toothpaste tarts.” The next two pages are left blank to represent her absence.

The vicar is confused because he has never heard of baseball; consequently, he does not know what to do. But he does know what he cannot do.

“I am sorry, Lady Margo,” he tells her, “but you are much mistaken in believing me to be your vicar. In identifying myself as Wally Moon, whoever he is, I cannot perform your marriage ceremony.”

He would say more, but at this point Constable Chumley arrests him for impersonating an unborn foreign athlete. Scurveyshire has an ordinance against that, going back to the 13th century. “A’ blithely mack yon frisky glames,” he explains.

With the two Scotland Yard detectives trying to frame each other for the disappearance of the locomotive under the vicar’s backyard wading pool, Lord Jeremy Coldsore feels he can now safely climb down from the tall tree in which he has taken refuge. Imagine his distress when he discovers that he can’t.

“Jist come down the way you went up, ol’ hoss,” advises his bosom friend, the American adventurer Willis Twombley. Here Ms. Crepuscular intervenes again.

“I do not mean to imply that Lord Jeremy has anything that we might properly refer to as a bosom,” she writes. And then: “Oh, no! My tarts are burning!” She rushes off to the kitchen again, leaving the rest of the chapter to the readers’ imaginations.

Enter Sergeant Dottle (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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Introducing Chapter CCCLXXVI of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney, Violet Crepuscular introduces a new character, courtesy of Scotland Yard–Detective Sergeant Elrond Dottle. His presence is necessary because Detective Chief Inspector Chipper Magog, instead of solving the mystery of the stolen locomotive, has fallen passionately in love with a bearded bar maid at The Lying Tart and his let his work slide.

Sgt. Dottle wants DCI Magog’s job and will do anything to get it. Usually what he tries to do is to pin on the DCI whatever crime they happen to be investigating at the time. Sgt. Dottle is an inveterate Clue player, which makes him (compared to some) a formidable detective. DCI Magog despises him and usually tries to frame him for whatever crime they happen to be investigating at the time. Their interpersonal dynamics are the talk of Scotland Yard.

With Lord Jeremy Coldsore refusing to come down from the tree that he has climbed, and taking all his meals up there, Johnno the Merry Minstrel has made an astonishing discovery .

“I say, m’lord!” he shouts from the ground beneath the tree. “It turns out that Black Rodney is not the only medieval sorcerer who’s bedeviling us. There’s another one!”

“Just get rid of that inspector, there’s a good chap!” answers Lord Jeremy from high up the tree. He has heard that DCI Magog plans to interrogate him under torture.

“But m’lord, it’s not just Black Rodney!” cries Johnno. “We have also fallen under a curse by Black Rodney’s long-time competitor, Blue Bodney! And he’s even worse!”

“Oh, bother!” mutters Jeremy.

Here Ms. Crepuscular breaks in with a recipe for toothpaste brownies. “I generally use Pepsodent Super-Whitener for these,” she writes, “but Colgate Xtra-Strength will do as well. I will send a batch to the Pulitzer committee!”

That’s cheating. I think.

Scotland Yard Investigates (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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Somewhere along the plot line, a runaway locomotive was sucked under the wading pool in the vicar’s back yard. It has proved quite difficult to get author Violet Crepuscular to remember this incident, which I believe is pivotal to an understanding of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney. But she returns to it in Chapter CCCLXXV.

All of Scurveyshire is agog (don’t you love that word?) over the arrival of Detective Chief Inspector Frank “Chipper” Magog of Scotland Yard, to investigate the disappearance of the locomotive. After a confidential consultation with Constable Chumley, D.C.I. Magog concludes that Lord Jeremy Coldsore has stolen it.

“What did you tell him that for?” demands Lord Jeremy. “I didn’t steal any perishin’ locomotive!”

The constable shrugs eloquently. “Tis a feerthy croop, m’lord!” he exclaims. “I nippher graned a switter yam,” he adds. (“I was going to say ‘resignedly’,” Violet confides to the reader, “but I decided it made the whole thing sound too much like a Tom Swift episode.”) We are at liberty to wonder just what the inspector thought the constable had told him.

“Chipper” earned his nickname by his willingness to use torture to extract witness testimony, which is why Lord Jeremy has climbed the tallest tree on his estate and refuses to come down. Magog decides to wend his way to The Lying Tart and interrogate the bearded barmaid. We can leave him to it.

“As you can see by this chapter,” writes Ms. Crepuscular, “I do not forget important elements of my story! This is a vile canard put out by those mean-spirited scribblers who are competing with me for a Pulitzer.”

Children’s Letters to Ms. Violet

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Due to circumstances entirely beyond our control, we were unable to present our weekly update of Violent Crepuscular’s epic romance, Oy, Rodney. Ms. Crepuscular has contacted us and rebuked us with what she has described as “an avalanche of an outpouring of support from the children of the world.” We did not know children were reading Oy, Rodney.

Here are three quotes from three letters. They are intended to make me feel guilty.

From Daisy Hokus, Brzwirdzjeczow, Eastern Europe: “My daddy is sad all the time, but when he reads Oy Rodney he is happy and runs all over the house singing and dancing. You must write more Oy Rodney to make him happy. I am 3 years old.”

From Randy Pokus, Ongs Hat, New Jersey: “Our teacher Ms. Typhus yells at us all the time and makes us scared only when she reads Oy Roddny by Vilet Crepustular she doesn’t yell at us anymore she just giggles!”

From Hector Vechter, Harpoon Harbor, Alaska: “Our family is very poor and when winter comes we have to sleep outside because nobody likes us but when we have some Oy Rodney to read it is better than food, better than warm clothes, so you can just imagine how deprived we felt when we didn’t get any.”

There is, says Ms. Crepuscular, “a whole wheelbarrowful of these letters” and I had better just watch out or the world’s children will be coming after me with pitchforks and torches.

Meanwhile, the literary agent who first discovered her has been put to death by the literary agents’ guild.

The Whole Thing Freaks Out (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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This is not Coldsore Hall, but it will have to do.

You will have noticed that there is no picture here. Ms. Crepuscular’s computer doesn’t work either. It must be related to mine.

Anyhow, introducing Chapter CCCLXVII–no, I have no idea what happened to Chapter CCCLXVI–of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney, Violet Crepuscular seems to be as confused as I am.

“What a mess those literary critics made of my front yard!” she writes. “I was all day picking up the stones and brickbats. But if they think they can stop me from producing the rest of my epic romance–well, fap! to them. Literature marches on!”

The chapter opens with Sir Robin Banks, the aristocratic thief, back on his feet in the middle of his hideout in an unused wing of Coldsore Hall. How did he get out of the cedar chest, after he’d locked himself in? “I am not going to write Chapter CCCLXVI all over again,” Ms. Crepuscular declares. “Suffice it to say there was a side missing from the chest. The fifth Earl Coldsore, Lord Pratt, acquired this chest from a shady antiques dealer in Cyprus when he went on the Third Crusade and brought it back to Scurveyshire with him when Richard the Lionheart kicked him out of the army for persistent cowardice. Lord Pratt carried the massive chest all the way across medieval Europe–only to discover, upon his return after an incredibly hazardous Channel crossing, that he had somehow lost one of the chest’s four sides. As a consequence, his health deteriorated. His last act was to stow the chest away in that room that no one ever used.”

Reader Thelma Potstock of Double Trouble, New Jersey, wants to know what Sir Robin has been eating, all this time he’s been hiding out in Coldsore Hall. This is a detail which had never crossed Ms. Crepuscular’s mind.

“The room is stocked with provisions left over from the Third Crusade,” she explains.

That will have to do for now. There is some doubt as to whether this installment of the saga can be successfully posted.

Literary Critics Protest ‘Oy, Rodney’

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Introducing Chapter CCCLXV of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney, Violet Crepuscular shares a personal experience. Oh, boy.

“I had a most unpleasant time yesterday,” she writes. “A busload of literary critics pulled up in front of my house and at least two dozen of them poured out and started yelling and throwing things. I am not sure why. Some of them carried signs bearing lewd and unsavory messages regarding my epic romance, Oy, Rodney. A few of them demanded that I come outside so they could drown me. Several carried pitchforks.

“I called the police, but there was no one there to take my call. I don’t know what would have happened if it hadn’t started to rain. The critics in a mad panic swarmed back onto the bus and it pulled away. I’m afraid they stomped my crabgrass.”

Nothing daunted, she goes on to write the chapter.

Here we have the aristocratic thief, Sir Robin Banks, hiding out in an unused wing of Coldsore Hall, wondering whether he ought to explore the other rooms in search of something valuable to steal. He is interrupted in his meditations by a sound of footsteps in the hall. It’s only Johnno the Merry Minstrel, searching for cuss-bags planted by the medieval sorcerer, Black Rodney; but Sir Robin decides he’d better hide in case it’s the police.

The only hiding place in his room is a ratty-looking cedar chest just big enough to accommodate him. Deftly, he crawls inside and shuts the lid.

Unforeseen by him, the lid automatically locks when it is closed.

“Here I break the chapter,” writes Ms. Crepuscular, “to heighten the suspense! Will Sir Robin get out of the cedar chest, or is he doomed to die in there? How awful it will be, years from now, when someone discovers the chest and goes to see what’s in it! I feel quite faint, just thinking about it!”

A snack of toothpaste sandwich cookies, washed down by a tall glass of absinthe, restores her equanimity.

Lady Margo’s Grandmother’s Glass Eye (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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Chapter CCCLXIII of Violet Crepuscular’s epic romance, Oy, Rodney, ended with Lady Margo Cargo averse to having her wedding without being able to wear her grandmother’s glass eye, which her crusty old butler, Crusty, has hidden in an unused wing of Coldsore Hall, along with all the other glass eyes and Lady Margo’s jewels. Ms. Crepuscular introduces Chapter CCCLXIV with a selection of fan mail.

“Reader Smokey Burgess, of Fishbowl, Alabama, writes: ‘What’s so special about Lady Margo Cargo’s grandmother’s glass eye? I always say if you’ve seen one glass eye, you’ve seen ’em all.’  And from Mrs. Ellen Melon of Sons of Hercules Township, Michigan, we have, ‘I wore the wrong glass eye for my wedding, and it was the ruin of everything!’

“Well, dear reader, now you can understand Lady Margo’s dilemma! Who wants to risk the ruin of everything?”

Ms. Crepuscular admits that she has been “inundated” with reader mail throughout the week, “not counting those nasty letters from people who tell me I should just stop writing and go soak my head,” she adds. “There are many schools of thought on choosing a glass eye for a wedding, each school bitterly opposed to all the others. I had no idea!”

Meanwhile the aristocratic thief, Sir Robin Banks, hiding out in Coldsore Hall, has begun to wonder if there’s anything worth stealing in this ancient, opulent country house: maybe he ought to peek into some of the other rooms. Comments Ms. Crepuscular, “I think you will agree that this heightens the suspense to a nearly unbearable degree! I had to drink a whole bottle of rum before I could get to sleep last night. Yo-ho-ho indeed!”

Maybe that’s why she has not yet written Chapter CCCLXIV, except for the parts we have already considered here. It has not been much of a performance.

Rodney Repeals the Law of Gravity (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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I could hardly wait to read this chapter; but as usual, Violet Crepuscular’s literary genius has thrown us a curve ball.

“Dear Reader,” she introduces Chapter CCCLXIII of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney, “I simply must share with you my romantic evening with my neighbor, Mr. Pitfall, who has quite forgiven me that episode of inadvertent but well-nigh fatal poisoning. In short, we had a date!”

I don’t see how it could have been much of a date. Mr. Pitfall insisted on dinner at their local Alternative Foods restaurant–“Their termite puffs are out of this world!” exults Ms. Crepuscular–but when he discovered they had only curbside takeout service, she writes, “That lovable Pitfall temper flared up again and he began pounding on the door, demanding to be let in for a proper sit-down dinner. One thing led to another, until finally the romantic silly man was dragged off by police. I might have been arrested, too, had not my lively writer’s imagination inspired me to pretend I was the mayor.” Way to go–why didn’t I think of that?

And so, with the chapter already more than halfway over, we come to the wicked medieval sorcerer, Black Rodney, cursing all of Scurveyshire by repealing the law of gravity.

You might have expected that all the shire’s people, animals, and buildings would float straight up until they left the earth behind and were lost in outer space. That is what usually happens when you repeal the law of gravity. “Imagine the sorcerer’s surprise and disappointment,” writes Ms. Crepuscular, “when nothing happened! It seems this is one of those spells that must be regularly practiced in order to get it right. So this time its only effect was to grow rather unsightly beards on The Lying Tart’s bar maids–and one of them already had a beard, so so what? A most discouraging failure for Black Rodney!”

So what about the aristocratic thief, Sir Robin Banks, hiding out in an uninhabited wing of Coldsore Hall, just across the hall from the room where Crusty the crusty butler has hidden Lady Margo Cargo’s priceless glass eyes and family jewels?

“I will take up those matters,” Ms. Crepuscular promises, “after I find some way to raise bail for Mr. Pitfall. He gets so downhearted when he’s in that holding cell!”

 

Where Are Lady Margo’s Jewels? (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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All of Scurveyshire is still trying to hunt down the aristocratic thief, Sir Robin Banks–who’s very similar to the famous Raffles the Gentleman Thief, only ignorant, slovenly, boorish, and dull–who is suspected of having stolen Lady Margo Cargo’s family jewels and priceless collection of glass eyes.

In Chapter CCCLXI of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney, Violet Crespuscular has Lady Margo post a reward for the capture of Sir Robin. And what a reward it is! “Dear reader,” Ms. Crepuscular writes, “it is no wonder that every single person in the shire has dropped whatever he or she was doing and plunged into the hunt for the aristocratic thief. And what reward is that, I hear you ask! Well, actually I don’t hear you, we are probably separated by hundreds or even thousands of miles. I have to use my lively writer’s imagination to imagine you asking that question.” This soliloquy goes on for another five or six pages. I have heard rumors that a number of prominent people are banding together to try to stop Ms. Crepuscular from writing anything more.

What we really want to know is what Lady Margo’s crusty old butler, Crusty, knows about the fate of those jewels!

Meanwhile, Ms. Crepuscular seems to have forgotten to tell us what this irresistible reward is. Instead, we get this background information about the suspected thief.

Sir Robin Banks is the younger son of the Earl of Fapley, disinherited by his father and cast out of the family because of certain small but profoundly annoying personal habits. Since then he has also become an obnoxious drunkard, a compulsive liar, and a heretic. He attended Oxford University for a time, until they discovered he was there and chased him out of town with torches and borrowed farm implements.

Yeah, yeah, already! What does Crusty know?

“In the next installment, dear reader, I promise to reveal what Crusty the butler knows,” Violet writes. “Really, for a fictional character, it’s devilish hard to pry any information out of him.”

I do not hold with blaming things on people who do not, in fact, exist.

What Does Crusty Know? (‘Oy, Rodney’)

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In Chapter CCCXLIX of Violet Crepuscular’s epic romance, Oy, Rodney, we were told that only Lady Margo Cargo’s crusty old butler, Crusty, knows what really happened to Lady Margo’s collection of glass eyes, priceless jewels, and Royal Doulton china–and meanwhile, the entire population of Scurveyshire has been deputized to hunt down the aristocratic thief, Sir Robin Banks. We could hardly wait to find out what Crusty knows!

But we are dealing with a literary genius. In Chapter CCCL, Ms. Crepuscular treats us to a kind of soliloquy.

“Dear reader,” she writes, “I cannot but wonder whether it’s time to select a new cover for my epic romance, Oy, Rodney. Lately the Lord of the Tube Socks cover seems inadequate. A letter from former American League batting champion Pete Runnels says it so well: ‘The Lord of the Tube Socks cover seems inadequate.’ I didn’t get where I am today by ignoring Pete Runnels.”

The fiend! See how she tightens the screw of suspense! It is as if Alfred Hitchcock were to appear on the screen in the middle of Psycho and ask the viewers if he ought to change the title. “Perhaps The Birds would be better,” he might say. And you know that he knows we’re squirming in our seats!

Breathlessly we rush on to Chapter CCCLI. Upon my word! Still no Crusty! Where are Lady Margo’s jewels? Her glass eyes? Her Royal Doulton china? Is Crusty in cahoots with Robin Banks? And how are the deputies supposed to hunt him down, when nobody knows what he looks like? They very nearly lynch a traveling professor of phrenology from Oxford, having jumped to the conclusion that he was the aristocratic thief. Only a timely sonnet by Johnno the Merry Minstrel saves him.

We turn to Chapter CCCLII, onto to find, to our dismay, that it hasn’t been written yet.

Is there no limit to the tortures that the mind of a romance novelist can conceive?

Can we even be sure the chapters are numbered properly?