The All-Seeing Eye of Sauron

(But what about his ears?)

Sauron, former servant of Morgoth, etc etc, had a problem. He’d tried being a Necromancer for a while, but everyone had seen how well that worked out. Besides, he’d gotten super tired of zombies, turns out. Orcs were scintillating conversationalists by comparison. Also, Mirkwood had a serious mildew problem, and after a couple centuries there, he’d developed a serious mold allergy. And food? There were only so many ways to cook mushrooms.

Anyway, good riddance! Mordor had a delightfully dry and sunny clime. Well, the sun was up there somewhere above the volcanic ash and orcish industrial effluvia. So, yay?

After that wizard scoundrel’s tiresome meddling, Sauron vowed that he’d never be snuck up on again. Hence the All-Seeing Eye business. Only one, because he’d needed the other for things like pouring milk into his (evil) breakfast cereal and reading his ancient (and evil) esoteric tomes of forgotten yada yada.

Downside to the All-Seeing Eye: he’d forgotten to put in an off switch. Ugh. There was Elrond prancing around in his “magical” (magically gross, you mean!) glade. There was Gandalf incessantly smoking pipeweed and blowing those stupid smoke rings. There was Saruman trying to look secretly sinister in his bathroom mirror while trimming his nose hairs.

By Morgoth (cursed be his eternally vile name)! But the White Council were a dull bunch. It got so he couldn’t even enjoy an Orc ear sandwich in peace!

Sauron sighed, rattling the tea cups, at least. He stared at some rocks for a couple weeks.

Ah! Much better.

When he looked up, a couple hobbits were scrabbling up Mount Doom…

Catherine the Great Ate an Orange and Then Threw Some Rubles at an Artist

(Or was it not really Екатерина II Великая {Yekaterina II Velikaya}? Or still even rather yet: Sophie Friederike Auguste von Anhalt-Zerbst-Dornburg?)

And when I say she ate an orange, she ATE an orange, did our Tsarina Yekaterina. One might be forgiven, were one an emissary from the French court, for thinking that perhaps one should peel an orange before eating it. Were one an emissary from the English court, which is not outside the realm of possibility in those days, perhaps, one might have a strong sense of, not deja vu exactly, but a strong resonance with those stories one heard of Queen Elizabeth at grandmama’s knee.

Yekaterina cleared her throat and, had there been any noise whatsoever, one imagines it would have ceased immediately. “Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, approach us,” she said, though not in English, and probably not even in a Russian easily recognizable to today’s Russian speaker, one thinks.

Vigée Le Brun approached Yekaterina as she sat at table, biting into another orange. Vigée Le Brun (Louise to her acquaintances, Betty to her friends, something else entirely to her lovers, one imagines) curtsied deeply, and spoke something in French. Oh, I’m sure it was recorded somewhere what was said, who laughed, and who kissed whose hand. The Tsarina said something about being a fancier of art, and Vigée Le Brun, who had hardly expected to find a place more civilized, a place less fraught with terror, but then there you go, could barely even remember agreeing to paint the portrait, much less the painting of it.

When painting Tsarina Yekaterina’s portrait, Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun endeavored, with all her skill, to portray the brief moment of kindness she had felt, in the eyes perhaps, or maybe the mouth.

The large sack of rubles didn’t hurt, either.

St. George Has a Toothache

(Or maybe it’s his toe?)

Hey, that dragon he slew with his magical spear, Askalon, was nothing compared to this, St. George thought. Really, he wasn’t a saint yet, but there wasn’t much else to distinguish him from all those other Georges out there. He was pretty sure there were a few other Georges of the Toothache, you know? Still, even though he’d killed that dragon, suffered through its bilious fire, its rending claws, and snatching teeth, he’d not yet had a sit down with some pope or other, which he thought was probably a requirement, if he remembered right. Still, there was something to be said for disambig–

OWOOWOWOWOWOWOowow! It was funny how the pain came in waves, a rolling tide of hurt. The last thing he wanted was to eat something, but he was so hungry. He was just so tired of the left side of his face hurting. You know what sounded great, and also terrible? Two pieces of bread with a whole lot of meat in the middle. Just the thought of it made his mouth water and daggers of pain (he knew what those felt like, for real) shoot through his head. Oh yeah, and just so you know, every time he groaned, dandelions sprouted up around him. You’d think saints wouldn’t have to deal with things like toothaches, and maybe St. John the Divine was beyond that or even St. Phocas, but here he was, feeling like his head was being ground down between two giant molars.

Anyway, St. George had a toothache, and where the HECK was St. Apollonia when you needed her!?!

Hannibal (Son of Hamilcar) Loved Elephants

(But did he really love them? Or was he just using them?)

Hannibal, the son of Hamilcar Barca and not Hamilcar Oregano, loved elephants, it’s true. He loved their massive wrinkly faces and their disastrously floppy ears. He even loved their large, yellowing toes. He didn’t just love them for themselves though, he also really loved what they could do for him, theoretically, on the field of battle.

If you were a soldier, and let’s say you had a bronze sword and maybe a shield and, oh, if you were lucky, let’s say you had a spear or two as well. Let’s also say that this was your first day of fighting. You’re a neophyte soldier, fresh off the ancient soldier boot camp or whatever, and let’s say you’re screaming your voice raw, because you’re pretty scared, and everyone else is screaming, and maybe things seem a little less scary because of it. You’re all set, you think, to go maybe swing a sword at some other human beings, because you’re pretty sure they’re going to be swinging some swords at you, which you’re really not looking forward to to be honest. Anyhow, there’s all that adrenaline and blood pounding in your head. Oh yeah, and you maybe smack your sword against your shield a few times, because it makes a really satisfyingly resounding and pretty loud noise. Also, Old Sloucher over there, who’s been around a few battlefields, he’s pounding on his shield like there’s no tomorrow.

So you and, like, 500 other guys just start running running running and screaming and holding swords up, and you’re pretty glad you tied your sandals on tighter than usual that morning. So you’re all running and it’s feeling pretty great and you think, hey, maybe this soldiering thing isn’t so bad after all. You would be forgiven for thinking this, because it really is a truly glorious morning with the sun just beginning to shine over the mountains and all the flowers gloriously in bloom and the air so thick with the smell of wildflowers it’s like breathing honey, and then you run through a thicket of trees…

To find them.

You were ready for soldiers, even really mean and smelly ones with maybe their teeth filed down to points and with really sharp and curved blades and whatnot. What you weren’t ready for were these monstrous blobby grey tentacle monsters with, hey!, houses growing out of their backs.

So, that was a pretty bad day.

For Hannibal, those elephants worked out pretty swell. He was keen.

Charles Dickens, What the Dickens!?

Charles Dickens was awfully fond of pudding. Also gravy and tweed. But not altogether. That’s besides the point. He seemed like a normal enough fellow at first, scribbling away on endless sheets of paper seemed only mildly eccentric, but once he started back-flipping down the path, his neighbors got concerned. There were many whispered discussions over fence posts.

The more superstitious among them secretly wondered at Charles Dickens’ meteoric rise to success. Wondered what kind of deals he’s made, and with whom, while making warding signs against evil eyes and other dark forces. Old Scratch was known for taking an interest, they muttered darkly, in those who thought they could take on the role of creator. I mean, all the same, they still raced down to the tobacconists every Thursday for the latest on Little Nell, the Heeps, Micawber, Pickwick, and Durpledorper. Faustian bargain or no, that Dickens was a damn fine writer. Funny too!

Meanwhile, Dickens kept on scribbling furiously. Keen observer of human nature that he was, he totally missed all that neighborly concern. Really, the giant pentagram around his house should have clued him in, but Charles Dickens was oblivious.

He just kept on writing and playing with his kids.

Forbidden Tombs with Charlotte Brontë

(Or was it Emily?)

It’s a little known fact, but Charlotte Brontë ran a rather successful adventure tour on the side. Once she’d really gotten it going, it practically ran itself. She’d tried to enlist Branwell’s help, but he turned out to be rubbish at it, poor fellow.

Charlotte Brontë had had a stroke of inspiration while proofreading something or other that Branwell had written. It was dreadfully dull, but she had promised. Anyway, his writing was so ponderous and stodgy (he’d learned all the wrong lessons from Anne) that she’d found her mind wandering.

Soon, it was all forbidden tombs, poisonous marshes, terrifying fens all up in there. By which I mean her brain. She had just the thing to cure all that writerly and intellectual ennui that so afflicted all her friends and relations.

Six months later, and she was leading an expedition into the Lost Catacomb of Ros Amidras Fyrrentas. Among her party were Branwell (gamely trying his best to fasten on his helmet, but really, he just couldn’t get the hang of it–Charlotte had to help), Erasmus Darwin, George Eliot (she turned a blind eye to the fake mustache, natch), William Makepeace Thackeray, and her good chum Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell. There were some others, but they were hardly worth mentioning. Her sisters had declined to attend.

Thackeray very nearly fainted in terror during the Triangle Mishap, but otherwise it all went stunningly well. Apart from Branwell getting his head stuck in a funereal urn, that is. Charlotte had to break it. Sometimes beauty had to yield to necessity, especially when Branwell involved. George Eliot swung across the ravine deliciously, and Cleggs handled that animated skeleton like a champ.

At the end, Thackeray shook her hand profusely, while George Eliot winked and strode manfully away, golden amulet twirling around her gloved fingers.

Yes, Charlotte Brontë thought, this will be just the thing.

The Drought of March was Pierced to the Root, Yo!

(Or was it bathed in such sweet liquor?)

Geoffrey Chaucer–Geoffy to his mum–had a problem. You see, all he wanted to do, just 24-7, was make inappropriate jokes. Jokes about bodily functions mainly, because they were HILARIOUS. His mum was not amused, and often washed his mouth with the ancient precursor of soap. Too bad they were in London (the city proper, even, INSIDE the walls), because it was tough getting something so high tech out in the boondocks. If you were in Leeds or, even worse, Nottingham, you were shit out of luck. So to speak. But in London, you could eat soap, and often did. It took a real literal sort of mind to think that soaping up a mouth would remove the filthy words from it. Those filthy English words. So coarse and unrefined.

How many dinners had it been now that had been needlessly (as far as Geoffy was concerned) cut short due to some, quite frankly, pretty hilarious remark, if he really did say so himself. In fact, Geoffy was so confident and so bold in pronouncing the high quality of his jokes, that he had triggered a kind of suggestible reaction among his friends, such that he only had to get that I’m-about-to-say-something-funny smile on his face, and they’d start busting a gut.

Why’d his mum have to be such a stick in the mud, to use a really popular, one might say hip, new saying. No one was really sure what it meant exactly, but everyone was pretty sure that being a stick stuck in mud would be pretty boring. Also, who wanted to wade into that mud and get the stick, when there were so many others just lying all about? Especially after that time when Arthur Wycklesbee drowned in that muddy sinkhole trying to get, what everyone agreed was, a really sick stick.

So anyway, Geoffy tried to bite his tongue at dinner, or at least keep his mouth full with food, but sometimes it was just too much. Someone would say something, and it would, like, set off a bunch of chain reactions in his brain, which was really pretty prochronistic, but what the heck? Geoffy Chaucer was, he thought, kind of a genius of words. If he was light years ahead of stuff, languagewise, well, who was gonna get on his case about it? His mum? (Well, yes, but not forever!)

Also, what was all this talking French all the time? Geoffy was pretty sure that English would come into its own one of these days. He wasn’t sure why, but all these jokes seemed just a little more funny when he said them in English… Maybe it was just him.

The Fuzz that Sopped the Brain with Nonsense

(Or was it lint?)

Hermes Trismegistus was a sore loser. I mean, sure, he knew all the secrets of the universe, or whatever, the shadowy stuff that hides underneath the surface of everything, but, boy, watch him lose his shit over a chess game or even a game of checkers, and you might not think so highly of his sacred knowledge, you know?

All his friends were like, Hermes, listen! It’s just a game, man. Lighten up! But Hermes Trismegistus just kicked the table over, threw the pieces on the ground, even, one time, he stomped a knight and rook into the floor. Boy, Abraham was sure pissed about that. He was all like, do you know know who I am? DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM? But Hermes Trismegistus didn’t care. He was too lost in the throes of his rage. He stomped off.

It was really surprising, you know, because otherwise Hermes Trismegistus was kind of a cool guy. He was really tapped into the source, just seeing behind the curtain all the time, and then writing it all up. That was pretty high tech of him, open sourcing all those occult secrets, cracking that geode wide open to reveal the glittery shards inside.

Get him on the losing side of a game table, and something just snapped inside his syncretistic brain. Eventually, Thoth, Moses, Noah and all the others had had enough. They just stopped playing games with Hermes Trismegistus.

Funny, even losing at solitaire would spark that explosion. Until he realized he could cheat, that is. All his friends rolled their eyes, but whatever, at least they didn’t have to watch him rage anymore.

That One Time on the Glorious Veranda

(Or was it an esplanade?)

[Jorge Luis Borges failed to appear at the appointed time, so he has been replaced with a “double”. We apologize for the inconvenience. If you have any complaints, please leave your comments with Floyd, our janitor who is also doubling as our PR expert. Floyd really knows how to clean up a mess! Messes of all kinds really. Don’t be alarmed if you see mustard in his mustache. He does love mustard, our Floyd, to an alarming degree. Can’t get enough of it. It’s a reality that, when you put too much mustard in a sandwich, some of that mustard is bound to arrive elsewhere than its intended location, eg, trousers, vest, mustache, tablecloth. Granted, Floyd’s response rate may be a little slow. But there’s something to be said for the personal touch! Oh, and also, if Floyd is wearing his purple hat, please don’t address him as Floyd. When he’s wearing his purple hat, his “thinking cap”, if you will, Floyd likes to be referred to by his mother’s maiden name, Yuschchzloos (pron. Ooofloi). Also, please don’t be alarmed by Floyd’s long toe nails. He cut holes in the toes of his boots so they could “all hang out” (not a direct quote), so to speak. If you have technical questions, you’re in luck! Floyd is also our resident “answer man” (not a direct quote), and he loves giving people answers! Please to enjoy your regularly scheduled “Borges” experience.]

“Jorge Luis Borges” sipped his coffee on the veranda.

Monkeying Around with Monkeys

(But how many exactly?)

Sancho Panza, long suffering Sancho Panza, loyal and steadfast Sancho Panza, voluminous and exasperated Sancho Panza, rolled his eyes and sighed. Don Quixote stood atop a barrel. The barrel from which all their current problems originated.

“O! Let no man say that Don Quixote turned away in the moment of need. Let no man say that Don Quixote spurned a request for aid, a plea for succor, a beseechelment for help! I say to you, good people of Monskeygromzelvania, your words of woe fall not on deaf ears, for the ears of Don Quixote hear sounds of all sorts, the buzzing of gnats, the clambering of spiders on the mantel place, the groaning and stomping of giants with the toothache. O! sorry people of this town, I, Don Quixote, slayer of ogres, eater of sandwiches, and lifter up of the betrodden and bespectacled, I shall rid you of this pestilential infestation of rogues and scoundrels! No villain shall be safe before me! No ne’er-do-well will fail to scamper from my presence!”

The monkeys rolled about, scratching and biting one another. Doing all the grotesque things monkeys do. The fake Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra peeked from behind a tree, scribbling furiously away into a tiny notebook.

Sancho Panza tried to grab his hat back from the monkey that had stolen it.

Don Quixote leapt down from the barrel he’d been standing on, and fixed his wheeling gaze upon a monkey peeling a banana. “Mayor Dos de la Tres! I am at your service!” Don Quixote curled into a low bow, and his tin pot helmet fell off his head. The monkey took a bite of the banana. “Alas! Alack! etc. No town should be made to suffer so much as yours have at the hands of Los Malvodos Hermanos! I go to defeat these implacable foes!”

Sancho Panza finally managed to get his hat back, only to find a monkey on his back.

The real Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra leapt from the tree and landed atop the fake Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. “Scoundrel! Villain! Faker!” They struggled for a bit.

Don Quixote strode off into the distance. Sancho Panza hurried after, still bemonkeyed.

The real Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra tore the tiny notebook into even tinier pieces.

“Ha!” the real Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra said.

The monkeys did some more monkey things.