(Funny how you never hear about high cunning…)
Rufus Diggory and Gruncemeier Yoiks had constructed an intricate rubegoldbergian trap out of marmalade, duct tape, a jar of pickles, several clothespins, a waxwork replica of King George III (old crazy version, natch), a whole mess of paperclips, three toasters, a triangular cheesegrater, a banana and a half, also banana peel, a chest of drawers in the regency style complete with “pineapple” legs, a gorilla suit (empty), several kegs of some rather tasty stout (partially drunk), a trunk full of middling to poor cheap romance and mystery novels, jellied doughnuts (not part of the trap, but you’ve got to fuel inspiration somehow!), an emperor penguin on a treadmill, literally thousands of dominos all lined up and Ready To Go!, Uncle Scarmantreau’s writing desk full of ball bearings of all different sizes, shark teeth, a musical saw, and an ant farm.
“Delicious!” Rufus cried. “Those neanderthals won’t know what hit them.” He cackled for a bit in a slightly annoying way.
“Rather!” chortled Yoiks and danced a little jig. His left foot hit one of the dominos and the whole trap flung into action. Twelve minutes later they were still standing the dominos back up when the neanderthals burst onto the scene, threw rocks at them, and that was the end of that.
(Like “Oh my gahd!”, you know.)
The Gahd of Sneezes, whose name was impossible to hear and also pretty impossible to spell (but let’s call him Sneezles), was having a bad day. Seriously bad. It had all started when Yowch, the Gahd of Stubbed Toes, had sneezed one too many times and shouted, “Right back atcha, pal!” and, as Sneezles walked away, turned his head and laughed, sure enough, he stubbed his toe painfully on the shell of an imaginary deceased turtle or something and then while yelping–manfully, natch–and hopping out of the way somehow managed to stub three other toes while coming down vertically. “How can you stub your toe with a vertical motion?” Sneezles cried (also manfully, because gahd!) and wiped his eyes for no reason. Being a gahd was tough. Just for that, Sneezles afflicted 37 people with sneezing fits in Cleveland. Ha ha ha, Sneezles thought to himself, feel the might of my sneezes, puny humans! After that, though, things were kind of boring for a while. Just not a lot going down up (down? sideways?) in the Realm of the Gahds. They even got his ambrosia order wrong at the cafeteria. Figures! Sneezles thought and would have smote Ambivilia, Goddess of Getting Your Order Wrong and Not Giving a Fig About It, for it, but… she was not one to cross. Sneezles sat in midair and drank his drink he didn’t quite like until it had all been drunk and then stared off into the middle distance for about 6,000 years. Say what you will about eternity, there’s plenty of it.
(Meddlesome because curious. Curios because what are they?)
Reginald “Reg” T. Nibbs had a shop full of curios. Mostly they were dusty. Yes, dustiness, he thought, was their primary and defining characteristic. In spite of all of his efforts, frantically dusting with an ostrich featherduster, as soon curios in the third shelf of the southwest corner cabinet were free from dust the curios in the fifth shelf of the northern middle cabinet were crying out* to be dusted. Reg sighed, as he did often these days, thinking of the weight all of these things had on his life** and remembered those, yeah let’s go there, halcyon days when he recognized himself in the mirror and when the world seemed endless and possible. Then there was that one day when he thought the best thing in the world would be for him to own a, for lack of a better word, curiosity shop. Sure, plenty of curious people came in to the store, but precious few of them actually bought anything. This was the lingering conundrum. How to get people to buy the tchotchkes, gewgaws, fripperies, and antiques gathering dust all over his shop. Reg sneezed.
* Not literally.
** Again, not literally.
(On second thought, maybe that title doesn’t work so good.)
What’s the collective noun for wizards? Weed? Wadge? Widget? Quabble? Squabble? Drainditch? Wow? Scattering? Makaluke? Hermaneut? I feel like there are a lot of good options. Still, all evidence supports exiting as quickly as possible when you get a bewilderment of wizards in the sanctum. Like, what good could come of all that esoteric knowledge compressed into such a tiny space. Someone’s liable to get turned into a frog or dissipated into a frog. No, when you’ve got a spatch of wizards gloaming about the place, eldritch eyes burning in the gloom, well, I’m not saying that leaping out the window is a good idea, but let’s just say you want to keep that option open. I’m pretty sure wizards feel the same way, veering quickly away from the mere suggestion that a zoom of wizards might be collecting in some place. Like, that invitation to the Wizards Ball is more like an outvitation, am I right? Also, wizards aren’t so keen on lending out their magical grimoires and no one is ever the first to volunteer their home to host a spook of wizards. Also, where do you put all those hats?
(It was a big cat, ok?)
You’d be right to be terrified of the massive Intergalactic Space Cat lurking out somewhere past the Triangulum Emission Garren Nebula*. It could pounce at any moment. Not on you, silly. On our sun. What do you think Intergalactic Space Cats eat/play with? It’s a vast space out there with only a few*** stars to play with/eat. Imagine: you’re an immense Intergalactic Space Cat. Planets, not to mention moons, even the biggest gas giants are really beneath your notice. You’re hungry and you’re cold and you’ve just traveled countless light years to the next star. You’d sure hope it’s not a tired, small brown dwarf star at the end of its career. You want a bright, shining, and hot star, burning in the fullness of its prime. Man, that nigh eternal nuclear explosion is gonna be looking pretty good at that point. When the Intergalactic Space Cat pounces on your local star, try not to feel too put out. It’s just its nature.
* OK, I know you’re thinking, what? Not the Cat’s Eye Nebula? Seriously? And I’m here to tell you that even Intergalactic Space Cats think that some things can be a little too on the nose**. Don’t put Intergalactic Space Cat in a box, is all I’m saying.
** Yes, Intergalactic Space Cats have noses. And yes, they are quite cold.
*** Relatively speaking.
(They’re really not.)
Once upon a time there was a statue. It wasn’t just any statue. It was the ugliest statue in the world. Everyone–simply everyone–said so. The villagers were at a loss for words when attempting to describe its ugliness. They just said, “It’s ugly,” and left it at that. This satisfied most people. Sometimes birds would poop on the statue, but this did not make it uglier. Once a young wag put a traffic cone on the statue’s “head” thinking, perhaps, to lessen the impact of the ugliness with a bit of humor. It failed. The traffic cone stayed up a long time, because no one really wanted to get close enough to the statue to take it down. Visitors from out of town who were unfamiliar with the statue or who came to see if it was really true, that it was the ugliest of all statues, would often weep with holy dread upon catching the merest glimpse of it. There were handkerchief carts all around where you could buy a handkerchief. They made a brisk business. Sometimes, for the locals, it would just get to be too much, and they would leave town, taking only a small suitcase or handbag. They were never seen from again. Many people in the village had nightmares. The children in the village were so afflicted by it that they drew nothing but pictures of the statue with their crayons. For some reason it never occurred to anyone to tear it down. They just lived with it.
(This is not a metaphorical sleep, no sir/maam!)
Once upon a time there was a man who was asleep for his entire life. He brushed his teeth asleep. He trimmed his toenails asleep. He ate kumquats and radishes asleep and even brussel* sprouts–though he wrinkled his nose, asleep, eating that last. He made kale and sea salt and vinegar chip and banana and blueberry smoothies asleep. He rode the bus asleep. He even drove asleep against the explicit warnings of the Surgeon General. Once he even flew in a hot air balloon asleep, but to be honest, he didn’t really enjoy it. When he spoke to people, he was asleep, although sometimes he stirred in his sleep when someone said something funny. He almost woke himself up from sleep sneezing one time and also that time he ate a really spicy pepper (it seemed like a pickle to his sleeping self). No one really noticed that he was asleep, because, well, they were asleep too. It was sort of funny all of this sleepwalking and talking and dancing and singing (yes, they even sang in their sleep, though not very well). You might think this story ends with the man waking up, but it doesn’t.
* Had to look this one up. Even now… it doesn’t look right.
(Pun? I don’t know what you’re talking about.)
Miss Camilla Take was lost. Lost in a fog of her own design, figuratively. Literally lost in the internally bewilderingly and deliberately incoherent Mall of America. Light seemed to come from everywhere. There were no right angles. It was possible to see bogglingly vast distances, but only in ways that made it particularly hard to navigate to nearby locations. There were no clocks. Slightly irritating music seemed to come from everywhere at a volume slightly too low to be conscious of. There was an unnerving echoey quality to the space. Everything about the place seemed to conspire against moving quickly through it with purpose.
Hugh was working the counter at Pickles and Plums, a pickled fruit fast food joint. He was mopping up a spill of blueberry pickle juice–that blue did not come out of the tile grouting easy–when a seemingly flustered young woman wandered aimlessly up to the counter. She stood next to the counter, but she was gazing off into the greater mall space area place. Hugh cleared his throat. “Welcome to Pickles and Plums, the only place for pickled fruit and sundries!” Hugh declaimed, repeating the standard line. The woman jumped a little. “Er, hi,” she said, scanning the board, mouth slightly open. She picked up a laminated menu and sort of bent it back and forth still staring at the board. Hugh stood there, still holding the mop. She said, “I’d like the Pickled Beep, I mean, Beet Juice Frappè with the celery garnish.” “Coming up!” Hugh said. “That’ll be $6.79.” He hustled to the back to make her drink, came back a few minutes later, and handed it to her. She gave him some money and wandered off, first going left, then going right. “Your change!” Hugh called, but she was gone.
(No, it’s NOT Tom!)
“You’re out of your wheelhouse, Foolery! Give me your badge!” the police somethingorother snarled, broomish mustache quivering.
Max Foolery had a choice. He could hand over his badge and gun with quiet dignity or he could roll on the floor and shriek like a banshee. He opted for quiet dignity, but in his heart he was rolling and he was shrieking.
Max Foolery snarled* in the face of the suspect, “You don’t know who you’re messing with, pal!”
The suspect, whose name was Dengoo Feevair and whose parents were French and inexplicably cruel, tried to snarl too, but it came out more like a squeak**. “You’re right! I don’t!”
“It’s Foolery. Max Foolery!”
“Oh,” Dengoo said.
“You’ve been fooleried!” Max growled***, slamming out of the room.
“I think you could improve…” Dengoo sighed. “Oh nevermind.”
“Catch ya later, chief,” Max said, “Foolery. Max Foolery.”
“I know your name!” The “chief” yelled after him.
* Snarling was all the rage at Police City Police Headquarters.
** Squarl. Squearl. Oh, nevermind.
*** Don’t get me wrong, growling was still pretty popular at PCPHQ.
(and tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow–oh wait, that’s too many tomorrows)
When Queenie Scaranges wanted things done, they got done. Usually. Eventually. It was a truth self-evident, that when she thought a thing, she did it. Mostly. Let’s be clear. Some thoughts, like the one about that mustache twirling villain on top of the suspension bridge support tower dancing a jig, would be most problematic to bring about. I mean, first of all, where could you find a reputable false mustache–one worth twirling anyway!–dealer in this day and age. Time was, you couldn’t skip a stone without hitting one, but now? Now, it was a veritable wasteland of mustache supply stores. Time was, when a person wouldn’t be caught dead out of doors without at least one (though sometimes three) mustache or false mustache upon their face. Some had it easier than others. Some, those lucky few, could grow luxuriant, brooms upon their faces, especially good for soup, if you know what I mean. The unluckiest of all, though, were those ones who could grow a “mustache”–if one could even call it that–but were left with such a patchy monstrosity that the only thing to do was to shave the nasty thing off and paste on a decent one from the shop down the road. Yeah, those were the good old days, she sighed, scraping some butter across her toast.