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30 June 2005
Let's Doe It [Lets Fall In Love]
Willow Fawnsworthy created by M. Mitchell Marmel
Reggie Buckhorn created by EOCostello
"Well Met By Moonlight"
"Well Met By Moonlight"
The mechanism isn't foolproof, however. It always seems as if there is someone who absolutely insists on having an interview with me, whether I am indisposed or not. It is, at that point, that Lodge, my valet, has to take a walking stick and probe for me, which usually takes at least half a dozen efforts. If he finds a hoof, that's a clear indication that he has to start in on the other end, the one with horns, not to mention the apparatus for speaking and listening.
Lodge was in fine form today, and it only took two vigorous prods with the stick to locate my ribs, which produced a sufficient quantity of noise to indicate that I was still among the living.
"Good morning to you, too, sir."
"Whadimeizzit?" Lodge, fortunately, has developed, and without the aid of Berlitz, an ability to translate my early efforts at self-expression.
"It is just past nine o'clock, sir." Lodge, having located the muffled sounds of my voice, skillfully started removing the protective layers covering my head. I could now hear him plainly, which had the slight disadvantage of making my brain rattle around like a large, swollen die in a backgammon cup. He removed a stray white tie from my horns, where it was draped like Christmas tinsel.
"Unless that's the bloody undertaker come to take my measurements, tell them to go away. I say, Lodge, is it normal to have pains in the paws and ribs in the course of a hangover? I find this development alarming."
"I believe, sir, that is why Sergeant Brush of the Constabulary would like to speak to you. Apparently, he is attempting to get your side of the story."
I winced. Conversation with Lodge was painful and difficult as it was. Having to formulate thoughts with a Peeler didn't exactly appeal to me at the moment. I mean, few things can make your stomachs jump than that immortal phrase, "What's all this, then?" I resolved to make as best a show of it as I could, and rolled out of bed, managing to hit the floor twice, eventually landing muzzle down and tail up.
"All well and good to wave the white flag, sir, but shouldn't you get dressed, first? I shall offer the detective some coffee. I have laid out some light silk pajamas and your hide-brushes, and I have drawn a quantity of warm water. Will there be anything else, sir?"
"Yes, a large bowl of cracked ice and something decidedly nonalcoholic."
Ten minutes later, I had managed to restore myself to some semblance of deerhood, and walked with more steadiness than I really felt into the main room of the suite. There, sipping coffee and hogging the morning edition of the Spontoon Mirror, was a smallish fox, which I took to be the rozzer. He had on a tie of the type known as "tropical," which to my bleary eyes was swimming around insolently. I gulped, closed my eyes, and felt for a nearby chair, hoping that the conversation would be carried on in muted tones. In this, I was altogether mistaken.
"Mornin'. I'm Sergeant Brush, from th' Detective Bureau. You Reginald Buckhorn?"
The sergeant was evidently under the impression that he was participating in a debate at the Albert Hall, and was trying to speak over the noise of an audience of chatty locomotives. At least that was the impression his voice was giving me. I nodded, very slowly and delicately, and felt around for the bowl of cracked ice. When I found it, I plunged my right paw into it, and at least found relief for some portion of my aching physique.
"Aint'cha s'posed t'put that on ya head?"
"I have priorities, Detective. This is the paw I use to hold cocktails."
"Yeah, funny t'ing, ain't it? Ya mind tellin' me how it got so sore?"
"I believe it had something to do with the application of my paw to the head of some bounder last night."
The rozzer took out his notebook, and began rustling pages with a slow deliberateness that I could only take as intentional. He gave two coughs, which sounded to my pained ears like cannon blasts, which I assumed was the signal for the commencement of my saga...
It had, of course, been a wretchedly hot August day, far too warm to put on the white flannels and have a go on the tennis courts. Mad dogs and Englishdeer may well venture out in the noonday sun in other parts of the world, but I felt that where there was ample provision for cooling and refreshing beverages indoors, this law of nature could be safely ignored.
The bar at Shepherd's Hotel, which is just downstairs from my suite, has many advantages, not the least of which are some powerful fans and comfortable wicker chairs. By arranging the chair discreetly, you can catch just the right breeze, put your hooves up on a nearby chair, and enjoy a quiet interlude before the start of the formal cocktail hour.
I was thus engaged in deep and profound ruminations on the state of the world ("in G&T veritas," as the philosophers say, and if they do not say that, they should), when the rumble of voices interrupted the flow of silence in the room. This, to my mind, was not an improvement, and I opened an eye with a view toward the re-imposition of silence.
The voices were not an improvement, but all of this was thrust aside, since further examination showed that the scenery in the room had improved dramatically. A couple had seated themselves a few tables over. The male half of the pair, a pleasant looking canine, was doing most of the talking. He was dictating what appeared to be some kind of memorandum or a letter. He looked vaguely familiar to me, but I couldn't quite place either the face or the voice. He was dictating his missive with a definite "veni, vidi, vici" air, though. Perhaps it was an inventory of rare spices or lost doubloons, or an account of savages taught how to do the acrostic in the Thymes of London. I couldn't say, as my attention quickly turned to the other half of the duo.
The dictation-ee, who I imagine was the canine's secretary, was a member of my own species. It was not that this doe was dressed to kill. Quite the opposite. She was dressed with a severity and a primness that I found quite to my taste. She had hid all of the things that made her a doe so skillfully that they were readily apparent to any gentledeer, like myself, who cared to make a detailed and leisurely observation. I can assure you that a detailed and leisurely observation was very rewarding, indeed. Only the fact that I happened to be sitting on my tail prevented me from flicking it. I had notions of standing up and flicking my tail anyway, but one doesn't do that in a bar. People ask awkward questions when you do that.
There was a brief pause in the flow of the narrative, as the canine had a tête-à-tête with his muse. The doe looked about the room, through a set of large eyeglasses, with an air of polite disinterest. I had hopes that she would pick me out of the furniture, and these were not disappointed, as a slight start and a closer look in my direction indicated that she could indeed figure out which was wicker chair and which was admiring buck. I treated her to a pleasant smile, and was rewarded with an equally pleasant blush. Alas, this was cut short when the canine, drat him, found the words he was looking for, and resumed his dictation.
I was therefore on the antlers of a dilemma. It was obvious that I could not simply walk up, interrupt the dictation, and cut in. This would be the fundamental equivalent of going up to a belted knight of old and asking to borrow his charger for a few chukkers of polo. No matter how tactfully you put the question, one is bound to engender ill-will.
The ordering of a fresh and vibrant G&T provided convenient camouflage to quiz the bartender on the Q&T as to the party of two in question. The bartender had no information, and offered to ask the question directly. I fixed him with a gaze steely and determined. This was obviously a bartender fresh from whatever institute of higher learning instilled in him the arts of distilled spirits. Experienced curates of the bar will tell you that the question direct is quite against the rules of the game. If you could find things out, in the context of barroom conversation, by asking simple questions, the entire social structure of social drinking would collapse immediately, with catastrophic consequences for civilization in general.
It was thus, I concluded with drooping (if sat upon) tail and heavy heart, a case of gather ye rosebuds while ye may. By paying consistent attention to the doe, I was able to catch each covert glance she gave me, meeting it with eyebrow a-wiggle and smile beatific. This had something of a disadvantage, as it caused one part of the narrative being given her to get hopelessly ensnarled, with the result that she had to read back one whole segment, demonstrating that she had a very pleasing voice as well.
The canine did eventually catch on to the distraction, and expressed some visible annoyance with your narrator, in the form of lowered brow and upraised frown. I tried to give a sheepish grin, but making a face like a sheep is very difficult when you have a face like a deer, and the results were, in all probability, less than satisfactory.
"Come along, we'll finish this later." And with that, they finished their drinks, and departed. The doe contrived to leave second, and with a covert glance over her shoulder, flicked her flag at me, a gesture I found pleasing and saddening at once. Only the consumption of further G&Ts kept my equilibrium steady.
I was so lost in my thoughts at dinner that André, the maitre d'hotel at the restaurant, had to repeat his insults to me twice, and even at that, they registered not a flicker of emotion on my part. Deprived of his fun, he could only bang the menu upside-down in front of me, and instruct the sommelier to give me something good and vinegary. For all I tasted the food, I could have been given something wretched like Nootnops Red, at 10 guineas the bottle, and I would have been none the wiser.
I was not in the mood for even a vigorous ricksha ride in the moonlight. The moonlight had nothing in it for me tonight, except an insolent cheerfulness. I avoided it, and was thus concentrating on the grass, which is how I happened to spot a pair of deer hooves.
I contemplated the remarkable appearance of this phenomenon for a few seconds, and then followed the path of their owner upwards, to discover that the hooves were intimately connected with the doe I had seen earlier in the day. This was indeed a pleasing coincidence, and I expressed myself as such.
The doe's reaction seemed somewhat puzzling. Far from throwing her paws about me, she had them held steadily in the air, at about shoulder-height. She looked at me, licked her lips, and flicked her eyes behind me. It was at this point that I felt something cold and laden with steel poke me in the back through my dinner jacket.
I turned around, to discover that something of the feline persuasion was pointing a largish knife at me.
"Look, I'm sorry, but as regards this doe, here, I have this dance. I never allow anyone to cut in."
With the benefit of hindsight, I realize that the use of the word "cut" to someone bearing a largish knife was not the best choice of words, and the feline expressed his own opinion by a whistling swipe of the knife, which missed my nose by a fraction. This, I thought, was a demonstration of bad manners, and the thought flashed across my mind: say it with fists!
A lucky first shot connected on the sharp point of his chin, leading to a loud yowl from each of us. It was at this point that I realized someone wished to make this a partie carree, since I was grabbed from behind, and my paws held fast. The feline, recovering pretty quickly, commenced a demonstration of his scientific skill in pugilism, with a series of shots to my ribs. Obviously, this was someone familiar with boxing technique, if not the Marquess of Queensbury rules. The least he could have done was go to a neutral corner when I got grabbed.
The one advantage a gentledeer has over most other species, when it comes to a vigorous seance of violence, is that we have been thoughtfully provided with built-in weapons on the bean, viz., antlers. I'm told that my distant ancestors on my mother's side, in the backwoods of western Pennsylvania, used to settle their disagreements in matters relating to does by charging at each other and knocking antlers. The fact that this feline lacked a pair of antlers was, in my view, simply his bad luck.
By leaning forward and bringing my bean to bear, I tested out this technique, and learned why my aforementioned ancestors had fortified themselves with cheap, home-brewed corn whiskey before attempting this. It would have taken a large quantity of raw spirits to overcome the pain between one's eyebrows when one used antlers as a weapon. The feline, in any event, probably could have used some cheap, home-brewed corn whiskey himself, to dull the pain inflicted by a pair of antlers connecting with great force between his own pair of eyebrows. Pain between the eyebrows seems to be a leitmotif of antlers as weaponry.
The feline being ready for a standing eight count, I turned my thoughts to the bounder holding my paws. He had the rudeness to use bad language in my ears, which I gathered was the result of the doe hitting him with something or other. Presumably not horns. The question of what she was hitting him with was something fraught with interest, but I wasn't in a position to make enquiries at the moment.
Switching tactics, I applied my hoof downwards. The first attempt caught my other hoof, which was a somewhat unfortunate occurrence. I was able, however, to correct the range, and connect on the second attempt with my captor's foot. One last curse, and the chap threw me at his erstwhile partner, who caught me. This was rapidly turning into something of a parody of a square dance, something my Pennsylvania ancestors would have known how to handle.
I decided to take the old command "swing your partner" somewhat literally, and, grabbing him by his arm, swung him about two or three goes before finally letting go. The feline bounced off a lightpole, and then attempted to bounce off the sidewalk, which he did, successfully, the first time, and again on the second attempt. The third attempt was not as successful, as his fall was broken somewhat messily by his nose. The lightpole was obviously not designed to be struck by flying felines, and it gave way, with a shower of sparks, falling with a crunch on a nearby storefront.
After fixing my tie and my cuffs (priorities are priorities), I turned to face my other assailant, and discovered that he had been neatly deposited in a nearby waste receptacle, with his tailfur sticking out at an undignified angle. There was little to be done except tuck the tailfur into the dustbin, and apply the lid.
The doe, alas, had not stayed to chit-chat, possibly because the sound of whistles and billy-clubs striking the pavement announced the impending arrival of the forces of the law. Looking about, I could see the following:
(a) A dustbin containing one (1) would-be assailant, unconscious, deposited neatly.
(b) A sidewalk containing one (1) would-be assailant, unconscious, deposited rather less neatly.
(c) A storefront containing one (1) broken lightpole, state of consciousness irrelevant, deposited still less neatly.
(d) One (1) formerly asleep storekeeper, very conscious, expressing indignation.
And, last but not least:
(e) One (1) deer, as conscious as one can be with six (6) G&Ts, three (3) glasses of white wine (vinegary), and one (1) largish Napoleon brandy, in formerly neat white-tie evening dress.
In light of the above, explanations would probably have proven awkward, to say the least, and it was deemed advisable to retire with all due speed to the safety of the bar at Shepherd's, and in mahogany-paneled security, consume large quantities of single malt nerve tonic.
At this juncture, I removed my aching paw from the bowl of ice, filled a glass with ice as quietly as I could, and applied the now-chilled glass to the side of my head with blessed relief. My sense of relief was somewhat diminished by the look skeptical that I was being given by the forces of the law.
"Un-hunh. Y'say ya got jumped by these two guys, hanh?"
"I imagine that you were able to find them. I mean, they were not skipping about like lambs greeting the spring dawn."
"Yeah, that's true. Funny t'ing, they says that *you're* th' guy who jumped *them*. Too bad you ain't gotta name fer this doe. Kinda takes th' starch outta your yarn, don't it?"
There was a chill in the air that went above and beyond the glass of ice that I was holding against my head, and the door of pain and durance vile seemed to swing open, metaphorically. This, however, was interrupted by the door swinging open, physically, revealing Lodge.
"A Miss Willow Fawnsworthy to see you, sir."
"Willow? Like unto the tree, slim and supple?"
"I suppose that would be accurate, sir."
"Fawnsworthy, like unto the Fawnsworthy, whatever that may be?"
"Look, it's a doe, sir. Do you want to see her, or not?"
I was prepared at this juncture to see just about anyone, up to and including the dread presence of my father (truer _expression of desperation cannot be shown), let alone a doe, so I nodded to Lodge. In a twinkling, he was replaced by the doe of yesterday. This would be an improvement in anyone's books, no matter the circs.
"Please excuse me, Miss Fawnsworthy, for my rudeness in not standing up to receive you. The room is still spinning somewhat."
Actually, her presence was making the room spin faster, around her. The doe smiled, and then looked a little alarmed at my interviewer, who was fixing her with a very steady and keenly interested gaze. This was followed by a very demure and charming blush.
"You know this guy, miss?"
"Um, well, we weren't formally introduced last night. You see, two men tried to rob me, and Mr. Buckhorn here took care of them."
"Howdja know who he wuz?"
"I, well, I had to ask around at one of the other hotels. They seemed to recognize Mr. Buckhorn when I told them I was looking for a deer who fights in white tie and tails."
"So two bums tried t'jump ya last night."
The doe, bless her, nodded. There was a look of sufficient innocence about her that the rozzer seemed mostly, but not completely, convinced of my story.
"Awright, gonna have t'ask ya t'come down t'HQ an' pick out th' bums from a lineup."
"Very well. I'll follow you."
The sergeant shut his notebook with a loud snap, and turned to me.
"Lissen, you. Ya wanna mix it up after a few, you go join a gym, hear? I don't wanna have t'slap th' pawcuffs on ya, but if youse don't keep on th' side of th' angels, I'm gonna do it, see?" I nodded, very delicately, in response, so as to keep my brain steady.
The sergeant left, the doe following obediently behind him. At the doorway, she paused for a second, gave me a covert look over her shoulder, and waved her flag at me. Twice. And then she was gone.
And the pain in my head went away, replaced by soft and pleasant music.