Spontoon Island
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10 July 2005

Let's Doe It [Lets Fall In Love]
Willow Fawnsworthy created by M. Mitchell Marmel
Reggie Buckhorn created by EOCostello

"Old School Ties"
by EOCostello

"Old School Ties"
by E.O.Costello

Leslie duCleds appears via the permission of M. Mitch Marmel.

     Things had a definite savour of irony this morning as I perused the graffiti on the walls of the holding cell at the Casino Island Jail.  It was, after all, my poor paw-writing that started this whole affair in the first place.

     The graffiti ran the gamut from the telegraphically terse, such as "Bollocks," to the more personal, such as "Rats to you, fathead," to the product of someone who, in the time honoured tradition, had found his muse in pain and durance vile:

"There was a young minkess of Minsk
Who had her claws in an S&M lynx
She used ball gags and a flail
Leather straps on his tail
And a rather odd pair of cufflinks."

     You probably had to be there to appreciate it, I suppose.  And I was here, along with about fifteen other chaps in various forms of evening dress, which were also in various states of disarray.  Mine, surprisingly, were still intact, which was a worrying indication that I was losing form.

     My companion was utilizing the coolness of the stone floor to soothe his aching bean.  It seemed he was a little out of practice in arts of dealing with a morning head.  I had a pretty ferocious morning head myself, but I was forcing myself to read the graffiti on the cell walls, in an effort to steel myself before appearing before the beaks.

     Which came expeditiously, as the jailer began rattling his keys and opening the cell door, which, judging from its noise, could have benefited from more than a little oil.  Fifteen sets of paws immediately clapped themselves to fifteen pairs of ears.  I, of course, straightened my tie.

     "Ah, there you are, jailer.  Fetch my tumbril, will you?  I have an early appointment with the magistrates, and I don't want to keep them waiting."

     There was no tumbril, alas.  I felt cheated.  Just a rather humourless group of native chappies poking and prodding us with a batch of batons, until we reached a courtroom upstairs.  To my slight surprise, the metaphorical beaks turned out to have physical beaks, as I peered into the bright eyes of a pair of roosters, who obviously were not suffering from morning heads.  Well, not directly, anyway.

     The bailiff called the case with the brio of a conductor announcing the departure of an express train.  "Case of Reginald Buckhorn, Leslie duCleds and others, charge is drunk and disorderly conduct."  How pleasing.  I got top billing, as usual.  They always give that to the seasoned veteran.

     The rooster on the left, a chappie with pitch-black feathers, looked at a file in front of him, and adjusted his spectacles.  He seemed to be startled by what he read, and looked up at me.

     "Mr. Buckhorn?  Would you please provide the court with your story as to what happened?"

     I shot my cuffs and smoothed my hair.  "Nothing, Your Honour, would give me greater pleasure..."


     The whole thing, of course, had its root in the fact that my penbuckship, not the world's best even in the best circs., has a remarkable tendency to suffer as cocktail hour draws nigh and wanes. Brilliant passing thoughts are reduced to a small squibble, much to the loss of civilization.  All very distressing to me.

     In the case at paw, it was not flights of philosophy and Deep Thought that had concerned me, but the more pleasing thoughts of romance.  I had recently made the acquaintance of a most charming member of my species, a Miss Willow Fawnsworthy.  Said Fawnsworthy was well worth some attentions on my part, and I decided as an opening salvo to do things in the time-honoured fashion.  Flowers and munchies are a standard opening in the chess-match of romance, said I to myself during an afternoon cocktail, and, after attempting to write some romantic verses, assisted by some G&Ts, I wrote out some orders to my valet, Lodge, to carry out instanter.

     Lodge took my orders, and read them.  With some difficulty.  He chose a somewhat inopportune time to ask some confirmatory questions, just as I was tying up a neat rime scheme in the bathtub, and I'm afraid I told him with mild heat to follow my orders as written, and be done with it.  Lodge gave me the look quizzical, and left me to bathe with my muse.

     Hours passed.  Then a day.  Then two days.  Finally, on the third day, I bearded Lodge in his den, where he was pressing my dress trousers.

     "Lodge, did you or did you not carry out my request of a few days ago, regarding certain highly important deliveries to Miss Fawnsworthy?"

     Lodge looked a bit hurt at this question, but also a bit shifty-eyed.  "Yes, sir, I did.  I carried them out precisely as you wrote them."


     "To the letter, sir."  Lodge was grinning, toothily.  Seeing this in a beaver is always unnerving.

     "I find it highly unusual that a doe of such obvious good manners and breeding as Miss Fawnsworthy could receive such tokens of affection without so much as a word of acknowledgment.  How difficult would it be to pick up the telephone, for example?"

     "Probably quite difficult, sir."

     "And how, pray, would you know that?"

     "Well, there is the little matter of the 400 five-pound sacks of salted acorns, for one thing."

     "Lodge, you're talking perfect rot.  I did not order anything like 400 five-pound sacks of salted acorns.  As fond as I am of the family firm's products, I do draw the line somewhere.  Such as one tin for the lady."

     Lodge reached into his jacket, and pulled out a sheet of hotel stationery.  There, in my paw-writing (and, truth be told, some circular impressions of cocktail glasses), was the phrase of strange device:

"Lodg3, pl3az3 s3nb Mizz Fawnzsworlhy one ton of salt3b acorns, anb s3nb th3 dill to th3 pat3r."

I could now see wherein the problem lay.  Actually, there were two issues.  One was how on earth Miss Fawnsworthy was going to dispose of 2,000 pounds of salted acorns.  The other was wondering what kind of damage was going to be done to the ceiling of the old buck's office when the news that his son and heir has charged him for one ton of salted acorns was passed for inspection.  My past history would naturally lead him to suspect the worst.

     "Lodge, please tell me that the flowers were ordered without mishap."

     "Well, the florist's shop in Honolulu was able to fulfill it without any problems."

     "Honolulu?!? Why the devil did they fill it in Honolulu?"

     "Well, the order was too large for Casino Island, sir."  At this, Lodge produced another sheet of hotel stationery.  This dread phrase appeared.  Well, actually, it doesn't appear exactly as below, because some of it was upside down.  But you get the point.

"Loddddddge.  Please send send to Misssss Fawnsworthy one dozen doz3n dozzen red roses.  Red, mind you.  Definitely red.  Not yellow.  Not white.  Red.  ONE DOZZEN DOZ3N DOZZZZEN."

     Well, le style c'est l'homme meme, as the Parisians say.  I was making mental calculations when Lodge supplied the answer.  "One thousand, seven hundred and twenty-eight, sir.  The florists did give you a wholesale discount, you'll be pleased to know."

     It did not please me to know.  One only sees flowers in that number at Chicago funerals.  Were it not for the fact that Miss Fawnsworthy could at least eat some of the roses as a tasty snack, she could be buried under a mound of roses and acorns.  Sort of like the Collie brothers in Gnu York City.  Well, all right, that was newspapers and a partly disassembled Model T.  But you get my meaning.

     This was going to require the stimulation of a substantial dinner and an after dinner brandy and cigar.  Maybe two brandies.  These were deep waters indeed.

     I had just finished the first part of this plan of operation, viz., the consumption of a large platter of sautéed mushrooms and a split of dry white wine, when there appeared at my table another chap in white tie and tails.  He had a look of incandescent fury on his canine phiz.  The only thing that was missing was a General Electric logo.

      "Can you give me any reasons why I shouldn't thrash you to within an inch of your life?"

     This didn't sound like a trick question to me.  Furthermore, the body language accompanying this request was not printable, indicating the real possibility that there would be no opportunity to proffer reasons before a smack in the muzzle ensued.  Fast action was required.

     "Let us adjourn to the patio, sir, where I conduct all my essential business matters."

     The canine glowered, gave a snort, and stomped off to the patio. A snort sounded like a capital idea, and a waiter was given instructions to bring two snifters of brandy and two Cuban cigars to the patio, with all speed.  These orders were given verbally, so as not to cause misunderstanding.

     I reached the patio to find my counterpart fuming and tapping his feet.  As there was no band present, this could only mean one thing, and I strove to head off unpleasantness for as long as possible.

     "Allow me to introduce myself.  I am your soon to be victim, Reginald Patrick Roderick Buckhorn.  My friends refer to me as Reggie. My enemies usually use other names, but I beg you at this time to use Reggie."

    My counterpart eyed me narrowly, and indicated to me that his handle was Leslie duCleds.  This was slightly alarming, as I knew full well that if he was wealthy, which he most certainly was, he was mostly likely a Delahare duCleds.  And that clan made their doubloons by flogging large quantities of explosives to all and sundry, for the purposes of sending each other to the hereafter.  This seemed to be an ill omen, even if he wasn't toting a battleship shell.

     "Look, damn you, you've got no blasted right to be pestering my secretary with all manner of flowers and salted nuts, let alone literally filling our hotel suite with them.  What kind of blasted idiot does that?"

     There was every indication that this question was not a matter of rhetoric, and I vamped for time.

     "In that, I acknowledge that there was an error in the chain of command, for which I was responsible.  Clear and concise orders were not given, which led to the mistakes..."

    duCleds seemed to be about to give a high-decibel response to this flowery admission, when the waiter interrupted things in the nick of time, and provided the brandy and cigars.  The ceremonial details of lighting the cigars allowed passions to cool further.  The fact that duCled now had his paws full with cigar and brandy was a pleasing bonus.

    "My dear Mr. duCleds, you have to see things from my perspective. I, as a healthy young whitetail buck, am bound by certain laws of nature.  One of these laws is to seek out beauty, in the form of healthy young whitetail does.  You will appreciate that these are not found in quantity in the middle of the North Pacific.  Thus, when one makes an appearance, the motto of the day is 'carpe diem.'"

    duCleds looked puzzled.  "Carpe what?"

    "Carpe diem.  It has something to do with daily fish, I think. But I digress.  To return to the point.  Who am I to deny Nature, when she deposits within paw's reach a rare and charming specimen such as Miss Fawnsworthy.  Gather ye rosebuds while ye may."

    This was probably a poor choice of words, as indicated by the scowl this produced.  But duCleds, to his credit, slowly finished his snifter and cigar before speaking again.

    "Look, all this rot about Nature and such is all well and good. But it doesn't address the fact that my hotel suite smells like a cross between a perfume atelier and a nut shop.  I'm quite sorry, but I'm still going to have to thrash you within an inch of your life."

     I sighed, and finished off my own cigar and brandy, the condemned buck's last meal.  We adjourned to the garden area in front of the patio, and deposited our neatly folded dinner jackets on a handy hedge.  This was followed by a discussion of the rules.

      "Now look, no fair using your horns.  Paws only."

      This seemed eminently fair.  "I give you my word of honour, as a Penn buck."

      duCled put up his dukes, and then stopped.  "Hang on.  What did you say?"

      "I give you my word of honour."

      "No, after that."

      "Oh, you mean Penn?  Well, that's where I went to university. Not Penn State, mark you, Penn, I...."

      "Good Lord, I thought I recognized you.  Aren't you Class of 1930?"

      I peered at this duCleds closely, and a vague memory bestirred itself.  "I could ask you a similar question.  Aren't you class of 1931?  I seem to recall you were on the football team."

      "Yes, I was.  It was you, wasn't it, who planted that bed of tulips in the end zone, just before the game against Swathmore in '28?"

      "You did shut them out 67-0, you know.  It seemed a pity to waste all that open space."

     "And it was you who arranged for the Oktoberfest celebration in '29, right?"

     "Given the events of that month, I felt Philadelphia needed all the cheer it could get."

      "And you were the one who showed up for graduation in a toga, crowned with a laurel wreath, and preceded by some sorority girls strewing rose petals in your path?"

     "They insisted on giving me a diploma in Latin, and I accepted it in the same spirit."

     duCled lowered his fists.  "Well, drat it all, this is awkward. I can't very well thrash you, now.  That would be disloyal."

     It was with a great sense of relief that I patted duCleds on the shoulder, and started putting on my dinner jacket before he changed his mind.  "Be of good cheer, brother Quaker.  We shall put our highly educated minds together in the confines of your hotel suite, and we shall use reason and light, and not fisticuffs, to elucidate a solution."

     La Fawnsworthy was not present and accounted for when we reconvened in his hotel suite.  There was a definite hum of rose scent in the air that one could detect in the next block, and while the hotel was a first class and solidly built one, I did not think it wise to leave a few thousand pounds of salted acorns lying about, lest the occupants below find it raining acorns one bright morning. duCleds, to his great credit, produced a bottle of single malt and two glasses, and we bent to our task.

     After two or three glasses, we hit upon the first, partial solution.  The poor are always among us, as the man said, so why not let them eat acorns?  A relatively comprehensive island directory was borrowed from the desk clerk, and we proceeded, with the assistance of some messengers, to deliver a number of sacks of salted acorns to various houses of worship and assorted religious leaders across the islands.  These were accompanied by cover notes, which grew more cheerful and vivacious as the level of single malt dwindled in the first bottle, forcing us to a second bottle.  We opened this up as we surveyed the stock of about 220 sacks that still remained, after our ecumenical efforts were exhausted.

      "Y'know what my ol'man would do, Reggie, with thesh shacks?"

      "I couldn't possibly fathom, old bean."

      "He'd comishion a shtudy.  How t'open up marketsh.  An' drive the localsh outta bishness.  Thash how we made our money.  I hate thosh anti-trustsh shpoilshports.  They take all th'fun outta bishness."

      "I follow you with keenness, as befits on old economics major. Or English literature major.  I forget which.  It doesn't matter. You've put your paw on exactly that what we need to do.  We need to open up the collective eyes of the Spontoons.  We need to show them what they've been missing, by not having salted acorns in their lives. The empty spots in their souls and stomachs shall be filled. What we need is a truck and a reasonably complete list of public houses."

     The hotel, naturally fearing the possibility of some sort of accident, provided us with the necessary truck and driver.  All we had to do was place a rose in our button-holes, a large supply of which was right at paw, and venture forth on our sales pitch.

     If I may say so, this was clearly grist for a case study the business students at the University of Pennsylvania will be studying for decades to come.  At each institution of public drinking, we entered and began a liberal and generous distribution of salted acorns.  Since this naturally induced thirst in the recipients, it was only just and fair that we provide them with the means to quench their thirst.  And, needless to say, we joined them.  It was the socially correct thing to do.  Within a mere few hours, we had disposed of all of the remaining sacks of F.R. Buckhorn's Best Quality Salted Acorns. We felt confident we had opened up a vast new market for this product.

     Actually, that was probably the only thing we were feeling at around two thirty in the morning, when we entered the grounds of Shepherd's Hotel.  Leslie duCleds and I were in mood radiant, and we were feeling nostalgic.  It's a good thing no one from the Alumni Office was present.  They can sense nostalgia for one's alma mater at five hundred yards, and will pounce on you, murmuring statements about annual funds and the like, until they tear a cheque from your grasp. But none were present, so in a voice that could be heard at five hundred yards, Leslie and I gave voice.

"Come all ye loyal classmen now
in hall and campus through.
Lift up your hearts and voices
for the royal Red and Blue!
Fair Harvard has her crimson
Collegiate her colour too
But for dear old Pennsylvania
we wear the Red and Blue!
Hurrah! Hurrah! Pennsylvania!
Hurrah for the Red and the Blue!
Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!
Hurrah for the Red and the Blue!"

No rendition of this is truly complete unless, for the last five "hurrahs", you put paw to chest and fling it out with each alternate hurrah.  By steadying each other with one paw about the shoulders, Leslie and I were able to do justice to the song.

     As the last words echoed in the night air, we heard from not too far away someone start to give voice to "Old Nassau."  This did not sit well with duCleds.

     "Bloody Princetonians.  Bloody everywhere.  Oughta be a law 'gainst them.  Huntin' sheason.  No limitsh."

     Some other late night revelers, coming back as the casinos were closing, began to be attracted to the noise we had produced and the baritone singing "Old Nassau" was producing.  We decided to drown out our rival with another cheery song, to wit:

"Drink a highball at nightfall
Be good fellows while you may
For tomorrow may bring sorrow
So tonight, lets all be gay!

Tell the story of the glory
Of Pennsylvania
Drink a highball and be jolly
Here's a toast to dear old Penn!"

That we had very obviously been following the advice set forth in the song was clear to our auditors.  These now included a familiar-looking (to me) deer and fox, being the plainclothes rozzers.  It seemed a shame not to include them.

      "Blessings on thee, aged man.  Bare-hooved deer with hide of tan.  Come now, give us a rendition of your school song."

      Detective Inspector Stagg's frown indicated that either he was shy about his singing voice, or found fault with my singing voice.  I suspected the latter, particularly as he gave a rather crisp order to Leslie and myself to hold our tongues and be quiet.

     In the meantime, the auditors had remarked on the fact that we were singing Pennsylvania songs, and that the Princeton song-book had been referred to.  Various allegiances were proclaimed, and it soon became apparent that we had a nearly complete roster of Ivy League schools present.  Except for Brown.  Graduates from there usually toddle off to bed at eight o'clock, reeking of ginger ale.  It was at this point that the baritone that was fond of "Old Nassau" made his presence known.  It turned out he had a burly porcine physique to back his robust voice.  From his stance, I could tell that he had enthusiastically refreshed himself this fine evening, as well.

    "Who's the pair of idiots singing Penn songs?" he demanded of the crowd in general.  Inspector Stagg felt that order was probably a good idea at this time.

    "If you don't mind, sir, I..."

    "Oh, bloody hell.  A toffee-nosed twit with a New Haven accent. Probably a Collegiate man."

     The good Inspector clearly took offence at this turn of conversation, and stiffened noticeably.  "In point of fact, I went there as an undergraduate and to their law school.  But that's neither here nor there..."

       The porker was having none of this.   "Bloody typical.  Crowd gathers, some idiot Collegiate man thinks he's in charge."

       "Idiot" actually seemed to be the mot du soir.  The combination of a nearly complete roster of Ivy League schools, combined with liberal consumption of alcohol, began to simmer.  duCleds, with his family expertise in explosives, clearly sensed what was in the offing, and took about ten steps back, dragging me with him.  We were thus well clear of the ominous mutterings and glares that began shooting back and forth among the gathering.  I gathered from the short, sharp conversations that began to break out that there was a great deal of ill feeling, largely engendered by incidents of varying antiquity that had been nursed over the years.  It gave one an insight into why the Balkans are generally not a good place to have one's summer hols. Something they should have told the Austrian archdukes, but I digress.

       The Inspector wagged a finger at br'er pig.   "Now look, I don't wish to be unpleasant, but..."

       The pig squinted unsteadily at the rozzer, and snorted.  "If I hear one more blasted Collegiate School twit moan about not being unpleasant...well, I do want to be unpleasant, particularly to the likes of you.  Here's one for your steak and chips, Bluenose."

       Alas for the pig, his stock of ingested refreshments impeded his accuracy, and instead of planting a smart one on the Inspector's muzzle, he planted a very smart one on the nose of his companion, my old friend Detective Sergeant Brush.  The latter, while not a Penn fox, quickly formed the correct impression of old Princetonians, and with the aid of a blackjack, indicated his displeasure. Unfortunately, as with the Great War, various parties began to express an interest in the minor side-show, and hostilities spread rapidly, as old scores began to be settled with great vigour.  Leslie and I watched with cool detachment from a safe distance.

        "My dear duCleds, herein lies the great truth about the Ivy League.  No other group of colleges can engender such devoted loyalty."

      The Inspector, obviously believing that discretion was the better part of valour, flagged down a nearby constable, who summoned reinforcements.  Peace was restored, with the assistance of nightsticks, and the various warring parties were led off the field. The old Princetonian was left hors de combat to be collected by the medics, to the evident satisfaction of Sergeant Brush.  I was left with the feeling that had we recruited him, we'd have been unbeaten in '28.  The proud and unscathed contingent representing the University of Pennsylvania, namely, yours truly and Mr. duCleds, was hauled away on general principle.


     "Was I drunk, your Honour?  Most certainly.  If I were any more lit, the stockholders of Philadelphia Electric would have been making interested enquiries.  However, I put it to you that once the forces of the Law bade me and my boon companion Mr. duCleds to be silent like unto the tomb, the forces of Law were obeyed promptly.  Is that not so, Inspector?"

     The Inspector frowned, but was forced to admit that this was, in fact the truth.

     "I also note that Mr. duCleds and I were as one with the doves in the matter.  We both firmly believed that in this matter, it was better to neither give nor receive, as Mr. duCled and Inspector Stagg will confirm."

      Inspector Stagg confirmed this with a sigh, and Leslie duCleds confirmed this with a low, strangled groan.

      "Therefore, you have no basis for charging Mr. duCleds and myself with being drunk *and* disorderly, we..."

      The other magistrate, a red-feathered rooster, cut me off.  "Oh, for heaven's sake, give it a rest.  You and Mr. duCleds are each fined 25 pounds, pay the clerk on your way out.  When I went to Cambridge, we learned to hold our liquor without making a noisy row."

      This information intrigued the other magistrate, the aforementioned black-feathered rooster.  "You went to Cambridge? That's odd, I'm an Oxford graduate."

      The other one cackled unpleasantly.  "I might have guessed, from how you handle your second martini."

       "And just *what* is *that* supposed to mean?!" snarled the other, his neck feathers flaring.

      It was at this point that I decided a hasty and unobtrusive departure would be a sound and statesmanlike policy.

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