Spontoon Island
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30 July 2005
*  10 September 2010: Art by Kayleen 'Katarina' Connell added  *

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

"A Little Night Music, with Music Boxed In"
A collaborative collation by EO Costello & M. Mitchell Marmel

"A Little Night Music, with Music Boxed In"
by EO Costello & M. Mitchell Marmel



     "Ah, there you are.  Busy as the proverbial.  I need you to do a few things, Lodge.  There will be two for dinner in the suite, tonight."

     "Indeed, Sir?"

     "Quite.  Send down to the hotel kitchen for, let's see, I think first a nice bowl of tomato soup, for an entree, the acorn soufflé with a side of white asparagus, and for dessert...hmmm, see if they have any more of that green tea ice cream they've been serving for a few days running, now."

     "Very good, Sir."

     "And make sure you have my white tie and tails pressed, as I want to look my best.  Lulu may not be back in town, but Miss Fawnsworthy will be...Lodge, you are staring at me with a confused look.  If you are going to take up whitetail deer imitations, you need to master the art of getting your ears to stick out sideways, like this..."

     "Frankly, Sir, I *am* confused.  I was led to believe that, well..."

     "Out with it, Lodge.  We have no secrets from each other."

     "...I was led to believe, Sir, that relations between yourself and the doe in question were broken beyond all repair."

     "Oh, quite, Lodge, quite."

     "Sir, if you'll excuse my saying so, a roundhouse right to the jaw is, in most circles, a clear indication that love is dead."

    "Indeed, Lodge, and in nearly all cases, you would be right.  I should point out that love was not dead, but being given the standing eight-count.  But that's a minor point.  As it happens, Fate has stuck its paw into the works and set things right.  'phone in that order to the kitchen...make it for eight o'clock, mind, and attend to my dress-trousers.  While you are doing that, I shall place you fully in the picture..."


     It was with a feeling of deja vu, or maybe presque vu, I forget which....where was I?...oh yes, a sort of feeling I'd been there before, when I was giving Lodge these orders, since I had been doing the exact same thing just two mornings, previously.

     I've mentioned before the pleasant fact of the existence of a Miss Willow Fawnsworthy here in the Spontoons.  Miss Fawnsworthy is a splendid specimen of whitetail doe, if you like your does dressed quietly and demurely.  I assure you that I do, especially since I was hoping that it meant that Miss Fawnsworthy was concealing something from the world at large. 

     There had been an initial snag in the proceedings.  It developed that she was engaged as a sort of secretary-companion-Doe Friday to a chap of the canine persuasion who was using the Islands as a sort of pied-â-terre for Adventures, Intrigue and Such around and about the Pacific.  This, I felt, required cunning and subtlety in order to woo without causing hostilities.

     The best laid plans of whitetail bucks gang aft gley, alas, especially when said plans are prepared during an extended cocktail hour.  I had placed an order for roses and salted acorns, romantic offerings sure to stir feelings of goodwill in a deer.  Alas, and to be frank, I was significantly under the influence of gin and tonics when I wrote out the orders, with the end result that the suite shared by Miss Fawnsworthy and her boss was inundated with one dozen dozen dozen red roses and one ton of salted acorns, instead of the planned dozen long-stemmed ones and a tin of Buckhorn's.

     I was not apprised of the reaction of La Fawnsworthy to this rather overt initiative, but her canine boss was less than enthused, and bearded me in the dining room at Shepherd's Hotel, intent upon a sound thrashing.  It was only by great good luck and timing that I found out that the canine, yclept Leslie duCleds, and I were contemporaries at the same university.  This resulted in some shared rounds of refreshment, out of which came a solution to the oversupply of salted acorns, which involved a liberal distribution of them to assorted public houses on Casino Island.  I regret to say that there was some sort of misunderstanding, later, when Leslie and I began to sing, with great sentiment, our old college songs, and there was the small matter of a punchup that resulted.  Happily, we got out of it with no stain on our respective reputations.  I can't say the same for our respective suits of evening clothes, but Lodge is used to that sort of thing.

     To return to the issue at paw, it was hoped that the obstacles to the affections of Miss Fawnsworthy were cleared.  The next step, I felt, was The Dinner With Candlelight.  I weighed the option of having this tête-á-tête in the dining room, and then I recalled that this would require the cooperation of André, the maître d'hôtel.

     This would not likely be forthcoming, as there was a certain strain in our relationship.  André, for whatever reason, blamed me for a little incident in the dining room involving a rather large hockey player with an even larger appetite for poutine.  The fact that this suspicion was accurate is not the point.  The point is that André was using all the weapons at his disposal against me, such as inferior wine, seating near the kitchen, insolent remarks, etc.  It's the nature of the beast.  I think maître d'hôtels are bred for this sort of thing.  I can't imagine you can possibly teach that level of condescension.  There was too much of a temptation on my part to resort to drastic countermeasures, which I felt were not appropriate for the plan at paw.  Hence, dining a deux in the suite.

     The next step was the issuance of an invitation.  I decided that sobriety and legibility were at a premium for this operation, given recent results with the salted acorns and roses.  It would not do to suggest to Miss Fawnsworthy that dinner for two was in the offing in Ulan Bator, eight o'clock sharp.  I mean, I imagine Ulan Bator is very nice this time of year, but I didn't know how my inamorata would feel about yak cheese.  It's an acquired taste.

     Confound a typewriter for being such a blasted complicated machine, anyway.  I don't know why they make them with such tiny little parts that stick together, and such.  After about an hour, I had produced a few crumpled sheets of paper, some text riven with typographical errors, and a somewhat unprintable series of words when I got my finger stuck in the works.  Lodge came to my rescue, extricating my finger and giving the Underwood a decent burial.  He loyally volunteered to notify Miss Fawnsworthy in person that the pleasure of her company was desired, &c. 


I'm afraid Les was a tad miffed (in an amused way).  After the immaculately attired beaver came and extended the invitation to dinner, my mind was far from my work.  Eventually, he simply gave up with a "Get thee hence, wench, and go prettify yourself for your buck."

I looked at him.  "You sure you're okay with this?"

Les grinned.  "Willow, we've been a team for over a year now, and this is the first time I've seen you show serious interest in someone.  Hell, I've been having all the fun; it's your turn for a change."

I gave him a peck on the cheek.  "You're a sweetie." 

Les grinned.  "I know, I know.  And put the prettifying on the duCleds tab."  He chuckled.  "Never had siblings.  An older sister is fun to have."

"Older!  Well, thanks a heap, little brother," I flung over my shoulder with a grin as I flounced out the door to Les' chuckling.


The other arrangements were duly made, the sideboard prepared, and Lodge was given the night off.  Lodge was not totally in accord with this plan.

     "Dash it all, Lodge, I *am* 28, you know."

     "Chronologically, that is correct, Sir."

     "Are you insinuating, Lodge, that there is an element in my behaviour that suggests I am not quite up to par with my station in life?"

     "I am not insinuating it, Sir.  I am stating it quite plainly."

     "Well, you're an ass, Lodge.  I have no need of chaperones.  Miss Fawnsworthy is as safe as if she were in the Bank of England."

     "Why would you put her in the Bank of England?" (said with a sense of dread).

     "She draws a lot of interest, Lodge."

     Lodge did not dignify this with a response.  Evidently, he was sulking over the requirement to find accommodations for the night, but he took it in the feudal spirit.  Just before he left, he offered to lay out a selection of bandages, compresses, and other first aid implements.  This offer was declined, and Lodge oiled off.

     The appointed hour came, the white tie was tied, the tailfur brushed, the hairfur neatly oiled, and the antlers buffed to a pleasing shine.  I was in readiness for just about anything, except that which was on my doorstep when I answered the knock.

My, he do clean up nicely, don't he?


     This was not the Fawnsworthy I had seen before.  That Fawnsworthy had been replaced by someone in a white dress that, had it been any more flattering, could have caused some serious accidents among bystanders.  The hooves were shined to a mirror finish.  The hairfur was revealed to be a medium brown with butterscotch highlights, approximately shoulder-length, and well-cared for.  I was, quite frankly, at a loss for words.  Or thought.   And perhaps a few other things, as well, since eventually my attention was caught by a well-manicured paw being waved a few inches in front of my eyes.

     La Fawnsworthy gave me an amused grin.   "Ah, there you are.  I think your line is: 'Good evening, Miss Fawnsworthy, won't you come in?'"

     I snapped out of it, to discover that I was being given the friendly and amused eye.  I invited Miss Fawnsworthy in, and closed the door.  A pause, as I realized that I probably should have been on the inside when I closed the door.  Fortunately, Miss Fawnsworthy was equal to the challenge and had the offending portal open again tout suite.

     "Mister Buckhorn!  How delightful to see you again.  It seems like only seconds.  Won't you come in?"

     Dinner itself proceeded without any accidents, even if Miss Fawnsworthy dominated the conversation.  Truth be told, I had ceded the field to her, since I was finding coherence somewhat difficult.  Well, I mean, more difficult than usual.  I don't think she held that against me.  She has holding a hoof against one of mine, after all, which makes me believe that her control of the flow of events was very much a part of her plan.

     In any event, dinner was concluded, and the spectre of after-dinner festivities reared its head.  Miss Fawnsworthy seemed intent on leading me over to a couch.  I noticed, at that very moment, that some blighter had turned on the furnace in the hotel, as my face felt infernally hot.  Fortunately, on the way to the couch was the suite's piano.  Here, at last, was terrain that did not require a Sherpa.  Miss Fawnsworthy did not laugh when I sat down at the piano. She merely leaned on it, with a pleasant expression.

     The old standard immediately popped into the brain:

"With a song in my heart
I behold your adorable face.
Just a song at the start
But it soon is a hymn to your grace.
When the music swells
I'm touching your paw.
It's says that I saw
you near me..."


Oh, MY.  Good singing voice.  And OK on the piano.  Oughta introduce him to Rosie.  Now there'd be a fun explanation.


And so forth and so on, in the fine old Cole Porterhouse tradition.  So there I was, in the glow of a fine dinner, with a lovely doe at my elbow, and all was right with the world.  So naturally, things quickly went to hell.

     "I dedicate this next song to my second-favourite whitetail deer here in the Islands, Detective Inspector Franklin J. Stagg."

What the HELL?


     This produced a slightly incredulous look from my lovely companion.  I soldiered on, figuring that the stuff to give the troops was a good, old fashioned rozzer-razzing, and I thought I knew just the thing.  I mean, who isn't in favour of making fun of policemen?  Some years ago, when I was darkening the groves of academe at Penn, I had gone to New Haven to support them in some sporting match or other against the Collegiate School.  New Haven, in those days, was a town that was well lit, both by electricity and alcohol, and it was a deliciously lively place, where you could drink freely and snap your fingers at the Volstead Act, by snapping them for the bartender.  This sort of cheeriness carried over onto the stage, and I well remembered a revue, named "Who's a Tonic?" that was the sensation of New Haven in 1928.  They had one show-stopper in there, sung by a small red fox in a very loud plaid suit, called "Red Light Frankie," which stole the tune from "Palesteena," but which had lyrics of its own, tailored, or so I was told, for Inspector Stagg:

"In the heart of New Haven City
Lives a chap who's oh! so witty
Frank Stagg, is his n-a-a-a-me

Such a clever deer is Frankie
Never gets so much as "thankee"
Really, it's a sh-a-a-a-me..."

Huh!  So far, so good.


"He's such a good de-tec-tive
But gets so much in-vec-tive
The P.M. thought he'd like a little rest...

So Frankie has been thrown now
Into the red light zone now
From what I hear now, he don't look his best!"

Oh.  My. God.


"Be-cause of...

Lanky Frankie's swank-y hanky-pan-ky
All the dames are really getting cran-ky
He goes out ev'ry night
Arrests each tart in sight
He gives them quite a fright
But then he frees 'em
'cause they please 'im..."


How very, very curious.  The whole room is developing a red haze.


"I-I-I-I've heard one, say once or twiiiice...
'How-w-w-w he frisked me!  Still, it was nice!'..."


Not much room left, mostly red haze.  And here all this time I thought that "seeing red" was merely a figure of speech.  How singular!


"They dress up now to give him fun
One last night looked like a nun
Down on Red Light Frankie's beat!"

Ah, end of the first stanza.  Time to express my appreciation, I suppose.  Where's the nearest large, heavy object?


     It was at this point that I discovered that Miss Fawnsworthy was an adherent to the time-honoured policy that it was better to give than receive.  This policy is especially true when the item in question is a roundhouse right to the jaw.

     I found myself on the floor, attempting to figure out what, exactly, was happening.   I never studied Greek mythology in school, so I can't tell you exactly what Medusa's phiz looked like.  All I know is that she was given credit for turning chaps to stone, and the doe standing above me seemed bent on repeating the feat.  Evidently, it involved gritted teeth, flattened ears, and an expression in the eyes that was gut-shriveling.

    If I had had more presence of mind, I would have asked questions as to how, exactly, Miss Fawnsworthy had obtained such pugilistic talent.  As it was, I was attempting to gather my thoughts, when the lights went out, and everything when dark.

    Given the fact that I could hear the angry stamp of hooves and the slam of the front door to the suite, I knew that I was still among the living.  Nevertheless, I was greatly puzzled as to the odd sensation of dark and wood-smell.  A tentative feel of the paws, as far as I could go up, revealed that Miss Fawnsworthy had grabbed something handy to paw, namely, a tiki-head umbrella stand, an item in keeping with the general local artistic motif.

"Oooh!  Ooooh!  OOOOH!"

Rosie, my barkeep friend at the Double Lotus, passed me another pink gin.  "Let's see.  You show up dressed to the nines, storm in with one word: 'GIN!' and slam it down without tasting it.  You're either aroused or aroused, if you get the difference," she remarked wryly.

"That ignorant, blockheaded lunk-"

"Okay, it's Option A," Rosie grinned.  "Wanna talk about it?"

I shook my head furiously.  "No, but I will," and I launched into a semi-profane explanation about Reggie and how he'd ruined a perfectly good date by singing "Red Light Frankie"

I then had to sing the damned song, as Rosie had never heard it. (Although, being ex-vaudeville/burlesque, she knew the tune.) 

I then had to EXPLAIN the damned song, as Rosie didn't get the reference.

A third pink gin helped somewhat.


    Fifteen minutes of struggle apprised me of the fact that the damn tiki head was stuck fast.  As it was pinning my ears in an awkward position, and rubbing up against my nose, clearly drastic action was required.  I managed to leave the suite, and carefully feel my way downstairs to the front desk.  This was a reversal of the usual procedure, which involves a delicate traverse up the stairs, early of a morn.  After some careful navigation, I managed to find the concierge's desk.

Concierge of Shepherd's Hotel & Reggie (with Tiki waste-can) - Art by Kayleen 'Katarina' Connell
As seen at Shepherd's Hotel - Art by Kayleen 'Katarina' Connell  *

     "Good evening, Mr. Buckhorn."

     "Goo...hang on, how did you know it was me?"

     "Ahem...um, er, a lucky guess, sir.  May I be of some assistance?"

     "Yes, you can fetch the hotel carpenter."

     "For what purpose, if I can ask?"

    "In case you haven't noticed, my face has changed."

    "Ah.  I'm sorry, Mr. Buckhorn.  I assumed this was deliberate."

    "It was, dash it, but not on my part."

    "Are you sure, sir?  It goes well with your outfit, except for one thing..."

    I felt the concierge adjust the head slightly, so that it was straight. 

    "There.  I'm afraid the hotel carpenter won't be in until tomorrow morning, sir.  I will have him sent up as soon as he arrives."


Rosie cocked her head. "Sounds like you're taking this awfully personally," she said.  "You related to Stagg or something?"

I nearly did a spit take as awful realization set in.  Aw, CRAP.

Crap, crap, crap.

Did I mention crap, yet?  Good.

I had to play this quite carefully, and a headful of pink gin was helping not one iota.  Let's see.  I rummaged through a handful of options, and decided that the best lie was the partial truth.

"It's just that...I'm from New Guernsey, see?  Near Gnu York.  When the Red asshatsh (great, I'm slurring now, way to go, Gracie)...crap.  Shee, SEE, they HUNG Stagg's wife and his fawns.  I s-saw it.  In the newshreels, I mean.  'Sno way ANYONE should hafta go through that."

Rosie gave me a sympathetic grin.  "Sounds like you might have a thing for Stagg."

I gave her a glare and another incomplete truth.  "Buck's old enough to be my father."

Rosie shrugged.  "Maybe, but sounds like he could use some comforting..."

"Maybe," I allowed, "but I don't thing...thunk...THINK I'm the girl fer th' job." I finished my fourth pink gin.  "I'd be'er drive backa hotel, now."

Rosie looked at me incredulously.  "You're going to drive?"

"Hafta," I slurred.  "'M too drunk ta walk."

Rosie snickered.  "Darn tooting, you are.  I think we'd better let you lay down upstairs and sleep it off.  Toni?" she called to the other bartender on duty. "Take over for a bit, would you?"

And this is haw I wound up in Rosie's bed for a second time.  Not that anything happened, mind.  Rosie told me later she'd undressed me and put me to bed but, as she put it, "No way in hell do I take advantage of a drunken, upset doe.  Even one as cute as you."

I woke up an hour later, alone in the bed.  Rosie had given me a peck on the forehead and headed back downstairs.  I fell back asleep, weeping into the pillow.

This time, Nightmares with a capital N.  In my dreams, I was screaming at the top of my lungs.  When I sat bolt upright, soaked in sweat, Rosie, now off duty, dressed in pajamas and cuddling me, assured me that I had only been whimpering a bit.  She held me to her ample bosom and, cradled in those lovely pillows, I dropped back into an uneasy sleep.


    Since there was no convenient drinking-hole in the tiki head, I was forced to return to my suite, to await the dawn.  It was Lodge who arrived before the carpenter.

    "Good morning, Lodge."

    "Good morning, Sir.  I see the evening went well."

    "That will be quite enough of that, Lodge.  I can hear you smirking.  And if you make any vulgar remarks relating to what Miss Fawnsworthy gave me, there will be unpleasantness."


"I hate to say it, kiddo, but you have issues."  Rosie pointed a fork at me over breakfast the next morning. 

I grunted a bit and crunched some toast.  "Maybe."

"No, seriously.  I mean, this Stagg thing, it's sad and all, and it happened to a fellow deer, but you...you're taking it personal, like they were kin."

I grinned sourly and produced another half-truth.  "We probably are related somewhere down the line."

Rosie sighed.  "That, I know about.  I got landsmen in-"


Rosie quirked her mouth a bit.  "Yiddishe term, means fellow Jew, in this case relatives."

I lifted an eyebrow.  "Don't mock the New Guernsey shiksa, nu?"

Rosie burst out laughing.  I grinned.  "Hey, I live near Gnu York.  Gonna pick up a little lingo along the way." I took a mouthful of omelet.  "So you have relatives-?"

"In Germany," Rosie sighed.  "Not much longer, though.  They're getting the hell out of Dodge like real quick." 

"Mmmh," I said.  "Can't blame 'em."

"Yeah," Rosie said.  "They're gonna stay with my folks in Gnu York temporarily, then get settled somewhere else, Midwest maybe."

"Well, good luck to them," I said, raising my mango juice in a toast.

Rosie toasted me solemnly.  "Amen."  She grinned evilly.  "And now, girlfriend who changes the subject so neatly, let's get back to you."

I winced.  "Must we?"

Rosie nodded.  "We must.  From what I saw last night, you've got issues you need to work out.  I mean, you were whimpering and trembling and if you didn't have your jaw clenched you'd've probably woken the neighborhood with the screaming." 

I shrugged.  "I had a bad night, is all.  We all have them." 

Rosie looked skeptical.  "I don't know.  Y'know, bartenders and priests have something in common.  We hear a lot of confessions." She raised a paw.  "I know, I know.  I don't necessarily mean me, though I'm here if you want to talk." 

I looked miserable.  "But I don't want to dump my...pain on you." 

Rosie nodded. "Fair enough.  And, for what it's worth, that puts you ahead of a lot of jerks out there.  But, I've picked up some bits of wisdom over the years, and one of those bits is that shared pain gets smaller and shared joy gets bigger..." 

I sighed.  "Okay, okay.  I'll find someone to talk to.  They say confession is good for the soul."

"Good," Rosie approved.  "I'll hold you to that.  Now, as to your boyfriend..."

I smiled wanly.  "Hope he got the umbrella stand off his head."

Rosie sniggered.  "That, I woulda paid to see.  Now, as far as last night goes...he was in the wrong, yes?"

I nodded firmly.  "Definitely."

"Okay," Rosie continued.  "Next bit of advice from a very wise man: In a family argument, if it turns out you are right, apologize at once."

"Wha-?  You have that reversed."

Rosie shook her head.  "Nope.  He was wrong, but he didn't know what he did was wrong.  He still doesn't know what he did wrong, and until you hash things out with him, he's never gonna know."

"...And I should apologize for...?" I prompted.

"Clocking him in the chops, for starters.  Did he know Stagg was a sore spot for you?"


"Okay, then.  He does now.  Think he'll make the same mistake again?"

I had to giggle.  "No, Reggie seems to have a knack for making new and different mistakes every time." 

Rosie grinned.  "Okay, then.  Get dressed, go back to your hotel, change and go find Reggie.  Get this thing hashed out.  Okay?"

I felt tears welling up.  "...Okay."

Rosie reached over and patted me on the shoulder.  "It's gonna work out, right?"

I sniffed.  "Right."

"Worst comes to worst, you got a standing offer over here, okay?"

"Okay." And I started bawling like a baby with a mixture of pain, grief, relief, joy... 

Rosie walked me over to the couch and just held me until the storm ended.  "Feel better?"

I sniffed.  "Yeah." 

Rosie ruffled my hair. "I think you've been dumped on a lot.  Folks are being nice to you for a change and it's confusing you.  Let 'em be nice to you, okay?"

"You sure you're just a bartender?"  I near-whispered.

A chuckle.  "Bartenders, priests and friends, sweetie.  Bartenders, priests and friends."  As we stood, Rosie swatted me on the tush.  "Now, get thee hence and go get your man, kiddo!"

I gave Rosie a bearhug.  "Can do..."


    I was detikified, by and by, somewhat to Lodge's disappointment, and I when the bar opened, I went downstairs.  I was sore in ears, sore in nose, and sore at heart.  It was the old story.  Buck meets doe, buck does something stupid, buck loses doe.  Granted, I've done this sort of thing before, but the end feeling was rather different.

     It was a good thing my primitive instincts were a lot stronger than my self-pity.  A whitetail buck has a few protective features built in.  Such as a sense of hearing that can detect the approach of angry does.  I heard a chillingly familiar voice enquire as to whether I was present and accounted for.

    A frantic glance left and right revealed that while an exit from the bar was not in the offing, there was the sanctum sanctorum of the gentlemen's loo, a short scurry away.  This plan of action was put into immediate effect, somewhat to the puzzlement of a few of the patrons therein, who wondered why I was running into the W.C., only to scuttle into a stall and clamber onto the toilet bowl.

     I could hear their puzzled murmurs, which quickly gave way to some loud expressions of disapproval as the door banged open.


"Is Mister Reginald Buckhorn in?"

The desk clerk seemed unsure.  Some rapid movement in the bar got my attention, and I saw a rather nice flag disappear into the gents'.  Oh, well.  Time to go where no gal has gone before.  I pushed the door open.



    Looking down, I could see the patrons shift ho instanter to safer precincts.

     "Typical.  Didn't even wash their paws."

     The hooves, still polished from last night, clicked off the tile floor, until they came to a stop in front of the stall in which I had secreted myself.

     "Not much point in hiding," my erstwhile dinner date's voice remarked drily.  "Your antlers are showing, and you were flagging all the way in here."

     A quick glance up confirmed that my primitive instincts, while they had helped me, had also betrayed me, as had my antlers.  I was still not eager to show my phiz.  My inquisitor's tone of voice changed slightly.

     "Oh, for heaven's sake, Reggie, come out."

     I carefully rose and stood on the closed lid of the toilet, and peered out just over the top of the stall door.  Willow Fawnsworthy had resumed her usual attire, viz., glasses, done up hair, and such, and looked quite different from last night.  She looked rather less Medusa-ish, but I was not about to try my luck.


     Miss Fawnsworthy stamped a pretty hoof.  "Reggie! You're being unreasonable."

      It was at this point that a third party, from a few stalls down, joined in the conversation, in a rich, fruity voice.

     "If you don't mind an enquiry, my dear, why is the young gentleman being unreasonable?"

     "I'm not sure," Miss Fawnsworthy said slowly.  "It might have had something to do with me hitting him in the jaw and stuffing an umbrella stand over his head."

     "What, was he hurt badly?"

     "No, quite well, thank you very much," I gritted.  "It took the blasted hotel carpenter twenty minutes to saw the thing off."  This evidently caused the intervenor some small confusion.

    "Saw what off?"

    "The head."

    (Fruity silence) "He sawed your head off?"


    "Isn't that a little unlikely, dear boy?  I mean, you're using it now."

    "No, no, the tiki head.  On my head.  The one that got stuffed.  Over my head."

    "The young lady stuffed a tiki-head over your head?  My word, you must have done something dreadful, dear boy."

     "That he did.  That he did," Miss Fawnsworthy confirmed.

     This left me flabbergasted.  "Whaaaat?  It was just a blasted song."

     The Fruity Voice, after a brief interval, piped up in tones confused.   "Um, er...what song would this be, then?"

     "Um, "Red Light Frankie."  Do you know it?"

     "Can't say I do, dear boy.  Can you hum a bit?"

     "NO!"  La Fawnsworthy had put a pair of paws over her ears.  I almost had to do the same, since the word took advantage of the acoustics in the loo, and echoed.  She realized the effect, and blushed a bit.  "I mean, don't.  Please."

     "For heaven's sake, what's wrong with the song?" I asked plaintively.

     The Fruity Voice still had his thoughts in the rough, and not on the fairway.  "Errr...who is this 'Frankie'?" he enquired with polite interest.

     "He's one of the local rozzers.  He used to be a chief rozzer, back in New Haven.  By the way, what *are* you doing in this conversation?"

     "Not much else to do, dear boy.  I've read all the graffiti, and this is much more interesting.  So you say you sang a song that made fun of a policeman?"

     La Fawnsworthy stamped her hoof again.  "It's not just any song. It's a mean (stamp!) rotten (stamp!) *horrible* (STAMP!) song."

     This piqued my curiosity.  "You seem to be eager to come to Stagg's defence.  Any particular reason?"

     "Now, now, dear boy.  Some does simply like older bucks.  It's the maturity angle, you know.  Father-figure and such."

      This shot was bang on target, as La Fawnsworthy turned red to the tips of her ears, and nibbled her lower lip.  Lucky lower lip.

     I sighed.  "Well, go on.  I'm sure a policeman can appreciate a doe with a proper light-welterweight technique.  You can give him a disarming smile, and then a disarming kick."

      La Fawnsworthy started to blink back tears.  "Yes.  No!   I. Well.  Dammit!  That's not what I mean.  I can't.  I have my reas...I don't...."  She sighed, and looked down at her hooves.

     "I'm sorry," she said, in a much smaller and tinier voice, one that didn't take advantage of the acoustics in the loo.  There was either a dripping faucet, or something else that was causing small splashing sounds to be heard.

     "I think, dear boy, that your line is..."

     "Blast it, I don't need a prompt.   Give me credit for at least that much sense.  Look, er...Willow, you needn't be that way.  It's my fault.  I should have stuck to Cole Porterhouse.  Look, the sooner you realize that I'm a silly ass, the better off you'll be.  J'y suis, j'y reste.  If  you're looking for a buck with brains, I'm afraid I don't have a full ration in that department.  Whether I have anything else on offer that interests you...well, I can't say much.  If you chuck me over, I can't say I blame you.  And it'll be a loss I'll regret for a long time, too."

     Willow looked up at me, wiped away her tears, and sighed.  Her train of thought was interrupted by a gentle cough from the Stall.

     "Would you like some advice, my dear?  Give the young gentlebuck a mulligan.  It's the sporting thing to do, you know."

     Willow thought for a minute or so, and then raised an eyebrow, enquiringly, at me.  The Voice From the Stalls was right: it was the sporting thing to do.  I clambered down from my perch, and opened the door.  A paw was proffered, and was gently accepted.

     As we were leaving the loo, the Voice gave a Parthian shot.  "One bit of advice for *you*, dear boy.  Take up the clarinet.  That way, lyrics won't trip you up..."


    Lodge had just finished setting the table for dinner as my tale terminated.   He turned to me, and was about to say something pithy (and no doubt deservedly caustic), when there was a knock at the door.  He returned, bearing a large, square florist's box and a note, both of which were handed to me.

    The note read: "A wise man once said that in a family argument, if it turns out you are right, apologize at once.  I don't want you to change.  I want you as you are.  I hope you will wear this for me, tonight."

    The box contained a carefully wrapped, brand-new, baseball catcher's mask.


Not much else to tell, except that the old cliche about the best part of lovers' quarrels being the making up afterwards is entirely true.  One thing I will say, though:

When I packed that catcher's mask, I sealed the package with a kiss...


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