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15 September 2005
Let's Doe It [Lets Fall In Love]
Willow Fawnsworthy created by M. Mitchell Marmel
Reggie Buckhorn created by EOCostello
"Let's Not Duello On The Subject"
by E. O. Costello & M. Mitchell Marmel
"Let's Not Duello On The Subject"
by E.O. Costello & M. Mitchell Marmel
Reggie Buckhorn, Lodge, Fr. Merino, Dr. Meffit, Sgt. Brush, Inspector Stagg, Baron and Baronin von Kojote, Senor, Senora and Senorita de Ciervos, Po'na (c) E.O. Costello
Willow Fawnsworthy, Rosie Baumgartner (c) M. Mitchell Marmel
Rev. Bingham (c) Stu Shiffman
"Sister Susie's Sewing Shirts for Soldiers"
Lyrics by R.P. Weston, Music by Hermann Darewski
(c) 1914 T.B. Harms
Willow looked up absently from some DuCleds correspondence and said, "Bless you. Want a Kleenex?"
I rolled my eyes. "You've never heard of feng shui? Chinese?"
Willow shook her head. "Fung shway? Is it anything like chop suey? I like the little ears of corn."
I sighed. "Ancient Chinese discipline. Has to do with the layout of a room, the internal flow of energies and all that."
My doe friend snorted. "Sounds like a lot of supernatural baloney to me."
I made my voice a bit raspier, sounding like Bela Luposi as "Drakeula". "Supernatural...perhaps. Baloney... perhaps not." I waved the cablegram from Les. "Anyhow, that's why you're moving this afternoon."
This got Willow's attention. "I am?"
"You am," I nodded. "I cabled Les in Istanbull after you dropped me off at the Lotus and he concurs that a change of locale is in order."
Willow is adorable when she's confused. "I don't get it."
I sighed. "Look, this suite is full of bad memories. You've had breakdown after breakdown here-"
Willow smiled tiredly. "And at least one shootout with the doors."
"Exactly," I nodded. "A feng shui master would say that the chi in this room has been clouded, at least as far as you're concerned. A Cherokeet shaman might say that your subconscious id has traumatic associations with your immediate surroundings."
"Annnnnd," Willow said slowly, "a psychiatrist would say?"
"Ungh," I intoned. "Heap bad medicine."
Willow snickered. "Naturally."
"So," I continued, "armed with this telegram authorizing me to act on behalf of DuCleds Chemicals in the relocation of its Spontoon Temporary Headquarters..."
Willow looked at me with awed respect. "Say that fast five times."
"That, that, that, that, that."
A searching look at me. "You sure you're not part Jesuit?"
I laughed. "Natural talent, maideleh. Anyhow, we're moving you and Les' stuff and the safe and all to a suite down the hall."
Willow nodded thoughtfully. "Not a different hotel?"
I shook my head. "Maybe later, if moving to a different suite doesn't help. As it is, rooms are at something of a premium with most of the hotels closed for renovations. And it's easier moving the safe down the hall than it is moving it across town." I smiled. "Good news, though, you're getting a neighbor."
Willow brightened. "You're moving into Les' room?"
"Not quite," I replied. "However, I am getting a room on the ground floor, so I'll be on hand for emergencies, but not close enough to be a temptation. For either of us."
A sigh from my pretty whitetail doe friend. "I hate it when you're right."
My smile was wistful. "So am I."
And so it came to pass in these days that a whitetail doe was moved from one suite to another, lock, stock and armor plated purse collection, and her employer's worldly goods, as well as one large metal object from the Oso Safe Company.
Okay, let's see:
(1) Mildly meshuginah whitetail doe, under doctor's supervision and orders? Check.
(2) MMWD's boss safely out of town for a month or more? Check.
(3) MMWD safely stashed away in different hotel room, for a change of scenery? Check.
(4) MMWD jake with her priest, cleared her soul up? Tentative check. We'll see as the six weeks go on.
(5) MMWD under the close personal supervision of yours truly? Check.
(6) MMWD's boyfriend to be warned not to cause trouble or else? To do. Shouldn't be a problem, even for a dummkop like Nature Boy...
It would probably come as a great surprise to many (the Sire heading the list) that Reginald Buckhorn can, when the cause is just, be a whirlwind of productive activity. And there was certainly no cause more just than that confronting said Reginald Buckhorn, as he sat sipping his G&T in the bar at Shepherd's on a rainy mid-November afternoon.
Hmmm. I seem to have slipped into the third person, there. Sorry about that. I'll be talking like a maitre d'hotel next, which would be a sure sign of moral degeneration.
Anyway, the cause that was facing me was that of La Fawnsworthy, a/k/a Willow Fawnsworthy, the most splendid whitetail doe to be found in the Spontoon Islands. Things have been a whirlwind of activity recently. Can it be that only a mere two months or so have passed since I first set eyes on her, and already we've had a tiff in which she bunged a tiki-head umbrella stand over my bean, and a war pitting La Fawnsworthy on one side and the Sire on the other, in which La Fawnsworthy came out with all honours of war?
All the excitement may well have been too much for her. On Hallow'een, a few weeks ago, she got a frightful case of the heebie-jeebies. I'm told this was combined with overwork, which I grant you is something I'm not overly familiar with. The end result of all of this was that La Fawnsworthy was put under the care of a mephito-medico that has the monopoly on all the pill-rolling for the Four Hundred here in the Islands.
Happily, it seems like the old whitetail spirit is coming through, and my inamorata is back in mid-season form. The highly convenient absence of her boss for some weeks was providential, as it afforded a bounty of free time for her to use profitably. Hence my activities in the bar, which consisted of preparing a course of therapy meant to act as a dose of Buck-U-Uppo to my favourite doe.
This consisted of a structured programme, as follows:
(1) Awakening @ 8.45 a.m.
(a) Flatter La Fawnsworthy Re: looks
(2) Breakfast in Bed @ 8.50 a.m.
(a) Do not forget to omit flower in vase on tray. NB: ONE, and only ONE, rose.
(b) Do omit salted acorns.
(3) Light conversation with breakfast, 8.50-9.20 a.m.
(a) Flatter La Fawnsworthy Re: whatever comes to mind
(4) Morning bath (for ONE) @ 9.25 a.m.
(a) Ensure that fluffy towel, bath salts, &c. are at paw's reach.
(b) Omit rubber duck
(5) Dress, appropriate for stroll on beach (weather permitting)
(a) If weather not permitting (shame!) enjoy music @ Marleybone lobby
(6) Stroll on beach, 9.45 a.m. - 11.15 a.m.
(a) Hold paw
(b) Pay close attention to La Fawnsworthy. Flatter as necessary
(7) Lunch @ L'Etoile D'Argent @ 11.30
(a) Abuse Andre
(b) Buy whatever La Fawnsworthy wants to eat
(c) Abuse Andre
(d) Flatter La Fawnsworthy
(e) Abuse Andre
(8) Return La Fawnsworthy to suite for post-prandial nap, 1.00-2.30 p.m.
(9) Have La Fawnsworthy dress for tennis, croquet or crazy golf @ 2.45
(a) Admire La Fawnsworthy's form in sporting attire. Call her attention to this.
(10) Sporting activities, 3.00 p.m.-5.30 p.m. (weather permitting)
(a) Query La Fawnsworthy win?
(b) If weather not permitting, card games @ Fawnsworthy suite
(11) Cocktails, Shepherd's Bar, 5.45 p.m.-6.15 p.m.
(a) Memo to self: ONE G&T
(12) Return La Fawnsworthy to suite to bathe and ress for dinner @ 6.30 p.m.
(13) Retreive La Fawnsworthy for dinner, @ 7.45 p.m.
(a) Call attention to La Fawnsworthy fabulousness
(14) Dinner at Grand, 8.00 p.m. - 9.30 p.m.
(15) Stroll on beach in moonlight (moon and weather permitting) 9.45-10.15 p.m.
(16) Return La Fawnsworthy to suite
(a) Do not omit goodnight kiss.
In looking over this programme, I felt totally confident that this was, indeed, The Stuff ToGive The Troops. With some slight variations in the programme from day to day, say, walks in the park and sneaking blossom-snacks when the park personnel weren't looking, this would serve to raise the morale of any whitetail doe, let alone Willow.
It was perhaps unfortunate that I was paying more attention to the composition of this list, than my surroundings. Had I done so, I might have noticed that the patrons of the bar had scattered like the four winds, in a great hurry. I looked up to find myself alone.
Or, rather, not alone. The bar had been cleared, not by the agency of Dangerous Dan McGnu, but by a rather large ram, with imposing curly horns and an even more imposing plain black cassock. He carried with him a certain air that if any of the Powers Beneath were to cross his path, they would be well advised to have their insurance in order.
My first thought was that the Catholic Church had an entirely different (and probably more effective) means of raising funds for restoring steeples. I was checking to see if I had brought my cheque-book when the thud-thud-thud of approaching hooves announced the impending presence of said priest. I'm sure this fellow was, in reality, smaller than me, but at the moment, he seemed like he was rather larger and rather bulkier. There was far more of an Old, rather than New, Testament look in his eyes.
"Mr. Reginald Buckhorn, I presume?"
This was said with an upraised eyebrow and a down-raised (if that's the word I'm looking for) mouth. I had uncomfortable recollections of certain awkward interviews at my various schools. I gulped, and nodded meekly in reply, hoping that a deferential answer would turneth away wrath.
At this point, the ram in the dog collar demonstrated that he was familiar with an important salient fact regarding whitetail deer: namely, that our prominent ears make convenient carrying handles. This is a fact, unfortunately, that is well known to bouncers, policemen, and assorted other figures of authority that I've encountered over the years. One assumes it's written down in some book, somewhere. I could tell from the way this padre had my ear between thumb and forefinger, and from the way he was giving it just enough of a twist, that he was a professional with vast experience in these matters. It seemed he craved conversation with me, and I went along with him to the terrace. All paths, it seemed, would lead to the Roman.
"Ow. Ow-ow. Ow: Ow, Ow, Ow. Ow; ow. Ow? Ow!"
I'm afraid during the trip I wasn't holding up my end of the conversation very well, but this did not seem to be of great concern, as I was being led pretty firmly. We finally reached the terrace, and the buck-ear was given another twist.
"Now, then, Mr. Buckhorn: I want you to listen to me very carefully..."
"Well, blast it, how can I? You're twisting the thing I use to hear..."
Apparently, this particular fact was irrelevant, a point brought home to me by a swift smack on my free ear.
"Don't sass me, Mr. Buckhorn. I am Father Augustus Merino..."
"Well, you should have introduced yourself before you start twisting a chap's...OW!"
Father Merino, it seemed, was also apprised of the salient fact that buck-ears can be twisted like faucet handles to stop the flow of conversation.
"As I said before you interrupted me...I am Father Augustus Merino, of St. Anthony's, on Meeting Island..."
"Whatever it was, it wasn't me, I haven't gone near...OW! OW!"
"For heaven's sake, hold your tongue! You are familiar, I believe, with Miss Willow Fawnsworthy? Well...?"
It seems I missed my cue, for my ear got another twist, this time to start the flow of conversation.
"EEEEYOWCH! Yesyesyes, I know her, I know her, OW!" Another twist, which seemed to indicate the conversational shift.
"Very well. And you are romantically inclined toward the young doe?"
"Now see here, that's a personal...OW!...yes, I am."
I was hoping that the padre would keep the fun clean, but it was obvious that we were about to move into some choppy conversational waters. Fortunately, the cavalry rode in, in the nick of time. I don't think Father Merino had it on his mind to scalp me, but given his fixation on my head at the moment, one couldn't be sure. Anyway, I was certainly glad to see the hooves, and the substantial bulk north of them, of the Rev. Bingham, who strolled in, cheerfully munching on a scone. He took in the scene with a professional air, while the nosh was duly consumed.
"Hullo, Gussie. Chastising?"
"Ah, good afternoon to you. I am endeavouring to explain something to Mr. Buckhorn...who is proving to be somewhat prone to interrupting..." This was accompanied by a fearsome glare. I couldn't imagine any wolf foolhardy enough to attack his flock.
"Ah, splendid, splendid. And how are you today, Mr. Buckhorn?"
This seemed to be an astonishing question to ask to a chap who is having his ear twisted in a manner it was not designed for. "Hang on, I'm in your flock, not his!"
The Reverend surveyed me with a cheerful ecumenical expression. "Are you sure about that, Mr. Buckhorn? I haven't seen you since...well, let's see, that incident with the Orpington duck-cult priestess..."
This was news to Father Merino. "What incident? What duck-cult priestess?"
The Rev. cheerfully finished his snack, and wiped his paws on a napkin. "Oh, nothing much. Mr. Buckhorn somehow convinced a priestess that he was to be her mate, and all. Mr. Buckhorn came to talk to me about marriage arrangements. Something happened or other to break it off, I heard..."
This twisted tale resulted in a further twisted ear, accompanied by a baleful glare from the padre, who evidently was under the impression that I had been doing my best to act like the second lead at the Foiles Begeres. I goggled at the placid bullock with a wild surmise.
"Well, blast it, instead of spinning yarns about me, why don't you do something to *help*?!"
Reverend Bingham gathered his thoughts together. One could hear the raking sounds proceeding inside the bean. After about a minute or so, he shrugged his shoulders, took a paw, and started twisting my other ear. I'll bet you didn't know I could do a passable imitation of a timberwolf with a not-so-secret sorrow. Nor did Father Merino or Reverend Bingham. Nor, I suspect, did the people across the street, who must have been under the impression that some class of a police siren had been installed in the bar of Shepherd's.
Father Merino picked up the thread. "Now, then: I believe you were saying that you were romantically inclined towards Miss Fawnsworthy?"
"Oh, that's quite true, Gussie, quite true." The Rev. appeared to be a vertiable font of information regarding his wayward parishoner. "It's been much-commented upon."
"Now, blast it, I don't see how on earth this is the business of either...EYOW! OW!"
Both clerics gave identical twists to their ear-holds. I was starting to wonder if this was part of the regular curriculum at seminaries, when a third party strolled into the terrace, namely, Rosie, one of Willow's pals. She took in the situation with a coup d'oeil, much as Napoleon might have done. Seeing that the Father had one ear firmly in paw-grip, and the Reverend the other, also firmly in paw-grip, she instantly got down to particulars.
"Well, aren't you guys gonna make a wish?"
Ah. Nature Boy has been buttonholed, or, maybe, earholed, by a couple of the local clergy. I know "Beefy" Bingham slightly, and the ram's gotta be the padre, Merino. Well, never look a gift deer in the teeth, I say. I flick a finger open, revealing a nice, sharp claw, and poking Nature Boy in the schnoz: "You! Buckhorn!"
A slightly bewildered look from Nature Boy. "Um. Me Buckhorn. Er. You Jane?"
"Don't act smart, people won't recognize you." Another poke in the nose.
The padre cleared his throat. "Yes. Well. I beg your pardon, Miss..."
"Baumgartner. Rosie Baumgartner."
"Errr. Ah-hem. Yes. Of the Double Lotus?"
'Beefy' chimed in: "Oh, yes. Runs her bar very well."
Merino turned and looked sort of google-eyed at Bingham for a second. I did, too. I mean, I had no idea how much these clerics knew. Oh, well. Back to particulars.
"You talk to the genius, here, about Willow?"
Merino nodded. "Yes, I was just about to..."
Nature Boy began to splutter. It's kinda hard to splutter effectively when two guys have you by the ears, but what the hell.
"Now hang and blast it all, don't *you* start in on this. I don't see at all what business it is of yours...OW!"
Memo to self: deer noses are sensitive to getting poinked with a claw.
Merino cleared his throat again. "Now that Miss Baumgartner has your attention, Mr. Buckhorn, I am going to tell you something, and you had better absorb it. You are not to see Miss Fawnsworthy for the next six weeks..."
"WHAT?!? Of all the *blasted* cheek, I...OW! OW! *OW!*"
"What the padre, said, Nature Boy. The lady is off-limits for six weeks."
Bingham looked confused. "Six weeks?"
"That's right, Reverend, six weeks. I felt it best that Mr. Buckhorn not see Miss Fawnsworthy..."
"...without asking said Mr. Buckhorn what *he* felt on the matter. OW!"
Light dawned on Beefy's puss. "Oh! Ah! Six weeks, I see. Jolly good."
"Yeah, six weeks, Nature Boy."
"Six weeks, Mr. Buckhorn."
"SIX WEEKS?!? You can't bloody well expect me to give up seeing Miss Fawnsorthy for six weeks...OW!"
Merino served up another little attention-getter, with a twist on the side. I made a mental note of the recipe.
"I am telling you now, Mr. Buckhorn, six weeks. Not four, not five..."
Bingham again: "Six weeks?"
I confirmed it. "Six weeks."
Bingham: "Oh, ah, six weeks. It's six weeks, Mr. Buckhorn."
"I *can* bloody well hear, even if someone's playing tug-of-war with my ears, and tic-tac toe with my nose...OW! OW! OW!"
A "harrumph" from behind me announced that another party wanted in on theconversation. It turned out to be Doc Meffit. "Gentlemen." He bowed to me. "Miss Baumgartner."
He gave me a little bow. I smiled prettily at him. Momma always taught me to be nice to doctors, especially the cute, unmarried ones. Doc took off his pince-nez, gave them a polish, and then set them on his nose, giving a disapproving look over them at Nature Boy.
"Hrmph. There you are, Mr. Buckhorn. I've been meaning to speak to you about Miss Fawnsworthy."
"For HEAVEN'S sake! Is the entire blasted island going to start lecturing me on...OW! HEY!"
The doctor began poking Nature Boy in the ribs with a forefinger. "I'm giving you my medical opinion that..."
"...twisting ears is bad for one? OW! OW!"
"Not if it focuses one's mind, such as it is, on the case in point. Now, then. I believe that it would be best for Miss Fawnsworthy to have no excitement whatsoever."
I poinked the genius in the nose. "Pay attention to the doctor, there's a good little Nature Boy."
Barehooved Boy Mit Cheeks of Tan spluttered a bit more. "Now SEE HERE..."
Father Merino twisted one ear. "Pay attention, now, you."
Rev. Bingham twisted the other ear. "Oh, yes, quite. Pay attention to...err. What was he paying attention to?"
The doctor looked over his pince nez at the Rev., and then Nature Boy. "Not seeing Miss Fawnsworthy. She needs rest for a lengthy period, say..."
One guess as to three suggestions.
The good doctor nodded. "Ah, yes, capital, splendid, splendid. I quite agree. Now, then, Mr. Buckhorn. I want it clearly understood. For a period of six weeks..."
"Are you deaf, Mr. Buckhorn?"
"I will be, if people don't stop twisting my ears, poking my nose, and prodding my ribs. Where do you get the blasted idea to keep me from Willow for six weeks?"
The doc harrumphed. "From these people, of course. I would have suggested five weeks, myself."
Father Merino shakes his head. "Not long enough."
Rev. Bingham: "Oh, no, no, no, not at all."
Yours truly: "No way. Six weeks."
Another voice: "Six weeks fer what?"
The new arrival turned out to be Sgt. Brush of the Constabulary. He seemed sort of interested in the proceedings. Nature Boy didn't seem thrilled with this new arrival. "Now, BLAST it all, what do YOU want?"
"I wanna know why folks been 'phoin' in complaints 'bout noise from here. Folks sayin' it'slike someone's gettin' scalded in here."
"Well, that's about the only thing this gang of lunatics hasn't done to me. OW! OW! OW! OW! EEYOW!"
The cop got into the spirit of it, by poinking Nature Boy between the eyebrows. Nature Boy began flagging his tail, and gritting his teeth.
"Now, ya wanna tell me what got youse inta this mess?"
I decided to help. "It's about Willow Fawnsworthy."
Cop twitches his ears, and narrows his eyes at me. "Oh, yeah. I know 'bout her. What 'bout her?"
The padre chimes in. "We are in the midst of telling Mr. Buckhorn that he cannot see herfor a period of time."
"Yeah? How long?"
The Rev. blinks. "I think six weeks was what we agreed on, wasn't it?"
"Oh, yes, certainly."
"Yeah, that's right."
"Hrmph. Quite, quite."
"No, we blasted well *DIDN'T* agree on that. Since when have you lot got the right to dictate to me that..."
"Lissen, ya wanna keep it down? I got a good mind t'run youse in fer disturbin' th'peace..."
This was absolutely the limit. "I think it entirely within the bounds of reason to give voice loudly and vigorously when one's ears, nose and ribs, not to mention one's private life, are being poked, prodded, pulled and pontificated at."
The rozzer blinked, and turned to Father Merino. "What's this six weeks all 'bout?" He eloquently jerked a thumb in my general direction. I flinched, fearing where he was going to get ideas about poking it.
"NOW SEE HERE! IF THERE'S ONE MORE BLOODY REHASH OF MY
PRIVATE LIFE, LAID OPEN FOR PUBLIC INSPECTION LIKE SOME DASHED
BOOK IN THE PUBLIC LIBRARY, I'M GOING TO GET UPSET!!!"
The Rev. blinked. "Bit late for that, isn't it?"
Sgt. Brush did not appear to be particularly impressed with my emotions, and he started to poke me in the nose.
"Now, lissen up. I dunno if youse is gettin' up t'any hijinx, but lemme tell ya somethin', I gots my eye on you, Mister Buckhorn. If I was you, I'd lay low an' keep outta trouble for a lil' period of time, like, say..."
Rosie piped up brightly, like a star pupil. "Six weeks?"
Rev. Bingham nodded vacantly. "Oh, yes, six weeks."
Dr. Meffit nodded and harrumphed. "Six weeks is quite advisable, indeed."
Father Merino murmured with an undertone of menace. "Six weeks."
Nature Boy wasn't buying this.
H'm. A bit stronger than he looks. Must be all that tennis. Anyhow, he busted free of the clerics and skedaddled out of the bar, holding his ears and flagging his tail all the way. Must have been disturbed; he didn't even stop for a drink.
I scratched behind one ear thoughtfully. "Wonder if any of that made it past the antlers."
The doc polished his glasses. "Hrmph. Well, I certainly hope so."
Father Merino frowned, and tapped a hoof against the floor. "Well, I certainly hope he doesn't forget what we told him."
Rev. Bingham blinked. "Forget what? Oh, right. Six weeks."