"Marconi and Chaos"
by M. Mitchell Marmel & E.O. Costello
© 2012 by M. Mitchell Marmel and E.O. Costello
Willow Fawnsworthy, Reggie Buckhorn, Leslie duCleds,
Charles Foster Crane, Inocenta du Cleds (nee de Ciervos),
Carlos de Ciervos © Eric Costello
Philo T. Fawnsworthy © M. Mitchell Marmel
March 20, 1937:
The Saturday after Leslie and Inocenta’s wedding dawned beautifully, as it’s accustomed to doing in the Spontoons in the Spring. Spontoon au Printemps. The poets write of it often. Especially after a Nootnops Blue or two. Or three. Or four.
Thanks to my beloved fiancée, Willow Fawnsworthy, I had awakened with the sun, and on a weekend at that, in order to have breakfast with her. Such a prospect, with the opportunity of many more such breakfasts over a (hopefully) happy married life, was definitely appealing.
I arose and put on my dressing gown to find that my valet, Lodge, had apparently been up with the chickens. One wonders who gets the chickens up. He was out on the balcony putting the finishing touches on the breakfast table. I should note that this involves the usual ration of linen, silverware, glass and china, and not noshing on the said furniture. Anthrop beavers are better behaved than that.
“Good morning, Lodge!” I said. “Corker of a day, what?”
“Indeed, sir.” Lodge poured me a cup of coffee. “I have laid out your clothes for the day. Miss Fawnsworthy is expected momentarily.”
I flagged for a moment as I regarded the clock. “Good Lord, Lodge!” I dashed back into my room to get ready, coffee left untasted.
There are definite advantages to the non-alcoholic regime Willow has imposed on me, and I was cool and comfortable in white linen by the time there came a knock on the door. In days of yore, often you would find me staring at a shirt, wondering which end was up. Sometimes, it didn’t matter.
Once again, the knock on the door had not revealed the NK-whatsit from Moscow or various and assorted heavies associated with Fenwick Foods, but my lovely doe. Willow looked ravishing in a floral sundress as Lodge admitted her, and we shared a brief kiss before going out to the balcony for breakfast.
As we started a round of hot buttery scones I asked, “Shall we have a bit of music, Willow?”
“That sounds wonderful, Reggie.” She smiled at me over her coffee cup.
“Lodge? If you’ll do the honors?”
“Certainly, sir.” He switched on the radio and soon the sounds of Radio LONO could be heard.
I flagged, a touch irritably, and Willow noticed this.
“Well, I strongly suspect that this is the same tune I heard on the radio before going to bed last night. I can only imagine this three hours of hula drum music is some sort of secret code.”
Willow looked a bit startled at this, and set her cup down. “That may be changing, Reggie.”
“You recall that radio engineer, the one we met after Les and Inocenta got married?”
Being reminded of the duCleds nuptials sparked the mental image of Honolulu undergoing the same sort of urban renewal that Carthage underwent. Hawaii delenda est and all that. I shook the image away. “Er, yes, Philo Something-or-other. Wasn’t he also a detective?”
“That’s Philo Vance, dear,” my beloved said with a sigh, and the penny dropped.
How could I have forgotten? After all he shared (coincidentally) a last name with my fiancée. “Ah!”
Fawnsworthy is a radio engineer. He's building a station for
Charles Foster Crane.”
"Jolly good! I hope those chappies get their fingers out and start to work!" I took a sip of my coffee. “But, now that I come to think of it, Willow, it may not work.”
“Can't put scantily clad girls on the radio.”
My dear doe pondered this, and conceded the point with a flourish of her butter knife. “Well, that and ventriloquists, I suppose.”
I think what startled me was the fact there was, in fact, a code embedded in that hula.
The heaviest downbeat of the drums was in Morse code, and after listening to it I determined that they were telling their listeners about a brand of beauty treatment concocted to keep snouts and muzzles looking young. Price, one shilling a bottle, available at all reputable chemists.
It made me wonder what else they might be up to right under the noses of the tourist trade.
After breakfast we took a walk in the park that took up part of the center of Casino Island. Po’na, Reggie’s rickshaw driver, seemed rather depressed. The fox’s tail kept swishing and a glum look appeared permanently affixed.
“What’s the matter, Po’na?” I asked. “Was there any fallout from the duCleds wedding?”
Po’na flinched a bit. “Willow-doe know Kara-daughter-Karok not pleased when covered in sweets by Po’na-self and Karok-son-Karok,” he said. “Kara-daughter-Karok ask audit of rickshaw driver’s union.”
“Po’na-self . . . err, Po’na-self sack given, position-smalled to assistant treasurer, position loss shop steward.” He seemed to perk up a bit. “Po’na-self as Euro-speak ‘get off easy.’”
“Karok-son-Karok sister-having, Kiki-mate, other female relations emphasis problems. Karok-son-Karok’s problems to Po’na-self’s like unto Sun to candle.” He sniggered a bit before sighing again.
I patted his arm consolingly before accepting a bouquet of tropical flowers from Reggie. We took turns nibbling on them as Po’na took us back to the hotel so we could change for tennis.
We played four sets, me losing two of them. Now that Reggie’s laying off the sauce and getting more exercise, he’s becoming a force to be reckoned with. Since his parents are invited to the wedding (of course), I was at times a bit concerned how he was going to deal with his Sire, who is a force of nature himself. Hurricane, earthquake, that sort of thing.
Still, there’s about six weeks (ye gods, another six weeks!) to go before that splendid moment arrives, and we’re (all three of us) looking forward to it.
We retired to our respective rooms to wash up and change, and went downstairs for lunch.
We stepped into the lobby and spotted the publisher of the Spontoon Mirror, Charles Foster Crane, his girlfriend L’yra on his arm. L’yra is one of those birds of paradise, and the chappie who named the species was certainly observant. Hard to overlook shiny feathers and a long tail, even if you aren’t avian.
“Hello, Mr. Crane! A fine day, isn’t it?”
I can certainly see why an avian would go into the writing business. So many quill pens ready to paw, as it were. Doubt the Barker Pen folks are too happy about that.
Crane patted his lady’s wing and replied, “Yes, Mr. Buckhorn. Just taking a break from – what the devil?”
A commotion had erupted in the dining room of l’Etoile d’Argent, and I have to admit, dear reader, that Yours Truly was somewhat miffed.
A commotion in Shepherd’s Hotel, and l’Etoile d’Argent yet, and I hadn’t started it? Scandalous!
I usually worked this side of the street.
Some of the less hardy diners started beating a retreat from the scene of the ruckus, and I buttonholed a fleeing waiter. “Here!” I said. “What’s all this, and why are you deserting your post?”
The rat gabbled at me for a moment then blurted out, “Someone is trying to drown M. d'Arbres!” That’s Andre d’Arbres. He’s the maitre d’hotel of the restaurant, and a chittering tyrant he is, too.
“Not again,” Crane sighed. “How many times this week?” His girlfriend looked pleased with the state of developments, as I’d heard she’d been the target of some of Andre’s insults ever since Inocenta left the islands.
My beloved observed, “Not enough times. He's still breathing.”
We breasted the tide of outgoing diners to encounter the assistant maitre d’, who escorted the four of us to a table. There was some sort of disturbance over by the lobster tank, and although I felt the urge to march to the sound of the guns, Willow was holding me back.
(You readers with sharp memories will recall that after the Christmas ranygazoo, the local beak put me under Willow’s care to keep me out of trouble.)
A waiter approached as we were seating and asked our feathered guest, “Will you have the lobster in the rough today, Mr. Crane?”
Crane glanced in the direction of the tank. “I'd say that's a rather poor choice of words, given the company the lobsters are keeping.” He cocked an eye at me. “Should we stop it?”
I rose and kissed my bride-to-be’s paw, causing L’yra to sigh and bat her eyes at Crane. “I’ll go over and see what’s going on, shall I?”
“No joining in, Reggie,” Willow admonished. She takes her duties as my legal guardian seriously.
I gave her a reassuring smile and walked over to the scene of the action, careful not to get water all over the new shine on my hooves. “I say! What’s going on here?”
My view of the lobster tank was obscured by the horned bulk of a chap, garbed in perhaps an acre of seersucker, industriously ducking the hapless Andre d’Arbres for the fourth time. “What?” came a sulky voice.
A very familiar sulky voice, although when I knew him he was much less sulky.
“Good heavens! Artie?”
The huge form paused and silence fell. A silence only broken by the sound of Andre gasping for breath.
“I know that voice . . . “ He turned and I was face-to-face with a bulky figure I had known of old. It was indeed my bosom chum from the groves of the University of Pennsylvania, Artie ‘Tons of Fun’ Wisent, all six feet five and approximately 350 pounds of him.
“Errr, Artie? Would I be intruding if I asked you why you were trying to drown the maitre d'hotel? Not that I have any objections, mark you. A thoroughly sound and statesbull-like policy. But stuffing a chap into a lobster tank catches the eye and incites questions. Besides, you’re putting the other diners off their lunch.”
“Reggie! As I live and breathe!” Before I could react he had swept me up into a rib-cracking embrace, thoroughly wetting my linen suit. “The tank was near at paw. Far preferable to throwing him in the harbor. Good Lord, what brings you all the way out here?”
“Well, in my case, it’s the Sire – “
“Enough said of that,” the buffalo said, tapping the side of his muzzle. “Verbum sap.” His voice was the same as always. Just one step above fire engine, and one step below the whistle on the Broadway Limited.
“Er, yes. But the question remains, as it were, dear Artie – why are you trying to teach Andre to swim?”
My brother Quaker grinned. “The little miscreant had the nerve to offer me a bowl for my ‘cud,’ as he so impolitely put it. It was my duty as a guest to instruct the host on proper etiquette.”
A splashing and another gasp of air signaled that the Snooty Squirrel was benefiting from my friend’s tutelage. Somehow.
“Your, ah, ‘cud?’”
“Yes.” He indicated a small plate on a nearby table, and I understood instantly. You see, Artie’s a connoisseur of chewing gum, and is hardly ever without a stick or three in his mouth. If it’s not Buckhorn's Bubble Cud, it might be Wrigglie's Beer Mint (“For that spicy taste of root beer in every savory chew!”).
“Come on, Artie,” I said in order to distract him away from Andre before the constables were called again. As sure a sign as ever that Willow was calming me – in the old days, I’d have joined in. “Let’s step over here and you simply must tell me why you are gracing the Spontoons with your presence.”
“Simplicity itself, my dear friend. You know a fellow named Crane?”
“Sure. I’ll introduce you. Tall, feathered chap.”
“Isn't that obvious?”
“Not the tall part. Remind me not to discuss ducks, please.”
“Yes. Anyway, he's the chappie who owns the local rag.”
“Well, there's a lot of nudity.”
“Good lord, by the publisher?”
“Not as far as I know, but then, I don't think he's the party type. Take a squint at the newsstand out front.” I put out a paw to forestall him. “After lunch.”
“Of course, of course! AFTER – say! Who is this wondrous picture of feminine delight?”
Sometimes Artie has the attention span of one of those mayfly thingies, and one of the many things that can distract him is an attractive femmefur, viz., my dear Willow.
I opened my muzzle to make introductions, but Artie swept right past me, almost making me spin around in his slipstream as he bolted straight up to Willow. Willow, for her part, flagged and tightened her grip on her purse.
“Hel-LO, young lady!” Artie boomed. “You have the appearance of a fair flower of womanhood, and yet here you are, alone and unescorted! Permit me – “
“Sorry,” Willow said levelly. “You’re not my type.”
“Au contraire, my dear woman! For it is not for myself that I press this suit, but for my boon companion of many years, the redoubtable Reginald Buckhorn! Look at him! A fine scion of a good family, and yet still unattached after all these years!”
I felt a bit like an antique pot being hawked by one of those chaps at Sotheby’s.
“I say – “
Artie immediately said to me out of the side of his mouth, “Hush, old chap. Look at her. You’re the same species and she’s as wet as a haddock’s bathing costume.”
Permit me to say that Artie is almost incapable of speaking sotto voce. Needless to say, Willow heard his description of her, and she swung her purse, connecting solidly with the back of my chum’s head.
Willow’s purses are not quite what you’d expect from the haute couturiers of Paris. Oh, mais non. They are based on a plate of quarter-inch steel plate and a handle of steel cable. The kind of couturier you’d find in Pittsburgh or Chicago. Jolly hard, and jolly effective.
There was a resounding CLANG!
Artie went straight to the floor, face-down.
I crouched down beside my friend in time to hear him bellow, “Never mind, Reggie! I shall have her for myself! She’s a FIRECRACKER!”
“Yes, my old friend?”
“I’d like to present Miss Willow Fawnsworthy, my fiancée. We’re getting married next month.”
“Capital!” With a grunting snort the bison reared and sat up, looking up cheerfully at Willow. “Charmed, Miss. But I still say you’d find a better match in myself, rather than in my somewhat skinny school chum.”
“Oh, I say – “
“Should I hit him again, Reggie?” Willow asked.
Artie wagged a finger at her. “My apologies, Miss, but only one to a customer. Of course, it did ring a bit like the Market streetcar.” He lumbered to his feet and straightened himself out, then yelled, “Frankford, NEXT STOP!”
“You dining here, Artie?”
“I was, but I've changed my mind. I mean, just look at what they feed the lobsters.”
Andre chose that moment to make his reappearance for the delectation of the diners. One of those chappies in the physics department at Penn could understand it.
If you have M, a maitre d'hotel with a bushy tail, and you put in close proximity 11 active lobsters with a grudge, such that M * (L * 11), a quantity of energy is released, X, sufficient to propel said maitre d'hotel clear across a hotel lobby and evidently toward the elevators.
The maitre d’ arose from the lobster tank with a scream of pain and terror in quite a few ways entirely unlike Aphrodite rising from the sea, lobsters clinging grimly onto his tail. What followed was a wet blur in white tie as the squirrel made a crustacean-assisted beeline for the exit.
Charlie Crane watched this with a slight grimace. “Probably won't pay for them, either.”
I decided not to check my purse for dents after decking Artie. It’s possible that it might collect a few more before the day was over. Instead, I watched as Andre left the dining room.
“Oh dear, and he's heading for the – “
There was a shrill scream.
“ - elevator. Poor Mrs. Mouffetsky. And I heard they'd just taken her off her medication, too.” I looked at the rest of the party. “What's the word for fear of lobsters? Homardaphobia?”
Artie asked, “Are you sure the lobsters don't have Sciurophobia?"
“Hang on,” Reggie said, “aren't you supposed to take lime juice for that?”
Artie chuckled. “I’m not surprised they took the elevator, though.”
“Oh?” Crane said.
“They have to use the elevator! Making them use the stairs would be cruel. HA-HA-Ha...urrgm...”
Reggie patted his shoulder consolingly. “Joke's been used, old man.”
Artie looked a bit chuffed. “Reggie, I know all about jokes, as you know. Old ones are better since you know when to laugh. These new comedians you see today are hard to follow.”
“Because they ride unicycles!” Artie laughed uproariously and gave me a swat between the shoulder blades, almost knocking me off my hooves. “When I graduated Penn I got a job in radio.”
“How did they find a cabinet big enough for you?” I asked innocently. I gave Willow a glance and a smile, and she relaxed a bit. I had been afraid she was going to bang him over the head again.
Artie chuckled. “You know what I mean. I’m an assistant writer for The Ben Bunny Show.”
“Really! Jolly good! Then what are you doing way out here?”
“I’m scouting locations for the show,” my friend elaborated. “I had to give up on Rain Island entirely.”
He nodded sagely. “Their idea of humor leaves much to be desired. Jokes about bodily noises and mindless violence – very Dadaist, if you ask me.”
Charlie Crane piped up. “Hosting the show was partly my idea. It’d be perfect to have Bunny here for the debut show on LYRC.”
Artie turned to look at Crane, and I swiftly made introductions. “Mr. Crane and his father are in your father’s line of work, Artie.”
“Oh? And what’s that?”
“Do you mean to tell that after all these years, you don't know what your father does?”
Artie shrugged. “Something to do with paper.”
“Your father owns nine newspapers, four mass circulation magazines, and a half-dozen radio stations,” I said.
My friend seemed a bit taken aback by this news item. “Does he? Hunh. That's why he gets all huffy whenever he sees me reading Time. I thought it was he didn't like Guce's politics.” He peered at me with a questioning look. “D'ye know which magazines?”
“Bunch of bridal magazines. Buckhorn's advertises in them, that's how I know.”
“There's money in weddings?”
“Even more money in divorces, ask Peggy Joyce,” Crane said with a smile as a waiter brought another chair for Artie and we sat down for lunch.
As we sat down and the waiter approached with menus, Willow leaned across to me and asked, “Why does your father advertise in bridal magazines?”
“The usual . . . ‘Buckhorns Builds Strong Calves Ten Different Ways,’ that sort of thing.”
Willow nodded, and we conferred on our choices for luncheon while I kept a weather ear out on Artie, who was still introducing himself to Crane.
Artie was explaining (more like declaiming), “Anyway, I had to leave Los Antelopes rather suddenly.”
“Let me guess,” I interjected. “Pacific Electric Red Car, a dozen grapefruit, and your overpaw curve?”
Artie looked surprised. “Good Lord, you read my mind!”
Crane smiled. “You know how it is . . . slow moving target and all.”
“So you’re setting up this radio shindig?” I asked. “Jolly good!”
“My idea, but my father was instrumental in arranging things with NBC,” the feathered chap said. “The show will be held on the first of April.”
Lunch was passed pleasantly, but I kept an eye on Reggie’s friend. I had heard from my buck about some of the escapades he and Artie had perpetrated while in college, and I was a trifle concerned about him persuading Reggie to backslide into his old hard-drinking ways.
“Great Heavens!” Artie boomed suddenly. “What are you drinking, Reggie?”
“It's water, Artie.”
“No it isn't.”
“Yes it is. You told me once you'd never drink it, on account of what fish do in it.”
“Willow,” and my beloved gave me a fond smile, “has supplanted the fruits of Bacchus. Compared to her, slaying the fatted G&T pales to a dim shadow. Besides, I did put ice in my drinks.”
“And down the backs of . . .”
“Yesyesyesyes . . . your point, Artie?”
“I’m told I have two points, Reginald,” and Artie pointed at his horns.
He was a two-fisted drinker, I noted, downing whiskey and water as if it was – well, water – without seeming to get too illuminated.
With luncheon over, Reggie insisted on paying the check for the entire party. We were walking out to the lobby where I saw the desk clerk, that silly pink-dyed lion, talking with a repairman.
"The elevator has lobsters!" the lion was saying.
The repairman smirked. “That's nothing, I knew an elevator operator with crabs!"
“Can you fix it, Mr. Westinghouse?"
"You give me 22 minutes, I'll give it a whirl!" The repairman gathered up his toolkit. “It beats me how many times I have to come here to get lobsters out of the elevator. Don't you folks have an exterminator on duty?”
“Heavens to Murgatroyd, yes,” the lion said, “but they keep running away. Screaming, even.”
“I hope they're careful,” Wisent said. “Lobsters charge when wounded.”
Reggie laughed. “Great minds think alike.”
“That's nice,” I said. “So you'll come up with an explanation for this, though, soon, right?”
Artie laughed again, a sound roughly similar to a truck horn and moved with surprising speed for the front door.
Unfortunately he was looking at Reggie, and not at whoever may have been on the other side of the door.
Which made his collision with an extremely stout whitetail buck (later determined to be jazz impresario and bandleader Paul Whitefur) all the more violent.
It looked like two gigantic Zeppelins sumo wrestling. Artie had more speed, though, and momentum counts. He won, and Mr. Whitefur ended flat on his back.
Not quite, though.
A lobster, apparently taking a breather after having made a scuttle for it broke his fall, and the same indicated its displeasure at such event.
A very agitated bandleader was soon cannonading off lobby pillars, the newsstand, the piano, the front desk, a few unlucky bellfurs, until he finally landed in the elevator just when they were bringing Mrs. Mouffetsky down in a stretcher.
All that was missing was a "TILT" sign on the elevator.
Reggie encountered an old school chum.
The Ben Bunny Show will be aired from Casino Island.
Of the lobsters inadvertently liberated by Andre d’Arbres, the hotel staff located nine successfully. The tenth ended up underneath the jazz bandleader and performing star Paul Whitefur, causing him pain at two ends. The eleventh lobster is still on the loose, and is being sought with drawn weapons.
Or, perhaps, drawn butter.
phiz was a frappe of mixed emotions. On the one paw, it was a
corker of a bit of chaos, even by his standards, and time was, the
lobby would have resounded to whoops of glee. On the other paw,
Artie saw his budding radio career going down as quickly as Mrs.
“Bad luck, what?” I said. “Cheer up, Artie. It could be worse.”
“How?” My bosom bison chum looked a bit crestfallen. “That was one of the acts I was waiting for.”
“The ironic thing is,” Artie amplified, “I misread the maps.”
“The maps of Spontoon, dash it. Whitefur was traveling separately from his band.”
“Why? They needed one whole plane just for him?”
The sally brought a wry smile to my friend’s muzzle. “He is a bit hefty, after all,” which was a bit wounding, considering the source. “The band ended up going to Gull Island.”
“Good Lord.” For those of you not In The Know, Gull Island is a good place to stay away from. The native foxes there have a long and storied national tradition of trying to swindle each other, and when the first missionaries and tourists arrived they tried to take it international. “Have they called for help or anything?”
“The last message I got through Los Antelopes was a request for more money, along with a message that they’d almost cracked the ‘system.’”
“They’d end up like the Shallot Choral Society,” I murmured, aghast at the implications.
“Quite right. The worst part of it is that now we don’t have a band for the show.” He brightened. “Luckily we do have other acts lined up.”
Even as he said this, I could hear ‘the horns of Elfland faintly blowing.’
By the time we reached the water taxis at the southern end of Casino Island, we had learned what had happened. I’m always amazed at how fast news travels around this place, small as it is. You’d think they were passing along warnings of my coming.
It seemed that the ambulance conveying the unfortunate Mrs. Mouffetsky and the unconscious Mr. Whitefur to the hospital had come around a blind corner and struck a limousine.
“Limousine?” Artie grumbled. “I wasn’t aware these islands were big enough for one.”
I refrained from pointing out that the Soviet Embassy has its own car, although it’s basically used as a May Day float.
“Well, it’s what the Spontoonies CALL it.”
“Well, for one thing, it's the only car with four matching hubcaps on the Island.”
Willow giggled. “They call it a V-8.”
“Because of the engine?” Artie asked.
“Well, no, the paint job has faded to a sort of dark reddish-brown,” my darling doe replied, in a transparent effort to cheer my school chum up.
That was turning out to be a bit of a chore, as the limousine had been bearing none other than the famous soprano Grace Moose from the water taxi landing to her suite at the Marlyebone.
It transpired that Miss Moose was complaining of neck and back pain, and was confined to a bed with a rather constricting collar around her neck.
“And to top it all off, Mr. Bunny himself is arriving at the end of the week,” Artie lamented. He brightened, and thumped a meaty fist into his open paw. “Still, we have a few acts still on the way. What else could go wrong, eh?”
Willow gave me a dig to the ribs before I could open my muzzle.
Reggie gave me a smile for my efforts, for which I gave him a peck on the cheek.
Artie grinned gleefully at this display of affection and started singing The Northern Lights are in Your Eyes, complete with a rather startling display of tap dancing on the edge of the pier.
Sure enough . . .
He missed a step, teetered, and pitched headlong into the lagoon.
One of the boat drivers sang out, “He fallen in the wa-tah!”
Several furs assisted the buffalo to the pier again and I remarked, “You're the most demented buffalo I've ever seen.”
“Bison,” Artie corrected as he wrung out his seersucker jacket.
“What's the difference between an American Buffalo and a European Bison?” I asked.
He gave me an arch look. “Among other things, we can carry cocoanuts.”
“Where are you staying, my friend?” Reggie asked.
“Over on Moon Island, at the Chanticleer Club,” Artie replied, and I managed to resist flagging or even twitching my ears. The Chanticleer’s rather well-known to a certain segment of the population. I’m no prude, but Artie didn’t quite look the type.
Reggie, on the other paw, didn’t seem to have heard of the place. Odd, since he’d been here on Spontoon longer than I had. “I say, Artie, why stay there and not at the Shepherd’s or the Grand?”
“The climate's agreeable, Reg old chap.” He then got into a vacant water taxi, which wallowed dangerously near the Plimsoll Line as the thin canine driver squawked in fear.
Accepting this reply at face value, Reggie said to me, “Never known Artie to be weather conscious, Willow.”
I decided to keep my own counsel.
It seemed that Artie had some more bad news waiting for him by dinnertime, which had the effect of putting him off his feed.
Astounding as that may be, given his girth.
Unfortunately, his moping was putting Reggie and me off our dinners as well.
He had his head hung over his plate, muzzle deep in his paws and moaning over and over, “I can’t believe it, I can’t believe it.”
“Confound it, Artie,” Reggie said, “cheer up, will you? Your lowing is starting to cause comment.”
“I couldn’t get any lower,” Artie lamented. “Two singers down, along with a band – “
“Two singers?” Reggie asked. “Did the unfortunate Miss Moose count for two?”
“No, dammit. Lily Swans was the other. She succumbed to the lunch at the Marlyebone.”
“Succumbed? Oh, I see. Well, many furs react that way to the check.”
“Not the check, the crab bisque. She’s allergic to seafood, you see – her throat’s so swollen you’d think she had a pint glass jammed down her neck.” He grumbled moodily and started munching a breadstick, a procedure that involved the broadcasting of crumbs to the four winds. “So with her rendered hors de combat, Moose still down for the count along with Whitefur and his band – “
“Haven’t they gotten back from Gull Island yet?”
“No. They don’t have any money, so they’re waiting on an advance from Los Antelopes.” He dipped his sulky snout into his drink.
I hated to see my boon companion of many a happy hour in the groves of academe looking so down in the muzzle. A heartless fur would have made that comment, and then absented himself from the proceedings.
I, however, had the seed of an idea slowly taking root and sprouting in my bean.
"I say, Artie, you remember that time our sophomore year . . ."
"I don't remember much about my sophomore year . . ."
"Oh, yes, well, rather . . . you'll just have to take my word for it. Remember when the band for Maske & Wigge had that accident involving the taxis?"
Willow asked, “Were you re-enacting the Miracle on the Marne?”
“The miracle was that no one got hurt,” I said.
Artie gave a sour smile, then brightened a bit. "Oh, THAT I do remember. Never thought lemons could do so much damage . . . oh! You mean how we had to get a patch-up band to fill in for the performance?"
"Got it in one,” I said. “I mean, this island's loaded with musical talent."
"Most furs don't like ukuleles."
"There's George Formless."
"He's not a musician."
"It certainly is."
I chuckled. "Right. Well, we can always trawl the bars around here. Except for one bartender chap I know. He can only play Sister Susie's Sewing Shirts for Soldiers."
"Nothing wrong with that."
"Ten times in a row?"
"Ah." Artie tossed back another whisky and water. He fixed me with a suspicious eye. "You still play the banjo, Reggie?"
"What, no fur's done the honorable thing and busted it over your head?"
"In point of fact, a fur has."
"Bravo. What's his name? I’ll put him down for a V.C."
“Leslie du Cleds." I ran a paw over my headfur, between my antlers, and remembered the stitches that once resided there. Not a very fond memory, to be sure.
"Good Lord, you mean Dynamite du Cleds? What's he up to, these days?"
"Got married right here in the Islands. You just missed the festivities. I’m sure the alumni magazine will have a writeup."
"You don't say. Native lass?"
"Spanish lass. A lady cervine with emotions like a hurricane."
My friend was suitably impressed. "Amazing what fresh air will do to a chap.” His expression suddenly grew pensive. “Ah, did he ever - ?”
“Good Lord, how?”
“I told him.”
“How’d he take it?”
“Quite well, actually.”
“Well, that’s a relief. To get back to the matter at paw, we need to sell this idea to Crane, old boy.”
I smiled. “Well, when faced with the realities, I’m certain Charlie Crane will make the right decision.”
I gave my darling Willow a smooch (no excuse needed) and Artie and I hied off to the offices of the aforementioned Mr. Crane.
Encountering the aforementioned Crane involved waiting for nearly half an hour before we were admitted into the Presence, where we found the avian deep in conversation with my brother buck, Don Carlos de Ciervos. Inocenta duCleds’ father gave me a stern eye and a formal nod as we were shown in. I’m not sure he’s ever entirely trusted me since our first meeting, which was in his doe-fawn’s bedroom.
I decided to set things off in the right direction. “Mr. Crane, you have heard, I am certain, about the mishaps that have befallen certain celebrities?”
“Yes, I have. You’ll recall I was present when your friend Mr. Wisent collided with Mr. Whitefur,” and the bird gave my chum a jaundiced eye.
“Balderdash,” Artie declared. “I am as graceful as a ballerina.”
Don Carlos raised an eyebrow at that.
Crane said, “So’s the Hindenburg, Mr. Wisent, but I don’t want either you or it running into me.”
I decided to get to the point, and cleared my throat before the discussion descended into personalities and moved post-haste to a point of no return. “Er, excuse me, but it seems that there’s a solution to your troubles, old chap. Ready to paw – in fact, under your very beak.”
Crane fixed me with a look. “Oh? You have Al Goatson or Eddie Gander in your pockets?”
“Of course not, but think about it! These islands are positively stiff with musicians, dancers and actors of all kinds. Local talent, of course, but every bit as talented as anyone you’re likely to find back in the States.”
The bird clearly appeared to like the notion. “I see what you’re driving at, Mr. Buckhorn.” Crane looked at Don Carlos, who looked dubious but nodded. “The Althing only gave me the broadcasting license on the condition that I promoted local singers and the like. Now that you say it, it would, in fact, be an excellent showcase for the talent Spontoon has to offer. There is a complication, of course – whether or not the NBC brass will allow it.”
Artie’s enthusiasm returned in a rush like one of those tidal wave thingies. “Don’t worry, Mr. Crane! I’m on top of it!”
Crane looked very doubtful at that choice of words. It may have been due to a speculative glance as he took in my chum’s dimensions. He then glanced at his calendar. “Ben Bunny and a few of his cast members will be arriving here tomorrow on the Clipper. Wisent,” and here he fixed my friend with a gimlet eye, “you will be there to greet them and get things started. Mr. Buckhorn, are you going to be helping him arrange acts?”
I beamed. “Absolutely.”
Reggie got back fast, positively giddy at the idea of putting on a show. I was invited along, just to keep the fun clean and make sure that the Riot Squad wasn’t needed.
The one and only Ben Bunny was a bit shorter than I thought he’d be, maybe because he kept his ears a bit drooped and his shoulders slumped. The air of studied nonchalance didn’t fool me for a second.
After seeing them settled into their digs at the Grand, Reggie and Artie broke the bad news.
“Whitefur’s in the hospital?” Bunny repeated. “That’s awful. Where’s the band?”
“Stranded on Gull Island, blast it all,” Artie said. “And they’re stuck there until they pay off their tab.”
“Yes, for room, board, drinks and such. Complicating matters is the fact that the tab is interest-bearing.”
“Interest-bearing?” The conversation was proving bewildering.
“Yes,” Reggie helpfully supplied. “Compounded daily.”
The rabbit made a face. “With him, Moose and Swans out of the picture, it looks bad for a successful radio show, doesn’t it?”
“Not quite,” Reggie said, raising a finger. “The Spontoons are a jolly place in the tourist season, don’t you know, and these islands are crawling with talented musicians, singers and actors. Your show will be – I say! A thought just hit me!”
“LYRC’s started a morning show, right here in this hotel – well, in the dining room – and you can see for yourself.”
Bunny thought this over, then nodded. “All right, Mr. Buckhorn, Mr. Wisent, I’ll see you downstairs for breakfast.”
The act on the radio’s morning show featured a cadaverous wolfhound with a heavy Russian accent named Viktor Borzoi, who played a variety of classical tunes as the hotel’s guests tucked into their eggs Benedict.
He also supplied his own jokes.
He wound up a splendid performance with a flourish and turned to the audience and his microphone. “Sank you. I shall now play for you . . . the . . . the New Vorld Symphony. I regret zat I cannot play for you the Old Vorld Symphony. It was left in my trousers, and ended up in the vash. Most unfortunate.” As the crowd chuckled, he played Goin’ Home.
After the song, he fiddled with the microphone. “Zere . . . zere is a countryman of mine here in the Spontoons. He is wary fond of telling puns, so I will dedicate zis next song . . . it's an old, traditional Russian song, you zee . . . to him. It is Dark Eyes. It is what he gets of course after he has made these puns.”
After he played the piece, a very nice romantic song (despite its origins in Russia), he remarked, “Vhen the Revolution came, the fellows in the red, they tell me I am enemy of the state. I tell them my piano playing cannot be zat bad.” This elicited some laughter. “They say it is on account of my class. I tell zem my teaching cannot be zat bad. No, no, zey say, it is your economic class. Which is, I ask? Bourgeois. I can zay only vun ting to zat, of course. Gesundheit.”
That caused laughter, and I caught myself smiling.
He then played a stirring and deliberately off-key version of the Song of the Volga Boatmen before adding, “It is often asked of me how, given that I am, after all, from vere I am, how it is that I deal with ze weather here. It gets quite warm, you know. Well, it is very simple. I take a valk and look at ze large number of vairy charming native ladies here.” He gave a warm smile. “You . . . you know, in zere grass skirts and the flowers and such. How is that it cools me off, you ask? Well . . . I valk with Mrs. Borzoi. Zings . . . vell, they get wary cool quick if she catches me.” To the audience’s laughter he launched into a fast and sprightly gavotte.
Finally he stopped and consulted a small note near his music. “In . . . in honor, of my sponsor . . . who wishes for me to promote his sandwiches. Why, I do not know. I am not the boss of his sandwiches . . . I play for you Mozart's Alla Turca. With chips and pickle. Orca Cola, 5 cent extra.”
One woman was having difficulty containing her laughter, causing him to suddenly shift from Mozart to using the piano to mimic her helpless giggles.
When she settled down he said, “My next piece . . . is anozzer from my native land. It is ze Firebird. Which brings up an act I haff been asked to advertise. Umm . . . let us zee,” and he squinted at the note. “Kuda Buck, ze Hindoo Mystic, vill demonztrade a firewalk at 2 PM today, on Casino Island. To be followed by a roast. I . . . I am greatly concerned vith ze order of the programme, here. It is not optimistic, yes?”
As the audience laughed, Bunny leaned over and said, “Okay, you two, you convinced me. Let’s get this show on the road.”
LYRC’s main performance area is a splendid former movie palace, a small-scale copy of the San Francisco Fox. The acoustics were perfect, and we’d taken the liberty of slipping an advert into the morning edition of the Mirror.
When Artie and I arrived, there were quite a few furs lined up and waiting.
Regrettably, we had to turn away the first acts, which consisted of acrobats and dancers. Much as we might have wanted them, what they do doesn’t appear well on the old flying wire. Wireless, rather.
A variety of musical instruments had been set aside. While I am good with the banjo and its older cousin, the guitar, Artie is quite multitalented.
For example, he plays one of those squeezebox thingies, a concertina, although it looks quite lost in his massive paws. I recalled his prowess with the instrument with a reminiscent wince.
As many times as I tried to hide it, he always managed to relocate it.
And when Artie got his squeezebox, Reggie didn’t get much sleep that night.
Willow leaned over to me as Artie played accompaniment to one singer, a feline with a fine figure who gave her name as Mimi. “How many instruments does he play, anyway?”
“Tenor sax, alto sax, concertina, ukelele, banjo and tuba.”
“A well-rounded individual.”
he were any rounder, explorers would try to plant flags on him.”
The first act I saw was a singing duo.
More like a singing quartet, as the delicate flower of femmehood counted for three.
She was a hippo from South Island, the first one I’d seen in the Spontoons, and to call her wide-bodied would be to insult the full Moon. Her partner, by contrast, was a rail-thin crocodile character.
He seemed to be anxiously casting about to escape from the clutches of his girlfriend, who was hugging him to herself like a small girl hugs her favorite dolly.
they passed by me on the way to the stage, he caught my eye and
broke into a rousing rendition of Bless Her Little Heart, coupled with
her dancing a few steps that reminded me of josephine Barker.
What really bothered me, though, was the fact that she'd occasionally lick her boyfriend, a huge loving lick from between his reptilian eyes to just behind the bump of his nose, just like licking an ice cream.
I didn't know whether to be repelled or embarrassed, and decided to split the difference.
Finally the song ended, and Artie and Reggie accepted them onto the playbill.
The croc took the opportunity to attempt escape, and as the hippo chased him around the theater, Artie accompanied them on his concertina. A fairly speedy and bouncy polka number, I think.
Reminded me a bit of a biergarten in Milwaukee.
After a few more auditions, Artie turned to Reggie while the next act got set up. "Y'know what's a great song, Reggie?"
“Lots of 'em, old thing.”
“Remember Red Light Frankie?"
Reggie glanced at me and said quickly, “Err, don't think they'd get the joke here, y'know.”
“Oh, right. Pity. New Haven humor slays 'em every time.”
managed to keep my flag firmly in order. Besides, no tiki-head
“Just one ding-dong moment, Artemus Jacob Bartholomew Wisent!”
I had never heard my bosom companion’s full name uttered as if it were part of some ancient malediction. For his part, Artie flinched and spun round, a deep and loud snort erupting from his nostrils.
“YOU! Will I never be rid of you two?”
I turned away from the microphone stand to see a pair of young ladies who bore more than a passing resemblance to Artie. Sadly, they failed to have a ‘Buffalo gals won’t you come out tonight?’ sort of jauntiness.
“Who are you?” I asked. “Artie, you never told me you had any younger sisters.”
“They’re not sisters,” Artie huffed. “Reggie my boy, you have the dubious honor of encountering my wayward nieces. Maria, Natasha, what in blazes are you two doing here? Were you finally deported from Nantucket?” As he spoke their names, he pointed a thick and accusatory finger at them. This enabled me to determine who was who without resorting to the programme.
I was still a bit mystified, though. “Nieces?”
Maria scowled. “Look here, you little accident – “
“Accident?” I echoed.
“Is there an echo in here?” Maria asked, with a sneer at me.
“Their mother is my youngest older sister,” Artie grumbled. “She’s nineteen years older than me – which is why she usually calls me ‘The Accident’ at home.” He roared, “AND YOU TWO BLOTS ARE NOT ALLOWED TO CALL ME THAT!”
Natasha said, “Enough of that, or – “
“Or we’ll tell Mom!”
“Go ahead,” Artie said. “Tell and be damned! Now, once again, what the blazes are you two doing here? What do you wretched little so-and-sos want?”
“We wanna be in radio!” the twins chorused.
I whispered in an aside to my friend, “I think I can get a large enough cabinet, and a good strong lock...”
Maria added, “If you can’t get us a job in radio, we wanna be in pictures.”
“I can see that,” Artie said. “Azimuth has an opening for new monsters, I hear.”
“If you don’t help us,” Maria said, “We’ll tell Grandpa – “
“I'll tell him what you did in Akron with the dirigible,” Natasha said.
“Nuts to you, he knows that one.”
“We'll tell him what you really did with that steam engine in Ft. Worth,” Maria threatened.
“Told, yelled at, forgotten.”
“I know what you did at the Washington Monument with that bucket of live jellyfish,” Natasha said.
“HAH!” the girls chorused.
“Live jellyfish?” I asked.
Artie growled, “It's complicated. It was naval research.”
“At least *I* used lobster.”
“You weren't doing officially sanctioned research.”
“That's not what the admiral said,” Maria giggled. “He said that if he ever saw your ugly puss within twenty miles of the Army-Navy-State Building, he'd...”
“Enough! Where’d you learn such vile blackmail?”
There's a good argument for co-education if I ever saw one.
Artie mumbled, “I hate nieces to pieces.”
As Artie and Reggie moved offstage, one of his nieces (Natasha, I think) turned to me. “Hey, Sister, you gonna marry that buck?”
“Phew, whatta sucker,” the other twin giggled.
They ran as I unlimbered my purse.
About a week later, with the debut of LYRC on the NBC-Red Network fast approaching, Willow and I had had another spiffing morning’s walk and tennis match. After freshening up I stepped out of the bedroom to see Lodge hanging up the phone. He turned away then, but not before I noted a pensive look on his phiz.
“What ho, Lodge? Have the Beavers of Baden-Baden called?”
Lodge had his back to me, but I saw his whiskers stand straight up. Perhaps a heartbeat later he turned back to me with a tolerant smile. “Sir makes a joke,” he said. “Everyone knows the Beavers of Baden-Baden are a myth.”
“And rightly so, Lodge. Imagine the paperwork involved in running the world.”
“So, what was the phone call about, Lodge?”
“Mr. Wisent called, Sir.”
“Ah. And from the look on your face, Lodge, I will suppose it was a matter of some import.”
“Indeed, Sir. Mr. Wisent has asked for you to come down to the LYRC offices straightaway.”
“Problem with the bands? Again? I mean, surely Artie squared things with the union . . . ”
“No, Sir. Mr. Wisent could not say much over the phone, but I will surmise that it has something to do with the show’s sponsor.”
This caused me to pull up short. Radio is stuffed with sponsors hawking everything from used cars to soap to nuts, and while I’ve had no exposure to such, it’s well-known that no matter how famous or popular a radio personality might be, they exist at the whim of sponsors.
And some of them, I’ve heard, have Krupp-made, cast-iron whims.
“Refresh my memory, Lodge, as you lay out my bearding-the-dragon-in-its-lair suit. Who’s the sponsor of The Ben Bunny Show?”
“That would be Mell-O brand flavored gelatin, Sir.”
I frowned, and as I started to think Lodge shimmered off to get my aforementioned clothing laid out. I vaguely recalled the brand, then recalled a moment better left forgotten.
When I was attending Penn, I had had the misfortune of having my tonsils out. It was a matter of little moment, apart from my chums showering me with diapers and fawn clothes (tonsils are supposed to be hoicked out of one when very young) and the endless suppers of food that required no chewing.
Which led me inexorably to the range of flavors supplied by the Mell-O Corporation (slogan: “The Soothing Gelatin, with Six Relaxing Flavors”). They were tasty, true, but after two weeks of it the very memory was as ashes in my mouth.
As I boarded a water taxi for Meeting Island with Willow by my side some more light on that better-forgotten episode dawned. Mell-O was owned by Kernel Komestibles.
Your choice of a kewpie-doll or milky cocoanut for guessing who owns KK.
Fancy the Sire owning a product named Mell-O. It’s rather like a Medici owning a product named Modesty.
I recalled some of the relentlessly cheerful advertisements for the product, and decided it was a brave fur indeed who had bearded the Sire in his den with this four-color assortment of soft sell.
it was G-2 that could be quite useful.
Reggie was looking pensive as we entered the LYRC studio, part of the larger building that housed the Spontoon Mirror. He had explained things to me, and I had to confess I was interested in seeing how this would work out.
An interest that might be compared to seeing how well an all-concrete airplane flies.
When we got there we met Artie looking like he’d just lost his pet dog. “Reggie, I don’t know what to do – that fool’s threatening to have me fired and to pull the whole show.”
“What’s the fool’s name?” Reggie asked.
“Oh, that.” Artie took a breath to calm himself. “Abie Sorensen. He’s the head of advertising for Mell-O out on the West Coast, and by reputation a bit of a holy terror.” The bison looked a bit better as he and Reggie entered the building. “I’m not sure what you can do to help, old man, apart from lending moral support – “
“Nonsense, Artie,” Reggie said firmly. “We both set up these acts, and this fellow Sorensen’s just going to have to take it and like it.”
Artie looked at his chum with slack-jawed puzzlement, mixed with a jigger of optimism, and garnished with a twist of doubt.
We approached Charles Crane’s offices in time to hear the tail end of a tirade: “ – Mr. Crane, I don’t give a hoot in hell what your Dad might say, and I don’t give a wet slap about your reputation! I represent the company, and as sponsor I say that if you don’t have the approved acts on your radio show, I take The Ben Bunny Show back to Los Antelopes!” There was a pause, and the voice said, “And that means I take Bunny back with me, too!”
From the voice, I’d say he was a pack-a-day man.
Artie gave a gentle knock and Crane said, “Come in.” We obliged.
Crane was seated at his desk, with Don Carlos standing behind him. Both were staring daggers at a portly German Shepherd in slacks and a loud Hawaiian shirt. Probably Sorensen, as the famous Ben Bunny was parked in a corner in his trademark crossed-arms pose, looking uncomfortable.
He twisted in his chair as we walked in and snarled, “Wisent! Back for more, huh? Who’re these people?”
“I’m the one who helped my friend arrange these acts – “ Reggie began to say, and his flag went up as the canine laughed.
A rather nasty laugh, of the kind usually used by furs in top hats and cloaks holding up soon-to-be-foreclosed mortgages.
“Oh, so you too, huh? Tell you what, kid, keep your nose in amateur shows and leave the real work to professionals.”
“Now, see here,” Reggie said, “we’ve gone to a great deal of trouble to organize local talent for this show – “
“Fat lotta good it’ll do.”
“Because the acts that were supposed to be here weren’t,” Reggie said. His voice was firming up, and I decided to step back and watch developments. As I did, I caught Bunny’s eye and the lepine shrugged.
Sorensen took his time lighting a cigar and took a few puffs before replying. “And like I told your fat friend here, it isn’t gonna do a bit of good. Mell-O puts a lotta money into this shindig, so what I says, goes. You got that, Antler Boy?”
Reggie’s flag flicked, twice. “Mell-O, eh?”
“Yeah, that’s right. More money than his Dad’s got – and better copyists, too,” and Crane’s feathers ruffled.
Reggie smiled, and it wasn’t a pleasant expression. “We haven’t been properly introduced, have we?”
The Shepherd tipped some ashes out on the floor. “Abie Sorenson. What’s it to you, Champ?”
Reggie started to – well, I think the right word would be ‘loom’ - over him.
“Sorenson,” I said. “Well, Mister Sorenson, for your edification allow me to introduce myself.” I leaned close. “My name is Reginald. Patrick. Roderick . . .”
Sorenson smirked as he nodded.
Sorenson caught himself in mid-nod as the last name finally hit his tobacco-fogged brain cells.
He looked up at me.
I looked down at him, and did something I hadn’t done since Leslie duCleds and I faced off in L’Etoile d’Argent back in February.
I crested at him.
“Does that name sound at all . . . familiar to you?”
I punctuated the question with a loud whistling snort.
From the look of startled comprehension and dawning fear, it was a whistling snort of terrible familiarity to him, no question. I can mimic most of the Sire's catalogue of angry and annoyed noises, having been on the receiving end of same many a day.
And this one, I should say, was a pip.
Chap's chin began to shake . . . well, like a bowl of Mell-O. Not sure which flavor, not that it matters.
Visions of losing a fancy office, and no doubt fancy femmefur assistant, and very fancy expense account, flitted across his phiz. “Um . . . oh, ah, well, um, M-Mister, ah, Buckhorn – “
“Yes, Mister Sorenson?”
“Um, sir, um, corporate policy – “
“Damn corporate policy.”
The pooch shut up. “Yes, sir.”
“One phone call puts you out on the street, and while it may be a cliché, I will make it a personal mission to ensure you never work in your chosen profession. Ever. Again.” This capped with another snort.
The paunchy pooch started looking as if he were about to have a heart attack. The cigar dropped to the floor and I planted a hoof on it, taking my time to grind it out.
“Am I making myself ABUNDANTLY clear?”
“Yes! Yes, sir!” Sorenson started nodding like one of those little dolls you get at fairgrounds.
“Good. NOW, there are acts lined up, and commitments made. We will honor those commitments, won’t we?”
“Now, Mister Sorenson. Get. OUT.”
The canine gave a small squeak of alarm and rocketed past me and out of the office. Since I was leaning over him, he had been forced to contort himself so much that it seemed likely he had some weasel blood in his family tree.
“Bueno!” Don Carlos said, and started to applaud as Reggie dropped into the chair Sorenson had vacated. Crane merely looked approving.
Ben Bunny had watched the proceedings with a straight face, but I couldn’t help notice a gleam of satisfaction in the rabbit’s eyes.
Artie was applauding, and Reggie...
Reggie was slumped in the chair, with a vacant and somewhat horrified look in his eyes.
“Reggie?” I asked. “What’s wrong?”
He blinked and looked up at me. “Willow,” he said in a quiet, wondering tone, “I just realized . . . “
“This must be like Father feels – all the time.”
The prospect seemed to frighten him.
Willow fetched me a glass of water and after a few moments I got up. The sudden revelation that I could be just as intimidating as the Sire – well, it was astounding. I had thought bellowing at that mephitic fellow back in December was a mere fluke.
Something I determined to keep under lock and key from now on, though.
My inamorata merely tilted her head and looked at me curiously as I got up and gave her a brief buss on the cheek.
Ben Bunny relinquished his Sphinx impression and approached. We shook paws and he said, “Well! I enjoyed that. You know, you're rather different from your sire. Different coloration.”
“Er, quite. Only time I was purple was during a visit to a winery that ended happily.”
“So, Mister Bunny,” Crane said. “My technicians say that they’ll be able to start broadcasting when you’re ready.”
“Oh, we’ll be ready. Wait till the others get an earful of what happened here,” and the rabbit fairly bounded out.
“This is LYRC, Spontoon Islands, calling KFI, Los Antelopes . . . come in, Los Antelopes . . . “
The measured voice of Philo Fawnsworthy, wearing a green accountant’s visor to shade his eyes, came over the speakers the morning of the first of April, a metronome helping him keep time as he spoke, listening intently over a set of headphones.
Finally he grinned triumphantly as the other station in California acknowledged. The audience caught the expression and smiled, settling back to enjoy the show.
It was pretty early in the morning, necessary due to the time difference between Spontoon and Gnu York.
Philo made a few more adjustments to his equipment and nodded to Reggie and Artie, up on the stage.
My beloved grinned and signaled to part of the orchestra, which played the opening of Goatland’s Fanfare for the Common Fur.
Artie stepped up to the microphone. "This is Artie ‘Tons of Fun’ Wisent, with a message for all you Princeton furs out there . . . Yah! Boo! Sucks!"
"Here, here, well spoken!” Reggie shouted, and the two launched into a spirited rendition of The Red and Blue.
Pretty appropriate, given the two NBC networks.
“I say, Artie old chap!”
“What’s that, Reggie old buck?”
“We’ve had larger audiences, haven’t we?”
we have, Artie. I can recall one or two Penn-Collegiate games, where
no one was watching the massacre on the field, anyway.”
I started grinding my teeth. They were not keeping the fun clean, in my view.
“They didn’t? The bounders!”
“They’re not bounders, Artie – not a kangaroo in view, y’know. Instead we have . . . “
At this point Reggie stepped back from the microphone and gestured.
M-E-LL . . . -OOOOO!
segues into Love
fades to background)
Live from the LYRC Theater in the Spontoon Islands, the Mell-O
Program starring Ben Bunny! With Sadie Stanley, Paddy McNulty,
Harvey O’Malley, Andersson and yours truly, Ferdinand Boyle!
APPLAUSE, MUSIC FADE OUT)
FERDINAND: We're here in the
Spontoons to welcome the latest, and, to date, the most remote NBC
affiliate out there, radio station LYRC. And now, the host
who's also way out there . . . BEN BUNNY!
BEN: Thank you, thank you, thank you. Mell-O
again, this is Ben Bunny speaking, and Ferdinand. Ferd-o.
FERDINAND: Yes, Ben?
BEN: I really don't
appreciate being referred to as being 'way out there.'
But, Ben! I was just trying to make a joke.
Remember the ancient proverb, Ferdy: He who insults the
boss on a Pacific island winds up in deep poi.
FERDY: (sullenly) Oh, all right. (recovers) So, Ben, did
you enjoy your flight from the mainland?
BEN: Why, yes.
Yes, I did.
FERDY: Wasn't the view out the window
SADIE: He wouldn't know. He wasn’t
feeling well the entire flight. Even the bald spot on his head was
LAUGHTER, APPLAUSE FOR SADIE)
BEN: Now, Sadie . . .
(LAUGHTER CONTINUES) . . . Sadie, stop fibbing. You know I
never get airsick.
SADIE: Yeah? Then how come
Dramamine has declared an early dividend?
Never mind that. Did you sleep well?
yes. I'm staying at the Grand. How about you? Are
you at the Grand?
BEN: . . . Not exactly. (AUDIENCE
SADIE: The Marleybone?
BEN: . . . Not
SADIE: The Excelsior?
BEN: If you
MUST know, I'm at Honolulu Hannah's Happy Huts!
SADIE: Sounds lovely.
BEN: It is!
PADDY: Sounds cheap!
BEN: It is- (AUDIENCE
LAUGHTER) Paddy! Where'd YOU come from?
PADDY: Well . . .
(APPLAUSE) You should know!
BEN: I should?
You made me take the upper hammock! (AUDIENCE LAUGHTER)
You snore, you know!
BEN: I do NOT!
PADDY: Oooooooooh, I guess then the seaplane races started early this year! (AUDIENCE LAUGHTER)
HARVEY O’MALLEY: Seven Ayyyy-em! I ain't done bein' hungover by then!
Well, one of you kept me up. I was trying to get some
BEN: Oh? And what did that New England Boiled Comedian have to say?
FERDY: Well, we made a special recording of it just for you, Ben.
BEN: Gee. Just for me?
FERDY: Sure. Okeh, boys, roll it:
RECORD OF “TOWN HALL TONIGHT” EXCERPT)
FRED: Oh, I don't think so, Portia. With his head, he's not really used to combing anything. And I don’t think he’s going out into the sun, either. Ben's so pale you'd think he was born with white fur.
Mother says sunshine is GOOD for you.
if he ever takes his shirt off, they're going to need to give the
coroner warning. Don't want any misunderstandings, you
sounds a lot like some advertising executives I know.
FRED: I'm sure he'll burn, and then we'll have a hot cross Bunny.
(END RECORD. AUDIENCE APPLAUSE)
BEN: Oh, fine. Wait’ll I get him out here. You’d better watch it, Fred, or I’ll get cross earlier than that. One of the reasons we’re out here in the Pacific, folks, is to showcase some of the local talent out here. So lend an ear to –
this point a small Welsh terrier bounded up to the microphone and
started to sing in a thin reedy voice, "I'm
only a strolling vagabond ..."
fired a starter's pistol at another microphone, and a small flash of
light from the radio booth heralded the demise of a vacuum tube.
"Got him" Artie crowed. "I was forced to - he was so beautifully marked."
The band supplied a musical sting as the audience laughed. Well, most of them, anyway – a few looked a bit bewildered.
“While we ply Ben with drinks – round back for the old brandy there!” Reggie said, “here are Mimi and the Spontoon Red Ribbon Band!”
He made way for a slim feline femme who began to sing in French. Something by Mistinguett, I think. At any rate, it was a beautifully done romantic piece, and the applause was genuine.
SADIE: (fake voice) Hey, Mabel?
FERDY: (falsetto voice) Yes, Gertrude?
SADIE: (fake voice) Long Distance from Spontoon.
FERDY: (falsetto voice) Yes. It is.
BEN: So, Harvey, how are you doing? Enjoying yourself here?
HARVEY: Well, they gotta drink here, Benjy my boy. Called Nootnops Blue.
BEN: Nootnops Blue?
HARVEY: Yeah, and mmmmmmmmmmmm, it's tasty. Tried me a few with Frankie last night.
BEN: That reminds me, Harvey, Frankie missed rehearsal today.
HARVEY: Oh, yeah, he's still over at the airport. Tower's trying to talk him down.
BEN: Good heavens! You mean he drank a few Nootnops Blues and stole a plane?
HARVEY: No, he drank a few and he's FLYIN'!
BEN: You know, Harvey, it’s not like you to try new drinks.
HARVEY: Yeaaaah, I prefer 10 year old Scotch.
BEN: I figured you’d want something tall and cold, with lots of rum in it.
HARVEY: What?! My mother-in-law ain’t here, is she?
BEN: Enough of that. I’ve met your mother-in-law, and she’s a fine figure of a woman. What I meant to say was that since this is a tropical paradise, you’d want a drink in a cocoanut shell.
HARVEY: Can't stand cocoanuts, Ben old son. Don't have the easy-open top.
BEN: Andersson, where are you going after the show?
ANDERSSON: I'm headed over to Casino Island, boss, to speak the universal language.
BEN: Universal language?
ANDERSSON: Yessir. Seems EVERYONE there knows what "fade me" means.
BEN: Never mind that. How are you enjoying the Spontoon Islands, Paddy?
PADDY: (wolf whistles)
BEN: Ohhhhh, you like the native costumes, eh?
Oh, yeah. The Bronx, this ain't. (wolf whistles again)
PADDY: Don't worry, a few hula girls are keeping an eye on me, too.
BEN: Hmmmm. Folks, while I have a word or two with Paddy here, please enjoy this fine selection from the Spontoon All-Star Hula Band . . .
PADDY: Woo! I'm all dizzy now.
BEN: Paddy, how is that any different than usual for you?
FERDY: Well, Ben, the hula dance is a lot more than it seems. Every movement carries a specific meaning. A hula dancer can convey some very complex ideas.
BEN: So what did that hula dancer just say to me?
SADIE: I dunno, but the network censor just fainted.
BEN: While we revive the censor, here’s another local act. I’m told they’re very good. (pause) At what, we’re not exactly sure. (AUDIENCE LAUGHTER) Here they are, Maria and Natasha!
Artie’s two nieces had rather nice voices, actually, and their rendition of Joseph, Joseph was pretty good.
If only they hadn’t spoiled it by flinging bad looks at him, but of course it was radio. The only people who’d laugh would be the audience, and they were lapping it up like cream.
When they finished singing they took entirely too long in acknowledging the plaudits of the listeners, forcing Bunny to shoo them off the stage. I whispered to Willow, “If they don't get off the air, I'll stop breathing it.”
She grinned and rewarded my efforts to date with a kiss.
“I blame their mother for this,” Artie grumbled.
I hated to see my old friend so morose. “I say, is their aged parent one of those...whatchamacallits...a stage mother?”
“She's a three stage mother.”
“Yes, that's the kind of rocket you need to lift her.” He smiled at me, and shrugged. “Rocket humor – it’s the coming thing, you know.”
“Seriously, old chap, is she a stage mother? Her daughters seem very conversant in theatricals.”
“Oh, she's a stage mother all right. The sheriff keeps telling her to be on it by noon.”
“Sounds like a frightful battle axe, old chum.”
“Hah. She's blunt, but not sharp.” We hushed as two pianists were announced, to polite applause from the audience. One was the wolfhound we’d shown to Crane, while the other was a slim native femmefur with black and tan markings.
They opened by playing a very fine duet, and when the applause ended Borzoi started his act. “Miss Hundagawa, ze charming lady fur who is my colleague –“ he paused while audience applauded, and the girl curtsied “- it's good one of us is getting applause . . . zis charming young lady fur is like most great lady pianists, very intense. So, for that matter, iz Mrs. Borzoi. Unfortunately, she is not intense, more past tense. If she does not stick to her diet, she vill be past tense and onto bungalows.” The crowd laughed.
“Zis piece I am going to play for you now is a wary difficult piece to play. You must play it two-pawed. It is wary difficult . . . wary . . . to play piano with just one paw. And that I should tell you . . . is NOT the kind of pianist you vant at your party.”
As the audience laughed in reaction to the innuendo, I glanced up at the radio booth in time to the horror-stricken look on the censor’s face.
Borzoi prattled on. “Or maybe it is, I don't know. Being married, I do not get around much, anymore.” He smiled and started playing.
His paws practically danced over the keys, clowning around and making the audience laugh. He abruptly stopped and faced the crowd. “Many people, you know, ask me how I have come to be here. Vell, as you may know I . . . I come from St. Petersburk. Ve have, it is wary beautiful, ve have the white nights. This is when there is . . . there is no night in the city. Which, if your job is playing piano at night . . . somethink of a problem.”
“Some furs, zey tink I am an aristocrat. Well. I can zay that I go back to Peter the First. Actually, iff I do not make ze payment on this suit, *it* goes back to Peter the First. I zuppose zen I look like native.”
Artie and I both laughed at that.
“I shall now . . . now play Clair de Lune. Or, as my former teacher said ven he first heard me play zis, Clair de Room.”
As the sounds of Depussy filled the theater, I smiled at Willow, who blew me a kiss.
PADDY: Yeah, Sadie?
SADIE: Where did Ben go?
PADDY: I think he went to find a souvenir . . .
(MUSIC: Hula tune, played under throughout)
BEN: Wow, they certainly do sell a lot of things here in the Spontoons. I like the shirts with the native mottoes on them, very colorful. Hmm, well, what have we here?
WAK-A-TI: Eeh, sir has a discerning eye. That is fine Spontoonie sculpture, made by Owah-tegu-syam.
WAK-A-TI: (off-mike) You said it, pal. (louder) Yessir. Brother of Owah-tafu-lyam.
BEN: What is it a sculpture of?
WAK-A-TI: Is a statue of great Fire God, Keyho-Raha-Raha. And this, fine sir, is fertility idol.
BEN: I don't think I can get that past Customs.
WAK-A-TI: Why not? Is fine old custom!
BEN: I don't think that custom will get past Customs.
WAK-A-TI: Come now, good sir, fine sir, balding bunny sir –
WAK-A-TI: - how much will you give poor Wak-a-ti for this? Is native sculpture.
BEN: Why does it say "Made in Sheboygan" underneath?
WAK-A-TI: That's the name of our village.
BEN: There's a Sheboygan on Spontoon?
WAK-A-TI: Indeed so sir! Named for fine tradition.
BEN: I know I’m going to regret asking this . . . but what’s the old tradition?
WAK-A-TI: Woman meet boy, and run off to get married. She. Boy. Gone.
BEN: Just for that story, I should get a discount.
SADIE: Well, if you don't want it, *I* do!
BEN: So, how much are you asking for this?
WAK-A-TI: Eeh, sculpture is three-and-six.
BEN: Three-and-six? How much is that in American money?
WAK-A-TI: Song and dance. Chicken and biscuits.
BEN: Hmm. So, a dollar-fifty?
WAK-A-TI: Wak-a-ti have big family, fine sir, have many mouths to feed.
BEN: Oh, come on now. I've heard that before.
WAK-A-TI: Here! Wak-a-ti show! Where wallet ... ah! Here!
[GRAMS: Lots of ruffling sounds]
BEN: My goodness! You have ... let me see ... twenty kids!
WAK-A-TI: Wife good Catholic.
BEN: With 20 kids, I'll say she must be good.
WAK-A-TI: So. Twenty dollars American, please.
BEN: WHAT! Twenty dollars! You just said it was three and six.
WAK-A-TI: Is very true, good sir, but Wak-a-ti show you. Please to give twenty dollars, and Wak-a-ti get out abacus.
BEN: Well, okay . . .
SADIE: Ben, give him the twenty.
BEN: But, Sadie . . .
SADIE: And don’t whine.
WAK-A-TI: Thank you, kind lady. Now, Wak-a-ti use abacus to show you. Now, twenty American dollars equal to ten British pounds . . .
[GRAMS: Abacus beads clicking]
WAK-A-TI: . . . Which is fifty Reichsmarks . . .
[GRAMS: Clicking sounds increase]
WAK-A-TI: . . . Which is four thousand, three hundred Albanian Lek . . .
BEN: Is that an abacus, or a set of castanets?
WAK-A-TI: . . . Which comes to fifty-three Kuo Han taels.
PADDY: I think it’s a case of taels, you lose, Mr. Bunny.
WAK-A-TI: Now, good sir, three from two is nine; carry the one, and if you're under 35 or went to a private school you say seven from three is six, but if you're over 35 and went to a public school you say eight from four is six; carry the one so we have . . . oh dear, oh dear.
BEN: What’s wrong?
WAK-A-TI: Wak-a-ti has miscalculated. Wak-a-ti say sculpture three-and-six, but base his counting on sculpture being four.
WAK-A-TI: So Wak-a-ti give you change.
BEN: Change! What luck!
WAK-A-TI: Here is sculpture . . . and here is change.
BEN: What! This is only five dollars! I gave you twenty!
WAK-A-TI: So sorry. All sales final.
BEN: Hey! Come back here, you!
ANDERSSON: Hey, Mr. Bunny!
BEN: What is it, Andersson? From the look of you, something’s wrong.
ANDERSSON: Uhhh-hunh. Hate to tell you this, boss, but Mr. O’Malley has been here a few days longer than me.
BEN: What's wrong with that?
ANDERSON: Weeelllll, it's like this. He's cornered the market on rum, and right now, he's out cold!
BEN: Well, feed him some Mell-O. You know, folks, Mell-O brand gelatin comes in six relaxing flavors. So whether your preference is Soothing Strawberry, Relaxing Raspberry, Cheery Cherry, Obliging Orange, Languid Lemon or Lullaby Lime, you’re sure to have a pleasant experience with Mell-O!
SADIE: Hey, Ben!
BEN: Yes, Sadie?
SADIE: There's a call from the Power Works. Mr. Tubes is calling.
SADIE: Geoffrey Tubes.
BEN: Well, what does he want?
(PAUSE, OFF-MIKE CROSSTALK)
SADIE: He says the show’s drawing too much electricity. The Althing is complaining.
BEN: The Althing? What’s that?
FERDY: It’s the government hereabouts, Ben.
BEN: Why do they call themselves that? Are they All Things to all furs?
SADIE: I’m just reading the lines, Ben, don’t look at me like that. All I know is, the Althing’s getting ugly.
PADDY: They probably had a head start.
BEN: Well, we’d better get over to the Power Works and find out what the problem is.
(MECHANICAL NOISES, OCCASIONAL ELECTRICITY SOUNDS)
PADDY: (Scots accent) The generators canna stand th' strain! I kinna get any more power outta her!
JEROME: (Jewish accent) Did someone call Feinberger?
HARRY: Here I am old man.
HARRY: Thanks, folks. Now, let’s take a look here . . . well, in order to fix this, we'll need some glue.
LESLIE: You keep your horses out of this.
HARRY: Son, you need to get out of the way and let the professionals handle this.
LESLIE: What? The generator?
HARRY: No, the jokes. You’re no good at ‘em.
LESLIE: Where’s Dorothy at? She might have gotten something caught in the works.
HARRY: Probably out doing something sarong.
HARRY: She’s from the islands, you know.
LESLIE: Really? Caribbean, or Polynesian?
HARRY: Staten and Long Islands, actually.
(AUDIENCE LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)
LESLIE: Well, enough of that, you crooning rooster you. We need to get the head of the Power Works here. Where’s Professor Greengrass?
PROF. GREENGRASS: Ahh! Greetings, mate! Let’s generate!
HARRY: Professor, the generators are having trouble carrying the load from that LYRC show.
LESLIE: Considering it’s carrying Bunny’s ego . . .
PROF. GREENGRASS: Ah, yes! Electrifying, isn't it? The problem, you see, is the ohm.
HARRY: Ohm is the loneliest number, eh?
LESLIE: Well, there's no place like ohm.
HARRY: Ah, ohm sweet ohm.
PROF. GREENGRASS: Aha! Here’s what the problem is - we've got the generator hooked to this electric stove.
LESLIE: You mean?
PROF. GREENGRASS: Yes! Ohm on the Range!
ALL THREE: (singing to “Shenandoah”) Tesla, I love you DEAR-leeeee!
(AUDIENCE LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)
HARRY: Very savvy crowd here tonight.
PROF. GREENGRASS: I can not remove the stove from the circuit.
LESLIE: You mean - ?
PROF. GREENGRASS: Yes. It’s a circuit rider.
LESLIE: So much for that joke. It was almost as old as you, Harry.
HARRY: So if you can’t remove it, Professor, who can?
PROF. GREENGRASS: My assistant, Nino.
PROF. GREENGRASS: Yes, Nino Greasemonkelli, a fine figure of a squirrel.
NINO: (using broad South Philly Italian accent, sounds a bit like Edward G. Robinson) Yeah, Boss?
HARRY: We need you to disconnect this stove.
NINO: Can’t do it.
NINO: Union rules.
HARRY: Tight union, huh?
NINO: That’s right. If I move it before nine o’clock, I have to pay a fine.
LESLIE: A fine before nine?
HARRY: How about after nine?
NINO: Oh, it’s fine after nine.
LESLIE: So you pay a fine before nine, but it’s fine after nine?
HARRY: You’re making my head spin.
PROF. GREENGRASS: Ahhhhhhhhhh! Perfect!
HARRY: What now?
PROF. GREENGRASS: We hook your head into the circuit! As long as it keeps spinning, we got plenty of capacity!
LESLIE: How will you keep his head spinning, Prof.?
PROF. GREENGRASS: Simple! Nino! Get the full copy of the Union Rules!
NINO: Okay, Perfesser.
(GRAMS: HEAVY THUMP)
HARRY: Hey! I have a better idea.
PROF. GREENGRASS: Yeah?
HARRY: You get a bunch of hula girls and hook them up to the generators.
PROF. GREENGRASS: I have a better idea than that!
PROF. GREENGRASS: Of course, mate! We get a bunch of hula girls – and take the day off!
HARRY and NINO: Great idea!
LESLIE: This is Les "Happy to be at Spontoon P&L" Townes, saying turn down the lights and save some power - share dark with a girl for at least an hour. Hey! Save some of those hula girls for me!
(AUDIENCE LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)
Everyone in the theater applauded as Reggie and Artie resumed their places at the microphone. “I say, Reggie old boy!” Artie caroled.
“What’s that, Artie?”
“Fenwick’s Foods is trying – “
“Fenwick’s Foods is always trying, old chap. Have you ever tried their Original Lumpy Crème?”
“Can’t say as I have.”
“Well, it’s certainly original – no one in their right mind would want to copy it!” This sally brought a chuckle from the herbivores in the audience. Reggie then asked, “Do you know Fenwick’s is trying to break into the kosher market, Artie?”
“I’m sure it’ll have to be a break-in. Shall we call the police now?”
Reggie paused as the laughter died down. “No, they’ve trotted out trotters. Pig’s feet.”
“Pickled pig’s feet. In pectin.”
“Pickled pectined pig’s feet?”
“For the High Holy Days, no less.”
“That’ll certainly put the fox among the chickens,” Artie observed.
“That’s another matzo entirely,” Reggie said, and picked up his banjo as Artie reached for his concertina.
“I say, Reggie . . . “ Artie’s voice trailed off.
“Yes, old top?”
“Do you know what happened to me last night?”
“Thank heaven for that!” Again, the crowd laughed and applauded as the orchestra supplied a brief musical sting. “And now, dear listeners, LYRC Theater and the Ben Bunny Show proudly present the King Kahelamonster Orchestra playing My Love Lies Sleeping with an all-male chorus.”
The ‘Orchestra’ was a mixed bag of some fifty furs culled from two cruise ships, four bars and several tailor shops and other venues.
That they’d had only the bare minimum of rehearsal time became immediately obvious.
The first crash as the band swung into the song was accompanied by a soft bang and a flash of light from the radio booth, and I saw that Philo’s visor had blown clean off his head, his headfur poofing up like a bristle brush.
From the occasional surges that blew out more vacuum tubes up in the booth, I was sure that lights were flickering all over Casino Island.
I glanced to my right to see Crane and Don Carlos looking up apprehensively as the chandeliers swayed in time with the music.
The remainder of the band softened their barrage to let Artie and Reggie play against each other, the banjo and the squeezebox dueling with each other for at least one full verse.
Another crash by the orchestra was greeted by another bank of tubes going.
I thought poor Philo’s headfur would exceed the reach of his antlers if this kept up much longer.
Crane leaned over to Don Carlos, and I strained my ears to catch what he said.
"Thank God no one can SEE this."
I giggled as Don Carlos could only nod mutely, completely gobsmacked.
The band finally crashed to a halt, and there was a small, almost apologetic silence.
The crowd got to their feet, cheering and applauding.
BEN: Wow! Wasn’t that a fine display of local talent, folks?
PADDY: It was a fine display of *something,* Mr. Bunny. I’m not sure what, yet.
BEN: What do you mean by that, Paddy?
PADDY: My ears are still ringing.
BEN: Oh, Sadie!
SADIE: Yes, Ben?
BEN: Where are you?
SADIE: Hiding in the balcony.
BEN: Well, come back down here, please.
SADIE: Is it over?
FERDY: Yeah, is it over? I haven’t heard anything like that since I was in the Army.
BEN: It’s all over. I don’t think the radio set can take much more, though. (AUDIENCE LAUGHTER) You know, folks, thanks to the magic of radio, this show reaches all over the world. That includes here, in the sunny Spontoon Islands.
ANDERSSON: You mean they broadcast Mr. Bunny's show in the Spontoons?
FERDY: Yes, and listening to his ancient jokes will not only make your head shrink, it'll make it disappear all together.
BEN: Oh, Ferd-o...
FERDY: Yeah, Ben?
BEN: How well can you swim? It’s very far to Los Antelopes.
SADIE: Ben! I’m surprised at you! You don’t DARE leave Ferdinand behind!
BEN: Why, Sadie?
SADIE: He’s got your keys to the Maxwell!
BEN: Well then, I suppose we’ll all have to leave together. Ladies and gentlemen, we are all so very pleased to have come to the Spontoons for the inaugural broadcast of the newest Red Network affiliate, LYRC Radio. And I hope you tune in to our show next week, brought to you by Mell-O brand gelatin! Good night folks!
The applause had finally died down and the last members of the audience had left, to step back out into another splendidly sunny spring day.
Artie was pacing the stage as the agent for NBC waited for the first report of how the show had been received in the States. Charlie Crane looked anxious and Don Carlos –
Don Carlos still looked thunderstruck by the wall of noise that had hit him. I hadn’t seen him look so shattered since he took that plane ride with Baron von Kojote after Leslie and Inocenta’s wedding.
Finally everyone looked up as the network agent hung up the phone.
Crane was on his feet, L’yra at his side. “Well?” he demanded.
“Well, um, Mister Crane,” the mouse said.
The mouse shrugged helplessly. “Gnu York loved it.”
There was a pause.
Crane sagged back into a chair, looking almost as if he was about to faint dead away. Of course, his lady friend was there to support him, and I don’t think he could ask for a better feather comforter.
Shortly thereafter Ben Bunny and the rest of his cast and crew departed for the United States. They were accompanied by a fully recovered bandleader and two singers. News of the success of the LYRC show had buoyed their spirits immensely.
Word had come in that the Gull Islanders had given up, and had allowed the Whitefur Band to leave their island for Los Antelopes – ‘by the fastest available transportation.’
Exactly why had Bunny and most of the rest of his cast in stitches.
The band had earned their freedom, and exacted a modicum of revenge in the bargain, by arranging a free concert for the foxes.
A free concert that featured only one song, played over and over, day and night incessantly until the Gull Islanders threw in the towel (or the pandanus mat).
I carefully refrained from inquiring whether the song in question was Sister Susie’s Sewing Shirts for Soldiers.
A week or so later, Reggie and I stood at the seaplane terminal with Artie as the Clipper was tied up to the dock. Reggie’s old school companion looked nervous. His nieces stood a short distance away, whispering to each other.
“Come on, Artie, cheer up,” my beloved urged. “After all, it’s only your father.”
“Have you met my father, Reggie?”
“Ah. No, I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure.”
Artie snorted, and stiffened as an older copy of him got off the big flying boat. He spied him and waved before heading off to Customs.
We were left cooling our hooves for a few moments before the elder Wisent presented himself. “Artemus!” he boomed.
Now I knew where Artie got his voice.
Artie still looked aghast. “Father!? What are you doing here?”
Mr. Wisent smiled tolerantly at his youngest. “I decided to come out and see what had drawn my son and my granddaughters all the way from New England.” He grinned. “I caught the show in Los Antelopes.”
“And what do you think?” Artie ventured.
“Well, my boy, I'll admit it. Well done. A model of improvisational organization. And with even more imagination than when you did that - whatever you did - with the jellyfish in Washington.”
Artie turned slowly to his nieces, a bloody look in his eye, and Natasha and Maria yelled in unison, “WE'LL TELL MOM!!!”
“All right, if these two didn’t tell you, how did you find out about the jellyfish, Father?”
“Hmmm? Oh. Minkerton's, of course.”
I studiously looked elsewhere, a halo firmly seated over my cervine ears.
Telegrams weren’t very expensive, after all.
I kept the halo in place as Artie started to step toward his nieces, step by step, pace by pace as they gave ground.
I believe they wrote a song about that, titled Buffalo. In any event, Maria and Natasha finally broke and dashed away, their uncle in hot pursuit.
A week later, the elder Wisent had packed his offspring up with him and hared off for points east, back to America. Artie was looking forward to returning to Los Antelopes, with a promotion to be one of the main writers on The Ben Bunny Show, with a raise in pay.
His nieces had managed to get a job, too.
I wasn’t sure if it was as singers, or as charwomen.
I met Willow and we decided to have lunch at Luchow’s. Rosie was doing quite well as a restaurateur, an accomplishment that my inamorata and I had had no small part in.
Before we could reach the water taxis, Willow’s ears flicked. “Reggie,” she said in a suddenly quiet voice.
I obeyed, and heard the priest at St. Paul’s, a fine equine chap (who wasn’t as fond of ear-twisting as his superior, Father Merino) calling out my name.
And it dawned on me.
He was reading the banns of marriage for the first time.
Willow and I stood and listened raptly (and enraptured) to the entire speech, and the silence that followed it, before we resumed our walk to the water taxis.
Funny, but I can’t recall hearing when the Althing paved the streets with fluffy pink clouds.