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28 January 2007

The 1,001 Mornings of Reggie Buckhorn
Character by EO Costello in collaboration with Simon Barber

"Plantation Punch"
by EO Costello

(September 1936)

"Plantation Punch"
by E.O. Costello

     There comes a time in the lives of all bucks when even the wizardry and black arts of the curate behind the bar pales, and no new excitement can be wrung from the shelves of bottles underneath the mirror at the Long Bar of Shepherd's Hotel.

    Fun is fun and all that, but I was starting to reach the point where if I had seen one G&T, I had seen them all.  Oh, there were many things that were placed before me.  The fatted Singapore Sling, the lovingly prepared martini, in all its iterations, the fair whiskies of the glens, and the not-so-fair whiskies of West Virginia, guaranteed to eat a hole in the wood of the bar if poured carelessly.

    No, all were as one to your humble servant, Reginald Buckhorn, as I pushed aside the chilled glass and set muzzle in paws one early afternoon in September of '36.

    "Ou sont les nieges d'antan?" I enquired.  With admirable persistence, if less than admirable knowledge of literature, the bartender frantically began searching the serried rows of bottles, no doubt in search of some absinthe that I was alluding to.  I waved him back over.

    "Nigel, the thrill is gone."

    "I'm sorry to hear that, sir.  Have you put a notice in the Mirror?"  Nigel liked his joke of an afternoon, but it went in one prominent cervine ear and out the other, without stopping.

    "I speak, Nigel, of the thrill of the hunt.  The excitement of the chase.  Where are such feelings, when you can, with the merest of steps, slay the fatted grape in mahogany-sheathed comfort?"

    I could see Nigel's whiskers quivering.  As, I suppose, well they should.  If the word went around the Spontoons that Reginald Buckhorn was thinking of giving John Barleycorn the miss-in-baulk, it would cause a crisis in the affairs of bartenders all over the islands.  There were those in the profession that were still counting the profits made some days previously when I had put one over on Lady Pamela Fenwick, in the manner of the boat race.  These same furs were no doubt looking at their calendars, and contemplating what Reginald was going to do in the way of wassail come Christmas Eve with a look of glowing anticipation.

    No such look of glowing anticipation was present on the face of Nigel, as he stood before me, nervously polishing an already gleaming (and empty) glass.

    "Seems strange, sir, you talking of the hunt and chase, being a deer.  I mean, no offence, sir..."

    "Ah, none taken, Nigel, none taken.  You are merely defending your livelihood and your chosen profession against my heresy.  I mean, I'm not expecting the Spanish Inquisition..."

    "I doubt anyone expects the Spanish Inquisition, sir."

    "True for telling, Nigel, but we are straying from the essential point at paw.  To wit: without the lure of excitement, this drinking becomes only so much reflexive activity, the sort of thing chaps with microscopes see in simple one-celled creatures.  I've been compared to one-celled creatures in my time, Nigel.  Usually when the Sire was discussing the inventory of my skull.  The crux of the matter is the same, however.  Without anything to stimulate the brain-pan in a way different from the usual ethanol stimulus, I might as well give this all up and start playing a brass instrument in a blue-and-red uniform."

    Nigel shuddered at the image, no doubt forseeing what Brother Reginald would do to business in that kind of a getup.  Deeply disturbed, he padded over to the far end of the bar, where he conducted all his confidential business, and began to engage in earnest conversation with his confrere, a pudu.

    (I hear you cry, dear reader.  What, in all creation, is a pudu?  A pudu is a species of deer, in fact, the smallest variety in the world.  They normally hang their hat not on their rack, but in the Andes, by way of Peru.)

    This little chap, Fausti by name, earned his species' Latin name (pudu mephistophiles) the hard way.  He was famous all over the islands not merely for the fiery content of his concoctions, but the way he would tempt you into having another.

    I was lost in thoughts of my own until I saw a small, dark pair of eyes before me.  Which was about all I saw, since that was what was above the level of the bar.  (Fausti usually had to stand on an empty whiskey crate to reach the bottles.)

    "Get thee behind me."

    "Oh, come now," came the soft, insinuating voice from somewhere out of sight below the bar.  "Surely you will not turn a deaf ear to your friend Fausti?"

    "I should jolly well think I have a deaf ear, after all the ringing that went on in there the last time you served me something.  What on earth was that, anyway?"

    "Ahhhh...you mean the potato vodka flavoured with cherry syrup?  It was sensational, no?  I call it the George Washington."

    "Yes, well, it felt like he'd used his hatchet on my skull the morning after."

    "Thank you, senor."

    "That wasn't a bloody compliment.  No, Fausti, you shall have my patronage no more.  There is nothing you can say or do to make me change my mind.  It is immovable on the subject."

    "It grieves me to hear that, Senor.  I shall cancel the pineapple brandy, yes?"

    "What pineapple brandy?"

    "The pineapple brandy I order."

    "Look, pineapple brandy is pineapple brandy."

    "Ah, but you are most mistaken, Senor."  Here, a small dark eyebrow cocked itself, and bent into a little bow.  "This pineapple brandy is most interesting."

    A snort from the self.  "Unless you are suggesting that it should be served warmed by the tummy fur of a native doe wearing naught but a flower behind the ear..."

    "Oh, but that can be arrange, Senor.  It may take the day or so, but..."

    "I was speaking rhetorically, Fausti."

    "Ah.  You will not mind, then, if Fausti make note?  I am finding the image most intriguing..."

    "I'm sure the Constabulary would find so, too.  I reiterate: pineapple brandy, is pineapple brandy, is pineapple brandy.  As Gertrude Swine would say."

    "But Senor, this pineapple brandy is most difficult to obtain."

    "Oh?  Where does it come from, pineapples grown in the Arctic?"

    "Ahhhhh, that is a most amusing image, Senor Buckhorn.  I make the note of that, too.  No, Senor, these are the pineapple, they grow on the Main Island."

    "What-what-what?  The Main Island?!  The one only a few miles away, as the buck swims?"

    "The same, Senor."

    "Now I know you're speaking rubbish, Fausti.  It's as easy as anything to fetch a flagon of same from that district."

    "Ohhh, but you are most mistaken, Senor."  The other eyebrow went up.

    "How so, then?"

    "Ahhhh, Senor.  This pineapple brandy, it is made only for the local consumption.  It is not the brandy that is sent elsewhere."

    "All the same, Fausti, bollocks.  It's the work of an instant to fetch a draught of it."

    "Is it, Senor?"

    If he had had a third eyebrow, it would have been raised by now.  "Fausti, am I not a buck of my word?"

    "It is so, Senor Buckhorn."

    "Good.  I will personally buy a round for the house at ten o'clock of the night if I do not come back with a flagon of the stuff you are so enthusiastically flogging."

    "I believe that is most fair, Senor Buckhorn.  You will forgive if we do not shake paws on it?  I cannot reach over the bar."

    Having accepted the proposition in principle, I put hat squarely on bean, and strode out into the afternoon, full of purpose (and a few pawfuls of salted acorns, which were working up a thirst).  Shift ho for the water-taxi stand, where self was placed in the back seat, and the order given.

    "Main Island, please."

    I settled back to read the newspaper, when suddenly...nothing happened.  Mark you, it happened suddenly, this nothingness.  It didn't just creep up, but hit a chap right about the antlers that the scenery was staying put, not to mention the whitetail buck.

    "Errrr...Main Island, please."

    The water-taxi driver turned around and looked at me with a greatly puzzled expression.  I decided to help smooth matters over.

    "Ah!  Ummm...me, self-same buck, you jolly boat-thingie waft over pukka Main Island chop-chop savvy?"

    The water-taxi driver leaned on his elbow, and looked at me with a somewhat irritated expression, and spoke in a polished Received Pronunciation, Home Counties accent.

    "My dear fellow, surely you must be aware that access to the Main Island is forbidden to all but citizens of the Spontoon Island Independencies and other individual furs granted full-time residency status therein pursuant to the Residency (Native Islands) Act of 1922?"

    I was thunderstruck.  I mean, this was the first time I think I'd ever tried to have a conversation with what to all appearences seemed to be a BBC Home Service progamme given sentience.

    "And please do not offer a bribe, as a box on the ear often offends.  Good day, Sir."

    I was thus left in the lurch, or rather, the water-taxi stand.  A quick survey of the serried ranks revealed that they were as one fur, in the principle of transporting yours truly to the Main Island.  Very well.  If the mountainous island was not going to come to Reginald, Reginald was going to go to the mountain himself.  A few minutes' brisk walk, and I found myself at a boat-hire establishment, and engaged in conversation with the feline behind the counter.

    All seemed oojah-cum-spiff until he got a hold of my handle, via my identity documents.  Evidently, my reputation preceded me.  I really thought it was most unfair of him to bring up the matter of the ricksha of a few months back.  I think the blame should have been entirely on the manufacturer of the fireworks for slackness in packing the powder.  In addition, the Fire Brigade had been too busy laughing to attend to their duties properly.  All this defence was seemingly getting me nowhere, but I had high hopes of the persuasive powers engendered by the coin of the realm when I felt a firm paw feeling my collar, in the manner long familiar to me from many a Boat Race night.

    "Awright.  Ya wanna 'splain t'me whatcha want a boat fer?"

    Yes, it was my old companion of many a night, Detective Sergeant Brush.  Someone had dropped nickel on the self, and with his keen vulpine senses, he had tracked me down for a little chat.

    "Now see here!  I don't see how it's any business of yours what I want to do with a boat, unless you're trying out for your NKVD Merit Badge.  This is still a free country, you know."

    Sergeant Brush was somewhat less than impressed.  "Most furs 'round here t'ink freedom 'cludes freedom from havin' th' likesa youse runnin' round wit' high-powered boats."

    "What-what-what-what?  Rubbish.  I, Sergeant, am in full command of my faculties.  Observe!"  On the third try, I touched finger to nose.  This demonstration of dexterity was all for naught, as was the subsequent offer to walk a straight line, or count backwards from 20. Sergeant Brush informed me very crisply as to what my fate would be if I tried to hire a boat, and it involved being a guest of the Althing for 30 days, bread and water and straw palisse all found.

    The situation was starting to approach the level of being a matter of principle.  I was not going to let a pack of constables and defrocked Broadcasting House announcers bullyrag yours truly.  I retired to my chambers, to give the matter some good, honest thought.

    It was an examination of Lodge's work basket that put the idea into the bean.  Lying within was one of my linen suits, which was tied up in a knot that would have made Alexander sit down and reconsider his future line of work.  My memory of why, exactly, I had tied a suit into a knot was hazy.  I could only recollect vaguely an argument with another fur involving Manchester United.  I also recollected telling the good Inspector Stagg that I was wearing footer bags, which he rather acidly pointed out bore a strong resemblance to a pair of Sulka boxer shorts, which were hardly appropriate attire for the lobby of Shepherd's Hotel.

    Stagg.  Stagg.  Aha!  An idea formed and blossomed.  Whitetail deer are fairly rare in these parts, still less whitetail bucks.  Most furs seem to want to have a look at whitetail does.  I can't blame them, since there are few things better than the sight of a lady cervine in a bathing suit.  But I digress.  The aforementioned Inspector Stagg was a familiar sight in the Islands.  And, I suspected, all of the Islands.  Being the rozzer that he was, I suspected that to him, the Main Island was free and open.

    My social life in recent months had brought me into contact with the buck in question, on purely a professional basis.  I suspected he wanted to keep it that way, as well.  Be that as it may, what I required was a rumpled linen suit, a walking stick, and an attitude of somber reflection, and I believed I could pass muster.  Barely.  What I also needed was a convenient ration of darkness, and perhaps a voice pitched low.

    The suit was duly filched from the work basket, its unlaundered state well suited to my needs.  A quick rummage through the closet produced a black walking stick, and a hat somewhat like the one I'd seen perched between the old buck's antlers.  Keeping well out of sight of Lodge, I waited until dusk began to close in before changing both my attire and my demeanor.

    I carefully and slowly shuffled over to the water-taxi stand, taking care to remain outside of the lights.  I also took care not to address any of the chaps who might have seen me that afternoon.  I got a little fox (who I hoped wasn't related to certain Sergeants I knew) who blinked and twitched his ear when I murmured politely to drop me off at the Main Island.

    "Usual spot, sir?"

    I nodded, and slowly eased myself into the back of the water-taxi.  A few minutes later, we pulled up to a pier on the Main Island, and I got out again.  The fox cheerfully offered to put the charge on the Constabulary's tab, and I bowed and mumbled a thanks.  He puttered back to Casino Island, and I headed inland.

    Progress was almost halted when, in turning around, I nearly collided with a rather large native vixen, who did a violent double-take when she saw me.  I did what all good bucks should do when meeting a lady: I raised my hat.  I then shuffled off out of sight.  The vixen, I could sense, was staring at my soon vanishing flag.

    Once out of sight, I took out of my inside pocket a small map from the local telephone directory and consulted it.  It informed me that there was a smallish village a brisk walk away from the pier, close to a large pineapple plantation.  I reasoned: where there are pineapples, surely there is pineapple brandy.  I puzzled slightly over the name of the village, which was listed as Balleyplamas, which seemed a sort of oddish name for these parts.  Reasoning that someone in the map department had blundered, I sallied forth for this Balleyplamas.

    The village itself was a small collection of darkened huts.  One somewhat larger hut, though, was ablaze with light and cheerful noise.  This sounded like a promising source of information, and, even better, a flagon of this pineapple brandy that Fausti had mentioned.

    The door was wide open, and as I got closer, the sound of a fiddle and whistle could be heard issuing from it.  The tune was familiar, though I couldn't quite place it.  No matter, as I strolled inside.

    The tune immediately stopped upon Reginald's entrance, and for that matter, all conversation stopped.  It occurred to me that perhaps they'd never seen a whitetail deer in full rack before, and they were pondering this new occurrence with great interest.  I let them do so, and strolled right up to the bar, that universal oasis, and addressed the fur in charge, a smallish apricot-coloured fox who didn't seem like he had relatives in the Constabulary.

    "What ho, innkeeper!  Your pineapple brandy has come highly recommended to me by experts in the field.  A dram, if you please."

    This request was met with dead silence, echoed by the dead silence in the room.

    "Errrr.  Oh.  I say, dashed sorry.  Is it not my turn?"

    More dead silence, except for the sound of glassware and crockery being moved to safer locations, which in this context seemed somewhat ominous.  The fox put a pair of pitch-black paws on the counter, and cocked an eyebrow at me.  (There it was, again.  A leitmotif, I think they call it.)


    "Yes, Deaglan?"  This said by another little apricot-y fox.



    At this, some of the other customers quietly edged out the door, and others tipped over one of the tables and hid behind it.  I was pondering the whereabouts of my last will and testament when a massive paw thumped me on the shoulder.  I slid my eyes slightly to the right, and beheld a thumb that to my fevered imagination seemed be as thick as my arm.


    Closer examination revealed that this thumb was, via the paw and wrist, connected to an arm as thick as my neck, with further stops at a shoulder, a phiz, and a palmate rack that seemed to start somewhere in Manila at one end and terminate, at the other, in San Francisco.  This, it seemed, was Timeen.  I got a much closer look at him when he picked me up by my collar and lifted me to his eye level, which left me dangling a little bit off the floor.

    "Timeen, we have a visitor.  He's from England."

    Timeen, having turned to the Deaglan chappie, turned back to me with a baleful glare.  At this point, a few things clicked in the bean.  The names and choice in music all pointed to a certain Celtic ancestry of many of the furs in the pub.  All of this was confirmed by the ambulatory and seemingly semi-sentient mountain that was holding yours truly like a rag doll.  I had always been under the impression that the Irish Elk was a beast that had punched its time clock and shuffled off this mortal coil some eons ago, but evidently this was a mistaken impression.  I had gone from the smallest member of the cervines to what I think was the largest in the matter of a day.  Grant you, I didn't know if this chap was the largest member of my family; I shudder to think of who *he* might be afraid of.

    I looked at this chap's antlers again, and had visions of being batted around like a tennis ball, which he could assuredly have done, even if he wasn't in tennis whites.  Instead, he was gathering his thoughts slowly, while jiggling me gently in the air.  Finally, he brought me closer, and proved that he could actually talk.  With a voice that sounded like it was coming out of a very deep and evil-looking well, he spoke.

    "You'll be singing, then."

    A sense of confusion was followed by a sense of relief.  This was, indeed, a lucky break.  Yours truly has a rather pleasant voice, if I do say so myself.  That would have been no issue.  The problem, of course, lay in the selection of song.  I was neck deep in the bouillon already, and I felt something like "Soldiers of the Queen" or "Jerusalem" would not be taken terribly kindly, least of all by the grossly misnamed stag that was eyeing me the way a two-year old eyes a china vase.

    Vague memories of a St. Patrick's Day, long ago, with Artie (Tons of Fun) Wisent stirred themselves.  Artie was a walking Tin Pan Alley, blessed with a baritone that could rattle windows a block away.  I say the memories are vague.  I only recall that two trolleycars entered into it somewhere, and I woke up two days later somewhere near Hershey.  But there was something else that came to mind, and I turned as best I could to the fiddler, and squeaked out a request for a "C."

"In comes the captain's daughter, the captain of the Yeos,
Saying, "Brave United man, we'll ne'er again be foes.
A thousand pounds I'll give you, and fly from home with thee
And dress myself in man's attire, and fight for liberty!"
We are the boys of Wexford, who fought with heart and hand
To burst in twain the galling chain, and free our native land!"

    Mark you, my brother cervine didn't let go, but he did let me down to floor level, which improved my singing somewhat.  I didn't get any applause after this rendition, so I decided to hurry into the next number while I still could...

"In Dublin's fair city
where the girls are so pretty
I once met a girl named sweet Molly Malone
and she wheeled her wheel barrow
through the streets broad and narrow
singing cockles and mussels alive alive oh!"

    At the end of this song, Timeen let me go, but not very far from him.  I still didn't get any applause, though a voice from the shadows called out: "And do you know "The Barleycorn, then?"

    I did.

"There were three farmers in the north, as they were passing by
They swore an oath, a mighty oath, that barleycorn should die
One of them said drown him and the others said hang him high
For whoever will stick to the barleygrain, a beggin' he will die."

    This time, I was given a small smattering of applause, and was allowed a few sips of porter before my next number.

"Early one day the sun wouldn't shine
I was walking down the street not feeling too fine
I saw two old men with a bottle between 'em
 And this was the song that I heard them singing

Lord preserve us and protect us,
We've been drinking whiskey 'fore breakfast"

    A few more numbers, and the general air grew rather friendlier, with the possible exception of Timeen, who appeared to sulk over the loss of his "fun."  He contented himself with drinking out of a vessel that was either a midget barrel or a tankard with a thyroid problem.

    I was working my way through my stock of Irish melodies (bless you, Artie), when the music died down, to be replaced by the tapping of a hoof.  This tapping was not in time to the music.  However, it did not appear that Inspector Franklin Stagg had music on his mind.

    "Good evening, Mr. Buckhorn."

    "Errrrrrr...what ho, what ho, what ho."

    A pained look shot across the rozzer's phiz.  "Mr. Buckhorn, why are you here?"

    "Philosophical question, isn't it?"

    "Let's stick to the here and now, shall we?  I believe you were informed by one of the water-taxi drivers this afternoon that non-natives are not allowed on the Main Island.  I also believe that you were advised by Sergeant Brush not to hire a boat to come here."

    "But I didn't, Inspector."

    "Indeed.  You, instead, hired another water-taxi."


    "Feeling a little poorly on your hooves, Mr. Buckhorn?  I was told by this driver you had a significant limp."

    "Errr.  Well, you know, tennis and all that."

    "Hurt yourself playing tennis, then?"


    "One imagines that would happen if you were playing in a linen suit...as you seem to have done."

    He pointed toward my suit, which was a reasonable copy of the one he was wearing.  Yes, things were getting a little warmer in here, all right.

    "A short time ago, I received a telephone call from one of the constables here on the Main Island." Here, the Inspector consulted a notebook. "Mrs. Kiki Brush reported a large whitetail buck on the Old Pier, who went off limping in the direction of Ballyplamas."


    "Mrs. Brush passes on a message:  If you are going to imitate me, Mr. Buckhorn, you should take care which hoof is the one that's injured."  For emphasis, he tapped one of his with his stick, and it gave off a slight hollow sound.

    I didn't have any answer to this one.  I thought about asking whether this Kiki Brush was related to Sergeant Brush, and decided this was a foolish question, the answer for which was obvious.  I thought about saying "Errr" again, but this, I thought, lacked a certain sense of eloquence.  Mercifully, I was bailed out from an unexpected quarter, as a volcano cleared its throat.

    "And did he say he was you...then?"  Timeen subsided back against the wall and took a long pull of refreshment.  The length of that speech seemed to have tired him.

    The Inspector frowned, and checked his notebook again, flipping through the pages. This action was interrupted by the innkeeper.

    "Ah, let him go, Inspector.  He's our guest.  It is true that it says we can have guests in our homes, does it not?"

    The notebook was closed, and tapped against a paw thoughtfully.

    "Mr. Buckhorn?  I should tread very carefully if I were in your hooves.  You are rapidly trotting down the Devil's path." 

    And with that, he turned, and quietly limped out into the night.

    The music started up again with a cheer, and before long, a request for pineapple brandy was granted.  As was a second request.  And a third.  And a fourth.  Before long, things began to grow a little dizzy.

    I awoke with the following:

(a) Evening clothes, source unknown;
(b) Box of salted acorns, source unknown, save they were F.R. Buckhorn & Sons brand;
(c) A jar of pickled watermelon-rind near the hoof, source unknown;
(d) One (1) potato impaled on right antler, source unknown; and
(e) A massive, crushing hangover, source vaguely known and strongly suspected.

I really could have done without the swinging and swaying motion, source all too known, to wit, a rather smallish dinghy.  This was safely being secured and stowed by an old salt of a canine, who shook his head, and murmured sympathetically after taking the pipe out of his phiz:

    "You look like Hell."

    Truer words never spoken.

This episode is continued in "Reggie and the Red Wolf" by Wm. Van Ness
Reggie's life changes in "Let's Doe It [Let's Fall In Love]" - meeting Willow Fawnsworthy!