by M. Mitch Marmel & E.O. Costello
© 2010 By E.O. Costello and M. Mitch Marmel.
All characters © E.O. Costello and M. Mitch Marmel.
Les had telephoned me just before lunch to let me know that he’d been to Chan’s Tailor Shop and had gotten his morning suit for the wedding. That helped remind me that I, too, had to acquire the Spongebag Trousers and Topper for the Big Day.
Of course, Leslie has told me that the groom is barely noticeable at weddings, and my experience as his best man bore that out. All eyes in the house were on Inocenta that day.
She looked lovely, and I hoped that Willow would be just as beautiful – what am I saying?
Of course she will be.
Even more so.
As I walked around the corner to the entrance, who should I see alighting from a ricksha but the Sire himself. He looked to be in a frame of mind little better than the one he displayed the previous night.
We reached the door at the same instant.
Before he could react I pulled the door open and smiled. “After you, Father.”
He looked sharply at me, and backed into the store as if he thought I would attach a KICK ME sign to his back.
I try not to repeat a practical joke. Predictability would be boring.
The shop was a hive of activity as a full crew of Chinese mice went about their business. At the sight of us Chan, the shop’s proprietor, hustled up to us and said, “So very pleased to meet you! Welcome to Chan’s.”
“We’re here for – “ the Sire started to rumble, but the mouse cut him off.
“Of course, Sir, the Buckhorn wedding, yes, Sir.”
The Sire gave a whistling snort. “How did you know?”
Chan indicated me with a flourish. “Everyone on Spontoon knows Mr. Buckhorn, so you must be his father. An honor to meet you. Please to come this way, your clothes are ready.”
When he wants to, my father can be the legendary Immovable Object. He demonstrated this now by digging in his hooves and demanding, “How can they be ready? I’ve never been in this place!”
The mouse grinned as only a rodent can. “When we were told of the joyous event, we cabled for your sizes, Lord Buckhorn. This way, please. We must get you fitted.”
At this demonstration of efficiency, surely to be ranked almost Up There with Bond Street, my Sire, rendered nearly speechless (but not noiseless), was led away to a changing room by a quartet of Chan’s employees who chattered to each other in Chinese.
I was led into a different changing room and was helped into my morning suit. As I expected everything fit perfectly. I’ve valued the ability of this establishment to outfit me on short notice during my extended sojourn here.
My Sire, on the other paw, found fault with almost everything, from the material to the fit to the loudly stated fact that the trousers were crimping his flag. The swarm of attending mice increased until it looked like he had been hiding cheese in his pockets to attract them.
As I was admiring my form in the mirror, the product of healthy diet and vigorous exercise, the door to the shop opened and everyone went quiet.
I entered the shop and the owner, Mr. Chan, came up to me and bowed. “Inspector Stagg,” he said, “a distinct honor. Your uniform is ready, and if you will follow me I shall to see personally to your fitting.”
I refrained from adding “Lead me to my doom.”
The Buckhorns, pere et fils, were also in the shop being fitted for their formal wear. The younger smiled and nodded to me pleasantly, while the elder harrumphed and went back to making comments about the state of his attire.
I am perhaps not a wholly impartial judge, but I think the clothes fit him well, considering his girth and stature. It really does not do for a whitetail buck of his age and station to look like a pumpkin given sentience and a temper.
After a few minutes I stepped out of the changing room and presented myself before a mirror, while Mr. Chan stood ready with a tape measure and chalk.
As I feared, the uniform fit exactly. Long trousers and a long-sleeved shirt in white cotton, with a black necktie and leather Sam Bruin belt. Shoulder boards with one diamond-shaped pip on each for my rank. The whole ensemble topped by the Constabulary’s spike-topped solar topi, with easements cut into it for my antlers.
I looked somewhat like a fork.
Rosie would love it, though, and I could hear her making Good Humor comments again:
‘No, I do NOT look like the Good Humor Man.’
‘Can I get something to lick?’
I shall NOT enjoy wearing this, and shall bury it in the deepest, darkest corner of my closet at first opportunity. Notifying any moths in the vicinity that dinner is served.
While I was divesting myself of this travesty Lord Buckhorn strode in, grumbling, and maintained his grumbling as he was undressed and his formal clothes packed away in a band-box. “Lord Buckhorn,” I ventured.
“I am certain that you may have somewhat mixed emotions about your son’s upcoming wedding.”
“Hmmph. That, sir, is an understatement.”
“I am also aware that you and he may not be on the best of terms.”
There was no answer to this.
“As a member of the Constabulary, I have had . . . encounters with Mr. Buckhorn in the past – “
“There’s no need to fill me in on the number of scrapes that fawn of mine has been in. Lord knows I had my fill of his escapades.”
“So I understand. I did not intend to regale you with the number of times your son has been arrested or jailed, but to tell you that, since meeting Miss Fawnsworthy, his behavior has changed markedly.”
An indistinct mumble, with the word ‘leash’ prominent.
“For the better, may I add.”
Damn impertinence of this, this policefur to tell me this.
“Yes, I’d say it was an improvement.”
“High time the little blot’s done something right, then.”
“You don’t like your own son?”
“I suppose you’re going to tell me why I should. I consider that fawn to be my penance.”
“Ah.” Old fool’s fiddling with a wedding ring on his paw. “My father felt the same way about me, I’m afraid.”
“You expect sympathy?”
“From you? Never, Lord Buckhorn. But you may want to have some for yourself.”
And with that, he hobbled out of the room. Pah!
The neighbors in the upland village where the Brush family lived poked their muzzles out of longhouse windows as a great deal of yowling and angry shouting shattered the early afternoon quiet.
“Fire-God take you, K’nutt-son-Karok! Fur bereft of reason, likewise not-sanity having!”
This utterance was followed by another spate of yowling.
“Negative emphasis Fire-God invoke, Karok-son-Karok,” came a quavering, stuttering voice. “Head-covering hard Euro all same not used in many – “
“Negative point bearing, exception point on head thine!”
“Head-covering hard Euro have point – “
“Negative point-having once used opening emphasis cocoanuts!” This statement was followed by a loud bang as the door to the Brush longhouse slammed open and Karok-son-Karok (known to most Euros as Detective Sergeant Orrin F.X. Brush) came storming out holding a Spontoon constable’s formal dress pith helmet in one paw.
once-spotless white cloth cover of the helmet was stained and the
spike at its top was slightly bent.
Sitting in the garden behind Luchow’s and admiring the flowers was doing very little apart from wasting time.
I had to think of something, but nothing was coming out.
The breeze freshened and the bells at Saint Paul’s chimed three o’clock.
My nose twitched, and I sneezed. Wiping my nose with my pawkerchief . . .
That was it.
“Rosie!” I called out as I stood and ran for the restaurant. “I figured it out!”
My cheetah friend was talking with her cook about the next day’s entrees. She looked up at me and asked, “What? Something that’ll stop him from smelling?”
“Nikolai Ivanovich know how to make fur stop smelling,” the Russian lepine said brightly. “Give him bath!”
“Nick, hush,” and Rosie and I stepped out of the kitchen at a rate of knots. “What, Willow?”
“Da’s allergic to roses,” I said. “They give him hay fever, really bad.”
She nodded. “Fast?”
I thought back to a long-ago trip, a picnic to Pioneer’s Park near Ansonia cut short. “Almost instantly, I recall.”
“Roses might work, but you’ve already bought the dress.”
“What’s that got to do with it?”
“Well,” Rosie purred, “you could go dressed in nothing but roses – “
“Nix. You’ve seen the dress. I’ll have a bouquet.”
“Too bad. I don’t see how you’ll be able to shove the bouquet into his muzzle without provoking at least some comment.”
I waved my paws. “No, no, what I had in mind was perfume. I had planned on using Eau de Cologne, but instead I’ll use attar of roses.”
“A little heavier on the side he’ll be on?” Rosie asked, her expression going sly.
“That’s the idea.”
Willow must have some fox blood in her family tree, or it may just be a doe thing. Much as I hate the idea of slipping my dear Franneleh a Mickey Finn, this is definitely a good cause.
I’m not sure how Rabbi Steinmink might rationalize it, but I’ll call it a mitzvah.
But I can’t go out and get it myself, or Franklin might start to wonder – and when my buck gets a problem in his paws, he’s like a dog with a bone. He’ll get to the bottom of it.
Which is something I do not want him doing.
“K’nutt! Come in here, please,” and shortly my #0 handyfur showed up, rubbing the back of his head.
“What happened to you?”
“I b-bumped m-my head, R-Rosie.”
“What did you bump?”
“What did you bump with your head, K’nutt?”
“And what were you doing in the oven?”
“N-Nick had m-me cleaning it.”
He didn’t look like he was bleeding and I hadn’t heard any explosions, so I guessed he was okeh, and left it at that. “K’nutt, there’s something I need you to do for me.”
“I need you to go to Casino Island.”
“Not so fast,” and I grabbed him by the back of his shirt before he could dash out of the room. “I haven’t told you what I need you to do when you get there.”
“When you get to Casino Island, I want you to go to Mr. Hung’s. Do you know where that is?”
“When you get to Mr. Hung’s, I want you to get me two bottles of attar of roses. Got that?”
“Why c-can’t I g-go to Mr. H-Hong’s? H-He’s c-closer.”
I shook my head. “Mr. Hong doesn’t have what I need, K’nutt. Now, just to recap: Go to Casino Island.”
“To Mr. Hung.”
“T-to Mr. H-Hong.”
“No, to Mr. Hung. He’s an otter.”
“Get two bottles of attar of roses from the otter.”
“Now, go,” and I gave him a little shove in the direction of the door as he started running.
Seconds later he was back. “Y-You s-sure you d-don’t w-want me t-to go to Mr. H-Hong’s, Rosie?”
“No, K’nutt. Mr. Hong is not an otter. He’s a possum.”
“Yes. And he doesn’t sell attar of roses.”
“No, he doesn’t. He sells orange flower perfume.”
I tried to think of some way to phrase it for the maximum of comprehension and a minimum of rank stupidity.
“K’nutt, listen to me carefully.”
“You want the attar from the otter.”
“Yes, you do. You do not want the blossom from the possum.”
“That’s right, you don’t.”
“Now, you want the attar from the otter.”
“I w-want th-the attar f-from the otter.”
“And what don’t you want.”
“Th-the b-b-blossom from th-the p-p-p-possum.”
It was good enough, I judged, and I sent him on his way with these inspiring words, “Now *remember* that!”