The Poem

Junior didn’t kill Cecil, but he tried. He made a necktie out of the water hose and was about to wrap it around Cecil’s neck when Bertie put him in a headlock.

“Let me go Bertie! I’m gonna’ kill him,” he screamed.

I leaned over and looked Junior right in the face for he was up-side-down in Bertie’s hold. “Now look here Junior, you can’t kill Cecil! It’s against the law. They’ll put you in jail and make you get a college degree. You know you don’t like books, and besides you might come out worse than when you went in. That would be disgraceful! Think what your mama would say.”

That made a difference, for Junior is afraid of his mama. His face blanched white which was extraordinary being he was wrong-side-up. He stopped circling Bertie, and let his arms hang limp. Cecil was curled in a ball, wailing for Della.

“Ok Bertie! Let me go. I won’t kill him, I’ll just kick him!”

“No kicking or gouging, or the police will haul you off,” she said. “And I hate to admit it, but Bunny is right. You’ll go to prison, no matter that he destroyed your garden, and you will come out a changed man. You won’t be the same Junior that we know. You’ll talk gibberish about things that don’t really matter, and you’ll want to sue everybody!

“You mean … you mean….I might become a…. lawyer?”

“I’m afraid so. I’ve seen it happen before; or worse, you might turn into a televangelist.”

I gasped and Carson’s eyes grew wide. “Oh Mr. Junior, may I say, Sir, you don’t want to go there. My old granny was taken in by one of those t.v. preachers and she never did get the miracle oil she was promised.”

Junior’s whole body fell into a slump. “Oh what a fix! If I kill Cecil, I’ll go to prison, but if I don’t kill him I’ll never be happy.”

“Junior, your Delphiniums will rise again and be as beautiful as ever,” said Bertie

“Awww! No they won’t. Not ever.”

“They won’t without Cecil,” I said as I inspected my nails. “He has a green thumb with anything that comes up out of the ground. And if Junior still has these urges to kill him, it might distract Cecil from doing his best. Look at him over there, curled up in a wad.”

Bertie flashed me a keen look. “I’m afraid Bunny is right again. We have to do something.”

Carson gave a discreet cough.

“Do you have a suggestion Carson?” asked Bertie

“Well, Madam, we must first identify our problems. One, Mr. Cecil wants Miss Della, but Miss Della wants Mr. Louie. Two, Mr. Junior wants to kill Mr. Cecil, and he won’t be happy till he does. Three, without Mr. Cecil the Delphiniums cannot be restored to their former glory.

Then out of the blue I thought of something else. It’s not often this happens so, in a highly spontaneous mood, I shouted out. “It seems to me that we have to change everybody’s wanner”

“Wanner? What’s a wanner?” sneered Bertie.

Carson gave another discreet cough.

Carson understood. He always understood me. That’s why I keep him around. He’s kind of like a translator.

“I think Madam, Miss Bunny means we must change everyone’s want to.

All eyes turned to me. Looks of amazement. “I hate to admit it,” Bertie said. “But Bunny is right again!”

She walked over to me, placed both hands to the side of my head, and rapped her knuckles on my skill. She peered into my eyes. Bunny! Is that you in there?”

I blushed in embarrassment. It’s not often Bertie thinks much of me. “Yes it’s me. What? You don’t think I can think?”

“Not often, Bunny, do you think at all,” she said.

“So, Carson, how do you suggest we change everyone’s Want To?”

“I suggest we start with Miss Della. Her affections or want to must be transferred from Mr. Louie to Mr. Cecil. And the best way to a young woman’s heart is through the language of love. They like to hear the inner feelings of the young men they are interested in.”

Junior scoffed. “You mean to say that Cecil has to tell Della he loves her.”

“More than that sir; he has to build up to it. Young ladies like to hear about how beautiful they are and varied other positive traits, and they like hear it often, especially in the first stages of the romance. It’s most imperative.”

Junior scoffed again. “You haven’t seen Della have you? She’s not what I’d call a raving beauty. She’s down right homely.”

“It doesn’t matter sir. Young ladies are very easily born away with ideas of what they think they looked like. And that is where Mr. Cecil comes in. He must tell her she is desirable. He must woo her.”

“Woo her! That’s a laugh. Cecil can’t even call the cows to the barn. And he has trouble telling me when we need more fertilizer. ”

“That’s where we come in. We must tell her for him.”

“And just how are we going to do that?”

“With poetry sir.”

“What kind of poetry? You mean ‘Roses are red, violets are blue kind of poetry?”

“No sir. Something a bit more delicate like… for example Elizabeth Barrett Browning in her Sonnets From The Portuguese, number 43.

‘How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light…..’”

“No, no, no, Carson,” I said. That won’t do. I didn’t understand a thing you said. What does it all mean?”

“But that’s not all Madam.”

I moaned. “You mean there’s more?”

“Bunny is right. That’s uh heavy load to lay on Della, and Cecil will never be able to spit it out,” Junior said.

“Carson that poem is beautiful but Junior has a point. If Bunny doesn’t understand it, Della won’t either. We have to rewrite this poem.”

So, Carson and Bertie with Bunny’s help rewrote the poem

Carson looked like he wanted to throw up, but Bertie said it would do the trick. I read it and it made perfect sense to me. I wished Junior would write me a poem like that.

Cecil cleaned out from under his fingernails and took the poem by Della’s house with an arm full of flowers and a big box of chocolates . He patted his hair down, gave his shoes a swipe on the cuff of his pants and knocked on her door. We were in the bushes watching.

Della peered out the window, and she took a long time coming to the door. She finally opened it a crack.

“What do ya’ want Cecil? I told you we were through.”

“Oh Della darlin’, please let’s talk this over. Look I brought you flowers and chocolates, and I’ve cleaned up my fingernails. See!”

Della frowned. She wasn’t moved. She looked like she had sucked on a lemon.

“So what! So you’ve cleaned yourself up and you brought presents. You’ll just go back to looking like a slob. I don’t want to marry no slob. You won’t really change.”

“But Della darlin’, I will change. I have changed. Take a whiff. I even smell good now. And that’s not all I brought ya’! Listen I wrote you a poem.”

“You wrote a poem? You wrote me a poem. I didn’t even know you could read.
What’s it say?”

Cecil cleared his throat and handed Della the flowers and chocolates. “Here goes,” he said.

To Della
“Do you want to know the ways I love you. I’m gonna’ count them for you.
My love for you is as deep as the Blue Hole where we swim.
My love for you is as wide as Carter’s Lake where we fish.
My love for you is as high as Ft. Mountain where we have picnics.
I love you so much that even if I died, I’d still love you.
I love you day or night. Even if you’re yelling at me or not.
I love you a whole bunch. Your love is what keeps me going.
Oh! I forgot. You are the prettiest girl in the whole town. Even prettier than Peggy Plemmons. Please come back to me!”

From Cecil

Well that did it. Della’s whole face changed. “Oh Cecil, that’s beautiful. And you thought all of that by yourself. And you really do think I’m prettier than Peggy Plemmons?”

“Yes, Della I thought of that all by myself. Yes, you really are the prettiest girl in town. From the top of your head down to your big toes.”

Della asked Cecil inside and when she drew the shades, we knew Cecil was home free. Shortly after that they were married and Cecil came back to work for Junior and grew even lovelier Delphiniums. But he always remembered to keep his fingernails clean.

To Be Continued…

The Body on the Front Porch

I was awakened by a tap at the door. Junior rolled over slapping a heavy arm across me.

“Junior! Move over,” I said. “ You’re on my side !” And I kicked him.

Another tap at the door. This time I shoved him.

“Yes? Who is it? What is it?” I said.

The door slowly opened revealing a head. “It is I, Madam – Carson!”

I raised one lid from my sleeping mask peering through a half opened eye. “Goodness Carson! What time is it?”

“Six o’clock Madam.”

“Why, isn’t it awfully early for six o’clock? I mean, what could you possibly want at six o’clock.

“We have a problem Madam.”

“Yes, yes. What? What is it?”

Someone has trampled our Delphiniums and there’s a body on the front porch.”

“Trampled our Delphiniums? Junior’s Delphiniums?”

“Yes Madam I’m sorry to say; Mr. Junior’s Delphiniums.”

I yelled in Junior’s ear. “Wake up Junior! Wake up! Our Delphiniums have been trampled.! Carson! Who could have done such a thing?”

“Someone with a black heart Madam! What shall I do about the body?”

“What? Whose body” We didn’t order a body! Did we?”

“No Madam, we did not, but nevertheless it is there. And I must say it is very unsightly.”

“Where did you say? Where on the front porch?”

“In a wheel barrow Madam, by the door.

“Oh dear, how repulsive! Who should we call Carson? Junior! Wake up!”

“About the Delphiniums or the body, Madam?”

“Oh I don’t know. Call Bertie about the body. She knows about these things. She once had a correspondence with a convict.”

“Yes Madam.”

I prodded Junior into a sitting position. “That’s right! Raise your arm. Let’s put your robe on; one arm and then the other. Here, let me tie the front. There you go.
You’re ready.”

“Ready? Humm? Ready for what? What are you talking about?”

“Junior, someone has trampled our Delphiniums.

Junior stumbled around the room looking one way and then the other. “Trampled My Delphiniums? Get me up! Where are my pants?”

“You are up! Here are your pants.”

He hobbled one leg on and then the other shoving his feet into his slippers. I followed him downstairs struggling with my robe, pulling curlers out of my hair.

We looked with gaping horror at the crushed Delphiniums; a lifeless jumble. A scattered mess lay across the porch and yard.

“Who done it? Who done it? I want to know who done it? Call Cecil. I’ll bet it was Eugenia. She’s always been jealous of my garden. GODLESS INIQUITY! I’ll saw her head off and use it for a football. That sorry, good-for-nothing …….”
I shall not print what else he said. It makes me blush! It started with extracting her liver with sugar tongs. And then something about her pancreas ……well, never mind.

“Carson! Where’s Carson?”

“Here Mr. Junior. And may I be so bold as to say Sir that my spirit is commiserate with yours concerning our Delphiniums. Only a cretin could have pulled such beauties up by the roots.” Carson paused. “Oh by the way Sir, what shall I do about the body?”

“Don’t think I know the Cretins but they sound like a bad bunch. Body? What body?”

“The one on the front porch Sir.”

“What’er we doing with a body? Who done it? Where is it?”

“I’m sure I don’t know who done it Sir and you walked past it. It’s there by the door.”

Junior stumbled backward. Oh good gawd ! Who is it. Where did it come from? Do you think it’s dead?” and he poked it.

“It’s hard to say on either count Sir. It is in a wad.”

This was true for the body was face down in the wheel barrow with its back side staring up at us. The sound of tires crunching gravel announced Bertie’s arrival. She had just come from inspiring her martial arts class on the virtues of the thumb in the eye move.

“You hoo Bertie,” I yelled.

She stepped out of the car and strode toward us in her usual ‘take-charge’ manner with hands on her hips. She would set things right. She had an instinct about dead bodies and trampled Delphiniums.

“What’s going on here? Your front lawn is a mess and who is that in the wheel barrow?”

“We don’t know. We thought maybe you would know. But I do know I want it off my front porch. Could you get someone to take it away?”

“No, I cannot you ninny. It’s a body, not a sack of potatoes.”

Bertie looked the body over and then grabbed the handles of the wheelbarrow. “Carson,” she said. “Get in front and when I tip it out you catch it.”

Bertie gave a great heave and the body unrolled slipping through Carson’s hands. It was a splattered, splayed mess. Mud all over and the smell, well the smell drifted up and hovered above us like a black cloud.

“Smells like it’s been drinking,” Junior said. “And look at its face; with all that mud can’t recognize who it is. Carson get the water hose.”

Carson unrolled the hose, snaking it through the railings onto the porch. “It is ready Sir. Shall I turn the water on?”

Junior stood above the body, his legs apart, hose in hand . The wind caught his bathrobe making it swirl around him. He looked like an avenging angel.

Bertie grabbed the hose. “Junior, you’re not pressure washing a tractor. If it’s not dead, you’ll drown it. Let me do it!”

The grimy lump groaned. “Oh, Awww! Where am I?” Its eyes fluttered opened showing the whites framed by mud.

“Cecil! Is that you?” Junior yelled. “What are you doing on my front porch in a wheel barrow? And did you rip up my Delphiniums?”

Cecil’s eyes flared wide. “Rip up what? Don’t yell. My head’s on fire.”

“Rip up my Delphiniums!!! Did you rip up my Delphiniums? My beautiful, prize winning Delphiniums!!!”

“I don’t know how I got here and I don’t remember nothin’ about Delphiniums.”

“Of course you know something about Delphiniums. You’re the one who takes care of them. You’re the one who got me that first prize at the State Fair.”

“Well I’m through with Delphiniums and all gardening. I’m tired of having dirt under my fingernails.”

“Give me that hose Bertie. I’ll choke him with it.”

“You will not. Calm down. You know this isn’t like Cecil. Something dreadful must have taken place.

“Yes you’re right Miss Bertie. Something dreadful has taken place. Della dumped me. Said she didn’t want nobody with dirt under their fingernails. Said she had a new boyfriend, Louie, what’s going to the Junior College to be a telecommunicator.

I stood wide-eyed chewing on my robe belt. This was better than the Edge of Night. This was raw drama. Would Junior kill Cecil. Would Della find true love. Would Louie get his telecommunicating degree?

To be continued…

Bunny and the Blister

If you’ve ever been on a flight across the Atlantic, you know how boring it is.
Bertie refused to sit with me because of Carson. She believed having a butler was silly business, especially since I won him in a Poker game; she doesn’t approve of gambling.

“Therefore, I have booked a seat in first class,” she said. “Your butler can look after you. I wash my hands of any responsibility.”

But I knew she didn’t mean it, because she promised Junior to protect all who came in contact with me. Bertie always keeps her word so I knew she wasn’t serious. So, here I sat, crammed between Carson and a cubby kid with a sucker rooted to his mouth. I was bored stiff. At least with Bertie I could count on a sermon on something or other. She was always trying to lift me up to a higher plane of thought.

I stared into space, then turned my attention to the little airplane on my television screen as it crept across the ocean. But I could do that for just so long. I know what you’re thinking; why didn’t I read? Well, I’ll tell you why. I don’t like books. They confuse me. They’re not for me. Just look at all the characters in fairy tales; they’re ridiculous. I mean, who could believe that?

I banged the side of the screen. “Carson,” I said. “Look at my plane and tell me how far we’ve gone.”

He looked down the long slope of his nose as if he sat in judgement. “About 500 miles Madam.”

“Oh don’t talk to me in miles” I said. “Talk to me in inches.”

“In that case Madam,” he continued. “We’ve traveled about one-eight of an inch.”

“That’s terrible; that’s not far at all.”

“No Madam, it is not.”

I waved the stewardess over. She walked briskly down the aisle, bent over when she came to me and braced herself between the seats. “Yes? May I help you ma’am?”

It’s my airplane,” I said. “It doesn’t seem to be working. Can you fix it?”

“Fix your airplane ma’am? What airplane? What are you talking about?”

“This airplane,: I said pointing at my screen “Look at it! It’s hardly moving. I want it to go faster.”

She flashed a glance at Carson who stared straight ahead, and then at me with a quizzical look. She started to say something, but then paused, cleared her throat and gave me a plastic smile showing even, white teeth.

“Ma’am, I’m sorry, but I can’t make your airplane go faster. It’s run by computer and it has to run with all the other airplanes.”

“Oh! Is that so? Well, I don’t see why the captain can’t speed them all up. That seems the sensible thing to do.”

Carson shifted slightly and coughed into his hand. He and the stewardess locked eyes as he took a deep breath letting it out slowly. Her plastic smile melted and something like new-found wisdom shone from her eyes.

“Yes ma’am the Captain would do that, but the computers are locked up and he has misplaced the key. We can’t change the planes until we land. But it will be all right. Don’t you worry. We’ll reach our destination on time. Just sit back and relax.” I got the feeling she wanted to pat me on the head but she didn’t. Instead she patted my hand and glided away.

The kid next to me slurped and pushed his hair out of his eyes. He leaned over eyeing my screen. I put my elbow up pushing him back to his side catching his sucker on my sleeve.

“Good grief,” I moaned. “Look what you’ve done. Now I’m all sticky.”

“Oh, don’t worry lady I’ll get it.”

He poked his tongue out resting it sideways between his teeth as he preyed the sucker off my blouse and then plopped it back into his mouth.

“There you are. No harm done, I’m sure!”

“How would you know” You’ve ruined my ‘crossing the Atlantic’ blouse. Where’s your mother?’

He pulled the sucker out and ran his tongue around his mouth leaving a purple smear.

“She’s with Father in the south of France,” he slurped. “They’re on holiday and they’ve sent me to visit my cousins in America. We’re very rick, you know. Are you rich?”

“That’s a rude question little boy. Hasn’t your mommy told you that?”

“Oh no, Mother doesn’t tell me anything. I have a governess, but she’s not with me. She’s in hospital. Father says she’s in need of a rest.” And he pushed the sucker back into his mouth. I cast a glance at Carson, but his face was a blank canvas.

“Um Carson, what do you think of that?’ I said in an irritated voice, I expected some help from him, but he wasn’t giving any. I thought he was being purposely silent,”

“I would say Madam, the young man’s parents are very fortunate they are well heeled. Not everyone can afford to send their problems to another country.”

My eyes widened. Maybe I got better than I thought from that Poker game. Carson might be a keeper. He seemed to have some sense. I wondered if I could send Junior out of the country.

I turned to the child.”You being rich and all, aren’t your mother and father afraid you’ll be kidnapped and held for ransom? You know there are many criminal types roaming around ready to snap up little boys like you.” I hoped this would scare him and shut him up.

But the kid was not phased. “Oh no, Father says there would be no such luck, and they would soon bring me back. You see, Father thinks I’m an untidy blotch on the family escutcheon.”

I gave Carson a confused look. He leaned over and whispered. “His family crest, Madam.”

“Who’s he the kid asked?” pointing at Carson with his sucker.

“He’s my butler, and he’s very smart.”

“I bet you anything he’s not as smart as my father. He knows everything.”

“There’s no way your daddy knows everything, you little blister,” I huffed.

“Hey, do you know my father? That’s what he calls me. His little blister.”

“Listen little blister, you are the nosiest kid I ever saw and a pain in the neck. So butt out.”

“Oh jolly good! You do know Father. That’s exactly what he says, except he says his pain is lower down. Har! Har! Har!”

Exasperated, I turned to Carson. “Wanna switch seats with me?”

“No thank you Madam, I would not. If you will remember the terms of my contract; I do not have to submit to inhumane treatment.”

I was stuck. I thought about bribery, but I didn’t know who to bribe; Carson or the Blister. And before I could come to a decision the kid starting pelting me with questions.

“Did you know my great-aunt Eunice is on crutches. Cook says it’s because she’s old. Are you old? You look old. You ever been on crutches? I haven’t. How rich are you? Bet I’ve got more money than you. Is Carson married. I’ll bet he isn’t. He doesn’t look the sort. I hate school. That’s why I have a governess, but she’s sick a lot. Do you get sick a lot? I don’t. You look sick. Wanna feel my muscle. It’s big. Father says my constitution is made of granite. Know what I wanna be? A Comanche! Want to know why? It’s because they have the best war cry! Wanna hear?”

Before I could say no, there ripped through the plane a sound that felt like ice picks being driven through my eardrums.

The kid was up and in the middle of the aisle, waving his arms wildly over his head. “Whoooo!!!!!AyyyyyyEeeeeeeee!!!!!!Haaaaaaaa!!!Yayayayaya!!!!!Uhuhuhuh!!!!!

Instantly the whole cabin filled with yells, screams, and wails. People were out of their seats looking around wildly, spilling into the aisles. A sky marshal at the back of the plane pulled his gun. He ran up and down the rows of passengers!

“What’s the problem? Where is it? Hit the deck! Hands up! You’re under arrest!”

I felt like a mud puddle with a huge boulder dropped in the middle. I clapped my hand over the child’s sticky mouth. “Oh please, do shut up, you little urchin!”

“Carson! I pleaded. “Help!”

Carson rose like a smoldering volcano. He was displeased. He grabbed the Blister by his starched collar, and rather roughly placed him back in his seat. He leaned forward with the expression of a head master and stared at the kid. For a moment the brat seemed frozen as if remembering something from a past life while the sky marshal roamed the aisles for someone to handcuff.

“Sir!” Carson said to the kid. “Can you write?”

The Blister fidgeted and the pushed out his chin. “Of course I can write. Why ya’ want to know?”

“I ask, Sir, because I want to know if you can string words together to form a sentence. Because if you can, I suggest you write down all your questions and abstain from further acts of terrorism.”

The sucker came out. “Why?”

“I’m curious and I have a headache.”

“Why?”

“Because you are the source of my headache and it has been my experience that young gentlemen who ask an inordinate amount of questions are either highly intelligent or woefully stupid. And the way to tell the difference is to analyze their questions according to their syntax.”

“Syntax? What’s that?”

“It means the way one strings words together. In other words the way you form sentences.”

“I been formin’ sentences. Can’t ya’ tell?”

“Yes I can tell, but the only way to judge your intelligence is to see your questions on paper. That way they can be analyzed. Do you understand?”

“Of course I understand, You’re not talkin’ to a dummy.”

A glimmer of hope shone down on me. The promise of silence from the Blister. But then it occurred to me to show Carson the workings of my brain. My teachers always told me I was an unusual student.

“Carson, a word in your ear,” I said. “I want in on this. I’ll write a few questions myself. I know I’m smarter than uh’ eight-year-old.

“Very well Madam. It will be a privilege to assess your intelligence. Though I must warn you that the truth is a hard thing to face.”

“Tut! Tut!” I said. “I have no doubts when it comes to the size of my brain. I’ve had it measured.”

I began writing furiously. I wanted to wipe that smug look off the Blister’s face. We handed our questions to Carson and he gave them back. “You haven’t written enough. I need at least five pages from each of you. And may I remind you that complete silence is required for I must prepare myself to judge your work. I must go into deep meditation.”

Carson leaned back, folded his arms across his chest, and closed his eyes.
Me and the kid wrote for a full hour not uttering a word. When we finally finished, I felt a tingle of excitement. I had to shake Carson rather roughly to rouse him from his meditations.

“I say Carson, you looked like you were asleep.”

“Quite so Madam, the deeper the meditation the more it resembles sleep. But I can assure you I was preparing myself for the perusal of your work.”

“Oh! Ok! Here’s mine.” And I started to hand over my questions.

Suddenly the sky marshal appeared at the entrance of first class. He held the curtains back with his arms spread wide. Reminded me of a minister we once had who preached hell fire and brimstone. He walked in my direction followed by a thunder cloud. He towered over me, I shrank from his gaze.

He leaned in and said, “There’s a lady up front says I should talk to the woman sitting between a tall butler-type gentleman, and a blond, chubby kid. “Says you probably know something about what started all the fuss,”

All the while I was thinking that Bertie had squealed. How could she?

“Me?” I said. “What should I know about the fuss?”

“She said you probably was in the thick of it. You know anything about it?”

“It was him,” I said pointing at the Blister. “He started it.”

Blister stared up at the officer with clear, blue eyes and half-open mouth. The marshal peered at me with narrow eyes.

“Now ain’t you ashamed?” he said. “Blaming all that hullaballoo on this little kid?”

“But sheriff,” I protested. “I’m innocent.”

“That’s what they all say ma’am. But if it happens again it’s jail for you.” And with that he gave Blister a benevolent smile and ruffled his hair.”

“Well of all the nerve! I never! Carson did you see what just happened? It’s disgraceful. Do something!”

“In situations like this, Madame, I suggest you let it alone. It’s my experience small boys always wiggle out of things like this. Just distract yourself with the airplane and hand over your questions. I”m anxious to evaluate your writing.”

After about 30 minutes, Carson handed down his verdict.

“Madam,” he said. “Concerning your compositions, you have a propensity for hyperbole, and run-on sentences. You shoot out commas as if using a machine gun while delivering a kind of philosophical jargon that confounds the senses. One moment you try climbing a mountain, then slide into a valley of giggles. Your intelligence is on par with a functioning analphabetic. You are a scatterbrain.”

I wasn’t surprised. I knew I would impress him. “That’s just what Bertie says! Well the world needs all kinds and I am glad to be a scatterbrain if the alternative is life-sucking boredom and endless monotony. I’ve know all my life that I’m different, and I’m glad of it. I’m an unusual specimen.”

“Yes, Madam you are. I can say I’ve never met anyone like you.”

That made me blush but I was more interested in the Blister who had fallen asleep. “What about the kid here” What’s his brain like?

“I would say Madam that he has the capacity to be either a master criminal or a captain of industry. Both have similar characteristics.”

When we gathered our belongings to leave, the Blister decided he was going to stick with us. I knew that wouldn’t work. We found his American cousins and paid them to hold him down till we made our escape. They said they could only promise fifteen minutes.

Bertie and Bunny say Goodby

Evelyn's Blue Plate Special

When I broke the news to Bertie the next morning about winning a butler in a poker game, she was having breakfast in the hotel dining room. She was attended by Mr. McGregor, of course, who was more solicitous than usual because of the unfortunate incident concerning Wolfgang whose arm was found floating downstream with his Rolex watch still attached. It was presumed that the rest of him was eaten by a crocodile that was seen thrashing around him when he fell out of the canoe. Bertie was dressed in black or her “widow’s weeds” as my grandmother called them, and I could tell she was sorely distressed because she was only having ham and eggs with a side of hashbrowns, and not her usual platter of blueberry pancakes. Any time she gets upset, her appetite is the first thing to go. She was making funeral arrangements, and finding it…

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Bertie and Bunny say Goodby

When I broke the news to Bertie the next morning about winning a butler in a poker game, she was having breakfast in the hotel dining room. She was attended by Mr. McGregor, of course, who was more solicitous than usual because of the unfortunate incident concerning Wolfgang whose arm was found floating downstream with his Rolex watch still attached. It was presumed that the rest of him was eaten by a crocodile that was seen thrashing around him when he fell out of the canoe. Bertie was dressed in black or her “widow’s weeds” as my grandmother called them, and I could tell she was sorely distressed because she was only having ham and eggs with a side of hashbrowns, and not her usual platter of blueberry pancakes. Any time she gets upset, her appetite is the first thing to go. She was making funeral arrangements, and finding it difficult to decide whether or not to have an open casket since all that was left of Wolfgang was his arm. Mr. McGregor suggested that if Bertie did decide on an open casket, that it might be more decorous and less jarring if the stump where the crocodile had a bit of a chew be tucked discretely under a satin cover with his hand lying on a pillow where his head would have been holding his favorite Panama hat. Bertie liked that idea, and gave instructions that the arm should be put on ice and flow home with the utmost speed.

While Bertie was polishing off the rest of her breakfast, I gave her the particulars of the previous night’s poker game, which gave her pause; by that I mean that her fork was momentarily suspended while she took in the full depth of my explanation concerning Broughton.

“Now Bertie,” I said. “I know that you are going to object, but I don’t care. I’ve always wanted a butler, and I won him fair and square, and I am going to keep him.”

She put her fork down and looked at Mr. McGregor, who gave a weak smile, and shrugged his shoulders.

“Now calm yourself, Bertie darling,” he said. For he could see that disagreeable purple color creeping up her neck toward her face.

“She said she won him fair and square, and as long as he’s agreeable, I don’t see that you can have any objection.”

Bertie’s mouth hung open as she looked from me, to Mr. McGregor, to Broughton, and back to me.

“You blockhead,” she said through gritted teeth. “You can’t win a person. It’s not legal. And what about Junior? Junior won’t like this.”

“Oh, I’ve already called Junior, and he said, as long as he doesn’t have to sleep with him to bring him on. He said he had never seen a butler, and that he thought he would like to.”

“What does he think you’re bringing home, a bagged buffalo. You two talk like he’s an animal of some kind you can parade in front of people. And by the way, where are you going to put him? You can’t build a pen out back and put him in it.”

Broughton turned an inquiring gaze toward me and said, “Yes, madam, where are you going to put me?”

“Don’t worry Broughton. You are going to have my mother-in-law’s old room. You know she left quite suddenly after being with us for only a week. She decided the climate didn’t agree with her, and she headed south. The room even has a private entrance so you can come and go as you like. How’s that?”

“Quite satisfactory madam.”

“This is ridiculous Bunny. You live on a farm. Farms don’t have butlers,” objected Bertie.

“Well, mine is going to have one, so there!”

“I can see it will do no good trying to talk you out of this, so I give up. This is another one of you hair brained ideas that bodes ill. If you take my advice Broughton, you will run as fast as you can in the other direction.”

And with that Bertie gave a heavy sigh and returned to her hashbrowns.  Mr. McGregor patted her hand and offered her a bowl of strawberries.

Brought said nothing else, and stood stock still with an inscrutable look on his butler face. Butlers are like that you know. They always stand around looking inscrutable.

I have to admit though that I had thought he might put up a bit of a fuss about his change in employment, but to my surprise, he took a very philosophical approach, and said in typical English fashion, that there was nothing to be done about it. He said that Lord Shilling’s reputation was at stake, and that it was his duty to protect the family honor by moving to America. I had to say that I rather admired his devotion, to say nothing of his outlook.  Of course, Bertie said he was an idiot to agree to such a thing, but I told her that the English think differently, and she said that was exactly the reason King George lost the colonies.

At the airport the next morning, we said good-bye to everyone, except Alice, because she was lost, but Pieter said that she would turn up. Chuck’s wife was still giving Mr. McGregor longing looks which he ignored, and Chuck had to practically drag her onto their plane.

Mr. McGregor proposed to Bertie, but she turned him down, saying, “What kind of woman do you think I am. It is impossible to even consider the idea of marriage at this time?”

She said that she must see that Wolfgang’s arm had a proper burial; that it was the decent thing to do, and so forth and so on.

Well, I knew that wouldn’t stop Mr. McGregor. He was not the kind of man to take no for an answer.

With a twirl of his moustache and a rakish wink he said, “Ah, I understand your meaning, Bertie darling. The proprietaries must be observed. The proprietaries must be observed.”

Bertie stiffened her back, gave a sniff, turned, and walked away with her head up, and chin out.

It was wonderful watching her being noble.

We bid our traveling companions adieu, and boarded our plane headed for home. Broughton carried my bag, and attempted to carry Bertie’s, but she snatched it from him and said, “Absolutely not!”

You might think that bothered Broughton, but it didn’t. With an inscrutable butler look he simply said, “As you say madam.”

And with that, we were off. Next stop home.

Bertie and Bunny Take a Trip – XI

After Bertie’s brief stay in the hospital, we loaded on the bus again for the last leg of our trip. We crossed back over the Irish Sea into Scotland and then made our way down to London for an overnight stay. Bertie was still mildly sedated, and closely monitored by Mr. McGregor who read her romantic poetry, and patted her hand.  While she was in this state she got a piece of unsettling news from home.  It seems that Wolfgang, her dear husband, had been partially eaten by a crocodile while canoeing down the Amazon River. I say partially eaten, because  it was reported by one of the natives that one of his arms was seen going over a waterfall, further down stream,  along with his favorite Panama hat. They knew it was his arm because of the Rolex watch still attached to his wrist with the inscription reading, “To My Dear Wolfgang. Yours Always BP.” BP standing for Bertie Putzel. Wolfgang was a Putzel of the Brunswick Putzels. This was very disturbing of course for all concerned, but when Bertie regained all her mental faculties, she took it quite well. Mr. McGregor seemed to take it very well too, for he began more earnestly frisking around her skirts, like a dog begging for a bone.

While Bertie was in mourning with Mr. McGregor in attendance, I decided to go out on the town since it was our last night in London.  Of course, I had to drag Alice with me because Pieter said it would not do for me to go alone since I had a propensity for unfortunate entanglements. So we set off, dressed in our finest ready for an adventure. We wandered in and out of restaurants and pubs, and finally settled in a charming little place near Picadilly which featured an exclusive “back room” for discerning clientele. Alice wasn’t much interested in the back room so she sat at the bar reciting poetry and writing new verses on the back of a menu.

While Alice was busy with her literary efforts, I made my way to the “back room” which was tucked behind a sliding panel overlaid by a tasteful tapestry depicting an English hunting scene. I knew about “back rooms” because when I was a kid, my grandmother, whom you have heard me talk of, would take me with her on her visits to Mable White’s Bar and Grill on Fifth Avenue behind Logan’s Funeral Home after her weekly visit to the beauty parlor. Mable had a back room, and only her best customers got a look at it. That was where I learned to play all the games of chance, and Junior said that I was a natural because of my face. He said my face

never showed the slightest trace of intelligence making my opponent think I didn’t know what I was doing.  I took offense at that, but I do remember my third grade teacher telling my mother the same thing.  She said my face was inscrutable, and that it made it impossible for her to tell when I was lying. Of course, my mother took offense at that, and said so. Well, anyway, my point is that I was very good at the little games played at Mable’s place, and I wanted to see what an English “back room” looked like.

The whole place was a mass of activity. There was a colorful roulette wheel that sparkled and whirred as it went round and round as a cheerful knot of patrons threw dice and generally raised the roof. Slot machines lined the walls and in front of each sat an intense customer bent on getting three in a row while a buxom brunette dressed in a black jacket with a white bow tie dealt cards at a black jack table with the efficiency of an assembly line worker. It was wonderful to watch her hands fly back and forth without any hesitation, giving no quarter to hesitating players. She reminded me a little of Mable.

However, my interest lay elsewhere. Over in a corner under a thick ring of cigar smoke with a dim light glowing in its center, sat four men of obvious means playing poker. Their rotund bellies and rosy complexions spoke of the good life amply marinated in alcohol served with sides of rich food. An atmosphere of conviviality reigned which encouraged an even handed exchange producing both jocularity and serious purpose when a new card was played. They were intent on their game, and paid no attention to me. I moved nonchalantly in their direction until I stood next to a gentlemen, whom I had not noticed before partly because he was obscured by the thick smoke surrounding the table, and partly because he was so tall, that all I could see of him were his legs, and chest. The rest of him was hidden in the cloud of smoke hovering over the players. He was positioned behind one of the players, to whom he seemed especially attentive. I knew he had a head because, occasionally out of the haze I would hear a voice ask, “Can I be of service my lord?”

And this player to whom the headless man was so attentive, in turn would hand him his glass up through the cloud of smoke, and say, “Yes, Broughton, you may. Take this and get me another drink.” And off the giant torso would go and quietly return with a freshened drink. This went on for quite some time, and eventually one of the gentlemen at the table, said that he had had enough, bid his fellows good-night, and left the group. At this I asked if I could join in, and I must tell you that the looks of astonishment made me a little offended. But I ignored them, and pressed on until they admitted me to the game.

Even though I couldn’t see his head, I took an instant liking to Broughton, whom it seems was a gentleman’s gentleman to the man he kept addressing as, “My lord.” This gentleman’s gentleman was a valet and he was such a nice man; so eager to please, and the rapidity of his service was astonishing. It seemed that even before Lord Shilling could open his mouth, Broughton was by his side offering up the request. I thought the man was a mind reader, and I said so.

As I shuffled the cards, I spoke up into the smoky haze and said, “Broughton, I think you are a mind reader.”

A deep voice responded, “Yes, Madam, I do try to anticipate my employer’s wishes.”

“Oh come now Broughton,” said Lord Shilling between puffs on his cigar, as he dealt the cards.

“Don’t be modest. You know you have a gift for knowing exactly what I want before I want it.”

“As you say sir. I do endeavor to give satisfaction,” came the deep voice again.

Lord Shilling looked at his hand, and was about to lay down one of his cards when Broughton did a bit of significant throat clearing, and brought his head down from the cloud of cigar smoke causing little wisps of it to trail along his nose, and whisper in Lord Shilling’s ear.

“Eh? What’s that you say Broughton? Ah, I see what you mean,” he said.

Lord Shilling tapped his cigar on his ash tray, stuck it in the corner of his mouth and clamped down with his teeth making it shoot up at a 90 degree angle almost poking his eye out.

Squinting his right eye, he reexamined his hand, laid down an alternate, and asked for another.

Whatever he got, evidently Broughton approved, for he nodded his head, and murmured, “Quite right sir.” And up went his head again, back into the smoky cloud.

Well, that didn’t bother me one bit, for as I said, I too have a gift, and it is that my face never  betrays any trace of intelligence, and Junior says that that makes the other players careless. So  before long, everyone took it for granted that I was an easy mark. I even saw Broughton give me a look of pity.

But I hadn’t played poker in Mable’s back room for nothing all those years, and when the time was ripe, and the table was stacked high with chips, I made my play and won the pot.

There was a lot of spluttering and guffawing, but there it was. I was the winner, and there was nothing anybody could do about it.

Mable said never give a sucker an even break, so I said, “Oh my goodness, does that mean I get to take all this money home with me. How in the world did that happen? There must be some mistake!”

“No, Madam, there has been no mistake,” said Broughton with a curious look in his eye, for he had come down from Mt. Olympus to examine my hand.

“I say,” said Lord Shilling. “Har! Har! What a fluke! I dare say you will give us a chance to win our money back won’t you Miss??? By the way, what is your name anyway?”

“Oh! My name is Bunny. Bunny Barnside. (I wanted to say, “Bond. James Bond.”) And of course I will,” I said as I smiled sweetly.

You know, the money didn’t mean much to me, because I don’t remember if I told you or not, but Junior has plenty of it, and he always seems to make more, so I really don’t worry about it, and he says that is another reason I’m good at cards. I have no fear. Bertie says I have no sense, but that’s neither here nor there. The point is that I really didn’t want the money. I wanted something else. I wanted Broughton. He was such a nice man, and I thought Junior would like him. I had visions of Junior and myself sitting in front of the fireplace on a winter’s evening with Broughton standing close by ready to fulfill every whim, and even anticipating every whim before I know I had a whim. I liked the ideas of someone knowing what I wanted before I knew what I wanted. It would be a nice contrast to Bertie who could be such a stickler about telling the truth. Don’t get me wrong, I think truth is a wonderful thing, but I sometimes get tired of it.

To make a long story short, after I cleaned Lord Shilling out, and he was in an embarrassing predicament, and nothing left to play, I suggested he put Broughton in the pot.

It was a very intense game, and there was a lot of throat clearing by Broughton, but when the last hand was played, I walked away with a butler.

Of course, Bertie was totally opposed to the idea of bringing Broughton home with us, but what could she do?  The answer was: nothing, absolutely nothing, and that was what I liked about it.

Bunny and Bertie Take a Trip – X

We reached Blarney Castle early the next morning and the sight of its craggy silhouette half hidden in a misty fog told me at once that this was a fitting site for revenge. Part of the castle lay in ruin, but the section leading to the Blarney Stone was solid with moss growing indiscriminately in sun bathed patches. The grounds were dotted with beautiful gardens where flowers danced and waved in the breezes that swept in from the sea. Occasionally we would be surprised by stone outcroppings that formed cool caves hiding streams that wound in and out beside fern lined paths. The place was lovely, and its influence began to soften my thirst for revenge, but just as I was about to let bygones be bygones we turned into a solitary and gloomy lane that was guarded by an ancient oak whose gnarled branches overhung a large placard that read: Poison Garden.

Yes, that is what I said. You don’t need to check your glasses. Evidently the former inhabitants of this timeworn keep used these plants for medicinal purposes, but I didn’t believe that for a moment. They say in those days divorce was rare; well here was the very reason why. If one was unhappy with a spouse all one had to do was to stroll out to the garden, snip off a few leaves of this or that particular plant, slip it into a bread pudding or some such dish,  and tout de suite  one’s problem was solved. I imagine it saved a lot of time on marriage counseling, and a great deal of money for alimony.

The place instantly changed my mood and made me remember Bertie’s yearning to do me in by that method and leave me for dead by the side of the road. I could feel my blood begin to boil, and that reminded me of my trip through the cow patties along with the horrible vision of Mr. McGregor’s hairy, white legs wrapped around that bovine beast which chased me around a tree.  I determined to keep a close eye on Bertie because human nature being what it is, I thought she might back slide and reconsider killing me. I feared her association with Mr. McGregor, who I had decided was a reprobate, might make her forget to check her conscience.

Our guide warned us not to touch or even smell the vegetation. Some of the plants were so lethal that the gardeners had iron cages built around them to keep people away. This seemed a little extreme, and I said so. Bertie gave me one of her withering glances, and told me to keep my hands at my side, and not to be an idiot.  Well, who was she to boss me around. When she turned her back, I leaned down to get a closer look at something called Wolfsbane when a pesky fly began buzzing around my head. I slapped him away, and he landed with all four of his little spindley legs spread eagle on the plant. I saw him pick himself up, do a bit of grooming, and then stick out his tongue and take a nibble. That seemed to go down well enough, and then he reached down for a second helping. However, that bite seemed to disagree with him, for the next moment he rolled over, stuck all four legs straights up like pokers, and dropped dead. I screamed and ran over to Bertie and tried my best to crawl on her back.

“What on earth is wrong with you?” she sneered.

“Did you see that?” I whimpered. “That sweet little fly with the sticky legs ate some of that plant and just dropped dead!”

“Of course it did you moron. I told you to keep your hands to yourself. Didn’t you notice that there are no insects in this garden?”

I stuck to Bertie like I was glued to her, and when she took a step, I took a step till we got out of that horrible place. Pieter said we looked like one of those vaudeville acts where dancers with canes and straw hats walk in tandem. Chuck elbowed his wife, and laughed uproariously, but I threw him an icy stare that said I was in no mood for levity. He ignored me of course, and talked Alice into imitating me and Bertie, while his wife looked on with an expression that spoke volumns.  It took a few twists and turns, but eventually we left the deadly plants behind, and we were out in the open again, breathing God’s fresh air. The experience almost made me forget my wonderful plan of revenge, but as soon as we left the garden I cheered up immediately.

When we made the last turn Blarney Castle rose up in front of us in all its medieval glory. Pieter was leading our party, and telling everyone that this was his first trip, and saying how excited he was.  That made my heat leap for joy because I knew he didn’t know about the stone staircase that narrowed so tightly near the top. I suggested that he let Bertie and me lead the way since I had some knowledge of the place, and he quickly acquiesced.

As I have said before, Bertie is a sucker for beautiful vistas, and as I led the way I began to regale her with expectations of pastoral scenes which could only be viewed from the top of the castle. Bertie doesn’t like tight places because she is built like a boulder, and it is hard for her to maneuver, but with the reward of a breathtaking view of the English countryside, she pressed forward.  I felt a little like the villain in the Cask of Amontillado who led his victim to the basement, chained him to the wall, and then bricked him up alive behind new masonry.

With me in the lead, and Mr. McGregor behind Bertie, we walked under the Murder Hole near the entrance, which Pieter said was, at one time, used as a defense mechanism. It seems that the proprietors of the castle could discourage unwanted visits from their neighbors by throwing scalding water, boiling oil, or whatever they had handy down on them, thus preventing entry. I took a dim view of the practice because it was definitely a very inhospitable way to treat the neighbors, but that seemed to be the norm back then.

With the Murder Hole behind us, we began our assent to the top of Blarney Castle to kiss the Blarney Stone, and enjoy the magnificent view. I rubbed my hands together in anticipation and chuckled to myself. My revenge was near. As we went up, the passage began to narrow, and at one point Bertie voiced concern about the probability that she might not be able to squeeze through the opening. But I assured her that the staircase would soon open up, and that there was nothing to worry about. Mr. McGregor yelled up at me the he hoped I knew what I was doing. Ha! Ha! I knew exactly what I was doing. When we were almost at the top where the winding stair is most narrow, Bertie faltered for a moment, and said she thought she had better go back down. But I cupped my hands and I yelled down.

“Oh Bertie, you can’t go back now. The view up here is absolutely magnificent. Just think of the wonderful pictures we can take. There was a moment of silence, and I thought I heard Mr. McGregor saying she should go back. But Bertie is not one to be bossed, and I knew I had her. She took one more step up, and she was stuck. She couldn’t go back and she couldn’t go forward. She was S-t-u-c-k! What a wonderful thing revenge is. I loved it. Bertie was stuck and I was out of reach.

I giggled, and yelled again. “I say, Bertie, aren’t you coming. The view is unbelievable.”

I covered my mouth to suppress another giggle. I couldn’t help it. This was delicious.

“Bertie, dear, aren’t you coming?” I implored. This time I laughed out loud, and said,

“What’s the matter Bertie? Are you stuck?”

I heard Mr. McGregor say, “Bertie, lass, tell me what to do! I fear you are in a most indelicate situation.”

“Confound you, Mr. McGregor, I know I am in an indelicate situation.  I am stuck! Bunny come down here and take my hand and pull me up, and Mr. McGregor, I give you permission to place your hands in the most propitious place you deem necessary, and then I want you to push.”

I stifled another giggle, and heard Pieter down below yell, “I say, Mr. McGregor, what seems to be the problem?”

“Miss Bertie is stuck,” yelled Mr. McGregor.

“Stuck? What do you mean, she is stuck? How can she be stuck? That’s impossible! People don’t get stuck going up a staircase!”

“Well, she is stuck!” bellowed Mr. McGregor

And that is the way Bertie stayed for about two hours until a stone mason arrived on the scene with a chisel and a bucket of axel grease. While he was chipping away at the stone, and inflicting little nicks to her derriere, the truth dawned on Bertie, and when it did, she poured forth a blizzard of imprecations on me and swore that if she ever got loose, she would pluck my eyeballs from their sockets and feed them to the pigs.

Well, I knew that would never happen because she would have to catch me first, and besides we were related by blood, and the family code would not allow it.

Finally about noon, enough of the stair case had been hacked away so that with a bit of pushing by Mr. McGregor from behind (I later learned that he had to lean in with his shoulder to his work) and a great deal of pulling from above by a stout fellow tourist, along with ample amounts of axel grease, Bertie was set free.

I stood at the top of the stairs and watched her slow ascent. Her hair was a mess, and another one of her lovely jumpsuits was a bit ragged. Her face had that horrible purple color I hate, and her mouth didn’t curse upward into a smile, but I did see all her teeth. When she finally stepped out onto the platform, she took a deep breath, and steadied herself. Then without warning she lunged at me aiming for my throat.

If it hadn’t been for the stout tourist who stood between us, she would have gotten me. As it was, I started running, and she was fast on my tail. For about thirty minutes Bertie chased me around the top of Blarney Castle while I screamed bloody murder. She finally worn herself out, and since she couldn’t go back down the stairs, a helicopter had to be called to air lift her to the ground. It was quite a sight. There was Bertie in the basket swinging from the helicopter with raised fist screaming that she would get me sooner or later. As she flew into the distance I could still hear her unladylike words ringing in my ears.

Bertie spent the night in the ER and they gave her something to calm her and make her sleep. I told Mr. McGregor that she would probably need counseling to rid herself of the mistaken notion of her misfortune being my fault. I told him Bertie’s family had a history of overreacting, but that she could count on me to stand by her.

Poor thing. He look so worried, and I am sorry to report that his usually vibrant mustache looked a little droopy. But I told him to perk up; that tomorrow was another day.