Lady Wimpleseed-Prissypott 18: Whoop-de-doo

Previously there was trouble on board the S. S. Twit.

Poor Quills. Had he bit off more than he could chew, leaving his father on Gibraltar and heading off to God-knows-where? Cause Quills sure didn’t know.

“Quills” Loopsey found himself face down on a deserted Spanish beach, his mouth buried in the sand. It was a Spanish sand with a kind of paella taste: Valencian paella with white rice, green vegetables, meat, beans and seasoning. Since Quills was hungry after three days of Mediterranean Sea, it tasted pretty good. For sand, that is.

He rolled over and sat upright. Gazing at the sunrise in the distance, he contemplated his next move. And it was not England. Anyplace but England and its English society for the middle child of Sir Hackle Loopsey, the Governor-Commissioner of Gibraltar. His father was important in society. All you had to do was mention Sir Hackle and his lessers would swoon. He wanted his children to be important too. To rise high in English society, that had always been a Loopsey’s raison d’être.  It had been decreed since the beginning of King John’s reign, and it was still decreed.

“When you believe in your own import,” his father often said, “anything is possible. You too can rise high, even to a governor-commissionership of Gibraltar.” When his father said that, all Quills could think of was what a dead piece of rock Gibraltar was, guarding the entrance to the Meds.

Unlike his older brother, the fop’s fop Cheslewick, Quills did not want import. He wanted was his freedom. Now, that he had it, his stomach growled with hunger. Quills stood up and began the trek north off the beach. His bare feet hurt on the cobblestone road. But he was determined.

A mile or so up the road, a man on a white stallion mare rode out of the brush behind the Englishman. He halted his horse and pulled a pistol.

“Halt, Señor,” the man pointed his pistol straight at Quills.

Quills whipped around to see a man, dressed in black, holding a gun aimed straight at his heart.

“What is it you want?” Quills asked matter-of-factly.

“You are not afraid of me?” the man asked. “I am a highwayman. You have to be afraid of me.”

“Do not.” Quills placed his hands on his hips.

“This is a pistol. It is loaded.”

“So you’re a big bad bandido. Whoop-de-doo. Big whoop.”

“I am not a bandito,” the man, sitting astride his horse, said. “I am a highwayman.”

“There’s a difference?” Quills said.

“Si, Señor,” the highwayman said.

“And what is that?” Quills said, then sat down in the dirt. He’d decided that if he were about to be robbed, he might as well be robbed sitting down. Not that he had anything to rob but it was the principle of the thing.

“A highwayman has honor. He does not harm women and children and he gives generously. My generosity is known all over Spain.”

“It’s easy to be generous with other people’s money.”

“That is true,” the highwayman smiled.

“If you are a highwayman, how come there is no highway along here. There’s barely a dirt road.”

“I come here because this is where I find all the Englishmen.”

“Englishmen come to this desolate-looking place?”

“I know it is strange but you Englishmen seem to like the place. And where there is an Englishmen there is other people’s money.”

“Not with this Englishman,” Quills said.

“What do you mean, Señor?”

“I mean that you can ransom me all you want. But my father will never pay. Now, if you had kidnapped his firstborn, that would be a different story.”

“Ah, Señor, I think you are very wrong. Your father will pay well for you.”

“My father loves money and position more than he loves his children. Especially the second son. Haven’t you heard of the Curse of the Second Son?”

The highwayman was finding this Englishman interesting. He jumped down from his horse and walked over and sat down beside Quills. He looked down the dusty road and out to the sea. He loved the sea, especially where the land met the water.

“What is the Curse of the Second Son?” the highwayman asked.

“The first son inherits everything. The second son inherits the shaft. The only way out of this position is to marry well. But, since I am titleless, I am not likely to marry a rich American woman. My father has talked about a parish out in the country. But I’m not cut out for church life. I can’t be quiet as church mouse, keeping my mouth shut when I see the wrong in things.”

“This Curse of the Second Son,” the highwayman said, “I know this curse. I am a product of this curse. I am a second son.”

“Then you understand that I am not worth a hoot.”

“I’m afraid ‘tis true,” the highwayman said, pointing his pistol at Quills. “Unfortunately so. I like you.”

“I like you too,” Quills said. “For a bandit … I mean, for a highwayman you seem like a right sort of fellow.”

“Even though I like you, I still have to shoot you. I am sorry. I hate shooting people I like but it’s the nature of the business I am in.”

Quills looked stunned. “Now hold off, old chap. Just because you can’t ransom me off doesn’t me you have to shoot me.”

“Those are my choices, Señor. What other choice do I have?”

“You and I are sitting here. Like we are friends, and you about to put a bullet into me.”

“I am afraid so. I will aim for the heart. You will not suffer.”

“That’s not the point. You can’t shoot me.”

“Why can’t I? I’ve shot others. Not many. But I have shot others.”

“Why would you want to shoot me? I haven’t done anything.”

The highwayman’s white stallion walked over and nudged its nose against Quills’ forehead.

“Even your horse likes me.” Quills stroked the horse’s nose. The horse whinnied, then strolled over to stand under a tree and graze.

“If I let you go, you will tell the policia. They will come here and look for me. And I have to tell you, Señor, I am not hard to find.”

“Suppose you ransomed me? Wouldn’t I talk to the policia when I was released?”

“No, Señor,” the highwayman said. “After the ransom was paid, I would ship you off to England and never hear from you again.”

“I promise that, if you don’t shoot me, you will never hear from me again. Besides I can’t go to the policia.”

“You can’t go to the policia?”

“That is right. If I go to the policia, they will contact my father. And he will come and get me. Then I will be enslaved to some sort of boring life forever. I had one chance, and I took it. So, you see. No policia for me-a.”

“Hmmm,” the highwayman said. “Let me say that again. Hmmmm.”

“It must be a two-hmmmm day,” Quills said, rubbing his chin, trying to come up with a solution to the situation the two found themselves situated in. “What we in England call a real hmmm-dunger. Just what are we going to do, you and I?

“I don’t really want to kill you, Señor. I like you.”

“And I like you,” Quills said.

“I think we’ve said that a couple of times,” said the highwayman. “Pretty soon the reader is going to get bored.”

“I see your point. You are not going to ransom me. There’s no money in that. You are not going to shoot me. I would be on your conscience. You do have a conscience?”

“Si, I do have a conscience.”

“Because you are a highwayman. If you were a bandito, I would be a dead man.”

“That is true. Very true, Señor. So the only solution is that I let you live and you go on your way as if you never saw a highwayman.”

“That’s right,” Quills said. “On second thought.”

“There is a second thought?”

“Why don’t I join you?”

“What do you mean? I don’t have a gang. I don’t share with anyone. Now I am going to have to shoot you.”

“Just hold onto your pistolla there,” Quills said. “What if we joined up together. Like they say, two is better than one any day.”

“What makes you so sure we can trust each other?” the highwayman wanted to know.

“Did I say that we can trust each other?” Quills waved the thought away. “Of course, we can’t. But think. It may be that it is you and me against the world. Two Second Sons getting what’s rightfully ours.”

“So where should we start our new life together?”

“I’ve always wanted to see Barcelona.”

“Barcelona, it is. My name is Hector Umberto Alacia.”

“You can call me Quills.”

The two men stood up, dusted the dirt off their pants and shook hands.

“Partners,” Quills said.

“Partners, Señor?” the highwayman said. “By the way, do you know how to use a weapon, Señor Quills?”

“Do I know how to use a weapon, Hector? You name the weapon and I can use it. Swords, fists, pistols, I’ve learned them all.”

“But have you ever killed another man, or injured him?”

“No, can’t say that I have,” Quills said.

“Señor Quills, it is different when you have killed a man. It turns you inside out and outside in. You may not be ready for that when trouble comes, and trouble always comes.”

“You might be right. But I’ll never know until it happens. Right now, I am ready for anything.”

“Even highway robbery?”

“Even highway robbery.”

Hector Unberto Alacia smiled. “Well, Quills, we shall see.”

“Yes, we shall see.”

“First we must acquire you new clothes, clothes that will befitting of your new profession. Then we will need to get you a pistolla and a horse. What kind of horse would you like?”

“A black one will do,” Quills said.

The two walked over to Hector’s horse. Hector stopped. “I think I hear your first employment arriving. Let us hide and watch.”

Hector led the horse behind a large tree. Quills followed. The two waited. Soon there was the carriage of a well-off nobleman passing their tree. Hector jumped into the saddle and raced past the carriage and its horses. Then he turned and faced the oncoming vehicle. He pulled his pistolla. He fired into the air. The carriage stopped.

“Señors, Señoras, Señoritas, if you will step from the carriage I would most appreciate it. And you, driver, throw down the luggage please.”

“Señor,” the driver protested. “This is the carriage of the Capitan of the King’s Guards. You do not—.”

Hector fired into the air. “The luggage please.”

“Si, Señor.” The driver nervously reached over and tossed the luggage to the ground. Only one man stepped out of the carriage. He was dressed in very fine clothes. He wore several expensive rings around his fingers.

The man had a snarl on his face. “Who would dare—”

“Me, Señor,” Hector said as his horse reared. “Now face the carriage and do not move or you will be a dead Capitan.”

Fancy turned and faced the carriage.

“Now, driver, you step down to the ground please,” Hector said. He called to Quills, “Mi amigo, come and tie these two up and blindfold them. Then we shall see what we have.”

The haul was very lucrative. Hector took the gold coins in the bag that the man was carrying. There was enough there for a horse, a pistolla and clothes for his new companion. In the meantime, Quills took the man’s rings and opened his luggage. His clothes would fit Quills quite nicely until he could acquire new duds for his new career.

This was his first robbery. It was not his last.

Next Week: The Ghosts with the Mostest are back.

A Tuesday Xtra: Reading Like a Writer

A writer is a reader just like a musician listens to music. If you are like me, books on writing are included with the novels, short stories, memoirs and histories you read. My advise to read broadly. Everything is worth a read, even the ingredients on your cereal box. There are many great books on writing. After reading a slew of them, I’ve come to one conclusion. Keep my reading on writing to a short list. Then read them not just once but many times over. In addition to a dictionary and a thesaurus, here’s a list of nine books that you can’t go wrong with.

1.Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them by Francine Prose. Before a writer becomes a writer, they read. Francine Prose teaches writer how to read in ways that benefit their writing. She offers some helpful suggestions on what to read as well.

2.Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White. This small, inexpensive guide lays down the style rules for the road.

3.Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing by Elmore Leonard. Elmore Leonard sold millions of books. If you’re thinking why should I pay attention to him, there’s no better reason than that. At least be aware of these rules before breaking them.

4.The Lonely Voice: A Study of the Short Story by Frank O’Connor. Frank O’Connor was an Irish master of the short story. In this guide, he calls attention to the short story writers who matter. Even if a writer is not thinking about writing short stories, this is relevant to any potential fiction writer.

5.On Writing by Stephen King. Both a memoir and a guide on writing, this book has become a classic. We all know Stephen King and how many books he has sold. Here’s his insights to the writer’s trade. I would suggest you read this one “zestfully”.

6.This Year You Write Your Novel by Walter Mosley. This is a short book but it is filled with much wisdom on how to carve a novel out of novel. Walter Mosley has done this with his mysteries again and again.

7.The Weekend Novelist by Robert J. Ray and Brett Norris. This handy dandy workbook is designed for the potential novelist who has a full-time job. Through a series of exercises, the writer will have a finished novel at the end of a year by working a few hours each week. Using the work of well-known writers, it shows the writer how to take an idea and run with it, how to structure plot, how to scene. Each exercise is designed to prompt the writer with their own work.

8.Anatomy of Story by John Truby. Once a writer has a first draft, what are the things that they have to look for when evaluating their text. John Truby lays down twenty-two elements that go into creating a great novel or screenplay.

9.What We See When We Read by Peter Mendelsund. How important is the appearance of words on a page to a reader? This book calls attention to an element many of us writers totally ignore.

 

The Three Monkeys

Marge looked at the three bronze monkeys her husband brought home and shook her head. “Just where are you going to put those?”

“In the living room?” Tiller had hope.

“Over my dead body,” Marge said, and she meant it. Ten years she’d been married to this fool and it was always the same. He’d find some piece of junk, bring it home and end up tossing it out because there was no way Marge was going to let the damn thing into her house. Just once, she wished he’d ask her first.

The thing was that this was one of the things she loved about Tiller. His attraction to odd ball things. Curioddities, she called them. Unfortunately, the curioddities were not something a woman would want in her house.

“But I paid good money for them.” Tiller thought he was using logic on Marge.

Marge wasn’t buying. “Get your money back.”

“I can’t. It was a no return policy. You buy it, you keep it.”

“Figures,” Marge said and went back into her kitchen.

She was baking bread, and the aroma of the bread eased out to the living room. Tiller loved Marge’s bread. Nobody could make bread the way Marge did. He sneaked up behind his wife as she was checking the bread and put his arms around her.

“Get out of here.” She turned and pushed him away. “You get rid of those monkeys or there’s no bread or anything else from Marge, you hear?”

Of course, he heard. He always heard. Just once why wouldn’t she give in?

Marge went back to her baking while Tiller lingered for a few minutes. Her back told him she meant everything she said.

But he wanted those monkeys. He wanted to keep them bad. What to do?

Tiller was not a man to give up on his dreams. That was how he’d gotten Marge to marry him. He’d wore her down with his persistence.

He went back into the living room, took another look at the monkeys and shook his head. Something must be done. That was when he made up his mind to do what he’d been thinking about for quite some time. It would be the perfect solution. He would have his bread and eat it too.

He went over to the front door and opened it. He stuck a chair under its knob to hold it into place. Then he walked over and picked up the first monkey. Damn, it was heavy. He lugged Monkey See out the front door. Then it was back for Monkey Hear and Monkey Speak. He carried them into the garage and closed the garage door.

Later in the day, Marge heard some banging from the back yard. She walked out onto the porch. Tiller was building something over in the corner of the yard. What was he building? A shed. Damn fool, she said to herself.

Marge was having none of this either. She hurried over and tapped Tiller on the shoulder. Her husband turned around to face his wife. She said, “Not in my back yard.” She went to turn but Tiller stopped her.

“It’s not in your back yard,” he said with a big smile on his face.

“What do you mean,” she said. There was no smile on her face.

“I mean it’s not in your back yard.”

“Of course, it’s my back yard.”

“No, it’s my back yard.”

Marge couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “What?”

“I bought the house behind us. And the shed is in my back yard.”

Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Song: While My Guitar Gently Weeps

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. This week’s Spotlight Song is George Harrison’s beautiful “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”:

Cirque du soleil’s interpretation.

And here’s Carlos Santana’s lovely rendition:

When someone asks me “Who is your favorite Beatle”, I tell them the Beatles are my favorite Beatle. But deep down I know that is not true. It’s George I saw in concert. It’s George whose albums I bought. It’s George I listened to in The Traveling Wilburys with his buds, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynne.

Sure, I listen to John when I want to let my intellectual and political side out. I listen to Paul if I go dancing. I listen to Ringo just for the fun of it. But it’s George that most appeals to me. Especially the post-Beatles George. Among my DVDs, I have the “Concert for George”, performed one year after George’s death by many of his friends including his best bud, Eric Clapton.

“While my Guitar Gently Weeps” is among my all-time Beatles favs. It tops the list that includes “Norwegian Wood”, “Help”, “Eleanor Rigby”, “You’re Gonna Lose that Girl”, “Nowhere Man”, “Michelle”, “Lady Madonna”, “Girl”, “Things We Said Today”, “I Feel Fine”, “Get Back”, “The Ballad of John and Yoko”, “A Day in the Life”, “She’s Leaving Home” and “Fool on the Hill”.

 

Lady Wimpleseed-Prissypott 17: Ballroom Dancing

In the previous episode, Lady P.P. confronted Smythie Smathers with a knife. S.S. revealed that he arrived from the future in a DeLorean. He was pursuing of Mata Hari. That did not let him off the hook-ski.

That evening our heroine wandered into the ship’s only ballroom alone. So far, it was an interesting voyage. She had found her womanhood, and she was bound and determined not to lose it again.

Soon Alexandria, that mysterious city built by the Great, would be in sight. First Istanbul, then the S. S. Twit, and it had been two weeks since she had slept under clean sheets. Nothing brought a smile to a rich American girl’s lips more than clean sheets. Maybe she might find them there.

A short man wearing a monocle approached her. “Pipsqueak Pimplesquat at your service.” Mr. Monocle clicked his heels together, saluted, and offered, “Madame, would you care to dance the light fantastic?”

“I do believe I will,” Marye agreed to his proposal. “But don’t get too friendly. I am not an easy lay-di.”

“I assure you that I am a gentleman,” he said, offering her his arm. He took her into his arms. They moved onto the dance floor, the dashing German dashing across the floor with the lovely young American widow with lots of moolah and a title.

On the stage before the orchestra stood the world famous Tootles “The Tootler” Tootle Lou. She crooned her song, “The tub may be sinking but the water’s fine.” Everyone watched the couple move body to body over the floor, ooh-ing and ah-ing their admiration. Then the band went into a ragtime swing. The couple did the do, dancing the Doodlebug.

Suddenly, from the ship’s crow’s nest, a sailor called, “Iceberg! Iceberg!”

This stunned everyone. The ship was in the Mediterranean. There shouldn’t be an iceberg anywhere near the Mediterranean. Panic set in.The voyagers didn’t know what else to do, except panic. It was a lesson they’d learned many times over. The Dancing Panic of 1518. The Penis Panic of 1843. The Wall Street Panics of 1873 and 1893. If it was good enough for dancing, penises and Wall Street, why not on board the S. S. Twit?

They were doing what the Wall Street rag, “Rooster Tooth”, suggested in a twenty-first century incarnation. They were “People Acting Normal in Crazy-Ass Situations.” The passengers and the crew ran hither and thither, thither and hither aboard the ship.

The sailor in his crow’s nest called, “Just kidding, folks. No iceberg.”

But it was too late.

Next Week: The Return of Quills