Lady Mabel’s Peahen (1909) by DS Wendeborn

Chapter 37

Charles parked his sportscar outside St. Jeremy’s Cathedral and opened the passenger door for Lady Mabel. She stepped out of the car, no longer afraid of the scandal she was sure to face for riding with a mere footman. She didn’t care. She couldn’t resist the thrill of racing through the shire at 25 miles an hour, even to an occassion as sober as Lord Reginald’s funeral.

Sir Benjamin scoffed as she approached the cathedral doorway. “So glad you can find joy even after your brother’s death, M’LADY.”

“Ah, Sir Benjamin,” Lady Mabel replied, “I’m so glad you were able to come. I was worried you wouldn’t be able to pull yourself away from stuffing the cook’s turkey like you managed to for your wife’s funeral.”

The general tittering that befell the crowd pleased Lady Mabel for a mo’, but she knew as soon as she stepped inside the cathedral she risked an awkward meeting with Mr. Rongold. Mr. Rongold was sure she knew something about how his begonias went ruddy the night before the county garden show.

Mr. Rongold did, in fact, notice Lady Mabel’s arrival, but dared not approach her for fear he would attract the attention of Colonel Sedgwick. He had been avoiding Sedgwick for two weeks now, ever since the colonel caught him giving his best horse a right snogging.

Colonel Sedgwick had indeed spotted Mr. Rongold, but made no attempt to confront him. His expertise in covert strategy and crowd control led him to the inevitable conclusion that doing so would alert Roger Thorndyke to his presence, which would be most regrettable. Thorndyke, in his work for the London Times, had come across a memorandum in which Colonel Sedgwick approved the Jameson Raid into Johannesburg and subsequently caused the Second Boer War, and Sedgwick was in no mood to respond to a newspaperman’s inquiries only to see himself misquoted in the evening edition.

Lord Reginald was also avoiding Thorndyke, whose recent appearence in the village had become something of a nuisance. His cursed snooping around with his pencil and pad threatened to draw unwanted attention to certain members of the royal family who may be hidden in certain root cellars on property Lord Reginald maintained throughout the county.

Lord Reginald went so far as to fake his death to avoid the inkmonger. It all started out simple enough. After all, he had decades of experience when it came to sitting motionless in a chair with his eyes closed. But things escalated when that bloody peahen of Lady Mabel’s started pecking at his fingers. He tried to surreptitiously shoo it away, but it wouldn’t cease its infernal pecking. Luckily, Lady Mabel chose that moment to poke her head in the window and ask the village doctor if anyone had seen a peahen around. As she scooped the bird into her arms, she’d scolded it for pecking at the body of such an esteemed member of the gentry. Lord Reginald could have sang with delight if it wouldn’t have given away his ruse.

Lord Reginald was now lying in the coffin with similar feelings of relief. He was so close to getting away with everything, he could practically taste those crown jewels. Just then, he heard a tapping at the side of the coffin. He lifted the lid a crack and broke out in a cold sweat. There, bobbing next the coffin in time with the tapping sound, was the blasted gray crest atop the blasted head of Lady Mabel’s blasted peahen.

Lord Reginald jumped up, slamming the coffin lid open. He tried to stand but lost his balance and fell back into Father Murphy yelling, “That peahen! Lady Mabel’s peahen!”

Needless to say, the assembled villagers found this sight quite shocking. As they made their way, hurried and harried, screaming through the aisles and out of the cathedral, Lady Mabel gazed fondly at her precious peahen. “Oh, Henrietta,” she said, “you are a naughty girl. But I suppose we ought to thank you. I imagine you’ll even find an extra helping of cheese in your crickets tonight.”

The End

Press Conference of Senator Bigfoot (R-Ore.) Upon His Return

(from my second and better collection of short humor, “Pity the Slug!“)

Good morning. Thank you for coming. I’ve got a brief statement and then I’ll take a few questions. Okay.

There are once again rumors going around regarding my conduct. I would like to take this opportunity to put those rumors to rest.

First: When I prematurely concluded my remarks in La Grande, it was of my own volition and no one, including myself, was ever in any harm.

Second: I was at no time under the influence of any substances of any kind. I was not, as the fringes of the liberal media have claimed, having a bad trip. I have been very public about my struggles with mescaline and peyote in the past, but that is all behind me.

Third: It’s true that when I was found earlier this week, I was under the influence of peyote. However, this was not due to my falling off the wagon. I was simply having an existential crisis and used certain substances such as peyote to reconcile my identity as a quasi-mythical figure of American folklore with that of a three-term senator and Ranking Member of the Senate Subcommittee on Competitiveness, Innovation, and Export Promotion. I’m proud to say that the, for want of a better term, therapy was successful and that I feel more than ready to return to office when we reconvene.

Finally, I’d like to take a moment to thank the good people of Oregon for standing by me in this time, especially my beautiful, caring wife, Linda. Thank you, Linda, for keeping things afloat while I was a little bit out to sea.

And now I’ll take some questions. Yes, Jack.

No, I’m afraid that’s not true. I was not aware of the officer’s presence during the incident. I was, in fact, firing at ghosts in the woods.

Yes, Maggie.

I’m sorry?

Yes, that theory has been brought to my attention, that the ghosts could be simply hallucinatory manifestations from my inner psyche. My Chief of Staff Stu and my beautiful and caring wife Linda in particular insist on promoting that explanation, but I know what I saw and I know what I believe, and I will not be dissuaded by a theory based in lamestream liberal science.

Let’s see. Andrew.

Now, I don’t see why we’re harping on this. It’s not a big deal. I was feeling better, so I came down from the mountains to reestablish contact with my team and my family. I was suddenly surrounded by ghosts and I did as any red-blooded American would and defended myself. There happened to be a police patrolman in the area and he drove me into town. He was reluctant at first because someone had shot out his window and one of his lights, but he calmed down once I handed him my weapon. I got home, reunited with my family, and a couple of days later here we are. It seems pretty cut and dry to me.

Yes, Howard.

It was a 1974 Colt Python. 8 3/8-inch barrel.

Say again?

I kept it the same place anyone would whose clothes had been stolen by ghosts: in my clenched, unwavering hand.

Thanks, everyone. That’s all the time I have for questions. I have an urgent appointment that it was completely my own decision to schedule.

Marian the Contrarian

Marian the contrarian loved to answer “No”.
When someone said to hurry up, she always went real slow.
When people wanted change, she’d defend the status quo,
‘Cuz Marian thought that she was better than the average Joe.

Marian the contrarian saw life as debate.
It didn’t matter what you said; she’d always altercate.
She’d argue ten was less than nine though number is innate,
‘Cuz chats were competitions and she had to dominate.

Marian the contrarian thought the world was dumb.
Where we saw a utopia, she saw a mindless slum.
There must have been some cortex in her brain that had gone numb.
How else can you explain having an outlook that’s so glum?

There’s lots of Marians in the world, a hundred million two.
They change beliefs from day to day to oppose the pop’lar view.
And if she doesn’t sound familiar yet, here’s a clue:
If you don’t know a Marian, I bet all your friends do.

One Day, In Hell

This is a bit from my second collection of humor, Pity the Slug! I really love that book. It’s one of the few things I’m unabashedly proud of. You can download it on your kindle or nook or whatever.

Here’s “One Day, In Hell”:

 

Part One

Hi, everyone! Welcome to the Q2 team meeting. Lucifer’s going to come up in a few minutes with the quarterly report, but first I’ve got a few notes to go over. And stick around after the big presentation because we’re awarding a prize to the colleague with the most souls under contract!

All right, ha ha, let’s settle down. Settle down, now. First, where are my false witness crew? Hi, guys. I’ve got some clarification for you. They’ve determined that yes, eye witness testimony is usually inaccurate, but because it’s an honest mistake, it does not count. We’re finalizing the draft of the apology letter. Those will be distributed very soon. Any questions on that? Yes, Urmazel? On average, they will get about two and a half million years off their sentence.

Speaking of divine clarification, on behalf of myself and the entire Board of Tormenters, I’d like to apologize for the influx of souls who worked on the Sabbath over the past couple of millennia. We’re working on getting the word out that the Sabbath is in fact Wednesday, but since that is already regarded as “hump day”, there’s been some difficulty. Plus, let’s face it, people have been less prone to listen to prophets after the mix up about circumcision.

And yes, we are very close to wrapping up that issue with the supposed 72 virgins loophole regarding murder. That was a sting operation from On High to try to root out the pedophiles. There was a joint session between the forces of Light and Darkness and we all agree that it was a severe miscalculation. We’ll be working together to correct this in a partnership unseen since before the Great Fall. It’s very exciting.

And finally, there’s a big push to ramp up punishment for old school sins. Classic sins. With homosexuality and fornication practically benign, we’re looking at a big drop in future soul collection. But don’t worry, we’ve still got our greatest hits: murder, theft, and worshipping false idols. Those three will never go out of style. And I think if we all work together and use those noodles, then we can recoup those losses with some of those lesser-used sins. Tattoos are more popular now than ever. Let’s tap that market! What about men shaving their beards? Let’s tighten up on that! Be creative! Use your imagination! And study up on your Leviticus and Deuteronomy. You’ll be meeting with Shabelleh this week to review those two books.

All right, we’re gonna bring out Lucifer in just a minute. But first, are you ready to laugh? This can’t be Hell because I can’t hear you! I said are you ready to laugh? Then bring out the sinners and get those plastic sheets ready because it’s time for Pandemonium’s favorite splat-tacular comedian, the eviscerater of evil, the hammer of hedonism, the malicious masher of mankind’s moral misfires: Galgeron!

 

Part Two

Thank you for holding. You have reached the Disputes department. My name is Azbineth. How may I help you today? Yes, I can assist you with your claim. For verification purposes, may I have your name and the number marked on your forehead? Thank you. How may I help you?

Okay, ma’am, it sounds like you’ve been judged unclean and have gone into collections. Tell me, are you a priest? Good, then we can skip those chapters. Any history of leprosy or plague? Good.

Now, this action is usually taken due to either food or genitals. Let’s start with food. Tell me, have you ever eaten any of the following, beginning with water creatures: Shellfish? That includes anything that has an exoskeleton or shell. Yes, I’m afraid shrimp do count. That’s okay, it’s not too terrible; you’re just stuck with their carcasses in abomination. Okay, moving on to birds. Eagle? Vulture? Raven? Owl? Hawk? Little owl? Yes, they are different. Okay. Great owl? I know, it’s an odd distinction, but an important one. Swan? Pelican? Gier eagle? It does fall under eagle, but we try to double check the gier eagle restriction. It’s more commonly known as the Egyptian vulture. Does that ring a bell? Right, it is distinguished from other vultures. No, I don’t know why. That’s above my pay grade, ha ha. Yes, anyway. Stork? Heron? Bats? Yes, I’m aware that bats aren’t birds. You’re not the first to point that out to me.

Okay, moving on to bugs. Have you eaten any bugs besides locusts, beetles, or grasshoppers? Good. No, we don’t care that you don’t eat any bugs. Right. Uh huh. Well, things were different back then, I suppose. Yes. Let’s try to stay on track.

Last up is land animals. Have you eaten weasel? Mouse? Tortoise? Ferret? Chameleon? Lizard? Snail? Mole? Camel? Coney? Hare? Pig? Yes to pig? Okay, how many times? Can you make an estimate? I see. Well, it may not count. Tell me, when you finished cooking the bacon, did you destroy the stove? Right, every time. I see. Oh dear. Let me just make a note of that on your history. One moment, please, ma’am.

Okay, let’s talk about your genitals. I’m assuming you had a normal, healthy menstruation cycle throughout your teenage and adult life until menopause? Excellent. Now, when you had your monthly cycle, did you remove yourself from society for seven days? Ha ha, yes, I bet it would have been nice. That’s fine. Very few women do that anymore. I’m assuming you showered? Okay, good. And you took the two turtledoves or two young pigeons to your priest for sacrifice? Oh dear. Okay, let me make a note of that, too.

And finally, did you have any children? A daughter, okay. Did you continue in the blood for 66 days after she was born? It’s for purification purposes. Yes, I’m sure they were as clean and sterile as possible at the hospital, ma’am, but this is a divine uncleanliness, you see. 66 days, that’s right. No, it’s only 33 for boys. I understand, ma’am, but there’s nothing we can do about that now. So is that a “no” for continuing in the blood for 66 days? Okay. And I’m guessing you didn’t sacrifice a lamb and either a young pigeon or a turtledove? I see. Well, I may be able to help you. Can you sacrifice a lamb and a young pigeon today? How about a lamb and a turtledove? What if we put you on a sacrifice plan? You could sacrifice half a lamb today, half a lamb next month, and either a young pigeon or a turtledove the month after that. Is that something you would be able to do? Yes, I’m afraid they’re pretty strict about young pigeons or turtledoves. I don’t know why. No, ma’am, I haven’t. Asking questions like that is what sent me down here in the first place. Now these are pretty typical sins, so your dispute might still go through. Would you like to stay on the line or have the results sent to you via burning bush? Okay, hold please.

Ma’am? Your dispute has been processed and I’m afraid it’s not good news. It seems you had also sowed different kinds of seeds in a field and wore mixed cloth of wool and linen, so you’ll need to report to Hell immediately. One of our trained specialists will be there momentarily to escort you to your nearest Hellmouth. Ma’am? Please control yourself, ma’am. This was all covered in the terms and conditions. I understand this is not the ideal outcome, but it’s not all bad. Well, I guess it is.

The Car Trip of Destiny

When I was 11 or 12, my mom, my brother, and I drove from Virginia to Maine to visit my aunt. Most of those 2 days in the car were spent listening to my brother’s new tapes. I had no idea the effect those three cassettes would have on me.

1) George Carlin, “Occupation: Foole”: This was my introduction to smart standup. In the middle of the comedy boom, here was a guy in the 70s talking about people’s voices and backgrounds, the absurdity of jobs, and the concept of obscenity. Heady stuff for a kid going into the 7th grade.

2) “Monty Python’s Contractual Obligation Album”: Boy oh boy. Not only is it complete filth; it also introduced me to a lot of non-filthy adult concepts, like how entertainment is manufactured, how religion and careers are kinda dumb, and boring everyday angst. Also very intelligent silliness.

3) The Sex Pistols, “The Great Rock ‘n Roll Swindle”: In 1994ish, I knew about grunge, but not punk. I heard this tape 50x before I ever heard “Never Mind the Bullocks”, so all the self-reference was lost on me. But it was strange and goofy and then, FINALLY, some actual songs appeared and I loved it. They were screwing up. Johnny Rotten said he didn’t know the words to “Roadrunner”, which blew my little mind.

Hearing these three tapes on repeat for an 18-hour drive melted my brain a little. After that trip, most Seattle music wasn’t raw enough. Most comedy wasn’t funny or silly enough. Most standup wasn’t thoughtful enough. Most records didn’t embrace the medium’s possibilities enough.

I think more than any single event, that 2-day trip influenced Future Dan’s radio shows, comedy band’s albums, live bands’ performances, podcast, and books. I learned that week that every medium has arbitrary rules that don’t automatically apply to you. I’ve tried to use those principles ever since, to varying degrees of success, and hopefully will continue to get better at each of them.

My Boba Fett Movie Pitch

Straight-laced architect Boba Fett has a stable, if dull, life. Then one day he bumps into free spirit Gina at the grocery store. Literally! He apologizes for crashing his cart into hers and then – strangely for such a nervous spazz – asks her out on a date!

Gina opens Boba Fett’s eyes to the wonderful world out there. (Which is hard because of his tinted visor!) Through her, Boba Fett discovers the music, excitement, and joy that was missing from his life. He feels like he can do anything. And then, something goes wrong.

Gina’s pet worrt gets sick. They take him to the vet and the vet says he’s deathly ill because of an allergy to wookiees. But how did the worrt come in contact with a wookiee? Then Boba Fett remembers the client who came in last week with a wookiee who wanted him to redesign his YT-1300 Corellian light freighter: Han Solo!

This is a worrt, by the way. One hangs out in from of Jabba’s palace in Return of the Jedi and eats a lizard or something.worrt

Boba Fett is furious with the smuggler ruining the first real happiness he’s ever had. He quits architecture and becomes a bounty hunter obsessed with collecting on Solo’s head. Gina tries to talk him out of it. The worrt has medicine and will recover, but Boba Fett has already left.

We all know what happens next. Boba Fett chases Solo to Bespin and takes his carbonite-encased body to Jabba. But what we don’t know is that as he falls into the sarlacc pit, he gets a transmission. It’s Gina. The worrt is fine. He can come home now. Cut to black. Credits.

4 seconds into the credits, we see Boba Fett activate his jetpack and fly out of the sarlacc! Which makes sense since it’s only an hour into the movie. He apologizes to Han and Chewie and the three of them start a kickball league.

The remaining 90 minutes follows their ragtag team as they take on the rich kickball champion team from the other side of the galaxy. Gina is their coach and her worrt is the team mascot. Now that he’s got his allergy medicine, he and Chewie are best buds!

They’re not doing great in the playoffs, but they learn that what matters isn’t winning; it’s being themselves. This newfound confidence helps them get to the finals and beat the rich kid team! The worrt scores the winning run because there’s no rule that says worrts can’t play!

Boba Fett and Gina use their share of the kickball championship money to get married and start a home for stray worrts. Han and Chewie leave to fight the Empire and Boba Fett says, “Be careful, Han. You’re no good to me dead!” They have a good laugh.

The end….?

John K. and Trump

No jokes in this one, just some troubling insight I had this morning.

I’m a huge fan of weird, funny stuff. Besides the classic weird comedies like The Goon Show, Monty Python, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, SCTV, The Kids in the Hall, and Mr. Show, I also love love LOVE cartoons that make the most of the cartoon medium and play with what’s possible within it. I love the old directors like Chuck Jones, Tex Avery, Bob Clampett, and Ub Iwerks as well as the more recent shows like Rocko’s Modern Life, Eek! the Cat, Chowder, Space Ghost: Coast to Coast, and Gumball. And the emergence of a lot of those weird, wonderful cartoons since the mid-90s can be traced back to a show that came seemingly out of nowhere and changed TV animation: Ren and Stimpy.

Ren and Stimpy was like a lightning bolt. In the early 90s, we had been stuck with boring cartoons that were animated as cheaply and crappily as possible for about 20 years. Every show, it seemed, was either a dull script timed to someone flipping through the four most generic drawings ever made or a commercial for toys. If you were lucky, you got to catch Looney Tunes or Disney cartoons from the 30s and 40s, back when they were fun. Or at least you saw reruns of Rocky and Bullwinkle or Roger Ramjet, which at least had funny scripts and funny voices. (Roger Ramjet also hung a huge lantern on the fact that it was extremely cheap by zooming in or shaking the camera at a caption.) But for the most part it was cartoon Mr. T or cartoon 9th Derivation of Scooby-Doo or cartoon Average White Boy Hanging With a Talking Car and they all save the day by being nice and teaching us lessons about manners. Yawn.

Ren and Stimpy was gross and crazy and stupid and silly and everybody loved it except pearl-clutching Churchy Joes who hated fun. Doug and Rugrats were good, too, but Ren and Stimpy stole the show, and John K.’s name was scrawled over the title cards. None of us knew who Bob Camp or Bill Wray was, but we all knew John K., so he must be the mastermind auteur behind the Thing We Love.

Fast forward 15 or 20 years. Cartoons have come back to life in a major way. Adult Swim caters their comedy and anime to college students and grown-ups. Nick and Cartoon Network have a zillion in-house shows that dare to be funny. Spongebob has taken over the world. Some shows suck and some are fantastic and some are just okay, just like every other medium, but things are generally much, much better than they were in the Before Times. And we all know it’s thanks to that brave generation of shows on Nickelodeon, which began with Ren and Stimpy. John K. is a hero, but we notice he hasn’t done much work since he left Ren and Stimpy.

I’ve always loved drawing, but I can’t draw to save my life. I can doodle funny pictures, but I have little to no rudimentary skill. Somehow I happened upon John K.’s blog, which was mostly devoted to teaching animation. On his advice, I bought the Preston Blair book on animation and got to work practicing. It was fun! And I was learning! (I didn’t stick with it and still have little skill, but I use what little I learned when I doodle.) John K. came through for me again! But there was something a little weird.

In his animation school blog, John K. would occasionally digress into his old grudges with the other folks from Spumco. He would demand he was the sole artistic voice and driving force behind it all and that when he left, the show suffered a fatal blow. I didn’t know he’d ever left. His name was still scribbled on the title cards as the creator after he left. So I went back and watched them and…oh yeah. He was gone after the first season and the others took over. Huh. Well, the only one I’d ever heard of was telling us that he was the big deal, so I guess he’s the big deal. But man, it clearly hit a nerve whenever it came up. He’d get really mad about it.

There’s no graceful way to come at this. If you care about cartoon history, you heard the big revelation a few days ago. Two women accused John K. of grooming them as teenagers to be the victims of his gross perversion for underage girls. One was 16 when he was 39. I’d never heard of her. The other was Katie Rice. Katie was active on the blog and became John K.’s star pupil. Looking back, his public internet affection for the kid less than half his age was obviously gross, but I hadn’t learned to notice that kind of thing yet. For me and many other straight, cis, white males like me, that vigilance would come later, after the murders of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown and the sexual violence of Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein and the other myriad events and movements and reactions that pried our eyes open to the reality we’d been ignorant of or actively turning away from.

I didn’t doubt the claims against him for a second. I was angry and deeply sad for the women he abused and disappointed in myself for idolizing a monster. I dashed off an angry tweet about it and figured I was done talking about it to the 4 people who see me online. Then this morning, it hit me: John K. is my Trump, and if I hadn’t learned to believe accusations, I might ignore the ones against him. Which is shocking to me. But it made me empathize — for the first time, really — with people who on paper should abhor Trump but stand by him despite his creepy behavior at the debates, history of sexual assault accusations, hair trigger temper, and “with me or against me” paranoia. He’s the same sort of cult figure as John K., just with more nuclear weapons. They constantly put out the message in varying degrees of subtlety that they are the right and good ones and anyone who says otherwise is a selfish liar or a complete moron. They’re the winning team. They’re the ones who achieved everything and did all the hard work. Everyone else is a disposable hanger-on and they have no problem disposing of them.

Except it’s a complete lie. And now animators, artists, and industry professionals are coming out of the woodwork to say, “Yeah, John K. is full of it. He only did a small part of the work and took all the credit and was an enormous psychotic turd the entire time.” That’s why we haven’t seen much of him in 25 years. It’s not because the world can’t handle his art; it’s because no one wants to deal with him when they can work with someone just as creative and talented but much less awful.

Stories are not even emerging, but being immediately shouted from all corners of the internet, “Yeah, he was always a gross, tantrum-throwing pervert but we needed our jobs and it made life hell for everybody there!” I’m very thankful that basically everybody except John K. quickly backed up the women accusing him. And, in retrospect, I’m glad he was kicked off the show and now understand why it wasn’t anywhere near as good when it was revived in the 2000s. We were played by a cult figure. And at least two women paid dearly for him to keep his cult reputation.

So let’s place John K. in the toilet bowl of history and pull the chain. I don’t know anything about the first woman he abused, but I know Katie Rice is a hell of an artist, so I hope her career is booming. And I’m gonna spend some time learning more about Bob Camp and Bill Wray and the other creative forces behind Ren and Stimpy, who from what people are saying this week are decent, fun people.

To tie it all up, it’s important first not to idolize anyone, which absolves them of their basic responsibility of decency. But if you do, keep an eye on it. Would you defend someone else if they did that? If Obama and Trump did the same thing, would one be a villain and the other be excused? If a man and a woman made the same accusation, would you believe one more than the other? It’s hard work to constantly check yourself, but it’s worth it if you don’t want to spend your time on Earth defending garbage monsters.