2017-05-18 / Features

Silly Social Scenes

A Wand'ring Minstrel (Nye)

”Nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American Public.”

H.L Mencken


Columnist Ad-Hoc


    MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE CAPITOL . . . Word having been received via carrier pigeon at Bobsearch Central (Il Senatore Mazzaratti’s command post in the office of Governator Skip Philpott) of the arrival of Sir Aethelred-the-Unready at the aerodrome and his party’s subsequent departure for Mountpeculiar (although the Director-General of WC1 chose the much slower royal dirigible in preference to Il Senatore’s personal Boeing 747, an act which, in Other Circumstances, might have led to Vendetta, but which Don Riccardo graciously, in consideration of the Seriousness of the Situation, chose to overlook), the Governator’s Eminenza Grigio ordered his flunkeys (several unusually useless senators) to make the room ready for the arrival of the British party three days hence. (Three days, the Non-Comatose Reader of this fine Columnar Material might ask? Three DAYS to make a journey of fewer than 20 English miles from Western Easternmost Roxbury to the Seat of Gummint in Mountpeculiar? Yes, Dear Non-Comatose Reader, the ETA for Sir Aethelred’s party was, in fact, three days from the moment of their departure, as the Director-General’s party could move no faster than his sackbuts and cornets, his herald, his sword-bearer, and his food taster, to say nothing of the numerous portmanteaux containing the family silver, the weapons and mail coats of several Saxon forebears, the coats of arms of the Kumquats and Picklethwackers, his numerous medals and decorations, 25,000 gold sovereigns, and fifty pounds of crumpets from Harrod’s, all toted by his Trusty Native Bearers. No, Sir Aethelred did NOT inherit the gene for light packing.)

    Back at the Capitol, the paisanos were busy shuffling the dozens of mattresses purchased lo, these many weeks ago, when Don Riccardo, Fearing the Worst, declared Vendetta and decreed that he and everyone around him (including his bemused protégé the Governator) would Go to the Mattresses until such time as Bob the World’s Smartest Cat was returned safely, for, as Il Senatore often declared, tears streaming down his cheeks and his voice breaking with emotion, “I-a love-a that-a little-a guy almost-a like-a I-a love-a my-a favorita Corvette-a!”

    As the Governator’s office in the Capitol was extremely large, many truckloads of bedding were required to outfit it properly for the expected Vendetta, and many were the fiercely loyal paisanos from the fields and vineyards surrounding Don Riccardo’s botega on the shores of The Big Lake who answered The Call from their Padrone to Go To The Mattresses – so many, in fact, that the Governator was forced to conduct official business from a broom closet down the hall (which he, being gracious to a fault, was only too happy to do to oblige his Oldest & Dearest Friend & Padrone). Giving the Secret Sign signaling the End of Vendetta, Il Senatore sent the flock of paisanos back home, but not before pressing a small coin into the hand of each and receiving in return a kiss on his own hand from his devoted vassals as they shuffled off, jabbering excitedly in their Vermontese patois.

    Directly the paisanos departed, Don Riccardo barked an order and his senatorial flunkeys rushed into the office and, seeing the opportunity to supplement their modest salaries ($2,999.99 per week, plus overtime at 1.5), fell straight away to squabbling over the mattresses. Il Senatore, whose patience with his pushing, shoving, biting, snarling and squabbling colleagues was limited at best, took names and kicked butts until the office was emptied of mattresses and the furniture returned and rearranged.

    From the hall, the Governator peered cautiously into his office and asked if it was safe to enter, whereat he was bidden to enter, Don Riccardo explaining that the brilliant Sir Aethelred was en route from the aerodrome and was expected within half a sennight . . .

    . . . the knight in question being well underway. As was to be expected, Roxburians being of a curious nature, Sir Aethered’s entourage attracted a great deal of attention in the sparsely populated regions through which it passed, the natives gathering in groups of one or two to watch, mouths a-gape, as the procession noisily passed. In the sole seat of his 1922 Damont-Morgan three-wheeler, Sir Aethelred continued to ponder the Meaning of Perky, the retired Coast Guard Radioman Second-Class – “SO-CALLED,” Sir Aethelred muttered noisily to himself, “SO-CALLED, FOR THERE IS SOMETHING DEUCED STRANGE ABOUT THAT APPELLATION ‘RADIOMAN SECOND-CLASS’, EH, SMEEKLE,” he bellowed, raising the periscope and swiveling it about so he could peer Polyphemus-like at his batman-cum-driver.

    Smeekle, imperturbably bland as always, quietly murmured assent, knowing from long (but, as it eventuated when The Whole Truth Became Known, divided) experience that it was always best to agree, when, in truth, this unassuming Lumbert Smeekle knew a Great Deal More than he let on. Were Sir Aethelred more observant (which is to say, were he at all observant, powers of observation not being one of his strengths), he might have felt a slight uneasiness about his batman’s air of je ne sais quoi, of knowing a good deal more than he let on, and he might have remarked on the singularity of Smeekle’s left ear, which was painted a distinctive shade of blue . . . .

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