Thursday, December 7, 2006

Greetings from the Torrid Zone

Greetings from the Torrid Zone, where the natives cast little or no shadow at noon. (Don't believe me? Look it up!) While in pursuit of our mysterious goals far from the warmth of hearth and home, my Assistant and I have had to overcome many obstacles, not the least of which is the lack of correspondence from my many dependent advice-needing fans. The Tradewindes have made up this deficit, however, and rendered to us a grabbe-bag of noodlings from You the Viewer. Arriveing by the demi-gross fortnightley are glass bottles of every description, with the faithfull's penscratchings and occasionale drawing. I rather much like the version of Self contributed by Billy, aged 10, of Sarasota, Wyoming. The heavily shaded eyebrows give me a commandeering stare, and the fireworks coming from my brain suggest either deep thought, or electrical problems with my hunting wig. Congradulations, Jimmy, and we'll route a commemorative edition of this column to you, suitable for framing, as soon as my Editore discovers I have made this generous offer.

As for the bottles themselves the mails arriv'd in, it's goode to see that Old Overholser is still a viable brand of rye in the provinces.

As to the most freqwently-asked concerns about my existence/non-existence, I am in the peak of the tip-top and I do not intend to die in the South Pacific, but rather in my homely moth-eaten bed at home.

Now, on to the Qwestions!

1)Hey, Finknottle, How do I land a supermodel wife?

Rod Ocasek


A) Dear Rod, the way to land a fish is to gaff 'im and bring 'im over the side of the boat. Gaff work is for the underclass of seamen, and according to rank, even on a small-staffed vessel. The gaff should be of at least ten percent above the weight of the catch i.e. the quarryl, and similarly the strength of the gaffer should exceed the necessary demand of the task, lest you see your prize, gaff, and gaffer go al-together to the sea. (A good surplus of gaffers is wise as well for obvious reasons.)

2)Mr. Finknipple,
Is there no escaping technology? The other night during sex, my girlfriend checked her Blackberry. I was hurt. She says she was just multitasking. What should I do?

Henry Pilot


A) Any girl that would check her 'blackberry' in public... I hesitate to finish the thought.

4)Dear Sir Finknottle,
What is the best cure for a sick little monkey?

Congo Boulonnais


A) The best way to cure a sick monkey of any size is to smoke it on a spit overnight. A dry rub of spices is a good finishing touch.

5)Esteemed Right Honorable Finknettle,
I have a question about party logistics. Let’s say you had the following people at a dinner party:
Mark Twain, Albert Einstein, Madam Curie, Joseph Goebbels, Jackie O, Liberace, Joan of Arc and Mariah Carey.
How would you seat them?

Reservedly,
Antoine Adirondack


A) I have had the above named persons at a gathering, and I seated them thus: Mark Twain is an incorrigivle flirt and has harrassed M. Curie even before her husbands death, so place someone between them. Goebbels will do, as he is unpleasant, smug and bizarre in his speech and will tempt Twain's satirical attention toward himself.
If you have any sense at all, seat Mariah Carey on your lap. Do not allow her to drink.

6)Herr FinkenNottle,
You ignored my last correspondence. Again, I say, the pirate is a penguin.
How do you answer, knave?

Regards,
Arturo Rhodesia


A) The chair is against the door, and the lemon merchant plies his trade on the boulevarde. I repeat: the chair is against the door. Tell Mary the hippo has had kittens, and there is a hole in the roof. I repeat: there is a hole in the roof. End transmission.

8)I've been checking out this site since it has started. You don't seem to spend a whole lot of time helping your readers. How do I know that if I send you a question, it will be addressed in a timely manner?

Bottled up in Rochester,
John


A) How does one know that a bird dressed in cook's twine and baked for three hours in a kiln will not sqwak and fly away after it is removed? How indeed. These are not mysteries we are qwalifi'd to answer, they are in the realm of metaphysikal inquiry and subject to Laws unproveable. Nay, we may stir and fret for lifetimes before the riddles of the Implicit Understanding are unraveled. Did you know, par examplé, that 'unravel' means to destroy a woven cloth, but 'ravel', its opposite cognate, means to weave And unweave?! That will keep you up at night.

That is the first batch of trans-oceanic traffic I have been able to address. My Editore is certainly contemplating replacing me with an Advice-o-matic or the stylish Eurovisor-311i robotic advice generator. Which is as may be, for I now have enough stored up bottled qwestions to start my own franchise and bury his efforts in the deep shade of anonymity. With that happy thought I bid you adieu.

-Finknottle, Ambassador without Portfolio

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

A Finking Paradise Lost

How did we escape those devil skewers of death? A hungry tribe, a mere snack of a captain, and then my master and me - sweaty and sore from the arduous trans-island trek, but otherwise juicy and tender to the touch…things could not have been more ominous. It is true that the native noses turned up at the gamy musk emitted from my master, but I warn the reader against any conclusions made by Jeffrey. We had just finished an arduous hike, and anyone would have emerged from that jungle smelling offensive. The curious tribe may have demurred initially, but was evidently still intent on eating us. Hopelessness overcame me.

Finknottle said: "I believe these people to be of the Marquesan language group. At least, I suppose it so based on their babbling."

He shouted something in Marquesan but the men seemed un-phased as they prepared a series of three large fire pits. Meanwhile, the women sang in altercations, some pouring briny seawater on three large planks of woods in a most ceremonious manner, others preparing a peculiar mealy powdery substance in a great bowl.

Observing the planks of wood Finknottle commented: "I believe the two on the left are from the gumbo limbo tree. The plan is to grill us slowly on the wood. The seawater provides salt and will prolong the endurance of the plank over the fire. This method will no doubt infuse us with very distinct, if slightly alkaline, aroma and flavor. The other plank appears to be a baobob. It produces a less desirable taste, but it burns at a hotter temperature. No doubt for the captain whom they probably intuit to be sickly and perhaps diseased"

"Sir," I interrupted, "they did not seem to respond well to your words."

"Why, they responded precisely to what I requested they do," he said confidently.

"What do you mean?" "I was speaking to those young girls preparing that Polynesian potlatch."

"What did you tell them," I asked.

"That they add more coconut shavings on account of the captain's sickly constitution."

"But sir!" I protested, "giving these savages cooking instructions while in this peculiar position seems to be..."

"In bad taste, Scribble?" he finished, "I suppose you'd have these people eat us only to find that we are bland and bitter?"

"I'd rather they did not eat us at all!" I said.

"Yes, but it is prudent to have a backup plan," Finknottle casually explained, as if the tribe was not preparing the fire pits.

"Honestly sir, do you have a plan to get us out of this?"

"Well, Scribble, as you are so direct in your inquiry, I feel compelled to answer you bluntly. I have little doubt that I can save myself. My tongue is such that I think I can impress upon the chief my value to his well-being. And the captain, I am confident, I can have pardoned, given his sickly nature. And you, Scribble, I am about sixty percent confident. You have the misfortune of being in good health and these people are intent on eating something. I do not see any hogs in these pens.."

"Oh sir," I fell down to the ground as if fate were already upon me, "I'd rather not be broiled like a fowl."

"If only that editor were here with us,” Finknottle mused thoughtfully, “the very evilness of his meat would shy them away from this human cuisine. They would never eat a person again. Ah, but what a waste of potlatch!"

About that time, the chief approached us. He was a skinny, elderly man of particularly good posture. He wore a headdress with small unfamiliar looking skulls adorning it. He ordered us out of our pens and led us to the shore where we were told to bath. While I waded into the ocean, Finknottle turned to the chief and appeared to exchange words with him. I splashed some water and returned to the shore to hear what was happening. By the time I got near, the chief huffed at my master and turned away and strutted back the village. Our guards returned us to our pens.

"Sir, what did you say to the chief?"

"I told him I held magic."

"What? How did you think that would work? Isn't that a cliche?"

"If by cliche you mean tried and true, then you've answered your own questions. I assumed the proclamation would grant me a supernatural forecast, and through that a release."

"What did you forecast?"

"I told him that small vessels, more numerous than the men on the island, each harboring captured words, would gather on the island. I warned the chief that this was proof that I had magic power. If he did not heed this, the next show of power would be a severe case of diarrhea throughout the village caused by our flesh and then a severe case of erectile dysfunction."

"What did he say?"

"Simply that he did not believe me, though I could tell that he was shaken considerably. I sense that he is not the sort of chief that wants to offend some mystical power."

That evening, the cooking fires were shooting high into the air and the planks were fully saturated. The feast was nearly prepared except for the sacrificial meat. To that end, we were led out of our cages and to the pit ovens. The men had fastened each of us to our respective planks with cocoa twine and were moving us into position of the fire when one of the villagers came running and yelling into the village from the shore:

"Ômole! Mamaka omole!" the man kept screaming. The whole village erupted in a frenzied panic.

"What is it, sir?" I asked my master.

"It is a sign from a small magic man, Scribble," he said.

The chief ran down to the shore to see, firsthand, what the yelling was about and came back looking pale with fright as he approached Finknottle and fell prostrate before him. He couldn't seem to stop babbling to my master.

"What is he saying?" I asked.

"He is asking me what he could do that would earn my forgiveness and good wishes."

Finknottle said something to the chief who nervously nodded agreement and motioned some men to untie him. Finknottle continued to give the chief orders.

“What are you telling him?”

“I’m telling him to untie the captain and yourself.”

Although they untied the captain, I remained fastened to my plank while the chief went back over to Finknottle and appeared to try to bargain with him.

“Why are they not untying me?” I begged to know.

“The chief is saying that they do not mind setting the captain free, as they never intended on eating him on account of his sickly state. They only planned to cook him so as not to offend the puny fellow by suggesting he would not make a worthy meal.”

“But what about me, sir!”

“Oh, they strongly wish to eat you, Scribble – as I predicted.”

My master turned to the chief and talked sternly to him. The chief looked a little annoyed, but a lot scared. He relented and his men released me from the plank. Finknottle continued to bark orders in that weird provincial tongue.

“I have ordered them to bring the bottles from the shore. My mailbag has found us.”

All night, the men from the village collected the thousands of whiskey bottles full of reader mail ashore and piled them near the chief’s hut, which Finknottle had commandeered. Meanwhile, hogs were found and cooked and the potlatch was not wasted. We drank arva water and were attended to by the many beautiful native girls.

I could see that the chief – so suddenly a subordinate to the visitor – was deeply hurt. Would his resentment towards my master overcome his fear of him? Much like the captain, I felt that the chief was somebody to be watched.

-His Assistant

Monday, August 28, 2006

Finking It

His Assistant continues the story...

One of the peculiar features in the lush environs that we found ourselves in was the sizable breadfruit tree. Its canopy was not unlike a large elm in terms of breadth and height, but its leafiness bespoke of its polynesian requirements as if nature had mixed a tree with a head of lettuce.

Breadfruit was our staple as it was easy to harvest and could be prepared in a multitude of ways. Finknottle was quite adept with breadfruit. He served it fried, singed on skewers, baked in all manner of ways with the aid of a variety of tools made from clam and coconut shells. In one variant, my master would roast the breadfruit until it was real soft and let the rind slip off into a vessel of water where he would promptly stir it into a thick drink-like consistency. While he was particularly fond of this concoction and would often mix arva root in it and called it a 'Polynesionpolitan,' I preferred a more solid form of the breadfruit.

As I just alluded, Finknottle had discovered an arva grove inland during one of his a reconnaissance treks. After lamenting the lack of snuff, he returned chewing on an arva root, quite pleased that he found a suitable substitute. In addition to this medicinal substance, he experimented with making the various berries on the island into wines and he made extensive use of a sugarcane-like plant that grew wild among groves of coconut trees. Finknottle also knew about the different ages of the coconuts and which dishes could be prepared from each. The viands that my master offered developed into a pleasing cuisine certainly better than anything served up on the Sassy Wench, whether the captain's fowl or the ship's rats.

For the first few nights, the captain ate with us and slept under the thatched roof that Finknottle had made, but he resented it and you could tell so every time you glanced in his direction, because he would be in the shadows of the camp, some several meters away, staring menacingly at us, the campfire reflected sharply in his eyes and the glowed red off his pink white skin. Eventually, after he regained some of his strength, he withdrew from the camp entirely and slept in a cave on the beach. After that, he rarely came into eye contact with either of us at all. The master would leave food and water out at night and it would invariably be gone the next morning. Every now and then we would notice him at a distance, usually when he waded out into the water looking for fish or occasionally through the glen at a fair distance where he would have already noticed me. At some point, he stopped taking the food every night and would usually satisfy himself with the water and, if Finknottle chose, the berry wine. While rummaging for a leafy substance that Finknottle requested, I came across a clearing where the captain evidently ate his food, given all the fish bones scattered about, and beyond that, where he more or less shat like a wild creature. The horror and odor of that spot on the island sent me returning briskly to the camp.

"Sir," I said to my master later that night, "I do not trust that captain. He seems at times to be stalking me."

"You worry so, Scribble," Finknottle answered, while chewing on some arva root, "he needs us for sustenance, you are quite safe."

"Yes, but I saw where he has been living and he seems to be less human these days. I'm not sure if reason has been his companion of late."

"True, true. And who knows what he's capable of when he's hallucinating from the wine. I thought he might become a Caliban of sorts to do my bidding, but he truly has turned into a wild creature of sorts. I would not recommend that you startle him or interrupt his feeding, if you can help it. Nor approach him if he appears to be wounded. I'll consider reducing the amount of piquant stimulants available to him. And he must not discover the arva groves.

As it would later turn out, it was not the arva groves that warranted our attention.

Over the weeks and months we had established individual thatched dwellings across from each other and performed some basic landscape adjustments that made the camp quite comfortable. Finknottle had established and aqueduct to divert the medicinal waters from the arva spring down to his hut. In the evenings he would prepare increasingly elaborate meals and tell long stories about Persians and the Far East and almost every point beneath the stars.

"Sir," I finally asked my master, "how and when are we going to get off this island?"

Finknottle looked flummoxed.

"It is just now getting comfortable in this spot and now you want to leave?" he said.

"So that we may finish our quest," I explained, "as laid out in that letter."

"Quite right, Scribble, we are on a quest, but haste is not the order of the day. The treasure and glory we seek has been elusive to man for a thousand years, and will be elusive for a thousand more if we do not solve its mystery. It has remained elusive because man has pursued it hastily. We are on the quest now, already in the middle of it. Take what refuge the quest affords and do not be in such a rush like some foolhardy modern man."

"But sir, what if by not pushing on, as you would have it, we lose our opportunity and cannot finish the task at hand?"

"Tsk, tsk, Scribble! You make it sound as though the completion of our quest is the most important thing in the world. I have been on this earth for generations upon generations and in that time I haven't completed a single thing yet!" Finknottle stood up and unfurled his chest, with his shoulders cocked straight back, "Now look, do I appear the worse for it?"

"But surely the aim of our quest means something, sir, since we took such great pains to leave quickly and find cheap entry into the Sassy Wench? And what of your Readers? Was this trip not so important that you left that which you hold most dear?"

Finknottle was quick and resolute with his reply: "This island allows me peaceful and quiet time which can be devoted to answering my Readers' mail without the interference of my small minded Editor."

"But sir," I asked, "how do you intend to receive and respond to the mailbag when it is oceans away?"

"Young assistant," master replied, shaking his head, "I have prepared for that contingency and, as we speak, an armada of reader mail is drifting towards us in a thousand empty whiskey bottles of as many brands and blends. Bye and bye the mail bag will find us. The mystery of our quest can wait, but the journey cannot."

So Finknottle left the pacing of our journey up to Providence. And Providence answered by speeding us on our way through an unforeseen catalyst.

One night I awoke to the sound of the coconut bowls being knocked off the food table. By the time I reached the doorway to my hut, I saw the reptilian silhouette that was now the captain slinking away into the foliage.

I shouted for Finknottle and found him slumped over by the fire pit, having an arva hangover.

"Sir, sir!" I said, shaking him to a conscious state, "I think the captain is up to something bad."

"Is he now?"

"I'm not sure what it is, but he was quick to leave when he noticed that I was awake."

"Probably stealing some of our fowl or fish. We'll assess the damage in the morning."

That morning we found that our store of fish and fowl was untouched, but Finknottle soon discovered that the captain had stolen his mysterious letter.

"We need to go after him," I panted.

"Easy, Scribble. He is still confined to the island, same as us. We shall track him, but first we must prepare for the trek. If he tries to transverse the island, we will need our nourishment."

By midday, he had packed a satchel of dried fish, a cakey breadfruit substance and an assortment of fruits and vegetables and made provisions for water and wildberry wine in a variety of turtle-skinned bladders that could be worn over the shoulder.

"We are off, Assistant."

And with that, we made are way to the interior of the island, picking up the captain's trail a ways beyond the arva groves. The desperate animal appeared to go straight up the incline that formed the mountainous barrier between the coast and the interior. What lay beyond was anyone's guess.

It took nearly half a day to reach the peak of the incline. We stopped periodically and ate from his satchel of provisions. By the time we reached the top, we could get a good view of what lay in store: an endless procession of ridges, each as seemingly daunting as the next.

"Sir, we may have to rethink this."

"Nonsense," Finknottle said, "the time for thinking has passed." He continued down the ravine. The trees were so thick and the steepness of the terrain was such that each step was an unnatural contortion and it was a challenge just to get a solid footfall. It was impossible to see a few feet in either direction for the amount of vegetation that had engulfed us. Yet, Finknottle pressed on until we got to the stream at the bottom of the ravine.

I tasted the water and quickly spit it out. Such brackishness I had thought could not exist. Meanwhile, Finknottle, as tireless as a goat, continued up the next incline while I trailed behind him. This continued for several ravines until night had overtaken us. We found a slight clearing at the top of one of the peaks.

"We shall camp here," Finknottle said, surveying our progress and the passage ahead.

"Do you think we are still on the captain's trail?" I asked.

"I'm certain of it, Scribble. Just two ravines ago I found some fish spines that the animal captain had left behind. Soon, though, he will run out of raw fish and it will be harder to track him."

"Why do you suppose he took the mysterious letter? Surely he cannot understand it's contents."
"That's just it, Scribble, the captain has no use for the letter, itself. Yet, it is clear he has been consumed by something, I know not what and he evidently has noticed that I have taken a great interest in the letter and that I had been guarding it closely. I suspect the animal captain desires to seek some harm towards me for a sense of revenge for causing him to lose the Sassy Wench. Doubtless, he had enjoyed the control he once had over her."

"If that was the case, would he not simply destroy the letter?"

"Perhaps," Finknottle said thoughtfully, "unless he stole it for a deeper purpose. If he destroys the letter, then no doubt he realizes I would then be happy to pine away here on the island. But if he steals it and runs away, then perhaps it is to induce me to continue the journey, through which, he might make it back to civilization. After all, his complete lack of ingenuity has shown that he is incapable of surviving by his own device with any amount of dignity on this island, let alone escaping it. He needs both of us Scribble."

"That seems like an elaborate and iffy plan to come from a fellow that has taken on such an animal state."

"Well, that leaves another scenario: that he has gone completely mad. After all, he has not seen a stitch of clothing or cooked food in months. Those types of things can test one's sanity."

Whatever the reasons for the captain's actions, they would remain a mystery undecipherable to us that night beneath the Pacific stars.

The next morning, after an exhausted and fitful sleep on jagged rocks, Finknottle was up and ready to continue the trek, having nourished him self on what he called 'amar,' a cakey tart mixture that he made from the breadfruit.

"I reckon, Assistant," Finknottle said while I was not yet up, "that we should reach the other side of the island in a fortnight, provided we increase our pace."

He gave me some of the amar and I washed it down with some water from my turtle-skinned bladder.

Inspecting the amount of liquids I had left, I asked the master, "Sir, what will we do about water?"

"That will not be a problem, as I suspect we might see some torrential downpours before long."

"How can you be so certain?"

"Because I observe things, Scribble. Perhaps you should, too. Now where did you put my plugs of arva?"

I handed him a chain of strung arva roots made into chewing plugs, the totality of which looked like a sort of bandoleer. He tore from a segment and put the chaw in his mouth.

"I suggest we sally forth."

And for the next several days we pressed, tirelessly on, ravine after ravine after ravine. And, as if there was a doubt, Finknottle was right about the rain. It fell upon us mercilessly in big heavy sheets. When we depleted the food stocks, we had no choice but to press on in hopes that the other side was not far off.

Eventually, the terrain began to shift in our favor when we found a heavy stream that led us toward an alluvial plain, a valley, really, that spread out ever wider towards the shore. And looking upon that expanse of the manicured valley, we could see a village of huts and human activity.

"Good heavens, sir, this appears to be a long lost tribe!"

"Not lost," Finknottle said, "merely oblivious to civilization. I would imagine they know exactly where they are."

"Should we approach them?" I asked.

"What other choice have we?" he answered, "besides, we must assume that the captain made it this far. Pray that he hasn't effectively turned them against us."

But as it turned out, it wasn't the captain's influence that we had to fear. The tribe looked us over with intense interest and rifled through Finknottle's belongings, leaving the medicine kit untouched but helping themselves to his bandoleer and his turtle-skinned bladders of wine. And then they whisked us away to a hog pen where the captain already lay, sleeping in a bed of dried grasses. He appeared too weak to notice us.

"What lies in store, master?" I asked, the tone of my voice begging for a glimmer of hope.

"A drifter I once met in the Sandwich Islands way back - a fellow that worked in a bowling alley at the time - accounted for a tribe similar to this, though the details have escaped me. I do remember one detail."

"Oh yea, and what was that?"

"That the savages were cannibals. As such, it would appear that these present savages are intent on cooking us into a feast. The captain is no longer his significant self and would hardly be substantial enough to feed a handful, let alone the entire community. Small wonder they were happy to see us."

"Are we doomed, master?"

"Of course not, Scribble. I will soon command this scene..."

-His Assistant

Monday, August 21, 2006

The ingenuity of Finknottle

A continuation of his travels ~

Dear Reader: you know that high-pitched sound used in the movies to suggest how hot the sun is baking the desert air? Well, that was the sound I was hearing after spending several days on the lifeboat – drifting aimlessly. We had stripped the captain completely bare and used his clothes as a makeshift sail, leaving him with a small pile of fish netting to shield himself from the intense ultraviolet rays. Alas, there was no wind. For days we were unable to determine if we were moving. Exhaustion overcame all of us.

“Wake the captain, Scribble,” Finknottle mumbled, sliding down his seat, “it is his turn to watch the sun...I fear the monkey is a spy...working for my contemptuous sow of an editor...my...word...juicer...”

Finknottle fell over, his tin cup spilling as it dropped from his grasp. His blistering skin continued to absorb the relentless heat rays.

“I see that screwball has been drinking salt water again, the stupid bastard,” the captain snarled.

“You hush, foul mouthed badger!” I said.

As we began restricting the captain’s opium intake, he started to return to his nasty self. When we stripped him bare, his tongue lashed more violently than I thought humanly possible, yet the insults the captain hurled at my master did not affect him in the least. I hated to hear them, though. It reminded me of the vile abuse Finknottle endured from our cruel editor back at the Liverputty offices – though Jeffrey’s style of abuse was prudish and comically square. Quite often I would sit in the Liverputty break room with Steve, after one of Jeffrey’s tirades, and we would secretly poke fun at the self-important fool. Steve’s retaliation for Jeffrey’s abuse was to halt production altogether on his Liverputty contributions. Due to the strict labor laws, Jeffrey could not do a thing about it.

Ah, the Liverputty offices. Woulds’t that I was there now, enjoying the scraps my master would leave me from his lunch. I’ve always felt that a bread’s crust was the best part of the loaf, whereas Finknottle does not. What’s more, my master is not fond of his hardboiled eggshells, and I enjoy the fiber they provide. Finknottle is generous enough to give me these leftovers for a very small reduction in my stipend - as such, the dietary relationship we share is symbiotic.

But back to the boat: at one point the captain tried to assume command and we were forced to tether him to the rail. I wanted to put a gag him, but Finknottle resisted that urge and let the man spew his verbal venom at will.

“Until we manage to reach someone on the radio, Assistant, the captain would at least provide us with noise for our listening pleasure.”

Days later as the rations shrank and the heat increased, the captain was forced to pick and choose his hateful remarks just to conserve his energy. For the most part, he remained almost entirely silent and still as a potato, which his bodily shape resembled, watching our every move.

His presence would not have been so disturbing had Finknottle remained conscious and alert. But the combination of seawater, which I had warned him about time and again, and his penchant for opiate chewables kept my master in a dazed, if not comatose, state.

So, there was my master, curled up in a fetal position on the bottom of the boat and the captain’s scheming eyes watching the both of us. Since there was no trace of wind I took down some of the captain’s clothes from the boat’s mast and placed them over my suffering master. Then I gave him my ration of fresh water.

The captain could not stand this and rebuked me for my actions. How could I cover the master with his clothes while he relied on a small pile of fish netting to shield him from the sun?

“He is my master,” I explained. “I owe him a life-debt.”

“You are too kind,” I heard Finknottle mutter meekly. “Were I not so weak, I would offer some assistance to you in return.”

“Pray, master,” I said, “think of a way out of this torment. There has not been a breeze in days and this ocean has grown too still.”

Though his face was turned downward and away from me, I could still hear him say: “Do not worry, Assistant.”

That night, after checking the captain’s restraints, I fell asleep to the sounds of waves hitting the side of the boat – a welcome sign that the sea was stirring.

I awoke just before dawn to the sensation of a swift breeze. I noticed that Finknottle was already awake and full of vigor. Having raised the makeshift sail, he was busy steering the ship.

“Avast! young assistant, our prayers have been an answered. Here come the gales!” He threw some lug nuts at the sleeping captain. “Stir, old salt! Look alive! The gales cometh!”

The captain, still tightly bound, wanted none of it and remained grouchily asleep.

Soon, a wall of dark clouds approached ever closer as the wind picked up and the waves swelled to frightening sizes. While I tended to cower close to the boat, bailing water, and the captain had completely withdrawn into himself, my master braved the storm and kept as much control of the small boat as was humanly possible. His Greek proportions defined when each lightening crack lit the sky.

“Fasten that sail, matey!

“Throw your weight starboard!

“Fetch me an opium tablet, ye lubber!”

Though the boat would seemingly tilt vertically with each massive wave and at each crest the drop off was scary as hell, Finknottle showed absolutely no signs of fear – as though his sea legs from serving under Captain Nelson had never left. Between my master’s barks and the thunder claps, I could not tell which I feared most, Finknottle or the storm. I bailed water at a tremendous rate until exhaustion overtook me and I fainted.

Upon waking, I found myself on a beach, beyond my feet the waves crashed on jaggy rocks. The captain was still unconscious a few yards away. The fishing net that had served as his only clothing was gone. His pink blubbery form glistened beneath the clear sky.

Where was Finknottle?

I could see some debris from the boat near shore, but there wasn’t much. The ribbon of beach was not wider than thirty feet. Beyond that was an intimidating thick lush wall of foliage, Polynesian in nature. It was impossible to view three feet into that jungle and I did not happen to have a machete to carve my way. I walked along the sandy perimeter, looking for an opening or clearing until I came to a small cove. I nearly bumped into some sort of contraption made of banana leaf containers of water held aloft by an assortment of sticks with a leafy dripping mechanism. I caught a whiff of smoke, which I soon noticed rising above the tree line. I approached the source and found a camp fire with several spits holding various fish over the flames. Beyond that fire was a thatched covered dwelling area. To the right I found Finknottle, lounging in a hammock made from the fishing nets – answering his mail.

“Master!” I said. “Where on Earth are we?”

“On and island, acolyte. In an ocean. Far from any shipping lanes or continents.”

“Did you do all this yourself?” I asked, marveling at the extent of his productivity.

“Do you see any badgers about?”

“No sir. This is quite something. And I noticed your water distillation device."

“Quite right, Assistant! I developed a real distaste for seawater during this journey. It was simply too salty for my pallet. Some may like it, but it is not my preference, so I decided to remove the salt from the liquid. It tastes much better now.”

“And safe, too, right?”

“Safer? Where do you get such ideas? I fear your brain may be too soft.”

“And how did you catch these fish?” I asked.

“With the hammock, dear boy. What else?”

“And the hut?”

“Good grief, Scribble, one would think that you’ve never been deserted on an island before. Honestly, where you picked up your ignorance is beyond me.”

He flopped over in his hammock – indicating to me that he wanted to discuss no more.

“Sir, shouldn't we bring the captain up here and put him beneath the hut away from the sun?” I asked.

“That thought had crossed my mind," Finknottle answered, "but he looked so peaceful and comfortable lying there on the beach. Besides, his countenance has been sour of late, and I feel that his presence might disrupt the otherwise soothing atmosphere we have discovered here.”

No sooner had he said this than the stumbling blubbery pink form of the captain approached from the beach. His contorted face made it apparent that he wanted to curse us in the worst way, but his voice was gone and all he could do was fall prostrate, his face in the dirt.

"I say, Scribble, that's the most agreeable thing the captain has done since we've met," Finknottle said, getting up from the hammock. "Now, how about some delicious spotfin croaker?"

Such were the events that led us to the island and to my first meal in several days. When I am able to post again, I will tell you, Dear Reader, of our time on the island and the emergence of the captain's curious behavior as well as the disappearance of the mysterious letter that began our quest.

-His Assistant

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Words From a Life-Rafte

Well, my Gentle Readers and lovers of Reason, I have taken pen in hand today to eke out a response or two to the inter-continental flow of reqwests for aide and consolation. My Assistant and I are on a journey of either plunder or mercy, (depending on how conditions meete us at our destination), but the freqwent lulls of inactivity should allow us time to corespond. The transo-fax/ship-to-shore link has been established, and if the portable word-juicer I have fashion'd from the lifeboat's filteration system works, we will be back in business.

My long-suffering Editore no doubte rekons us in dereliction of duty, but as readers of my autobiography well know, he is "Sharp as a marble", (pp.101-156), and "Worthy of only the rudest effigy, not of paper or straw but lumpen ash or tallow." (pp.238-338).

My Assistant has been reluctant to expound upon my Employere's lack of surplus neurons, inpart because he is drawing a small stipend from him as per the terms of his indentured servitude. I aim to correct this conflicte-of-interest in a future episode by declaring Scribble Derelict Property and assuming charge of his case under the Orphans and Domestic Cats Act of 1744. This will be a surprise for him upon his 16th year, once I have determined what calendar date to set for his birthday.

Now, for the qwestions:

Dear Finkfugger, I am incarcerated in the Tower of London for a crime I didn't commit without a really good reason. I need assistance to get my GED and become a dental technician, which has been my dream since I started this sentence. What tv-advertised courses can you recommend?

I fancy I've seen the late-night adverts you are referring to. By chance have you seen the one for the Sleep Number Mattress System? You can adjust the pressure in the hidden air bladders independently, to accomodate your and your sleepmate's needs.

Next Qwestion:

Darling Son, this is your Mother. Pick up! Are you there? Pick up! Well, I guess you aren't in. Where have you been? All your parole hearing notices are piling up in the hallway. I have sent back the orphans you saw fit to leave with us, we are elderly people, Son, and can't take care of your hobbies for you when you're away. I have talked to Dr. Hippodrome and he insists he'll see you again even disregarding what happened last time.

Dear Mother, I told you never to call me here. I appologize for this laspe in decorum, listeners. Please don't adjust your browser. Read on:

Dear Spinkbottle,
I want to find my birth parents who abandoned me here on Earth 17 years ago. What should I do, contact some kind of Galactic Agency or hire a Tracker to find them?

-sincerely, Stranded in the Solar System


Dear Stranded, I have made an extensive search in the local star-cluster for your parents. I also enlisted an expert, Dr. Alfred Albrecht at the University of California, Berkeley, where he is charge of the SETI project (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence). He made the following observation:

"None of my students want to see me after class! Why don't they seek me out for the wisdom I can offer? I even made an office interview a required part of the class, and 93% chose to take a reduced grade instead."

As we can see from this expert testimony, the chances of finding your parentage and alas even your birth-world are slim and none. But Fear Not! Finknottle is here to help. As we speak my lawyers are bribing the appropriate authorities to make way for my Orphanarium. Soon I'll be able to benefit from the relaxed labore standards and also give the galactic homeless a place to receive their welfare checks, which I have generously decided to cash for you. This project is not, as my critics charge, merely a tax dodge, it is also a scheme to produce the finest sweat-shop jute in the tri-country area.

I wish you all good luck, and until next time,
-Finknottle, Esq.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Nuts in the Ocean

Finknottle continues the story ~

Well, Dear Figgyies, I am not at the Word juicer to-day, but that will not stay my hand from seeing to your rekwests for inspir'd counsel. My Assistant has filled you in with the detailia of our travelouge, and nicely brought us up-to-date. His narrative had placed us exactly where we need to be, vis., on route to an important errand in the Southern Hemisphere.

We now open the scene with Self collapsed against a large wooden crate, sucking on an opium tab, wet hand-kerchiefe on my face. Also arrayed in formation are My Assistant, to his left the former Captain of the Sassy Wench, and below him, a lifeboat. Below that is the Indian Ocean, a most un-aptly named body of water. I, that is to say, Self, am rummaging in the crate mentioned afore. The Captain was not saying much, having burned his lips on a cigar in an accident unrelated to the Mutiny. And now for the dialoge.

Assitant: "Sir, I don't know how you can be so complacent." he said.

I (Self): "Whatever do you mean, young Scribble?" I replied.

[Notice how the deft hand of the experienced writer has efficiently arranged the scene for readibility and eschewed the vernacular.]

My assistant continued his theme, "We are adrift, the Sassy Wench is no longer even within flare distance, and all you are doing is sitting there abusing the opium!"

I fished a lugnut out of the crate, and tossed it overboard behind me. "I am also throwing lugnuts overboard," I mentioned helpfully.

He failed to see the note of cooperation I had struck. "How will we get to Lima or even survive the night without rations?" he begged.

I threw another rusty lugnut into the Atlantic, checking my watch, and smiled. "I have not the foggiest idea how we'll survive."

Assistant looked petulant and whined," I hate being stranded in the South Pacific with you."

"Then stop doing it," I replied. The water splash'd with the impact of another metal lugnut. The Captain looked up from a water-logged copy of Archie Comics and snorted at Self.

"I don't see why you couldn't use your spacious brain and think up a way to get us along to Lima, Sir" my Assistant said, using his most obsequious pandering tone.

"I am currently using my brain to answer my readers' letters, if you must know. It is my solemn duty, after all." I stared at my watch for a good half-minute and hucked another lugnut to the fish.

My Assistant eyed me warily. "Why are you doing that?" he asked cautiously.

I indicated the side of the crate. "What do you see stencilled just there?" I asked.

"Alamagordo, New Mexico, New America." Scribble replied. "What do they produce in Alamagordo?"

"Lugnuts," I replied.

"I can see that," he retorted haughtily, "but what importance can they possibly have?"

I was aghast. "Without lugnuts, dear boy, the wheels of the car you are motoring around in will displace and leave you high and dry."

Scribble was not in thinking-cap mode, and persisted in being obtuse. "What has that to do with anything?" he yelled.

I grabbed the side of the crate and shook it, the lugnuts jingled inside. "There are a lot of Chevys in Alamagordo that aren't going anywhere..." I trailed off.

"Because they're missing their lugnuts!" Scribble suggested.

"No," I said, "because they've blown up."

"Ahh," said Scribble. "So the opium is past it's expiration date like I told you, and you're babbling again. That's lovely."

The Captain surreptitiously palmed an opium tablet from the open tin nearby and gamely looked it over, presumably looking for it's expiration date.

I launched another lugnut over the bow and narrowly missed a seagull. "Do you know what they make in Alamagordo, Scribble, my very young Assistant?"

He shrugged. "Chevys?" he offered.

"Atomic weapons." I said. He looked nonplussed. "They have to test them of course, to see if they're as frightfully awful as they claim in their brochures. They test them on fake houses, rows of them, fake lampposts and fake mailboxes. And...." I paused, "real cars."

"So the cars are.." Scribble struggled for the next word.

"1957 Chevys." I said.

"And these antique machines are blown up?" he said as if in a dream.

"Smashed to bits." I confirmed.

"And the lugnuts..." he said, beginning to follow along.

"The lugnuts are all that's left," I said. I picked one up and hurled it at the horizon.

"They must be radio-activated!" Scribble said, alarmed.

I picked another one up and licked it thoughtfully. "Yes, I would expect they are." I said. I looked at my watch and, after a tick, nonchalantly let the lugnut fall out of my hand into the deep.

Scribble thought for a bit, then sat down and put his head in his hands. "All is clear to me now. You're placing your hope for rescue in a trail of breadcrums. Genius that you are, you've only missed one detail." He paused, "Metal sinks!" he fumed.

The Captain had finished the Archie Comic by my count at least three times, and was now reading it backwards, in an attempt, I presume, to get Jughead unstuck from the mud his jalopy was in. He'd been unhappy with the plight Jughead ended up in every time he re-read the funnybook, and was now taking matters into his own hands. I was beginning to form a profile of the Captain, vis-a-vis his mental clockwork. By my count he was missing several teeth on the main drive gear, and his flywheel was caught on his winding stem, if you catch my drift. I turned my attention back to my long-suffering Assistant.

"Do know where my Editore is right now?" I asked mildly.

"No." my Assistant sobbed.

"Well at this very moment he is using my blue prybar to loosen the floorboards under my word-juicer." I said, without venom. "I anticipated that his greed would get the better of him, so I bolted the machine to the floor, but that won't stop him, just delay the inevitable."

Scribble said nothing, so I continued. "Do you know what he'll do when he's finished winching my word-juicer into his office?"

"No," said Scrib.

"He'll check his email."

"Aha," said Scribble, "is that a fact."

"Yes it is dear boy." I said. "Poor man is addicted to email. Shame, really. Then he'll while away the hours on the Internets, surfing here and there. He'll make a loop of all the usual places, but he always surfs himself to sleep in the same place, at Google Earth. He scans the globe, zooming in on his enemies houses and so forth, until sleep finally overtakes him. That's when he'll see us."

I finally had Scribble's attention. He began slowly, "So he'll look at the globe, scan the oceans, and see our trail of radio-activated lugnuts that can be seen from space!"

"Indeed, dear boy." I said, pleased.

The Captain was eyeing me carefully.

"And you've spaced out the lugnuts to spell a message in Morse code!" He almost jumped for joy.

"Yes, yes." I said. "Not a hard code to learn, even a simpleton like him will be able to read it, I imagine."

"What does the message say, Sir Finknottle?" asked Scribble.

"Keep your hands off my word-juicer." I said.

The Captain snorted happily at this.

"Oh," said Scribble. "I thought perhaps this was how you'd been submitting our columns. Or sending a s.o.s. to get us some help?" He looked at me hopefully.

"No point in that," I said and he frowned. "That's what the ship-to-shore radio is for." I said, showing him the device.

He looked incredulous. "The crew of the Sassy Wench let you have that?" he asked.

"Of course," I smiled, "They're not cannibals."

-Finknottle

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Reason for Finknottle's Absence, Pt. 2

a continuation of the explanation as put for by Finknottle's Assistant

The Sassy Wench creaked and moaned grouchily with each swelling crest and dipping trough of the waves, such was her age that you would have thought she was in constant discomfort. Her engines left a trail of gaseous odor that must have remained far behind her sizable wake. The odor was so strong that the captain had warned Finknottle not to toss his cigar over the Wench’s stern as she tended to leak liquids quite uncontrollably.

For the first few hours after Finknottle had bested the captain in the wager, it appeared that the morose fellow might own up to the stakes. But soon after, Finknottle suspected that the he was plotting our demise. As we stood along by the bow of the ship, Finknottle glanced at the stars and estimated our course to run directly to the Orient.

“But we won the bet, Sir?” I said.

“Remember, Assistant, that this same man who made that pathetic attempt to make one juvenile mus appear as though it were two. It is not beyond reason to conclude that he may be crooked.”

“What can we do?” I asked, “he commands the whole crew. They could do whatever they wish with us. We are powerless, are we not?”

Finknottle abruptly bid me adieu and sped away with no further explanation. A few hours later I saw him again, emerging from the galley.

“Well, it certainly doesn’t appear that we will be eating from the captain’s menu,” Finknottle told me. “There’s barely enough fowl readied to cook to feed the captain, let alone us. But there is more than enough gruel to go around.”

“Oh,” I said.

“Not to worry, Assistant. Tonight it is best that we don’t eat anything.”

He said no more while I mused over that curious statement.

Within the hour, the captain sent some men to apprehend and confine us in the tiny forecastle cabin. He dropped any pretense of politeness and made clear that the wager was no more. When two sailors appeared and gave us some gruel, Finknottle accepted the bowl and the cup of water. I, too, accepted the bowl. While Finknottle drank freely from his water, he set aside his gruel without a word or a taste. I studied his face to get his meaning, but his coutenance was of stone. As I started to take a spoonful of the gray tasteless matter, he shot me a glance. I spit the mouthful out and set my bowl aside.

The next morning we learned that the entire crew had become extremely incontinent and miserably nauseated. Even the captain was in bad shape. Finknottle was quick to notice our guard’s illness and demanded to see the captain.

At first, the guard bawked, but when Finknottle explained to the green toned sailor that he would be able to cure his ailment, he relented and sent for the captain.

“My crew is almost entirely bedridden and I am busier than a filipino whore! What do you want, Fronkmitzer?”

“I seek to cure your crew, with your permission.”

“Are you a doctor?” the captain asked.

“I saw the discoloration in the guards eyes and have some idea of the bug that must no doubt have overcome the ship.”

“And why aren’t you or your Assistant sick?” the captain suspiciously asked.

“Have you ever been to Tanzania?” Finknottle shot back.

“What does that have anything to do with it?”

“Have you?”

"No.”

“My Assistant and I made a trip to Tanzania some time back and, accordingly, received a vaccination for E. Congian Nuero dysentery, a rare and potentially deadly virus. The very bug that your crew has acquired. Fortunately, it is treatable if detected early enough. I can help your crew, captain.”

“Then do it!” the captain shouted between gagging heaves.

“But first, I must implore that you guarantee that from here on you treat my Assistant and me in ways that are befitting a gentleman.”

“Guaranteed!,” the captain agreed.

“Meaning that we can roam freely about the ship and eat from your pantry.”

“Okay!” the captain snapped.

As the guard unlocked our cabin, Finknottle turned to me.

“Assistant, grab my medication kit.”

Even though I barely made contact with the gruel, I too felt a pretty severe bout of the runs. When I related this to my master, he turned to me and suggested that I should have comprehended the meaning behind his facial expressions.

“But sir, you had no expression,” I explained.

“You have so very much to learn, Assistant, so very much to learn,” he said.

And with that, he proceeded to treat the crew with an assortment of herbal ingredients brewed into some type of mysterious tea. I requested that I should receive the same antidote, but he quietly suggested to me that I needn’t bother. Within hours the crew began to show signs of improvement, as did I. However, Finknottle had diagnosed the captain’s illness as more advanced than that of the rest of the crew:

“I’m afraid the folic acids inherent in most fowl tend to accelerate the effects of the virus, captain. As luck would have it, the gruel was not salted to taste, so the rest of your crew was spared,” he explained. “That is one benefit for treating your men so poorly.”

Finknottle placed the captain on a steady dosage of opiates and ipecac so that he was either in the process of kecking or in a state of agreeable euphoria.

For the next several days the crew held Finknottle in the highest esteem, since he had delivered them from certain death. Even the captain seemed to be completely under the influence to each of Finknottle’s suggestions. I would often notice Finknottle whispering in his ear. As a result, we ate like kings and enjoyed the comforts of the captain’s quarters. The shipment of snuff was opened up for the master’s use. In short, Finknottle effectively assumed proxy control of the Sassy Wench. Only one problem remained: how to correct the ship’s course to take us to Lima.

Finknottle feared that under the current environment, changing the Wench’s course might still arouse the suspicions of the crew. Instead, he placed a careful array of magnets around the navigational equipment so that the navigator would believe, so far as the compass told him, that the Sassy Wench was traveling west when she would actually be heading back toward to Lima instead. This plot took some time for Finknottle to properly calculate and was done in complete secrecy. Even after the first two days, despite the sun not setting properly in the sky, in part due to the overcast weather, the crew suspected nothing. During that period, Finknottle diverted the crews’ attention with an assortment of wild stories and addictive betting games. Through the latter he managed to acquire most of the crews’ possessions.

This turned out to be a poor move on the master’s part because after the crew was penniless their devotion to the miraculous stowaway began to shift towards resentment. Still, we may have avoided catastrophe had Lima been approaching on the horizon. However, despite his careful calculations, there was one misplaced magnet. Instead of nearing our destination, the ship had careened off course and we were hopelessly lost. This fact soon dawned on the crew as the Sassy Wench found itself far from any known shipping lanes. The oceans currents and waves eventually ceased altogether and the surface of the water appeared as one smooth endless mirror. The only ripples in the ocean were cause by the Sassy Wench’s fat rusty hull.

It was not long before the blame of our predicament was placed directly on Finknottle. A mutiny was afoot.

“The man is a Jonah!” one of the crew members shouted.

“Let’s cast the Jonah and his mate overboard!” another man yelled.

Noticing that the captain had been entirely complacent and accepting of Finknottle’s counsel, the crew concluded that he, too, was part of the problem and should be jettisoned as well.

While the crew agreed upon the three culprits of their dire circumstance, a split occurred regarding how to handle us. Some of the men simply wanted us to walk the plank, while the humanitarians among them preferred to drop a lifeboat and send us on our way with a scant supply of water and gruel.

They chose the latter and we were sent afloat as the gassy toxic Sassy Wench gimpily chugged away.

“How are we going to get out of this?” I implored.

“Indeed, this requires some thought,” my master responded. “Scribble, fetch me an opium tablet from my kit.”
___________________________________________

Alas, dear reader, I have again run out of time. I, or my master, hope to be back next week with more of our story.

Until then, take care and leave the lamp on for us.

-His Assistant

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Reason for Finknottle's Absence:

an Explanation as Put Forth by His Assistant ~

I can explain….

Sir Gustave Q. Finknottle loves his readers. Over the past month I have read stories from Jeffrey at Liverputty making all types of wild accusations, seeking to besmirch Finknottle’s character in his absence, or his absence of character. These stories have been grossly exaggerated at best, completely false the rest of the time. Sir Finknottle is a scholar and a gentleman. Usually the first to help a lady, but always the first to help a child. He does not have an uncommonly foul odor, as had been charged, and he only uses opiates in a very casual, albeit frequent, basis. It pains my heart to see Jeffrey berate my master with these appalling accusations. I cannot help but feel that Jeffrey covets Finknottle’s word juicer. I have noticed him gazing at the mechanism with a glint in his eye.

I say that Finknottle loves his audience, and I mean it. Often, during his lonelier nights, I have heard him talking to you. Whether he was asleep or awake, I’m not sure. But I do know this: he is a man not easily chained, yet the mailbag which weighs heavily on his back is something he bears gratefully. It is only with a pain in his heart that he does not meet a deadline to address the concerns of his followers. Few things can tear him away from that obligation. As you might imagine, such a thing happened recently, directly after he filed his last column, in fact. A note had arrived at his desk, and when he saw it, he could not make heads or tales of it. It was a curious affair. Finknottle would not tell me its contents, but simply said: “Great riches await the end of this journey we are about to take, but we must blend in with the common folk. Go, straightway to the hotel and grab the pea-jackets. We depart immediately.”

“But where are we headed, sir?” I asked.

“To Lima!” he said, “I know someone there that might speed us along our path.”

“And what is our path, good sir?” I pressed.

“I’ll spare you such trifling details, for now, young Assistant. Now do as I say and don’t forget to bring my medication kit. I will meet you at the Chowder Inn at six o’clock. We will board a vessel as honest sailors.”

“Pray, how do you intend to find a vessel that is leaving tonight and that might accept our labor?”

“Accept nothing of the sort!” he bristled. “The ship will leave in a day or two, we are simply boarding early. I know many captains along the docks, and I do not believe there will be an issue. We will be treated as fare paying passengers, bye and bye, dear Assistant, but it is important that we alert no one to our departure.”

I hastened to do as he instructed and met him at the inn. We sat down in the restaurant and the waitress came to take our order.

Looking at the menu, Finknottle indulged to order for the both of us: “Maid, we will have two bowls of pea soup; an order of herring and salt eels; a brown herbolace – tenched with a larded broth; glazed pommoeaulx and a black civey of oysters.” He then turned to me: “what would you care to drink? Perhaps a port?”

But I did not get a chance to answer before the waitress interrupted: “Sir, we do not have any of those things.”

Flummoxed, Finknottle turned to the waitress: “Oh well, I am sure it is to no fault of your own. Then just prepare some bream and salmon pasties and fix a platter of porpoise frumenty…now, good Assistant, what beverage would you prefer?”

But the waitresses interrupted again: “We only have chowders and stews here as well as beans.”

Finknottle was visibly agitated: “No carp, no herring? Not even river fish a la dodine? Is this a place for dining or not?”

After much haggling, Finknottle settled on the clam chowder and a bottle of wine. Once it was served, he seemed to enjoy the meal and continued with explaining his scheme, or at least, explaining why he could not explain his scheme.

“I cannot tell you now, Assistant, about our ultimate destination…”

At midnight, we made our way the docks and selected for our passage a ship called the Sassy Wench. It was a rusty old freighter sadly in need of repair.

“Sir,” I asked, “this vessel looks as though she has seen better days. Just look at the condition of her hull.”

“I’ve checked the cargo manifest, and I assure you that we have chosen the right vessel,” he said with confidence. “She may not look like much, but she should be easy to get into.”

“But sir, do you know this captain?”

“Ah, but the question is: does he remember me? I should say it has been a spell since the two of us have broken bread. We shall see soon enough. Now to the hold.”

It was late and we laid our bedrolls in a dark corner of the hold. Finknottle had liberated a lantern from an unlocked chamber on the deck and we made ourselves as comfortable as possible. Barely fifteen minutes had passed before we each fell asleep – so tuckered from the day’s toil were we.

I awoke very early the following morning to the hum of the ship’s engine.

“Finknottle!” I shook him hard. “We are departing!”

“Fine, fine, Assistant, now go back to slumber. When the ship gets far enough from shore we shall present ourselves. You will need your rest.” And with that he went back to sleep.

When he did wake and had straightened his garments so that he would be presentable when he introduced himself to the crew, I managed to extract from him that he did not know this particular captain.

“But sir,” I protested, “the captain will no doubt turn us in to the authorities at the first opportunity.”

“That is a possibility, I suppose,” he said, tugging at his chin whiskers, "but I am willing to take that chance, if you are….”

“You will be stripped and searched…”

“As has happened before, with no harm as a result,” Finknottle scoffed.

“Yes, but they might find your letter!”

He paused at the staircase and sat quiet for a brief moment.

“You make a strong point, Assistant. What would I do without you? Perhaps it is best to stay hidden for a while longer. We should have enough rations to last us until Panama. If necessary, we can emerge and blend in with the crew in order to obtain more provisions.”

“I should say that seems to be the prudent choice, Sir.”

“Very well then, that is what we will do. Assistant! look in my trunk, you will find some spam along with an assortment of spices. We shall enjoy a hearty breakfast. In my leather flask is some choice grog.”

As we ate and drank, he retold of his time in the Baltic Sea under Lord Nelson.

“How is it, Sir, that you have managed to live so long?” I asked.

“I know not what you mean? Are not old men everywhere? Is not George Bernard Shaw old? I fail to see how I am so different.”

“Well, Sir, for one, Mr. Shaw has been dead for half a century or more. But even if he were alive, he would be only a fraction of your age, which by my estimate, would be upwards of 600 years old.”

“What is this talk of years? I’ve managed to maintain good health, I have much experience…nothing more.”

“Well, then, what is your secret to good health?” I asked. His eyes lit up and he grabbed me by the arm.

“Let me show you!” he said and stood up and led me past several large crates until he reached one that read: snuff.”

“Yes, the right brand of snuff taken in excess, along with free flowing liquors and wines, and you have what I would call a foundation for a balanced diet.”

“So that is why you chose the Sassy Wench.”

“Verily, Assistant. There would be no other reason to enter this smelly and rusty ship!”

For a couple of days we stayed out of sight, making one corner of our temporary quarters to be the privy, another corner was the kitchen. His rations, however, were not properly rationed and we soon exhausted his supply of spam, canned salmon and chestnuts and his dried figs. The grog, too began to run low – though we had an endless supply of snuff. On day three, per Finknottle’s insistence, we began cooking and preparing the ships rats for our meals. Finknottle, ever the resourceful cook, managed to prepare each rat in a unique manner according to his vast culinary knowledge. However, soon, we began to exhaust even the ship’s supplies of rats and we became very hungry.

“The time has come to mingle about the crew, Assistant, for in a few days I may not be able to muster the strength to climb this imposing staircase.”

“Have we completely run out of ship’s-rats?” I asked.

“We have, indeed, Assistant.”

“I am so glad,” I sighed.

We put on our pea jackets and emerged on the deck. As we made our way to the ship’s galley, we were almost immediately spotted as stowaways. Apparently the style of jacket that we wore was about a century away from what contemporary merchant marines wore. Finknottle attempted to explain away the difference, but the sailor was not accustomed to his language and insisted, in his uneducated manner, to present us to the captain.

The captain turned out to be a harsh man. He was not satisfied with our explanations on why we had stowed away on his ship and became quite agitated that a considerable portion of his snuff cargo had been used.

His first mate asked: “Where shall we put these men.”

“The room in the forecastle locks from the outside. We can secure them there.”

“And what about meals? Shall they eat the same as the rest of us?”

“No! We shall teach them a lesson. Have the cook feed them rats from the ship!” he growled.

Finknottle coughed as though to get the captain’s attention.

“What is it? Do you object to our prisoners’ menu?”

“Hardly, sir, but ships’ rats are wily and resourceful vermin. Do you think your men will be capable of catching one?” Finknottle smugly asked the captain.

As you might imagine, the captain was blushing, nay, boiling with anger.

“I would stake the Sassy Wench on it!” he said.

“Well,” Finknottle, fighting a snicker, “I would hardly know what to do with her, being as big and old as she is! I imagine she requires considerable maintenance and a periodic sandblasting. Aye, but she’s a fine ship, I am sure. No, I would be content wagering over something smaller, though, I would think, significant”

“A wager that I would not be able to feed you a single rat?”

“No, sir!” Finknottle fired back, “Two rats – within two hour’s time. One for my Assistant.”

“Alright!” The captain responded, “Now, foul smelling stowaway, are you meaning a total of three rats? Two for you and one for your less odious partner? Or a total of two rats, one for each of you?”

“Have your pick.”

“Three rats,” the cocky captain assured, “in two hours time. And what is the wager?”

“Your meals for the remainder of the vessel, a key to our quarters, roaming priviledges about the Sassy Wench and freedom once we are safely ashore in Lima.”

“We’re not going to Lima, you imbecile!” the captain scoffed.

“We are if you cannot feed me and my Assistant a rat dinner.”

“And if we feed you that rat dinner?”

“You see basically all we have right here.”

The captain laughed heartily.

“When you lose, I will seize all your belongings and those of your assistance, including your garments. You will clean the desks, the galleys and the crapper. Then you will be handed to the police when we dock.”

Finknottle agreed. “And I do like my rodent broiled and judiciously buttered and judgematically salted. Yes, and rare.”

“You will be lucky if it is cooked and all.”

After a gentleman’s shake, they locked us into a closet size space in the forecastle. We waited patiently. There was no way to tell time. The men were able to produce one rodent, which they pretended to cut in such a way as to suggest there were two. But Finknottle is dexteriously nimble and a gifted puzzle solver. Before the men could blink he formed the juvenile rat back into its singular self, so that there was no denying it was not two.

The time ticked away and before long the captain ceded victory to Finknottle.

One would have thought that our perils ended there, but they did not.

Dear reader, I wish that I could conclude this story in one sitting to bring you up to speed to our current predicament, but they are telling me I have only a few minutes left. I shall continue when I or Finknottle gets an opportunity.

Until then,
-His Assistant

Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Well, Dear Listeners, the time is upon us to confront the most important qwestion of all: where are my glasses? Ah, there we are.

Now I would answere the many requests I get to reveale a little more about myself. Besides my tenure here at the Frontal Lobe, I am quite busy.

I have responsibilites, including aiding the staffe of St. Margaret's Home for Waywarde Girls. I am teaching the male doctors and orderlies to be more lecherous through my negative excample. I show up inebrieat'd and foul-tempered and attempt to glom onto the first available female inmate. The resulting Disgust and ambient fear thus aroused is a helpful teaching tool, according to the Board of Directors there.

"This is what you will face upon youree release from our Care," they say to their charges, and the aghast faces register actual Concern, to be compared with the smug attitudes normally put down in reaction to the staff's pleas for good behavior.

I do this as a free service to the Community, and receive nothing in return, save the frequent love-letters frome the affore-mentioned girls. These delusional missives are highly sexually charged and usually quite explicit. I keep them in a file, and read them on occasion, when the Mood is right.

I have also sent in my Application to be Viceroy of Mexico. My resume is a little thin, but the picture is outstanding. I expect a reply in next month's transo-fax.

Many of you have written in to ask what brand or brands of Snuff I enjoy, and I would direct you to Sgt. Smith's High-Acting Nose Powder. Do not snort too hard, but when you do, do not swallow the inevitable slime that creeps down the back of your throat. But when you do, be sure to expectorate the substance forthwith, and aim carefully. My Editore has seen fit to converge a series of Lexan panels around my work-station, and I have not taken Offence.

Now, on to the Qwestions!:

Dear Funknasty,

My uncle Ned and I have a bet. I say that the phrase is “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” Uncle Ned says it’s a spoonful of whiskey. Which of us is right?

Sour in Savannah


Dear Sour, the answere to the riddle lies in the make-up of the Medicine in qwestion. There are Tinctures of Opium that are already thoroughly sugared and also completley whiskeyfied to boot. That is no reason not to tamper with the recipie however, and I can attest to the flavor-enhacing qualitites provided by High-Fructose Corn Syruppe, a sqeeze of lime, salt, vinegar, horseradishe, lamb's fat, boiled boot-laces, villifying powdere and Extract of Spleen.

Mix these in a high-ball glass and serve chill'd. There is no way to increase the Opium effectiveness without, you may have surmised, increasing the Opium. Additive tablets are available in any of the top 5 drawers of my desk. Helppe yourself, but do leave a note if you exhaust any one type.

Dear Fangnottle,

My friend Isaiah and I have a bet. I say that if you name your daughter “Savannah”, you’ve destined her to become a stripper. Isaiah says a Mary Kay saleswoman. Which of us is right?

Gambling in Gramblin


Does your friend Isaiah ever speake of what offices a man with his name generally holds? We should ask him what gives him the right to denigrate strippers and saleswomen. Most likely he is merely jealous, as these are professions not open to men. But to be fair, we need more information. Instruct Isaiah to change his name to Savannah. He will need a dress and wig and an interview with Mary Kay or the local burlesque house, whichever comes first.

My hunch is, he will land one or the other job, and his subsequent boost in self-esteem will render the entire argument moot. Plus the qwestion will be answered as to which profession a Savannah may inhabit best. Two with one stone, good odds on any day.

Now I have the great honor to announce the promotion of My Assistant from Claerk Third-Class to Claerk Fourth Class. Oops, this is actually a demotion, probably because of his botched handling of the Maile-Roome staff union dispute. No one thought he could pull it off, and if I'm not mistaken I hear money changing hands right now. Better luck next time, Scribble. I fear I am to blame, as it was I who forced you to negotiate in my place without any preparation. But there is a silver lining, as I am several pounds richer having bet against your success! You will learn to invest with the same verve someday, if you follow my example.

Good Day, and Good Night,
-Finknottle

Sunday, July 2, 2006

Column #9

Yes Indeed, dear chums, the days do pass quickly at this Lattitude. We will soon be needing to round up the livestock and prepare them for canning. Remind me to pass on the family recipie for Jugged Goat.

Without further ado, we will retire to the Qwestion-and-Answer phase.



Finknottle,
Sir, how do you write your columns?

-Intrigued in Indiana


Dear Indiana, the creative process is the same whethere I am making a mind-shatteringly incisive column or baking a hen. Which is to say I first use the ingredients at hand, measurre them carefully, and cook.

But I suspect you mean the work-intensive process as a whole. Well, first the qwestions are formed in the fore-brain of You the listener. These are transmitted by telepathy to the paper and sent via messenger to the Liverputty receiving rooms. There they are sorted, categorized, shredded and additives poured in and left to sit for 7-10 days.

At the end of this curing step, the resulting slurry is piped into a holding tank on the roof of the Liverputty Eeditorial building. There is a tap above my desk that allows a discrete amount of slurry to be drained into my Wordgrinder. The steam is turned on, and pressure built up, and then I throw the valve that forces the works into motion.

After grinding and concatenation, the column emerges in its pastey, pre-finished form. This ghost of a column is sent to the print-room where it is hardened and trimmed to size. The antique spellings are thrown in, and extra 'e's wedged in anywhere and everywhere. A team of mimetic mice sketches the visage of Self for the portrait, capturing the changes over time that this job inflicts. When the whole is done, it is shipped via courier-camel to the distribution hubs around the world.

Was that too technical?

Yes, but it was worth it!
-Intrigued in Indiana


Dear Mr. Minkthrottle,

I was wowed and impressed by your command of the Subterranean Endeavours of the Badger. This has encouraged me to pose the Question that has plagued me, Lo, these many years. I happen to suffer from a low body temperature(and the naturally concomitant solitude) and was wondering which small mammals I should sew into my clothing for warmth and companionship. Do you have any suggestions? Icneumon Rats? White Footed Ferrets? Help!

Shivering in Sheboygan


Yes, I can plainly see the dilemma. Rats and ferrets are too toothy, I fear, (as are Badgers) to be safe for installation in proximity to the skin. There are warm-blodded worms, heat-generating insects and bacteria which in suitable numbers can raise the air a few degrees. I take it your employer will not see fit to pipe in warmth to your work-arena. Perhaps some subtle method of lowering his temperature would induce him to raise the firm's abient level. Post pictures of the Arctic, or turn the discusison to polar bears and frozen tundra. Put his hat in the crisper drawer of the automatic fridging unit.

Thank you for joining me, that is all for today, dear listeners.

Until next time I am...
-Finknottle.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

An Appeale to Reason

Welcome once again, dear listeners. We are charged with many divers qwestions and Trubbles todaye, but first I must address a quandrie of my own. I must use my station as a leading member of the Advice Columnist Community to protest an attack on my own kind. I recently reviewed a shrill letter to my compadre Ann Landers. The Authore of this unprovoked attack declared her to be 'The Whore of Babylon' and a shrew. Her advice, given freely and signed with her own name was judged unfairly to be 'useless drivell' and 'Nonsense'. I am here to tell you that despite the uninteresting qwestions her producers drege upp, she is there to help. No matter the tiny minds at work behind the requests for advice, and their senseless arguments. Without regard for her reputation, she humbley dives in to debates about wedding invitations and brides-maid dresses and the coloration said dresses should or should not be!

This is a situation to by pitied, not censured, dear listeners.

And across the Web at the Slate magazine, Cary Tennis makes do with similar chaff in his advice mill. "How do I stop picking my nose?", literally formed the gist of an article entire. He took this foul biskit and ran with it, dear friends, like a man hurying to put out a Judge with a wigg on fire. With no thought of his own sanity, he publishes one drool-worthy answer after another in response to the lower-brain-stem firings of complete wastrels.

Your dutiful Finknottle has of course only the instincts of a surgoene, wishing to excise the lumps of dread in the heads of my poor partners in this business. Would that every columnist had a stable of cool heads and global talent to draw his meat and potatoes from. We can't all pluck the low-hanging fruit. We can't all be Priviledged to address the autonomous Island nation of the Caymans, discourse with super-intelligent dogs, and wrestle with existential searching of the highest level. I am enlifted, embiggened by this flowe of halcyon entreaties, and to perform this Service is an honor.

To the detractores I say, "Leave Ann alone! She writes for the unwashed millions who need to pretend they can read while riding the trains. Take your claws off Cary! He studied at barber college, and can afford no better position in the industry. Take a swipe at Finknottle, foul critics! See what a real columnist is made of, and release the smaller fish back to their brackish ponds."

Finknottle has thrown the gauntlet, and in the interest of full disclosure, Finknottle is running for President of the Advice Columnists Union.

Now, on to the letters:

Hey Finkpoodle - I was watching some humpback whales off the Hawaiian islands the other day and it looked like the markings on one of their tails said, "Bite Me". Do you think this was a hallucination or did I somehow unknowingly piss off a humpback? What should I do? (and please, please let it cost me less than $237 - that's all I have in the world)
Signed-Desperately Humping


Dear Desperately Humping, I have no idea what you are talking about. I literally cannot parse the words. Let us try a substitution code: read the next Ann Landers column you can put your grips on. Insert "Humpback" where it says "Bridesmaid", and "Hallucination" where it reads "Mother-in-Law". Report back what you glean from this exercise.

Next Qwestion:

Finkster,
I have heard that there may still be more works of Shakespeare which are yet undiscovered. I think Shakespeare would have meant to write a play about Mary and Jesus. Would it be worthwhile for me to try to write up a script, and say that I found it under a seat at the Globe Theater? How many farthings shall I demand for it?


Well, as the Authore of several erzatz Shakes plays myself, I can help you along. The nub or crux of the exercise is to borrow as much verbiage, say 70%, from the Bard. This will ensure that the resulting mess will at least scan with some flavor of the right sort. Then, scramble the parts, assigning the mens' roles to women and vice-versa. This will effectively disguise the donor text. For Mary and Jesus I recommend Rosencrans and Guildenstern.

As for the discovery of the manuscript, make it an event. Perhaps during a performance! Bribe the hungriest-looking usher and let him share the limelight, perhaps by helping pry up a flooreboard where you have chanced upon the script. If he plays the foil with gusto, you'll not only have a partner in crime, but a potential Guildenstern.

Finkheimer,
I am wanting to move to a new city. How can I determine which place is best for me?
-anonymous wanderer


There is but one way to find the true home for a wandering soul. First, the soul must be prepared for transport. The host body on the other end of the trip must be likewise assembled and tested. Various tonics are needed to cushion the Phsycik blowes to a soul-in-transit, and these should be administered by a licensed soul-mover. They are in the book. Next, some nice plantings around the base of the host body will dress up the elevation from the street and generate interest in the real-estate community. An open-house may be planned in advance, but buy the flowers the day-of.

Next:

Fink, how can I find a nice girl to marry?
harry (and lonely)


Dear Harry and Lonely, I trust you are looking for one girl each, for a total of twoe girls to be delivered into your matrimonial escrow account. "Nice" is an insufficeint advective to begin a shopping trip with, however, and I would have more specifications to work with.

That is the lot today, faithful Readers, and I thank you for tuning me in. Please do make yourselves heard at the next Advice Columnist Pik-nik and don't forget to Vote for good old Fink in the following categories: "Least Offensive Columnist in their Weight-class", "Best Use of Misinformation", and "Best Dressed".

Yours,
Augustus Q. Finknottle

Monday, June 26, 2006

Greatings, Truth Seekers

Greetings, Truth-Seekers, It is I the Great Finknottlo who encompasses your destiny and so forth. Today our questions come from the many areas of our country served by the Liverputty vehikles.

Dear Frinkmuzzle,
What kind of animal would make the best birthday gift for my mother? I would like to surprise her.


warm regards,
from Ms. Amanda Huggenchiss


The best animal for any circumstance is the Badger. He is a friend to man and very industrius. He can dig for miles and never tire. I recomend a system of tunnels be constructed with teams of badgers. This can serve many uses. The first being improved sewage flow and rain evacuation from your property. Next there may be ways to increase the production of your crops with badger-tunnel technology. Experiment and get back to me.

Now, as for presentation of the gift, choose a time when your Mother is scheduled to be away for at least a fortnight, a month would be better. Let the Badgers loose in the grounds with specific instructions for the network of tunnels and inter-change stations (to transefer from one tunnel line to another.) Be sure to allow for seasonal and daily bottlenecks and make small adjustments in traffic flow to fine-tune the system.

When Mother arrives home, parhaps from the South of France, she will see an eye-popping marvel of Badger ingenuity.

Dear Mr. Finknottle,
Is it true that the best way to advance your career is by advancing your boss on the tip of the knife you have planted in his back?


Wesley James, Bentonville, AR


I have consulted with Machiavelli on this topic many times and his answer is firm: Maybe. There are always many variables to consider, according to M, and they are in descending order of interest: The State of the Economy in the Realm, The Popularity of the Court Member in Question, His Holdings and Assests and lastly his length of Tenure in the Court. You must consider the wind speed and various other 'envireonmentals' in your plan or scheme. Knife-tip boss-advancing is not to be taken lightly, in other words.

That is all I can..ooh! DO also make sure to consult your local statutes, as knife-wielding for the purpose of career improvement may be frowned upon in Township Bentonville.


Dear Mr. Finklestein,
How can I instill values in my 3 sons?


Chance Livestrong
Tempe, AZ


I can only hope to someday have sons of my own, as the right moment has not arrived for Self yet. But I feel I can give something on this subject. Let's begin with the source. Do you, for instance have the values you wish to instill? If not, it is a simple matter of writing away to a clearing house and requesting a set.

Now, once the values arrive, they must be prepared in a light whale oil. This should be done at sunset to minimize updraft.
Now, taking the values one at a time, grasping them firmly by the shaft, insert them (or Instill them to use your word, which I find appropriate) and turn anti-clockwise to set the screws. Repeat for each son, and let stand over night. The instilled values should take hold, but do not stress them much in the first 10 years. Good Luck.

Finally, I have had many requests to describe my process of divining information to relate to you, the viewer. Take the following question as emblematic of this gist of inquiry:

Mister Finknottle,
Once again your advice brings much needed clarity to a world that so very much lacks it. Though the written format allows one to consider the most appropriate response to your readers' questions, I can't help but wonder if the format of the wireless radio might provide you with an even more direct impact on your readership. Lost souls and anxiety-ridden folk in need of immediate consultation could have instantaneous advice when calling in to you.

Please understand, this suggestion in no way intended to say that you should give up on your column. No, indeed it is a great way for us to spot the details of your understanding of the human being and all its facetes though caeful reading, and re-reading. Nay this would merely be yet another route throught which to guide those of us who need the beacon of true understanding.


Merely a suggestion.
-8th man


Now, Eighth Man, one thing I would mention first is that Dear Old Finknottle is not in the best of health either. He is neurotic, occasionaly suffers inflamed membranes and is prone to over-indulge. That is the chief reason I feel I have something to offer the 'Lost Souls and Anxiety-Ridden Folk' that you make mention of. A perfect person would, in this role, be perfectly useless.

As for understanding of the human condition and all its facets, I have the advantage of 761 years of experience, most of which I have forgotten. So great age is a mixed blessing. But I can say that technology has made great stides and the wireless idea you present intrigues me. We will discuss it at the next meeting of the Junoire Natural Philosopher's Club. They are my eyes, ears and pickpokets in the great city and can cover more ground on their shoeless feet than I can in a year of ambling.

Goodnight, little figgyies and good hunting.
-Finknottle

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Christopher Wren is a Douchebagg

As we open the proceedings to-day, I have turned the duties over to my Assistant. We are in situ at the bar, and I will now enter the scene, in medias res, so to speak.

"You write my column today, Assistant. The last one on currency fluctuations was well received," I said, and took a short pull on my ale.

"T'is true, t'was received nicely," said My Assistant, "save I fear your Editore noticed the lapse in style."

I grumboled. "You mean you put in too many big words and spelled them correctly. You need a shorter, less authoritative dictionary, and a rustier quill." I handed him one of mine. "Take that, Assistant," I said

"You may call me Scribble, Sir," he said

"Why would I do that?" I asked.

"It is my name, Sir. I have only just now remembered it. Yesterday I was known as 'His Assistant'. And before that I was a gleam in the Editore's eye. He created you, Sir Finknottle, and shortly after, he created me to assist you."

"Fascinating. Scribble, can I call you Scrib?" I inquired.

"Ooh, Sir, a Nick-Name! Are you giving me a nick-name?" he asked.

"A what?" I wanted to know.

"A familiarization of my name!" he screeched.

I was still fuzzy. "Hey?" I said.

"A diminutive form of the root name, Sir," he elaborated.

"Oh, I thought you were complaining about the ale," I replied. "They can't get the good hops because the Enemy have cut off supply."

"Who, Sir? The Austro-Hungarians?"

"No, you nitwit, the Farmers."

"You need to answer your mail, Sir." he said.

"Fine, read them to me and I will dictate the answer. Include this bit where I'm talking to you, it adds.. what do you call it?" I looked up, as if the word I wanted were written on the ceiling.

"Verisimilitude, Sir?"

"Yes. Proceed with the qwestions," I said.

"First Qwestion, Sir, from the Empire of Japan: 'Hey, Funknobber, Stocks, bonds, or CD’s?'. It is signed Jeremy Stokes, Okoboji, Iowa."

"I've never heard of the Prefecture of Iowa, dear boy, but let not that stay us from responding to his earnest querie. Hmm, put this: 'Stocks are quite handy for holding cattle, bonds do well with restraining servants and what do you suppose are 'see-dees', Assistant Scribble?"

"I couldn't say, Sir."

"Well, you'd better say, this is your column and the author of the qwestion needs our help. Make something up."

"How about this, Sir, 'I reccommend CD's whole-heartedly.'" said Scribble.

"Promising start," I encouraged, "Now pick up the pace."

"Indulge in CD's to youre heart's content, so long as they are of goode quality, and not too ripe," he read.

"Good. Next qwestion, Scribble." I drained my ale and looked around for another.

"The second qwestion begins: 'Dear Mr. Finknottle, A year ago, I encouraged my husband to lose some weight for health reasons. He finally took up a workout program and lost 60 pounds. The problem is, he now likes to show off his new physique at our friends’ dinner parties. It’s embarrassing. What should I do?' and it is signed, 'Lee Ann Maywicke, Athens, Georgia'."

"Very good. Let's see. I myself am in perfect physical form, and I feel for the Protagonist in this little dyad. Or do I mean 'Antagonist'?"

"I am not a linguist, Sir."

"And I am not a Horticulturist! Nevre mind. Write as follows: 'Dear Lee Ann, are you the Protagonist in the situ. or the Antagonist? Sincerely Finknottle.' I'm out of ale again, do you want some while I'm up, lad?"

"Sir, there's no need to determine the logical status of the people in the question in order to answer it. I reckon we may proceed without that information."

"So you don't want more ale?"

"Sir, Please!"

"Yes, yes, all right. Hmm, skip this one and put it at the bottom of the pile."

"Yes, Sir. Next qwestion, Sir. Are you up for this, Sir, you are looking green."

"I am not."

"I forget, does turning green indicate the opium has worn off or is increasing in effect, Sir?"

"Read, young Assistant."

He read. "'Finkpuddle, I have an unusual sort of painfull swelling in my groin areas, it is a bothersome trouble the like I have never had before. I am inclined to a variety of odd behaviors to make this swelling go down, but yet it always returns. Are there any liniments or aspics which may provide a cure? Sincerely, Sir Fullstaff Longfellow.'"

I said, "Ah, yes, I believe it was Chekov who said, 'When there are many treatments for an illness, you may be sure there is no Cure.' "

"Well put, Sir, do I attribute this to Chekov now or wait and look it up?" Scribble held his quill aloft, ready for my instruction.

"Attribute it to me, you ninny," I barked.

"Next qwestion, sir, " Scribble said and looked down at his notes, "It is unsigned."

"Then ignore it." I waved a hand.

"'Punknottle, How do I know which beer is right for me? I am visiting a nearby tavern.'"

"You'll drink whatever the waitress brings you and you'll always be full, so goes the song, dear boy," I said.

"No, sir that was the question."

"I see. Ask him what tavern is currently surrounding him, this is pertinent to the reply," I said, and took out a menthol cigarillo and lit it from the fireplace.

Scribble looked confused. "Sir, I cannot ask him a question, he's not.." he began.

I saw the path through the thicket and jumped in, "Never mind, Scribble," I said, "It is The King's Cross, I'll wager. Or the Dog and Duck. Either one has a good smelly Stout. If it's the Happy Clam, then recommend he slither out and go next door to the Hole in the Floor. Much better ambiance. There he is free to sample all their wares, but stay away from the brine-soaked animal parts. They look appetizing, but have been known to cause blindness. Hmm.. The Gilded Daftwaddel is a little out of the way, I don't suspect our visitor is there. I know, tell him to order a stout, and if they have it, order three more. If they don't, it is grounds to leave. And bring me some tobacco."

"Sir?"

"Write it!"

"Yes, sir."

"Are we almost done, Scribble, my glass is empty."

"One more, Sir."

"Well, begin, young Scribble. Time is of the essence," I said and tried to signal a serving-wench.

"It's rather personal, Sir, perhaps not intended for the official mailbag, Sir," squeeked Scribble.

"Nonsense," I said nonchalantly, "Dispense the words of the Vox Populi with all speed."

"Sir. It reads, 'Oh, Finkie,'" Scribble stammered.

"Steady on, Scribble," I said.

He continued, "'You can pretend it's all a blur and that you were "sleeping one off". But I know the truth. And those past 3 (4? 12?) days and (even better) nights are none that I'll regret. Come on Finkie, don't you remember any of the fun we had most recently? You called me beautiful and..'"

"And what, Scrib?" I asked, "please keep the narrative flowing."

"Yes, Sir, sorry, Sir. 'You called me beautiful and ran your fingers through my mass of thick red hair. Or perhaps you're protecting my virtue (ha!) by pretending to remember nothing of our adventures. Ah, but I remember, my sweet, talented Finkie. I remember...
Until next time (when you can scrape another 27 pence together to enjoy my company - but hurry, rates are going up!)'
and it is signed, 'your Sassy Wench '. Is she an aquaintance of yours, Sir Finknottle?"

"I've never met the woman," I said weakly.

"She is taking a very familiar mode sir, are you sure you don't know her?" Scribble prodded me.

I contemplated this. "I am contemplating this, be sure to put that!" I yelled.

"Finknottle pretended to contemplate this," said Scribble, writing furiously.

I made as if to think, muttering, "Perchance I do, perchance... perchance to sleep perchance to dream... Aha!"

"Sir? You've remembered?" asked Scribble hopefully.

"No, I'm out of ale," I replied. I needed time to think. I walked up to the bar alone, (but how is this being written without my assistant taking dictation? Perhaps I am writing this on my sleeve and will slip it into publication later.) What does the poor boy know of doomed love? He's only a pup. He only heard his own name today! The Sassy Wench and I shared more than I cared to admit, but there were some rather large Jovian-type planets betwixt us and happiness. These constituted, reading from left to right: her husband.

I returned to the boothe where Scribble was... scribbling, and read carefully over his shoulder. The top of the page read, "Symptomes" and there were entries about Self and descriptions of various types. 'Drunken, de-hydrated, Greenish pallor, &c.'

I roared, "What's that? Are you spying on me for my editore? What's his game? Tell me!"

Scribble shrugged and said plainly, "He wants to have you declared insane so he can ruin you and take your property."

I calmed down. This was not as bad as I had feared. "Oh is that all," I said and slumped into the boothe.

"Isn't that bad?"

I shook the head. "No, no. The Editore-slash-Advice-Columnist relationship is strong and can survive any needling problems..." Just then I caught sight of a news-paper lying open on the table. "Slander! He's suing me for slander!"

"Five times, Sir, this month alone."

"Five MORE times? TEN slander cases?" I was baffled.

"No, no," Scribble said quickly, "Five, total of five. Five total."

Scribble seemed nervous at my outbursts, and spoke, hoping to distract me. "We need a name for the column, Sir. How about, 'Sir Finknottle answers his mail?'"

"No we've used that one," I said. I thought about the matter and replied, "Better go with 'Christopher Wren is a Douchebagg'."

"Ahhh, see Sir, my version, while prosaic, is not technically Slander."

I allowed this was true. I tried again. "How about 'Christopher Wren is a Slanderer'," I offered.

"Clever, Sir, clever! But still slander, I fear."

"I don't see how."

Scribble coffed slightly. "You falsely acused him of a crime, Sir."

"What crime?"

"Falsely Accusing People of Crimes, Sir."

"That's a crime?!"

"Yes, Sir, Slander, Sir, and, dash it now I'm out of ale."

"Mary, Mingo and Mitch, it's about time." I pushed my glass over to his and picked them both up.

"Could you take over dictating, Sir, I'm going to step outside and see if Aspirin's been invented yet."

"Stout fellow," I said, "and ask about chewable opium supplements while you're at it."

"You have one in your mouth currently, Sir," Scribble whined.

I grinned, "Not the sour kind, I don't."

-Finknottle