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,

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.

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...