Art by Fred
“I’m bored,” said young Mina, who sat with her face in her hands.
“Me too. Can we go now?” asked the whiny, childish Jonathan while plunking on his dreadfully-out-of-tune guitar.
“Oh, children. I thought that you were enjoying our picnic,” said the very adult and reprehensi… I mean, responsible Countess Elizabeth.
“There’s hardly anything left of Nic to pick on,” moaned Mina.
“You kids these days,” Elizabeth continued. “Let me tell you a story about patience. There was once a lonely little girl named Igorrina who lived just down the road in the haunted forest.”
“Is there any other kind of forest?” asked Mina.
“No. Now listen, my children of the night. Igorinna, who couldn’t even find a friend to play Toe Tag with, was convinced that there was nothing in her future. So, not giving a damn, she always took her futen time doing things. She was never in a big hurry to go…anywhere.
One day, Igorinna decided that she’d had enough of this world. She tied the end of a rope around the neck that connected her useless head to her body and the other end of the rope to a young spruce tree, determined to stay there until either death took her away or her dream-boy Prince Charmin’ arrived on his white steed to rescue her from her misery. Even the local wolves, lynx, and bears found Igorinna uninteresting and unappetizing. Poor Igorrina spent most of her life tied to that spruce tree in Hoia-Baciu Forest, watching the bats and ghosts fly by in the evening, while protected only by vicious badgers who lived in the dens that circled her.
Why did they protect her? The badgers didn’t care for Igorrina, but were curious to see what might happen to her in the end. They kept her minimally fed with worms, grubs, and insects. Over time, Igorrina had begun to grow old and ugly while tied to the same branch of that same tree for forty-five years until …”
“Until what, Countess?” asked Jonathan. “A handsome woodsman came along?”
“Fah!” said Uncle Vlad.
“A knight in shining armor?” asked Mina.
“Fat futin’ chance!” said Elizabeth. “You children can be so gruesome.”
“Of course! The handsome prince!” said Granny Lupta Axe.
“No vay,” said Vlad. “Prince Charmin’, the ass vipe, never showed up.”
Elizabeth continued. “So, sad Igorrina sat, leaning against the tree trunk until, you know, one lovely grey day the spruce finally grew tall enough…tall enough to slowly pull Igorrina up by her neck and hang her.”
“No guano! That is so cool,” said Jonathan.
“Talk about patience!” said Mina.
“You kids should see her,” said Vlad. “Igorrina can vear a choker, a string of pearls, a locket, and ten necklaces…at vonce!”
Vlad’s eyes seemed to catch fire. His mustache bristled. “Fute patience!” He pounded the table. “I vant all of the Wisitors and tourists out of my castle! Now!”
Art by Vitaliy Hagen
“And God Spoke to Moses” — Exodus 33:11
“Are you listening Moe? Stop looking at your tablets. Focus on the flame. Tell your people, I the almighty, will watch over them as long as they keep me entertained. ”
T.K. Betel nut is a living, seven-foot-tall tiki. A curio. A half human stick. On a normal day’s stakeout Agent Betelnut will spend hours standing statue-still while tuned into the latest (mostly) fair and no longer completely ad free, news broadcast by the world’s oldest Wi-Fi: the Telepathica Pacifica Network (TPN).
Thousands of years ago, the TPN was set up as a web of psychic protection for plant life around the globe.
The TPN does not accept monetary donations from even plant-loving humans. Throughout the history of plant systematics, the TPN’s green members have all witnessed friends, relatives, seedlings and saplings chopped or mowed down, and mashed into paper currency for humans.
Today,T.K. was listening to the plant-based network while on a stakeout for his carnivorous friends at Interpol. His assignment was related to the protection of front yards everywhere. Specifically, he was there to protect the prestige of the original Don Featherstone lawn flamingos produced by Union Plastics.
Interpol believed North Korea intended to flood the free world with cut-rate birds. If left unchecked, the commies could ruin lawns everywhere with cheap knock-offs.Until now, the free world’s front yards—the ones blessed by genuine Featherstones—had been worth defending against marauding juvenile delinquents — the ones whose parents never lifted a hand to smack some goddamned manners into the noisy “little bastids.” Yeah, the same “little bastids” who made life a living hell for the half human half log, T.K., by tipping him over in public, just because they thought it was “funny.” Brats.
Beneath the hot afternoon sun on a quiet Tuesday, T.K. tilted himself a few more degrees to the east, to help improve the reception on the grassy slope.
From the celebrated Novel, Bats, by Lord Frederick Barnett of Kailuashire
The Collected Letters of
Lord Huthbert Grieves and Lady Penelope Weeps
A Letter from Lord Huthbert Grieves to Lady Penelope Weeps, Ghoolkamish
April 30, 1779
The artillery has stopped momentarily. As I lie awake in my muddy foxhole beneath the night sky of Ghoolkhamish — Alas, my angel, I can only think of you.
When I come home, my dearest, though it may be five years from this day, I promise we shall marry. Your father hates me, I know, as does your dog — a part of whose shattered jaw is still attached to my buttock.
Despite what your husband thinks, I know that we can make this marriage work. Though I lost half my face, one-third of my manhood and a nipple in the bloody trenches of Dyfthphedif, I promise that the cottage that I have purchased will be a happy one, surrounded by the warm laughter of children, or — at the very least — very immature adults.
How is your cough, my Angel? I was distressed to find that your last correspondence had a small bloody piece of your lung stuck to it, Sweetheart. Please hang on to God’s precious gift of life until I can limp to your side.
Your precious letters warm my heart, Darling. I smell your perfume and, with a shield between my mouth and the envelope, kiss the lipstick on the seal before I dream my happy dreams every night.
With my good arm, I long to hug you and keep you warm, even when you cough (Though, alas, I regret, there will be no deep intertwining of tongues).
All my love,
Yours forever — Huthbert Grieves
April 30, 1779
The further love letters of Lord Huthbert Grieves and Penelope M. Weeps
England 1769 -1784
(Sent from Port Apotty, Africa, May 31, 1784)
My Dearest Darling Angel Penelope,
Alas! This will be my last correspondence, my sweet, as I make my way home across the sea to your warm bosom after so many years in the muddy battlefields of Hominahomina. Please have a coffin and a plot prepared for me if I do not make it home alive. Our cavalry surgeon, Doctor Osândă, has informed me that the insect known as Arden’s creeper or the acid roach, has taken up residence in my ear, while I was stationed in the steaming tropical jungle of Haffarredrash. The creature has traveled to the part of my brain called the dorsal hypothalamic, which controls the heartbreaking spread of psoriasis especially in the remaining two-thirds of what the natives call my huk-huk.
Oh, blessed heavens above! Before we left port, I had received a correspondence from my servant, Mr. Upton. He says that you are now a free woman. Joy of joys! Could that be true, my angel of angels?
Upton had written that your childhood sweetheart and spouse of twenty years had passed on after receiving a dreadful blow to the skull. My tears are flowing for you, my love, like the mighty Incontinence Falls of the great Amazon.
Mournfulness overtook me when I had found out your tiny cherubs had been called to heaven on that calamitous evening as well. Your poor spouse and children—all dead—all on the same day! Oh, Providence! Forsooth! I had no idea that you ‘were with children.’ Eight? Well, fuck meself.
I had instructed Upton, my man Friday, to insure the safety of your children, but alas, it was too late. Upton reported that the fire had spread too quickly through the mansion. By the time the frightening oaf had arose from his drunkenness in the barn, the mansion had become a mound of ashes. Thank the Lord that Upton was able to rescue and deliver you to the safety of the barn before the fire spread.
About the pregnancy. For my part, I do pardon you your irresistible charm. Upton can be unruly and some days I question my hiring the brute from the Calcutta Circus. Be assured that he is my “responsibility.” Upton comes from fine stock and I will personally claim the cherub, Uptonette, as a Ward of Court. When he approaches his fourth year, the child will be assured a fine position in a reputable shop.
I am a gentleman, my love. I will support you both until I can find the guttersnipe bastard a suitable place of employment where the sun and lice shall not harm his fair skin.
The hour of my arrival draweth fast on. Lastly, I vow that mine remaining eye desireth thou above most.
All my love,
Yours forever and ever,
(Sent from Bristol, England, May 14, 1784)
My Dearest Darling Huthbert,
Every day I look for your letters. Today, I feel that cupid is in the air.
A terrible thing happened at the Hollis’ grand mansion next door to my home this week. A terrible man attempted to kill neighbor’s entire family, except for the young wife, Hippolia, a woman who might be mistaken as my twin.
After clubbing the husband, Rhynos Hollis, to death, and presuming that the children were all asleep in bed, the villain set the house on fire. Thank the Lord above that all eight Hollis children were spending the week in London’s Marshalsea Children’s Prison because of a misunderstanding over the property rights of a beaten elder, or they all would have perished in that fire.
During the blaze, the wife, Hippolia, was dragged outside only to be violated repeatedly until the rapist dragged her blindfolded down to Cornwall, where she was spotted, by drunkards no less, laughing at the Duck n’ Fishes pub. The rough beast continued his assault upon Mrs. Hollis the entire weekend, attracting numerous noise complaints at the inn. Mrs. Hollis had managed to escape from the brute and seems to be handling her weekend of terror quite well. She did tell me that the impetuous monster has threatened to return again, here to Bristol! The cheeky devil warned Hippolia that he will hunt her down like a fox, and imprison her royal suite at the notorious Saint Germaine Hotel in Paris and prod her day and night until her wicked spell upon him is broken. The poor woman. How dreadful!
There is some good news—for you, my hero.
My husband, Owen, has left me, knowing that my heart belongs only to you—and his own heart belongs to his ballet coach, Fabricio. My two children are both fourteen-years-old and have moved away with their own large families. I sit, all alone, waiting ONLY for you, my love. I pray that I may be worthy of such a pure soul.
More good news! My consumption has disappeared entirely since I refashioned my diet to only simple sweets. You will find that there is much more of your dear Penelope to love when you return.
I hope you are well. Please tell me when your ship, The Obbrobrio (The Disgrace), comes into my port, my heart of hearts.
If the recipient of this letter is not my beloved Huthbert, please disregard, I prefer chocolates.
My love, you are forever in my thoughts and dreams.
(Sent from London, June 1, 1784)
One last abysmal Letter from Lady Penelope Weeps
Sent from: Kent on Birminghanfordkingshire
To: Lord Thaddeus Huthbert Grieves— by way of Lord Ward Toady, Wraithamwichshire, February 21, 1790
My poor dear Lord Huthbert! I am in distress!
Since you wrote Oops! as the only and last word in your final letter, I’ve had troubling cogitations, my dearest. For aught I know that you may soon be with the angels, and after losing half of your face, one-third of your manhood, one nipple, and discovering that an acid roach that had entered your brain at Hominahomina, has affected the remaining two-thirds of your huk-huk.
Three days ago, I found out that you were alive, my darling. Joy of Joys! While I was relaxing at the Drivel Pub in East Piffle I overheard the sailors, talking about how their frigate, the Countess of Cachtice, rescued a man who called himself “Huthbert” within the hold of an abandoned Chinese junk (?). One of the sailors at the Pub, who’d been given the epithet Jack-the-Gaff by his shipmates (Curiously, it was neither of Jack’s rough hands that were shaped like a hook), said that you were found nearly dead aboard a ghost ship adrift among the treacherous whirlpools of Vodu, West Africa.
Oh dear, what were you doing in China?
The Daily Advertiser directed me to Charity Hospital in Piffle. Alas, I was barred from visiting your room by the Empiric Doctor Phineus Osândă who instructed me to come back later in the week, as your medical situation was “extremely distasteful.” What could that mean? I thought.
While resting at the Piffle Inn, I came across this story on the front page of the Journal. A similar story regarding your recent condition also appeared in Lloyd’s Post.
“One unfortunate passenger, identified as London’s Lord Thaddeus ‘Huthbert’ Grieves was found below decks, soaked in his own blood. Specialists from Shire Bedlam Hospital reported the Lord Huthbert’s colon was “severely damaged by an Asian swamp eel” (Monopterus albus). The grotesque fish had chewed through the poor fellow’s colon!”
Huthbert my love, how on Earth did that abhorrent creature end up inside your lower intestine? What were you doing in China, my heart of hearts? Who were these “opium men” who were “playing a trick” on you, as per the article?
I fear that this may be the last chance to tell you that you have always been the Love of my Life, my greatest thrill, equal to my recent swim in a vat of chocolate, with the two equally pale Cadbury Brothers at their new desert parlor in London. The brothers playfully nicknamed me “Bonbon.”
I ended up marrying the elder of the brothers, Sir Richard Cadbury. I never saw his very wealthy brother, Sir Simon, alive after our dip. The police had come over one afternoon asking questions about a public argument that the two brothers had had in the Lamb’s Lair Pub. It is as though the thick London fog had swallowed Simon. He was a nice lad.
My new husband, Sir Richard, it seems, has had a number of wives but only keeps a picture of his first, Hermia, upon the piano. The sorrowful man had lost Hermia along with his only two children when the three sailed into a maelstrom, though, this time, near the island of Bermuda. Richard often talks of her beauty and her long red hair and warned me that his deceased and beloved Hermia, managed to ruin his following six marriages and mysteriously drove all the ensuing wives away! Richard fears that I will also disappear because of an apparition. You, of all people realize that I am made of sterner stuff.
Oh goodness! As I look from the front window into the moonlight, I can see a woman with long red hair, with two barely clothed moppets in tow. Poor things, so pale and hungry. I will not wake our butler, Grieves, who has already turned in for the night.
I’ll try to write again, soon. The children are crying just outside my door. They seem to be asking for pudding, of all things. Poor dears. Their cries are weak. I’ll offer them a warm fireplace and something to eat.
My heart-root, I have addressed this letter to your very close friend, Ward Toady, at Wraitham, as I cannot seem to locate you, my love, my life.
Yours in Eternity,
Lady Penelope Cadbury
P.S. Richard said that he would post this for me on the morrow. It is time to greet the poor family outside. More crying. I must go and answer the door.
This last express post was sent on August 6, 1790
From: Lord Ward Toady / Wraitham Hospital, Southeast Londonshireham
To: Lady Penelope Cadbury, London
This letter was never read by the recipient, Lady Penelope Cadbury *Lady P. never had a chance to read her last mortal link to her beloved Lord Huthbert. The letter was found unopened at the Cadbury home a week after her disappearance.
My Lady Penelope Weeps Cadbury,
My god woman, did you not hear? It is with great sadness that I must inform you that your love, my oldest and dearest friend, Lord Huthbert Grieves, had been brutally murdered in the early hours of February 18. I pray that you will not take umbrage. I was certain that you, yourself, had been murdered back in February. The Lord’s assailant was a maniacal woman with long red tresses followed by two young children.
The trio were seen by my own hospital staff, hovering near the stone path leading into to the hospital grounds at two in the morning.
No one knows how the fiends had gained access to Lord Huthbert’s private room, as several members of my hospital staff were awake and on duty!
My primary nurse, Mrs. Walinkova, was first alerted when she heard the voice of a woman screaming your name from the garden. “Penelope! Penelope’s gray matter will be my …pudding!” The woman’s screeching was followed by the wailing of children (“Pudding! Pudding!”) which was heard by the entire hospital staff.
The cacophony outside was followed by the agonizing scream of our dear Lord Huthbert. His private room was on the second story. The staff and I ran to Lord Huthbert’s door. It took four people, ten minutes to force the door open as it was being held shut by a ghostly gale of wind. When my four servants were able to gain access the wind came to a sudden halt. They found Lord Huthbert in the closet, hanging by the neck. My scullery maid, Fifi LaDerrier, reported that the poor man’s skull had been gnawed through as if by a giant rodent.
After the staff and I had taken Lord Huthbert’s body from the closet and lay him on the bed, Fifi, whispered in my ear — with hot breath — in French, that poor tortured Lord Huthbert was finally at peace. As we drew a sheet over Lord Huthbert’s face, we both caught a glimpse of the Arden’s Creeper (the acid roach from the jungles of Hominahomina) crawling behind the headboard. I could no longer blame Lord Huthbert’s insanity on my souple pâtisserie Fifi! Indeed, It was the roach, boring into the afflicted man’s brain that drove him mad enough to harbor eels in his bottom!
As the Lord’s body lie covered, a quartet of my servants, who were embracing and adjusting one another’s bed clothes at the chamber window, were frozen by a spine-chilling scene in the garden below. They had become transfixed by three pale figures beneath the cold moon, screeching like Irish banshees and dressed in thin white shrouds — It was the red haired demon and what must have been her two children. As if gliding on wheels, the phantoms left a trail of fresh sea algae along the cobblestones before vanishing into the woods. Wraitham is a two day’s journey to the nearest coast.
Dearest Penelope, I am so sorry to be the one to impart this terrible news.
May our Huthbert rest in peace,
Lord Ward Toady
P.S. Mrs. Walinkova says that she was familiar with you from the circus days at the Drury Lane theatre. She asked me to relay this message:
“Cheers, Penny! I am well, and though I no longer soar above the crowds at Drury, Toady says that I still defy gravity. The silly man! Please stop by for draught someday.”
Bernie ‘The God Whisperer’ is taking a stroll, minding his own f*cking business, on an unusually warm December night in Cleveland, when this bullsh*t happens >>>>>
There were bicycle lights approaching him from the corner. An attractive silvery haired couple, dressed in spiffy casual wear, wheeled up to the curb, smiled with perfect teeth and stopped.
“Where in Hades have you been?” the beautiful silver-haired woman said to Bernie as she swiped at him with her freshly manicured nails, tearing the collar of his cheap Hawaiian shirt.
“Hey, What the?”
“Art thou Cupcaecius?” asked her handsome executive-type companion with the obligatory sweater tied around his neck. They both looked as though they’d just ridden off the cover of every other issue of Molten Silver magazine.
“No!” Bernie backed into a rubbish can and fell. Who were these two new gods with a healthy active lifestyle?
Leto pulled her bike onto the pavement and bent down toward a display in the hotel’s gift shop window. “Look, Zeus! It’s a darling car charm. It looks just like Artie’s little car! That’s cute.” Leto looked down at the pathetic human cowering on the sidewalk. “Is that real sapphire?” she asked.
“Are you asking me, m-m-m-ma’am?” Bernie looked up at the the woman wide-eyed. Leto winked at him and whispered. “You can call me Λητώ, or Λατώ.”
“Our daughter—she doesn’t need thou or thou cheap gifts, mortal. You need her!” spoketh Zeus from the bike above.
“Zeus and Leto?” He bowed his head in respect. “Artie, I mean Artemis told me that you’d banished her from Olympus.”
“Human!” Without warning, Leto grabbed Bernie by his nose. “Listen to thy husband, Waffle of Dung!”
I’ve managed to piss off Zeus and Leto.
Zeus pointed a finger and zapped Bernie’s trap with a tiny lightning bolt. Bernie doubled over onto the pavement then smiled when he’d realized that yet another strand on the human-proof trap had snapped. Only the gods have the power to remove this thing.
Thus spoke Zeus: “Buying my daughter cheap trinkets will not make her more beautiful. It is because of her that ‘things’ become beautiful. That is the generous nature of a goddess.”
“Owwwww,” croaked Bernie as he pulled himself to his feet by grabbing the bricks on the wall. They act like they’ve been smokin’ incense.
Zeus spoketh again: “You’ve seen Artemis improve the luster of a diamond, the scent of a gardenia and the spirit of the untamed sea. How much proof of the divine doth thou needest, Bernie?”
“Your daughter ith, I mean is amazing.”
“Artemis must remain pure,” said Leto. “Junk food! Television! A girl her age should be hunting across the heavens instead of twiddling…thumbs…with you.”
“Twiddling? We haven’t twiddled any thumbs. How old is Artie?” asked Bernie.
“Artie! So, it’s Artie, is it?” Zeus pointed his index and middle fingers at Bernie’s eyes. “Why, I oughta…”
Leto stopped his cruel hand. “Stop. What my husband should explain to you, you bug, is that the twiddling of thumbs is the way we profess our love on Olympus. If Artemis twiddled with you, we are obliged to spare your miserable life. However, if we find out that you two have twaddled, we will kill you a thousand times in a thousand ways. And to answer your question, our virrrrrgin daughter is five thousand, give or take a hundred years,” said Zeus.
Five thousand years. And no boinky-woinky? Bernie thought.
“What my husband is trying to say is—what did I just hear you think, young man? ‘Boinky-woinky?’”
“Five thousand years?” Bernie asked again.
“Maybe this upstart needs me to sling a bolt of lightning up his κώλος,” said Zeus.
“No, Zuzu,” said Leto.
“Psssst! Don’t call me that,” Zeus snapped back.
She calls her husband, the ruler of Olympus, Zuzu? Thought Bernie, trying not to laugh out loud.
“Lightning! That’s my husband’s solution for everything. So, Bernie, do you know the damage you have done to our daughter with the bad food and her clothes?”
“What did I do to her clothes? I have no control over the goddess. She loves to shop and eat.”
“Our little Artemis is up there, twenty pounds overweight!” she said, pointing. “In your room—right now—not wearing her short tunic.”
“She is wearing, thanks to your flea-bag cat, a handful of white downy feathers, placed in three strategic locations, upon splashes of perfumed garlic infused olive oil given to her by your cat, Bomba!”
“For your plebeian amusement, I imagine,” added Zeus.
Her curves oiled and writhing, succulent and wearing a handful of feathers. And no boinky for five thousand years. The two Olympian gods could hear every dirty thought.
“Writhing! You worm! I shall slay you!” said Leto.
Zeus blocked his wife’s right arm from smiting. “I am only going to spare you because Artemis swore to protect you. Our daughter, is pure, Mr. Cake. Purity is what she does.”
“Purity,” added Leto. “Like June Cleaver, Margaret Anderson, Shirley Partridge…”
“This relationship wasn’t my idea,” said Bernie. “I think that you should talk to her pal, Dauna,”
“Who?” asked Leto.
“Dauna, the shark goddess from Kupaio,” said Bernie. “She asked your daughter to watch over me. Have you two met Soapy Puppies, I mean Her Sauciness? She is what you might call a bad influence. Peligro—ow!”
“What dost thou think, Zuzu!” said Leto.
Bernie switched gears, from suppressing pain to suppressing a major guffaw.
Leto ignored Bernie’s thought and turned to her stylish spouse. “Zuzu, dost thou know of this Dauna?”
“Remember the wedding that we couldn’t go to in Fiji, dearest? The one we sent Artemis to?”
Leto turned to Bernie. “I wish we could have gone to the pre-wedding party with the mbolo worm buffet. I love worms. We had the nosoi flu at the time, Bernie. You must have heard of Dauna. What do you know about her all-knowing-all-seeing-all-fucking, Zuzie.”
Is Zeus sweating? thought Bernie. Zuzie! Don’t laugh.
“Oh, yes. You mean Daucina. That Dauna!” said Zeus, “is just your average goddess, dear. A nobody.”
“Oh, I remember,” said Leto. “The oracles spoke of her. ‘The steamy one with a mouth like a pigsty gutter who spoketh offenses from the pools of the god Cess, and a great set of cans.’”
“The poor thing suffers from Tourette Syndrome,” explained Zeus. “She may come on like a gluttonous eater of slack serpents, but she’s harmless. I checked.”
“Thou hast checked thine trollop, Zuzu?” asked the angry Leto.
Bernie was forced to jump in. “Dauna is not a trollop, great goddess! She’s just …uh, friendly. Yeah, that’s it. Friendly.”
Leto added to Bernie’s pain when she flicked her middle finger on Bernie’s forehead. “I don’t likest thou, Sir Smart Ass.”
“Ow! What the…” Bernie felt a lump growing on his temple. “Am I bleeding?”
“No. I’ve just downloaded some information into thine lust filled head,” said Leto. “It’s all that thou needest to know except for—good fashion sense! Your frock! Thou dresseth like a Walmart model. I thought Artemis picked up a suit for you. My heavens, what adolescent California crap aaaaaare you wearing, Bernie? C’mon, Zuzu. Let’s go. We have to meet the Buddhas at seven.”
And they rode off into the night. Zeus calling back, “Remember I want her home by the twenty-second century!”
“And one more thing,” said Leto. “Keep her laughing if thou want to remain healthy. She doth needeth to laugheth.”
“Laughing?” Oh yes, I‘ll keep her fancy tickled. He envisioned Artie’s strong body jerking beneath him in fits of laughter. Ow! Dammit!
“Don’t even think about it, pig!” Leto wheeled back to the curb and smacked him again.
Ow! Dammit, again. Bernie touched the new bump on his head.