In this episode from Bogwillow, one of the citizens shows up in the twilight zone between fantasy and ‘reality’. In the real world, I had stopped writing about Bogwillow altogether for a year or more I think. For some of you who might not be familiar, there is a character in this story called The Little Red Hen.
She was a regular on the blog for a long time, personifying my highly developed domestic goddess. She was also a real pain in the patoot, much like ( ), always pointing out what cobwebby corner or vegetable bin in the fridge needed my attention.
And as an aside, as to the setting, I once was on a jury in a Federal case. After it was over, the judge invited us to his chambers to discuss the proceedings if we wanted to. Ten out of twelve of us did. It was a fascinating discussion and I learned that the judge had heartily agreed with our verdict!
Anyway, this whole story took place in my mind, in that judge’s chamber which was on about the sixth floor of the building in the corner with windows on two sides of the room. The other two walls were lined with books.
In this story my poor literary devices had to appear before the judges and take the heat for my lack of attention to Bogwillow.
I hope you enjoy it.
Bogwillow Crossing Over
The Little Red Hen bustles into the room with a large heavily laden, basket under her wing. She finds a cleared table ready for her, so she lays out her wares. Freshly baked wheaty scones dotted with wild blueberries, a pot of lemon curd and a bowl of fresh strawberries. She carefully places her best teapot and cups on the cloth and flounces out of the room to procure some hot water.
She has only been gone for a minute when Dr. Rubber Duckie enters, waddling under a load of file folders in a sad state of disarray. Dog-eared and scribbled upon pages flutter to the floor behind him. He hurries to clean up after himself just as ( ) enters the room.
( ) takes in the doctor’s flustered disorganized appearance and rolls his eyes in disapproval. One would expect some level of professionalism from a psychiatrist for crying out loud. He could just imagine the fees this quack probably charges. But even a high salary doesn’t seem to be enough to buy panache these days.
Just then Little Red Hen bustles back in carrying a hot water urn. LRH: Oh! Hello gentlemen. I see you are right on time. Very polite of you. I’ll have the tea ready in a jiffy. Doctor, do you take milk?
Dr. RD: No thank you madam, I prefer lemon if you have it.
LRH: Of course. I am always prepared. A smug smile plays at the corners of her beak. And you ( ), how do you take your tea?
( ): Actually I could use a stiff shot of bourbon . But I might have one of those biscuits there. Why are they shaped like triangles? Who are you trying to impress here?
LRH: Why no one sir! I am just trying to make this meeting as cozy as possible. She plops a scone onto a napkin and hands it to ( ) without offering him any lemon curd. Her tiny rebellion. ( ) doesn’t notice and proceeds to make crumbs on the deep red carpeting. The crumbs did not escape her notice and as she is debating whether or not to hurry off in search of a dustpan, the heavy door swings open and their Honors, Cedric, Basil and Nigel swoop into the room, black robes flapping in a way that made the Little Red Hen blush in awe. And with some other emotion she could not quite identify… it was just something about those flapping robes…
Judge Cedric: Good morning everyone.
General murmur among the occupants, accompanied by more crumbs and a drop or two of tea added to the carpet. Little Red took out her hankie and fanned herself furiously.
There were introductions all around and everyone had a seat. After a small conference sotto voice among the judiciary, Judge Basil broke the tension.
(You mean added to the tension don’t you?)
They warned me about you.
You know… THEY.
(What are you talking about? – – Oh never mind.)
Judge Basil: Thank you all for coming on such short notice. The unusual nature of this lawsuit required some quick action and we want you to know we appreciate your indulgence at this unorthodox hearing. Judge Basil nodded to Judge Nigel who pressed a buzzer under the desk.
An uncomfortable silence followed.
The door latch clicked loudly and in strode a personage that left our friends blinking in silent speculation. A hulk of a mountain man slouched into the room with what at first glance looked like a dead animal in his hands. But upon closer inspection, and believe me, there was a hurried closer inspection – turned out to be some kind of hat made out of fur. It was the eyes that fooled you. Looking out at you over the brim you see.
Judge Nigel finally spoke: Doctor Rubber Duckie, ( ) and Little Red Hen, allow me to introduce Mr. Thaddeus Gromwell of Bogwillow.
Thaddeus: Well now I don’t claim to live in right in Bogwillow proper you understand, I live up at the head of Lizard Creek. I would just like to state that for the record.
Judge Cedric: Yes I see. He nodded to the court recorder who had slipped in unnoticed behind Mr. Gromwell and had ensconced herself in the corner near the window. As far away from the hat as possible.
Judge Basil: Rather than read the formal complaint at this time, I suggest we let Mr. Gromwell tell us in his own words why he is here today. Is that agreeable to everyone?
Little Red nodded fluttering one wing. Dr. Rubber Duckie folded his wings in front of him and stretched out his legs, in his “I’m listening” position. And ( ) just rose one disdainful eyebrow that made him look something like this: (^ .
Judge Basil: Very well, Mr. Gromwell, please proceed.
Thaddeus: Well, I’m here today to lodge a formal complaint and to inform the court that unless certain steps are taken, I will be forced to sue for damages. His eyes narrowed and he nodded to everyone like they knew JUST what he was talking about.
Judge Cedric: Ah, Mr. Gromwell, you need to state for the record just exactly who you are lodging the complaint against.
Thaddeus: Why that no good writer!
Judge Cedric: Leaning back in his chair, I remind you Mr. Gromwell, this is for the record. We need the name of this person.
Thaddeus: Well that’s just the problem now isn’t it? I don’t know her real name. This person goes by the name of ‘Yetzirah” whatever the hell – I mean heck that means. Nobody knows her real name.
Judge Cedric: And just exactly what has this writer done?
Thaddeus: Why abandoned Bogwillow, that’s what! Left us out to flap in the breeze. Dropped us like a hot potato. Threw us out like yesterday’s newspaper. We have lives to live. We need to make a living. Did you know that our latest Cabin Fever Days was a total bust? We used to draw quite a crowd. And though I don’t mind telling you we don’t like to be overrun with tourists, we certainly don’t like to be ignored either. It was humiliating. Besides that, what would YOU do with 14 leftover banana cream pies? That’s what Essie Goldenrod had to deal with. And let me tell you, she almost had a nervous breakdown over it. The poor woman cannot abide waste of any kind. And everyone knows how perishable a banana cream pie is…
The Little Red Hen nodded sympathetically, thinking… The poor dear! And then caught herself. Oh my.
Thaddeus: Our last few festivals had been such a booming success due to the publicity by that so called ‘writer’, that we all worked overtime to build up our stock. We were all left holding the bag! Thaddeus leaned over the polished mahogany wonder of a desk, pounded it violently and shouted.. . And we want some kind of justice!
This caused Judge Nigel to jump.
However Judges Cedric and Basil were made of sterner stuff…
Judge Cedric: That will do Mr. Gromwell, there is no need to shout. What exactly do you want sir?
Thaddeus: Well, these three, he said jerking his thumb at our trembling trio, know her. They talk to her all the time. I want them to tell her to write about Bogwillow. Not too much mind you. Like I said, we like our privacy. But to ignore us altogether is just. . . well it’s inhuman I tell you! That’s why I have named these . . . he paused, his mind a blank at how to designate the bizarre group, umm characters, in the suit. He looked the trio in the eyes. You know her, and let her get away with this! And if you don’t get her to write some stories about Bogwillow, I want monetary compensation for myself and my fellow citizens. . . from you!
The two feathered creatures and the punctuation sat with mouths agape.
( ) for once thought it best to remain silent.
Our Little Red Hen began to whimper.
The doctor seeing that his co-litigants were incapable of speaking, ventured a word. . .He cleared his throat, which unfortunately when he was under a lot of stress sounded suspiciously like one of those toy rubber ducks. His only sign of embarrassment was a certain slight redness near his beak……
Dr. RD : Mr. Gromwell, I am heartily saddened by your unfortunate situation, but I must in all honesty tell you sir that I … and I think I could even say we – – flapping a wing to his new found compatriots – -who quickly nodded agreement, hoping like anything he wasn’t going to say something stupid, – – have always believed Bogwillow to be an imaginary place. And I can say further that according to my professional opinion, the stories were written as a coping mechanism for our dear Leibchen’s bouts of near hysteria during some particularly difficult hormonal storms, which happily for her seem to have abated somewhat. Are you sure there is such a place as Bogwillow?
He said this last with that oh so comforting and reassuring look on his face that he reserved for his psychotic patients just coming off their meds.
Thaddeus raised up his considerable bulk in his chair and leaned toward the duck with a scowl forming like a storm on his face. His movement caused his pack rat hat to fall to the floor unheeded. Except by ( ) who gazed in revulsion. Those black eyes seemed to be staring at him with malice.
Thaddeus : Listen you quack…
Judge Basil: Mr. Gromwell, I am going to ask you to modify your language.
Thaddeus: Taking a breath. . . Listen doctor, not four hours ago, I was handed train fare by Odella Henderson herself. She didn’t want me to tell anyone, and I hate to break a promise to such a kind-hearted soul, but you force me to it. And I was also sent on my way with a packet of cinnamon rolls baked by none other than Eugenia Mae Chumley! He said sitting back in his chair folding is arms triumphantly as if resting his case, but then a light dawned in his eyes. Wait a minute, here. . . Reaching into a capacious pocket in his all-weather duster, he brought forth a waxed brown paper package. He unfolded it and behold, there rested the most delicious looking cinnamon roll any of them had ever seen.
Thaddeus: I was saving this one for the trip back home. . . to Bogwillow.. . ‘he said daring them to contradict him.
The sweet spicy fragrance of the wondrous confection filled the room and even Judge Cedric’s mouth began to water.
LRH: Ooooo…. That is beautiful. Do you think she adds any nutmeg? You have to be careful with nutmeg…. too much and it turns things bitter. I wonder if she would consider sharing her recipe? She asked with wing tips fluttering together in front of her ample bosom.
Doctor Rubber Duckie was unhappy with anyone playing into Thaddeus’s delusions and found himself snapping…
Dr. RD: My dear Miss Hen, please DO collect yourself !
LRH: That’s MRS. Hen to you duckie, she said ruffling her feathers.
Judge Basil: All right everyone, let’s calm down. I think I have an idea.
The entire room slumped back in their chairs, displaying various indications of disgruntlement. Rubbing of foreheads, flipping of flight feathers, and ( ) was heard to mutter, only by the court recorder mind you who by the way had excellent hearing….. (And I thought the gig over at her diary was a pain in the _ _ _!)
Judge Cedric: I think my colleagues and I should examine this evidence more closely if you don’t mind Mr. Gromwell.
Thaddeus with no small measure of effort, set his features into his best poker face, tossing the roll onto the judicial desk, feigning indifference. Inwardly, he knew he was about to win the jackpot.
Their honors scooted their chairs closer to the magnificent object. Judge Nigel wiped his reading glasses and placed them carefully on his nose. They all peered at the spiced goo sliding down the sides of what looked like feather light, perfectly baked sweet dough.
Judge Cedric: Would you mind if we uh, just had a small taste Mr. Gromwell? To um, testify to the roll’s authenticity you see. They all looked at Thaddeus in acute anticipation.
*** [ Court Recorder’s Note: I must protest this incomplete statement by adding that they looked at Mr. Gromwell with a most unprofessional acute anticipation. And I must say it was unbecoming for officers of the court. Just for the record you understand.]
Thaddeus: Pretending to look for something in his breast pocket. . . Go ahead. No never mind to me. I’ll buy another one when I get home.
From a drawer in the desk, Judge Nigel produced three plastic forks. They all reached over and gingerly teased out a bit of the roll and popped it into their mouths. There followed a pregnant silence, which lasted a tad longer than was comfortable to those without a fork in their hand, er, wing, um , never mind…. It was finally broken by Judge Nigel who whispered.
“My God, it’s perfection….. Ahem.” Recovering himself, “I mean, quite delicious. Yes, yes, quite delicious.” Then ruining the ‘objective’ effect by eagerly taking another forkful. This time a serious chunk of Bogwillow cinnamon roll disappeared into his beatifically smiling maw.
It was with superhuman strength of will, learned by years worth of listening to mind numbing testimonies and pompous posturings of hundreds, perhaps thousands of lawyers, that their honors did not fall upon the remains of Eugenia Mae’s cinnamon roll and end up licking the frosting off the waxed paper. As it was, they managed to leave a respectable inch square piece for propriety’s sake.
But as ( ) noted later. . . (Judge Nigel never took his eyes off that bit of roll for the rest of the hearing. – – What a rube.)
The judges looked at each other and nodded. They promptly took themselves off into a far corner of the capacious office to confer.
Dr. Rubber Duckie stared disconsolately at his files, which were slowly sliding sideways under their own weight on a corner table.
The Little Red Hen sat wringing her handkerchief fussing to herself that she hadn’t offered the Judges some tea to go with that stupid roll.
( ) Wondered how on earth they were going to get out of this mess. He had developed quite a fear of Thaddeus and was praying that the giant had no talent for making things out of punctuation marks.
The judges swooped back over and sat down with the air of men who had come to an agreement.
Judge Cedric: It is the ruling of this tribunal that Dr. Rubber Duckie, Mrs. – – he nodded in her direction, Little Red Hen, and ( ) are charged with convincing our mystery writer AKA ‘Yetzirah’ to write at least three more Bogwillow stories. Failing that, you will be fined a yet to be determined sum to compensate the residents of Bogwillow. But let me assure you, the sum will be off sufficient size to put the fear of God in you.
Dr. RD : Standing up quickly, causing his teacup to roll onto the floor, hitting the leg of the desk hard enough to shatter it. But your honors! I am her therapist I’m not supposed to be coercing her. I’m supposed to be her confidant. I cannot start ordering her around. She is a rather stubborn little thing really. Quite adamant about certain things. I’m a clinician, not a dictator. You have to be gentle with these artistic types. They are balanced very precariously, psychologically speaking. He began to flap one wing uncontrollably and paced the floor, finally whispering…. Besides, it’s HER tub!
LRH: Speaking from her knees under the desk, sweeping her beloved cup into a napkin. “I can’t imagine what you expect me to do that I am not doing every single day! I cluck about getting things done all the time. I fuss about the dust, and clutter, and laundry to her all the time. And the garden? What a mess! The only thing that is going well at her house right now is the cookie baking.” Her red head emerged above the top of the desk – – her face softening in recollection…. “There was this one chocolate one with raisins in it that was just so…..”
( ) : Get a grip on yourself Red! What are you two whining about anyway? You only have to be around her once in a while. I’m over there all the time. Do you have any idea what I have to put up with? We went out on a field trip the other day and I ended up watching her count cereal boxes at the grocery store for god’s sakes! It was the stupidest thing I had ever seen. She even took pictures for crying out loud. I thought for sure the manager was going to come over and kick us out. Hell, I yell at her all the time. She never does what I tell her to do. She usually just tells me to shut up. Give me a freaking break! The woman is a lost cause.
Judge Basil: Nevertheless, you all must find a way. Case dismissed!
The judges filed out of the room so quickly that no one had time to say “All Rise!”
The court recorder packed up her kit and she too vacated the room.
Thaddeus rose slowly and realized his hat was on the floor. He picked it up and gave it a shake, only adding to the illusion that the thing was still alive, and placed it firmly on his head.
Thaddeus : I’ll be seeing you folks soon, he said with his chin in the air. One way or the other.
He turned and stomped out of the room, which suddenly seemed too small for him anyway.
LRH: Sobbing… What are we going to dooo hoo hoo hoo?
Dr. RD: I need to take the next flight to Zurich. I’ll be in touch. He grabbed his files and scurried out.
( ): Like I said before, I need a shot of bourbon. See ya Red. And out he went, trailing more crumbs from the scone he pinched as he walked by the tea table.
The Little Red Hen was left alone in the august chambers.
She surveyed the mess that her little tea had become. The scones were stale, the berries had gone soft and the pot was cold.
“Who’s going to help me clean up this mess?” She frowned as she looked around the paneled room.
“I guess I will do it myself.” She said with a shrug of her ruddy shoulder.
“I always do.”