GangleLegs PruneFace

Over the Rainbow

 

The Do’s Series: Segment 17

© Grandpa Jim

 

 

“You walk like the ScareCrow from the ‘Wizard of OZ.’”

“Duh.” The tall skinny Guppie flops his arms and trips into a chair.

Sir Richard raises his chin, cold dark eyes examining the fidgeting figure. “You are an unlikely looking spy.”

“Duh. That’s me strength. No one suspects me.” The Guppie almost slides out of his seat.

“I would not suspect you.” The Dark Count squints at the Guppie. “Quit making faces.”

“Can’t. Face just keeps moving.”

“You face has the appearance of fruit in the process of becoming overripe.”

“Thank you, Mr. Count, Sir.”

“You’re welcome. Call me Sir Richard.” The Count leans forward in his chair. “What did you say your name was?”

“GangleLegs PruneFace, Sir Richard, Sir.”

“You are well named, if poorly presented.”

“Duh.”

“Don’t try to think. Do you even have a brain?”

“That’s what me wants, Dark Sir, a brain. And monies and being the boss. All for me, Sir.”

“Well, at least you’ve come to the right place. I specialize in transformations and misappropriations.” Sir Richard squinches his nose. “Though, transformation may be a challenge here. Your brain may have to wait for a more appropriate case.”

“Duh.”

“Please stop saying that ‘Duh’ thing.”

“Huh.”

“Mercy. A limited and painful vocabulary.” Sir Richard stands and stares down at the squirming Guppie. “So what do you have to offer me for this wealth, power and brain you seek.”

“I bring you information from inside the DownTown. Special stuff. I hear a lot. I be Queen Mary’s fool.”

“I have a heightened respect for Mother Pickford. She has you pegged.”

“Yep, I can tell you things.”

“I bet you can. Give me an example.”

“They make big underships. For many Guppie sailsoldiers.”

“Very good. You may be a useful adjunct to my repertoire of slippery actors and sinister auditors.”

“Huh.”

“You are predictable, greedy and have an unlikely appearance for a snoopmole.”

“Duh.”

“Even if you are cheeky to the point of contumely in your responseology – unintendedly, of course, recognizing the absence of a brain.”

“D . . .”

“Please, don’t respond. I accept your offer.” Sir Richard sits back in his great chair. “How did you get here and how do you return?”

“Small deepboat at your deepdocks. The brownones brought me up.”

“Yes, the deepdocks serve their purpose. There is a lively blackmarket run by a nice bunch of pirates that supplies certain of my needs. Were there other undervessels docked below?”

“No. Only me’s zipship.”

“Good.” Sir Richard pushes a button on the underside of the chair arm.

The stone cavedoor swings smoothly open and FawnFizzle pokes his red spikey-haired head into the observeroom. “You rang, Mighty HighEss of Jobsssss?”

“Either that or your brain has a short?”

“Duh.”

“Don’t you start. Yes, I rang. Have this floppy-faced Sailor escorted to his transport. Ensure he is thoroughly debriefed of what he knows, his vessel is well provisioned for the return trip, and. . . . Come here.” The WardBoss approaches his boss. Sir Richard leans over and whispers into the BentOne Commander’s ear.

Straightening in his chair, the Count addresses his new Guppie spy. “Our deal is done, GangleLegs PruneFace. Not by The Do’s, but by my doing and your complying. You will do your part and return soon with more information, or that empty case that rests upon your shoulders will be removed and there will be no need to fill it.”

“Yep. Duh. Huh.”

“I could hardly expect more in response. Enough. You will find a generous portion of Mr. BoJangles with your supplies. Return soon with more information. Now, begone.”

The Guppie flops up from his chair, bows lopsidedly, turns with one leg flying to the side and lurches to follow FawnFizzle out the door.

Sir Richard walks to the viewwindow overlooking the terraforming of the East Desert. “It is so hard to find good help these days.” He shakes his head. “A brain? What will they think of next?” He touches the hard plastic of the viewscreen. “’Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.’ Are we over the rainbow?”

 

* * *

 

Nurse Hoadie Ilsalund Carmichael pours tea into the cup resting on the folding table before the ghostly white figure in the sparkling white dress. “Why did you trap her?” the pretty nurse asks and lifts a flower patterned cup to her lips.

“It’s never that simple, Ilsalund.” Queen Myrtha sips her tea and sets the cup down. “I’m always amazed that the tea doesn’t flow out and puddle on the floor. I mean we are both technically dead and you can almost see right through me.”

“It’s never that simple,” Nurse Carmichael quips with a smile.

“I know, dear. In your case, you are more alive than dead. An odd artifact of your goodness.”

“Am I that different, Myrtha?”

“Well, we Vila are supposed to be jilted ladies who have returned from our graves to torment poor misbehaving males and dance them to their deaths.”

“It’s never that simple. Is it?” Ilsalund sets her cup down on the folding table.

“Yes, you are right. We have this odd job of intervening in the affairs of these people and helping them — if we can. You understand that, don’t you?”

“Myrtha, I understand that we are supposed to provide the tools so that our wards can either do the right thing or do the wrong thing.”

“Precisely, it’s the doing that matters not the choosing. By The Do’s, choice and free will have nothing to do with freedom. Freedom is the doing of the right thing. And that’s what I’ve done for your protégé, Ms. LoveJoy KickStart. I’ve helped her to do the right thing.”

“My dear Queen, you have done a bit more than that. Your thumbdrive programming has played to LoveJoy’s commitment to her family. To apply your digitalized solution, she had no choice but to bond with program. Now, she has no choice but to give her life for her family and friends.”

“A noble and merciful act. To sacrifice is to save. She will enter the afterlife a free person.”

“And a ready recruit for your purposes.”

“Which is what you’ve always wanted.”

“But in the young lady’s own time and manner, and through the exercise of her own free will.”

“Posh, free will is an overbaked idea. The doing is what matters.”

“Myrtha, Myrtha, why do you insist on oversimplifying the situation of our charges? You know you are. Both choosing and doing are important. And what you have done is not likely to improve our less than savory reputation from the days before. These New Days people are going to think we still dance to death unsuspecting males out of ancient spite and distracted curiosity.”

“Ilsalund! Please, some space here. I am not a crazed gameplayer roaming the streets with my handheld to gobble up Pokémon monsters for the fun of it. This SCRUMP business is not easily resolved. An intimacy of interaction was essential to the programming.”

“Does the girl have to die?”

“I think yes.” Myrtha touches the lip of her teacup. “But you of all people must know that these things are never certain. Just look at yourself. You sit and sort flowers in your blue robe and appear to all the world to be quite alive, when you have passed through the portal of death and returned. There is hope. There is always hope.”

“I worry for her, Myrtha.”

“As you should, dear, as you should.” Queen Myrtha reaches a clear white hand and pats the back of Nurse Hoadie’s strong tan hand where it rests on the tabletop. “Now, pour me another cup of tea and we will watch and see if it goes right through me and puddles on the floor.”

Ilsalund Carmichael reaches for the teapot, a soft smile on her pretty face.

 

* * *

 

“How is your patient doing?” The mysterious stranger asks the question, his face to the window. The tattered ends of his many-colored coat reach to the floor.

“I though you were gone.” Sir Richard flops into his throne chair. “How did you get in here?”

“I have my ways.”

“So it seems.”

“You have a Guppie recruit.”

“Did you see him?”

“No.”

“You just know these things?”

“Yes.”

The speaker turns around to face Sir Richard. Long hair frames the lined tanned face. “Now you have a distracted malefactor in Queen Mary’s court to spy for you and bring news from DownTown.”

“Yes. An unlikely spy but one who has already provided valuable information.”

“The Guppies build troop carriers.”

“Perhaps I should be paying you.”

“That is a curious thought. Actually, quite funny, if you were to think about it.”

“I think I’ll not.”

The stranger turns back to the window. “How is your cousin?”

“The patient, Prince Lohengrin, is recovering. He has not awakened, but the doctors say he should at any time.”

“What will you do with him?”

“Learn what I can.”

“And then.”

“You know. Tell me.”

“I don’t. Yet.”

“What do you know?”

“You have a disrupter. The Prince’s friend, one LoveJoy KickStart. Have you forgotten her?”

“I have not. She recruits the foolish to oppose my efforts. It is only a matter of time before my servants reach her and return her here.”

“The Nurse and her kind will help the girl.”

“Vilas!” A sneer accompanies the Count’s exclamation. “Let them dance their legs off. I do not plan to jilt the girl. I plan to control her.”

“As you have her family?”

“They are my. . . .”

“SCRUMPs.”

“Why do you interrupt me? I know what they are. Who are you to me?”

“I like ‘interrupter.’ I’m your interrupter.”

“Distracters, disrupters, interrupters. Did you invent all this?”

“Yes, I think I did. Though, at times, I’m not certain. But, yes. Pretty much, anyway.”

“You grow longwinded. Would you like something to drink?” Sir Richard reaches to touch the button under the arm of his chair. When he looks up, the mysterious stranger is gone. “I take it that’s a ‘No.’”

The Dark Count stands and recites to the empty room:

 

“Once amid the soft silver sadness in the sky

There came a man of fortune, a drifter passing by

He wore a torn and tattered cloth around his leathered hide

And a coat of many colors, yellow-green on either side.”

 

Sir Richard sits back down. “You see I know in part from where you come, but I do not know why. Why are you here?” He presses the button to call his servants. “Do I underestimate LoveJoy KickStart? I would advise all to: Never underestimate Sir Richard Geoffrey Ingelger, either. Do you hear me, stranger? Am I interrupting you? Can you hear me over your rainbow, wherever that is?”