Thursday, December 18, 2008

Guffin War: Overture

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro' the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.
-Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson

When Regimental Colonel Theordoros "Teddy" Ap Mohiam N'Ruxpin (the only Illiopian to ever hold rank in the American armed forces) was charged with "conduct unbecoming in an officer", his legal fees become untenable, and he was forced to pawn off the majority of his possessions. Of special note was the airship he inherited from his father. Unwilling to sell it off permanently, he loaned instead to a museum of aeronautics. Their yearly rent went straight to his creditors, and he never saw a penny of it. It was not without some considerable effort that it was taken out of the museum and put in the air. Both the museum director and several local pilots had protested that the Airship was in no state to travel, and was completely un-airworthy. Ruxpin had simply kicked the engine a bit, sworn a lot in Illiopian and finally shoved a wrench in at an odd angle.

The flight over the Pacific Ocean had been uneventful. Ruxpin had spent the entire trip on deck, starring moodily into the clouds and making his cigarette last an improbably long time. Tweety chose to take refuge below decks. The place was sumptuously, decadently decorated, with intricately carved panelling, an ornate wardroom table, and wall hangings of improbable design. When questioned on his flying Rococo showcase, Ruxpin was as unresponsive as he'd been to questions about where they were going, how he was driving, what was keeping them in the air and where the head was. They had stopped in Taiwan for a layover. Ruxpin was out of Morleys. When he came back, his face was grim.

"When you came to see me, did you see anyone follow you? Anyone who looked out of place?"

"No... I don't believe so." Tweety replied, a little puzzled. "Why?" At first, Ruxpin did not respond, he simply busied himself with whatever it was that got the Airship from the ground to the air. Finally he responded.

"Two days ago, they fished the body of suspected killer Luigi Fratelli out of Lake Erie. Over twelve bullet holes in his back." Tweety went pale.

"Wh... what?"

"Forty hours ago, they're was a prison riot in the woman's ward of Sing-Sing prison. Only one casualty, an inmate by the name of Slaghoople."


"Twenty-nine hours ago, they're was a a huge gang shootout between rival gangs in Bangkok. Among the dead was local merchant and Indian ex-pat P. Panther."


"Twelve hours ago, a military asylum in Illinois caught fire and burned to the ground, killing most of the patients. And three hours ago your house was also burned."

"My house.... wait, the asylum! Bunny, is he?" At this, Ruxpin actually smiled.

"Oh, it would take more than being surrounded b burning slag to take out Bunny. You know, I once saw him him win an arm wrestling contest by ripping off another man's arm?" Ruxpin became reflective. "They're out to get us, Bird." They sat in silence for a while. "I had hoped I'd never have to say this, Corporal, but... welcome back to China."


Despite his radio threats to do so, Ruxpin did not land in Tiananmen Square. He landed in the Back Sea in Shichahai, where he proceeded to irritate the ducks and argue with the Beijing municipal police. Tweety, feeling more useless than ever, spent his time sitting on top of the wheelhouse, trying to read a book of Quin dynasty poetry, without much success. His Chineese had been picked up during his years in a prison camp, and it was idiosyncratic, at best. Eventually, a courier made his way through the mod of cops and bureaucrats and handed Ruxpin a note, which he brought to Tweety.

"Here" he said gruffly. "It's in Cǎoshū. I don't read Cǎoshū." Tweety glanced at the note.

"It's an address" he said, copying it out into English. Ruxpin read it over.

"Did your wife teach you how to haggle over a parking ticket?"

"Oddly enough...."

"Good. Stay here and argue with the nice mob. I've got to go see a Pekingese about people skills."

1 comment:

Jerry Prager said...

It's hard to know how to comment on these things,since I don't get all the references, but the depth of the parody, supported by erudite comments about Chinese languages and the characters themselves is solid enough and amusing.