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1979: Albert's (in Omaha) is lit!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Jukebox for December 22, 2008

by Benny Bell

Everyone is out to get my Fanny
Everybody wants to see my Fanny
Everybody likes to hold my Fanny
But she loves no one but me

Everybody wants to seize my Fanny
Everybody likes to squeeze my Fanny
They do everything to please my Fanny
Still she loves no one but me

Oh, don't touch my Fanny
Please don't ever try
My little Fanny
Is reserved for just one guy

That's why I never let another love light blind me
Everywhere I go you'll always find me
With my little Fanny right behind me
'Cause she's so in love with me

Everyone who ever spied my Fanny
Tried to hang around beside my Fanny
Maybe I should go and hide my Fanny
Or she'll find somebody new

I've seen lots of fannies in my time
And frequently their cheeks were close to mine
But never have I held one so divine
Like the Fanny that belongs to me

We will be married
Some day next June
And when we go away
To spend our honeymoon

I know that everyone is goin'a miss my Fanny
No one ever could resist my Fanny
But they wouldn't dare to kiss my Fanny
'Cause she's so in love with me

(ps: This is a song from, I guess, the 1940s, using American slang, not British slang. Using British slang, it's more filthy and less amusing, because some of the references make no real sense -- "right behind me" "their cheeks were close to mine," in particular.)

[Lyrics courtesy of The Mad Music Archive]
(If you enjoyed this, you might also like Shaving Cream, The Automobile Song, Why Buy a Cow When Milk is Cheap, or some of his other tunes over at archive.org.)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Joshing with Cal Stewart

About 1975 I was visiting family in Brookings, SD, and my aunt dropped me off at a little museum on the campus. The docents didn't know, when I asked them, if the cylinder player worked, but didn't mind if I tried it, so I put on a Sousa march for a half a minute, then switched over to "Uncle Josh at the Bug House."

James Thurber describes how he and his brother played a record -- I think it was "Cohen at the Telephone" -- nearly to death, and the same seems to have gone for this work of humorous art. Without steady, gentle finger pressure on the needle, it would have stayed in any given spot and repeated the same revolution over and over.

The performance itself was a recitation of one basic joke, over and over. The narrator lodged at a sort of hotel run by a man named Bug. He saw the lightning, Bug did, hee hee. He took a tumble, Bug did, hee hee. The piece had its own canned laughter, you might say, as "Uncle Josh" made sure to laugh at each of his jokes, or more accurately, at each instance of his joke. It was so popular, he re-recorded it a few years later. Here's Uncle Josh, blessedly silent, reacting to events in a Haunted House:

For the curious, the record is available at archive.org, along with a raft of other "Uncle Josh" sides and many other recordings. "Uncle Josh" movies can be found at the Library of Congress's "American Memory" site. Elsewhere online, I've found a reprint of at least one "Uncle Josh" book, and the fictional "Punkin Center" where the tales take place has been enshrined in more than one locale with that name, including one in Colorado, not terribly far from Lamar and Karval. I see that Cal Stewart's creation is also available on YouTube (aka: Your One-Stop Shop for All Things Josh). Which is to say, he was popular. Here he is at the moving picture show:

I'm too lazy to look up whether Stewart took his character's name from the verb "to josh," or whether the word came from Stewart's character. Neither one would surprise me much. (ps: A commenter at LJ says the verb precedes the name by many years.)

Cross-posted to LJ. Based on a Usenet post.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Toon River Anthology
part 4

I played me part, see?
I ate me spinach and saved me girl
And helped the kiddies and told 'em
To listen to their parents, and I fought
For me country when it needed me.
Bluto was me enemy and me pal,
And I loved him, and he loved me.
Now, I never laid a hand on him, except
To give him a paste on the jaw, but he knew
And I knew he knew, and that was enough.
But it was something you couldn't say in them days,
So I kept quiet and kept on paying calls to Olive's house
But I only felt alive when I was scrapping with Bluto.
I was what I was.

Would anyone have paid attention
If I'd said "encyclopedia" or "electricity"?
If I wasn't adorably wrong about something,
I was invisible, ignored, unnecessary,
A clown even when I wasn't being funny.
So I went along with it. What choice did I have?
Through seven decades, trapped in that house, in that world,
In that body, in that face. I did my best to radiate
Ignorant, unreasoning cheerfulness
My passing was a mistake, a bid for attention that went wrong.
You should have found me in that "frigidater."
Couldn't you follow the dotted line?

This is my grave.
(I am dead!)

Monday, October 13, 2008

the Bad Humor man

First you'll hear somebody snarling,
Then a clash of cacophanous bells.
Frozen dill pickes and vinegarsicles
Are what the Bad Humor Man sells.

He yells, "All you brats quit that shouting!"
And he smacks any kiddie who sings.
Cold curdled custard and horseradish mustard
Are what the Bad Humor man brings.

He carries a silver cop whistle
And he sneers that all children are crooks.
Birds fly away, and the puppies won't play
When they catch his bad-humored looks.

The special today's cubes of topsoil
Bedecked with a relish of dills
Stuck to the foil you'll find cold castor oil
And a garnish of saccharine pills.

He never gives anyone change back
And he takes nothing smaller than dimes.
Take it from me, you're wisest to flee
When you hear the Bad Humor Man's chimes.

(by me, circa 1983: originally printed in the New Pals Club Magazine)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Toon River Anthology
part 3

"Daddy" made me feel loved and welcome.
He even got rid of that wife of his
Who acted like I was some sort of trophy;
A proof of her virtue. She was soon gone.
In her place, the lethal Asp and towering Punjab,
And Sandy. Always loyal, wonderful Sandy.
I would see "Daddy" mostly when he came in,
Guns blazing, fists flying, to save me
From the enemies of our country,
As well as from callous orphanages and cruel caretakers,
Just in time to sever them from success
And to protect this nation, and me, and Sandy,
And his own financial interests as well.
As days accreted into years, I wondered
Why my loving "Daddy" always ended up placing me
Back into those dark places where I had no protector
Save the good-hearted weak ones who folded like leaves
And sometimes a sympathetic gangster or mystic,
And I began to notice how my salvation and their demise
Solved at once some pressing business problem of "Daddy"'s
Until, at last, I resolved to contrive a test for him;
A setting of peril for me without any hope of profit for him.
And lo! here I am, beneath this stone forever
As Sandy, faithful Sandy, watches over me
Crying helplessly at the cold white eye of the moon.

(Note: I edited out Jamaal J. Jamaal's epitaph that was here, which hinged on a point that might just be too out of date, almost ten years after it was written. It hinged on the fact that characters in "Herb and Jamaal" would use six or more extra words to avoid specificity, e.g. "That popular rap artist," instead of just picking a name. I liked how I wrote it, but it seems a bit obscure to me in 2018.)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Toon River Anthology
part 2

Dottie and I saw him in the window,
A small puppy, looking helplessly at us
Canting his head as if to hear something
We had just said. We brought him home
To the delight of the children. In my mind,
I had some reservations about his paws,
Which looked too large for such a small dog.
"He'll grow into them," Dottie said,
As if that was a good thing. And grow he did
Until he was bigger than any of us,
And willful, and selfish, and bone stupid,
Although he was clever at driving a car,
Making phone calls and operating a computer.
He was less like a dog than he was a demon,
Sucking the life out of our family,
My marriage, and our finances
Until the day I called him out to the car
And took him far away, into the mountains
And tried to lose him on a lonely road.
I got the beefsteak out of the trunk
And called to him to have a treat
But when I looked up, he was in front
And had undone the parking brake somehow
And he rolled right over me before he went
Clattering down the road, until the car stopped
Gently, the front bumper just touching a pine tree.
My last moments seemed to stretch out for me,
Seeing the quizzical expression again on that face,
With that long-ago puppy's face showing behind it
And I saw the irony as well, and had to admit
That in a way, it really was dog-gone funny.

Talent only takes you so far.
Praised in school, successful at first,
I saw my path to fame, to glory,
To all the good things in life.
But ideas were few, and I went
To the pool of creativity, which I found
In a glass pipe Jones gave me
Along with my first taste of the stuff
And I painted, painted, until I thirsted,
Went back to the pool, then painted some more.
But before long, the thirst was more important
And the next trip to the pool, and the next,
And my curtains grew tattered, and I began
To leave my shirt unbuttoned at the top,
And I even forgot to brush my teeth some times.
And then I sought out Ray, who was looking for me,
And things went bad from there, and I perished.
Students of art, always try to find yourselves
A cheaper form of creativity than mine,
And lay in abundant supplies
Before you prime your canvas.

[note: Alan was an ephemeral subplot in Apartment 3G.]

Toon River Anthology
part 1

(originally from The Comics Curmudgeon)

I trembled between them. There was no escape.
Then I saw the recruiter's door. I stepped inside.
Things blurred for a while, and I came to myself
With my porkpie hat gone and an army cap in its place.
And I found that in giving up freedom and self,
I had gained blamelessness and slack,
And what was at first temporary became instead
The permanent surrender of choice in exchange
For the permanent evasion of responsibility.
And as I stayed at Camp Swampy, year after year,
I was astonished one day to realize with a start
That nothing ever changed there. Nobody left
And nobody new came in, and nothing happened
Until the day I realized I had been dead thirty years
And that all of us were already in our private hell.

After I lost you, Toby,
I went a little crazy
And began to indulge in
Things I'd only thought about before
And by the time I finally died in harness,
There was quite a bit of talk
And Mary came to see me
And recited her platitudes
And I smiled, and nodded, and looked abashed
And thanked her for it as she left
And kept going on my ways.
You taught me something, Toby.
I thought I needed a young blonde
But I found myself instead
In showers and bathroom stalls
And bus stations and personal ads.
Your sacrifice wasn't in vain--
I just needed to get you and your kind
Out of my system for good.

I never asked to be bitten. I only wanted
To listen to a scholarly talk about science
But there it was, I had great power now
And learned quickly what that entailed.
A lesser soul, gaining what I'd gained
Might have succumbed to vanity or greed,
But I had the lesson of Uncle Ben before me
And set out to make the world a better place
Whether the world wanted it or not.
For my pains, I was scorned, excoriated,
Lied about in the paper, and had my image
Which I provided for a modest fee, paraded
Before the credulous public as a menace.
Is it any wonder that I finally surrendered,
Took the easy way out, married my girlfriend
And stayed at home most days, watching TV?

Here I lie, in a humble pine box
None of your fancy caskets for me
If I'd died a few years later, it might have been
A cardboard carton for my eternal rest.
I didn't ever ask for much from the world;
Just a small-screen TV and a padded chair
The one to sleep in, the other to sleep
In front of on the nights when I didn't have to go
And work the next day. I kept my personal data
On the icebox in the kitchen. My watch
Only told time, and didn't bother me with
Phone calls, headlines, music, or games.
When I was hungry, I ate a burger with fries,
Drank the cheapest coffee, married a big chicken,
And played board games with my bored kids.
Until the day I felt my heart burst in my chest
And couldn't puzzle out the medicine cap in time.
Now I nap under a piece of granite,
Carved with my parents' names, with a line
Left for my family to fill in with mine
When they can afford it.

edited to subtract the lemons


Thursday, October 09, 2008

Cheer up! Smile!

There were so many cheery, upbeat songs in the Depression. And there were some downbeat ones as well. This is the best one I know that's zippy, sarcastic and bitter. Ask me to play and sing this for you next time we meet. I've always wanted to see Shirley Temple sing, dance, and dimple her way through this one:

Say, business is punk
And Wall Street is sunk.
We're all of us broke
And ready to croak.
We've nothing to dunk
Can't even get drunk
And all the while they tell us
To smile...

Cheer up, peaceful citizens
Though you have no shirts;
Happy times are here again --
Cheer up! Smile! Nerts!
All aboard, Prosperity;
Giggle 'til it hurts!
No more breadline charity --
Cheer up! Smile! Nerts!

Cheer up! Cheer up! Cheeeeer up!
Cheer up! Cheer
Up! Cheer up! Cheer up! Cheer
Better times are near!
Sunny smilers we must be,
The optimist asserts --
Let's hang the fathead to a tree!
Cheer up! Smile! NERTS!

The world's in the red.
We're better off dead.
Depression, they say
'S in session to stay
Our judges are queer.
Our banks disappear --
And all the while they tell us to smile.


Eddie Cantor with Phil Spitalny and his Music

Saturday, October 04, 2008

tiny aspirations

mighty tiny record player
(Picture snagged from WFMU's "Beware of the Blog")

That's where it started. They sold the little record players at Linder's, where I'd go look at toys and novelties (fake barf! whoopie cushions!). I lusted for that little player, and dreamed of having one. I must have been in second grade at the time, and I wished I could have a record player that I could take everywhere and have little tiny records to hear on it.

Never mind that the records they sold for that player probably sounded about like the plastic disk inside the Susy Moppet doll a friend found for me (that's another story). Never mind that they were recorded by utter nonentities who probably made Susy Moppet sound like Barbra Streisand. I never heard one of them played, and was probably happier that way.

Years passed. In junior high, I got my own tape recorder. A year after lusting for the 1.5" reel machine a friend had, I had saved up and got a 3" reel recorder at Penney's and proceeded to tape everything. I kept using it up to the time I was buying my first Firesign Theater albums, and then I finally gave in and got a cassette recorder, which I lugged around in a briefcase with as many tapes as I could cram in there.

One day, years later, I thought about how much my Walkman-type player resembled the wondrous record player of my far-off dreams. When I replaced that with a CD-based mp3 player, the thought came again. Now I think about it as I pat the shirt pocket with the 120GB iPod.

I also wished I could fly. Still waiting.

ps: A bit of searching today shows that one of these changed hands this month, with 11 records, for just over US$91. There was a photo of some of the records -- I could see guitars, a saxophone, a blonde singer, but couldn't make out names or any details. Almost every online reference to the "Mighty Tiny Record Player" led to a link to this item (unless every one of these happens to come with 11 records, of course). But I did find this, in the Google cache of a collector page (lala a gogo) that was otherwise '404 Not Found.'

mighty tiny c&w records

Hot stuff.

Friday, September 12, 2008

morbid makeover

In one of my last photo expeditions to local graveyards around West Springfield, I took pictures of photos of loved ones that were incorporated into the stones themselves. These make me a little sad, and it was even more poignant to see how one photo in particular had deteriorated over the years.

stone photo before

Here's a young male, dates unknown because all the writing is in Hebrew (or perhaps Yiddish; I don't know how I could tell) except for a surname at the bottom. Many times I have looked at my pictures of this photo and thought it might be possible to use the paint bucket tool to fill in the missing areas with a dark shade and see the original photo. It wasn't so simple.

I ended up using the clone tool to pick up areas of shade and apply the tints here and there. Some of what I did was completely arbitrary, so it may be that this is not a real image of the deceased.

stone photo after

Nonetheless, I felt like I had a better idea of how this person had looked. Due to some of my own efforts, it's possible I have distorted the apparent gender of the loved one here, but a photo taken farther back shows what seems to be a young boy. It's kind of rough -- a more finished job might have taken twice as long, and it's getting late.

Anyway, that's what I did after work today.

Originally posted to LJ on 20080728.

ps: Thanks to Susan de Guardiola, in comments, for providing the translation of the tombstone. We now know who this young woman was. May she rest in peace. The impression of maleness was the result of deterioration of the picture and nothing else.
here's a fine how-do-you-do

I've raved before about the 1970 Bell Telephone Hour recording of "The Mikado" in which Groucho Marx plays Ko-Ko, the Lord High Executioner of Titipu. Thanks to one of my pals here, I even have a copy of it.

For those who don't, I'll just say again that the first time I heard this, I thought it must have been re-written for Mr. Marx, when, in fact, it was not changed one bit. The show was carved down to an hour -- minus time for breaks and such -- by the expedient of trimming away much of what didn't directly concern Mr. Marx. I believe I approve, since it's always possible to find a complete performance, but how often can one get the chance to hear such an inspired bit of casting?

It is now possible for others to get the recording, in 320kbps mp3 files, from ReDiscovery, a music vendor who specializes in rescuing obscure classical performances and selling them at budget prices. This is in their "Paperback Classics" series, and is offered free of charge. Dang!

The company also reissues some of the "Basic Library of the World's Great Classics," which used to sell in grocery stores for a dollar, one album a week. We had a bunch of these in my house growing up, and I used to read the booklets that came bound into the box, and even listen to some of the anonymous performances. I saw the first nine releases of the collection at an estate sale last week, and had to restrain myself from buying them all again (having painfully forced myself to part with all but a tiny sample of them years ago in an effort to reduce the bulk of my records). ReDiscovery has done detective work and found out who the artists were who recorded most of them, and if you buy their records, you too will know. They're nice performances.

The link is above. Look down at the bottom of the page, and there's Groucho's doing the Mikado (with some help from Helen Traubel, Stanley Holloway, and some other people, including two guys named Gilbert and Sullivan). You'll be taken to a download page where you'll need to click on the two parts (side one and side two, I'll wager) to go to yet another page that will finally give you this wonderful recording. The link in this paragraph will tell you more about the cast and so forth. If any of you ever find a video recording of this TV special, please, please, let me know. (Same goes for Peter Schickele's performance of the PDQ Bach Concerto for Piano vs Orchestra on "Evening at Pops" around 1974-5.)

If you've never heard this classic tale of love and decapitation, this is a splendid introduction. And if you like it, do what they always advised at the end of every Classics Illustration adaptation and go out and get the whole thing. The parts they cut out are as good as what they left in. Go.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

two great tastes

We all love middle English, and we all love legacy comic strips, whose creators have moved on to that great bullpen in the sky. "Angry Kem," rightly divining these sentiments in society, has leaped to combine them into one, easy-to-digest web site, Japes for Owre Tymes.

JfOT is now in its second great day. Don't get run over: leap on the bandwagon now!

Angry Kem is a commentator at The Comics Curmudgeon, as am I ("Muffaroo"). Don't say I never give you any good links.

Monday, September 08, 2008

from memory
My prepared cutting for theater auditions in recent years has been a composite speech taken from various utterances of a character named Slanthead Elder in H. Allen Smith's novel, Mister Zip (written before the US Postal Service launched its ZIP code campaign with the psychotic-looking little mailman who can still be seen, in plywood form, in select post offices around our country). Slanthead is a sidekick and confidante of the earnest young TV cowboy who gives the book its name, and from time to time he dispenses opinions to Zip, who thinks there is such a thing as The Real West:

There ain't no West. I was what you call a real cowboy, thirty years ago, up in Wyomin'. Now, you take back in the 1880s, maybe they was a west that's a little like they got it in books and movies. But come to think, not much like.

You know how we got it now -- about all you got to do with cattle is herd 'em a little, and rustle 'em, and unrustle 'em, and drive 'em through the pass. Hell's fire, boy! You oughtta see what a real cowboy's gotta go through with them critters!

First place, a cow's the dumbest animal in the world. Mean. Ornery. A mule ain't in it fer bein' stubborn. One a the worst jobs a real cowboy has on a ranch is pullin' the bog. The stupid critters get sunk in the bogs and got to be hauled out, so you get some ropes on 'er, and two or three fellas on horses start pullin', and eventually you drag the son-of-a-bitch out. And what does she give you in the way a gratitude? In-verryibly, she tries to kill you! Tries to kill the men what saved her stinkin' life!

And the doctorin' you got to do! A critter has almost always got some kind a disease, and if she does have a short spell of health, why, then the bugs are at 'er and you got to fight them, and if you lay your hat down on the ground, she'll walk right over and crap on it, and all the time you're not playin' nurse-maid to these dumb bastards, you're workin' like a section hand, workin' in the hay-fields, fixin' fence, hoein' crops, and, so help me, hangin' out the warsh for the missus o' the ranch!
Elder has other choice speeches that would have made my selection too long for most directors. He holds forth on how stupid the other cowboys were ("That's all they got to talk about -- what's the shortest way to town.") and, when he gets drunk enough, Ole Hitler ("He's got a cave big as a soundstage back there in the hills, with slave labor turnin' out adam bombs like Gineral Moders makes Shivverlays!"). I left some out, so as not to ruin the entire book in advance. Just another service for you, the discriminating reader!
ps: No matter what I try, the text in this post looks larger than all my other posts. Goodbye, consistency. I hardly knew ye.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

charlie's apocalypse
[The scenario has just described a brief subliminal of Chaplin being chased around a corner by a cop as The Bomb is dropped. We see the worldwide devastation from a great altitude, then the camera pans down to ground level, and...]

He is back to the camera, hunched deeply over, in a tinily narrow alley between two buildings. A rigid forefinger is still jammed in each ear. He is still motionless; frozen.

He comes up as slowly, timorously, tremulously out of his crouch (fingers in each ear pulling timidly away), as a grass-blade recovering, which has just been stepped on. Straightens, still back to camera; and starts straightening his legs and arms inside clothes, and the clothes themselves, turning very slowly, face close to camera, staring into it. He continues to straighten his clothes, going over them very carefully ... polishing toes of shoes on calves of pants; sleeving his derby and resetting it with care on his head; testing his cane: then a sudden trembling shrug (involving a full check-over of body as well as clothes), which is a blend of what a suddenly dampened dog does, and of the feather-adjustments of a suddenly rumpled hen. Then very delicately and timidly, camera withdrawing, he advances, and sticks his snout around the corner of a building, and peers.
The rough screenplay continues with the post-nuclear-holocaust adventures of Charlie Chaplin, at first alone, then with others, then with scientists, and finally [edited to remove spoiler].

It's presented in Chaplin and Agee: The Untold Story of the Tramp, the Writer, and the Lost Screenplay, by John Wranovics. I have to confess that I found the biographical material leading up to the screenplay (here arbitrarily titled "The Tramp's New World") to be more interesting than the screenplay, overall, though the typescript has some interesting bits in it. The part following this, of Chaplin's interactions with the fixed shadows of the vanished citizens of the city, is particularly effective. If it had been made -- if Agee hadn't died when he did, and if Chaplin had shown an interest -- they would have had to lose an awful lot of what Agee worked so hard to include. It's like Alan Moore at his most specific, only he's groping for something that hasn't come into focus yet. An early draft, it's replete with multiple apologies for the roughness, and shows a willingness to compromise some of the details if need be. I'll wager he'd have done a better job on it if it had become a real project, based on his screenplay for the original Night of the Hunter.

I'd cut most of the prologue, which seems to kill the movie before the bomb does. Agee probably should have made his contribution a skeleton at that stage, keeping such bits as the introduction of the Tramp (quoted from above), and perhaps others. I confess that I was not only starting to doze in the comfy chair as I plowed to the finish today, I even started to skip through paragraphs, looking at the first sentence and then jumping ahead.

But it's still interesting. It'd be interesting to let Tim Burton and Johnny Depp have at it, for instance.

Anyway, I finished it just in time. It goes back to the library tomorrow. I saw a used copy at Barnes & Noble, and had Cathy get it on Interlibrary Loan to save $7.

This is cross-posted from my Live Journal in an attempt to breathe some life into this moribund conceit. I will try to remember to add the tag "lj" to such posts in future, to indicate the source of these items.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

I'm pretty sure that this was written in the summer of 1971, while waiting for my friend Dave to come back to his house. I waited because it was a long way home. While I waited, I put a piece of paper in his typewriter and started banging out a rhyming version of a tale I'd written earlier. I seem to recall I worked on it for an hour or two. It was subsequently published in the first and only issue of BABOON, an eight-page humor mag that Dave put out, with contributions from the two of us, and another Dave. Probably Dave's first published cover. Since then he's done covers for "Heroes in Hell" and Honor Harrington books, among others.

I've revised it along the way for various reasons -- mostly the reason was that I was retyping it and I couldn't leave things alone. There are things I would fix now, including a glaring error of emPHAsis, but I'll leave it for the time being. (See: Life, shortness of)

So here it is, my epic poem:


Once, Miller the miller chanced to be
At the place they called ‘group therapy.’
(A meeting place where opinions, views,
And dreams are met with jeers and boos)
He listened long to the people’s talk
Until oblivious to their squawk,
When suddenly his heart went ‘flutter’:
His name’d been mentioned in the mutter.
Ere he was left by this cardiac pain
Someone said his name again!
So he looked around to see if he
Could see who’d said it, and asked, “Who—me?”
Straightaway, he was seen by the crowd.
“That’s him now,” someone said out loud,
“We’ve talked of our kids long enough—
What of yours, you bag of fluff?”
He tried to stall and seemed to wilt:
“My wife’s almost finished her patchwork quilt.”
“Oh, knock it off about that cow,
She’s been ‘almost finished’ six months now.
We’re not so hot on Phyllis Diller.
What of Milly, miller Miller?”
Now Miller the miller was in a spot:
What could she do that others could not?
All she could do was sit on her fanny,
Eat, sleep, talk and tie a granny.
In less than a second these thoughts had passed
And he got his answer: “LIE—and FAST!”
So he cleared his throat: “She spins straw into POT!
(But just when she wants to—she mostly does _not_).”

Somehow, all the others followed it.
More amazingly, they swallowed it—
They all cheered for Miler the miller:
“Wow,” they chorused, “Whatta killer!”
And so, his glory now equal to Rome,
The miller got up, and smiling, went home.

News traveled fast in Yesteryear,
And soon it reached the Royal Ear.
At this, His Majesty’s very first thought was
“Get her!” Then he wondered what ‘pot’ was.
But the one they brought to the King’s great villa
Was not Millicent, but miller Miller.
There he knelt before the throne,
Shaken and frightened to the bone.
“Make her spin!” the King suggested.
“She doesn’t _want_ to!” m.M. protested.
“Well, make her want to, and make it fleet,
Or else your head shall look up to your FEET!”

The miller faced it like a man:
He sent her in and fled the land.
So Millicent, sans further hassle
Found herself inside the castle.
She looked around the room in awe
To find she was knee-deep in straw.
“Spin that into pot!” came the Royal drone,
Then the cell door slammed, and she was alone.

For several minutes she stared dumbfounded
At all the straw that now surrounded.
She knew what she would have to do
Was roll some up and bluff it through,
But before she’d exercised this ruse,
There came a flash and a smell like booze,
And before she could quite grasp it all,
She saw this midget, three feet tall!
Then came his line (a real killer):
“I’m your salvation, Milly Miller!
I can spin anything, from straw to string,
Into the best—the Real Thing!”
She gazed at him with the eyes of a fawn,
And managed to gasp; “You’re putting me on.”
Said he “It’s true! But it’s no dice
If you can’t somehow Pay... the Price!”
“Well, I’ve got... this ring! It’s one humdinger.”
(It left a green spot on her finger.)
He looked it over (he must have been blind)
And pocketed it. “This will do fine.”
There followed some fancy spinning and then,
The weirdo up and vanished again.
Now, being knee-deep in straw isn’t so hot,
But now she was up to her calves in pot,
And soon the King came into the cell
Saying “This is amazing! ...What’s that smell?”

In even less time than it takes to relate,
The King tried some grass, and found it great.
So he once again shoved Milly into the door
And left with the message to “Spin up some more.”
She looked at the straw, piled high in the cell,
And there was the flash and the same bad smell,
And there, sure enough, was her weird old friend
Saying “Millicent Miller, you’ve done it again!”
She looked at him sadly; he gave her a grin
And said “Now don’t tell me, you want me to spin.
I will, of course, but not for free—
There’s a little matter of paying the fee.
You pay, and I’ll appease the King.
You got another diamond ring?”

A look of pain came swiftly on
Her face: the dime-store ring was gone.
She pondered hard, and then she smiled—
She’d offer him her first-born child!
It was probably better than losing her lid.
(After all, with her dead, there’d be no kid!)
So she told the creep and he agreed.
Then he got to work and spun the weed.

The king thought he’d be set for life,
And graciously made her his wife;
No more spinning did he demand
For she claimed she’d broken her ‘detrecle gland.’
Things went just fine after that.
In time, there came a Royal Brat.
Then one day, in a blinding flurry,
The queen thought back and began to worry.
She tried to think: Who was that guy?
But she didn’t know, so she called her Spy.
“Just get his name, and I’ll be set
For any blackmail I’d need to get.”
So fast did her agent catch the game
That in just a week, he got the name.
And what did he whisper in her ear?
“Rumplestiltstein,” loud and clear.

One stormy night at half past eight
A knock was heard upon the gate
And sure enough, not Mr. Clean,
But the creep had come to see the Queen.
“Now, Milly Miller, remember your bid—
I gave you grass, give me the kid!”
The child walked in and caught his eye.
The midget gave a startled cry
And said “But first, a guessing game!
The kid’s yours if you guess my name.”
“Oh, I couldn’t guess!” the Queen protested,
“I’m bad at games, or had you guessed it?
My li’l ol’ head’s just ever so fat—
“Well, bury me in chicken puckey,
Take thirty guesses—you might get lucky!”
(Since she knew his name, one guess was enough,
But she wanted to lose, and proceeded to bluff.)
“Irving? Lucky? Karen? Barry?
Kathi? Stinky? Bruce? or Harry?
Ugly? Marty? Lyndon? Louie?
Herbie? Don, Doyle, Dick or Dewey?
Tim? Jim? Herkimer or Harry?
(She read from Webster’s dictionary.)
John? George? Karl? Ken? Fred Astaire?
Sam? Tom? Paul? ...Well, I declare!
Of all the things! O, fate so dirty!
I’ve made wrong guesses; all of thirty.
Excuse me if I seem to crumple.
The kid’s all yours now. Take him, Rumple!”
Quickly spake Rumplestiltstein:
“Sorry, kid, that’s twenty-nine!
But with the ‘Rumple,’ thirty guessings—
Kid’s all yours; you have my blessings.”
Then, laughing like he’d made a joke
He vanished in a puff of smoke.

But Queen Millicent was no fool.
She sent the kid to boarding school.
So the midget was not alone in laughter.
(They all lived happily ever after.)

(c) 2008 by Kip Williams

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