Monthly Archives: November 2020

My Last Christmas With Unca-Boy

I have a confession to make.  I didn’t really like most of my relatives when I was growing up.  There was this one uncle who talked babytalk to me until he died.  His daughter still talks babytalk, and she’s seventy-four years old.  His wife had a way of turning a positive conversation into an insult without cracking her fake smile.

                The one I liked best lived in California and only came back to Texas for family reunions and occasionally for Christmas or Easter.  When he did visit he always stayed with us.  That’s because he was from my father’s side of the family.  Dad could hardly tolerate him, but mother loved him as much as I did.

                He was Uncle Eli’s boy.  Uncle Eli was a train conductor in Colorado, and he expected his son Bruce to follow in his footsteps.  Bruce had other ideas.  He was a good looking guy and wanted to be a movie actor.  One thing about my father’s side of the family—if your daddy told you he wanted you to be a train conductor, then, goshdurnit, you were going to be a train conductor.  Bruce, I was told, wasn’t happy about it but started his training as a—well, whatever an entry level job was on a train.

                One day Uncle Eli’s foot slipped as he was boarding the train while it picked up steam.  When it pulled out of the station Uncle Eli was left on the tracks, pretty much cut in two, and, of course, dead. Right after the funeral, Bruce packed up and headed for Hollywood where he earned a respectable living for the next fifty years as an extra.

Everybody called Bruce Uncle Eli’s boy.  He didn’t seem to mind it.  Uncle Eli’s boy was a mouthful for me when I was three or four, so it came out “UncaBoy.”  After that, the family called him UncaBoy even when I could actually say Uncle Eli’s boy.

“You can keep calling me UncaBoy,” he whispered to me one Thanksgiving when Dad was carving the turkey.  “It would confuse the others if you didn’t.”

Every time Bruce showed up for a family dinner my uncle asked, in babytalk, why he never became a movie star.

“I was cast into a speaking role a few times,” UncaBoy patiently explained, “but once the cameras started rolling, I couldn’t remember my lines.”  He smiled bashfully.  “Being an extra was not quite the career I had wanted but I’m happy with it.” 

                My earliest memories of him were watching the late movies on television.  He would point out himself walking behind Clark Gable in Boomtown.

“There I am.  I liked being in westerns,” he told me.  “It was like growing up in Colorado.”  He was also one of the few extras who could ride a horse. 

One time while watching The Philadelphia Story he said, “There I am, serving Katharine Hepburn a coffee at a diner.  She insisted it be a cup of hot coffee too.  She never drank it but she liked the warm cup in her hands.”  He winked at me.  “I didn’t think she was all that good looking either.  Not anywhere as pretty as your mother.”

Occasionally Mother would stay up late with us and pop some corn.  She always liked the movies.  Dad never did.  He called them durned foolishness.

                “There he is.”  Mother beat UncaBoy at pointing him out.

                Sometimes I recognized him and sometimes I didn’t.  Sometimes we’d only see his shoulder or the back of his head.  Mother explained that Uncle Eli’s boy was better looking than Clark Gable and the director didn’t want moviegoers to know that anyone was better looking than Clark Gable.

                The thing about Hollywood was that it needed extras of all ages so UncaBoy kept working even after the stars got too old to be seen anymore.  I suppose he was in his seventies when he came for Christmas my senior year in high school.  After the last of the pumpkin pie was eaten and the last of the baby-talking relatives left, he and I sat in the living room, turned on the Christmas tree lights and then tuned in the late movie.  It was It’s a Wonderful Life.  Mother didn’t join us.  She said that movie always made her cry.

                “There I am,” he said, pointing to himself during the run on the bank scene.  “I actually got to say, ‘Give me my money.’  Of course, everyone else was yelling at the same time.’”

                They also showed his face.  I was about to ask him about Jimmy Stewart when I heard him gasp.  I looked at him, and his face was pale and his lips blue.  When our eyes met, I knew he was having a heart attack.  I tried to stand up to get Mother, but he pulled me back down to his side.  He smiled, patted my face and pointed at me.

                “There I am.”      

Happy Thanksgiving!

I’m taking the holiday off so there won’t be new chapters of Bessie’s Boys today or Friday. I’ll return next week with a Christmas story on Monday and the continuation of Bessie’s boys’ chase Wednesday and Friday. If you want something to read over the holiday, check out my archives.

Thanksgiving For Two

I’m rather looking forward to Thanksgiving this week.

It’s just going to be my adult son and I in our messy house we call home.  With COVID-19 raising its ugly head again, any more than two for Thanksgiving could become a game of Russian roulette.

My wife died five years ago.  Three of us would join another couple at a local restaurant which served only a Thanksgiving dinner all day long.  Since then we’ve been invited to gatherings in other people’s homes.

But since the pandemic, those options have disappeared.  The dinner for two has possibilities all on its own.  For one thing, we could have dinner in our underwear, and there won’t be anyone there to be shocked.  Since it is really everyday stuff, we’ll probably resort to our usual attire of tee shirts and shorts.  Socks but no shoes.  The tile floor which can be a bit chilly this time of year.

The menu for two will be extravagant for us.  Appetizer of shrimp cocktail with the giant variety.  The main course will include Cornish hens, one for each of us.  Those little suckers can be expensive; but, hey, it’s Thanksgiving.  We’ll go with our usual Stove Top dressing.  Why make it from scratch when we like the stuff in the box.  We will get fresh broccoli, boil it and squeeze a lemon over it.  Since my son doesn’t really like cranberries, I’ll get have a can from the store and pop it in the refrigerator overnight to chill it.  I haven’t decided to make a pumpkin pie or just buy one from the bakery.

Highlighting the day will be our Zoom meeting with my daughter and her family in Wappingers Falls, New York.   It’s in the same county as Franklin Roosevelt’s Hyde Park.  My daughter’s in-laws will be there so it will be like a party on the computer, and we don’t have to worry about coughing on each other.  We Zoomed on Halloween and it was a treat to see the kids in their costumes.

My son and I aren’t really into football games, so we’ll probably pop a movie into the DVD for after dinner entertainment.  I’m hoping for something with Abbott and Costello, but my son likes World War II movies.  We could compromise and go to our own wings of the house and take a nap, and pick a movie for later in the evening.

We actually have a lot to be grateful for.  We both like our housemates a lot and we catch each other’s jokes.  We can exchange movie dialogue without even turning the TV on.  We’re both healthy, and that’s a big plus these day.  Best of all, we can belch and fart all we want without having anyone telling us we’re gross.  Oh, and we can leave the dirty dishes in the sink until Friday morning.  Maybe even Saturday.  Who cares?  It’s just us guys.

We hope all of you have as good a time as we’re going to have.   

Bessie’s Boys Chapter 26

Previously: England awaits the Spanish invasion. Elizabeth orders two of her young heroes to Spain on a mission. Each one has a beautiful but jealous lover.

Senor Vacacabeza, befuddled with Phillip’s order to catch the young spies because he was on the Last Rites side of seventy years old, felt he wasn’t up to fulfilling the King’s wishes.  As he rounded one corner Vacacabeza had to jump back to keep from being run over by Clarence clomping by on his hands and knees with Maria on his back, slapping his rear as though whipping a race horse.

“Tally ho!” the young lady hollered in a perfect English accent.

The old Spaniard took a deep breath and began to trot after them.

“Come back!  It’s useless to resist!”

In another corridor not so far away, Rodney and Alice stopped at another intersection.

“Which way should we go?” Rodney asked.

“How would I know?  All these hallways look the same!”

“Let’s try this way.” He took her hand and eased down a narrower corridor.

Within a few feet they found themselves face to face with King Phillip himself.  Alice screamed and began to swoon, but Rodney pushed her back to her feet.

“Aha.”  Phillip pointed at them.  “There you are, my little enchilada!”

 Again Rodney twisted his face in confusion.  “What’s an enchilada?”

Alice took control by grabbing Rodney’s hand and running in the opposite direction.  “I don’t have time to explain!”

Phillip stomped his foot in indignation.  “I am the king of Spain!  You’re supposed to obey me!”  After he controlled his pique, Phillip began to run as fast as he could.  When he came to a staircase, he saw Rodney and Alice alight the bottom step and separate, running in different directions.

“Guards!  Guards! After them!” the King screamed as he descended the steps.

Unfortunately, two large guards appeared behind Phillip and knocked him down as they went after the English desperadoes.

At the same time Clarence and Maria ran through the courtyard.  Following them at a distance, Vacacabeza stumbled into the courtyard.

“It’s only a matter of time before I catch you!”

Clarence turned, hopped from foot to foot, and laughed.  “It’s only a matter of time before you pass out!”  With that exercise of bravado, he grabbed Maria’s hand and disappeared down another corridor. 

Rodney leaned over the balcony, looking across the courtyard.  “Now where did Alice go?” he muttered.

Vacacabeza looked up to see Rodney on the balcony.  “Maybe I’ll have better luck chasing that one!”  He made his way to the nearest stairs, waving his fist.  “Stop there!  It’s useless to try to escape!”

“Uh, oh.”  Rodney turned away and beat a more than hasty retreat.

“Drat.”  Vacacabeza stopped to put his hand to his mouth.  “I think I’m going to be sick.”

In another nearby hallway, Maria and Alice bumped into each other.

“Oh,” Maria announced in an English accent dripping with disdain.  “So we meet again.  Now delightful.”

“Yes.”  Alice meet her disdain and matched it with acid sarcasm.  “It’s certainly made my day.”

“By the way, I’ve spoken to my lover, and he says I’m the only woman for him.”

“Well, I’ve spoken to my fiancé, and he says he says he loves only me.”

“So it’s impossible we’re talking about the same man.”

“Of course.”  Alice raised her haughty little chin.

“I’m so pleased for you,” Maria replied with an edge sharpened by snideness which did not go undetected by the fair Alice.

   “And why, may I ask, are you pleased for me?”

Maria extended her statuesque magnificence to its fullest height.  “Because if we were talking about the same man, he’d surely choose me over you.”

“And makes your feeble mind think that?”  Alice placed her hands on her petite hips.

“Well, I don’t want to upset you.”

“And I don’t want to upset you by saying you wouldn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell with my fiancé.”

Maria’s eyes fluttered and her lips pursed.  “And you name is Wrenn, isn’t it?”

“Yes.  What of it?”

“It’s just that it’s so appropriate.”  She stepped closer.  “Wrenn.  A little bird.  A little twit—I mean tweet.”

Alice’s nostril’s flared.  ”And your name is de Horenhausen?”


Alice put her slender index finger to her lips.  “I was wondering….”

“Yes?”  Maria become defensive.

“The origin….”

“Yes?”  Her face flushed.

“Does it refer to the family profession?”

Maria raised her right hand, now in a tight fist.  “Why you—“

The confrontation surely would have ended in fisticuffs but King Phillip entered the courtyard followed by two guards.

“After them!”

“We’ll settle this later, my little bird.”  A Teutonic crispness entered her voice.

“Anytime, my big—“

“Don’t you dare say it!”

Bessie’s Boys Chapter 25

Previously: England awaits the Spanish invasion. Elizabeth orders two of her young heroes to Spain on a mission. Each one has a beautiful but jealous lover.

King Phillip sat at his desk in his private sitting room collecting his thoughts.  He was making an entry in his diary about the encounter with a levitating maiden in the courtyard.  He took it to mean complete heavenly assurance of victory over the God-forsaken English.  Before he could dip his quill into the inkwell to describe the exquisite beauty of the Gypsy maiden, the chamber door flew open. Lord Boniface staggered in wiping sweat from his boney face.

“I know the names of the spies in your court!”

Phillip pushed his diary aside and stood.  “Who!  Who!”

“Clarence Flippertigibbit and Rodney Broadshoulders!”


His Lordship bowed.  “Their names aren’t important, Your Majesty.  They’re mere callow youths.”

“Then alert Senor Vacacabeza to have them captured!” He pointed to the door.

“My pleasure, Your Majesty!”  Boniface rubbed his hands with gleeful anticipation.  “I can’t believe it!  Wales is as good as mine!”

A trumpet’s blare echoed through the cavernous Alhambra.

“Ah!  Time for court.” Phillip, about to leave, turned to Boniface. “Don’t just stand there!  Keep chasing them!”  He hurried from his chambers and down the hall to the throne room.

Phillip had gone only a few yards when he heard a “Psst!” over his shoulder.  The King looked around to see where it could have come from.

“Over here!”

Another damn Englishman, he thought, as he saw Lord Steppingstone motioning to him from a side chamber set aside for prayer or a game of grab ass, depending on the Spanish monarch’s predilection at the moment.  He joined his spy and closed the door before anyone could see them.

“Your Highness!”  Steppingstone was beaming.  “I have the names of the spies!”

“Yes, I know.”  Phillip found deflating a sycophant’s ego extremely satisfying.  “Some callow youths–Rodney Broadshoulders and Clarence Flippitigibbity!”

“Flippertigibbit!” Steppingstone corrected the King.  “He was pretending to be dead!”

“Don’t worry,” Phillip comforted him.  “He will be dead soon.”

The Lordship bowed.  “Of course, Sire.”

“The gall of that Englishwoman to sneak two spies into my court!”  Indignation filled his royal voice.

Steppingstone threw his hands in the air.  “All England will rejoice the day you liberate it from her tyranny.”

“Oh, shut up, you toad,” Phillip ordered.  “Just find them!”  Not waiting for another round of vain compliments, the King left the chamber and continued down the hall to the throne room. 

When he entered, trumpets announced his arrival, and courtiers bowed and applauded with vigor.  Phillip did not want too raucous of an outburst when he appeared among his subjects.  He emitted a quick, “Shush!”

All went to silence.  Vacacabeza stepped from the crowd and followed the King so he could whisper in his ear.

“Your Majesty!  I understand you know who the spies are!”

He waved to his loyal followers.  “Yes.  Rodney Broadshoulders and Clarence Flip—flip….”

“Clarence Flipflip?”  Vacacabeza shook his head in confusion. “Oh, you mean Clarence Flippertigibbit.”

“Don’t ask me to identify them,” Phillip said as he mounted the steps to his throne.  “I wouldn’t know them from Gypsy minstrels.”

Following him up the steps, Vacacabeza reassured him, “Never fear, my Lord.  In my many trips to England I met both of them, Broadshoulders and Flippertigibbit.”

After he sat, Phillip glared at his ambassador, envious he could pronounce Clarence’s last name with such ease.  “Showoff.”

Maria, with Clarence under her flowing gown, emerged from the mass of courtiers and approached the throne.

In her best Spanish accent, she announced, “I no longer can take your abuse, King Phillip.”  Maria paused for all the gasps emanating around her.  “I’m leaving for England.” 

The courtiers murmured in shock.

“No, you’re not,” Phillip announced.

Vacacabeza walked down the steps and went behind her.  “Excuse me, my dear, but your slip is showing.”  He leaned over to reach under her dress and grab Clarence’s feet and dragged him out into the open.  The courtiers continued to gasp.

(Author’s note:  Gasping from the audience at formal occasions involving any royalty throughout Europe was not condoned during this period of history.  Except in Sweden, where any introduction of hot air, especially in winter months was welcome, even encouraged.)

Taking Clarence by his collar and lifting him to his feet, Vacacabeza announced with great pride, “Your Majesty, allow me to introduce Clarence Flippertigibbit, spy!”

Clarence took Maria’s hand and ran for the door.  “To England!”

Maria added, “Vamanos!”

A few courtiers tried to block their way, but Clarence kicked them in the crotch and they quickly retreated.  The young renegades were out of the door before the King was able to order his guards to capture them.  That was the disadvantage of being an all-powerful monarch.  No one around him would dare initiate any action on their own.  However, when Phillip officially gave the word, the guards were out of the door lickety-split.  At this time, Rodney and Alice, still disguised as Gypsies, made their way from the back of the courtier crowd and to the throne.

“Your Highness,” Rodney began in his bad Slavic accent, “we wandering Gypsy players humbly ask permission to leave your glorious presence.”

Phillip, still trying to figure out how Clarence could have hidden under Maria’s dress all this time, waved his hand dismissively.  “Very well.  Go, go.”

Rodney and Alice are halfway to the door and their escape when the King focuses his attention on them. 

“Hmm, I wonder,” he mumbled.  He called out, “Oh, Senior Broadshoulders!”

Rodney turned and smiled.  “Yes?”

“Aha!” the Monarch exclaimed.

“I think you just made a mistake,” Alice informed her companion.

“Um,” Rodney said in a pitiful little voice, “may we still go?”

Phillip stood.  “Of course.  You’re going to my dungeon, and she’s going to my bed!”

“Let’s get out of here!” Alice screamed and grabbed Rodney’s beefy hand and ran.

“Guards!  After them!”

Vacacabeza stepped forward, leaning on one foot and then the other.  “Um, Your Majesty?  You just sent all your guards out after Flippertigibbit and my ward Maria.”

“Well then, all of you courtiers stop just standing around and go after them!  Earn your keep, for heaven’s sake!”

A particularly well-dressed courtier stepped forward and bowed.  “But, Sire, we are mere fawning court attendants.  All we know how to do is look pretty.”

“Damn!” Phillip growled.  “Come on, Vacacabeza!  It’s up to us!”

Those Holiday Dinners with Family

I just hate holiday dinners with the family.
My children, of course, are fine. They know to eat what’s on their plates. We don’t threaten them with anything terrible if they don’t eat their vegetables. You don’t want vegetables. Fine. That means you’re full so you won’t have dessert. All of a sudden those green beans don’t look so bad.
What I hate are the backseat chefs, or whatever you call them. It never fails. My wife is making gravy with evaporated milk when her mother wanders up.
“You’re using a whole can of evaporated milk to make gravy? When we were growing up we were so poor we could only use half a can of evaporated milk and finished it off with water.”
“You had evaporated milk in a can?” my aunt counters. “We were so poor when we were young we only used water in our gravy.”
“You had gravy?” my mother-in-law’s aunt from a second marriage interjects. “My family was so poor we didn’t even have a stove. We stuck the chicken on a dead tree branch and held it over the fireplace. All the drippings sizzled on the logs.”
“You had logs?” Uncle Billy sits up at the table and waves his arms toward the women. Frankly, I don’t remember what side of the family he’s on. He just appeared one Sunday with someone, and they called him Uncle Billy. “We were so poor we had to burn dried cow patties. The smell was awful, but the chicken tasted mighty good. Better than that stuff wrapped up in plastic you get from the grocery store today.”
“You had cows?” Grandpa Grady grabs Billy’s arm and yanks it down. I don’t think Grandpa Grady likes Billy very much. “We didn’t even have cows. Only rich people had cows back in the good old days. We just had goats. And you try to start a fire with goat pellets!”
“I remember one year when we didn’t have any animals at all on the farm.” Grady’s sister Bertha meanders into the kitchen and sticks her nose in the saucepan where the gravy is simmering. She sniffs. “I hope that ain’t giblet gravy. I hate giblet gravy. That stuff gives me gas. You want to have a hard time cooking Sunday dinner? Try digging parsnips and carrots out of the ground and boil them in the bath water left over from Saturday night.”
“One Sunday we just ate dirt.” Billy brings along this woman who calls herself Ticey. I don’t know if Ticey is Billy’s wife, sister, cousin or girlfriend. No one dares ask. “We were from Oklahoma. That’s all we had. Dirt has a lot of good stuff, iron, minerals. And you thanked the Good Lord you had dirt to eat. Once in a while it rained so we got a treat. Mud pies.”
Just when you think it can’t get any worse, great grandma Donner comes in from the bathroom hitching up her drawers.
“That’s nothing. You should hear the story about Uncle Jim and his family going through this mountain pass one winter.”

Bessie’s Boy’s Chapter 24

Previously: England awaits the Spanish invasion. Elizabeth orders two of her young heros to Spain on a mission. Each one has a beautiful but jealous lover.

One must remember that the Alhambra was considered a remarkable structure for its time and had more stairs, hallways, alcoves and courtyards than truly needed.  Along another one of its superfluous halls Rodney encountered Lord Boniface.

“Your Lordship!  What are you doing here?”

 “Ssh!  I’m on a secret mission for Queen Elizabeth!”

(Author’s note:  Boniface produced this lie with such spontaneous sincerity to lead the reader to believe that he must have had years of experience in theatre but this was not true.  Actors really have to work hard to evince a worthy pace of delivery.  Boniface was a breed apart from an actor.  He was a politician.)

Rodney fell into one of his frequent confusions.  “Funny.  I didn’t know that.”

“If you did, then it wouldn’t be a secret mission, would it now?”  In addition to his alacrity, Boniface was artful in the skills of debate.

“I guess that makes sense.”

Boniface put a finger to his lips and raised an eyebrow.  “I presume you’re here on a secret mission also.”

“That’s right,” Rodney replied.  “I’m trying to find out who the spy is.”

“Any luck?”

“Not a clue.”

“Good—I mean, perhaps we can work together.”

A shadow of suspicion crossed Rodney’s handsome face.  “Sorry, I always work alone.”

“Perhaps it’s just as well.”  Boniface smiled.  “Good luck.”

Quite by chance, Maria turned a corner onto the self-same hall where Rodney and Boniface confabbed.  With careful steps, for she still had Clarence between her legs, Maria approached them.  Rodney saw her and smiled.

“Yes, it’s important that—that….”  Lust clouded his concentration.  “What were we talking about?”

“Finding the spy,” Boniface replied with thinly disguised disgust.

“Oh, that’s right.  It’s important that one of us succeed.  After all, it’s for England.”

“Yes, for England.”  His Lordship hardly contained his urge to roll his eyes.

“This other Eden, demi-paradise, this royal throne of kings, this sculptured isle—“

“Sceptered!  Sceptered!” Clarence shrieked from beneath Maria’s skirts.

“Is there an echo in here?” Boniface asked.

“Oh yes,” Maria replied in her most proper Spanish accent.  “The Alhambra is known for its echoes.”

Boniface shrugged.  “It makes no difference.”  He glanced at Rodney.  “Perhaps it would be best if you beat a hasty retreat.”

“Beat who?”  Poor Rodney was lost again.

“A hasty retreat,” Boniface repeated.

“Oh.  You mean I should get out of here?”

“Correct.”  Boniface tapped his foot.

“As you say.”  Rodney bowed.  Despite his lack of cogency, he excelled in courtly behavior.  He turned and repeated the bow to Maria.  “Miss.”  Rodney looked left and right before darting in a hitherto unnoticed direction.

Boniface took Maria by the elbow.  “Miss de Horenhausen, perhaps we could have a private conversation.”

Before she could reply, he guided her to the first door down the hall, causing her to trip over the little man under her dress.

“Not so fast,” Clarence whispered.

“Not so fast,” Maria repeated and then giggled.  “There goes that echo again.”

Boniface opened the door, stepped aside so that Maria (and Clarence under her dress) could enter.  He followed them into the room and carefully shut the door behind him.

“What lovely furnishings, don’t you think?” he asked as charmingly as he possibly could fabricate.  “I just love Spanish décor, don’t you—okay, enough small talk—who’s the spy?”

“What?”  Maria fluttered her dark Spanish eyelashes.

“King Phillip asked me to make you tell who the spy is.”

“Traitor!”  She quit fluttering and raised her perky English chin.

“That’s right.”  He approached her menacingly.  “I want the name of the traitor to the Spanish crown.”

“No!” she replied in strident English tones.  “You are the traitor to Elizabeth!”

“Well, it depends on your point of view,” he said, exercising his extraordinary debate skills.

“Any way I view it, you’re despicable!”

Boniface moved close to our multi-national heroine.  “Not as despicable as I could be if you don’t tell me the name of the spy in King Phillip’s court.”

Clarence could not contain his outrage any longer.  He charged out of the front of Maria’s dress and stood, taking a Marquis de Queensbury stance.

“Leave this child alone, or I’ll box your ears silly!”

“Clarence Flippertigibbit!” his Lordship gasped, “I thought you were dead!”

(Author’s note:  It gets a little complicated here.  Steppingtone had already convinced Clarence that he was not the spy.  So it is reasonable for Clarence to assume the second English Lord he ran into in Spain had to be the spy.)

“Ha ha!  Fooled you!”  Clarence took aggressive steps toward Boniface.  “Back up or risk the consequences of two black eyes!”

The older man smirked.  “You’re too short.  You could not reach my head.”

Clarence set his jaw in determination.  “Then I shall have to aim lower.”

Boniface backed up and covered his crotch.  “Never mind.”

Clarence grabbed Maria’s hand and ran for the door.  “Let’s get out of here!”

Bessie’s Boys Chapter Twenty-Three

Previously: England awaits the Spanish invasion. Elizabeth orders two of her young heros to Spain on a mission. Each one has a beautiful but jealous lover.

The first morning rays peeked over the tiles of the Alhambra’s roof to find Clarence and Alice slumbering, cuddled in each other’s arms among the flowering bushes of the central courtyard.  They had no other place to sleep.  Clarence lost his cover under Maria’s voluminous skirts, and Alice had been separated from the other gypsy performers.

(Author’s Note:  One can only assume Rodney, in his guise as a Gypsy musician, found shelter in Maria’s bedroom.  Trying one’s best to present a fairly family friendly folktale, the author will refrain from suppositions about what happened in her bedroom that night.  Oh hell, they did it.  I know they did it.  You know they did it.  Children shouldn’t be reading this in the first place.  Let’s keep it real.)

Servants began bustling about the palace in preparation of another day of leisure for the royal residents.  Clarence and Alice opened their eyes, squinting in an attempt to avoid the sun’s glare.  Once their eyes acclimated to the glorious brightness, they focused on each other and smiled.  After exchanging tender sleepy-head kisses, Clarence pulled away and sat up.

“This is wonderful, but I must get back undercover.  Remember?  For England,” he murmured as he stood.

“By the way,” she asked with a crinkled nose as she also got to her feet, “what were you doing under—“

Clarence looked over Alice’s shoulder to see King Phillip shuffling his way through the maze-like gardens.  “Oh no!”

He fell to his knees and tried to hide under Alice’s dress.

“Clarence!  What’s going on here?”

He stuck his head out for an instant.  “Shh.  Trust me, my darling.  I know what I’m doing.”

“I certainly hope so.”  She hobbled about as Clarence positioned his head between her legs.

“What a pleasant surprise!” Phillip exclaimed as he approached her.  “A Gypsy maiden is waiting for me among my roses.”

“What?”  Very understandably, Alice found herself befuddled by her current situation.  “Oh.  Yes.”  She smiled nervously while deciding what to do next.  She responded with a Slavic accent, which she did without linguistic flair.  “Would you like to have your fortune told, your Majesty?”

“No need, my dear.” Lechery crawled across his wrinkled face.  “I already know my fortune, and yours.”

He stepped so close, Alice could smell his breakfast on his breath, which was unappetizing in the extreme.

“Your Majesty!  What are you going to do?”

“You’re the fortune teller.” Phillip licked his thin lips.  “You tell me.”

This latest development was too much for Alice’s sensitivities to bear.  She fainted, falling backwards, conveniently landing on Clarence’s backside.

“No, that wasn’t what I had in mind.”  The King frowned because she swooned and didn’t land on the ground but rather stopped mid-air. He walked around her to examine the phenomenon.  “Is she levitating?  I’ve never seen anything like this before.”

Under Alice’s skirt, Clarence was in a dither.  He was not sure what was going on but he had to make some executive decisions post haste.

I’ve got to get out of here.  He began to crawl away with the hesitancy of an ancient tortoise, careful not to lose balance and cause Alice to fall and break the magical illusion of defying gravity.

“She’s floating away!” Phillip gasped.  Divine joy exploded throughout his being.  “Quick!” he shouted.  “Everyone!  A levitating maiden!”

Courtiers appeared from every corner of the palace to gather in the courtyard.  They stopped as they saw the miracle, and their mouths went agape. Those rushing up from behind bumped into them, craning their necks to see what all the commotion was all about.

“A miracle!”  Phillip had not been this happy in years.  “It’s a miracle!”

Clarence continued his tortoise maneuverings through the apprehensive crowd.  It’ll be a miracle if I get out of this alive!

The throng parted for Clarence and Alice as the Red Sea parted for Moses.  Phillip went to his knees, clasping his hands in prayer.

“It’s a sign!  It’s a sign of victory over the English!”

“Call a priest!” one of the courtiers called out.

“A priest?” the King retorted.  “Get the Pope!”

As delicate as Alice was, her weight was beginning to crack Clarence’s spine.  Give me a ship, rolling seas, a sword in my hand, but this—

Soon Clarence sensed he was through the courtyard into one of the Alhambra’s many hallways.  Increasing his pace, he looked for the next right turn down another hall, or the first left turn for that matter.  All he wanted was to get the hell out of there.  The crowd stood in reverence as the maiden floated away from them.

“No!  No!”  Phillip creaked back to his feet.  “Don’t let that levitating maiden disappear!”  He waived his spindly arms.  “Guards!  Guards!”

Four husky young men in armor and wielding steel swords elbowed their way through the courtiers to follow Phillip as he doddered in the direction of Clarence and Alice.  When they arrived on the other side of the mass of humanity, they found only an empty hallway.

“She gone!” the King cried out.

“Who’s gone, Sire?” one of the guards asked.

“The levitating maiden,” Phillip replied.

“A levitating what?”

“Maiden.  She was floating around here someplace, until all these people crowded in.”

Skepticism entered the guard’s voice.  “A levitating maiden?”

Phillip turned to look at the guard.  “You don’t believe me?”

“Of course, Sire!”  Sweat popped out on his brow.

The King hit the guard; not very hard, of course, because his hand was pounding against the armor.  “You idiot!  There was a levitating maiden.  There was!”

Meanwhile, down a distant hall away from the courtyard crowd, Clarence carefully slid from under Alice’s limp body, picked her up and looked for a safe cranny into which to deposit her. 

“I never imagined being a spy would be like this!” he whispered.  Finally he discovered a secluded corner and laid her down and kissed her forehead.  “Until later, my love.”

When he left the alcove he spotted Maria coming down the hall. He ran to her and slid under her dress.  Maria was left speechless and confused.

Tom Turkey’s Trick to Avoid Thanksgiving

When Tom Turkey arrived at the farm he really didn’t know what was going to happen. After all he had just broken out of his shell, shed those ugly baby feathers, and filled up and out. He was ready to strut his stuff.
However, he admitted to himself that he had no idea what the farm routine was. This guy placed him in a large pen with a bunch of chickens. After a few minutes he sauntered over to a hen and asked nonchalantly, “So what do you do around here?”
The hen looked at him with big blank eyes. “Well, mostly we stand around waiting for the guy with the bucket of seeds to come up and start throwing them at us. Then we all scream and run towards him.”
“And what’s the point of that?”
“We eat seeds of course. I thought everybody knew that.”
“No, I mean what’s the point of yelling and running? “
“Well, everyone else does it,” she replied. “I think it has to do with telling everyone to get out of my way because I’m hungry. And I run because if I walked, all those old biddies will eat every seed, and I won’t get anything.”
“So you go hungry sometimes?” Tom asked.
“Oh no, I always run and scream.” She was about to wander off when she stopped to add, “One last thing, don’t be greedy and eat too much. You’ll get fat and—“ She turned her head sharply when she caught a glimpse of the guy with the bucket of seed walking to the pen. “Food! Get out of my way!” She screamed as she scurried toward the fence. “Move it! I’ve got babies to feed!”
Tom wondered what would happen to him if he gained too much weight. He sure as hell didn’t want to go to one of these fat farms, whatever they were. He saw a pig rolling in the mud near the fence. Trotting over Tom cleared his throat which must have sounded like plain old gobbling to anyone passing by.
“Excuse me,” Tom said politely. “A hen just told me to watch how much weight I put on. Do you know what she was talking about?”
The pig just then rolled onto his back and wriggled his butt, which must have relieved an enormous itch because he grunted in satisfaction.
Tom waited for the pig’s ecstasy to subside, hoping he would receive some sort of response to his question. None was forthcoming.
“Hey! You!” Tom hollered.
The pig’s eyes rolled to the side to observe the turkey.
“Huh?” he snorted.
“I said what happens if I gain too much weight?” He was so profoundly frustrated his feathers immediately puffed out to their fullest, including his tail feathers which looked like a beautiful brown and white fan.
The pig took a moment to wriggle his butt one more time before answering, “They eat you.”
“What!?” Tom erupted with an out-of-control gobble.
“Listen, my friend, we all got to die one day so just enjoy the chow and the dames. Yep, we got Thanksgiving and Christmas coming up soon. Now if you don’t mind, one of those sows over there is giving me the eye.”
Then he wandered off, leaving Tom to ponder his future. He looked over to the other side of the pig pen where a cow stood placidly munching on some grass. The turkey ambled over and started a conversation.
“How are you, my good cow?”
“I’d be better off if I could get rid of these damned flies.”
“So,” Tom continued slowly, “what do you think about the upcoming holidays?”
“I absolutely love Thanksgiving,” she crooned. “The guy gives me pumpkin to eat. He throws it on the ground and I ram my head into it, cracking it open. The taste is to die for.”
“Speaking of death,” Tom interrupted, “do you ever wonder about dying?”
The cow stopped in mid-chew. The grass fell from her mouth. “What the hell are you talking about?”
“The pig just told me the guy that brings the food kills pigs and turkeys. It’s for Thanksgiving and Christmas.” Tom paused for the cow to say something, but she just stood there with a blank stare in her eyes. “Don’t people like to eat cow?”
“It’s called beef, darling, and we are delicious,” she replied. “Of course, I don’t have to worry about that because I’m so entertaining.”
“Entertaining?” Tom shook his head. He was getting hit by a lot of existential allusions, and they were wearing thin on his nerves.
“I have a beautiful voice,” the cow explained. “This guy is entranced by my mooing, so I moo all the time just for him. I have big brown beautiful eyes which I flutter every time he passes by. And I give him a big wet kiss. Men love to be kissed.”
Tom Turkey didn’t know what to make of this. “I don’t kiss.”
“Of course you don’t. You’re a turkey, but if you want to live you better find something pretty damn fast that the guy thinks is adorable or you’ll end up on the dining room table.”
Tom had not been around all that long, hardly any time at all. He shuddered when he realized it was all going to be over before he knew anything about life. His feathers puffed out again as far as he could puff them.
“Hey, that’s pretty cool,” the cow said. “Can you do that any time you want to?”
“Do what?” Tom asked. His patience with the other farm animals had just about reached a breaking point.
“Puff your feathers out like that. One minute they’re limp and, bam, they’re at attention. “Pretty damn impressive if you ask me,” she said and then lowered her head to pick up the grass that had fallen from her mouth.
“Puffing out my feathers? You must be kidding me.” By now he had calmed down and the feathers collapsed.
“Boo!” the cow bellowed.
The turkey’s feathers immediately went to full attention.
“See what I mean?” The cow winked at him. “You’re a star, baby.”
Later in the afternoon that guy with the bucket showed up again, and started throwing out the seed. Instead of running and screaming like the chickens, Tom popped his feathers up and strutted over to the fence like he owned the place.
The guy stopped in mid-toss and smiled at the turkey. He grabbed an extra-big handful of seeds and tossed them right at Tom. When the chickens turned to rush toward him, Tom gobbled as loud as he could which made the chickens stop abruptly. He then proceeded to eat at a leisurely pace. I could get used to this, he told himself.
The next morning, the guy with the bucket walked up with this woman and a couple of children. Instinctively Tom puffed up and strutted for all it was worth over to them.
“See what I mean?” the guy with the bucket told the others. “He does it every time.”
Tom let out a long, loud gobble.
“Boy, he lets you know when he wants his food too,” the guy said as he threw a big hand-full of seed at the turkey. “When the family comes over for Thanksgiving dinner we’ll have to bring them out here to see the turkey puff up.”
“Well, I’ll be damned,” Tom said as he gobbled down his food, “I am a star.”

Bessie’s Boys Chapter Twenty-Two

Previously: England awaits the Spanish invasion. Elizabeth orders two of her young heros to Spain on a mission. Each one has a beautiful but jealous lover.

Back in his private quarters Phillip wriggled about his king-sized bed with a naughty smile on his face.

“Tell me who the spy is, my dear, or I’ll subject you to my own inquisition.”  He sensed someone leaning over him.  He could feel the person’s body and assumed it was Maria seeking forgiveness for her behavior during their last encounter.  The King opened his eyes to see Boniface.

“Your Majesty?” the Englishman whispered.

Phillip screamed which caused Boniface to scream.  In the distance a female voice with a thick German accent bellowed, “It’s those two damn dogs again!”

The guard outside Phillip’s door rapped.  “Your Majesty?”

The King grabbed Boniface and stuffed him under the layers of sheets and blankets.  “Quick!  No one should know you’re here!”

The guard burst through the door with his sword drawn.  “Sire!  Where’s the danger?”

“It’s nothing.”  He let go with an uncharacteristic inane laugh.  “I just dreamed I had to make love to that Englishwoman.”

Putting his sword back in its scabbard, the guard replied, “Yes, Sire.”

“That would be a nightmare, wouldn’t it?”  To enhance his perceived humor of the situation, Phillip slapped the bedcovers.

Unfortunately he happened to hit Boniface’s bottom.  The lord showed remarkable restraint and did not move or moan.

“Yes, Sire,” the guard repeated with a dull air.

Realizing his laughter sounded inauthentic, Phillip let it trail off in the cool night breeze.  “You may leave now.”

The words had hardly left his skinny old lips before the guard began bowing and backing up at the same time.  “Yes, Sire.”  And he was out the door.

Phillip kicked at Boniface’s form under the sheets.  “Get up, get up, you fool!”

The lord rolled out of the bed onto the floor, whimpered as he stood and bowed in the same motion.

“What are you doing here?”  The stupidity of the English noblemen he had seduced into betraying their country irritated the hell out of Phillip.

(Author’s note:  Historical records also do not reveal how Lord Boniface entered Spain at this particular time undetected.  Birth announcements discovered in an isolated chapel in Andorra showed that a son born to an Englishman by the name of Boniface and a Basque peasant woman.  This was twenty-five years before the invasion of the Armada.  It was possible Boniface begged his Basque bastard to provide a boat for covert trips to the Alhambra.  All of this is mere speculation because these characters are indeed fictional and difficult to find in history books.)

“There’s a spy in your court, your Majesty.”

Phillip harrumphed as he rolled out of bed and put on his lounging robe, which, by the way, was a gaudy gold lame  trimmed in ermine dyed bright red.  “Oh, that’s old news.” He looked at Boniface.  Do you know who it is?”

“No, Sire.”

“That’s nothing new, either.”  Phillip wrinkled his brow in thought.  “By the way, what have I offered you to betray your country?”

“Wales, Sire,” Boniface replied as he bowed.

“Hmm, that’s sounds familiar, but I can’t quite place where.  Oh well, you settled cheap if you asked me.  Anyway, on to the business at hand.  We must find this spy!”

“How will we discover his identity?”

The king stepped closer to the lord.  “I have reason to believe Senor Vacacabeza’s ward knows.  I have been unable to persuade her to tell; however, perhaps you will have better luck.”

“What if indeed she is the spy?”

Phillip entwined his fingers and smiled with pure evil intent.  “She’ll never leave these shores again.”