Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Lorenzo's Fat Head synopsis and sample

Lorenzo’s Fat Head is a novel about Howard Fillimeer, a mild-mannered museum guard, who suddenly becomes addicted to cocaine and his life turns upside down.  He becomes involved in a smuggling operation, bringing kilos of the drug through the museum inside hollow statues.  But when the statues must stand for thirty days in an art exhibit, and in that time become sensations in the art world, and coveted not only by the cocaine dealers and addicts but also by world renowned art collectors, chaos unleashes.  The first two chapters are below the table of contents.  Available in kindle or paper at amazon.

Table of Contents

1)   The Creation of the Head       
2)   Another One Snorts the Dust                    
3)   A Ride, a Crash and a Proposal               
4)   A Connection in the Limbless Show                  
5)   Many Meetings                                           
6)   Another One Smokes the Pipe                           
7)   Howard's First Orgy                                             
8)   The Opening                                               
9)   Howard Seeks and Theodore Spies                            
10)  T. Edward Flicker and Pepe                               
11)  Venus                                               
12)  Intravenus                                                  
13)  An Irate Artist                                             
14)  Thievery                                                     
15)  A Blowout in the Basement                                
16)  An Eventful Morning                                 
17)  Another One Comes to the End of the Line               
18)  Divine Intervention                                              
19)  The Hopeless Man                                             
20)  The Remorseful Suitor                    
21)  The Auction                                      

For John, who once said:  "Dar, dar, dar, dar, dar...Cleps!"
And for my mom.

Chapter 1
The Creation of the Head

"Mr. Vellini, if you don't stop twitching and sit still this is going to bear more resemblance to a throbbing cabbage than your head!"
"And why do you insist on calling me Michelangelo?  My name is Cleps--CLEPS!"
"Now Michelangelo, there are two men in this room:  would you put down your tools for a moment and tell me which of us is the model and who the sculptor?"
"You are the model and I am the sculptor, Mr. Vellini."
"And who has commissioned whom, Michelangelo?"
"I was commissioned by you, Lorenzo Vellini."
"And would you also tell me who is the old and dying codger, and who the healthy young lad with a promising future?"
"You are the senile old man, Lorenzo, and I am the aspiring young artist."
"One of us is quite rich, Michelangelo, and the other quite poor:  would you please clarify that point in my disoriented mind by making the distinction?"
"You, Vellini, have caches of cash stashed all over this estate, while I, Cleps, have nought but a pocketful of pennies."
"Thank you, Michelangelo.  Those facts were obscured by the fog on my brain, but you have successfully cleared away the mists.   Now carry on with your work, allowing Lorenzo Vellini, into whom Death is sinking his filthy grips even as we speak, to live his last days as he pleases, pursuing the whimsies of senility as his immense wealth affords him.  I wish to be immortalized in stone by my favorite artist, who is also the most famous in history, so pick up your tools and get back to work, Michelangelo!  I apologize that this nervous tic makes my head twitch periodically, but if you can work with it you know you will be well-recompensed, not to mention what will certainly happen to your reputation in the art world."
"Excuse me for a moment; I need a drink...of water."  Cleps stepped out of the studio and gulped a mouthful of scotch from his flask.
The scenario was this:  eccentric art dealer Lorenzo Vellini was nearing the end of a terminal illness, and had commissioned Cleps to sculpt his likeness in marble.  For this the sculptor was to be handsomely paid, and would also quite likely establish himself in the art world, as Lorenzo was somewhat of a celebrity in that realm, his fame deriving from the fact that all who cared about modern art knew him as the enigmatic man with the most unusual face who had refused countless requests to sit for a portrait.  The piece could bring Cleps instantaneous success, while simultaneously increasing the values of all his other works exponentially. 
So after his uncle, Lorenzo's butler of twenty years, secured him the commission, Cleps moved onto the estate and commenced work on the most beautiful block of stone he had ever fingered.  But the relationship between artist and model was not easy and untroubled, for there were many differences between their ideas of what a sitting should entail, and it was these polarities which, although they left Lorenzo unaffected, simmered inside of Cleps, and his frustrations reached consummation on the afternoon of the day we join this story.
"Michelangelo," Lorenzo said, after having sat still and silent for an abnormally long stretch of seventeen minutes, "have I ever told you the story of the trombonist I taught in Wisconsin?"
"Yes you have Mr. Vellini; six times in two months."
"I once had a trombone student in Wisconsin...his name was Anthony...the last name rhymed with Castard...what was it?"
"Listen Mr. Vellini, I can get nothing accomplished if you're going to keep babbling and bobbing your head like a happy puppy lolls his tongue and wags his tail.  The statue won't move when I've finished, so you should keep dead still while posing."
"Dead?  What do you know about death, brash young pup!" Lorenzo shouted.  He leaped from his seat and clapped hand on Cleps' shoulder.  "Let me see what you've done today--boy, you feel tense!  I think you need to stop for the afternoon because I'm tired of sitting.  O!  No!  No!  The nose has to be much smaller, and the eyes wider, filled with fire and intensity!"
"But you have a large nose and small eyes with cataracts--anything else would be a distortion," Cleps calmly observed.
"Michelangelo, are you forcing me yet again to remind you who is who in this room?" Lorenzo retorted.  "I'm the one whose life is almost over, so it is I who should decide how I'm remembered by history.  I've hired you--not you me--therefore you'll sculpt me as I wish to be sculpted.   I'll see you in the morning at eight; be sure to get that nose smoothed down, and those eyes widened--think aquiline and fierce!  And remember, the unveiling is not forty-eight hours away.  Overall it's coming along well, Michelangelo," Lorenzo concluded, kissing each of Cleps' cheeks.  "Gosh, I never realized how much I resemble David.  It's eerie!"
When Lorenzo was gone, Cleps muttered:  "Michelangelo?  Ha!  I'm sure it wasn't easy pleasing the pope, but I'll wager he never had to deal with any daft old butterbrains like Lorenzo Vellini.” 
Then he turned and addressed the statue.  "Hello Lorenzo, you eccentric crackpot!  My, you look dashing today!  Anyone who knew you were eighty when you posed for this statue would surely think you'd had access to the potion of everlasting youth.  You are indeed a vision of godliness with that full head of curly hair, those high, wrinkle-free cheeks, and eyes ablaze with boundless passion.  O Lorenzo, how did such perfect, heavenly features become infused in a second-rate art dealer?"
"Who are you talking to?" Lorenzo asked.  He had heard Cleps' voice, and slipped back into the room unnoticed by the artist.
Cleps whirled around, and without any thought cried:  "I am the great Michelangelo!  What insignificant creature dares barge my studio unannounced to disturb me at my work?"
"I-I'm sorry!" a terrified Lorenzo hastened to apologize.  "I thought you had stopped for the day."
Cleps grasped the old man by the throat and slammed him to the wall.  "I am the most talented and prolific artist that ever lived!  You insult every hair on my head when you accuse me of leaving off my work even for a second!  I am creating even during the five minutes of each day I spend sleeping!  Who are you?"
"I-I'm Lorenzo Vellini.  Don't you remember?  I'm the man who posed for the piece you're just now finishing.  I didn't mean to disturb you."
"Well it's too late to avoid that now, isn't it?"  Cleps dropped him to the floor.  "Go away and leave me to myself--and don't bother coming here in the morning; I'm going to take this into my room and give it the final touches there."
"But, but--"
"But what?"
"But how will you be able to finish without me modeling?"
"Idiot Vellini!  How dare you imply that my memory is anything less than photographic!  I AM THE GREAT MICHELANGELO!  With my genius I could glance at you but once then form an exact moving and cognizant likeness out of air, you doting old dolt The sole reason I endured your senseless prattle these past two months was because your wife paid me quite a lot of money to keep you occupied, that she might enjoy a respite of peace from the incessant flow of nonsense that pours so freely from your mouth!  Now get out!  The unveiling is on Thursday at one, and I shall be ready; but before I give a thought to lifting the cover I'm going to have every cent of my commission in my hands:  are we understood?"
"Y-yes, of course.  I wouldn't think of withholding the money you've earned.  Please accept my apology, M-m-michelangelo."
In the hallway Lorenzo spoke aloud to himself in a gleeful tone.  "I'm so glad you finally snapped at me, Michelangelo, because I was beginning to wonder if you were an imposter!"
Simultaneously, Cleps was speaking to himself.  "Blasted old fool!  Michelangelo should have told David to shut his bloody hole the first time he opened it!  Ach!  Stupid simpering simpleton! could I make this orifice more flattering?"  He poised his hammer and chisel on the Lorenzo-David's marble lips.  "Maybe I'll widen them to resemble a fat-mouth fish, since the essence of your babble is bubbles of air.  Hm...perhaps the best alteration would be to cut a gaping ditch down into your throat.  Hmm...I've got it, Lorenzo!  I'll install a crack in the side of your skull--that would be the most appropriate way to immortalize a pea-brained imbecile!"  He set the chisel on the left temple, and was about to let fly with the hammer when his better sense made him stop.  "I can't do this here; I'd better take it to my room."
He maneuvered the statue onto the trolley, covered it with a cloth, and rolled it to his chamber.  There he snatched away the drape, crumpled and hurled it to the corner, picked up his tools, and was poised to begin reshaping the lips when his better sense again made him stop.  "No, this is going to require an inhuman quantity of scotch."  He pilfered a decanter, a snifter, and a bucket of ice from one of the many bars in the mansion, and returned to his room.  He poured a double, gulped it down, refilled his glass, and said:  "Now we are ready to begin, Lorenzo-David!  David?  Ach!  Ha!  You are as far from David as I am from Michel--ah, what's the difference!  If you can be David, I can be Michelangelo!  And now, the transformation of Cleps completed, the great Michelangelo will put the final touch on yet another masterpicce--his David!  Mmmm...there may be a continual flow of prattle proceeding from the cracks in your pot--DAVID--but your taste in scotch is excellent.  Now, let's begin with the hairy moles on your cheek."
Cleps worked on the alterations late into the night.  He chiseled out a dozen jagged warts and moles over Lorenzo's face.  He tried to cut pierce holes into the ears, from which he intended to hang gaudy jewelry, but both lobes snapped off in the attempt.  He sanded a huge bald circle into the curly locks, removed the lower lip entirely, doubled the width of the upper, and cut a thick moustache along the left side of the nose.  He was about to make the two eyes one, with the notion of retitling the piece, 'David as the Cyclops,' when his drunkenness and frustration inspired him to the end.  He flung his tools at the wall and seized his brass lamp, the base of which was a fascimile of a Greek column.  He lined it up against the stone neck wherein he had carved a network of grotesque, bulging veins.
"Should I?  Could l?  Yes!  Whatever Michelangelo does to his work results in perfect art!"  He swung the lamp three times; the head broke free and fell to the floor.  lt did not crack into pieces, as Cleps had expected to see, but landed with a metallic thud, intact.  He burst out laughing.  (Lorenzo heard the maniacal giggling through the walls, and although to that moment he had been tossing restlessly in his blankets, he found comfort in the thought that Michelangelo was laboring diligently in his idiosyncratic, ingenious way, and drifted quickly into a heavy, restful sleep.)  Cleps, having already formulated a plan, retrieved the head and held it arm's length.  "This isn't such an awful bust, really; it's rather amusing, the more I look.  Perhaps I should start doing all my work in haste.  I think I'll save it for my portfolio."  He opened the closet, crossed the room, and rolled the head in.  After a nightcap he went to bed and slept as soundly as his patron.
In the morning he arose as early as his throbbing skull would allow, locked the door, climbed out the window, and paid a visit to one of his lovers, Priscilla, who worked in a nearby pottery shop.  He explained to her what had happened, and what he intended to do as a result.  She, betwixt laughing fits, set him up in a studio with a huge lump of clay, the necessary tools, and a kiln. 
Cleps worked through the day like a madman on a mission, forming a head that bore a remarkable likeness to Lorenzo, although it was overtly caricature.  It spanned three feet from temple to temple; the lobes were joined in a knot below the chin, and the tops of the ears were shaped like lips, which stretched up over the skull and kissed amidst the long, wiry tresses that jutted out in every direction from the scalp.  The nose was aquiline and the eyes fierce, to be certain, but there was no forehead, for Cleps had expanded the eyebrows into bushy moustaches that blended with the bangs.  There were also numerous humorous layers of flab folded into the cheeks and neck.
At dusk Priscilla came in, saw what he had created, and fell to the floor belly-laughing.  "He, he, he!  I don't understand you, but I love it!  What a man, to slam a door in opportunity's face for--aha! ha!  Look at opportunity's face!"  She was unable to speak for another full minute.  "And you know you might well continue living in poverty for another fifteen years.  I remember you told me he has to pay before he sees it, but if he's as loopy as you described, he might change his mind.  I don't understand it, although I do admire you.  But Cleps, clever Cleps, I also cannot comprehend why you've been struggling all day with this monstrous head knowing that it would be infinitely easier to work with if you didn't insist that it be hollow.  Why?"
"Why? Why, my dear Priscilla?  Because on the day my ancient patron greased the inside of his skull with senility, his brain slid out.  If his cranial cavity is hollow, so must be that of his eternal remembrance in stone."
"No butts, Priscilla, our concern here is solely upward of the neck--although in Lorenzo's case the same stuff proceeds from both ends."
"You're the artiste...I'm merely a potter.  I'm not going to argue with your genius, I'm just going to enjoy it."
They worked together through the night, and at last had a presentable head shortly after sunrise.  They transported it to the Vellini estate, where they carefully hoisted it up into Cleps' bedroom with ropes.  There they set the new pate upon the headless statue, using wet clay to secure it in place. That done they gave in to their exhaustion by lying down on the bed, and would have overslept the unveiling had not Lorenzo come knocking on the door at noon, saying:  "The guests are all here, Michelangelo:  are you finished?  We are all awaiting thee with great anticipation."
Cleps sat up and bellowed:  "I am the great Michelangelo!  How dare you disturb and insult me with the same breath, loathsome, vile, sub-human aberrant!"
"O dear!  I knew I shouldn't have come here!  Please forgive me," Lorenzo begged, and skipped away rubbing his hands with delight.
They took another fifteen minutes of sleep, then roused themselves for the unveiling.  It was with bleary eyes, mussy hair, and disheveled clothing that Michelangelo and his beautiful assistant wheeled the draped statue to the ballroom for the ceremony.  The room was filled with important members of the art community, all attired in tuxedoes and gowns, most of whom were there more for the complimentary food and liquor than the premiere of an important work, and there were many pretentious whispers and gasps of shock and disdain at the entrance of the sculptor and his companion.
"Who is this unkempt doxy?" cried Gina, Lorenzo's wife.  "She was not invited!"
"She is my guest," Cleps retorted loudly, "and if she must leave, I and my work will accompany her."
"Let her stay, my darling sunset," Lorenzo whispered into his wife's ear.  "These sensitive artists must be allowed to have their way."
Gina consented to let Priscilla remain, though grudgingly.  Suddenly, the huge sixteenth-century French clock struck the hour of one, whereupon Lorenzo excitedly summoned his guests to congregate around him in silence, that he could deliver an appropriate speech (unbeknownst to him his last).
"Beloved friends and peers, we are assembled here in this festive atmosphere that an old man near the end of his days may at last indulge the ego he has long kept suppressed by his greater modesty.  For the past two months this man, Cleps--who moments from now will be regarded without challenge as the greatest living artist, and rated with the likes of Michelangelo--has been sculpting a likeness of me in marble.  It has been a rare privilege to watch this master work, and he has achieved what I'm certain all will agree is a magnificent piece of art, whereby history will undoubtedly recognize our mutual greatness--"
"David," Cleps interrupted haughtily, "my other works await, and although I'd love to stay here all day with you and your guests, I do have my priorities.  So I'd appreciate it greatly if you could pay me the balance of my commission and remove the wraps."
"O, don't you all simply love these unpredictable, obsessed creatures called artists?" Lorenzo cried, clapping his hands with glee.  "I do!  My friends, it is with great delight, and with an indescribable guilt of unpaid debt no sum of money could ever recompense, that I tender the commission to this man."   He placed a velvet pouch in Cleps' hand.  "We initially agreed on a fee of forty thousand dollars, but I was so pleased with the outcome that I have rounded it up to one hundred thousand.  And now, I give you--me!" 
Lorenzo lifted away the silk cover with a great flourish, but then dismay spread across his face, and the silence of the aghast onlookers was broken only by scattered shuffling sounds.  At length a few people could not resist chuckling, which proved contagious, for Lorenzo uttered his last words--"Michel--what have could!"--amidst a reverberating chorus of laughter, while his white face turned blue, and he fell down dead of cardiac arrest.
Gina's immediate reaction was not to assist her stricken husband, but to snatch the moneybag from Cleps, saying:  "You beast!  You hideous monster!  The audacity, to mock the hand that feeds!  Look at him, he's probably already dead!  My husband, my Lorenzo!  Get out, get out now!  And take this tramp and your marble prank with you!  Is he dead?  Is he?  He is, he is!  O!  You're a...murderer!  A murderer, and you stand there sniggering!  Get off of my property immediately!"  She began buffeting him with her cane, but Priscilla intervened and pushed her down, enabling them to escape the room unharmed.
The spectators again fell silent, but this time from confusion, for the scene they had just witnessed was like a surreal dream.  Shortly, however, when the proverbial dust had settled, they all came to understand what had transpired:  their gracious host had been the brunt of an insidious prank, the trauma of which had caused his heart to fail.
But the guests were sensible people, and justifying themselves with the adage--waste not, want not--changed the theme of the affair from unveiling ceremony to memorial service, and--after Lorenzo's corpse had been carried out--joyfully consumed the copious food and drink that had been set out for them.

Chapter 2
Another One Snorts the Dust

Howard Fillimeer, monsieur mundane, doctor dullard, an interminably banal and boring being, was a curator at the very fine Metzendigger Museum of Modern Art in Chicago.  Five days a week for twenty years he had donned a blue suit and stood at his post in the sculpture room, as still and lifeless as the statues he guarded.  The most exciting event in all those years was the day a drunk bumped into the most famous of Edgar Brissell's abstracts, six feet of curvaceous soapstone.  The piece toppled, but did not hit the floor and break, for Howard happened to be standing beside it at that very moment, and whether it was self-preservation or snap reflexes will never be known, but he arrested its downward progress and set it aright on its pedestal, for which he received a note of gratitude from the artist, and a small, original watercolor of two ducklings.  That, as stated, was the most scintillating incident of his entire adulthood--until the day Sandra sauntered into his life.
He first noticed her short black skirt, and her long, slender legs encased in dark, alluring nylon.  She wore many glittering chains and rings, had thick cakes of make-up on her face, and her wavy hair was teased and draped longingly about her shoulders.  When she entered the sculpture room he was there alone.  She strolled slowly by, looking into his eyes; and the linger of her perfume aroused him.  He scrutinized every movement of her nonchalant tour, while in his imagination thoughts long dormant were awakening!  He wanted to--and to--ohh!  Look at this woman!  The body of her!
When he approached again in her circle of the room, she paused to place her lips lightly on his neck before continuing on again amongst the sculptures, as slowly as before.  He wanted--he needed--he had to--ohh!  Make it happen Howard!  But what if--someone might see. This cannot--no, absolutely not--happen.
She was standing before him, a single inch between the tips of their noses.  He could feel her soft, rhythmic breathing, and burned to be with her.  She began to caress his chest, taking special care of his breasts, then clasped their hands together and kissed his cheeks, brushing his lips in going from the left to the right.  She led him behind Brissel's most famous, and whispered into his ear:  "Let me hear you breathe."
"Huh?  Uh, no--y-you--hu--hm--have to--you must stop!"  He pushed her away.  "We can't--not in here."
"Why don't you close the door?" she suggested, just before passionately joining their tongues.
In the space of a moment several thoughts flashed in Howard's mind.  This room is on the fourth floor; people rarely come up here; she's so, so very beautiful; I could lock us in, but I might lose my job; no, we mustn't; it wouldn't be right--not in here.
"Breathe for me--now!" she demanded, and he obeyed the command.  "Breathe harder, heavier, through your nose!"  She grasped the bullet-shaped charm on one of her necklaces and plugged it into his nostril.
He didn't even notice it there until the breath he intended to take sensually became a snort.  His head jerked up with the sensation.  "Wh-what was that?"
"Cocaine, toy boy; you needed it to relax, and to give you the courage to close that door."
"How strangely wonderful I feel!" Howard declared like someone newly enlightened.  "O my!  I suddenly have the urge to say so many things, and I finally feel free to say them!  Look at your legs!  O did the Lord take care when he crafted them.  There's something else I think I'll be able to do."  He went over and closed the door.  "What is your name?"
"Sandra.  Lovely!  I'm Howard Fillimeer.  Fillimeer!  What a ridiculous name!  He, he, he, he, he!  This is cocaine?   Fantastic!  I'm in love--twice in love!  May I take another snort, dear Sandra?"
"Yes you may, dear Howard, after me.  Shf!"
"Shf!  Shf!"
"You took two!"
"I'm sorry; you can take another to make us even, or I could do it for you, if you like."
"No, I'll do it myself.  Shf!"
"O Sandra, you've unlocked my soul! You've opened Howard Fillimeer like a can of beans!  I feel so much passion flooding through me!  You know the saying:  where one door closes, another one opens.  You've certainly opened me up; now why did we close the door?"
She rejected his advance, saying:  "No, wait a couple minutes; I like to enjoy this part of the high by myself.  Go ahead--keep talking."
"I feel like doing everything at once!" he shouted.  "I want to sing, dance, and make love; I will write a novel while taking breaks from solving the world's problems, and compose symphonies in my sleep, which I'll dictate to some gorgeous secretary over breakfast.  Hoooeee!  I'm going to do it all!  I--I'll carve a statue!  Now look, look at this soldier--general actually.  Look at the passion in his eyes!  I've been staring at General Eyers for years, and have always felt like him--passion trapped in a shell!  You, Sandra, have ground my shell into powder!  Look at these nostrils on the general's horse.  Look at them, Sandra--look!"
"What about them?"
"What about them?  What about--look how huge they are!  I'll wager they could inhale vast hills of cocaine!  I wish I had Jade's nostrils and a snow drift to snort my way through!  Is there any more?"
"Shf.  I just did the last Howard."
"O.  Shall we do more kissing?" he nervously suggested.
"In a moment; I want to enjoy this.  Are you certain no one will come in here?"
"Sure!  Of course they won't!  They won't because we're in here and don't want them in with us, so they'll respect our wishes and stay out!  There!  That's how you do that!  I'm so glad you were attracted to me.  Uh, Sandra...may I ask a question?"
"Yes my cute, of course you may," she enticingly replied.
"Why me?  What made you do this?"
"You know the saying, about the intoxicating effect men in uniforms have on some women," she answered, licking and kissing the tips of his fingers.  "I saw excitement in your suit the moment I entered the room.  I knew it was locked up, and that I had the key.  Was I right?"
"Yes you were, and I'd like another whiff of the key before I unlock you."
"I told you Howard, we just snorted the last of my stash."
"Well, could I at least try--what do you call that thing?"
"The bullet."
"May I at least try the bullet again?  There may be a little more left."
"I assure you it's empty."
"Is there any way to get more?"
"Do you have money?" she asked.
"Hm...I might.  Would it be much?"
"The more you pay, the longer we play."
"I may have twenty dollars I could spare."
"Twenty!  Howard, that won't get us to the exit of this museum.  We just snorted twenty in a matter of seconds.  Come now, break with some bread.  You seem like the type who sleeps on a mattress stuffed with twenties, like a big bag of green blow."
"How--how did you know?"
"Let's go, Howie-hon.  Leave your stinginess here with the statues and let's go have some fun."  She tickled his fingers while putting her warm lips near his neck.
Howard pondered the idea.  My vacation begins in three hours; I should spend that money sometime before I die; she is quite attractive, and I might do what I haven't done in years--I must go for it!
That moment there was a knock on the door.
"Sandra, fix your clothes and play with me--alone with me!  Alone with me?  Along with me!  Play along with me!  He, he, he, he, he!"  He straightened his tie and opened the door with a flourish of confidence.
Two old men were standing there:  Theodore, the museum director, and Roald, his assistant.  "Howard," Theodore demanded, "why was this door shut?  A patron complained that he couldn't get in."
"My apologies, Theodore.  I was explaining Vladimir Nowit's work to Miss Sandra, and that old dastard the draft blew it closed.  We were so engrossed with Nowit that we didn't hear the sound."
"Who drew the bolt? our resident poltergeist?  And why is the second button of your jacket unfixed?"
Sandra stepped forward and whispered into Howard's ear.  "I'll wait on the corner for five minutes; after that I'll be gone."  She blew warm breath into his hair, smiled at Theodore and Roald, then left.
Howard was dizzy with the drug, and decided to feign a blackout by collapsing.
"Howard!  Howard, are you all right?" Theodore and Roald said, hastening to his side.
He sat up slowly, and replied:  "I don't know why I fell, I just felt faint."
"I'd feel faint too, if I'd lectured that woman," Theodore said, grinning lecherously, with Roald concurring.  "Why don't you go home now, and start your vacation early."
"Could--would that be all right?" Howard asked, showing a marked resurgence.
"If you can stand and leave, certainly.  Why don't you come lie down in the office for a while?"
"No!  No, I can do it."  He abruptly stood, wondered how many minutes had passed, how the cocaine had impaired his perception of time, and how it might have affected Sandra's, and realizing that she might have misjudged thirty seconds for five minutes, he panicked; he smiled weakly at his superior, and bolted without another word.
"I wonder if he's going to try and find that woman?" Roald mused.
"He'd better; that's why I let him leave!  I hope he finds her, and I'll be disappointed if he doesn't return from his vacation wearing a grin that could swallow his whole head," Theodore proclaimed, lost in his filthy fantasies.  "If I could have been the one to lecture her I'd have given--well, I couldn't give that:  what would be the point of the lecture?  Hem.  Why don't you stay here in Howard's stead for the rest of the afternoon, Roald," Theodore concluded, then left in a reverie of erotic fantasy more intense than he had experienced in years.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Tarby Manor detailed synopsis

Tarby Manor by Robert Charest is a novel about love on every level--romantic, familial and holy.  It is a ghost story that strives to be humorous at every turn, and encompasses every cliche ghost tale in doing so.  The plot centers around Ned and Nell Tarby, husband and wife ghost who, being held accountable to God for the inadvertent murder of one another, are serving indefinite sentences within the confines of the mansion wherein they dwelled through life, their accidental deaths in 1747, and unto the present day 1993 of the novel.
The book opens with a seance conducted on the premises sometime in the 1920’s.  Nell and Ned’s struggle both for control of the ouija board and the participants themselves result in the manor being boarded up and left utterly abandoned for more than six decades.  Chapter 2 is a compendium of their daily nit-picking and bickering as it has evolved for almost three centuries.
In chapter 3 the Darbinger family braves history by opening up, dusting off and daring to inhabit Tarby Manor.  Cyril Darbinger, their patriarch, is a professor of the paranormal at Bathwick University on sabbatical to study the famous haunted mansion; while his wife Charlotte, a painter, plans to clean up and design the three huge gardens as models for a series of paintings.  They are accompanied by their three daughters:  Gabrielle, the eldest, in her early twenties, is a sassy and strong-spoken young lady with intellectual interests in the supernormal as well as a woman’s interest in men; Grace, one year younger, is the more physically beautiful of the two, and passionately convicted almost to obsession with finding her perfect man; and Gertrude, also Gertie, is their sister a decade younger, a fit, active, smart-ass adolescent.   They are joined a day later by Bernadette, their skeptical old friend and  live-in housekeeper who staunchly maintains a nether world to be nonsense (though if they do manage to make contact she would dearly love to speak once more with her departed Arthur).
Chapters 5 and 6 serve both to expand on those established relationships while introducing another major player.  Gerard is the handsome young gardener (who becomes affectionately known as the Gerardener), and who moves onto the estate in the capacity of Charlotte’s live-in landscaper.  She does this without first consulting her husband, and in their argument the tensions in their marriage begin to surface.  There is also an important appearance of the angel Peter to Ned and Nell, who admonishes them to stop arguing and reveals that they’re never going anywhere until they find the one thing that all must seek before entering Heaven.
Chapter 7 introduces one of the sub-plots, the goings on at the Flea and Firkin pub, which becomes a theatre of ale inspired one-liners.  Grace stomps away in a huff one afternoon and stumbles into a pub in the village, where she meets some of the locals.  Declan is the fast-talking lord of the bar, who instantly antagonizes and intrigues Grace.  They quickly drop like fighters into a hearty banter about men, women and love that grows more heated the more they fuel it with beer.  Olivia is the barwoman who sides with Grace by chiming in periodically to match barbs with Declan.  And while Grace quickly perceives their polarized attraction to one another, Stephen, Declan’s shy, soft-spoken mate, drowns in a pool of infatuation with Grace.  In the end Grace gets drunk and storms off in a dither.
Chapter 8 begins the following morning when Grace, in the throes of a miserable hangover, is greeted by her longtime suitor, Franklin, whose long expected marriage proposal she rejects, saying:  “Don’t ask me to take that ring unless you want to see it thrown into the hedge!”  He does, and she fulfills her vow.
Chapter 9, The Haunted Tree, introduces a literary device into the novel.  Chapters 9, 15, 16, 18, 19 and 25 are short stories that, though vital organs of the novel, stand on their own as individual works of fiction.  “The Haunted Tree” is a story begun by Gerard, whose great dream in life is to become a writer.  He sits down one night to begin a story, but after one insipid page Nell takes over his pen, and exploding her pent-up energies through his unbelieving fingers transforms his stupid comedy into a horrific, apocalyptic nightmare.
Here the following fictional facts must be clarified.  Gabrielle bears a perfect, exact resemblance to Nell at her age; as does Neal—who doesn’t appear until chapter 21—to Ned; and Nell and Ned’s heightened ability to influence the actions of Gabrielle and Neal deepens the romantic confusion that emerges as the novel progresses.  Nell is attracted at once to Gerard, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Jonathan, the boy with whom she was always truly in love, and who she regretfully left for Ned.  Gabrielle, partially influenced by Nell and partly of her own free will, also becomes immediately infatuated with Gerard.  Both Gerard and Ned, meanwhile, are intoxicated with Grace, and can think of nothing or anyone else.  These complex and ever-changing relationships cannot be condensed into the sentences of a synopsis, but do unfold naturally throughout the course of the book, and provide the tension for much of the comedy.
At the start of chapter 10 Gerard has prepared ‘The Haunted Tree’ for publication by carefully expurgating all his conversations with Nell that came through his pen in the first draft.  Gabrielle accidentally discovers the revised version, reads it, and is so enthralled by the short story that she excitedly shows it to her family.  They confront Gerard, who acknowledges it, and Cyril, in disbelief at the maturity of what he has read, vows to exhaust every academic avenue necessary until the story sees the light of publication.
Chapter 11 is more eloquent bickering of Ned and Nell as they adapt to their new environment while adjusting to the fresh longings in their hearts.  Chapter 12, The Second Seance, is a humorous interlude wherein Ned and Nell team up to humiliate Madam Blavatte, the world-famous Romanian psychic and medium; and wherein also Nell tricks an unwilling Gerard into giving Gabrielle a kiss, which Nell enjoys from inside Gabrielle’s body.  Chapter 13 further develops the sub-plot at the Flea and Firkin, and in the drunken banter Grace and Declan express mutual indifference tempered with both intrigue and disgust, while silent Stephen stares on in mute awe, starry-eyed and head over heels, but too shy to act.  Chapter 14 announces the acceptance of Gerard’s story (‘The Haunted Tree,’ truly written by Nell Tarby) for publication in Lifedrops, an important and potentially career launching periodical.
Chapters 15 and 16, Avril’s Entrance and Avril’s Exit, form another of the self-contained stories, a two chapter spoof of new age nonsense.  Gerard’s estranged fiancée Avril shows up at Tarby Manor, barefoot and unannounced, with a tent on her back and a dog at her side.  She has been transformed into a vagabond hippie during their several month separation.  She camps in the yard and begins preaching her meaningless message of free love, crystals and tarot cards, which culminates when she plays some horrible flute at four in the morning to bond with nature, whereupon Nell drives her from the premises forever.
Chapter 17 further develops the triangle between Gabrielle, Grace and Gerard.  One morning a few days later, Gabrielle has finally mustered the courage to make her feelings at least partially known to Gerard by inviting him to accompany her somewhere.  But just as she’s approaching, and is close enough to watch from the bushes, Grace, on a whim, steps in and does what Gabrielle had just intended to do.  Gerard accepts Grace’s invitation to go see an art exhibit with shock and half-concealed delight.  Meanwhile Ned and Nell watch the scene with disgust, for it is a match that neither approves.  Nell wants Gerard for Gabrielle, Ned wants Grace for himself, and they gang up to sabotage the date before it ever gets out of the kitchen by tripping Gerard with a broom, causing him to spill a full glass of iced tea all over Grace.
Chapters 18 and 19 are two more of the self-contained short stories.    One night, through Gerard, Ned writes ‘The Lonely Princess,’ Ned’s fairy tale fantasy of being Grace’s shining knight and savior.  Chapter 19 takes place in the same night.  ‘The True History of Tarby Manor’ is an old manuscript hidden in a desk in a secret passageway, and its contents are revealed to the reader when Nell leads Gabrielle to it by inducing somnambulism.  It was written by Nell more than two hundred fifty years earlier, and tells the sad, almost tragic story of how she ended up married to Ned instead of Jonathan.
Chapter 20, Two Presents, starts with Gerard and Gabrielle in their own rooms sitting before the revised versions of the manuscripts each was shown the previous night.  Gerard presents his to Grace; and while she’s reading Gabrielle comes and presents Gerard with hers.  All the sudden reactions of the five parties involved, spanning two realms, result in more comical chaos of the heart. 
And all of that is only compounded by Neal’s arrival in chapter 21.  He’s Gerard’s old mate from grade school who’s been seized by a sudden urge to see the world, and is passing through London with his backpack.  Neal bears an uncannily exact resemblance to Ned in his youth, and upon seeing him Ned is ecstatic, as he sees his means of touching Grace, while Nell becomes violently ill.  But then, upon meeting the sisters, Neal is bowled over not by Grace, to the relief of Gerard, but by Gabrielle, to the profound chagrin and terror of both Ned and Nell.  Neal is extended a welcome invitation by the Darbingers to spend a few days in Tarby Manor, which he gladly and gratefully accepts.  And while Ned and Nell watch on in anguished horror, Neal and Gerard vow and begin plotting to bring Gabrielle together with the former, and Grace with the latter.  What ensues, although lucidly drawn in the narrative, would require most of the text itself just to summarize.  Influenced by Ned and Nell, their own caprices, and the bumps of Fate, the characters bounce amongst each other with all the rapidity and predictability of pinballs.
Chapter 23, Marital Relations, starts with an argument between Cyril and Charlotte--about her wish to leave the haunted house at once and his to see his research to its end--and evolves into Ned and Nell’s mother of all battles.  Their argument is abruptly interrupted by the second appearance of the angel Peter, at the beginning of Chapter 24.  He chastises their infantile antics, and answers the question that what they must seek is love, and that marriage sanctified by God must stand for whatever reason.  He accomplishes all this with a long monologue that I composed by using my memory and a concordance to search the Scriptures for every pertinent reference to love, which I then culled, shuffled and strung together.
Chapter 25, Hannibal’s Conquest, completes the cycle of the self-contained short stories.  Immediately after Peter’s rebuke, Ned and Nell retreat to opposite corners of Tarby Manor to reflect on and absorb Peter’s words, and resign to the hard truth that for reasons certainly known only to God Himself, they were meant to be married.  At length, after some hours have passed, Nell sort of floats over to Ned, and in her nonsensical wont utters the first few lines of a silly story.  Unlike his old self, Ned picks up the thread and carries it through the absurd history of the manner in which an army of winged-cats, led by one Hannibal, overthrow the pernicious Roman Empire.  And the laugh they share afterward marks the beginning of their reconciliation.  But it is not without each making their own last minute lunge at desire before accepting Fate; which thrust propels the novel to its end. 
They do make a sincere initial effort, for in the very next chapter Ned and Nell engineer the elaborate and seemingly coincidental bringing together of Neal and Gabrielle.  In Chapter 28, Grace, taking advantage of an overture of flowers by Declan, tricks he and Olivia into kissing each other while wearing masks, thereby breaking the barrier between the blossoming of their love.  Immediately thereafter Grace meets Ferdinand, the wandering entertainer who travels the world performing for his supper.  He is a free spirit who she falls for hard and fast.  In chapter 29 Gerard decides to make an all-out play for Grace, and if she won’t have him, then for Gabrielle.  He is rejected on both counts, first for Franklin, then Neal.

The novel reaches culmination in chapter 30, in a cataclysm that begins with a food fight.  Being forced to watch Neal and Gabrielle kissing and cuddling eventually gets to Nell, and she lashes out at Ned by seizing Gabrielle’s body and forcing her to hurl a handful of tapioca at Neal.  (It happens to be Bernadette’s cooking day, and the dining room table is covered with casseroles, quiches, puddings and pies etc.)  By the ineffable machinations of Chance, and a most delicate authorial hand, all the rest of the major characters--Bernadette, Cyril, Charlotte, Gertrude, Grace, Ferdinand, Olivia, Declan, Gerard and Stephen--just happen to enter the room during the ensuing three minutes of novel time, and the battle rapidly escalates into a full-out pastry war.  Suddenly the earth rumbles and the walls shake leading to panic and chaos.  Then a rift opens in their midst, and they witness Nell being dragged down to hell, and calling out to Ned for help.  Ned hesitates, then dives in after, and moments later, before all their eyes, Ned and Nell ascend together and vanish beyond.  They receive fair warning in the form of a couple more mild quakes, vacate in an instant, and watch from the lawn as Tarby Manor collapses upon itself.  Following that the epilogue briefly describes how each of the characters enjoys a happy ending.

Tarby Manor contents and sample

TARBY MANOR is a romantic comedy set on a haunted London estate.  When Ned and Nell Tarby are held accountable by God for accidentally killing each other in 1747, they are indefinitely imprisoned in the confines of their mansion.  When the Darbinger family moves into the mansion in 1993, Ned falls in love with Grace, one of the beautiful young daughters, while Nell lusts for Gerard, the Darbinger’s handsome gardener.  Innovatively incorporating virtually every ghost story cliche, Tarby Manor weaves comical situations into a meaningful novel of love and redemption.  Scroll down to read the first two chapters or click here to read a detailed, chapter by chapter synopsis.

Table of Contents

1)                     A Séance                                                     
2)                     The Old Tenants                                                     
3)                     The New Tenants                                       
4)                     Settling In                                                     
5)                     Mischief in the Kitchen                              
6)                     The Gerardener                                           
7)                     The Flea and Firkin                        
8)                     An Icy Rejection                                          
9)                     The Haunted Tree                                      
10)                  Candice’s Discovery                                              
11)                  The Lover’s Complaints                             
12)                  The Second Séance                                              
13)                  More Flea and Firkin                                              
14)                  First Publication                                          
15)                  Avril’s Entrance                                           
16)                  Avril’s Exit                                                    
17)                  Invitation and Embarrassment                 
18)                  The Lonely Princess                                              
19)                  The True History of Tarby Manor             
20)                  Two Presents                                                           
21)                 Neal’s Arrival                                                           
22)                  Plans Failed, Conceived and Pondered
23)                  Marital Relations                                         
24)                  Peter on Love                                                          
25)                  Hannibal’s Conquest                                             
26)                  The Unseen Hands of Fate                                  
27)                  Grace’s Ruse and Ferdinand                               
28)                  Gerard’s Failures                                        
29)                  The Final Firkin                                           
30)                  The Food Fight                                

Chapter 1
A Seance

In June of the 1929th year since Christ, and six months after the Morseley family abandoned Tarby Manor in great haste, four members of the Society for Psychic Research arranged to conduct a séance on the premises.  Richard Flaugherty, then the foremost medium in Europe, and his wife Madelaine, accompanied by another married couple, Edward and Caroline, bravely ventured into the mansion in an attempt to contact Ned and Nell Tarby, the infamous apparitional inhabitants of the estate.  On a Monday evening they gathered in one of the sitting parlors.  The whole room was festooned in gossamer and coated with a thin sheen of dust.  The four formed a circle and positioned a letter board upon their knees.  Richard led them in a proper period of meditation, then commenced by telling each to lightly set a finger upon one of the four arms of the pointer.  “We come only in peaceful curiosity.  Is anyone with us in this room?” he asked in a soft, droning voice.
The pointer darted at once, and rapidly spelled out:  YES.  YOU EACH HAVE THREE WITH YOU.
“Do you have a name?”
“We are Richard, Madelaine, Edward and Caroline.  Who are you?”
“Is your name also Madelaine?”
“How should we tune our vibrations--”
“Will you tell us anything about who you are, or were?”
“Where would you like to begin?”
“Can you begin by telling us your name?”
“What could I ask that you would answer directly?”
He looked down, and it flopped up into his face.
“Are you Ned or Nell Tarby, as purported?”
A hideous stench filled the room, and they all gagged.
“What is that horrible odor?” Richard inquired.
Edward opened a window then rejoined the circle.  It slammed shut.  “Are you upset at our being here?” Richard asked nervously.
“Why are you so evasive?  Can you give me at least an idea as to what I should ask?”
“What does that mean?”
The motion of the pointer became herky-jerky.
“Everyone let go for a moment,” Richard ordered.  “I think there are two entities struggling for control of the board.”  They lifted away their hands, but the pointer continued darting rapidly over the board.
The pointer suddenly flew up and smashed into the ceiling, and the fragments rained down upon everyone, heightening the tension.  Then Richard spoke in an effeminate voice that was definitely not his own.  “Stop trying to force me out of him! I was in here first!  Go to, to a different body, Ned!”
The battle waged for control of Richard resulted in his suffering violent convulsions, while garbled utterances shrilled forth from his tongue.  He thrashed about in fits for several moments, then suddenly went limp and collapsed on the floor; at the same moment Madelaine jolted upright, entranced, and in a husky voice (Ned’s) said:  “He's yours Nell.  I've slipped inside something more comfortable.”
Richard suddenly bolted aright, and through him Nell replied:  “How did you get in there?  I couldn't find a seam when I tried.”
“I'm privy to the secret and ancient art of entering women.”
“Is that so?” Nell answered through Richard.
“That is so!” Ned rejoined through Madelaine.
“Well now that you've found a crack, let me get inside.  I want to embrace one of these men from the body of a woman!”  Madelaine quaked as the battlefield relocated to her body.  “Move on Ned!  Go occupy Rich herd!”
No!  Out, Nell!  I was quite comfortable inside this lovely woman before you horned in--I can't get inside anyone else, so let me have her!”  Madelaine’s head thumped against the wall.  “Three's a crowd Nell, so subtract yourself and let me enjoy her company--uuuuh!!  She's mine!”
Ned and Nell struggled for control of Madelaine until she slumped; then she lifted her head, warily surveyed Richard and Edward, and spoke in a voice more similar to her own, which was Nell’s.  “O!  Dear God no!  You could not have presented two uglier men from whom to choose!  I'm not sure I even want to--of course I want to!  Carpe diem!  I'll close my eyes, and not put my mouth above the neck.  Carne de Dios!  Now which would be the less nauseating of this pair of bloated, dumpy devils?”
Edward and Caroline had moved to the corners; they were aghast, frightened, and unsure what to do.  Richard was sitting motionless, staring vacantly into the ceiling.  After scrutinizing the other two, Nell, inside the woozy Madelaine, approached him, saying, with resignation:  “Well, since you are married to this woman I occupy, and you are the less hideous head, I will--”
“Don't come near me!” Ned cried through Richard.  “I don't ever want to kiss you again!”
“Ned!” Nell shouted through Madelaine.  “Move out of Richard and on to the other one!  Don't make me choose the troll; let me use this merely grotesque ogre to enjoy the pleasures you cannot now and never could provide.”
“No!  I'm not moving again,” Ned obstinately replied from the warmth of his temporary shelter.  "And fortunately both ladies are as beautiful to me as the men are unsightly to you.  I see a goddess and a nymph.”  Richard involuntarily and suavely approached his wife, and when the tips of their lips were just inches apart, said:  “I wouldn't kiss you if it were the only escape from the greatest torment and eternal damnation.”  He then lunged left at Caroline, and before she had even an instant to react and flee, gave her a long, deep smack on the mouth.
“Richard!  How could you say such a terrible thing to your wife, and then kiss me?” Caroline cried in shock. 
“Caroline,” Edward answered, “I don't believe that was Richard acting, but the apparition in possession of his body.”
“That's no apparition, that's Ned, my useless husband,” Nell said through Madelaine, and promptly slapped Richard’s face (wherein Ned, too, felt the sting).  “How dare you kiss another woman in my presence!  How could you perpetuate the infidelities that made our marriage an event to be endured, not enjoyed?”
She went to Edward, and towered over him like a stalking huntress; he hunkered away, and when she had him backed into the corner, and was about to slake her insatiable mouth on the homely prey, Richard yanked her arm and spun her about, yelling:  “Strumpet!  It is your whoreson lusts that perpetuate the infidelities that brought us and our marriage to this ruination!”
She lurched for his throat, and they fell wrestling and screaming to the floor, appearing to be struggling as much within themselves as with each other.  Edward and Caroline tried to halt the fight and separate the unwilling combatants, but the violence of the battle frightened them back.  There were scratches, blood, several clumps of hair, howls of agony, and it finally ended when Edward and Caroline began shouting:  “Richard!  Madelaine!  Come back to us!  Nell and Ned be gone!  Richard!  Madelaine!  Force them out! Return to us!”
With assistance from a strange, unknown force, the two hosts successfully evicted the invading spirits from their bodies, though they were exhausted by the effort, and collapsed in gasps.  Edward and Caroline tried to administer to them as best they could, but there was little else to be done except wait nervously for them to recover on their own.  That required several minutes, during which interval all four trembled at every slight creak in the house and rattle of the breeze.
Once composure was regained, Madelaine, clearly back in full control of her own voice, addressed her husband:  “Why did you kiss Caroline?”
“That wasn't me, dear, that was Ned Tarby,” Richard said.  “You know that.”
“I know you can say that, and I can forgive the awful words you said as coming from him, but I certainly was not going to allow her to force me to kiss Edward.  Why do you think she was having such difficulty moving?” Madelaine explained.
“My love, it happened so quickly that I had no time to resist.  Certainly you can understand how I was more than a bit overwhelmed at the moment.”
“I'm not so certain you wanted to resist,” Madelaine rejoined, eyeing him sharply.
“Aaaaaaaah!” came the sound of a terrible moan of anguish in the air.
“Oh!” Caroline cried.  “One of them is trying to enter me!”
“I'm leaving!”
“Me too!”
“We’re right behind you!”
And so they departed in haste, though while running down the lawn Madelaine did not stop questioning her husband about the kiss, and insisted that her suspicions about his designs for Caroline had now been confirmed.
Inside Tarby Manor a grumbling voice could be heard breaking the silence.  “Nothing disgusts me more than a happy marriage.”

Chapter 2
The Old Tenants

“That damn dog's been dead for ten years, and you still haven't fixed the door!” she said.
“Bloody hell, Nell!  The dog has been dead for over two centuries, and you know I can't repair any door with intangible hands,” he replied.
“Well then Ned, I suppose we'll have to spend the afternoon in the lagoon plucking rings of sausage from the necks of wet hens--but only those composed of a fine Yorkshire pudding.”
“Brilliantly articulated and well-imagined, Nell; verily, a wit fit to be writ in stone, to entertain and edify the generations for centuries to come, even unto the end.  Now do you suppose you could leave off your linguistic odyssey for a moment--we have a matter of importance to discuss.”
“But I--”
“I know, I know, I know…I know every syllable rote.  Language is a beautiful instrument that should be played freely, not confined to communication.  With so many lovely sounding words that would not otherwise be uttered in conjunction, it should be perfectly acceptable and permissible in every society for any person to string together whatever collections of words and phrases, without regard for sense, and without fear of being regarded insane, but purely for the aesthetic pleasure of the speaker, and anyone else who may wish to listen.  I've heard that short speech ten thousand times in the last two and a half centuries…you need not repeat it.”
“Then start playing your horn instead of merely talking through it.”
“Claptrap and tomfoolery; will the house of sense ever rise and dominate your planet?”
“It could, if you were to sing me a pleasant melody.”
“Aaaah, fine!  Fine, fine, fine!  I'll mutter some nonsense to satisfy babble buzzard, but only if I have her assurance that she'll forthwith be ruled by reason for a few pages.”
“Ah fine?  Nay.  Ah choo choo!”
“The handsome page of her heart sounds his clarion and announces:  Nell's next paragraph will be seasoned with reason.”
“Very well,” Ned said.  “I will compose you an elegy for a doughnut.

    O doughnut, heartless yet filled with soul,
    Good doughnut, what custard has passed through that hole?
                        Sugared with spice,
                                Chocolate and ice,
    Sweet doughnut spread glaze on my pole.

How was that?”
“That was a limerick, not an elegy!” Nell exclaimed.  “And the only line I liked was, ‘chocolate and ice,’ thou cruellerless shadow of a man.”
“O, resorting to the bawdy again, eh?  What a surprise.  What you will, dry well Nell.  Honor your promise.”
“Dry well!  Ha!  Moist well.  Verily, a very moist well.  If the water bucket were lowered into my well….”
“It would plummet the darkest depths of hell!  Now speak sensibly with me Nell!”
“Very well.  I'm assuming--no!  You promised me an elegy for a doughnut, but that's not what was delivered.  An elegy is a mournful poem normally composed in classic distichs, having the first line a dactylic hexameter, and the second a pentameter.  Recite an elegy for a doughnut and I will speak as you wish; until then, as I do.  Crimson were the pimple shards upon my true love's gourd, and--”
“All right!  Ach!  If I knew when I married you in 1726 that we'd still be together in 1993, I'd have waited and used my dying gasp to propose.”
“And if I had known the same I'd have answered:  'Nay, Ned!  All is said!  Drop dead upon your bed, for thee I’ll never wed!'  An elegy for a doughnut now, or I will Nellegy thee into Hellegy!”
“Impossible.  You are the embodiment hell, and being impalpable are incapable of driving me into you.”
“Fie on you, Ned!  You couldn't drive me when we dwelled within our bodies.”
“Me?  Are you yet again trying to place blame with me for the dysfunctional conjugal relations in our marriage?  Yours was a desolate, arid, withered scrubland of crabgrass, where no rains ever fell, no trails were blazed, and no life was ever engendered.  It was your springs that were shut off, and never gave offspring.”
“You were supposed to provide the rain," Nell complained, "but however often I performed the ceremonial dance, your cloud never gave forth.  Perhaps your shoot was cut from a sapling, for your lumber was tiny timber, and your sap without sugar.  My elegy please.”
“Sit tight," Ned snapped.  "We have an unfortunate overabundance of time.”
“Orange and mahogogogany!” Nell sang loudly.  “Sweet glass, sweet glass, as chewy as black wooden grass sprouting down from wet sky.”
“You’re a dolt!” Ned cried.
“IF I COULD SWIM SWANOCEROUSLY, FLYING IRON BEES WOULD FLEE FLEEING FLEAS!”  Nell shouted, then sighed dramatically.  “But alas, poor disagreeable Punt, whose inveterate golden needle--”
“May there be silence while the poet recites his work, puh-lease?” Ned implored. "Ahem!"
“I've been waiting, and patiently.”
Ned harrumphed, then recited his extemporaneous poem.

 “Elegy for a Doughnut

When I was a boy, I owned a shine ring,
The tiniest shine me on my knee thing.
It slipped on the finger of my betrothed
Against my wishes, and will, what woe!

One night I snuck and plucked it off
(She could not hear through whooping cough);
Then into our chamber slithered the lizard,
In a poof glow of smoke snapped into a wizard.

He fingered the ring, slipped off a doughnut,
Plainly told me that I need not de-bone it.
But I was that ring, I was not a necklace,
And my Nell woke up and ate me for breakfast!

“Elegy for a doughnut, posthumously composed by its subject, Ned Tarby.  How did it taste to kill me, Nell?”
“An elegy is a remembrance after death, not an account thereof; and though your style is in desperate need of a chisel, I am feeling generous and will consider your obligation fulfilled," Nell offered, feeling philanthropic.  "Since there's little else we would need to discuss rationally, I surmise that you wish words regarding the new tenants.  They seem like lovely people, and I simply cannot wait until they are in residence.  Fresh faces, finally!  And fresh voices and vices to go along!  Thank God!  I'm going to have a little fun for the first time in fifty years.  I've thought up some new gags I'm simply itching to try on real people, and upon my guarantee, we're all going to have a rollicking good time.”
“No we are not!” Ned exhorted.  “We are going to behave like good children, that our Father who art in heaven will finally reward us by letting us come into the house.  We have to treat this family differently than the others.  We can't abuse our powers for senseless pranks anymore.”
“Must I again remind you who pulled the first one?” Nell said.  “The one and same who was so amused by suspending Colonel Tinder's peruke above his head, that he did the like with Lady Tinder's wig?”
“I only discovered the power accidentally, and you know quite well Nell, that it was you who carried it far out of hand.  ‘Twas Nell, not Ned, who traced the monster in the dew on the window pane that precipitated Mariel's heart attack--Peter extended your sentence for that.”
“Ah-ha-ha-he-ha-he-ha-hem!  As I recall yours was also extended, for wishing she would die.”
“I only thought that if she passed along the crime of murder would send you to a deeper level of hell, and farther apart from me,” Ned explained.  “But even that didn't teach you anything, for not ten years later you peppered the carnations in Valerie's bouquet, causing her to sneeze into William's face at their wedding.”
“You know I never liked her.”
“That does not matter!  It was you, Nell, not I, who perpetrated the ten thousand jests and japes that have driven every family from Tarby Manor, the estate I built not knowing it would become my cell in hell!  That's right Nell--Hell!  Because every time Peter denies our entrance and leaves us in this indefinite purgatory, it is hell with a capital N!  Each moment is death, and I couldn't bear to spend another century with you, so you're going to behave properly, so that at least I get released from this accursed place, or I'll--”
“You'll what?  Strangle me?  Ha!  You've tried before, but you can't touch me any more than you can comb that bald head!  And your hair was air even before you died!  Believe me when I say that I want to leave even more badly than you, and I pray for it just as often, but likewise I see no wrong in having a little amusement along the way.  We won't be freed unless it's God's will, and until the time He wills it, so everything that happens is fated, and only if it is my destiny will I at last enter heaven.”
“Your destiny!" he shrieked.  "We might have been there years ago, possibly before the turn of the eighteenth century, had you not screwed up every last opportunity we've ever had.  Sixty years, Nell--sixty years!  It's been six long, protracted decades since the Morseleys gave up our estate, and the city boarded it shut.  No one's dared enter here since you scared them off by throwing open all the windows and doors during the worst storm to hit London in memory.  Everyone in the whole bloody world knows that Tarby Manor is inhabited by a miserable pair of malicious, mischievous poltergeists, and the only way to convince them otherwise is to let someone live here undisturbed.  At least then if we ruin this chance, the next one may come right along.”
“Well, it's not my fault we're here!" Nell protested.
“NO! NOT THIS AGAIN!  You know we wouldn't both be here if we weren't both at fault!”
“It was you who plied my head with wine in a pathetic attempt loosen my body,” she casually recalled.
“The only loose part of your body was the tongue!” he barked.
“And yours was the screws.”
“Clever, Nell, very clever,” he responded dryly.  “So clever in fact, that I have no recourse but to retire my cap and quit the Pundits Association.  My very essence is so scattered by that most majestic of witticisms, that I am now in grave danger of being carried to the corners of the Earth by the four winds, and lost forever.  O, loose screws.  O perilous jeopardy.  Lord, the wit of the woman you brought me to wife.  How could I possibly retaliate a hot-air blow of such magnitude?  I suppose I could say that you screwed loosely, to imply that you were a slut, but the opposite was the sad truth.  The screws used to board you up were tightly fixed in their holes.”
“Phoo on you!" she grunted.  "You never put your screw to it because you could never get the turtle’s wrinkled neck out of its shell.”
“I wish I’d had even the slightest of the thousand lovers you boast of having enjoyed, and I regret not having taken them when they were availed to me.  Your mouth is as crass as your mind is crude.  You disgust me.”
“If I disgust you, then why did you pour a fountain of wine down my throat on that last night?  Answer the charge.”
“Very well,” Ned replied mechanically.  “I did get you drunk with amorous intentions, but it was you who were flouncing and dancing around the library like an idiotic marionette, and you who tipped the lamp that started the fire which killed us.”
“I wasn't flouncing and dancing, I was trying to escape your lecherous clutches.”
“Can we stop beating this deceased equine?  Please?” Ned pleaded.  “I was implicated for feeding you the wine, and you were guilty of knocking over the lamp while intoxicated.  The Almighty is holding us accountable for each other's deaths, and we can't be born until we've found a way to redeem ourselves.  We both knew that even before the fire burned out, so why, even now, must you constantly bring it up for discussion?”
“You failed to mention your adulteries, and the time you swore by God that a falsehood was the truth, and your torture of small animals, and.…”
“Let's not drag the chains of sin out from the dark closets!" Ned interrupted.  "Yours is long and weighty, but I know that with a concerted effort I could haul it up from the slimy tunnel wherein it has festered in rot these three centuries, and given a decade or two expose each of the ninety billion links in their entirety, even the one you earned for nicking a tomato when you were barely two, thou lying, covetous, murdering adulteress!”
“I may be guilty of those charges,” Nell rejoined, “but only because society forced me to imitate my husband as the paragon of behavior, thou false, filching, homicidal cuckold!”
“Harlot!  I was cuckolded even before leaving the altar, for you were simultaneously violating three commandments by stealing kisses from the flower boys while I was still sliding the golden doughnut down your third finger, and the steel cuff onto my own wrist.”
“It was only because your repulsive lips were glossed with drool as you looked not into my eyes with love, but into my wealthy father's with greed, that I had to turn to the lads for attention.”
Ned puffed up and spoke with deep pride:  “I parlayed your dowry into a substantial fortune.”
“O how dreadfully fortunate for me.  Lord! Lord!  I'm so bloody bored!  Bloody, bloody, bloody, bloody, bloody, bloody bored! I'm bloody bored with this bloody place, and bloody tired of the bloody sight of my bloody husband’s bloody face.  From the very first moment I set foot into this mansion I've been plumbing ever deeper the vast recesses of tedium where they are carved into the crevasses of monotony.  I've counted every crook, crack and niche therein, and they number twelve billion and two.  And I now fear that time has at last ground to a stand still, for this last day until the Darbingers move in is creeping along more slowly than the three centuries that preceded it.  Ah tomorrow!  The only and most reliable friend I’ve ever had, my one and last hope.  I cannot wait!  I'm finally going to confront the featureless monster that is the beastification of boredom, and I am going to slay him with my creaking, moaning rapier,” Nell concluded with full confidence and a ghostly flourish.
“Why don't you stop rambling for a moment and think upon what you actually say?  This marriage is as tired for me as it is for you, and I too am looking forward to having life in my house again, but I'd like to have the Darbingers stay longer than the two hours it will take you to frighten them off.  But you're going to do it, aren't you?”
“Well….” Nell pondered.
“Why?  Why must you?  You'll enjoy a few minutes of excitement as everyone goes scurrying, and then before dusk I'll be enduring yet another dreary monologue on monotony, and beginning another fifty-year countdown till the day the next courageous family attempts to occupy Tarby Manor.  Following upon that I will undoubtedly start wishing we were flesh again, so I could kill you; you'll as surely harbor the same murderous desire, and our sentences will be extended indefinitely, or infinitely, or He will simply give up and put us to death.  Truthfully, why would you do that?”
“It's based on a combination of factors,” Nell casually replied, “the foremost of which is, as you know, the uncontrollable playful urges that often seize me when in the company of people, but not excluding nor diminishing the euphoric, ecstatic and simply delightful pleasure I still derive from antagonizing you, and watching you fret.”
“And why must you always keep your hand tight on my goat-string?”
“Because it feels good to pretend that I have fingers, and because I get so bloody bored that if I didn't once in a while prod you to life and make you squirm, you would never move, and I would perish for the nothingness.”
“This conversation is now concluded, for I have nothing more to add,” Ned said with great disgust.
“O my silly silkworm, be more cormorant…” Nell sang, “…gather soft bricks in your feather socks, and your courage in the perifidious muck.  You have pernicious luck, and...what do you mean by drifting off?" she nagged.  "You know well by now there's no escaping me, and that you can be alone only when I allow so by not following you.  I've already decided to serenade you with the Sing-Sing Song, so you can have me trail you everywhere sing-singing the unabridged four hundred verse version a largo, or you can sit still like a big horse and swallow your medicine presto, in the condensed version.”
“That you consider rendering that horrendous song unto my ears administering medicine implies that I am ill of health; but the only problem I have with my constitution is you, so what you refer to as an antidote to the affliction would in truth be an overdose of the poison, and I'll reckon what you said a euphemism.”
“Gladly!" she cried with glee.  "What rendition will I be presenting, O audience of one?”
“You'll note I haven't budged even the breadth of a hair, by way of requesting the painless and short.  And please do something, anything, about the ungodly shrill that is produced whenever you attempt to raise your voice in song.”
“I find it rather lovely and soothing myself.”
“Aye, just as vultures hear music in their own cacophonic squawkings.”
“That crack will cost you another four verses.”
“Just get it on and over with,” he sighed.

            Sing, sing, singy, singy, singy, singy song!
            Come all you singy singers, sing sing along!
            It's really quite simple, there's only one lyric,
            It rhymes with ring, and I want to hear it!
            It's the sing, sing, sing, sing, sing, singy song,
            And if you sing, sing, you can't sing it wrong!
            The word is singy!  Singy, singy, singy!
            Make your mouth a bell, and let it ring ringy!

            Sing, sing, singy sing...pla plingy pling...da ding dingy ding dingy ding dingy ding...ra, ra, ring ringy ring ringy ring...fa fa fing...wingy wing wing sing...sing...sing...singy sing da vo va la ling lingy...tring tring tringle...mix, singers, mingle...sing all together, don’t sing single!”
Perhaps an hour later, and more likely closer to two, she concluded by saying:  “I have finished; you may be excused.”
“You're so gracious, your Excellency.”
“Don't get smart or sarcastic; I can just as quickly repeat it entirely twice.  If you need me, or just wish to listen, I'll be in the garden teaching the new verses to our ornithic friends the warblers, who, being the innocent offspring of Nature, better appreciate the Heavenly gift of harmony than men.”

Chapter 3
The New Tenants

About the eleventh hour on the appointed Thursday morning, the first members of the Darbinger family appeared at Tarby Manor.  Cyril, a professor of the paranormal, and his wife Charlotte, an artist, were to be followed in the afternoon by their daughters, Candice, Grace and Daisy.  He was a heavy set man, though not obese; with lusterless, wiry black hair, a wide forehead chiseled with deep furrows, the darkness of fatigue under his eyes, and jowls dripping from his cheeks and chin.  He was attired in a jacket and slacks, which he sported sloppily.  Charlotte was extremely thin and very tall, standing two inches above her husband.  Her amber hair was long and straight, her forehead attractively high, and her skin almost ghostly in its pallor.
“Nell, they're here; on your best behavior.”
“They're not here, Ned among the dead, they're out there; and don't be so concerned with how to make a good impression that you overlook your better sense of humor.”
“Your four humors were made vile by imbalanced bile.”
“At least I was possessed of wits and humors to be diminished.”
“Tish!  Be silent.”
“What silence?  And pish on your tish!  They can't hear--”
“Shut up!  I want to listen.”
“Did you feel that Charlotte?” Cyril said as he stepped onto the walk and into the air that Nell had chilled before him, as ghosts are wont to do.
“No.  Feel what?”
“Nell!” Ned cried.
“Stand right there,” Cyril said, guiding her into it.  “The air is freezing!  It's the most common manifestation.”
“It is rather frigid,” Charlotte responded. “It gives me the shivers, and not just because it's cold.”
“Let me stand in it again,” he said, but before he took a step it was removed.  “It's gone--perhaps it's drifting!”  Cyril searched the vicinity while a giggling Nell was chastised by an irate Ned.
“That was queer,” Charlotte said slowly, “and eerier than I expected my first encounter would be.”
“You aren't frightened, are you?”
“No! No!  I'm quite excited actually.”
“Just look at this estate!” Cyril cried.  “Tarby Manor is a veritable treasure trove!  For two centuries one of the most active haunted houses in all of England, and it’s ours to experience and explore.  We are walking into a brownstone chest of priceless information!”
“Let's just hope we don't open a Pandora's box.” 
“O no Charlotte! We're entering a motherlode of paranormal, and I'm going to dig out every crack and corner, mine every nugget!”
“He's got to be the corniest man not dead.”
“Nell!  Stop!  Now!  Nip it in the bud!” Ned demanded.  “Do nothing, not even the smallest pocket of icy air; don’t place your cold heart in any of their paths.  We must wait patiently for an opportunity to do some good and get out; and if it's years in coming--even decades--we will wait, and will not tempt Fate.”
Tarby Manor was sprawling, with thirty-three rooms, two porches, four balconies, six gables, three gardens, a gazebo, a fountain, and several birdbaths and feeders; but what had once been majestic was now become shambles.  Thick ivy clung like barnacle to the stained and worn stone; the cast iron fence encircling the grounds was chipped, rusted, and broken in numerous places; dozens of slate shingles that had been peeled from the roof by wind were shattered and scattered about the premises; the stone walls had been dismantled by rock thieves in some places, and toppled by vandals and the elements in others.  All three gardens were wildly overgrown, and the surrounding lawns were hayfields.  The arched trellis over the front door that had in younger days supported roses was choked with thistle and weeds, which same woe had befallen the gaps in the bricks of the walk, and the cracks in the foundation.
The professor and his wife walked slowly up the long slope of high grass before the mansion; and while Cyril surveyed for signs of the supernatural, Charlotte made plans for the work ahead of her.  He was on sabbatical from Bathwick University, to study the famed manor.  She was a painter, and had come to nurture and create the gardens that would be her models.  She also hoped to capture a specter in oils, if one appeared.
Their belongings had been delivered in advance, so after a brief tour of the grounds, Charlotte started unpacking boxes while her husband scrutinized every inch of each room.  He sensed the strongest presence in the library, the room wherein Ned and Nell had killed each other in 1756, and so remained in there and shelved his books.
Nell watched him closely, and when he put up Sheldon Sydney's Apparitions and Intuition, cried:  “That insipid volume is the singular worst work of words on ghosts ever to waste trees and ink!  You, professor, are fortunate that in its stupidity it is short!”  She pushed it off the shelf and onto his head.
He jumped and shouted:  “Charlotte! Come here at once!”  She appeared momentarily.  “This book just fell on my head from the top shelf!”  He replaced it, whereupon it fell off again.  “See!”
“Nell!  Stop this instant!”
“What?  What's gobbing your goose?  It's an 'orrible, 'orrible book, and I don't want it in me library.”
“Let it rest, or we never will!”
Cyril put it up a third time; it did not move.  “This is only the very beginning!” he cried joyfully.  “Throw all the books you like, it's no bother for me to pick them up!”
Lemuel Burton's Ghosts A Through Z was the size of a log, and the only reason Nell didn't respond by tossing it at his nose was the sudden arrival of the girls.  “Ned!  Look over here; out front.  Do you see her?  She looks like me--exactly like me!  She would be my twin if I were her age!”
“The semblance is remarkable,” Ned observed.
“How very odd--she's the image of me!”
Nell was referring to Candice, the oldest of Cyril and Charlotte's daughters.  She was tall, and had dark, curly hair, thick eyebrows, and eyes soft and lovely, yet piercingly sharp.  Grace was a year younger, an inch shorter, light-haired, and spoke in a much silkier voice.  She had a bright sprinkle of freckles on her cheeks that perfectly complemented her high bones and fair skin, and added a mysterious, ethereal glow to her beauty.  Both girls were in their early twenties.  Daisy was the youngest, having been delivered into this world ten years after Grace.  Her features were indistinguished by puberty, but she certainly promised to be quite a lovely blonde woman when grown, and was the most agile and athletic of the three.
They entered the house and called to their parents, who shouted that they come to the library at once.  “It's begun already!” Cyril said excitedly.  “First we walked through a spot of cold air on the lawn, and that book has fallen off the shelf twice in the past five minutes.”
“Why can't I go stay with Aunty Margaret?” Grace protested.  “I don't like ghosts; I hate them, and I don't want to live in a haunted manor.”
“We've already discussed and settled that,” her mother replied.  “You can't stay with your aunt because your uncle's brother and wife are there.  There’s nowhere else for you to go at the moment, and we have to follow your father where his work takes him.  There’s really nothing to fear; ghosts are everywhere, including all the houses you've lived in, the schools you've attended, and every place you’ve ever visited.  They are the spirits of all who ever lived gathered around us, the living, in their world around our world; but spirits can't harm people, and they can't frighten you if you don't let them.”
“That's not what I've seen in Dad's books," Grace answered.  "I read one story about an old woman who was angelic in her behavior while alive, but who after death tormented her son and his wife mercilessly, and in the end strangled their infant daughter.  And I read another story about a bloke who moved into a house where a man had been found strangled in the bathtub many years before, and not a week later was discovered dead in the tub with marks on his throat, and with absolutely no signs of any intruders.”
“Grace, sh, look over there,” Daisy said, and when her sister's eyes were fixed in the corner she cried:  “Boo!”
Grace jumped a full foot.  “Oh!  Don't do that!”
“Ah!  Ha, ha, ha!  Grace is scared, scared of the air.”
“It's not the air the frightens me, it's my tiny sister's enormous mouth," Grace answered, pinching Daisy's cheeks between her thumb and forefinger.
“They can't harm you if you don't let them,” Daisy quipped.
“And maybe if you were one yourself, and didn't exist, we could enjoy a respite from your all too large oral cavity!" Grace exclaimed, thrusting her sister's face away.
“Grace!  Look out!”  Daisy cried.  “Irving Kunkel's Ghastliness, Ghosts and Ghouls is about to float off the shelf, open, and settle in your hair.”
Her family looked at her curiously for making such a strange statement, and scrutinized her in amazement when the specified volume was perched like a small roof atop her sister's head.  Grace screamed and pushed it onto the floor, leaping backward in fear.
“How did you do that?” Cyril cried.
Daisy could not answer; first she giggled hysterically, then sobbed uncontrollably.  After her mother consoled her, her father repeated the question.
“I don't know how I did it,” she sobbed.  “I didn't do it!  I just blurted it out and it happened.  I don't know how or why, but I don't like it.”
“Who's afraid of the air now?” Candice remarked.
“Shut up and go away!”
“I know what made you say it!” Cyril pronounced.  “Everyone start walking around the room; search for cold air and other signs of supernormal.”
“Nell!  How did you do that?” Ned demanded to know of his wife.
“I don't know!" Nell answered with exasperation.  "I was just testing, how shall I say, the water of their bodies, and when I slipped inside her, and her only, I sensed I could talk.  A clever stunt I just engineered, and funny, don't you think?  Look how frantic they are.  Should I have Daisy put Cyril in the deep freeze?”
“DON'T DO ANYTHING ELSE!” Ned screamed.  “If this is our last chance and it escapes us, I'll be trapped here with you till the end of this eternity, and any possible eternities that might follow!”
“I wonder how she sounds when she sings?”
“There is no chilly air in this room, Cyril,” Charlotte said.
“It doesn't matter, I can sense their presence anyway," Cyril declared with all confidence.  "There will be more cold spots of air, and book throwings, and drafts, and rappings, and with luck we'll make direct communication when we have the seance, which I'm going to begin arranging immediately.  I want everyone to start keeping a journal; record any thoughts, feelings, observations and experiences you have concerning Tarby Manor and the apparitions that are residing here.”
“I don't want to stay,” Grace said, “and I’m not going to.”
“Nor do I,” Daisy added.
“Girls,” their mother said, “for the fiftieth time, there is nowhere else for you to go, and if something does happen that we fear for your safety, which is so highly unlikely as to be next to impossible, we'll make other arrangements; but until then get used to it.”
“I don't object to living here,” Candice said, picking up the book from the floor and returning it to the shelf.  “Unlike my tender, timid sisters, I find it intriguing.  I'm going to have a look around; if either of you quivering butterflies wish to accompany me you may, but I'm not afraid to go alone.”
“No thank you.”
“No thank you.”
“Very well,” she replied with airs, and sauntered from the room.
“I don't want to stay in here,” Grace said, “and I don't want to be alone.”
"We don't want to be alone,” Daisy amended.
“Why don't you two come help me in the yard,” Charlotte suggested.
“Let's get started now,” said Grace.  “I'll do anything to get out of this dusty, musty dungeon.”
“I like Candice,” Nell said.  “She's witty, spunky, and absolutely beautiful.”
“Take the mote from your eye before you behold, for she's not half so lovely as Grace," Ned answered dreamily.  "Candice seems too much like you, in every ugly way.”
“Then you shall grow to love her as dearly as you already do me.”
“Not in ten thousand ages!" he screamed.  "The word of four letters to describe my feelings toward you begins with H and rhymes with fate.  If I had the choice to make again, I know already that I would wait until someone as sweet as Grace came along.  The only person Nell knows how to love is her own frozen self.”
“Fie, graceless codger!  You never had a full candle, much less a flame to warm the inside of my heart.  And you waxed colder and colder and smaller and smaller, until all that remained was an infinitesimal icicle.  Drip and tickle, drip and tickle, never satisfied.”
“You are a nasty, miserable, venomous witch!”
“Humdrum, doldrum chum, bang you conundrum--dum dum!  Humdrum, doldrum chum, bang your conundrum--dum dum!  Humdrum, doldrum....”