Read an Excerpt
It’s My Party and I’ll Snub Who I Want To
When Mr. Dildo Bugger of Bug End grudgingly announced his intention of throwing a free feed for all the boggies in his part of the Sty, the reaction in Boggietown was immediate—all through the messy little slum could be heard squeals of “Swell!” and “Hot puppies, grub!” Slavering with anticipation, several recipients of the invitations devoured their little engraved scrolls, temporarily deranged by transports of gluttony. After the initial hysteria, however, the boggies returned to their daily routines and, as is their wont, lapsed back into a coma.
Nevertheless, jabbering rumors spread through the tatty lean-tos of recent shipments of whole, bewildered oxen, great barrels of foamy suds, fireworks, tons of potato greens, and gigantic hogsheads of hogs’ heads. Even huge bales of freshly harvested stingwort, a popular and remarkably powerful emetic, were carted into town. News of the fête reached even unto the Gallowine, and the outlying residents of the Sty began to drift into town like peripatetic leeches, each intent on an orgy of freeloading that would make a lamprey look like a piker.
No one in the Sty had a more bottomless gullet than that drooling and senile old gossip Haf Gangree. Haf had spent his life as the town’s faithful beadle, and had long since retired on the proceeds of his thriving blackmail racket.
Tonight, Fatlip, as he was called, was holding forth at the Bag Eye, a sleazy dive more than once closed down by Mayor Fastbuck for the dubious behavior of the establishment’s buxom “B-boggies,” who were said to be able to roll a troll before you could say “Rumpelstiltskin.” The usual collection of sodden oafs were there, including Fatlip’s son, Spam Gangree,1 who was presently celebrating his suspended sentence for the performing of an unnatural act with an underage female dragon of the opposite sex.
“The whole thing smells pretty queer to me,” said Fatlip, as he inhaled the acrid fumes of his nose-pipe. “I’m meaning the way Mr. Bugger is throwing this big bash when for years he’s not so much as offered a piece o’ moldy cheese to his neighbors.” The listeners nodded silently, for this was certainly the case. Even before Dildo’s “strange disappearance” he had kept his burrow at Bug End guarded by fierce wolverines, and in no one’s memory had he ever contributed a farthing to the Boggietown Annual Mithril Drive for Homeless Banshees. The fact that no one else ever had either did not excuse Dildo’s famed stinginess. He kept to himself, nurturing only his nephew and a mania for dirty Scrabble.
“And that boy of his, Frito,” added bleary-eyed Nat Clubfoot, “as crazy as a woodpecker, that one is.” This was verified by Old Poop of Backwater, among others. For who hadn’t seen young Frito walking aimlessly through the crooked streets of Boggietown, carrying little clumps of flowers and muttering about “truth and beauty” and blurting out silly nonsense like “Cogito ergo boggum”?
“He’s an odd one, all right,” said Fatlip, “and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if there weren’t something in that talk of his having dwarfish sympathies.” At this point there was an embarrassed silence, particularly from young Spam, who had never believed the unproved charges that the Buggers were “scroll-carrying dwarves.” As Spam pointed out, real dwarves were shorter and smelled much worse than boggies.
“That’s pretty stout talk,” laughed Fatlip, wagging his right foreleg, “about a body what’s only borrowed the name of Bugger!”
“Aye,” chimed Clotty Peristalt. “If that Frito weren’t the seed of a crossbow wedding, then I don’t know lunch from din-din!” The roisterers all laughed aloud as they remembered Frito’s mother, Dildo’s sister, who rashly plighted her troth to someone from the wrong side of the Gallowine (someone known to be a hafling, i.e., part boggie, part opossum). Several of the members took this up and there followed a series of coarse2 and rather simpleminded jests at the expense of the Buggers.
“What’s more,” said Fatlip, “Dildo’s always acting . . . mysterious, if you know what I mean.”
“There are those that say he acts like he’s got something to hide, they say,” came a strange voice from the corner shadows. The voice belonged to a man, a stranger to the boggies of the Bag Eye, a stranger they had understandably overlooked because of his rather ordinary black cape, black chain mail, black mace, black dirk, and perfectly normal red glowing fires where his eyes should have been.
“Them what say that may be right,” agreed Fatlip, winking at his cronies to tell them a punch line was coming. “But them that say such may be wrong, too.” After the general hilarity resulting from the typical Gangree gaff died down, few had noticed that the stranger had disappeared, leaving only a strange, barnyard odor behind him.
“But,” insisted little Spam, “it will be a good party!”
To this they all agreed, for there was nothing a boggie loved more than an opportunity to stuff himself until he was violently ill.
• • •
The season was cool, early autumn, heralding the annual change in the boggie dessert from whole watermelons to whole pumpkins. But the younger boggies who were not yet too obese to trundle their hulkish selves through the thoroughfares of the town saw evidence of a future treat at the forthcoming celebration: fireworks!
As the day of the party drew nearer, carts drawn by sturdy plow-goats rolled through the bullrush gates of Boggietown, laden with boxes and crates, each bearing the X-rune of Goodgulf the Wizard and various elvish brand names.
The crates were unloaded and opened at Dildo’s door, and the mewling boggies wagged their vestigial tails with wonder at the marvelous contents. There were clusters of tubes mounted on tripods to shoot rather outsized roman candles; fat, finned skyrockets, with odd little buttons at the front end, weighing hundreds of pounds; a revolving cylinder of tubes with a crank to turn them; and large “cherry bombs” that looked to the children more like little green pineapples with a ring inserted at the top. Each crate was labeled with an olive-drab elf-rune signifying that these toys had been made in the elf-shops of a fairy whose name was something very much like “Amy Surplus.”
Dildo watched the unpacking with a broad grin and sent the young ones scampering with a vicious swipe of a well-honed toenail. “G’wan, beat it, scram!” he called merrily after them as they disappeared. He then laughed and turned back to his boggie-hole, to talk to his guest within.
• • •
“This’ll be one fireworks display they won’t forget,” cackled the ageing boggie to Goodgulf, who was puffing his cigar rather uncomfortably in a chair of tasteless elvish-modern. The floor around it was littered with four-letter Scrabble arrangements.
“I am afraid that you must alter your plans for them,” said the Wizard, unsnaggling a clot of tangled hair in his long, dirty gray beard. “You cannot use extermination as a method for settling your petty grudges with the townspeople.”
Dildo studied his old friend with shrewd appraisal. The old Wizard was robed in a threadbare magician’s cloak long out of fashion, with a few spangles and sequins hanging precariously at the ragged hem. On his head was a tall, battered conical hat sloppily covered with glow-in-the-dark cabalistic signs, alchemical symbols, and some off-color dwarfish graffiti, and in his gnarled, nail-bitten hands was a bent length of silvered maggotwood that served doubly as a “magic” wand and back scratcher. At this moment Goodgulf was using it in its second office as he studied the worn toes of what in these days would be taken for black basketball sneakers. High-tops.
“Looking a little down-at-the-heels, Gulfie,” chuckled Dildo. “Slump in the old Wizard racket, eh?”
Goodgulf looked pained at the use of his old school nickname, but adjusted his robes with dignity. “It is no fault of mine that unbelievers ridicule my powers,” he said. “My wonders will yet again make all gape and quail!” Suddenly he made a pass with his scratcher and the room was plunged into darkness. Through the blackness Dildo saw that Goodgulf’s robes had become radiant and bright. Odd letters appeared mysteriously on the front of his robe, reading in elvish, Will Thee Kiss Me in the Dark, Baby?
Just as suddenly the light returned to the comfortable burrow, and the inscription faded from the conjurer’s breast. Dildo rolled his eyes upward in his head and shrugged.
“Really now, Gulfie,” said Dildo, “that kind of stuff went out with high-button greaves. No wonder you’ve got to moonlight card sharking at hick carny shows.”
Goodgulf was unperturbed by his friend’s sarcasm. “Do not mock powers beyond your knowledge, impudent hairfoot,” he said, as five aces materialized in his hand, “for you see the efficacy of my enchantments!”
“All I see is that you’ve finally got the hang of that silly sleeve-spring,” chuckled the boggie as he poured a bowl of ale for his old companion. “So why don’t you leave off with your white-mice-and-pixie-dust routine and tell me why you’ve honored me with your presence? And appetite.”
The Wizard paused a moment before speaking to focus his eyes, which had recently developed a tendency to cross, and looked gravely at Dildo.
“It is time to talk of the Ring,” he said.
“Ring, ring? What ring?” said Dildo.
“Thee knows only too well what Ring,” said Goodgulf. “The Ring in thy pocket, Master Bugger.”
“Oooooh, that Ring,” said Dildo with a show of innocence, “I thought you meant the ring you leave in my tub after your séances with your rubber duck.”
“This is not the time for the making of jests,” said Goodgulf, “for Evil Ones are afoot in the lands, and danger is abroad.”
“But—” began Dildo.
“Strange things are stirring in the East . . .”
“Doom is walking the High Road . . .”
“There is a dog in the manger . . .”
“A fly in the ointment . . .”
Dildo clapped his paw frantically over the working mouth of the Wizard.
“You mean . . . you mean,” he whispered, “there’s a Balrog in the woodpile?”
“Mmummffleflug!” affirmed the gagged magician.
Dildo’s worst fears had come to pass. After the party, he thought, there would be much to be decided.
• • •
Although only two hundred invitations had been sent, Frito Bugger should not have been surprised to see several times that number sitting at the huge troughlike tables under the great pavilion in the Bugger meadows. His young eyes widened as he moped about, observing legions of ravenous muzzles tearing and snatching at their roasts and joints, oblivious to all else. Few faces were familiar to him in the grunting, belching press that lined the gorging-tables, but fewer still were not already completely disguised in masks of dried gravy and meat sauce. It was only then that the young boggie realized the truth in Dildo’s favorite adage, “It takes a heap o’ vittles to gag a boggie.”
It was, nevertheless, a splendid party, decided Frito, as he dodged a flying ham hock. Great pits had been dug simply to accommodate the mountains of scorched flesh the guests threw down their well-muscled throats, and his uncle Dildo had devised an ingenious series of pipelines to gravity flow the hundreds of gallons of heady ale into their limitless paunches. Moodily, Frito studied his fellow boggies as they noisily crammed their maws with potato greens and jammed stray bits of greasy flesh into their jackets and coin purses “for later.” Occasionally an overzealous diner would fall unconscious to the ground, much to the amusement of his fellows, who would take the opportunity to pelt him with garbage. Garbage, that is, that they weren’t stowing away “for later.”
All around Frito was the sight and sound of gnashing boggie teeth, gasping boggie esophagi, and groaning, pulsating boggie bellies. The din of the gnawing and munching almost drowned out the national anthem of the Sty, which the hired orchestra was now more or less performing.
“We boggies are a hairy folk
Who like to eat until we choke.
Loving all like friend and brother,
And hardly ever eat each other.
Ever hungry, ever thirsting,
Never stop till belly’s bursting.
Chewing chop and pork and muttons,
A merry race of boring gluttons.
Sing: Gobble, goggle, gobble, gobble,
Gobble, gobble, gobble, gobble.
Boggies gather round the table,
Eat as much as you are able.
Gorge yourselves from moon till noon
(Don’t forget your plate and spoon).
Anything edible, we’ve got dibs on,
And hope we all die with our bibs on.
Ever gay, we’ll never grow up,
Come! And sing and play and throw up!
Sing: Gobble, goggle, gobble, gobble,
Gobble, gobble, gobble, gobble!”
Frito wandered past the rows of tables, hoping to find the squat, familiar figure of Spam. “Gobble, gobble, gobble . . .” he murmured to himself, but the words seemed strange. Why did he feel so alone amidst the merrymakers, why had he always thought himself an intruder in his own village? Frito stared at the phalanxes of grinding molars and foot-long forked tongues that lolled from a hundred mouths, pink and wet in the afternoon sun.
At that moment there was a commotion at the head table, where Frito should have been sitting as a guest of honor. Uncle Dildo was standing on his bench and making motions for quiet, wishing to make his after-dinner speech. After a flurry of jeers and the knocking together of a few heads, every fuzzy, pointed ear and glass eye strained to catch what Dildo had to say.
My fellow boggies, he said, my fellow Poops and Peristalts, Barrelgutts and Hangbellies, Needlepoints, Liverflaps, and Nosethingers. (Nosefingers! corrected an irate drunk who, true to his family name, had it jammed into his nostril to the fourth joint.)
I hope you have all stuffed yourselves until you are about to be sick. This customary greeting was met with traditional volleys of farting and belching, signifying the guests’ approval of the fare.
I have lived in Boggietown, as you all know, most of my life, and I have developed opinions of you all, and before I leave you all for the last time, I want to let you all know what you have all meant to me. The crowd yelled approval, thinking that now was the time for Dildo to distribute the expected gifts among them. But what followed surprised even Frito, who looked at his uncle with shocked admiration. He had dropped his pants.
The riot that followed had best be left to the reader’s imagination, lame though it may be. But Dildo, having prepared by prearranged signal to touch off the fireworks, diverted the rage of the townsboggies. Suddenly there came a deafening roar and a blinding light. Bellowing with fright, the vengeful boggies hit the dirt as the cataclysmic tumult thundered and flashed around them. The noise died down, and the braver members of the lynch mob looked up in the hot wind that followed at the little hill where Dildo’s table had stood. It was not there any longer. Nor was Dildo.
• • •
“You should have seen their faces,” laughed Dildo to Goodgulf and Frito. Safely hidden back in his hole, the old boggie rocked with gleeful triumph. “They ran like spooked bunnies!”
“Bunnies or boggies, I told you to be careful,” said Goodgulf. “You may have hurt someone sorely.”
“No, no,” said Dildo, “all the shrapnel blew the other way. And it was a good way of getting a rise out of ’em before I left this burg for good.” Dildo stood up and began making a final check of his trunks, each carefully addressed “Riv’n’dell, Estrogen.” “Things are getting hot all over and it was a good way to start getting them off their obese duffs.”
“Hot all over?” asked Frito.
“Aye,” said Goodgulf. “Evil Ones are afoot in—”
“Not now,” interrupted Dildo impatiently. “Just tell Frito what you told me.”
“What your rude uncle means,” began the Wizard, “is that there have been many signs I have seen that bode ill for all, in the Sty and elsewhere.”
“Signs?” said Frito.
“Verily and forsooth,” replied Goodgulf darkly. “In the past year strange and fearful wonders I have seen. Fields sown with barley reap crabgrass and fungus, and even small gardens reject their artichoke hearts. There has been a hot day in December and a blue moon. Calendars are made with a month of Sundays and a blue-ribbon Holstein bore alive two insurance salesmen. The earth splits and the entrails of a goat were found tied in square knots. The face of the sun blackens and the skies have rained down soggy potato chips.”
“But what do all these things mean?” gasped Frito.
“Beats me,” said Goodgulf with a shrug, “but I thought it made good copy. But there is more. My spies tell me of black musters gathering in the East, in the dead Lands of Fordor. Hordes of foul narcs and trolls have multiplied and every day red-eyed wraiths skulk even unto the borders of the Sty. Soon there will be much terror in the land from the black hand of Sorhed.”3
“Sorhed!” cried Frito. “But Sorhed is no more.”
“Don’t believe everything you hear from the heralds,” said Dildo gravely. “It had been thought that Sorhed was forever destroyed at the Battle of Brylopad,4 but it appears this was just wishful thinking. Actually he and his Nine Nozdrul slipped out of the mopping-up cleverly disguised as a troupe of gypsy acrobatic dancers. Escaping through the Ngaio Marsh,5 they pushed their way into the suburbs of Fordor, where the property values dropped like a paralyzed falcon. From Fordor they have been renewing their strength ever since.”
“His Dark Carbuncle of Doom has swollen and soon will come to a head, covering the face of Lower Middle Earth with his ill humors. If we are to survive, the boil must be soundly lanced before Sorhed begins his own loathsome squeeze play.”
“But how can this be done?” said Frito.
“We must keep him from the one thing that can mean victory,” said Goodgulf. “We must keep from him the Great Ring!”
“And what is this ring?” said Frito, eyeing the possible exits from the hole.
“Cease thy eyeing of possible exits and I will tell thee,” Goodgulf reprimanded the frightened boggie. “Many ages ago, when boggies were yet wrestling with the chipmunks over hazelnuts, there were made Rings of Power in the Elven-Halls. Fashioned with a secret formula now known only to the makers of toothpastes, these fabulous Rings gave their wearers mickle powers. There were twenty in all: six for mastery of the lands, five for rule of the seas, three for dominion of the air, and two for the conquering of bad breath. With these Rings the people of past ages, both mortals and elves, lived in peace and grandeur.”
“But that only makes sixteen,” observed Frito. “What were the other four?”
“Recalled for factory defects,” laughed Dildo. “They tended to short-circuit in the rain and fry one’s finger off.”
“Save the Great One,” intoned Goodgulf, “for the Great Ring masters all the others, hence is now the most sought by Sorhed. Its powers and charms are shrouded in legend, and many works are said to be given to its wearer. It is said that, according to his powers, the wearer can perform impossible deeds, control all creatures to his bidding, vanquish invincible armies, converse with fish and fowl, bend steel in his bare hands, leap tall parapets at a single bound, win friends and influence people, fix parking tickets—”
“And get himself elected Queen of the May,” finished Dildo. “Anything he pleases!”
“This Great Ring is much desired by all, then,” said Frito.
“And they desire a curse!” cried Goodgulf, waving his wand with passion. “For as surely as the Ring gives power, just as surely it becomes the master! The wearer slowly changes, and never to the good. He grows mistrustful and jealous of his power as his heart hardens. He loves overmuch his strengths and develops stomach ulcers. He becomes logy and irritable, prone to neuritis, neuralgia, nagging backache, and frequent colds. Soon no one invites him to parties anymore.”
“A most horrible treasure, this Great Ring,” said Frito.
“And a horrible burden for he who bears it,” said Goodgulf. “For some unlucky one must carry it from Sorhed’s grasp into danger and certain doom. Someone must take the Ring to the Zazu Pits6 of Fordor, under the evil nose of the wrathful Sorhed, yet appear so unsuited to his task that he will not be soon found out.”
Frito shivered in sympathy for such an unfortunate. “Then the bearer should be a complete and utter dunce,” he laughed nervously.
Goodgulf glanced at Dildo, who nodded and casually flipped a small, shining object into Frito’s lap. It was a ring.
“Congratulations,” said Dildo somberly. “You’ve just won the booby prize.”
1 This refers to Spam, a canned precooked meat brand, and gangrene, the disease it typically causes.
2 Coarse to anyone except a boggie, of course.
3 Sorehead was a term for a person being a bad sport. When a sport was considered a bad sport, it was referred to as “curling.”
4 Brillo pads, now used as scouring pads for dishes, are widely considered history’s worst attempt at toilet paper.
5 Dame Ngaio Marsh was a New Zealand crime writer and director who conveniently has never been seen in the same room as Peter Jackson. Perhaps too conveniently.
6 ZaSu Pitts was an American silent film star whose transition to talkies was complicated by her constant screaming during shoots.