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(Ponsie and Carolyn, intrepid as always, have finally reached their destination, the Mortimer Mansion, with limbs intact and hearts of steel. They are, they believe, ready to face whatever dangers await them in their attempt to purloin the purloined Needle Knockers trophy snatched by the evil Letitia Mortimer right out from under the outraged nose of Ponsie’s Aunt Harriet. Finding the enormous footprints of a hound that must be the size of an elephant to have feet that big has, it must be admitted, somewhat dampened Ponsie’s enthusiasm but he is nevertheless bravely prepared to march into the future – provided Carolyn hasn’t forgotten to bring her doggie knock-out drops. They stand now at the bottom of the stairs leading up to the front porch like Hillary standing at the foot of K1.)

“It’s a long way up, isn’t it?” I said doubtfully.

In fact, standing at the bottom of the stairs and craning my neck just to see the top left me reeling with vertigo. Head spinning, I felt like Howard Carter must have felt the first time he stood at the bottom of the Cheops pyramid and thought, “There better be a Pizza Hut on top of this or I’m outa here.”

Carolyn took the first step in stride, of course. “What’s the matter with you?”

“Wait! Don’t we need crampons and safety belts? And those shoes with spikes in them?”

“Ponsie -”

“What if I fall?”

“Ponsie,” Carolyn snapped in frustration, “it’s only a porch for gawd’s-sake, it’s not the Eiffel Tower.”

“The Eiffel Tower has an elevator in it. I’d prefer that. Come on. Fly to Paris with me. I’ll pay.” At the time that seemed like a perfectly rational suggestion. I was already reaching for my credit cards.

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(As we rejoin our heroes, they are on the last stretch of highway to Brewster, where they will meet for the first time their archenemy, Letitia Mortimer, the fiend who stole Aunt Harriet’s treasured NKC Needle Knockers trophy, and make their plans for stealing it back. Isn’t this getting exciting? Finally? Or not.)

Neither of them had much to say after that. Carolyn seemed to feel that I had done the dirty to her erstwhile inamorata by getting him involved in wrestling, a sport of which who knew she wouldn’t approve, and I felt that I had helped a friend out of a ticklish financial situation with panache and daring. We were at an impasse. Silence reigned.

She shifted in her seat from time to time.

I held the wheel sometimes with my right hand and sometimes my left.

She crossed her legs and filed her nails with a high, whiny rasping that sounded in the otherwise tomb-like quiet of the car as if a dozen midgets had taken a dozen lumberjack saws to a forest of parking meters.

I retaliated with a wheezing nasal exhale that whistled “The Volga Boatmen” off-key.

She frowned and gnashed her teeth. “You know I hate that whistling thing you do with your nose,” she growled.

“And you know I don’t like that grinding noise you make when you sandpaper your fingernails.”

A grim silence descended on the Turd Furdus like a ballpeen hammer on the rigid skull of a Republican echo chamber. Carolyn seethed. I glowered. The road shimmered. A fog thickened. Overhead an owl screeched and was lost in the tall green pines. Then, finally, when the end was surely near and Brewster loomed blackly beneath the arch of the last violent Catskill, Hemingway relinquished control over my story, saying he couldn’t do a thing with it.

I knew how he felt. Read the rest of this entry »