by Jeffrey M. Mahr and Andy Hollis
©1999 Jeffrey M. Mahr and Andy Hollis -- all rights reserved
A puntasy adventure wherein Don Quixote meets the Godfather, to the detriment of everyone's funnybone. Apologies are offered in advance.
"It were the best o' times. It were the worst o' times. Heck, it coulda been fast times here at Ridgemont for all I knew. See, I had a bit of a problem with the mead back then," the burro smacked his lips and brayed at his own humor while the songbird sitting on his head chirped contentedly. "Still have a bit of a need for the mead." He gently tapped his pewter mug against the table and waited patiently for one of his table mates to make an offer.
The bull just snorted, but the otter grinned as he spoke. "I see you have a keen sense of rumor."
"I mean you like to gossip."
As the burro blustered the otter smiled and banged his mug against the rough hewn table for attention. A saucy young vixen sashayed over with refills and the burro took a long draught before continuing.
"So tell us about this Don guy. What was his name? Don... Don Kickouty?"
"Conejote. It's Don Conejote. Maybe you remember him from Otis Bay."
His companions shook their heads no.
"It was back when he'd just been made a knight. Now that was something to see, it was. He had to spend several days in a vigil, fasting and praying. A real long day's journey into knight I can tell you that. But, like I was saying, he was assigned responsibility for maintaining peace and order in the harbor area, but got in trouble, like usual. Most people just wanted him to do nothing. They expected him to be sitting on the dock all day and let the smuggling and everything go on unimpeded, but the Don couldn't do that.
"He were all over the place, popping up here, nosing about there. He even made it out to the breakwater checking out in coming ships so often they gave him a nickname, one of his many nicknames. They called him the jetty knight." The bull snorted in disgust while the otter laughed so hard he near fell of his chair.
The burro just waited patiently with a slightly perplexed look on his face while he waited for his table mates to settle down. "To ah, continue, it were back in me more adventurous days, when me and the Don was traipsing about the countryside in search o' wrongs to be righted.
"You probably remember, it were just after the Civil War."
"The Woodpecker War?"
"That's the one. One faction broke away from the main group and formed a splinter group -- the Woodies. That was also the war where all the soldiers was bowing to each other before attacking and apologizing for each sword stroke.
"We never found a single one of them darned wrongs in need o' being picked up off its side and set upright, but that never stopped the Don. No matter how bad things got he always held his little cotton tail high. Of course, considering how them rabbits hop, I guess he'd kinda had to hold it high. But those were the days. No matter how hard the times got or how good they were the Don was always there ready for action. I guess that's why he always called himself a real hard days' knight." The burro paused for another draught.
"Hyper little bugger he were, couldn't keep his little pink nose outta other people's business. That's how we met the giant sloth."
The bull snorted again, this time in disbelief, but the otter just grinned and reminded him that this were Alice's place and to remember it's motto. The bull just snorted again. Not a talker that bull, but he waved for the burro to continue.
"It all started here at Alice's Tavern, about ten years ago. That were 'bout a year afore Guthrie, the old owner, retired.
"Anyways, Guthrie were a real penny-pincher and he had just cut us off for not producing enough cash on demand; our cash at his demand. Having no funds to continue our libations, and with the Don bouncing off the walls looking for something to do, we headed out for a walk; at least I walked while the Don, as usual, went bounding off in all directions at once.
"You'd think a body so active would burn off the booze pretty quickly, but not the Don. He were drunk as a skunk." The burro gasped and, realizing his mistake, the burro quickly glanced about hoping no one had heard as he muttered a quick, "No fragrance meant."
"We got 'bout ten miles from Ridgemont when suddenly the Don froze, all except his tail that were still twitching like mad. Now I tell you true, I never saw nothing but a fat old sloth sitting on a lone tree limb beside the road with a robin sitting on it's head just singing away as gay as all get out, but that's not what he saw, no sir. He saw a princess holding on for dear life to a giant ogre's hairy pate and calling for help. So help me that's what he said he saw. I swear it on me dam's grave, may she rest in peace.
"He called to the robin but she just kept tweeting and pecking, which made the sloth swipe at her in that slow motion way they do everything."
"Not everything, my friend." The otter nodded knowingly. "There's one thing they do lickety split, if you ask the ladies that is."
"I wouldn't know about that kind benefactor," the ass saluted with his mug while the bull snorted, this time in amusement... until he saw the mug was almost empty and the burro was smacking its lips dryly. Frustrated at not wanting to pay for more mead for the already half looped ass but wanting to hear the story to its end, he finally broke down and bellowed for another round.
"All I know is that it were taking turns and using all four limbs at different times as it tried to knock the fowl creature off its head, but never once managed to touch it. The Don though, he stood right under them shouting and prancing about waving that bent foil of his like he was gonna to attack. Good thing he didn't. All the sloth woulda had to do was fall out of the tree and the Don woulda been crushed beneath it.
"Oh giant ogre," he called with his high reedy voice, "release your beauteous captive or prepare to do battle. I am I, Don Conejote, the lapin de La Muncha."
"Did you ever see a fast sloth?" Sancho's table mates grunted their nays. "Neither did I, and this one were no exception. It hadn't even realized it were being spoken to yet the Don were already attacking it; bouncing up and down beneath it with his sword stretching skyward, or more accurately, to a place on that sloth that rarely if ever saw the sky.
"You mean?" the otter asked.
"You are correct, sir. That sloth were about to get a shaft in his shank, a broadsword in his broadside, a rapier in his rump, a..."
"Enough. Your point is made," the bull snorted confusedly as the otter began to laugh hysterically.
"I've a haunch you're right on the butt..." The bull glared at the otter who quickly bit back the conclusion of his retort but could not wipe away a huge grin. The burro glanced from one tablemate to the other to see if it was safe to continue.
"To return to the story, the bird glanced down once to see what the commotion were and then promptly returned to her pecking. If anything, the chirping grew louder, almost as if she was laughing at the terpsichore o' the rabbit below.
"Enraged at being ignored the Don made one last leap, even more prodigious than the others, and the tip of his sword pricked the sloth's lower extremities just enough to get it's attention. With the same slow movements it had use trying to dislodge the songbird, the sloth swooped an arm down and around in a roundhouse swipe that the Don easily avoided.
"That's when disaster struck. The sloth was using it's two forepaws in its unsuccessful attempts to brush the bird off its head and one of its hind legs to strike out at the Don. That left it hanging from one leg as the tree limb bounced even more vigorously from its sluggish flailing; and suddenly the bouncing bough broke, spilling sloth and robin onto a surprised rabbit."
"It were a miracle he weren't injured. They sprawled there, both with the breath knocked out of them while the bird ran in circles, tweeting disgustedly, if I were any judge o' bird songs. After two or three turns of the tree it jumped up on me head where it's been ever since." The burro shook it's head and the bird fluttered it's wings, but refused to leave his head.
"The sloth ponderously righted itself and then focused its indignant anger at the Don. In the fastest movement I ever saw from a sloth it grabbed the Don and scurried up the tree to a much higher branch than before and hung there dangling the Don just inches from its face. Don't let the fact that sloths have no teeth or that they are vegetarians fool you. The Don were dangling just inches from a mouth big enough to swallow him, flatten him, and spit him back out, and that mouth were attached to one angry sloth.
"That were when the Don came out with his trademark phrase. He calmly looked the sloth in the eye with a faint smile on his face and said, 'Imma gonna make you an offer you cannot refuse.'"
"So what did he offer it?" The bull was finally feeling it's mead and belched mightily. The extra stomachs that made it reverberate.
"After it were all over I asked him that question and he gave me the strangest answer. He said he offered the sloth a recipe."
"What?" Even the otter was confused by that answer and said so after it belched mightily.
"That's what he told me. He said he described in loving detail how he was going to skin the sloth alive and prepare it in a wine sauce with fava beans. He said, and I quote here, 'Too many cooks boil the sloth.'"
"So the sloth let him go?" The bull was incredulous.
"Well, no. You see the sloth were also a mage. Turns out the songbird had been a princess, until the sloth transmogrified her; but that's another story.
"The sloth said some words and waved it's hands strangely. Within seconds the Don too were transmogrified. Apparently the sloth wanted the time to think up a really good punishment, so he turned the Don into a Brownie." The burro continued quickly as he saw the looks of confusion on the others' faces. "You know about Brownies right, small magical humans who live in forests and never leave them?"
"Yes, of course." Both rapidly assured the burro of their complete and total understanding of all things Brownie.
"Then you remember that this were the only tree for miles?"
"Yeah." But it was a tentative agreement at best.
"That means the Don were now stuck. He couldn't leave the tree and the field just behind it 'cause it were the only tree. In effect, it were his forest."
"Sure. We understood that from the beginning." The burro smiled knowingly and slowly sipped his draught before continuing.
"I think he's there to this day, which is why I now spend me time drinking me regrets to an old friend.
"The sloth were in no rush to extract it's punishment on the Don. I once heard one of the clerics talking about sadists and masochists. They're people who like to hurt people and people who like to be hurt. The cleric were speaking in riddles like they always do and he asked, 'What is the best thing a sadist can do to a masochist?'"
"At first I didn't understand the cleric's answer and like all clerics he did answer his own question, but watching the Don bounding about struggling unsuccessfully day after day to get away, I think now I do. The cleric's answer were, 'Nothing.'"
Keeping a straight face the bull asked, "So what finally happened to the rabbit -- I mean Brownie?"
"As I said, he were never good at staying still. As far as I know he's still bouncing about trying to get away. He's too small to be seen over the grass, but you can see him still making the grass move and the tree shake. Just look for a lone tree with a backfield in motion."
With a near superhuman example of self-control, at least for an otter, there was a moment's silence and then, from the otter, "For a minute there I though you were going to offer him up as an example of Brownian Motion."
The bull lowed balefully, but the otter just sighed and began taking off its vest. "You've provided an excellent night's entertainment and I'll return the favor by ridding you of yon songbird. Take this vest and put it on."
While the burro struggled into a vest many sizes too small for him the otter called over the vixen who had been waiting on them and whispered something to her. She listened briefly and then nodded her head before heading off to the kitchen. Moments later she returned and handed the otter a small cube of yeast.
Turning to the burro, the otter continued, "Place this yeast under your mane."
"I don't understand. How is this going to rid me of this bird nesting there?"
"Just do it and I'll explain."
Hesitantly, the burro took the proffered cube of yeast and touched it to his hair. The bird chirped once and flew away.
"Amazing that bird's been sitting there for almost a year, but I don't understand. What made it leave at last?"
The otter poked the bull and winked while the bull rolled it's eyes and groaned mightily in anticipation of what was to come. "My dear burro, it should be obvious. Yeast is yeast, and vest is vest, and never the mane shall tweet."
About the Authors
Jeff Mahr is the happily married father of three plus one very furry cat, a parakeet, and a constantly varying number of hamsters. He has been reading science fiction since eight years of age and first became interested in transformations reading Heinlein's "I Will Fear No Evil."
Andy Hollis has been writing fantasy and transformation stories since grade school. He is married, forty something and working on several novels as well as short stories. He is into Russian Music, English Literature and is learning the balalaika.