contains no walruses (walri?)    

June 10th, 2010

A woman drove me to drink, and I never even wrote to thank her.

W.C. Fields

I don't want money badly enough to work for it.

William Faulkner


Old man with bad knees seeks young man with good knees who is willing to trade. Will throw in a Weed-whacker that still works (more or less) and a copy of Loofah Times Magazine from 2001 (cover missing). Box 867.
For rent: smallish van dyke. Ideal for looking like a 17th Century Dutchman. Hourly and daily rates available. Box 9.
Sexually impudent male with a small grant seeks serious (but open) minded female for research purposes. Must provide own elf costume. Box 290.
Ever wonder what it would be like to be poked in the eye with a drinking straw attached to a small statuette of Michelangelo's David or perhaps Brancusi's The Kiss? You may have a problem. Contact The Institute of Strange Desires located in Grebe, Sakatchewan. Mark all correspondence Attn: Dr. Hoodie Manoodie.
Yes, we have no bananas but we do have plantains. Come to Johnny's House of Elongated Fruit on Panet Road for all your plantain needs.
Wanted: large bunch of bananas with no bruising. Sorry this ad isn't funnier. Box 11.
For sale: old copies of Hi, How Are You Today?: A History of Telephone Soliciting. Most slightly soiled but still, un- fortunately, readable. $1 each. Box 668.
Wanted: anyone willing to dress up like a mouse and touch my bum. Box 2.
I am attempting to set a World Record for most classified ads posted on the Internet. That's one.
Wanted: a copy of Ludwig Burstpleen's masterwork: I've Got Nobody: The Sad Art of Being Alone. Will pay almost anything. Please call. Please. I'm home all the time. I don't go out. If I don't answer let it ring. I'm probably just in the bathtub. But I'll get out. Don't hang up. Think of me running, wet in a towel. How sad will I be if I pick up the receiver and hear that dial tone. Do you really want to hurt me in that way? [Name and phone number witheld by request].

The Mystery of the Lost Lenore

Listen to Part Sixty

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Or start from the beginning.



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The Case of the Shattered Walrus

It was a Wednesday and as everyone knows Wednesday is a day on which things do not happen. That was a truism that I had long ago absorbed and by which I had long governed my affairs (at least as far as they were connected with Wednesdays). But on the Wednesday in question, against all my previous experience of Wednesdays and all my accumulated Wednesday knowledge something happened. And it was not a good something.

As was usual for a Wednesday I had picked up two coffees (actually a latte for myself and a double espresso long for my employer) at the local cafe and sauntered over to the newsstand to pick up the morning paper before heading in the office. There I engaged in a little flirty repartee with the newsstand girl, Dora.

"Hey Dora, you're looking pretty dang sharp this a.m."

"Just pay for the damn paper, smart guy."

So far it was your usual Wednesday morning but as I turned to walk away from the lovely Dora's kiosk I saw something strange. It was a penguin.

Now I realize that if you work in the zoo or an aquarium or live in Antarctica or thereabouts then the sight of a penguin is not something that particularly startles you but let me assure you, down in the Exchange District they are a pretty rare sight and if you see one going in the door of your employer's building you, if you are at all like me, are going to be set back on your heels a tad. And I was.

I was even more surprised when I got to the office and found the very same penguin (I assumed) seated across from my employer pretending to smoke a cigarette. Perhaps I should explain here a little about myself and say something about my employer, the Great Detective, Hugh G. Briss (not to be confused with the Great Publisher and Editor, Hugh J. Briss).

Mr. Briss billed himself as the World's Greatest Living and Real (Not Made Up) Detective. As far as I knew (which was not very far) this was true. He certainly was clever. He had solved, with very little difficulty, the Mystery of the Disappearing Bear Claws (some would say that was made easier by the fact that he was the one who had eaten them but I would never suggest such a thing) and apparently many other mysteries as well.

I was Briss's amanuensis and factotum. I was the make-it-so guy. Briss was grossly overweight and quite lazy as well so if there was any heavy lifting to be done or even any standing up or bending over, I was the one who did it.

I placed Briss's coffee on the desk beside him and went over and leaned on the filing cabinet so that I could see the penguin's face as he spoke to my employer. What he was saying was almost unbelievable.

The penguin, whose name was Egmont, was actually from Belgium and not Antarctica, as you might expect. He had come to this country a few years ago (he still had a slight Walloonish accent) with a walrus named Oscar. The two of them had had an uneasy relationship. They traveled together and lived together but they had never really been friends (or so the penguin said). It was more of an alliance by a pair of individuals in similar circumstances: they were new to the country, out of work and not totally at ease with the language yet.

The penguin led us to believe that he was the responsible one. He had rented the apartment, he had found them jobs (working in a Polar themed restaurant called Is it Me or Is it Cold in Here?) and paid the larger share of the 600 dollars they had spent on the motorcycle and sidecar they used to get to and from work. Now, it appeared, the walrus and the motorcycle were missing and Egmont the penguin was willing to pay to find them.

As the penguin finished his story I turned and looked into the fat eyes of my employer. He withdrew his finger from his nostril and sagely looked at his find before wiping it on his waistcoat. He cleared his throat. He opened his mouth.

"Monsieur Le Manchot, I will take" he paused "your case."

And so my employer, The Great Detective Hugh G. Briss, took the case. He would find, he said, the Belgian penguin Egmont's vanished roommate, the walrus Oscar, and return the missing motorcycle and sidecar. I had no idea how he planned to do this. After I closed the office door behind the exiting penguin I asked him.

One of the many, many irritating things about Briss is that he never answers a question right away. He seems to think it makes him look more contemplative if he files his nails, rummages in his desk or consumes several bear claws before he answers even the simplest of questions, like, "Is this your pen?" Personally, I don't care for it but I am getting used to it. Sometimes I will have a little lie down, go for a little walk (if I'm feeling energetic) or do a job of work while I'm waiting. I once did my taxes while waiting to hear if he wanted more cream in his coffee. In this case it was a fullish two hours before he responded.

A long wait is almost never rewarded, at least not in any thing resembling proportion. Briss sent me to the restaurant where the penguin and his roommate had worked in order to make inquiries.

Is it Me or Is it Cold in Here? was the most popular polar themed restaurant in the city (although both Roald's and Brrrr were both reasonably frequented) and so when I got there, even after the lunch rush, I had to wait before I could speak to the manager.

Mike Vollner, a Macaroni Penguin and the manager of Is it Me, was enjoying a plate of krill at his desk when I was ushered in by a large, unfriendly elephant seal in a squid stained apron. He waved me into a chair and continued stuffing his bill. I disliked him immediately.

He was a sloppy eater and a quite a lot of krill juice was dribbling down his face and finding its way on to his tuxedo front (I mean here his actual tuxedo front. He was wearing one.) This and the wait were certainly not improving my opinion of him. Finally he pushed his plate away and asked me what I wanted of him.

I explained I was looking for Oscar. He knew right away who I was talking about (or about whom I was talking, if you prefer).

"Freakin' odobenidae. No idea how to prepare krill. All those northern hemisphere types, ya know? " I didn't. What I wanted to know was how, if Vollner knew, the penguin and the walrus came to be associated, being, as they were, polar opposites.

"Belgians." That much I knew. Did he know more? "Same town, someplace near Ypres. Worked together in Brussels. They had all the same references." He paused and ran a flipper through his orangey crests slicking them back in what he no doubt considered an attractive fashion. It was obvious he was fairly vain. "I never would have hired that walrus if it wasn't for Egmont. Decent enough little guy for an Adelie."

He told me nothing else. It seemed he didn't know very much. I chatted to a couple of the other staff and found out nothing. I went back to the office to make my report feeling very much like I'd wasted my time. But, to my surprise, on my return I found that my employer, that great unmovable land mass, was nowhere to be found!

If you've paying attention so far (and there's really no reason why you should as even I have lost interest), you will know that our hero has been assisting the Great Detective, Hugh G. Briss (not to be confused with the publisher, Hugh J. Briss) in his attempt to find the penguin Egmont's disappeared former roommate and co-worker, the walrus Oscar who appears to have absconded with their mutual property, a motorcycle and sidecar (I'm sorry but I have no idea what the motorcycle's name was). When last we heard from our narrator he had returned to the office after making inquiries only to find his usually immoveable employer not there. Is that more or less clear? Too bad.

I had to take a minute to collect my thoughts when I discovered the empty office. I was so used to seeing the enormous bulk of my employer behind the desk that I couldn't even focus for a moment. I had no idea there was a window there. And rather a big window at that. Where could he have gone? And how? He was only borderline ambulatory as far as I knew. I searched my memory. Had I ever seen him walk anywhere? Or even stand? He had his food brought in. He ate the desk. But surely with all that eating he must have had to... I shuddered. I didn't want to think about it. And I sure didn't want to walk around to his side of the desk. There were 'clues' I didn't want to see.

He had gone out. He must have. There was nothing large enough in the room to conceal him. He wasn't hiding. He had to be outside somewhere. That was where I should start looking. Outside.

I went to Dora's kiosk. Not because I thought I would learn anything about Briss's disappearance there but because she was cute. But, it turned out, she had seen him. "Yah, I seen him waddle by about an hour ago. The shaking knocked over my honey pot."

As interested as I was in Dora's honey pot I took off in the direction she'd indicated. Not so much because I was inherently anxious to see my employer out and about but because of something Dora said.

"Oddest thing. He was carrying some Styrofoam tusks." Talk about your peaked curiosity! I shuttled off as quickly as I could, confident that I would soon overtake my obese boss. And I did. He was rumbling into Decanter's (They had to take one of the doors off its hinges). When I caught up with him he was sliding into a booth. Seated, rather uncomfortably, across from him was the penguin Egmont.

As I stood beside the booth waiting for Briss to stop wheezing I felt a flipper on my shoulder. I turned. It was an elephant seal. He excused himself and slipped into the booth beside the penguin. Given the great heaving girth of the World's Greatest Detective there was no longer any room for me at the table. I pulled up a chair.

Egmont was looking at the seal with some confusion. Fumbling he pulled a crayon out off his pack of Crayolas and pretended to light it with an old 'D' cell. It took a couple of tries before he got it pretend lit to his satisfaction. He took a deep drag, exhaled and said to the seal:


At this point Briss handed the seal the Styrofoam tusks which he slipped on. The penguin's reaction was immediate.

"Oscar!" They embraced, or sort of half embraced as best they could in the crowded confines of the booth. But then the penguin quickly pulled away.

"Where the hell's the motorcycle?"

"The time has come," the elephant seal, who had disguised himself as a walrus for many years, said, "to talk of many things."

I left.

C.F. Maynard