Saturday, February 5, 2011

Chapter 6

Problems. Unlike Fates, Problems come in all shapes and sizes. Some of Horace's problems had very distinct shapes and sizes. One was small and furry. Another was large and engulfed in flames. But his third had neither size nor shape. That was precisely the Problem.

Problems are very social interdimensional creatures. They will often travel in packs. (footnote: technically, Problems, like lions, travel in prides. And very rarely has anyone experienced a pride of lions without also having to deal with a pride of Problems.) And if a group (that is, pride) of Problems has already taken shape somewhere, passing Problems will likely join or worry that they're missing out. Herbert's life at this moment was a Problem's New Years Eve on Times Square. Problem crowd control would have been called in long ago if such a thing existed.

Hutley's problem was also a bit more difficult to size-up; the only possible silver lining is that his Problem was so mean, so nasty, fat and ugly that the other Problems would keep their distance.

But Hutley was pretty sure that the squirrelly-looking man holding the actually squirrelly-looking creature had just blown up that possibility. It was raining problems outside and Horace had just tracked them in on Hutley's carpet of life.

"I've got my own problems," Hutley told a bewildered Horace. "I don't need your problems, too."

The Rage in Horace had been building for some time. It started, he assumed, in childhood, rose through puberty, pimples, and a series of excruciatingly bad first dates. It picked up pace with the early onset male pattern baldness, and threatened to break loose every time Horace was forced to interact with other people. He kept it buried deep in his gut, but he had felt it working its way up. And then, like food poisoning, the Rage gave him a swift kick to the gut and Fury spewed from his mouth.

"NO. This is your job. You are going to take care of this. I don't deserve this. This isn't my fault." He looked up to the heavens in desparation. "Why won't everyone just leave me alone?" But then his Rage focused his attention back on Hutley. "You IDIOT. Stop your blubbering. Take it. You're going to fix this because its your job!"

Horace ran up to Hutley, forced Herbert into his hands, turned around, and ran out of the room. It was a very dramatic moment, but Horace also knew any worthwhile cathartic experience is followed by tears, and crying in front of Hutley after that performance would be somewhat humiliating.

With Horace out of the room, Hutley looked down at the Dinkle and said, to himself but out loud, "Wow. I think that guys even crazier than I am."

"I think you're all wack jobs," Herbert told him.

And Lord Hutley, apparently unaware that the fat squirrel was, in fact, a talking fat squirrel, fainted.


Mary and Murrey were confident they were on the right track. Had they been a little more observant of their surroundings, they definitely would not have been so confident. The Hictorian Desert is dry because storm clouds are too scared to even fly over, but Mary and Murrey breezed lightly across it like they were on an afternoon stroll. When they came to the Great Cliffs, which mark the border of the Hictorian Desert (the wind literally stops at the edge of the desert, creating the world's steepest mountain range), they just followed the wind-carved steps, each the perfect height for a Dinkle, to top, and then rode down the other side on a large piece bark, rounded just right for the smoothest ride down. They sledded down to the edge of and into the Rhumes River, and floated through the snake-infested Rhumes Jungle on their bark boat.

Every time one of the twins felt a twinge of hunger or thirst, they found the solution at hand. Nuts were scattered across their trail, which was most remarkable because no trees had grown in the Hictorian Desert for decades. At one point, water literally spouted out of the ground when Mary felt a tinge of thirst. While floating down the river, a fire-breathing bass jumped into the bark boat, started a small fire with its last breath, which then cooked the fish just before burning itself out. Mary and Murrey found that they were more heroic then even they, themselves, had anticipated.


Sneaux and Pinkle had been lying on their stomachs, listening for Pinkle's predator, for a full 15 minutes before Pinkle decided the coast was clear; Sneaux would have lost patience much earlier, but he'd fallen asleep long ago. Of course, they were only 50 feet from a 60 foot waterfall, so any predator that Pinkle might have heard must have been the worst predator in the world, with the stealth abilities of a novice bagpiper. Also, if there were a predator, the Dinkles were very lucky to be only 50 feet from a 60 foot waterfall, because little else could have drowned out Sneaux's snoring. Pinkle, only several inches from his fellow Dinkle, could only sense a mild rumble in the ground underneath him.

The Posselut. The posselut is one of the world's most fearsome predators. Its teeth were half as long as its body, and its claws were as long as the other half. In place of fur, it had porcupine needles loaded with a strong sedative that could be used to target a potential meal. It roar was so loud that it could also be used as a weapon; the posselut avoided damaging itself by outrunning sound itself.

Evolution, realizing that it had let this one get too far, afflicted the posselut with one, seemingly minor, flaw. Posseluts, at all times and in all places, had the hiccups. Hiccups are, of course, very annoying, but if you have the sonorous capacity of a Boeing 747, hiccups are a bit more severe. In normal conditions, the posselut can't avoid alerting any potential prey in a one mile radius of its presence. In effect, Evolution had banished the posselut to the small area surrounding the few hundred waterfalls on Lutranean B. Darfinians, Lutranea, and Aranas, like any other self-respecting species, tended to be afraid of graveyards, snake pits, and creepy clowns, but nothing evoked more fear from the general residents of Lutranean B than a large waterfall.

Sneaux and Pinkle had never heard of posseluts, but Pinkle had heard a posselut. . . .


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