NOT own them; that is, I
certainly don't own Heyoka and Murray, and I am this close to disowning Ted!
Really, they are too much! *groans dramatically* I just hope Mele and Peregrine
will ever forgive my idiot Muse for getting his buddies into yet another form
of trouble. Read on, gentle people, and weep ... December 2000
Bricks In The Attic
By: Dagmar Buse
Only sixteen more days until Christmas.
I had spent all morning and part of the afternoon shopping and finally had found some time to put up my aching feet, relax with a cup of coffee, chocolate chip-pecan cookies and a good book, when I heard a loud groan from the door. Followed by muted cursing and a clatter of something wooden on my tiled floor.
"Oh, what now?" I grumbled, and craned my neck in the direction from which the weird noises were emanating. What I saw nearly made me choke on my mouthful of cookie and spill the coffee all over my new pair of jeans.
"Good Lord, guys, what happened to YOU????"
Leaning pitifully against the doorjamb was Ted, my Polar Bear Muse, and his best buddies – Heyoka, Peregrine's Thunderchick Muse, and Murray, Mele's Frog Muse. All three were bruised and swathed in bandages; Heyoka's feathers in places were caked with blood, Ted was sporting a spectacular pair of black eyes which contrasted rather nicely with his white fur, and Murray was even on crutches. One of 'em had fallen, and that was the clatter I'd heard.
"You three didn't have a fight, did you?" I asked them as I lifted the Terrible Trio – well, more the Pathetic Posse right now – onto the couch and helped them get comfortable against the pillows. I did my best to ignore the groans and moans; it's not as if I wasn't sympathetic to their pain, but knowing those three, it was highly likely they'd gotten themselves into this state.
"'Course not," Ted mumbled through his swollen snout.
"Us? Never!" Murray protested, tucking his crutches into a corner.
"Would we do that?" Heyoka croaked, trying to adjust his splinted wing into a position where it wouldn't hurt.
I stared at all three.
"You don't really expect me to answer that, do you?" I finally enquired politely.
Murray, Ted and Heyoka looked back at me, at each other, and lastly at the ceiling, trying for an expression of innocence I stopped buying about half an hour after I'd first seen them together.
"Thought so. Okay, guys – spill it. I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt here; if you say you didn't inflict all this" I indicated their various injuries "on each other, fine. I believe you."
"Thanks," they said, but volunteered no other explanation. I waited for a few minutes, taking stock of the multiple abrasions and whatnot.
Murray, as stated, was on crutches, one hind flipper was in a cast and his small body was covered with at least half a dozen band-aids. Heyoka had somehow injured his right wing, his tail feathers were drooping and he had bandages on at least three claws. Ted had one arm immobilized because he'd hurt his collarbone, he was wearing a neck brace and a couple of minor dressings. All three wore turban-sized bandages around their heads. And I'm not even going to try starting to enumerate all the bruises and minor cuts visible all over their slick, furry and fluffy bodies.
"All right, who did you manage to piss off?"
I must've looked very skeptical, because all three hastened to tell me that they really hadn't gotten into an altercation with any other Muses. This time.
"Well, if you didn't have a fight, didn't manage to make one of the Dragon Muses angry at you and the Central Muse Agency didn't send any hitMuses after you, either, how come you're in this state?"
I could see that my question was making them very uncomfortable, though; Heyoka started preening his feathers, Murray whistled loudly, and my Ted was turning a very unlovely shade of pink. He really ought to learn how to control his blushes; white fur is not a good concealer. However, they remained stubbornly silent. Tough luck; after knowing them for well over a year, I knew how to handle them.
"Either you tell me NOW, or your New Year's party is hereby cancelled."
That got their attention. They started to protest, but I'm married and I have a teenaged son; the day I can't handle my Muse and his buddies is a LONG ways in coming.
"Come on, guys; surely it can't be that bad?" I coaxed; I knew I had already won.
Predictably (after all, he lives with me every day and knows I rarely make empty threats), Ted was the first to cave.
"Not bad, just ... kinda ... embarrassing," he muttered.
"Embarrassing? How?" I wanted to know, my curiosity now more than piqued.
"Well ... we had this really cunning plan, you see ..." Heyoka started, and I groaned inwardly. Being a Blackadder fan myself, I could tell that their newest mishap went WAY beyond embarrassing. "Bloody stupid" probably came much closer. I braced myself for the worst.
"This I've got to hear," I declared, putting my feet back up again after getting a fresh cup of coffee. "Tell!"
"Do we really hafta?" Murray tried to weasel out of it one more time, but I just gave each of them one of my Patented Looks. Yes, the one that says, "Do it – and do it NOW – OR ELSE!!!". Works like a charm. Every time. With deep sighs that almost qualified as miniature gales, the three started to talk.
"You see, it was like this," Ted began, grimacing as he bumped his collarbone against the backrest, "when you went shopping this morning, Heyoka and Murray both came by within half an hour of each other ...."
"We really need a meeting place of our own," Murray grumbled as he tried to jump onto the couch. It was rather high, even for a frog, and nearly impossible to reach in a single leap. "Someplace where we don't have to be so blasted careful all the time!"
""Good idea," Heyoka agreed, flapping his wings energetically to blow the cookie crumbs onto the carpet, in the hopes I wouldn't see them when I returned. "But where? Perry only has one room, and it's pretty crowded in there, what with all her stuff."
"I'd say my place, since Mele's at work all day, but her blasted dog will most likely stick her wet nose into everything. Besides, all the small fry always hang around there ..." He was referring to the three small frogs living with him, Ted's sidekick/ward Doug (a young Polar Bear reminiscent of Bulk and Skull – as graceful as Bulk and as smart as Skull) and Ted's baby twins. Twin babies. Whatever.
"Too many interruptions," Ted concurred. "Here's out of the question; with three full-sized Humans around, it's too crowded."
"What we need is a nest, a cave, a lair ... an eyrie," Heyoka mused aloud. "Someplace not too far from a computer, food within easy reach, but remote enough nobody will disturb us ..."
Ted frowned thoughtfully; something about the things his British buddy was enumerating tickled the back of his mind. He let his eyes sweep around the living room, listening with half an ear to our tenant's footsteps in the top-floor apartment. If that were empty ... or if there were a third floor ... they could use that, but the only thing above was a low attic, much too uncomfortable for Humans, and used only for storage. Suddenly, the little bear brightened.
"I've got it! Come with me, guys!"
Scrambling outside onto the terrace, he led his two friends around the house to a tall evergreen growing next to the front door. Ted started climbing up the swaying branches onto the roof, followed by a loudly complaining Murray.
"Where the heck are you going, you moron? I'm a frog, not a lizard!"
The frog's mood was not improved by the sight of a smugly grinning Heyoka who was waiting for them on top of the roof.
"How did you get up here so fast?" Murray wheezed, gasping for breath.
"I flew," the bird said, and hopped nimbly out of reach as Murray swiped half-heartedly at him.
"Couldn't you have taken me up, too?!?"
"Sure. Why didn't you ask?"
"Because ... because ..." Murray sputtered helplessly, glaring at his friend. Ted stepped in before an argument could ensue.
"Guys ... guys, don't, okay? Let's rather look at what I brought you up here for!"
The other two followed the little bear across the slippery brown shingles to a small window let into the sloping roof. Peering inside, they saw a narrow triangular passage, a bit dusty, but ideally suited for three small Muses.
"Well? Is that a hideout, or what?"
"Lookin' good," Heyoka admitted, seeing the potential of the location.
"Yeah ... now if we just had a way to get inside ..."
Just then, the front door closed with an audible bang, and a minute or so later, a car roared out of the driveway. The tenant had left for work.
"YES!" Ted cried, sliding down the roof on all fours, onto the terrace banister, into the hazel bush and back onto the terrace. "Now we're getting somewhere! Come ON, guys!"
Murray and Heyoka followed their host a little more sedately back into the house, then up the staircase and into the attic apartment. Ted indicated a trap door in the hallway ceiling.
"There's a folding ladder up there ...."
Hovering in mid-air, Heyoka managed to fasten a bit of string to the hook, and together the three Muses lowered the wooden ladder. They scrambled up the steep steps and looked around eagerly. The space was tight, much too small for a Human, but perfectly proportioned for the three friends.
"Isn't this great?" Ted beamed.
"It would be, if we could get rid of all this crap," Murray groused, looking distastefully at the leftover tiles, insulating bricks and other building materials we'd stashed up there for eventual repairs.
"We can put that stuff into The Kid's garden shed," Ted dismissed the comment. "There's plenty of room, and nobody ever goes in there, anyway."
"And how exactly do you propose we get all this from here to there?" Heyoka asked reasonably. "I can carry some of it, but not all; stones and stuff are different from Muses."
The three thought for a moment.
"Toss it out the window?" Murray suggested dubiously.
"No way," Ted objected. "The tiles will break, the bricks'll damage the terrace, and Dagmar will kill me if she sees the mess."
"Does the kid have a backpack or two that'll fit us?" Heyoka asked next. "We could use them ..."
"I think so," Ted answered. "I'm sure there's a couple tucked away in his closet somewhere ..."
"You're out of your mind," Murray objected, having made some mental calculations. He didn't live with an accountant for nothing, after all. "Just LOOK at all this stuff! It would take us AGES to carry it down the folding ladder, down the stairs, around the house, through the garden and into the shed. Then unload, come back up here, stash a new load and start all over again? I don't think so!"
"Hmm, yeah. After all, we want to use it sometime this century, don't we?"
Heyoka's question elicited nods all around, and the three Muses started looking for a different solution. After rummaging around the various building supplies, Ted suddenly came upon a length of sturdy rope. He turned it over between his paws, tested its strength and estimated its length.
Ted crawled further back to hunt up more treasures, an idea slowly forming in his mind. There ought to be something they could use up here somewhere ... yes!!! First, he came upon a wooden crate with two handles.
"What is?" Heyoka wanted to know, but Ted ignored him, digging deeper into the sundry items. In the hindmost corner, he was successful.
"HAH! Got it!"
"Got what?" Murray asked, looking on curiously as Ted returned to his friends, proudly bearing a large hook with a screw and dragging the crate and the rope behind him. "What d'you want to do with that?" the Frog wondered aloud, having no mechanical bent at all.
Trying futilely to brush the cobwebs out of his fur, Ted explained his plan.
"We don't want to cart all this stuff down in small loads, right?" he asked, receiving confirming nods from the other two. "Well, why not try to get it down all in one load? I'm pretty sure all the tiles and bricks can be stashed tightly in this crate ..."
"If you think even the three of us can carry it all in one piece down that ladder, you're even crazier than I thought," Heyoka protested. "Believe me, I know something about mass ratio and stuff, and ..."
"Who said anything about carrying?" my Muse interrupted, fairly dancing with glee. "We can just lower the stuff down with this rope, then pull the crate to the shed ..."
"Hm. Might work, if we had a pulley," the Thunderchick agreed.
"No such luck, but I found this!" Proudly, Ted displayed the curved hook. "It's not quite as good, but if we screw this into the roof overhang, then guide the rope through here ..."
"Good thinking, Ted! I think it could work!"
"Then what are we waiting for? Let's do it, guys!" Murray exclaimed enthusiastically, reaching for the first brick.
"Don't tell me you really tried levering the building materials down from the attic like that!" I exclaimed, half horrified and half amused. I sure hadn't known the three guys were that ingenious.
"Well, yeah," Ted admitted sheepishly, nibbling on a cookie he'd snatched from my plate. To his credit, I have to admit he'd offered some to his buddies, too; Murray declined, but Heyoka was making a mess, as usual. "It worked, too ... in theory, at least."
"What do you mean, in theory?" I wanted to know. I'm not exactly a genius in physics, but a certain suspicion began to dawn upon me. I knew just how many tiles and bricks we'd stashed in the attic; I also knew how big and sturdy that wooden crate was – once given to us by our vintner, with a special delivery of wine (meaning it was rather flimsy as crates go); and I could calculate the combined weight of the three boys quite well. Besides, the words 'in theory' always make me very, very careful.
"Um ... we had a few, uh, problems," Peregrine's Thunderchick confessed rather sheepishly.
"What problems?" I started to expect the worst ... and I certainly wasn't disappointed. "Give!"
The Bird sighed, tried to fold his injured wing, thought better of it and continued the tale.
"Okay, all done," Murray panted, carefully easing a last tile into a corner. Being the smallest, he had to strain more, but he'd done his share of the work. Not without complaining loudly, true, but he'd done it. "Are you two ready with the hook?"
"All set and tight," Ted confirmed. "Now we need to tie the rope to the handles, like this ..." he fashioned two imperfect but tight knots, "thread the rope through here ..." it took him two tries, but with Heyoka's help managed, "and we're ready to go."
"Right," Heyoka agreed, tugging at the rope. It looped securely through the hook, and the knots would hold, too.
"You two go down and hold on to the rope, and I'll push the crate clear."
Murray and Ted scrambled down to the lawn and took up positions below and slightly to the side of the attic window. Ted was in the anchor position, the rope fastened around his ample tummy, and Murray had the rope wrapped around both hands.
"As we'll ever be."
"Right. Here goes nothing!"
With a mighty push, Heyoka tilted the laden crate out of the window. It began its descent at a far faster rate than the three had calculated, and the young bird quickly fluttered down to his friends, hooking his claws firmly to the rope. All three held on for dear life.
What the three wannabe geniuses had failed to consider was that a wooden crate full of stones and tiles was way heavier than a kitten-sized frog, a toy-poodle-sized bear and a chick not much bigger than a dwarf rabbit.
As a consequence, the crate fell ... well, like a ton of bricks, and since the three were holdng tightly to the rope, they were yanked off the ground since they didn't have much of a counterweight. At all. Our house only has two floors, but it's built on a slope and high enough, given their relative small size; they might as well have tried the Sears Tower.
About halfway up, they met the crate coming down; that's what damaged Heyoka's wing. They still held on. When the crate landed, about half the contents spilled out, and the three Stooge-, uh, Muses simultaneously hit the roof overhang. That's how Murray got his concussion; I had suspected it from his rather woozy expression.
Determination won out over pain – or was that, stupidity triumphed? Does it matter? Guess not. Anyway, Ted, Heyoka and Murray still clung to that stupid rope. Good for them, right?
Because now they outweighed the crate – not by much, but enough.
Down the trio went; up went the crate. Naturally, they met halfway – AGAIN! – , with disastrous results: Ted damaged his collarbone, Heyoka suffered a cut all across his cranium; that's why he's bled so much.
The sprained claws, Murray's broken foot and a lot of the more visible bruises and minor cuts occurred when the boys landed on the shattered tiles and broken bricks; they were darned lucky that the ground was pretty soft after all the rain we've had in the past few weeks. If we'd had frost already ... no, I don't want to think about that.
Anyway, they were down – literally – and the crate ... hit the hook and the roof unrestrained. The flimsy wood wasn't strong enough to withstant the impact, and at last the bottom burst. Whatever was left inside fell down in a shower of stone and hard ceramic tiles, to land on the hapless three Muses. Not even Ted's thick fur was enough to shield him, and he has the half-dozen goose eggs to prove it.
NOW they let go of the bloody rope.
I was this close to having hysterics; the only reason I managed to restrain myself was that I couldn't decide whether I'd be laughing my head off or crying at the idiocy of my Muse and his friends.
"Tell me you didn't do this," I moaned, hoping against hope. The sheepish expressions on Murray, Heyoka and Ted's faces was enough to convince me it was all too true, however.
"How could you?!?"
"Er ... it seemed like a good idea at the time," Murray offered, but shut up when I glared at him.
"The next time either one of you gets a foolish notion like this, check yourself into the closest psychiatric ward right away," I told them. "It'll save all of us a lot of pain and aggravation. What the heck are you going to tell Mele and Peregrine when they come home tonight?"
I was suddenly the focus of three pairs of lost-puppy-dog eyes.
"Oh no! No way!" I tried to back off, knowing exactly where this was going, but found my lap suddenly full of a ball of mussed-up white fur. Heyoka laboriously climbed onto my right shoulder, Murray onto my left.
"Pleeeeeeeeeeaaaaaazzeeee?" they wheedled.
"Uh-uh," I protested, but to my horror found I was already weakening. "It's your own fault you got into this mess; you can tell your authors yourself why you're so banged up!"
"But Mele will threaten to sautée me again," Murray sniffled, squeezing out a big crocodile tear. "She has this really sharp knife she always brandishes in my face, and she'll chase me around the dining-room table, and with this cast I'm much too slow, and her dog will slobber all over me, and the kids always get traumatized when she yells at me, and ... and ...."
It was a good thing he was running out of breath; that way, I could refuse a bit longer. But before I could say anything, Heyoka put on the pity act.
"I'm really afraid Peregrine will suffer a severe shock if I show up like this," he gulped. "She'll try to psychoanalyse me, and feed me all sorts of herbal remedies instead of pizza and Pringles, and I'm convinced I'll get sick on top of all my injuries, and she'll exhaust herself doing reiki on me, and worry so much, and since I can't fly while my wing is not healed, I'll have to listen to her all the time, and we'll both be totally miserable, and ... and ..."
"Okay, okay, I get the picture," I interrupted him. I was almost beginning to feel sorry enough for the silly critters to do what they were asking. Luckily, the third culprit couldn't toot into the same horn.
"What's your excuse, Fluff-boy?" I asked Ted rather curtly. "I already know all about your misadventure, so you can't use that on me!"
"Well, yeah," Ted admitted, grinning at me tentatively. "But ... you see ... since the crate was sorta my idea, and it happened at my place, I kinda don't want Miss Mele and Miss Peregrine mad at me. Because if they are, I maybe can't hang out with my best buddies anymore, and they'll hate me, and Miss Mele will set her dog on me, and Miss Perry won't let me see Nanook and my babies, and I'll get all depressed and can't work anymore and you won't be able to write without me and ..." The little scamp actually had the audacity to sob at his own melodrama! But of course I'm totally immune to my Muse's blandishments.
Those six moist, hopeful, pleading eyes were staring at me wherever I looked. Ted snuggled, Heyoka crooned and Murray cuddled against me.
"Pleeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaazzzzzeeeeeeeeee???????????????????" they chorused.
I know when I'm beat.
So ... Mele, Peregrine ... dear friends ... won't you please forgive the boys their little misadventure? They didn't mean to get into trouble, and after all didn't cause any property damage you'd be liable for ... also, they're not all that heavily injured; I called Muse General, and the doctor on duty assured me that they'd be as good as new in a few weeks. Well, except for the possible memory loss, but I'm sure you can work around that, can't you? You're not in the middle of any important fics, are you?
You are? Uh-oh ...
Mele, what are you doing with that tire iron?
Perry, you don't really mean to poison me, do you?
Girls, please – surely we can talk about this like the sane, rational adults we are? After all, I wasn't even at home ... and Ted was damaged as much as his buddies ... hey! Stop hitting me! Ouch! No! Don't ... for heaven's sake, no ...
Note #2: *rubs aching bones and tries to staunch the blood flow from several wounds* My apologies to my good friends Mele and Peregrine for appropriating their Muses without permission; also, my thanks go to "The Bricklayer's Song", words by Cooksey/Hoffnung/Murphy and sung by The Corries, which I have adapted for this story. DB