An Improbable Fiction: In the Language of Shakespeare

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“Marry, young Russet. Now, don thy hooded cape incarnadine and hie thee to the forest o’er yon high eastward hill. Keep to the path no matter how the harebells beckon, and, I beseech you, beware the fantasied forest. There a wolf named Lupus dwells, swift as a shadow, and thus beggars all other description. Verily, he must be eschewed, for he will surely cozen you. Should you perchance to meet the rascal, screw thy courage to the sticking place, and hasten to thy destination.”—Skip Eisiminger

Skip the B.S.

By Skip Eisiminger

Jesus bless us, chaos is come again!

Jesus bless us, chaos is come again!

“If your native tongue is inadequate to the task, hijack another’s.”The Wordspinner

Sterling (Skip) Eisiminger

CLEMSON South Carolina—(Weekly Hubris)—8/1/2016—“It’s an improbable fiction, to be sure, dating to about 1575, but thereby hangs a youthful tale by Willie Snackspoor.

“Soft, my child. The post brings sad tidings that my once joyful mother is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought. Holp me if it please thee, for I have laundry to pound on Avon’s stony banks. For the nonce, bear this claret and these sweetmeats to our ailing kinswoman.”

“I fain would bring myself thither, Mother, come what may, for you alone have taught me to make a virtue of necessity. Sweet are the uses of adversity, but our moon-calf father is not one of them.”

“Marry, young Russet. Now, don thy hooded cape incarnadine and hie thee to the forest o’er yon high eastward hill. Keep to the path no matter how the harebells beckon, and, I beseech you, beware the fantasied forest. There a wolf named Lupus dwells, swift as a shadow, and thus beggars all other description. Verily, he must be eschewed, for he will surely cozen you. Should you perchance to meet the rascal, screw thy courage to the sticking place, and hasten to thy destination.”

Under a fair welkin, Russet sallied into great Birnam Wood buoyed by the milk of human kindness and determined to keep her spotless reputation, but something other than an exaltation of larks was on the wind . . . .

“Whence cometh thou, Cousin? Whose foot, albeit a pretty one, is this that doth bestride my demesne?” saith a voice betwixt two gnarled oaks.

“But Birnam Wood belongs unto our liege lord, Sirrah. Lo where he cometh!”

“Thou art an impudent lass. Our lord is making a weary pilgrimage to Canterbury. Tell me, I prithee, where art thou bound?”

“Avaunt, Sirrah! If you must know, I go to my grandam’s cottage famed for its gingerbread.”

“Gramercy, thou saucy maid. Dally awhile picking herbs and primroses in yonder glade for your Grandam. Your dun basket lacks both health and color.”

Off Lupus hied to the cottage where the smell of hot ginger had once wafted from the oven. Betwixt the shadows, Russet heard, “What fools these mortals be,” but she could not comprehend the source.

“Good morrow, Grandam,” saith the wolf and swallowed her alive as she screamed, “Fie! Prodigious birth, what is this beast upon my doorstep?” The poor woman had scarcely a chance to protest too much. Anon, after donning the mistress’s bedfrock to clothe his naked villainy, he heard a knock at the door.

“‘Zounds, my dear, thy comely virtues art most delicious whilst I myself have seen better days.”

“I prithee, though thy voice is uncommon, Grandam, vouchsafe me a word with thee,” saith Russet. But under her breath she muttered, “Jesus bless us, chaos is come again!”

Her senses returning, Russet inquired, “What change, Grandam, hath come to thy beauteous face?”

“Life’s fitful fever, my sweet—my salad days withered years ago.”

“But, Grandam, wherefore is thy rheumy eye so large?”

“The better to see thee with, my dear.”

“But wherefore is thy nose so long and hairy?”

“The better to smell thee with, my dear.”

“But wherefore art thy teeth sharper than a serpent’s?”

“The better to eat you with,” saith the valiant trencherman, who sprang from the bed and devoured the virgin of spotless reputation. Sated at last, he undressed, being disposed to sleep. His harsh snoring, however, attracted a humble swain passing beyond the cottage.

When he saw the strange bedfellow, he shouted in at the open door, “What the dickens? It smells to heaven in here!  Murther will out, thou gorbellied, clapper-clawing knave!” Drawing his bodkin and slashing the pudding of the wolf’s belly, our unsung bachelor released Grandam and Russet, slimy but unharmed, from their warm constraint like newborn twins a-tumble. In the gaping hollow, the swain placed an unswept stone and stitched up the wound. On waking, Lupus was so thirsty he did run to a village cesspool, and leapt headlong therein. Descending for the third time, he was heard to say, “Beshrew me, but methinks the game is up—a plague upon your houses! Farewell to all my greatness!”

In the great thorny wood, a parliament of owls hooted their approval.

After bathing, Grandam, whose odd humor had passed, set the table, and the three dined merrily on the contents of Russet’s fardel and the last of the Yuletide ginger. By my troth, the world was their oyster at last.

To order copies of Skip Eisiminger’s Letters to the Grandchildren (Clemson University Digital Press), click on the book cover below or contact: Center for Electronic and Digital Publishing, Strode Tower, Box 340522, Clemson SC 29634-0522.

Skip Eisiminger's Letters to the Grandchildren

About Sterling Eisiminger

Dr. Sterling (“Skip”) Eisiminger was born in Washington DC in 1941. The son of an Army officer, he traveled widely but often reluctantly with his family in the United States and Europe. After finishing a master’s degree at Auburn and taking a job at Clemson University in 1968, he promised himself that he would put down some deep roots. These roots now reach back through nearly 50 years of Carolina clay. In 1974, Eisiminger received a Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina, where poet James Dickey “guided” his creative dissertation. His publications include Non-Prescription Medicine (poems), The Pleasures of Language: From Acropox to Word Clay (essays), Omi and the Christmas Candles (a children’s book), and Wordspinner (word games). He is married to the former Ingrid (“Omi”) Barmwater, a native of Germany, and is the proud father of a son, Shane, a daughter, Anja, and grandfather to four grandchildren, Edgar, Sterling, Spencer, and Lena.

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3 Responses to An Improbable Fiction: In the Language of Shakespeare

  1. Will B says:

    Skip, you crack me up!

  2. Diana says:

    Utterly brilliant. What tremendous fun you have given us and what fun you must have had conjuring this up.

  3. Skip Eisiminger says:

    The real fun will come when Lena (now 7) reads this and smiles. It’s all part of a longer love letter to the family.
    Thanks, my fellow writers, and thanks, e, for the delightful illustration!

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