Writing is an Itch. This is a place to scratch.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Toad & The Stool

A short story by Ruben Rivera
Illustrations by Anita Rivera
Copyright© May 8, 2010

The Toad & The Stool
I was sitting in the university pub called The Toad & The Stool, nursing a beer and a bad day, when the door flung open violently, allowing a stormy gale to invade the establishment and diminish its precious warmth, causing no small consternation to myself and the other patrons. Along with the wind rushed in a rat, prodigious in size and circumference, who was at once distinguished and comical in appearance. One paw held a shredded skeletal object that I quickly surmised was once an umbrella. In the other paw was an open attaché case with its paper contents visibly exposed and trailing behind him on the ground.

The great rat’s wet and flapping overcoat was attached to his person, heaven knows why, by just one sleeved arm. Underneath, his tweed suit was of fine quality, but rumpled, even soiled in places, as if it had long functioned both for his profession and pajamas. His hat was a drenched and collapsed ruin, under which were furious black eyes set in a flushed and sanguine face. A pair of bent gold-rimed pince-nez clung barely to his nose, as if to life itself; and a soggy, battered belvedere was clenched between his teeth.

As if they were infected with the plague, the imposing rat cast off his outerwear and other accouterments upon the pegs and racks while simultaneously uttering several expletives in as many seconds. “The door,” shouted the proprietor from behind the bar. The rat had not yet shut it. Quickly gathering a few papers from the floor and stuffing them into his case, he then leaned his bulk on the wind-buttressed door and sent it squealing on its massive hinges to a more violent close than when he had opened it.

He stood there for a moment panting heavily, and then suddenly became a statue. Just then I knew why. For I too was startled by several animals dashing past The Toad & The Stool, appearing as a mass of chaotic and distorted images through the pub’s colored bottle-bottom windows. The horde was an undecipherable cacophony, except for an occasionally intelligible, “Not sure” and “This way.” And with that the disturbing apparition blew down the lane like so much debris swept along by the tempest, and the rat regained motion once again.
Needless to say, everyone’s attention was focused on the drama, particularly on the intruder who hadn’t the sense to close a door in foul weather before divesting. Not a sip of ale had been drawn by anyone, as we all waited to see at which unlucky table he would sit. As I had ensconced myself several tables from the hearth in a posture that communicated clearly, “Do Not Disturb,” I felt secure. Surely he would want to sit somewhere near the warming fire after what had obviously been a miserable journey or perhaps some misadventure. But to my utter dismay, the corpulent fellow glanced around the room, immediately fixed eyes upon me, walked, or rather bounded, toward my table, planted his considerable frame in the bench directly opposite mine, and shouted, to no one and everyone: “A pint of dark, that the quicker the world may return to reason.”

Still out of breath, he turned his head only slightly and shouted out of the side of his mouth: “And may I trouble the house for a towel?” Turning to me, he added without a second’s pause: “Mad I tell you, all of them mad. That university is populated with certifiable lunatics.” This he said to me, a stranger to both the town and the pub, sitting directly in front of him, without lowering his voice a single decibel.

I was annoyed to say the least. For not only had my solitude been invaded without so much as a pardon or introduction, but the whole establishment now fixed its attention in my direction, when privacy and inattention were my earnest desire.

“Look here,” I said brusquely. “There is no one at this moment that appears more certifiable than you do now. That you seem wholly oblivious to your behavior only adds to that conviction. And if you do not calm down and lower your voice I shall be forced to move to another location.”

“Sorry,” he said, while trying to unbend his pince-nez. “But really, this place is the limit. I beg your pardon. I am Dr. Rattus Scribus, Professor of Religion, at your service. I am new at the university; and if I told you what happened to me on this my very first day, you would think me a liar or insane.”

He had only slightly attenuated his volume, so that the pub could still hear him. I came soon to realize that Rattus Scribus is nearly incapable of speaking softly at all. Indeed, a still small voice would be out of character coming from a rat whose physical dimensions were surpassed only by his exuberant persona.
A dark middle-aged rabbit wearing an apron, with a tray carrying a pint and a towel, came to our table. His appearance was unforgettable. He was enormous, all of muscle, one of his eyes was completely dim and obviously useless; his body was covered with scars, and one ear was a tatter. An intimidating creature if ever there was one. It was rumored that he was one of those rare animals who had managed to escape from the so-called world of humans, having found a magic portal into our own. I had always believed that this other world was only a myth. To me, the obvious explanation for the rabbit’s maimed appearance was that he was a war veteran, or perhaps a former prize fighter.
“Brumbel’s me name,” said the battered giant in a voice as course as gravel. He eyed my books on the table and I hastily moved them to make space for the ale. “Lucky Brumbel,” he continued. “You can call me by Lucky or Brumbel, whichever you prefer. I be the proprietor, and always welcomes newcomers to The Toad & The Stool. That’s me wife, Meri. She be the barmaid.” The barmaid was, like her husband, a rabbit. But that is where the similarities between them ended. For she was young, petite, with pristine auburn fur, and unmistakably alluring.

“Anyways, Sirs, I welcomes you to our ‘umble pub. ‘Respects to your fellow, then do as please.’” He set down the towel for Rattus Scribus to dry himself and gave us both a look that communicated less “welcome” and more “I’ve got me eye on you,” a sentiment that was both literal and not a little disturbing coming from a hulking one-eyed rabbit.

“Thank you kindly,” said the jovial Dr. Scribus, with not a hint of trepidation in the presence of the august Lucky Brumbel, who simply nodded almost imperceptibly, spun about-face and marched back to the bar.

“Civilization at last,” Scribus announced again to the world. “I had nearly despaired for its existence.”

I was on the verge of getting up to exchange locations or leave the pub altogether, I knew not which, when the jumbo rat read my intent and accosted me with this question.

“Tell me, Sir, do you think it is science or religion that provides the best answers to the most pressing questions and needs of the world?”

“Are you in the habit, Dr. Scribus, of invading places, coming up to total strangers and asking them questions about which no two people are likely to agree? If you are, you are in the wrong place, in the wrong form, with the wrong stranger.”

“It appears, to the contrary,” he said, “that I have come precisely to the right place, at the right time, with the right stranger, one who has obviously managed to experience a day as wicked as my own, coincidence enough to be deemed miraculous in the mind of some.”

I cannot remember if I was more annoyed at him or myself: at his presumptuousness, or that my manner was so unguarded that I had allowed a complete stranger to read me so easily.

“See here, my stout friend. You know nothing of me or my day, and as you are a Professor of Religion, I will keep my religious opinions to myself so as not to be rude. Now, I think I’ve had enough excitement for one day. Good evening to you Sir,” I said rising to leave, books in hand.

“Come now, Professor,” he said. “Do stay. Perhaps we can become acquainted, recount our troubled day, and discuss that question on our mutual interest in the debate between science and religion. Such as we cannot keep these issues to ourselves.”

Defensive curiosity overcame my annoyance and I sat back down. “How do you know me, Sir?”

“I do not.”

“I don’t believe you. You have been spot on, on three facts about me. That I’ve had a wicked day. That I have studied religion-science debates, much in fact. And that I am a Professor at the university. Moreover, amazingly enough, like you, this was my first day.”

“That is four facts,” said Rattus Scribus.

“Excuse me?”

“I was fairly certain of the first three. Although if I knew the name of the person I have the pleasure of addressing, I might have deduced the fourth.”

He had me. I could not leave until I found out if this rat was friend or fiend.

“I am Spinoza Benedictus Hedgehog,” I said, “Professor of Natural Philosophy. Now if you will tell me how you came here, how you came to sit with me of all patrons, and how you knew those facts about me without our being previously acquainted, then I will answer your question on religion and science.”

“My good pleasure to meet you, Professor. Please, do call me Rattus.”

As we were talking, Dr. Scribus retrieved a small calabash and a pouch from an inside pocket, inserted the former into the latter, gently thumbing some tobacco into the bowl. He folded and restored the pouch to his pocket. He then placed the calabash in his mouth, taking measured draughts from the stem to test for optimum airflow, while simultaneously being enraptured, eyes closed, by the aroma. The image of that ritual was almost enough to make me take up the pipe, an image quickly shattered upon ignition.

“You were saying,” I coughed.

“Well, as to your bad day, I deduced from two facts that were soon confirmed by a third. Upon entering this public house, I immediately noticed you sitting alone at a table normally accommodating to four. Moreover, everything about your body language said ‘stay away.’ To wit, the spines of a hedgehog, normally relaxed when the mind is at peace, were in your case pointed outward in an expression of consternation, anger or threat. I say, that must be hard on the clothes.”

“Perhaps we’ll discuss which of us has the more unusual sartorial habits at a later time,” I said. “And the third, Dr. Scribus?”

“Please call me Rattus,” he said looking at his own suit and trying to smooth out the wrinkles. “The first two observations were sufficient to indicate your mood, but you confirmed my suspicions as to a possible cause when you said that you had had enough excitement for one day.”

“Are you a detective, Dr. Scribus?”

“Rattus, dear fellow. No, Historian, though the two crafts do indeed overlap. Now as to you being a professor I surmised from the proximity of this pub to the university, that your age is mature and your attire more befitting a careful professional than the average student, and from the scholarly books on the table. Finally, your interest in religion is clear from the titles of some of those same books, as well as your later comment on religion and science questions about which no two people would agree. Who would say that but one who has given such questions serious thought?”

Dr. Scribus punctuated his last words by thumping his now empty glass down upon the table, like a gavel accompanying a judge’s verdict. The act had a double entendre. For the barmaid rightly took it as a summons, and suddenly appeared asking if we would like another drink. It was in my mind to decline. But, truth be told, I was in no hurry to expose myself to the harsh elements outdoors. By then the decision had been made by Scribus, who ordered a pitcher of ale, house sandwiches and chips for two, with mustard, vinegar and gherkins on the side.

“This is a civil place,” said Dr. Scribus, complimenting the barmaid’s efficiency. His tribute would no doubt have been more lengthy had it not been interrupted by an outdoor commotion, as the horde that had blown past the pub after his arrival, now returned heading back in the direction of the university; a troop of distorted shadows and lights marching hideously past the windows, accompanied by muffled sentence fragments like, “By thunder,” “bother” and “damn.”

“That’s four times now,” said the barmaid in a voice that sounded like a rubber squeeze toy.

“Four times?” inquired Dr. Scribus.

“Oh, yes, Sir. Four times that bunch ‘as run past this ‘ere pub. The first time was…was…why just after you arrived, Sir,” said the barmaid looking directly at me. “Are you all right, Sirs? You both looked a bit peaked, just then. Wouldn’t let that to-do give you a fright. The Toad & The Stool is Lucky’s pub. Everyone knows that. There are few disturbances in ‘ere.”

As I looked at the monster rabbit behind the bar, there was no disputing her point. Lucky Brumbel would frighten a dog.

The barmaid continued: “That customa ova there, ‘e says there was some kind’a student demonstration, at the university, that appears to ‘ave made thum a might disagreeabo.”

“Hah! ‘A might disagreeable,’” said Scribus. “Made them mad, all of them.”

“Just youth being young,” squeaked the barmaid, her voice diminishing, as she was already making her way past the kitchen’s swinging doors to fulfill our order of food and ale. An order she completed with astonishing rapidity. For before the doors had stopped swinging, she reemerged from the kitchen with a food-laden tray, whisked an already waiting pitcher of ale from the bar en route to our table, and gracefully deposited our victuals before us.

This remarkable efficiency was not lost on the minutely observant Rattus Scribus: “Miraculous! My dear girl, you are without a doubt the finest barmaid I have ever come across.”

“Meri, Sir. Not dear girl. And thank you.”

I did not expect much quality from food prepared far too quickly, or rather, surely, pre-prepared. But I was pleasantly mistaken. The crusty bread had a perfect earthiness and chewy texture, and the roasted meat contents were deliciously moist and tender. The chips were lightly crunchy, piping hot and, quite simply, the best I’d ever tasted. And the ale, pure ambrosia.

I found myself in a more relaxed and peaceful frame of mind. I even began to enjoy the conversation from my new companion, who I have no doubt immediately surmised the improved change in my mood by the relaxation of my spines, the unfurrowing of my brow, or some other minute flux in my speech or bodily composure to which I was oblivious but which seemed to shout themselves out to him.

Well into our meal, the heavy pub door swung open and several wet and bedraggled creatures limped dejectedly into The Toad & The Stool. They were obviously university students. But not a one of them had the good sense to be wearing foul weather gear, and the only thing that had sheltered their heads were their storm tattered placards and banners, which read in ruined, weeping letters: “SciFii.”

No sooner had Meri Brumbel herded that bunch to a table when another group of students entered the pub, equally as rain-soaked and wind-battered. They too were carrying spoiled signs with barely coherent dripping black letters; only these read: “DOGMA.”

The two groups immediately recognized each other. Ears shot back, hackles were raised, incisors flashed, words crossed, and steps taken, when a voice like a rock avalanche stopped them dead in their tracks.

“Not’n ‘ere!” It was Lucky Brumbel. These were all the words he needed to say. Without ever seeming to look up at the commotion, he calmly continued whatever he was doing from behind the bar, and the two groups shuffled timidly to their respective tables as quiet as worms trying not to be noticed by the proverbial early bird.

As Meri was taking their orders, Lucky visited the students at each table, no doubt “welcoming” the newcomers among them in his customary and inimitable manner.

“Brumbel’s me name…” etc., etc.

“Yes, Sir, we know…” “Pleasure to meet you, Sir.” “Meant no disrespect…” “Oh, yes, Sir, we’ve ‘erd’ve you.” “Certainly, Sir…” “Pleasure’s all ours, Sir…” said the students profusely to their august host.

“No need to ‘Sir’ me, you know. I’m not gentry. I suspects after you’re done with university I’ll be Sir’ing and Ma’aming you all one day.”

“Not at all…” “Kind of you to say…” “Perish the thought…” “Never, Sir…”

“Anyways, good lads and lasses, I welcomes you to our ‘umble pub. ‘Respects to your fellow, then do as you please.’” Brumbel departed the nervous students and headed back to the bar, but not before he turned his great melon head in our direction and with impish grin winked his one good eye at us. In that moment, Rattus and I knew that Brumbel was no mere brute, and that there was an undeniable goodness and even humor to this hulking giant.

“Now,” said Rattus, “as to how I came to this most excellent establishment in the first place, and ended up in your good company. As I said, this was my first day of teaching at the university. My two classes were mostly introductory in nature and went along swimmingly. If only the day had ended thus. But alas, I was unexpectedly recruited to conduct an errand of some urgency.”

So it was that Rattus related the following story. But, being Rattus, his voice carried and soon his tale drew other patrons around our table, including the adversarial students, though they seated themselves at opposite ends from each other.

Rattus’ Tale:

“In a well-known rivalry dating back to the founding of the university itself, two school fraternities were engaged in a heated competition for members and supporters from among the fresh supply of unsuspecting students. On one side of this annual anarchy was the student fraternity, SciFii, or Scientists for Free Inquiry with Immunity. On the other was DOGMA, Doctrines of God Mandatory for All.

“In a grand coalescence of events that our friends from DOGMA here would have deemed miraculous,” said Rattus gesturing with his paw to the appropriate students on his right, “but which SciFii would no doubt call pure coincidence,” gesturing to the students on his left, “I was appointed by my department to speak at the rally of the former, even as our newfound friend Prof. Spinoza Benedictus Hedgehog had earlier been appointed by his department to speak at the rally of the latter.”

My eyes widened in shock at Rattus’ words. “I say, my good rat! You indicated earlier that you did not know me, and now it appears that you have known me all along.”

Rattus: “I entered The Toad & The Stool with rather limited information about one Prof. Hedgehog, but only in connection to the events I am now relating which led eventually to our actual meeting here. But I confess that it was not difficult to surmise that you, my dear Spinoza, were that same Prof. Hedgehog based on the clues I noticed upon entering the pub and which I subsequently explained to you.

“Now, whether it was because of our respective fields of scholarship, or a prank played upon us as new faculty, you and I were sent into a maelstrom of the vices of arrogance and intolerance pretending to be the virtues of reason and piety. I refer, of course, to the rivalry between science and religion.

“On the part of science, SciFii was then in quite the high spirits, as one of their own Professors, I. B. Atwitsend, had recently announced an unbelievable discovery. It seems that after a long but undistinguished career, the Professor, Atwitsend, came upon the idea of combining the pain-dulling agents in the sleep gas commonly used by dentists with certain rare psychotropic compounds he claims to have discovered in uncharted jungles. The resulting odorless, colorless and tasteless aerosol caused any subject to abandon all inhibition and prevarication.

“When asked a question, however controversial or secret, both male and female subjects would answer truthfully, no matter the consequences to social decorum, vows of silence, or even patriotic loyalty. Moreover, the natural instincts for self-preservation were completely shut down. For when introduced to a situation of gravest danger, the subjects plunged recklessly into the menace with utter contempt for their own safety. Although the effects are said to wear off after an hour, the government was highly interested in the military applications, and was then pressing on Atwitsend hard to pass his gas to them.

“SciFii leaders criticized religion for retarding civilization and progress by holding all intellectual endeavors hostage to superstitious views of the world and unverifiable metaphysical creeds. ‘If we left it to DOGMA,’ said one SciFii speaker, ‘the world would never make such scientific breakthroughs like Atwitsend’s Gas.’

“Religious creeds are indeed based on faith not fact. That is problem enough for the scientific mind. But even plain rational folk find it hard to understand why religious folk, instead of being humble about beliefs they cannot prove, have been willing to engage in violence and even war to defend and enforce them.

“For these reasons, SciFii loathed the very name of their rival fraternity, DOGMA (Doctrines of God Mandatory for All), which indicated intolerance and belligerence against any view but theirs. SciFii’s sentiments were summarized in a large anti-religious banner which read:

‘All religion is ignorance. One religion is arrogance.’
“Meanwhile, in a hall directly adjacent to the SciFii rally, DOGMA student leaders preached on the dangers of unbridled science.

“‘The Fii in SciFii,’ mocked one DOGMA member, ‘stands for the fiction that science is the final authority for all truth, even though science admits that it can say nothing beyond the physical world. Another fiction is that science and invention for their own sake is a good thing. For we are told that animalkind becomes better with each technological advancement that helps us do things like travel faster, eat more, or live longer. But history shows that progress in the material conveniences of civilization, does not mean progress in the moral character of civilization.’

“‘Right next door, SciFii are celebrating what they dub as the latest victory in science: Atwitsend’s Gas. This is exactly what we’ve been talking about. These godless and arrogant eggheads get so excited about what they can do, that they never stop to ask if it’s something they should do.’

“‘I have here,
bellowed the student and waving papers wildly in the air, ‘Atwitsend’s own report of tests done with this latest so-called scientific marvel. But what SciFii members won’t tell you is that the marvel can easily become a monster. For many of the original test subjects were married couples who are now no longer married to each other after being subjected to Atwitsend’s Gas. Let me read from the report.’

Prof. Atwitsend to husband: “Is your wife beautiful?”

Husband: “By beautiful do you mean ugly?”

Atwitsend: “Interesting. Next question: Do you think you meet your wife’s needs?”

Husband: “I’m not sure I understand the question. By beautiful do you mean ugly?”

Atwitsend to wife: “Do you think males understand females?”

Wife: “Is this a trick question?”

Atwitsend: “It’s just a straight forward question. Do males understand fe…”

Wife: “No.”

Atwitsend: “No, what?”

Wife: “Males don’t understand.”

Husband: “Excuse me.”

Atwitsend: “Yes?”

Husband: “By beautiful do you mean ugly?”

“‘And so in the interest of science,’ continued the DOGMA speaker, ‘an untold number of marriages were ruined. Is this not proof enough that scientific investigation with immunity is but arrogance with impunity?’”

Rattus continued his narrative:

“To make matters worse, according to reports, someone had sabotaged a tank of Atwitsend’s Gas, which leaked undetected into the science hall and was apparently working the SciFii students into a frenzy.

“Into this explosive situation was sent none other than our newfound friend, Spinoza Hedgehog, Professor of Natural Philosophy. As a thinker who looks to naturalistic explanations for all knowledge about the world, one would think that SciFii would have welcomed Spinoza with open arms. But apparently the effects of Atwitsend’s Gas caused them to abandon all reason, no small irony for the champions of science. May I ask, my dear Spinoza, what spark in your speech ignited the gas-induced brains of the SciFii students into madness?”

“I was going to speak,” I said, “on the great responsibility that comes with delving into the mysteries of the natural world. ‘As investigators into the laws that govern our universe, we must be careful to pursue responsible free inquiry. For even science is accountable to the dictum: First, do no harm.’ At this the students went instantly mad and began to rush the stage. I had to flee for my life as they gave me chase across the university campus.”

“Ah,” said Rattus, “I see now where your trouble lay. While you thought to calm tempers with a statement of simple common sense, the students of SciFii obviously thought that DOGMA had infiltrated their ranks. For unaccountable science is among their central criticisms.

“You wisely chose flight over fight, Spinoza. Your instincts for self-preservation no doubt gave you the speed needed to distance yourself from the mad horde and enter The Toad & The Stool undetected, where I later found you in a lonely and dejected state.”

“It is now equally clear,” I said to Rattus with the entire pub listening on, “that you yourself were chased by that same mob, for you froze, just as I did, every time they ran past The Toad & The Stool.”

“Not quite the same mob, my dear fellow,” said Rattus. “For while you were persecuted by those who should have recognized you as a friend of science, I was hounded by those who should have recognized me as a friend of religion.”

At Rattus’ words, the students of SciFii and DOGMA lowered their heads in shame at the realization of their dangerously irrational and impious behavior.

“Do tell us, Dr. Scribus, Sir, what
appened to you when you spoke to DOGMA.” It was Meri’s voice, like a squeaky wheel in need of oil, but somehow, coming from her, not annoying in the least.
“Well,” continued Rattus, “some time after Spinoza’s dreadful encounter with SciFii, I spoke to the members of DOGMA. I introduced myself as Professor and friend of all true religion, and was received with loud applause. But seeking to assuage the enmity between science and religion at the university, I spoke on the need for humility and charity to replace the arrogance and intolerance reflected in the very names each party had adopted, as well as their infamous behavior toward those who differed from them.

“These were all the words I was allowed to speak. For the students went utterly barmy: perhaps aggravated by the residual effects of Atwitsend’s Gas in the science hall next door. I barely had time to grab my belongings and fled the building just as a thunderstorm broke outside.

“Pursued by the hounds of DOGMA, I dashed toward The Toad & The Stool where I had previously arranged to meet an old friend, who has yet to arrive. I foolishly tried to employ the use of my umbrella, but the storm made short work of that. Somehow I managed to round the corner of this street and enter the pub unseen by my pursuers.

“That, in summary are the circumstances under which I came here in a disheveled condition, and recognized you, my dear Spinoza, as the animal most likely to have fled from ScifFii and found asylum in this pub, just as did I.”

The students looked at us with great guilt and dejection on their faces at having persecuted not merely two members of the faculty, but two fellows who had actually arrived at their respective rallies as friends. One after the other, the students stood up and apologized, deeply regretting their belligerent behavior and begging forgiveness.

Each one, however, offered in their defense the fact that they were robbed of their wills by Atwitsend’s Gas, a thing that the DOGMA students would have joyfully held over the heads of the SciFii students, but thought the better of it and wisely left the matter alone.

At just this somber moment, the mighty pub door swung open and there in the entrance stood a rat, wearing nothing but a pair of green boots. In a pose as dramatic as any stage actor, the rat stood before the entire pub, arms outstretched and said: “I’m looking for Dr. Rattus Scribus. Where is Dr. Scribus?”

Total silence fell on the pub momentarily while everyone tried to figure out if this animal was a student mob straggler or some new madness altogether.

“This,” said Rattus, answering everyone’s unspoken question, “is my oldest and dearest friend, Tea Rat, come to celebrate my first day at university.”

“That’s right, old thing,” blared out Tea Rat. “I have indeed come to honor the university’s newest brain trust. Ale for everyone. Tea for me.”

The booted rat gave hearty congratulations to his larger friend and then took a seat between Rattus and myself.

“Now,” said Rattus, “when our drinks arrive, I want you all to notice the welcome that my friend here receives as a newcomer to The Toad & The Stool. For here, in this ‘umble pub, as our sagacious host Lucky Brumble puts it, one may find a simple but profound philosophy that can teach something to both science and religion.”

Lucky and Meri Brumbel soon arrived with our ale, and tea for the aptly named Tea Rat. Lucky shared his usual welcome of newcomers, and concluded with the words that Rattus wanted us all to hear.

“Anyways, Sir,” said Lucky to Tea Rat, “we welcomes you to our ‘umble pub. ‘Respects to your fellow, then do as you please.’” With that, the giant rabbit strode back to the bar.

“So,” said Rattus, “Lucky Brumble turns out to be wiser than us all. For despite all the misunderstanding and madness outside that pub door, here in The Toad & The Stool, everyone is to be accorded basic dignity and respect. After this, one is free do as they please. No scientific pursuit nor religious belief is exempt from this rule.”

“Here, here,” I said raising my glass. “To the rule of The Toad & The Stool.”
Even the students joined in: “Long live The Toad & The Stool.” “And to Lucky Brumbel.” “To The Toad & The Stool.”

“I say,” interjected the clueless Tea Rat, “what is this mumbo, jumbo? What rule?”

“I’m afraid, old chap, that is a long, long story,” said Rattus.

“I see. Well, speaking of stories,” barked Tea Rat. “Did you hear that some kind of gas was released at the university that is supposed to remove all inhibitions? Steal your very brains, the inventor claimed. Turns out the whole thing was a fraud. Nothing more than air and extract from the denatured Peace Lily plant……………………….What?”

Copyright© Rattus Scribus. No portion of this work may be quoted, copied or borrowed in any form without written permission of its author & artist.


Chevonne Hendrickse said...

Luvverly!! Really enjoyed reading this - thank you :)

Fete et Fleur said...

You and Anita are a match made in heaven. The illustrations were fantastic. The story wonderfully thought provoking, funny, and yet sad at the same time. We truly loved it.


Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

Hello you precious partner in farce, fiction and foolishness!!! Thank you for visiting CCC today; every comment from every reader is so special and yours especially. Aren't those creatures so cute? That silly goose with the pom-pom do....what was he thinking? :)


Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

Oh you dear love...thank you for coming to visit my ultra-feminine post today. You are a real troupa!!! A real prince. :)

Bisous! Anita

BryannaR22369 said...

you‘re really talented.!............................................................

Debbie said...

Ruben, I still have not read the entire story - forgive me but I never seem to have anymore free time - ugh! Anyway, it was so wonderful to spend 10 entire hours with you and Anita, talking, laughing, sharing and learning. You two are such a beautiful couple with so much heart, I am glad to know you both. Thank for your encouraging words. You could never know how much it means to me. I know I have a knack for blogging but when I read back some of the writing I've saved for my 'book' about my mother it seems so amateurish. But I will continue to plug along ... even though I agonize over the Thesaurus trying to find just the right word LOL. Glad you guys are back home, safe and sound. I am going to write Anita a little later ... right in the middle of making dinner and the microwave just beeped. GOTTA RUN!

p.s. Danny really liked the both of you ... I knew he would!