Anon, the Lord and Lady of the Manor return to their castle. (Editor’s note: Anon? Castle?) Noting well the declining state of his family fortune, once again this year the Lord has chosen—alack!—to postpone the digging of a moat until more prosperous times. And tho’ a drawbridge would indeed annoy the Homeowners’ Association, he knows that it would likewise be the envy of the neighborhood—especially should the Huns perchance lay siege to Orange County.
They steer their coach toward the garage, and yet they cannot park, for their path is impeded by the personal effects of the fair maiden Bryn, to wit: a scooter, rollerblades, a copy of Little House on the Prairie, a ballet bag, and a pair of all-purpose, playground-style balls which for some reason she chooses to call Dorothy and Shirley. Ere they are aware, she charges forth on her five-speed.
“Felicitations, my beloved,” says the Lady of the Manor, exiting the half-parked vehicle with flourish both regal and stately. “Prithee, fair one, place these items as before in yon toy box lest my regal and stately demeanor turn unbecomingly common.”
“As you wish, Mother,” the child proclaims reassuringly, skipping off. Alas, the lass lacks both short-term memory and follow-through, and thus the Lord and his Lady remain somewhat less than reassured. Yet tho’ they are vexed, even so are they perplexed and fascinated, unable to comprehend the ways of an eight-year-old girl.
As the nobleman parts the castle doors, the servants scatter—which is to say they scatter socks, books, papers, and markers about the Study as if to conceal the carpet therewith; and therein ‘midst the sundry oddments, Sir Luke sits majestically at the computer. Indeed, since Luke decided to become a writer, he has often been found in this very position, composing his latest text. Tonight’s folio bears the name “Detective Rat and the Curious Case.”
As his master enters, Luke neither genuflects nor kneels to kiss his master’s signet ring. Indeed, it might be noted that he does not acknowledge the presence of the Lord of the Manor in any way. “Beloved son,” his lordship cries, “knowest thou what hath befallen these quarters?” The lad responds not, as is his wont. Indeed, from his mother Luke has inherited an ability to focus on any chosen task without distraction—a gift turned weapon when wielded by a teenager-but-for-the-birthday 12-year-old.
Of a sudden, the Lord of the Manor recognizes that the debris is the product of Master Seth, who, though only three, has decided that nothing brings greater joy than doing homework—doubtless because his older siblings complete their schoolwork with such unabashed enthusiasm. (Editor’s note: That business about unabashed enthusiasm? A total crock.)
Nearby in the Ballroom (Editor’s note: OK, so it’s a dining room with no furniture), the Lady of the Manor finds more evidence of Master Seth’s handiwork: a bizarre structure that rises and sprawls from the cut-pile carpeting like a mutating organism. It is a veritable mishmash of wooden blocks and cardboard bricks, some jutting skyward with Babel-like determination, others lined end-to-end like a Chinese wall for Weebles. Within the courtyard of said monolith, stoic as sentries, one beholds an assortment of plastic animals, including a zebra, a giraffe, a gazelle and several other favorites. They are assisted in their vigil by various plastic dinosaurs: triceratops, pachycephalosaurus, perhaps half a dozen stegosaurs or more. These are the chosen few, the “guarders” of the diorama; for meat-eaters, “mean guys” in the common parlance, are clearly a threat and are left outside looking in.
There, in the midst of this menagerie, sits Master Seth, the architect himself, who looks up with a grin. “I’m building Baby Elephant’s Cage,” says the boy, as if such an explanation were needed. Although his fortress-like creation has often been razed and raised again, never with the same design, it has always been known simply, consistently, and somewhat inexplicably, as Baby Elephant’s Cage. Somewhere within, Baby Elephant (a plastic piece perhaps 1½ inches long) stands ensconced, consistently and inexplicably accompanied by a small plastic dolphin which has never once had any kind of structure named for it.
Anon (Editor’s note: There’s that word again) the dinner hour approaches. From within, the alarum is sounded, beckoning all to sit and eat with the Lord and his Lady. And yet the children come not. Again the alarum is sounded, and again the children come not. The Lady of the Manor remains unperturbed. Demurely she importunes her husband. “My lord,” says she, “prithee beckon the children that they hie to the table, that we might sup together.” At once the Lord rises from the table and. . . . (Editor’s note: The manuscript at this point becomes garbled, with dubious references to tantrums and indifference and insubordination and threats.)
Once gathered, the family bows in reverence. “Let us pray,” says his lordship. “It’s my turn,” says Seth. “Fodder in Headen: Fank you for da food. Pwease bwess it. Fank you for Mommy and Daddy and Wuke and Bwyn and Seth. Fank you for my famwee. In the name of Jesus Chwist. Amen.”
Fank you indeed.