Welcome to the Seventeenth installment of -
"A TIME TO EVERY PURPOSE UNTO HEAVEN " By Pepe K.
(Winner of 30 UKE Awards)
The following story concerns the Toonsters' freshman year of Acme Looniversity at college level. This tale of mystery and adventure is best read from the beginning - the other parts are available at HKUriah's TTA Fanfic site, among others. I suggest you read it from the start or you’ll not know what is transpiring.
This tale is rated PG-13.
This story contains many references to music, some of which you may be familiar with. It contains and was inspired by the music of Danny Elfman's film soundtracks. In order to enhance this experience, I've made notations as to where each specific piece of music fits into the story. If it's available to you, I'd *strongly* suggest getting the CD or cassette tape, so that you'll not only read the story, but hear it happen as well. All the music is available on CD. Most is from Danny Elfman's Original Motion Picture Soundtracks
“EDWARD SCISSORHANDS”(#MCAD-10133), MUSIC FOR A DARKENED THEATRE -Vol. 2, “BIG FISH” (SK 93094), & William Stromberg's original motion picture soundtrack of "TRINITY AND BEYOND" (The Atomic Bomb Movie) http://www.vce.com/trinity.html
The song “Wandrin’ Star” is from the musical “PAINT YOUR WAGON”.
I'd like to thank HKUriah, Thorne, Andy Fox, Peter Bunny, Leloni Bunny, Dennis Smith and Danny Elfman.
This story is dedicated to my Beloved Wife.
In Memory of The Great Communicator, President Ronald Reagan
All historical data of the years 1861-1862 contained herein is based on authenticated facts.
And now - Part 17 of -
"A TIME TO
EVERY PURPOSE UNTO HEAVEN"
- “A Time To Gather Stones Together”
It was getting late. Doctor Lord sat in the darkness of his enormous living room in silence, thinking. He knew that far away, Mae Bear was crying alone in her apartment. The knowledge that he was doing the right thing by keeping her uninvolved and safe didn’t make him feel any better. The remembrance of a song drifted into his thoughts.
The ancient being sat in the complete quiet, not caring to move. His triangular white pupils covered his entire eyes in adjustment to the lack of light. He was used to isolation. He thought back to the centuries before his mental contacts...when his own love-hate relationship with the rest of the world had created the very monster that was his undoing. He thought of the years he’d allowed the Berserker to reign free upon Humanity - and the penance he must pay for doing so. He thought of the wondrous miracle of joining his mind with loved ones and the heaven-sent freedom it had finally brought him after millenniums of loneliness, pain, fear and rage. Now, except for his tie to Fifi’s emotions, he was empty again.
His pain had spawned the beast, a beast that threatened everything he loved. And now to protect that love - he must feed and strengthen the monster by hurting Mae and keeping her away. Somehow he must rid himself of it - or rid the world of himself.
The Doctor was startled and jumped in his chair when Pyewacket, his black cat, suddenly leaped up onto the table.
[“Master hurting? Need light?”] she thought to him with innocent concern.
[“Not in the same way, kitty.”]
[“Make my food then?”] she asked.
Lord shook his head and chuckled at the feline’s single-mindedness. Pye swerved between his feet as he walked into the kitchen to give her some cat food. Leaving her eating, he climbed the stone staircase to his tower.
Lord’s medieval chamber was spartan, almost crude. The cold stone walls were thick and circular, the stone floor was covered in buffalo hides and his simple wooden-framed bed sat near the well-scorched, ancient fireplace. It was a strange island of dull reality in the midst of all the bright colors of the Tooniverse. Lord built a fire of real logs and sticks in the fireplace.
As he crouched on the old, worn hearth, warming his hands before the crackling dry twigs burning in the grate, the song began to revolve in his mind. As he breathed in the rich, dark smell of wood smoke, the song became a hum on his lips, a hum that said farewell. As the dancing orange and yellow flames were reflected in the liquid silver of his staring eyes, the song took form around him, a bittersweet old western song that rolled along with a lonely harmonica. Lord sat staring into the flames, unmoving.
Gradually, he began to sing the song softly to himself, his baritone voice hitting the very depths of it’s range. His lonesome solo was just above a whisper...
“I was bo-orn under a waaaandrin’ star,
I was bo-orn under a waaaandrin’ star...
Wheels are made for rollin’, mules are made to pack,
I never seen a sight that didn’t look better lookin’ back.
I was born under a waaaaaandrin’ star,
Mud can make you prisoner and the plains can bake you dry,
Snow can burn your eyes but only people make you cry,
Home is made for comin’ from with dreams of goin’ to -
Which with any luck will never come true....
I was bo-orn under a waaaandrin’ star,
Do I know where hell is?
Hell is in “Hello”,
Heaven is “Goodbye forever, it’s time for me to go”.
I was born under a waaaandrin’ star -
A waaandrin’ wandrin’ star.”
The old creature pulled tight the ropes on his rope mattress bed frame and tied them tightly. He climbed in under his covers and lay watching the flames in silence. As his solemn eyes closed, his form shrank and changed. Kirrik slept...finally.
“Good morning everyone”, Doctor Lord said, sticking his head out his office door, ”I’m ready to take your reports. If you’ll just wait out here patiently, I’ll take you one at a time.”
“Won’t that take a long time, Doc?” asked Buster from a hallway couch in Lord’s vast mansion.
“Not at all”, the tall skunk laughed, “The Memory Machine’s retrieval system takes only a moment, just like having your photograph taken. Come along Babs, you’re first.”
“But of course!” smirked the pink bunny as she waltzed past Plucky and followed the Doctor into the room.
The jealous mallard stuck two fingers in his beak and drew it a meter wide into a ridiculous goofy grimace while he gave Babs a giant raspberrying. Hamton and the rest of the class waiting in the black oak paneled hallway chuckled at his antics.
“Why does she always get to go first?!” muttered Plucky, greener than usual with envy.
“Cuz B.B. comes before P.D., P.D.”, remarked Buster, “It’s alphabetical.”
“Heh! B.B. - more like Balloon Butt!” the duck simmered.
Shirley yawned and looked askance at her boyfriend next to her.
“Like, lame-o joke, Plucky. You usually can come up with better than that.”
“Best I can do on a Tuesday morning, Shirl”, he shrugged, “Ya know hard it is ta be funny at nine a.m.?”
Babs bounded out the door. “Next victim”, she called to Buster.
Her blue fiancé disappeared into the office and Mary Melody piped up.
“Say, did you guys see what happened in town last night?” she gossiped with excitement.
“Heh, I crashed an’ boined last night”, said Fowlmouth, “Why? What happened, Mare?”
“I heard some crashing sounds” Hamton said.
“Okay Calamity”, said Buster reemerging, “Your turn.”
The coyote raced into the office, eager to see the Doctor’s Memory machine as the others continued.
“I heard these awful sounds and saw a building fall over!” Mary told them.
“I saw something” said the sign Furball held up.
“What’re you guys talkin’ about?” asked Buster.
Calamity returned with the Doctor who called for Furball. As the cat accompanied the tall skunk into his office, Arnold spoke up.
“I heard shoodingz undt buildinks falling down, yah!”
“You heard shootings?” puzzled Wakko.
The Pit bull stared at him, “You crrazee??! I chust said dat!”
Wakko whomped Arnold on the head with a mallet, who proceeded to angrily chase the Warner kid in circles as Furball returned and pointed to Mary.
“Tell me what you saw when I get back, Furball” she said.
The blue cat looked at her in confusion as she left and shrugged - just in time to get whomped accidentally by Arnold, who now had Wakko’s mallet. The flat cat blinked and mewed in bewilderment as the others continued their chase without taking notice of him.
“Well I didn’t hear anything. I was asleep” Babs commented.
“Me too” added Buster.
“Me too” said Furball’s sign.
“Ditto” said Calamity’s.
“But Furball? Didn’t you just say you saw something last night?” asked Hamton in confusion.
The cat looked at him as if he had two heads and shook his own “no”.
Just then, Mary returned from Lord’s office, all smiles and indicated to Hamton that he was next . She then sat down with Fowlmouth and tousled his cockscomb. The rooster chuckled and blushed. Hamton got up and walked into the office all perplexed.
Shirley looked at Fifi uncertainly and couched her words carefully.
“Um, like..you didn’t happen to see anything last night, didja Feef?”
Fifi looked at her, knowing what she was trying not to say. She couldn’t reveal the truth about nearly being kidnapped by the assassin, the subsequent fire fight and being rescued by the monstrous Berserker.
“Um...non, ah waz talkeeng on zee phone long deestance - and zen - ah went to bed” the skunkette semi-lied uncomfortably.
“Fer sure!,”the Loon agreed, tossing it off with a false laugh, “I was like, having this totally cosmic experience in my room!”
“Yeah I was too -”, Plucky added.
The duck’s eyes suddenly shot open as Shirley secretly elbowed him in the ribs, making him add: “In *my* room, I mean!”
When Fifi, Buster and Babs all began to smirk at him, the blushing Pluckster suddenly became very loud and impatient.
“I mean -Say! Wait just a darn minute here!...uh, Duck comes before Pig!” he blustered, “It comes before Melody too! I shoulda been next!”
“It’s anarchy! Anarchy, I tell you!”, cried Gogo Dodo, popping out of the nearby grandfather clock, dressed as an anarchist all in black with a cloak and pointed hat. “Arise wage-slaves and join the glorious Bommunist Revolution!”, he proclaimed, “Cast off your kinky shackles and be a Blowshavic Bocialist!”
“What’s a Bommunist?” asked Plucky.
“This is!”the Dodo said, putting a black Acme bomb into the duck’s hands.
Plucky tried to blow out the short fuse, but the bomb exploded in his face. His teeth dropped out of his blacked beak to form a Soviet hammer and sickle on the floor.
“Who wants their duck blackened - Cajun style?” quipped Babs.
Hamton came out of the office, still with a puzzled look and the Doctor called to Plucky, who was on the floor picking up his molars.
“When you collected yourself, I’m ready for you, Plucky.”
“Iv you vind any more teev – vey’re mine” mumbled the duck as he followed the tall skunk.
“So what was it you all saw?” asked Hamton.
“Saw where?” Buster replied.
“Saw when?” Babs echoed.
“Saw Whet!” said Gogo pulling a small owl out of his pocket.
“Last night in town” Hamton answered.
“Ah deedn’t hear anytheeng” Fifi lied.
“Me neither” said Mary.
“I live too far away” Wakko admitted.
Calamity held up his “Ditto” sign again.
“What did I miss? What’s goin’ on?” demanded Plucky, returning.
Arnold began to say “Well, I heard some-” when Doctor Lord beckoned him into the office.
“Ah’ll be back” Arnold announced, his sunglasses glinting.
The perplexed pig turned to the one person left who hadn’t said anything one way or the other.
“Gogo? Did you see anything last night?”
The Dodo wildly spun into a World War Two German sergeants overcoat and steel helmet and began a vehement denial.
“I see nuss-ing! I hear nuss-ing!! I know nuss-ing!! I vas never a party member! I only followed orderz! Who are you?! Mine paperz are in order! Vy do you persecute me?? I love mine adopted country!” Suddenly he began to sing: “Oh beautiful! Fer spacious skyz!”
Then he ducked into the Doctor’s office as Arnold returned.
“So Arnold?”, asked Hamton, “You heard what?”
“I heard vat about vat?”, the pit bull asked, “Vat do you mean?”
“I mean last night” Hamton asserted, his frustration growing.
“I dunno vat you’re talking about, comrade” Arnold said sitting down.
Hamton threw up his hands in frustration and gave up. Fifi caught them and gave them back to him. She could only shrug her shoulders at his look of confusion and look uncomfortably at Shirley. Gogo came out walking on his hands and pointed to Shirley with his toes. The Loon could only smile back at Fifi and follow the Doctor into the office.
“Anybody know our destinations for today?” asked Wakko.
“I think we’re going back to Norfolk first to see what happens to the Merrimac” Babs answered.
“According to my studies”, Mary said, pulling out a book, “The Confederate Secretary of the Navy, Stephen Mallory wanted to get an ironclad warship to break the Union blockade. He wanted to get either the French or the British to build them one.”
“Oui, but zee French and zee Eengleesh deed not want to get eenvolved directlee een zee Amereecan’z war... even zo zey sortov supported zee Confederacee” added Fifi.
“Like, yer turn, FM” smiled Shirley as she returned.
“Tanks! Be right back!” the rooster grinned platonically.
|Art by Pepe K.|
“So this Mallory guy got some engineers to turn the Merrimac into a new kind of Ironclad, see?” Buster told them, pointing to a picture in Mary’s book.
The Toonsters all crowded around to look where the bunny’s gloved finger pointed. It was the top and side views of a strange semi-submerged vessel with sloping iron sides and ten cannons. No elegant masts or sails, not the tall, proud frigate they’d seen in flames - just a squat shape that mostly resembled the floating roof of a barn.
“They turned that big beautiful sailing ship into *that*?” exclaimed Plucky.
“Why would duh whole Union be afraid of dat thing?” wondered the returning Fowlmouth.
“You’ll find out - soon enough” Dr. Lord said ominously as be beckoned in the final student.
Fifi walked into the Doctor’s office and closed the door behind her.
“Please sit in the chair” he said indicating a nineteenth-century, wooden office chair placed between two metallic pylons. They each held a dark spherical beam emitter.
“Vat are you doeeng?” she demanded, sitting down.
“Recording your memory”, he said moving the odd emitter array into place alongside her temples.
“Are you-?!...Are you erasing zee memorieez ov last night from zee ozzers??” she asked, lowering her voice to a whisper.
“Yes”, Lord said easily as he walked back to the control panel on his desk, “A few moments of noise, perhaps a sight that shouldn’t have been seen - in exchange for a continuing, trouble-free lifetime.”
Her Grandfather sensed her shock and stopped, crouching down to look directly into her eyes with a serious face.
“You saw what happened when you uttered a single word and that man saw your connection with me” he said frankly. “Not even God knows what would be happening to you right now if the Berserker hadn’t stopped him. Those facts are dangerous to anyone who knows them - including your friends. Would you stand the chance of having them face that same threat?”
Fifi stared at him a moment, then lowered her eyes in consent. She thought of Hamton and quietly said “Non.”
Lord put an empathetic hand on her shoulder.
“I know you don’t want to see them hurt any more than I do, but believe me, it’s better to lose a few seconds of memory - than to face death. For while you would survive that peril... they wouldn’t.”
The sobered skunkette nodded silently. The big elder skunk patted her shoulder and returned to his desk, where he adjusted a dial and put a large tape cassette into the memory machine.
“Take a deep breath - and hold it” he said pressing a button.
Fifi did as she was told and the beam emitters glowed dully for a second, as the device made a brief buzzing noise.
“Relax. All done.” he said scribbling on the cassette’s name tag.
Fifi sighed and looked up at him again, “Zere was no ozzer way?”
The professor sat at his desk and sighed: “I thought all morning of telling people that Superman had been busy in the city or that the PowerPuff Girls had fought a monster, but... cover-ups are messy and expensive..and where there’s curiosity, there’s always a chance of eventual discovery. Don’t worry about it, Petite`.”
“Zose sound like famous last wordz, Grandpere” she said, accepting it.
Lord smiled in a relaxed way and chuckled, “Only in stories and legends, my dear. After you’ve lived a few centuries you’ll be surprised just how predictable life really is.”
“Zat’s not what most people say” she said surprised.
“I’m not like most people”, he said still smiling warmly, “And neither are you.”
“Vat’s eet like, living forever?” Fifi asked curiously as she got up.
Lord smiled and sighed wistfully. “It’s whatever you decide to make of it, my dear...It can be tedious or exciting. Like a song that never ends but you don’t care. All mixed together into contradictions... Joys are often the shadows cast by sorrows. C’est belle treiste.”
Fifi cocked her head as she left, thinking. Lord followed her into the hallway, where everyone looked up from reading Mary’s history book.
“Let’s go see how the ironclads began” the Doctor announced.
At the front door they met Andy Fox,who was just arriving. The vulpine scientist shuffled in, looking tired and haggard.
“Good morning Andy” Dr. Lord said greeting him.
“..Mornin’” muttered the fox uneasily without looking up.
Lord watched him a moment before stopping him.
“Andy?...Something the matter?” he asked.
The red fox stopped in his tracks and paused a moment before turning to face the Doctor, looking rather grumpy. His eyes shifted warily between Lord and the watching Toonsters.
“I dare say neither of us slept very much last night” he said quietly and meaningfully to the Doctor.
“On the contrary”, answered Lord with deliberate charm, “I slept just fine, thanks.”
The two looked at each other laconically a moment before Lord asked “Are you prepared to proceed with the next excursion?”
“Yes, perfectly” returned Andy, turning for the elevator to Lord’s Control Room.
“Oi! Fox? You okay?”, called Wakko, “Lookit yer eyes!”
“What’s the matter with my eyes?” asked the fox tiredly.
“Wull they’re red - bloodshot” the Warner kid told him frankly.
“You oughta see 'em from my side” Andy muttered as he rang for the elevator.
The day was warm and bright outside, the yellow sun typical of an “Indian Summer”. On their way out the front door, the doctor began explaining the Toonsters’ game plan for the day as they walked out toward the spot where their time travel would begin.
“Today we’ll witness the beginnings of the Monitor and the Virginia; how they were conceived and built. Now who can tell me what happened at the Norfolk Navy Yard after it was burned?” he asked.
“You mean after *we* burned it” said the sign Calamity held up.
“I can!”, said Fowlmouth, surprising everyone, “The Rebels found alot a’ stuff that wasn’t boined: gunpowder, cannon balls, shells, guns,tools -”
“- And the dry dock which I didn’t blow up” added Buster.
“- And the hull of the Merrimac”, continued the rooster, 'so dey found everyting dey’d need to make an new warship.”
“Very good, Fowlmouth!” Lord commended him, pleasantly surprised.
“It helps tuh study with a smart cookie” FM responded, smiling sideways at Mary.
As the raven-haired lass blushed, Arnold looked crestfallen.
“..You mean I verkred so hard throwing those heavy cannonz into der river - undt dey found zem anyvay??”
“I’m afraid so”, Lord told him, “What happened next?”
Wakko skipped along in front of the tall skunk as they walked across the wide green field.
“The Confederate Secretary ov the Navy got together with a couple of ship-designers and they came up with the Virginia”, the clown-faced toon told them, “They got the Merrimac outta the mud an’ put it into the dry dock to make an ironclad out ov it.”
The group walked past the sparsely placed black statues into the widest part of the field. Lord stood before the black obsidian dragon and continued his questions.
“Now how did the Union respond to this?”
“They knew a Southern ironclad could destroy their wooden ships”, said Hamton, “and since they didn’t have any of their own - they created a committee to select and build ironclads. They also knew that they had to have one built first - before the Virginia could attack them.”
“Excellent, Hamton!”, Lord said, patting his shoulder, “What were the names of the first ironclad designs that the Ironclad Board selected?”
“I know! I know!”, Plucky cried, jumping up and down for attention, “One was the Galena and the big one was the Old Ironsides!”
“You mean the *New* Ironsides” Buster insisted, correcting the duck, “The *Old* Ironsides was the USS Constitution - the famous wooden frigate-”
“AHEM! Watch yer language!”, snapped Babs, “There are ladies present!”
“Oh yeah? Where are they?” smirked Buster. “Now, before I was so rudely interrupted - I was about to mention “Old Ironsides” - the USS Constitution -the famous sailing frigate of the War of 1812.”
“Picky, picky, picky!” humphed the Pluckster, “New, old - what’s the diff?”
“At any rate”, interrupted Lord, “The Board had some questions about the stability of the design of the Galena, so it’s designer, Cornelius Bushnell was recommended to ask the best authority in the North of his opinion of the ship - Captain John Ericsson of Sweden. And now we’re going to become a part of that meeting. Can anyone guess where we’re headed for?”
Babs gleefully did a spin-change into Wally Walrus from The Woody Woodpecker Show and spoke with a heavy Swedish accent through a bushy mustache and twin tusks.
“Yah! Wee are goooing too de land ov Sveeden, yah?”
“Wrong, varlet! We go to New York City!” cried Gogo, having changed into a knight in armor. Furball was surprised to find himself saddled with the Dodo on his back.
“Yumpin’ Yiminy! Joost what doo you tink yer poking me vith?!!” cried Babs trying to avoid being prodded with a pole.
“I call it my Walter Lantz!” chortled the dodo.
Even Doctor Lord groaned as everyone covered their faces with their palms.
“On that note, let’s go. Now I’ll only need two volunteers to go with me on this trip thank you very much Shirley and Fifi” said Lord quickly.
After everyone else did a double-take, Hamton blurted out “You volunteered?!”
The startled skunkette and loon both nodded quickly in agreement and surprise.
“Then let’s be off!”, said the professor, thinking aloud, [“Andy? Send us to 95 Franklin Street, the Lower East Side of Manhattan, New York, New York, at eleven am, Eastern Standard Time on the morning of September the fourth, in the year 1861.”]
[“Rrr-rodger that”] came the fox’s mental reply.
“Hey! What about us?!” cried Babs.
[“And make our return time one second later than our departure time”] continued the Doctor.
As the tremendous black void raced out of the sky towards the three travelers, Babs and the others shrugged in acceptance and said “Oh.”
Fifi, Shirley and the Doctor held hands as they fell through the tunnel of blinding light, what little sensations they felt confusing them. The girls wondered what secret they’d see since they were going alone with the Doctor.
Suddenly the white light popped out - and was replaced with the city of old New York. Brick houses with sharp white trim met their eyes. Wooden colonial homes sitting closely packed together on either side of a dirt road sat silently. Taller buildings loomed in the distance, also still and eerie. The air was filled with the smell of coal dust, dirt and wood smoke. The three toons looked about the oddly empty city. It was like being dropped into the center of a ghost town.
“This is totally creeping me out, guys” Shirley said quietly.
“We’re not in time-synch yet so just relax” Lord said confidently looking about and smiling.
“Why deed you breeng us 'ere? What’z zee secret, Grandpere?” Fifi asked.
“Be patient, petite`. You’ll see”. Lord told her, “This way, please.”
The weight of Earth’s heavier gravity sank the toons’ feet slightly into the muddy street as the girls followed Lord’s self-assured strides to the other side of the road. The Doctor walked cheerfully up to the residence there and looked around at the neighborhood. At the corner, the simple wooden sign said Franklin St. and Church St. The gray stone mansion’s steps were engraved with the large name “CAPTAIN ERICSSON”. Producing an old-fashioned metal key from his waistcoat pocket, Lord opened the door and went in without hesitation.
Puzzled, Shirley had barely gotten in the door when she and Fifi felt themselves flowing and changing, growing taller - and becoming human forms. Fifi found herself a a tall, dark-haired man with a beard and steely eyes.
“Right on time” she herself say in a deep voice as her human fist knocked on the door.
A shapely,fair-skinned woman answered the door.
“Good morning Mister Bushnell”, the lithe red head said to her, “The Captain is waiting for ye.”
[“Like, don’t worry, Feef - it’s me!”] said Shirley.
[“Hmm! At least zees time, vous get to be zee right zex.”] Fifi thought as she followed her inside.
The house had a somewhat musty smell, but was quite clean within. The wooden floors made no creaks when they were trod on - in fact, the house and the neighborhood was extraordinarily quiet. Fifi was lead through some heavy doors into a large drawing room. Three large, elegantly-carved walnut tables were covered in draftsman’s drawings and blueprints. One had an inclined drafting board, and behind that sat the dominant figure in the house.
|Art by Fred Freeman|
He was a stocky, strongly built man with full side beards, wearing a well-cut dark frock coat, velvet vest, snowy white shirt, and black cravat. He was of an indeterminate age. His military bearing, air of vitality, and high color were that of a much younger man.
“Good Morning, Mister Bushnell” he said heartily with a Swedish accent.
“Good Morning, Captain Ericsson. And how do you find my design?”
The Captain indicated the drawings of the odd-looking frigate on the table before him.
“She will easily carry the load you propose and withstand a six-inch shot ... if fired from a respectable distance.”
“Wonderful!”, said the delighted Bushnell,”That means the Galena’s contract can go through immediately.”
[“Whaaat are they talking about?”] wondered Shirley’s thoughts.
[“Hush..just watch”] thought Lord.
Bushnell was rolling up the plans for the Galena and preparing to leave
when Ericsson said, “Do you have a moment, sir, to examine the plan of a floating battery that I guarantee is absolutely impregnable to the heaviest shot or shell?”
Taken aback by the unqualified nature of the captain’s claim, Bushnell replied, “That, sir, is the problem that has been occupying me for the past three months. Given the time constraints, the Galena has been the best we have been able to come up with.”
The Captain left the room for a moment and returned with a dust-covered box the size of which might hold a pair of shoes. From it he took a pasteboard model and plans for a craft the likes of which Bushnell had never seen before. He was nevertheless immediately struck by it.
The deck, a long rectangle rounding to a point at bow and stern, was perfectly flat or flush and, with two exceptions, clear of all structures including masts and rigging of any sort. The exceptions were a cylindrical revolving iron turret squarely amidships, and near the bow a tiny cube, large enough, so the Captain explained, for the wheel and for the head and shoulders of two men who stood on a platform below the deck. The iron-covered deck overhung the hull fore and aft, thus providing protection for the anchor and for the rudder and propeller.
[“Zat eez zee Monitor!”] thought Fifi in surprise.
[“Exactly”] thought Lord.
[“Then like, it’s even getting built was a total coincidence?”], said Shirley’s mind, [“This just keeps getting’ better an’ better. Definitely an “E” Ticket!”]
Bushnell continued to marvel at the tiny model ship. The truly exotic aspect of the vessel was that most of it lay underwater; in a rough sea her deck would be constantly awash, being only eighteen inches above the waterline. The lower hull slanted sharply inward to her flat bottom; thus crew and machinery were surrounded by a wall of water. The lack of superstructure meant radically reduced weight. She therefore drew only ten and a half feet of water - the Navy specifications allowed a limit of sixteen - easily allowing her to navigate coastal waters and most rivers.
“Her design is so simple,” said Ericsson, “that within ten weeks after commencing construction I can have her under the rebel guns at Norfolk.”
While the two men discussed the ship’s promising design, the toons were figuring out what was happening.
[“Zo meester Bushnelle persuaded Ereekzon to submit zee Monitor to zee Union?”]
[“Yes, although he did have to slightly deceive him about what the government’s Ironclad Board said about it. Ericsson wasn’t happy with how the Navy had treated him years before when some of the President’s cabinet were killed or injured during the trial voyage of a ship of his design. A cannon that was a poor copy of his own design exploded, killing the Secretary of State. It had been designed by his lying partner, Captain Stockton, who used his influence to place all the blame on Ericsson. As a result, the Navy refused to pay Ericsson for his work and made him the scapegoat for the incident.”]
[“Zo Bushnell took zee model to ze Navy for heem, yes?”]
[“Like, why hadn’t Ericsson ever done anything with this totally rad design?”]
[“He had. He’d won a medal for original thinking for it’s design from Emperor Napoleon III, but Napoleon never bought it.”]
[“Wow guys! I’m like baking the old fashioned way in here! Totally organic bread and muffins er sum junk! Mmm, I dig the smell of yeast!”]
Inwardly, Fifi rolled her eyes at Shirley’s domestic distraction, but Lord’s thoughts sighed :[“Mmm! Miss Cassidy’s rolls!”]
While Fifi puzzled at this, she found herself walking to a chair to study the cardboard model further. Bushnell put it on a table and toyed thoughtfully with the revolving turret a moment before looking up at Ericsson. From the tentative smile in the eyes of both men it was apparent that they were both thinking complimentary thoughts.
“Take it,” said the Swede, “and good luck.”
Bushnell wasted no time. He quickly gathered up model and plans for both vessels, pumped Ericsson’s hand and set off to see the Secretary of the Navy. The housemaid saw him out and turned to call back to the Captain.
“I’m off to market, Captain. Now don’t you be eatin’ my rolls, Sir!” she called as she left.
Ericsson did not answer. Thinking he was already engrossed in his work, Miss Cassidy turned towards the square and began to walk away.
Suddenly the world seemed to waver before Shirley’s eyes and her hostess’s body walked right out of her and kept on walking!
[“Ladies! Double back to the alley on the right side of the house! Hide quickly - they can see you!!”] thought Lord.
Shirley’s eyes shot down to her white hands and to the young women whose body she’d been in only moments ago. The young lady kept on walking away, never having seen her. So did Mister Bushnell. In a panic, Shirley turned on her heels and raced to the side alley, just behind the fleeing purple figure of Fifi and together they dove through a hole between some barrels! Fifi’s wide hips pushed the barrels apart and she slipped behind them. Shirley dove into the hole but was caught as the barrels rocked back together, leaving her downy posterior exposed!
“What is that??” asked an unfamiliar male voice.
Terrified, Shirley scrambled into their hiding place, and she and Fifi cowered in silence as heavy footsteps approached. They looked for a way out but found none! All the two toonettes could do was cringe and bite their lips in silence! A man’s hand was placed on top of the barrel in front of them! The girls shut their eyes in terror!
“What is - oh good morning, Captain...” said the man.
“What can I do for you, Constable?” asked John Ericsson’s voice.
“I saw a strange animal in there - a bird I think it was, sir...”
“Ah, not to worry - that’s my duck escaping again. I’ll get her”, said Ericsson, “Thank you Constable.”
The girls sucked in a silent gasp!
“You’re most welcome, sir. Will you need any help in catching her?”
The girls cringed!
“No thank ye, Constable. I shall deal with her myself.”
The girls dared not breathe as footsteps walked away and the barrels were shifted by Ericsson. They looked at each other in panic and each pointed desperately for the other to do something quickly! Their dark hideaway was opened and the man from the past stared straight at them!!
“......Like, Quack an’ junk??” said Shirley innocently to the man, doing her best to look like a duck.
Fifi hid behind Shirley and the girls shut their eyes in terror!
When nothing happened, the toonettes uncovered their wide eyes to stare back at the tall Swede. His serious face was creased by a slight smile and he put a finger to his lips for silence and then pointed to the window above them.
Mystified, Shirley and Fifi peeked through the window in the kitchen of Ericsson’s home. Lo and behold, another John Ericsson walked into the room and took a hot roll from the baking pan there. Handling the hot bread gingerly, the man stood still a moment - and changed into the familiar form of Kirrik!
Fifi and Shirley stared in shock as Kirrik ate the roll with delight. They turned their heads back to the man standing with them - and found he had also changed into Kirrik! The light slowly dawned on Fifi’s face.
“So zat’s why you only wanted ze two ov us to come! *You* are Ereekzon!” she exclaimed.
As Kirrik nodded, Shirley figured out the rest.
“Like - You designed the Monitor! That’s why you want it back...”, she marveled, “Talk about karmic destiny!”
As they watched the other Kirrik return to his study, the world shifted again around them back to the silent, deserted New York they had arrived in.
Kirrik looked fondly at his old house and patted it’s brick facade.
“It’s nice to see the old neighborhood as it was”, he said thoughtfully, “The Monitor was one of my better creations from the nineteenth century.”
Fifi, though surprised, was nonplused by Lord’s habit of not telling her.
“And what ozzer wondrous thingz deed you create?” she sniffed.
“Hmm,” said the immortal in thought, “The screw propeller, the fire engine, the flame engine, forced draft, the steam gun, the hydrostatic javelin, the Sun engine -”
“Zee hydro-what?” asked his granddaughter.
“The torpedo” he told her.
“Like Wow! You designed all these things in the Industrial Revolution?!”, Shirley expounded, then sounded her disapproval, “Replacing humanity with machines? Most uncool, Doc.”
“Would you prefer the horse and buggy days?” he countered, “No electricity, no television, no telephones, no movies, no computers, no blow-dryers, no video games - and no plumbing or personal hygiene?”
“Mm, point taken”, the Loon said taking it back, “Ewwwww! Like, how would I ever get my hair done?! Mondo dragola...”
“Why don’t vous just tell us you were Erreekzon?” asked Fifi impatiently.
“What fun would that be?,” Kirrik answered as he changed into his skunk form again, “Besides, the meeting needed to be mentally recorded by someone other than myself.”
“Like, so you just want the Monitor back cause you made it? It’s written up and praised in moldy ol’ history books - like, isn’t that enough fer you?”
Lord stopped in his tracks. He slowly turned to face the girls with a quiet look of shock and disappointment on his face.
“...You don’t seem to understand...” he said earnestly.
The Doctor bent down and pulled up a loose cobblestone from the sidewalk and held it out for them to see.
“This is *real*”, he said pointing to the rock, 'someone quarried it... brought it here...carved it by hand and made it part of this street. It touched a _real_ person’s_ life....You see? History can’t touch us if we can’t touch it. Otherwise it *is* only words in a moldy old book.”
The tall skunk crouched to speak to them face to face.
“Both the Monitor and the Merrimac were created to save their nations’ freedom...that they and others might live the way they wanted to live. ..and people built them, labored over them, raced against time to beat the others. Real sailors lived, ate, worked, suffered and *died* on board them - they died serving their countries! We do this *for them*.”
Fifi and Shirley didn’t know what to say. Lord put the cobblestone back and stood solemnly.
“Perhaps you don’t get it now”, he said watching them, “But you will.”
He looked up into the cloudy sky and told them, “When you stand on that iron deck as they did...and taste the ocean .. and breathe the gun smoke ... and feel the cannon fire in the marrow of your bones...you will.”
The girls were silent.
“Let’s go” Lord said.
The shining white tunnel reopened and the waiting Toonsters were surprised.
“Whut happened sir? You only left a moment ago” wondered Wakko as the three travelers reappeared before them.
“We were successful”,
said Doctor Lord, “Now, let’s all go back to Norfolk and see what’s become of
the Merrimac.” [“Andy?”], he thought aloud, [“Take us to The Portsmouth Navy Yard,
Virginia - in the Confederate States of
[“Why five minutes later?”] asked the Fox’s disembodied voice in their heads.
[“I think it’ll make it easier on the equipment. All these rapid transfers might heat up the coils. Better not to take any chances.”] answered Lord.
[“Any more than you already are?”], Andy quipped, [“Oops! Sorry ... my thoughts betray me. Heheh.”]
Again, the enveloping blackness raced towards them, causing Plucky to cringe. Buster, however looked up with disappointment.
|Art by Murray Mouse|
Babs looked sideways at him and did a spin-change into Gene Simmons’ demon character from KISS and sang: “I-I-I-I-I WANNA ROCK 'N ROLL ALL NIIIIGHT!! I WANT IT EVER-Y DAY!!”
As she did her menacing rock monster moves and snaked out a five-foot forked tongue at him, the blue bunny slumped in exasperation and said “I had ta ask for it!”
The blazing white light swept away Babs’ grinning expression away and all that was felt was the tight grip they held on each other’s paws. The confusing plethora of sensations bombarded their minds as they spiraled through the intense whiteness, until the ping-pong ball-like vista surrounding them popped - and a bright warm day surrounded them again.
(“Big Fish”, #10, “Shoe Stealing”)
They were all back at the Gosport Navy Yard, alongside the wharf and the banks of the Elizabeth River. Everything was different now in the bright daylight. The buildings were burned and charred relics of the night they’d put it all to the torch. But there seemed to be new life in the town. A fresh wind blew through the surrounding trees, taking away the smoke and smell of the old place.
|Art by Fred Freeman|
“The Merrimac!” Furball exclaimed, finding his voice once more.
“Look what they’ve done to her!” said Plucky, pointing.
Indeed, quite alot had been done. The hull of the ship had been cut down to just three feet above it’s waterline, as though a giant knife had cleanly cut the ship’s hull down to a long, flat oval. The copper-plated hull and the ship’s muddy bottom sat on wooden pilings in the dry dock, the seventeen-foot twin-bladed propeller showing plainly. Atop the flat deck lay a strange-looking roof. It’s steeply-angled wooden sides sloped up to a long thin top that ran down the center of it’s length. It had fourteen oval gunports in it’s slanted sides and the ship’s black metal smokestack sticking up through it’s roof. The roof looked brand new. The yellowish-white oak and pine timbers shone in the sun.
“Look at that - they must be using green wood” Lord observed.
Hamton smiled, then giggled, then laughed out loud as everyone else looked at him.
“What’z zo funny, Hamtone?” asked a puzzled Fifi.
“Hee! She looks like a giant banana split!”
The Toonsters looked and laughed in agreement at the long yellow rounded roof sitting on top of a the dish-like hull.
“DAYYYY-OH! DAY-AY-AY-OH!” belted out Buster, singing the Banana Boat Song.
Babs slapped his shoulder and looked annoyed.
“Hey, I can’t let you have *all* the fun, now can I?” he shrugged.
“Thank you, *Hare-ee* Belefonte!”, he fiancee retorted, “Just remember we have a mission h-”
Suddenly, the toons found their bodies shifting and changing as time moved into synchronization around them.
[“Interesting”], thought Calamity from his new human host body, [“That felt like a “wipe” effect.”]
[“Hm, indeed it does. I’d never thought of it that way.”] commented the Doctor. [“Report in, everyone.”]
Babs, Shirley and Fifi found themselves promenading away from the others towards the town. Inwardly, they all squealed with joy.
[“Ah! At last we get to be women!”] thought Babs as she felt her skirts and petticoats rustling and her high-heeled boots trembling over the rough dirt road.
The amazing three found themselves as fashionable ladies in elegant full-length gowns crossing the streets and wooden sidewalks. Their hoop skirts waggled around their hips and knees and their gloved hands daintily held up the hems of their dresses to keep them from getting dirty.
[“Like Wow! Lookit all the buttons and ruffles we’ve got! And this is dressing cahz fer these people”] thought a delighted Shirley.
[“Wooff! Joost try and take a deep breath!”], gasped Fifi, [“ Zee boning een zees corset eez zo tight!”]
[“It’s no wonder the women were always fainting - you can hardly breathe in all these clothes!”] thought Babs.
[“Well at least the girls are enjoying themselves”] Plucky complained as he and Hamton found themselves as workmen on board the bow of the Merrimac.
The clank of wooden planks being nailed down filled their ears and the sun beat down on the backs of their necks.
“Get that ram bolted down, you lot” said their foreman.
The pair found drills and sledge hammers in their hands and before them was a huge, plowshare-shaped cast iron ram partially attached to the point of the bow of the ship. Behind them, the curved wooden casemate of the unfinished ironclad rose from the deck, it’s three open bow gunports staring at them like baleful empty eyes.
[“Humph! Plucky’s got nuthin’ to complain about! He should try *this job*!”] thought Buster unhappily as he leaned into his shovel.
[“It could be worse - at least we’re out of the sun”] said Doctor Lord as he wrenched up another shovelful of muck.
The two had suddenly found themselves as workmen digging out the remains of an old outhouse. The smell and filth were appalling.
“Ah’m used to mucking out stables but this is ree-dic-a-los!” said Buster’s young host, a young southern lad of thirteen. “What are we doing this for again, Amos?”
“Fer the glory of the Confederacy, sonny”, the older man told him, “Cause that there ship is needin gunpowder and we needs must dig up the niter.”
“Make powder out of *this* stuff?! How? Why cain’t we jus’ buy it laik ever’body else?” exclaimed the boy in disgust, heaving up another stinking load onto their cart.
“Ah keeps a-tellin’ ye, boy! The cuss-ed Yankees have blockaded the whole o’ the South! We cain’t get nuthin from nobody - so’s we got to make it ourselves.” said the Doctor’s host.
As the old fellow and the boy bent to their reeking work, Buster thought to Lord [“What’s ‘niter’?”]
[“They couldn’t import any saltpeter through the blockade - so they had to dig up earth rich in nitrate of lime and convert it into saltpeter by saturating it with lye made from wood ashes.”] Lord told him.
[“And black powder is seventy-five percent saltpeter”], thought Buster. [“...That’s an awful lot of latrines to dig up. Yuck!”]
[“Well, no one ever said that war smelled good”], Lord commented, [“I hope the others are having a better time of it..”]
Mary Melody found her work just as tedious as the others - but that wasn’t what she was there for. She found herself scrubbing and washing clothes in a nearby barrel and an icy cold stream that ran into the Elizabeth River. But what fascinated and thrilled her was the circumstances of her being there.
As she knelt on the ground in her rough woolen dress, her brown hands wiped the sweat from her brow. Not only was she in the body of a woman of the times, but she was an African slave! She’d wondered all her life what it had been like to have been one of the genuine oppressed humans whose heritage she shared. Scanning the woman’s thoughts of her past life proved that it had been both worse than she’d imagined, but in some ways better.
Taken from her home and family at a young age, this particular woman had been educated as a “house slave” and had lived somewhat better than the “field hands”.
What Mary now marveled at was what this woman had done with her education; how she’d escaped her bondage, found the Underground Railway north and how she’d willingly returned to act as a Union spy!
Carefully she watched the construction of the Confederate ironclad, noting every detail and committing it to memory. Later she would draw a picture of the Rebel ship and hide it in her shoe. As her hands scrubbed a shirt, she secretly smiled and watched from the corners of her eyes.
Darkness. Almost everywhere he looked, Calamity saw blackness and flickering shadows. There was the smell of mud, rusted iron and rotting wood. Drips of water fell on his face. It felt as if he were alive in a grave.
His host groped around and finally felt the cold glass and metal of a lantern. He struck a light and carefully applied it to the greasy wick, igniting a soft yellowish glow that chased away the uncertainty.
There was little surrounding him that he recognized; a filthy and slippery wooden floor strewn with coal beneath his feet, dripping bulkheads and a dimly lit wooden plank ceiling high over his head. Through a skylight-like grating, he faintly saw yet another ceiling with yet another grating in it. Daylight filtered down from it, seemingly miles away. It was as though he had fallen down an abandoned mine shaft.
Fortunately, there was one large object before him which he knew well. His host recognized it easily. The officer looked at the massive rusty steam engine - and shook his head.
“Mister Williamson...I have seen this cantankerous old beast looking badly - but never this badly!” said Acting Chief Engineer H. Ashton Ramsay.
“Well sir, if you were burned and sunk and pulled up by your stern, I daresay you wouldn’t look well either” his companion officer replied with a laugh.
Calamity smiled inwardly as he knew he’d thoroughly enjoy the task set before him. He stood in the Merrimack’s engine room and before him was the largest steam engine he’d ever seen. The massive rusty machine was a horizontal back-acting engine, it’s giant steam pistons working a series of larger and larger steel rocker arms to turn a massive crankshaft. From his host’s thoughts, the coyote knew that this was a particularly cranky and unreliable engine, always breaking down and requiring constant care and adjustments.
“This is gonna be fun!” grinned the young genius.
“Gentlemen! This project is of the utmost importance to our cause!”
“Ah realize that, Mistah Secretary - but this change *must* be made!”
“...That cannot be accomplished given the amount of time, sir.”
“If the ship is to succeed, sir, this alteration is absolutely necessary.”
“Things are difficult as it is, Lieutenant...”
The remaining five male toonsters found themselves in a heated argument. They were sitting together around a table in a small shack alongside the dry dock where their unfinished ironclad lay. It was a hot summer’s day and here they were - dressed in heavy formal suits and gray naval uniforms. Everything was thoroughly uncomfortable.
Gogo found himself within the body of Lieutenant John M. Brooke, a bearded young naval designer who stood arguing in favor of the new changes.
“Ah agree with Lieutenant Jones, Mistah Secretary”, he said, “According to our tests on Jamestown Island, the three inches of one-inch iron plating will be penetrated by solid shot. We must increase the armor plating for the
Arnold found himself inside Lieutenant Catesby ap Roger Jones, a quiet forty year old naval veteran and weapons expert. In his soft-spoken way, he supported Brooke’s assertions.
“..Our tests showed that when struck by either an eight or nine inch projectile fired with a charge of only ten pounds of powder from three hundred and twenty-seven yards distance, repeated shots shattered the plating and damaged the wooden backing”, said Jones, “Using the same fire against four inches of two-inch plating sometimes cracked the outer layer of iron - but did not penetrate, sir.”
“Obviously then, we must use four inch plates! Have the Tredgar Ironworks advised immediately” Fowlmouth found himself saying with a smile, pleased to find himself a man of such importance as the Confederate Secretary of the Navy, Stephen Mallory.
“Sir - the Tredgar works have already had to retool in order to produce one-inch plates. It will take days, perhaps weeks for them to rebuild their iron rollers to make two-inch iron! Add to that the fact that we’re having to scrounge the entire countryside for enough iron to do the job - and now you propose to double it? I’ll have to redesign the ship just to hold that much weight!” said Furball’s host.
Like the toon cat within him, John L. Porter was an unlucky worrier. At age fifty-seven, the naval constructor was unhappy with being given more work when he was already overburdened with building the proposed ironclad.
“If you use four inches of two-inch plate - that will mean we’ll need over seven hundred tons of iron. She’ll turn turtle as soon as you let water into the graving dock” Wakko’s host told the group.
As the Commandant of the newly captured Navy Yard, Captain French Forrest had serious doubts about weather the ship would even float, let alone be the amazing engine of destruction that they hoped for.
“Mistah Portah will simply have to counterbalance the ship correctly” said Brooke.
“And what, sir - do you mean by that?” asked Porter in annoyance.
“Jest that you’ll have to add less ballast to keep her eaves underwater” said Brooke nonchalantly.
“The weight has already been calculated, Lieutenant”, retorted Porter, “It will be difficult as it is to keep the entire lower hull submerged without adding things like that heavy ram of yours.”
“Now, Mister Porter - that ram was also my suggestion”, countered Secretary Mallory, “The heavy shell guns may do considerable damage, but ramming the Union ships will guarantee their sinking. We must destroy them if we are to break the blockade”
“It’s always best to have more than one method of attack” said Lieutenant Jones quietly.
[“Does anybody know who zees guys are?”] wondered Arnold.
[“Well, I happen to be inside duh head honcho, Stephen Mallory - the Confederate Secretary of the navy - and the guy who started all dis!”] Fowlmouth answered.
[“I’m John Porter, the man assigned to design and build the Virginia”], thought Furball, [“He’s not happy about the cooperation he’s getting and he’s getting flak from everybody. He thinks the guy Brooke is getting all the credit for doing everything.”]
[“Well. I’m inside Brooke and he thinks Porter is sloppy and lazy!”], thought Gogo, [“He’s coming up with all the revolutionary designs and thinks that he should be in charge.”]
[“Mein host eez Loitenant Catesby ap Roger Jones”], thought Arnold to the others, [“He’s hopink to be der captain of der Virginia.”]
[“But 'ee doesn’t - ee’s only made the second in command”],thought Wakko, [“My host is the Commandant ov the Navy Yard - an’ ee wants to be cap’n too.”]
[“Ahhh, dat doesn’t matter! Mallory’s already picked who’s gonna be cap’n - and it ain’t either of yer guys!”] scoffed Fowlmouth.
“The ship’s ram will be a devastatin’ weapon”, affirmed Brooke to the others, “and since it’s located underwater - it can nevah be shot away!”
“You mean to tell me that the ram and the bow and stern will be completely submerged, Sir?” exclaimed Captain Forrest.
“That is what what they’re proposing, yes” Porter answered unhappily.
Captain Forrest was flabbergasted: “You expect to have seventy percent of this vessel *underwater*?! Including the bow and stern? She’ll leak like a sieve! - And you propose to cover the top with seven hundred tons of iron?!! The ship will never float!!”
“Thank you for your vote of confidence”, replied Porter sarcastically, this is exactly the kind of response I’ve been getting around here!”
“Ah say the ship *will* float and *will* work in the way we wish it to!” Brooke argued.
“Gentlemen”, said Porter, “I have received but little encouragement from anyone. Hundreds - I may say thousands - have asserted she will *never float*!”
With this statement came an uproar from the other men that began to sound like a shouting match.
[“It’s amazing that these guys even managed to cooperate - let alone build a ship that nearly won the war.”] thought Furball.
As voices shouted and fists were slammed against the table top, Wakko wondered:[“Can’t we all just get along?”]
An ink bottle fell to the floor and smashed, leaving a blackish-blue mess of glass on the floor.
[“Ahh!”], sighed Gogo happily, [“Kinda reminds me of home!”]
Meanwhile the three girls’s hostesses stood waiting in line on a wooden sidewalk outside a town office. The sign over the door read: “The Norfolk Day Book”. Many ladies stood primly waiting in a queue as the line into the shop slowly advanced. All carried bundles or small packages.
[“Like, what do ya think we’re waiting for?”] wondered Shirley.
[“Maybe we’ve been drafted?”] kidded Babs.
[“All my hostess is thinkin’ of is seeing a certain hunky soldier before he goes off to fight.”], giggled Shirley’s thoughts, [“she’s totally hot to trot!”]
[“Hmm, all mah hostess can theenk about eez wheech ov her underwear to geeve up”] Fifi told them.
[“Whoa! Give away her underwear?!? Just what kinda “ladies” are we inhabiting??”] Shirley thought in shock.
[“Well, no way am I givin’ up mine! These undies stay right where they are!”] stated the pink bunny.
[“Heh, zat’z for sure,”] thought Fifi sarcastically, [“still weareeng zos “day ov zee week”, tightie whities, Babz?”]
Babs blushed inwardly, thinking [“I happen to like them! They’re... comfortable! What would you have me wear - kinky stinkies?”]
[“Like, could we discuss this some other time?”] wondered Shirley as they reached the inside of the shop.
|Art by Fred Freeman|
Inside, a tall naval officer with a quill pen behind his ear was receiving the clothing that the ladies were donating. He looked at the contents of Babs’ hostess’s package and smiled grandly. The lady blushed. So did Babs.
The man looked at the woolen dresses and silken underthings in the parcel and thanked her.
“The Navy of the Confederate States of
The lady gracefully curtsied and smiled as Shirley’s lady came forward with her package. The officer gratefully thanked her for her contribution.
[“So that’s what they want our underwear for”] concluded Babs.
[“Whew! That’s a load off”], sighed Shirley, [“I wondered why a bunch 'a sailors would want my panties.”]
[“Zey are sailorz - so who knows what?”] Fifi leered inwardly.
Finally the skunkette’s hostess stepped up to donate her bundle. The officer calmly opened the parcel and thanked her aloud.
“Madam, we of the Confederate Navy thank you. Your flannel ..er - under-things will provide at least a whole bag for a thirty-two pounder charge!”
The lady and Fifi blushed deeply and the other ladies present giggled a bit, while inside them, Babs and Shirley were snickering and laughing as well.
[“Man oh man! We really devastated this place!”] thought Buster as he and Lord drove their empty cart back to their diggings.
Their hosts had delivered a wagon-load of stinking earth to the gunpowder works and were on their way back for a second cart-load. The riverbank was lined with the stark remnants of the buildings that had burned down. Only the stone and brick shells of the ship-houses remained standing. They stood like tombstones across from the tugboats and steamers laying at anchor in the river.
[“And this isn’t the last time Gosport will go up in flames”], the Doctor thought to him. [“When the Federal troops are about to recapture Norfolk - the Rebels will burn it all down again - and they’ll do a better job of it than we did.”]
“Look, there’s a man taking a picture of us!” cried the lad Buster was within as he pointed at a photographer on the shore.
A gentleman with a suit sat on a stone slab from one of the fallen buildings as another city-dweller focused a large box-camera on the scene.
[“They won’t see us - will they?”] asked Buster as their cart passed the two men.
[“We can't be seen, so relax.”] Lord told him, [“But we’ll get to be part of history now.”]
They pulled to a halt and waited as the photographer uncovered the lens of his tin-type camera.
“Be still, sonny”, said Amos out of the side of his mouth.
They waited several breathless seconds until the photographer replaced his lens cover. Amos then cracked the reins and their horse drew them away to continue their errand.
[“I hope that picture comes out. Won’t Babs be jealous when I wind up in a picture in history books!”] gloated Buster.
[“It can be a curse, my boy”], Lord reminded him as they drove away, [“If that tin-type comes out well, you’ll be remembered as a shoveler of outhouses.”]
Buster frowned inwardly a moment and then thought, [“Think of it dis way, Doc - we’re not mucking out filthy outhouses - we’re determined Rebels making gun-potty!”]
The Doctor groaned at the painful pun as they drove on down the road.
The sun beat down on the deck of the MERRIMAC as hundreds of workmen labored over her. The two men whom Hamton and Plucky inhabited were sweating over the bolts holding the fifteen hundred pound cast iron ram to the bow. Each hole had to drilled by hand through the wooden prow. As Plucky’s man held and turned the hand drill auger, Hamton’s man drove it deeply into the wood by swinging a fifteen pound sledge hammer.
[“Hey Plucky!”], thought the pig cheerfully, [“I’m so hot - I’m bacon!”]
Plucky’s mind did a slow burn at the pun and he thought: [“Watch it, straight-pig! I’ll do the jokes around here!”]
Hamton’s workman swung his hammer and nearly hit the duck’s host’s fingers.
“Watch whut yer doin’!” grumbled the man.
[“Sorry, Plucky”] apologized Hamton dutifully.
The two set up a working rhythm: Plucky turning the drill while Hamton whacked away at the end of it. The sledge hammer was always just missing Plucky’s fingers each time by a second, but soon their minds were on something else .
The Pluckster reflected on Shirley’s words on reconciliation and thought reluctantly [“Um...how are things goin’ with yer purple princess?”]
[“Plucky, you *can* say her name, can’t you?”]
[“We’ve all been friends for four years, haven’t we?”] the pig reminded him patiently.
[“Yeah, but that was before”] the duck thought, growing uncomfortably humble.
[“Before - well...before you two started acting like Tracy and Hepburn.”]
[“We’re in love, Plucky!”], Hamton sighed joyfully, [“Umm...can you keep a secret?....Oh, never mind - bad idea.”]
[“Aw c’mon! We’re *supposed* to be best friends, aren’t we?”]
[“Of course we are, but - well... you’re about as good at keeping secrets as Calamity is at catching L’il Beeper.”]
[“C’mon, tell me!”], begged the Pluckster, [“Did ya get to first base with her? Second? Home plate??”]
[“Hey watch it with that thing, Casey Jones!”]
[“Plucky - we talked about getting engaged! Isn’t that terrific?!”] Hamton thought happily.
[“...Oh joy oh rapture. Tell me somthin’ I don’t know”] the duck huffed.
[“I’m gonna marry Fifi La Fume! Me!!”], Hamton exulted in ecstasy, [“she’s sooo beautiful! So special! And she’s got that...that...”]
[“Ha! Ya missed me! ...But you cracked that flange -”]
At the stream, Mary’s hostess looked up from her washing and spying. Something odd was in the air. At first it was faint, then the smell grew stronger. She looked around for the source as the smell became a stink. She looked at the shirt she was scrubbing and sniffed it. No, the garment was clean...but the unpleasant smell grew stronger.
Down in the Merrimack’s engine room, Calamity’s host; Lieutenant Ramsay was sweating over the old rusty steam engine with a king-sized wrench. Suddenly he was surrounded by a very bad odor. After discretely sniffing his uniform shirt, he looked up at his co-workers. Could the salt corrosion from the seawater be making a chemical reaction? The stench grew worse and worse and suddenly Calamity’s mind panicked! Maybe seawater had gotten into the battery compartment! It might be deadly chlorine gas!! They must evacuate the ship!!
[“Wait a minute...”], he thought, [“steamships didn’t use batteries -that was on board World War Two submarines! Silly me...”]
As his eyes began to tear up from the smell, the coyote began to think of how familiar that scent was...
Back at the builder’s meeting, the five male Toonsters’ hosts were all shooting suspicious looks at each other.
[“Ha-ha!”], laughed Wakko, pointing at Arnold. He made a sound like a foghorn saying, [“B - O!”]
[“spendin’ too much time at the gym, huh Arnie?”] laughed Fowlmouth.
[“I shower daily, tank you!”] grouched the pit bull.
[“He who smelt it - delt it!”] chortled Gogo, pointing at Wakko.
[“Well it wasn’t me!”] the Warner kid denied.
[“Wait a second...”], thought Furball, [“I’ve smelled this somewhere before...”]
Buster looked up from his shoveling with a wince on his face.
[“Man! This stuff reeks!”]
[“Oh dear! It must be getting ripe in the sun.”] admitted Lord. [“It’s hard to believe - but it’s actually getting worse!”]
Buster looked at the disgusting diggings they stood in, but then noticed a difference.
[“Hold it...that’s not the manure...it’s more like....Uh...Doc?”] the bunny thought suspiciously.
Lord recognized it now and thought [“Ah...Buster, you may find this hard to believe - but despite my appearance as a skunk...I, uh..have never actually...skunked anyone.”
[“Then where’s it coming from?”]
[“OH! Gag me! Fifi!!”] cried Shirley’s thoughts as the three ladies crossed the street from the newspaper building.
[“Ah deedn’t do eet”] the skunkette denied.
[“Holy Smoke! Une Pew! Les kitty du terrible odaire! La Fume!!”] cried Babs, wishing she could hold her nose.
[“But ah swear eet waz not moi!”] Fifi insisted.
[“Gross me out the door! It *is* you!”] choked Shirley.
[“The faker’s the maker, La Fume!”] agreed Babs.
[“But ah *can’t* do eet! Ah’m eenside zis lady’s body, remembaire?”]
That stopped the accusations. They began to consider other possibilities.
[“Maybe zere eez a real skonk around 'ere?”]
[“Maybe it’s Friday afternoon and nobody’s bathed yet?”]
[Like - hold the phone! These women don’t seem to notice it - only we do!”], thought Shirley, [“One of us must be like – thinkin’ about it!”]
[“Who would be thinking about Fifi’s smell??”] wondered Babs.
The Amazing Three came to the same conclusion all in the same moment and the loon and the bunny both regarded the skunkette knowingly, while she was wishing a halo could appear over her head..
[“Hamtone”] thought Fifi with an embarrassed giggle.
Meanwhile, back at the Merrimac’s bow, the two men working on attaching the ram slowly continued their labors, their minds seemingly numb with the dullness of the job, the slow pace of the work... or could it be something else?
[“Can’t...breathe!...Must...hold...out! ..Must ..distract ..pig!”] gasped Plucky’s brain as it fought the sensory overload.
[“Mmmmmm....Fifi......”] thought Hamton as he continued to fantasize about Fifi’s scent covering him like a blanket of pleasure.
[“Hamton!...Stop! Please!....I’m starting to like it...”] begged the nearly asphyxiated duck.
Suddenly from far away, Plucky heard the thoughts of the other Toons.
[“Like Hamton! Stop thinking of Fifi’s smell! Yer totally gassing us all!”]
[“Oh man! Somebody crack a window! Plucky! Do something!”]
The duck’s swooning mind fought to focus on the problem. Being helpless inside a body he had no control over made him feel as if he were trapped in a gas chamber.
[“Hamton, please control your impulses.” “Hamtone? Ah appreciate ze thought, but please!” “somebody, toin off dat dadgum stink!”]
Plucky fought hard to clear his head of Hamton’s intimate visions and to somehow distract his pal.
[“Can..only...speak...one...word...at..a time!..Aww Crab cakes! Knock it off Ham-Brain! C’mon! Turn off the hormone-factory!”]
He could feel the pig’s mind humming away happily in an odor-driven nirvana. He had to make it stop.
[“What do I hafta do - throw you in a cold shower? Uhh... Hammy - there’s mud on yer pants! Uh...Dieting! Bagpipe music! Uh..your room is a terrible mess!..uh..We’re all outta chocolate ice cream!..Look! It’s Barney in a thong!!.....hmm..okay - Bad stuff’s not working...Think Plucky, think!...What can Hamton not resist? ..Free Lunch!...uh..nope...Look! A free seminar on cookware!...uh-uh...Hey! Is that Fifi sky-diving in a bikini? ...No good.”]
Hamton’s mind was oblivious, stuck in the midst of his skunk-spray reverie. Plucky would have to resort to stronger methods. Using all his willpower, he stopped his host from drilling, causing Hamton’s host also to stop. As the two workmen began to argue, Hamton’s mind set weakened.
[“Well, I didn’t wanna resort to this, but a duck’s gotta do what a duck’s gotta do! ...Hey Hammy! What’s Fifi doing with Doctor Lord?”]
[“What? Who?! Where?!!...What do you mean by that, Plucky?”] thought the pig, finally snapping back to reality.
As the workmen finished their argument with an angry silence and the fantasy la fumes abated, the Pluckster knew he had succeeded.
[“Woo-hoo! I did it! Now I can breathe again!...Sorry pal, I had tuh say that to snap you out of it before we were all skunked into oblivion.”]
Hamton was about to say something, when suddenly the form of his host’s body flowed and began to shrink. He watched as the other workman changed back into Plucky’s usual fowl form.
“Whew!”, said the duck with his own voice again, “What a relief!”
“Gee Plucky, I’m sorry”,stammered the embarrassed boar,”I didn’t mean to drag you into my..umm...well...”
“Relax chum! I’m just glad tuh find that you have *urges* just like the rest of us guys” the mallard said slapping him on the back. “Just keep 'em to yerself next time, huh? A few more minutes of that and *I* woulda thought Fifi covered in mud looks hot too.”
The pink pig blushed red with embarrassment.
“Oh gosh! I didn’t think *that* out loud - did I??”
Just then, the other Toonsters appeared from various directions; the five fellows appearing from the shack near the stern of the ship and Calamity from a ladder up to the rooftop deck of the Ironclad. The coyote stood poised there as everyone clambered onto the ship’s bow, then slid down the inclined wooden casemate to stand with the group. Everyone glared at Hamton except Fifi and the Doctor, who looked nearly as embarrassed as Hamton did.
“Well, what all did we learn here?” Doctor Lord calmly asked.
“Like, that everyone in the South contributed something to the war effort” Shirley said.
“Yeah - even unmentionable somethings” Babs added, alluding to their donated underwear.
“That refitting the Merrimack after she’d been sunk was a nearly impossible job - but they did it!”, said Calamity with a big grin, “And boy - do I love impossible jobs!”
“Well, we found dat duh guys buildin’ dis ship could hardly agree on anyting - not on how she’d look, how she’d work or even if she’d float at all!” Fowlmouth told them grandly.
“But somehow -they managed to work together and do it” Furball said in amazement.
“I learned that not everyone in the South was a rebel” Mary told them all with a secretive smile. She paused meaningfully and said “some of us were _Union_ spies!”
As everyone gasped in awe around Mary, the Doctor threw the question to Buster.
“And what did we find out, Buster?”
Buster delighted in taking a big breath of clean air and said “That war stinks as bad as it looks!”
At that, everyone turned to glare again at Hamton and said “You can say that again!”
As the group left in a flash of darkness and light, they never saw the legacy of what they’d left behind - a broken flange on the Merrimack’s new ram.
Following the monstrous blackness and the blinding whiteness of the time tunnel, the Toonsters stood again on the rich animated green grass of the fields behind Doctor Lord’s mansion.
“Ahhh! It’s good to smell the sweet air of home!” remarked Babs none too sarcastically.
“Uh..Hammy? Remind moi to ave a word weeth you lataire?” Fifi whispered uncomfortably as she held hands with the still embarrassed pig.
Lord crouched and sat Indian-style in the cool grass, surprising everyone. Seeing his silvery eyes and face at their same level made them forget their thoughts for a moment.
“I think we learned a few valuable and important lessons, didn’t we?” he asked with a smile.
“Totally! Telepathic thoughts can be like, just as strong as reality - even if they’re just fantasies” Shirley affirmed.
Buster and some of the other guys snickered and giggled, while Hamton and Fifi blushed again.
“Now, now - we learned something else that’s very important, didn’t we?” the sliver-haired skunk told them.
“You bet we did!”, Plucky crowed with pride, “If you have such an amazing strength of will as I do - by concentrating all your thoughts - you can actually control your host’s body!”
“Yeah, but is that a good idea? You might have changed history!” Buster warned.
“If 'ee hadn’t done that – we’d all 'ave been stoonk out!” Wakko reminded them.
“Well weather or not it saved us, we must extreme exercise caution in doing so again. We’d never know what the outcome might be”, said Lord. “Now let’s get on to our next assignment”.
(“Edward Scissorhands” #5, “The Cookie Factory”)
After the inky blackness swallowed them and the funnel of blinding light spat them out again, the Toonsters found themselves in a city, facing a gigantic shed; seventy feet high and perhaps two hundred and fifty feet long. One end was open to the outside like the mouth of a mammoth cave. Behind them was a stone ramp leading directly into the East River.
“We’re in New York City!” cheered Babs.
Suddenly with a tremendous hiss, a billow of steam and heat shot out of the mouth of the shed, obscuring their sight and leaving them coughing.
“Yup, it’s New York City all right” the pink bunny remarked as her body and those of the others elongated into human forms.
[“At Greenpoint in Brooklyn, to be precise.”] Lord added.
Finding themselves as workmen, builders and naval officers again, the group walked into the cavernous building. Several large steam engines pounded and hissed within, making the atmosphere smoky and humid. Mechanical cranes in the roof’s rafters carried immense iron sections of a ship’s bulkheads back and forth across the ceiling while hundreds of laborers banged away, riveting metal together. It was a ship-building house.
In the center of all the clanking and banging lay the flat-bottomed hull of the Monitor, a flat oval with iron sloping sides. Unlike the Merrimack’s wooden casemate that sloped down, this metal shell sloped up and outward. Iron girders rose up from it where colossal timbers were being secured down to form a massive raft-like deck and it’s heavy iron skirt. Behind the ship, a nine-foot, four-bladed propeller hung from a hoist, ready to be lowered into place. A large-wheeled horse cart stood waiting, dragging three more foot-thick timbers for the deck planking under the iron armor. Blacksmiths were hammering out wrought iron fittings on an anvil, while on deck other workers heated rivets in a portable furnace before pounding them into place by hand.
|Art by Fred Freeman|
[“This is why the Union won the war”], thought Calamity as he found himself standing at the ship’s side as a Union naval officer, [“The Industrial Revolution! The power of the machine!”]
[“Don’t forget good ol’ fashioned brains, Calamity”] thought Lord as he found himself climbing a ladder up to peer into the hull.
Once again, he was the form of Captain John Ericsson, here to inspect the progress of his new vessel and to ensure that the pace he had set for her building was maintained.
“Good Morning to you, Mister Rowland!” he called down to Wakko, who’d found himself in the person of Thomas F. Rowland, the owner of the Continental Ironworks.
“Good Morning Captain Ericsson”, he returned, “Do things meet with your approval?”
“They shall Sir, because I am here to make certain of that” the Swede pronounced arrogantly in his Swedish accent.
Ericsson was in every part of the vessel apparently at the same moment, skipping over planks and gangways, and up and down ladders, as though he were a boy of sixteen. It seemed as though a plate could not be placed or a bolt struck without his making his appearance at the workman’s side.
Calamity found himself in the body of a young naval engineer, Alban C. Stimers, the Navy’s liaison officer to the project. He was standing and chatting with Fifi’s host, who once again was Mr. Cornelius Bushnell, and Wakko’s host, Mr. Rowland. Ericsson came storming up to them with his usual full head of steam up.
“Gentlemen, look at this!” he stormed, showing them the ship’s naval contract. “The builders are required to assume all risk and forfeit advance payments if the vessel proves to be unsuccessful! They are not willing to gamble a single penny! Further - the Navy stipulates that a *test period* of ninety days - during which experts will judge if the ship is workable - even if it means testing her under enemy fire! This is outrageous!”
“Unfortunately, that is *in* the contract” Bushnell told him.
“Sir, this is partially why I am here”, announced Stimers, “I am the expert they sent to test this craft - and - I have also been posted as her Chief Engineering Officer.”
“I have no qualms concerning you, Mister Stimers. You are an engineer like myself. I do however have qualms about this contract! Look at this clause! ‘The vessel will be fully equipped with masts and be fully rigged for sailing’! Ridiculous!! This is a armored steam vessel - not a sailing sloop!” shouted Ericsson.
Ever the clever merchant, Bushnell had a point to make.
“Captain... since the Navy will be withholding their payment to you until such time when they approve of the ship - you shall therefore control how she shall be built and have the final say...since you are after all, the owner.”
Ericsson smiled broadly and said, “I was wise to make you a partner, Cornelius!”
“So what shall we do about this provision for masts and sails?” asked Rowland.
“This ship is mine and I say it shall not be so”, answered Ericsson firmly, “The old doubters shall see a new way. Their naval walls of wood shall soon be obsolete relics...As for that clause - I see fit to omit it!”
The proud Swede began to march away, but nearly tripped over an iron girder on the ground.
“What in blazes is this doing here?!” he thundered, “It should have been installed already! Someone remove it immediately!!”
“I’m sorry, Sir,” apologized one of the workmen, ”It fell from the crane and it’s too heavy to be moved. We’ll get it in a moment.”
“Nonsense! It’s a danger to anyone working here!” shouted Ericsson.
Without waiting for aid, Ericsson grasped the five hundred pound iron bar and to the astonishment of all - picked it up by himself and lugged it over to the edge of the shed’s wall.
The group of Toonsters barely had time to wonder at this display of strength when they found themselves shrinking back to their toony forms. The men and activity all vanished as though they had never existed - leaving behind only the half-finished hull of the Monitor.
“Zat vas quick vasn’t it?” commented Arnold.
“We’ve seen what we came to see”, said Lord, “Time to move on.”
“Are you sure theeey didn’t see a lil too much, Doctor Muscles?” Gogo chided.
“Not at all, my dear Dodo”, the Doctor told him, “Captain Ericsson was the outdoor-type. Every single day he did two hours of calesthetics and walked five miles.
“So what we just saw really happened?” asked Mary.
“It did indeed”, Lord said with assurance, “Now let’s see if we can’t arrange a little something..”
With that, the oversized skunk removed the blue crystal from his vest and thought slowly and carefully, closing his eyes and holding his breath to concentrate. He thought slowly to their contact back in the Tooniverse.
[“Andy, scroll time forward to January thirtieth, eighteen sixty two.”]
From far away came a faint answer from the vulpine scientist, [“Errr...Did you show me how to do that?..Oops, yes...Now I remember!...”]
[“Throw _the third switch_!”] the Doctor called.
[“Not _the third switch_!”] the Fox joked.
[“Throw it, I say! Throw it!”] yelled the Doctor, following suit.
The world of everyone’s vision seemed to tremble and shake! Then things began to happen! The unfinished Monitor seemed to come to life - the hull building itself before their eyes! They saw blurs of human shapes, but the girders and iron plates almost seemed to move by themselves. The Toonsters watched the strange steam engine and Martin boilers lowered in, the propeller and rudder fitted and the giant iron raft built atop them. The entire exterior of the ship was clad in iron, even it’s small box-like pilot house on the bow. It was like watching a speeded-up film.
Finally, things seemed to snap and everyone found themselves as humans again. Fifi stood as Mister Bushnell once again, alongside Lord and Calamity as Ericsson and Stimers. Arnold also found himself standing on the flat iron deck as the new ship’s executive officer, Lieutenant Samuel Dana Greene, a handsome twenty-one year old fellow. He tweaked his dark natty mustache and swept the drizzling rain from his navy blue officer’s greatcoat.
The great iron hull now lay on the wooden ways, inclined down into the river stern
first. A string of bright flags flew from a pole in her center where her turret
was to be installed on the giant, shining brass ring inset into the deck. At her
bow flew the Union flag, the simple blue field covered with thirty-four white
stars. At her stern flew the Stars and Stripes of the
The harbor was filled by ships of all sizes, each filled with hundreds of curious spectators. Workmen and visitors were betting on weather ‘Ericsson’s Folly’ would sink or float.
“She’ll float like a wood raft!” said one.
“Hogwash! She’ll hit bottom in three seconds!” said another.
One bookmaker said “If Ericsson ever finds his battery, after she is launched, he will have to fish her up from the mud into which her stern will surely plunge.”
Ericsson stood openly scoffing at the men who had labeled his ship “an iron coffin” and the “experts” who’d said that an iron ship would never float. Lord was silently pleased to know how wrong they were.
Out behind the ship, lay a man in a rowboat. With Hamton watching inside him, he waited as a possible rescuer, should the ship sink.
A bottle of the finest vintage champagne was smashed over her iron bow and the wooden chocks and blocks were knocked away from under the newly christened U.S.S. MONITOR! With a tremendous scraping noise, she slid down the ways! From the crowd rose delayed cheers that were charged with the added intensity of a few seconds of finely drawn suspense.
Then suddenly a cheer went up from the crowd! Waving hats and handkerchiefs filled the air! The little iron ship floated and it was very evident to even the dullest observer that the battery hadn’t the least intention of sinking.
On shore, a Navy brass band struck up a relatively new tune and as their trumpets, fifes and drums played, the Toonsters were astounded as *all* of the onlookers sang along loudly and heartily!
the gem of the ocean!
The home of the brave and the free!
The shrine of each patriot's devotion!
A world offers homage to thee!” sang the hundreds with gusto.
Buster recognized the song from am old Tom & Jerry cartoon and sang along proudly.
“Thy mandates make heroes assemble!
When Liberty's form stands in view,
Thy banners make tyranny tremble
When borne by the Red, White and Blue!”
Even Arnold and Fifi knew the chorus and sang for their adopted country.
“When borne by the Red, White and Blue!
When borne by the Red, White and Blue!
Thy banners make tyranny tremble
When borne by the Red, White and Blue!”
Rarely had the Toonsters witnessed such patriotic fervor.
[“Heh!”],thought Fowlmouth to the others, [“Fer a bunch 'a pushy skeptical New Yorkers - deez folks are more patriotic den anybody I’ve ever hoid!”]
[“These were different times, lad”], Lord told him,[“Nationalism was high...and people were truly grateful for what they had.”]
As the people sang with full hearts and workmen swung their fists and tools in time to the music, the song seemed written for the new ironclad.
“When war winged its wide desolation, “
And threatened the land to deform, “
The ark then of freedom's foundation, “
Columbia rode safe through the storm. “
With her garlands of vict'ry around her, “
When so proudly she bore her brave crew; “
With her flag proudly floating before her, “
The boast of the red, white, and blue! “
The boast of the red, white, and blue! “
With her flag proudly floating before her, “
The boast of the red, white, and blue!”
The crowd sang, cheered and hurrahed for the Monitor, and Ericsson confidently told the assembled reporters that his ironclad would sink the Merrimack and that she could withstand hours of punishment from any Southern ship. But Lord knew that only one of those boasts would be true.
As Hamton’s host rowed back alone in his little boat, the man smiled and shook his head in wonder.
“Built her in only one hundred and one days, they did! God bless 'em”.
As his rough wooden oars churned the water, Hamton felt the same pride. Then his form changed to that of his own and he saw only the other toons waving to him from the deck of the floating Monitor. Straining at the oars, he drew alongside and joined them just in time.
“It’s amazing”, said Babs, “Nobody thought the ship could float!”
“Not everybodee -” corrected Fifi, “Monsieur Bushnell and zee buildairz knew zat ze ship would succeed.”
“Zo deed her officerz” agreed Arnold with pride, “Just guess who iz zee Monitor’z first officer?”
“Guess who’s her Captain?” Furball grinned proudly.
“Looks like I might be her Chief Engineer” said Calamity.
“Well, we’ll see who’s who after some lunch”, acknowledged the Doctor, “Shirley? Let’s see if you can get us our ride home.”
“Like - me?? Call all that way through time?” the surprised loon asked.
Lord smiled and gave her the blue crystal to make contact. Shirley looked at it and gulped.
“Talk about long distance! ..Uh..Like, kay...” she mumbled, then quieted herself in concentration, her lips moving with her silent mantra.
The loon’s eyes closed serenely and the others watched her intently.
[“Oh Spirits all! Bless yer socks! Let me contact Andy Fox!”]
Babs and everyone else broke up snickering and broke Shirley’s concentration. After glaring at them, she tried again.
[“Oh Spirits, Please - no hard knocks! Let me speak with Andy Fox!”]
This time everyone but the Doctor broke up laughing uncontrollably. After swatting at a few of the others in annoyance, particularly Babs and Buster, Shirley tried again. This time she reached out with her mind across the miles and the years. She saw a dim vision of the vulpine scientist reaching for a bottle.
[“Oh Spirits, let me talk to Andy! Tell him not to drink Doc’s brandy!”]
[“Oh-Ho! I wondered what the delay was!”], thought Lord crossly as everyone else laughed, [“Andrew! Lay off my liquor cabinet!”]
[“That’s my private stock of two-hundred year-old Saurian Brandy”] the skunk thought sternly back, [“Besides - no drinking on duty!”]
|Art by Andy Fox|
[“I said Gimme the brandy!”] growled Andy playfully.
[When I get back, we’ll both have one, okay? I’ll need it... Now would you mind answering Shirley, please?”]
[“Yeah, alright...”] the fox grumbled. There was a pause before he addressed Shirley in an overly cheerful tone of voice, [“ Righto Shirley! I shall retrieve you all immediately - if not sooner!”]
As the blackness of the gravity well swallowed them all and the whiteness of the time tunnel shot them all back to the future - the Toonsters couldn’t help but laugh. Their sniggering echoed back across one hundred and thirty-five years.
It was mid-day when the Toonsters returned. The bright flash and radiant energy of the time tunnel momentarily stunned the passers-by on the street before Fifi’s junkyard.
“Ahh! It’s good to be back!”, smiled Gogo, ”-Back where you can stretch out and let yourself go!”
With that, he gave a tremendous yawn, his beak opening several yards wide. He stretched his tiny arms and legs like rubber bands until the small Dodo stood ten feet tall.
Babs threw on a pair of sunglasses and began to play Gogo’s legs like the strings of a bass fiddle.
Buster and Plucky joined in the groovin’ and sang “Hey Y’all! Prepare yourself for the Rubber Band - Man!”
The laughter and revelry stopped when Fifi heard her telephone ringing and ran away to her car to answer it.
Dashing into her pink Cadillac, the purple skunkette caught the phone, slammed the door and with a sigh of relief, said “’Ello?”
“Bonjour, ma soeur” said a serious female voice.”
Fifi lost her smile at the sound of her sister’s voice and paused to sit down before continuing the conversation in French.
“Hello Moufette...” she said flatly.
“Punctual as ever I see. This is the second time I called you” Moufette remarked indifferently.
“I was in class. What is it you want?”
“A great deal, but nothing that you could give me.”
Fifi was used to her sister’s attitudes and would not allow herself to be upset by them - at least not openly to Moufette.
“Then why have you called me?” she asked calmly.
“I merely wished to see for myself how well grandfather’s plans are proceeding” her black and white sibling said with false innocence.
Fifi was taken aback and asked cautiously “What do you mean?”
“Oh come now 'little one’! Surely he’s told you his lifelong secret by now” laughed her sister in a condescending tone.
Fifi’s eyes shot open!
“What are you talking about?!” she demanded.
“Surely you know all about his imperial immortal highness and mightiness. He said he’d tell you when the time was ripe. Don’t know why he kept it from you for so long! I’ve known it since we were children” taunted Moufette.
Fifi’s mind raced. Moufette had known all along? Why?
“Why would he tell you and not me?” she demanded.
“Why?”, repeated her antagonist flippantly, “Why does he do half the things he does?.. Fear, my dear - he’s afraid of what everyone will think of him. He doesn’t want his *creation* upset - his perfect eternal companion!”
“You shouldn’t say such cruel things!”, Fifi fumed, losing her cool, “Grandfather practically raised us himself!! He took care of Papa and Mama all those years while they were sick! He took care of us!!”
“*I* had to take care of things too!” Moufette hissed, “And now I have no choice because you have all abandoned me here!”
“You got just what you wanted!”, Fifi hissed back, “You got the estate and the farm all to yourself!”
There was a pause and then Fifi could hear Moufette’s nasty smile.
“Don’t you worry, Sister...you’re going to get everything else. After all - *you* are the Chosen One. You’ll live forever and have everything you ever dreamed of! Because you’ll have him and _he’ll have you_. Your American pig doesn’t stand a chance. You were born to be his and you shall be!”
|Art by Thorne|
Fifi slammed down the phone, then bitterly threw it across the room - just as Hamton walked in. As they regarded each other, he saw the fury in her eyes.
“What happened?” he asked quietly.
Fifi sighed and said, “...Zat waz Moufette.”
“Ohh,” he nodded in understanding and came close to put a sympathetic hand on her shoulder, “she’s just trying to cause trouble and upset you, bebe.”
Fifi took his pink fingers in her purple paw and shook her head sadly.
“Oui... and she’z doing a first rate job.”
Hamton closed his arms around her shoulders and they held each other closely.
“It’s just words”he told her comfortingly.
“Wordz can hurt” the skunkette said, thinking of how her sister might know more...perhaps even the truth.
Hamton looked down into her troubled eyes and said simply “..Nothin’s gonna harm you - not while I’m around.”
As they held each other close, both lovers looked uncertainly away.
After lunch, the Toonsters reassembled at their departure point in Doctor Lord’s grassy field by the black stone dragon. Lord and Andy Fox were just returning from having a drink when there was a loud jovial call from the front gate.
“Heh, heh heh! Hullo Doc!” said a smiling hippopotamus toon.
The tall skunk and the fox turned and saw the large fellow and immediately smirked. They both covered up their mirth as best they could and managed to keep straight faces - or at least they tried to. Everyone else came over filled with curiosity, to meet the roundish toon. He seemed familiar.
“Heh! Long time no see, Doc!” the hippo laughed in a deep voice.
“Goodness gracious me! How are you?” smiled the Doctor - still trying not to laugh.
The grinning toon’s smile and laughter was infectious and soon everyone was smiling too. The hippo wore a green suit with large yellow buttons and seemed about to burst out of his tight clothes with laughter any second. He constantly chuckled as though he were the only one who had heard the joke. Buster and the others waited for Lord to introduce him to them.
“These are my new students’said the Doctor, still fighting his own chuckles.
“Heh, heh, heh! Hiya kids! Heh, heh, heh!” the jolly hippo giggled.
“Say who are you - and what’s so funny??” demanded Plucky.
“Heh, heh, heh! - It’s a good 'un!” chortled the hippo.
“What is?” asked Babs.
Andy snerked and said “His name!” and then cracked up laughing.
“Heh, heh, heh! - It’s a killer!” guffawed the hippo holding both his sides!
Lord gave in to his mirth and laughed as he said “My friends - meet Chubby McButtonPopper!”
At that, everyone gave up their serious looks and laughed till their sides ached. Even Fifi put her worries aside to giggle at the silliest name she’d ever heard.
“You may recognize Chubby McButtonPopper from our old friend Tex Avery’s early Warner Brothers cartoon shorts” continued the Doctor, as he fought to stop laughing.
“Heh, heh, heh! I heard you were in town and I thought we should get the old gang together for a celebration” chuckled Chubby.
“Perhaps some time this weekend. I have a feeling there’ll be a something to celebrate soon”, agreed the Doctor, “But you must excuse us now - we must get back to class.”
The hippo sniggered and waved as the group returned to their departure point.
“Andy, this trip will be longer. Bring us back in two hours time” Lord told the Fox.
“Time and destination?” asked the scientist.
“March the sixth, eighteen sixty-two”, said Lord, ”Aboard the USS Monitor...just outside New York Harbor - in the Atlantic Ocean.”
“*The* ocean? The *real* ocean?!? Oh my achin’ stomach!” whined Plucky.
“Now who can tell me what was happening in March at this point?” asked the professor.
“Vell, despite der problemz in getting it - der Merrimack had gotten all her armor and vas launched” Arnold told the group.
“Cuz it had been like, so hard to get stuff for the ship, the Confederates had to scrounge fer everything they needed, including sailors” Shirley added.
“So they got volunteers from the Rebel army for the crew. Soldiers who had never been to sea were sent aboard a totally untried experimental ship” Hamton said knowledgeably.
“And what effect did the presence of this untried experiment have?” Lord asked him.
“The people of the North were scared! Rumors that the South had built a “Monster” ran wild. General McClellan was building up a big army to march on the rebel capital at Richmond and this was making him think twice about it” the perceptive pig told the group.
“Zee French sent some observerz to see how successful ze Virginia waz” Fifi said quietly.
“Ya mean the Merrimack” corrected Fowlmouth.
“No she’s right “, Buster replied, “Even though most people - including some of her own crew, called her the Merrimack - the ironclad was rechristened the CSS Virginia.” “And you know what happens when you rename a ship?” the Doctor asked knowingly.
After a blank pause, everyone else said “No.”
“Oh, said Lord in surprise, “ I guess you’re not experienced sailors..” The professor paused a moment, seemingly confused, and then continued. “Well, the old salts say that it’s very bad luck to rename a vessel - it can lead to a terrible disaster.”
“Ohh terrific!” said the sign in Calamity’s paw.
“But what about the Monitor?” asked Babs.
Lord drew himself up and the sky darkened above them.
“Let’s not discuss it - Let’s go study it!” the Doctor said with excitement.
(Trinity & Beyond, #1, “Monument”)
As the thunder rolled in the heavens, Fifi watched her grandfather. Moufette’s cruel words still hung in her mind, leaving burnt traces of themselves on her psyche. She saw the flashes of lightning reflecting in his mirror-like eyes, his pointed pupils looking just like the white hot thunderbolts overhead. She watched the thrill of the storm in his face - and the god-like control he held. Was he really all that he professed to be? Doubts began to form like dark clouds.
The blackness of the gravity well enveloped them...and the blinding white time tunnel swept them away to the past.
Look for the next Chapters of -
"A TIME TO EVERY PURPOSE UNTO HEAVEN"
coming to you soon.