Tag Archives: Mordecai

April Fool’s Day

The origins of this day of pranks are largely unknown. Some theorize that this ersatz holiday evolved from the change to the Gregorian Calendar. Some postulate that the day sprang forth from a collective case of Spring Fever.

It doesn’t matter how it came to be, I’ve never been a fan.

Unfortunately, it seems, this house quite enjoys April Fool’s Day. It has been perpetrating pranks all morning. First, the hallway floor kept tilting ever-so-slightly so that walking from my bedroom to my study was quite a feat of balance. The fire keeps spontaneously sparking and then snuffing itself, and whilst my bacon was cooking on the stove, the cook range decided to turn itself into an enormous metal turnip.

The only person enjoying these escapades is, naturally, my brother Mordecai, who turned up late last night in the midst of rain and wind. Mordecai is quite the merry prankster and each year manages to plot elaborate pranks. I fear that a combined pranking team of Mordecai and this house will extract the limits of my patience.

Bubo, of course, has even less patience for pranks than I do. She left quite early this morning and can only assume she’s halfway up the mountain, napping quietly and undisturbed in a tree. I’m jealous, naturally.

Happy First Day of April, my friends.

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Good Green Mountains

Well, oddlings, I must admit, things were a bit rough there.

There was the mysteriously roving hole in the roof.

There was the fissure in the foundation that multiplied each night.

There was the morning I discovered that the pet gravestones in the front garden had been sucked underground.

There was the note from Cousin Cate that our Great Great Uncle O. Underhill had gone missing. Again.

There was the call from Mordecai that he had relocated most of my creatures from the Laboratory to the Underhill House when the wallpaper had turned itself into curtains and the curtains turned themselves into a chair.

 

And then there was the morning I came back from a pre-dawn promenade in the cemetery with Bubo to discover that the house was gone. Instead, there was a smoldering pile of rubble and a stench of potpouri and whiskey.

And so we left. We got in my jalopy and sputtered to Great Great Uncle O. Underhill’s house in the mountains of Vermont.

We have houses all over the world, you know. The Underhill House is laid out exactly like my Brooklyn House in mirror image. Rather…odd, wouldn’t you say?

Weary from our journey, I collapsed in an armchair (exactly like the one in my Brooklyn parlor) in front of the wood-burning stove. There was a bottle of whiskey on the side table with a card tied round its neck.

The card read: Mine is yours. O.U.

I do believe I am home.

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Minikin

Imagine my surprise this morning when I discovered that, once again, Mordecai has left mysteriously in the night.

That is sarcasm, oddlings. Mordecai is nothing if not consistent in his disappearances.

He and Charles have flown the coop and I can’t help but wonder what dastardly deed he perpetrated this time. He never leaves in the dead of night without good reason. There was the time he angered the minotaur my Uncle kept in the garden. There was the time he caused my Cousin Cate’s house to collapse into a sinkhole. So, naturally, I have not exhaled with relief, I am tiptoeing about the house wondering if it’s been lined with arcane explosives or if a poisonous strain of beetles is loose in the walls.

He did leave, perplexingly enough, a minikin mewling at the foot of the stairs. I’ve checked it’s teeth, and while they are sharp and numerous, they are also small. It is curled at my feet right now, in fact, snoring quietly as it naps in a boot.

A minikin is a small and dainty (and delicate) creature. Used as an adjective, minikin means diminutive or dainty. Some people will tell you that minikin also can mean a fine, mincing lass. Those people wouldn’t be entirely wrong.

The word comes from the Dutch minneken for darling, in turn from the Middle Dutch diminutive of minne for love. It is akin to the Old English word gemynd for mind, memory. Minneken is obsolete, and, some might argue, so is minikin.

The creature at my feet might be obsolete, but it is very real indeed. The day will be spent getting to know one another, I suppose, while Silas prepares pies for the Thanksgiving dinner we shall host tomorrow in the garden. I’m assuming this minikin will eat the food. I’m assuming it won’t become manic in the face of guests, a dinner table, or the garden. I’m assuming a lot today. I might break into that nice new bottle of Ruby Port sooner than Silas had hoped.

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Isinglass

Mordecai and I spent yesterday replacing some of the roof shingles above the Vivarium. We were so very lucky when it came to Superstorm Sandy – the house sustained very little damage and the grotto only collapsed a little bit. A number of shingles came disappeared in the storm, and I am relieved we repaired the roof before this new winter storm. Athena (a formidable winter storm name) has brought strong winds and snow to Brooklyn, and I am happy to be inside my dry house with a glass of port.

Mordecai whipped up a huge batch of his home-made super glue for the roof repairs. We can’t seem to find the nail guns, so we used our old hammers and hand-tooled nails from Silas’s stash. (Don’t ask why Silas has a stash of hand-tooled nails. It’s best you don’t know.) Mordecai’s glue contained, naturally, isinglass.

Isinglass (noun) is a transparent gelatin made from the bladder of certain fish (often sturgeon) and used to make glue or a clarifying agent. Isinglass can also refer to the thin, transparent sheets of mica used in wood- and coal-burning stove door windows.

Isinglass probably originates in the folk etymology. From the obsolete Dutch huizenblas, which is from the Middle Dutch huusblase, from huus for sturgeon plus blase for bladder.

The first known usage of the word was in 1535, and my family has been making Isinglass as far back as there are family journals. In fact, one of my great great great great grandfathers was named Isinglass. Rumor has it that he has a bit of a kleptomania problem, giving new meaning to the term “sticky fingers”.

 

 
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