Monday Stories

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Tag: silly

A Sample Story From “The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood”

I just finished reading  The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood  to my kids as their bedtime story. We all enjoyed the book immensely, but after a while the stories start to sound the same. Here is our take on Howard Pyle’s wonderful style.

Robin awoke on one bright may morning with the sunlight trembling through the leaves of the Greenwood tree whence his company of yeomen made their hidden home in the midst of Sherwood. So glad was Robin’s heart within him that he laughed and sang a snatch or two of a song as it entered his head. Walking thus manfully through the wood he came upon Little John.

“Come now, Little John,” quoth Robin, “Let us take to the road to the Blue Boar Inn, and see if there be not something to be found by way of entertainment betwixt here and there.”

“Yea, good master, I like thy plan well,” quoth Little John, for that lusty youth were ever one for merriment or a chance of good manful sport, and mayhap was Robin’s only equal with the staff. So saying, they took some few of their band, namely Alan a Dale, who is married and should have better things to do, Will Stutely, who you never see in the Robin Hood movies, Will Scarlet, the name dropper, who never lets you forget he’s Robin’s nephew, and David of Doncaster. They always bring young David, but in the entire book he speaks maybe five times and hardly ever does anything.

And so Robin set out with this band of stout men, each carrying upon his person a good yew bow and a quiver of clothyard arrows, and a small sack which held their lunch, and a pottle of good March beer. Bright and cheery was the sun that morning, but never a person did they meet on the road, for the fame of Robin Hood had spread far and wide, and anyone with half a brain knew he’d steal their money.

Presently, as the sun stood high overhead they drew near the ford, where the stone bridge leapt over a stream.

“How now, master,” quoth Little John, as they stood in the shade of the trees near the bridge. “Let us take up our inn here, and eat that which we have brought with us, and drink our good March beer, that we may have energy for the dry and dusty road ahead of us.” Thus spake Little John, for he were ever aware of his stomach.

“I find your incredibly obvious plan sooth,” quoth Robin Hood and presently they each sat and ate and drank to their hearts’ content. And by and by they all grew drowsy in the heat and laid them down in the sweet grass.

But Robin was not yet ready to rest, for that lusty yeoman were ever more interested in finding some sport or jest than in resting. And so he walked along the edge of the road leading to the bridge, and by and by he espied a youth on a horse riding along the road, dressed in gay finery and singing as he rode. This youth wore silken hose of purple, and bright green was his doublet, of finest velvet. “Oho,” Quoth robin to himself, “Now here is one that may have some small bit to give to my merry men, and some to give also to the welfare of all those who may have need in Nottinghamshire.” So saying, Robin hid himself amongst the hedges near the road.

When the youth rode near to the place where Robin lay hid, he sprang out and grabbed hold of the bridle reigns, and pulling the youth to a stop, quoth he, “Whither art thou going, young master, in such gay finery?”

“Release me, friend, for I have no time to tarry, I must be in Devonshire ere the night falls,” quoth the youth.

“Nay, but stay a moment. For I do sense in my heart that thou mayest have somewhat that is weighing they purse down most heavily, and I would relieve they burden, that thou mayst travel the more speedily,” quoth Robin.

“So thus it is, is it?” Quoth the youth. “I’ll not let the have so much as one groat, thou naughty knave, but if thou dost not release my reigns I’ll give the such a crack upon thy pate that thou shall count the cost of this day too dear for words.”

Then Robin laughed and going to retrieve his own cudgel stood athwart the road. “E’en so?” Quoth Robin. “Come thou down then, and let us see who shall crack who along the pate, and who shall leave this day with thy heavy purse.”

And so the two advanced upon each other. Robin had supposed that one dressed as finely as this young man might be an easy target, despite the fact that both Allan a Dale and Will Scarlet were well dressed and Will Scarlet beat Robin but good. Not to mention Midge the Miller. Robin gets beaten quite a lot, actually.

The youth struck a lusty blow but Robin turned it and struck again, but the youth was prepared and turned Robin’s blow in turn. Back and forth they went, up and down the road, filling the air with dust and the sound of staff clattering against staff. In all this time once only had each man struck the body of the other; Robin having gained one strike amidst the other’s ribs, and the youth having hit Robin’s arm a blow that made his hand tingle e’en now.

Presently they broke, sweat streaming freely down the face of each stout combatant. “Ere we begin again,” quoth merry Robin, “Wilt thou allow me to wind my bugle horn?”

The youth nodded, apparently thinking that asking to blow a horn was a totally normal request, and Robin blew three lusty blasts upon his horn, so that the wood roundabout rang with the sound. Thou knowest, I wot, what shall happen, but never did the young man guess.

Then out leapt Will Stutely, and Will Scarlet, and Little John, and young David of Doncaster. I could have just said “Robin’s men”, but Pyle never does so I didn’t. Each man was holding a stout cudgel in his hands and was fresh and full of energy from laying in the grass.

“Now out upon it!” Cried the youth, apparently surprised that blowing a bugle was how Robin called for help. “Who art thou, that summonest such lusty yeomen from the grass with thy bugle?”

And Merry Robin laughed and said, “I am Robin Hood, mayhap thou hast heard some aught of me,”

“Robin Hood? Art thou truly Robin Hood?” Quoth the youth, all in amaze. “Had I known this, I would not have fought thee, for it is unto thee that I am sent. My master, Richard of the Lea, hast sent me to bring thee some small token of his esteem.” So saying, the youth pulled out his purse, and gave it to Robin. “Two hundred golden angels,” saith the youth, “dost my master and his lady send to thee, and their good esteem beside.”

Then Merry Robin laughed again right manfully. “Lad, thou art too good a lad with a staff to be a messenger boy. Wilt thou join our lusty band of outlaws? Thou shalt have two suits of Lincoln green a year, and twenty marks each Christmastide.”

“Yea, with all my heart yea,” quoth the youth, and thus Robin’s merry band gained a new member, Robin still not realizing that half the time if he just introduced himself first he’d avoid fighting people who really just want to join him.

Black Friday and Christmas Eve

Note This story comes from a series called “Booksellers”. I’ve been working on it off and on for years, and might even publish it someday. Basically I’ve been taking my memories of working in a bunch of different bookstores, mashing them together, and trying to turn them into something entertaining by ignoring the boring parts. You know. Things like “what actually happened”.

November-December, 1994

There are two days that all retail employees dread: Black Friday and Christmas Eve.

A quick word about Black Friday, by the way. That name is ours, not yours. If you’ve never worked a sales floor or restaurant when hoards of people, most of them trying to escape the in-laws, descend on you in a frantic retail-therapy mass you don’t get to call it that. All that crap about “Black Friday is the day that your retail establishment finally gets into the black” is idiocy. If you’re only turning a profit the last six weeks of the year you don’t open the other forty-six. It’s called Black Friday because it’s the day salespeople die. I don’t know who the marketing genius is who thought they could take that name and turn it into an…an event, but I hate them.

So, clearly, as a bookseller Black Friday is a day you should dread. People come in, get hopped up on espresso and start bargain hunting. Anything to make them forget that they have to go back to Mom’s house and try not to kill their idiot brother who still hasn’t moved out.

And don’t worry, they will tell you all about it. Booksellers are a lot like bartenders, apparently. The actual barista in the cafe don’t even get as much random self-confessional as the guy trying to put books away out on the sales floor.

“It’s not that I don’t love my brother, I do, but he’s…well, he’s killing Mom.” A lady was telling me. She introduced the subject by asking me to help her find Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End.

“I see.” I said.

“Mom won’t ever push him out the door, is the thing. She’s afraid that he’ll get into real trouble if he’s on his own.”

“Could be,” I mumbled. I had a large stock of absolutely non-committal phrases.

“But how is he ever going to find out, if he doesn’t take a chance? You can’t just stay in your room all the time and suddenly be ready to be a professional businessman or…or a doctor. What’s this?”

“Childhood’s End.”

She looked at the cover, dominated by a huge spaceship over a city. “Do you think he’ll like it?”

“It’s a good book, but not really everyone’s cup of tea.”

“Why not?”

“Pretty much everyone dies at the end.”

She nodded thoughtfully. “Do you think my brother will like it?”

You’ve read every word she said to me, you know her brother as well as I did. “It’ll be a good read for him, I think.”

She nodded. “Thanks.” And walked off to the registers. And there it is. I was an accessory to one of the most passive-aggressive gifts of 1994.

But Christmas Eve! It’s a whole different story. Manic? Absolutely. Busy? Definitely. And exhausting. But you have one big advantage:

People are out of time. On Black Friday people have a whole month ahead of them. If you aren’t willing to wheel and deal they’ve got time to find something else. On Christmas Eve they want the first thing that looks thoughtful. And here’s where you get to see how good you actually are. Anybody can sell the latest Oprah’s Book Club choice to a guy looking for a last-minute wife/girlfriend gift. We had hundreds of the things up at the registers. On Christmas Eve the real booksellers challenge themselves in one of two ways. The first is for customers who are jerks: how high can you jack up their final purchase? The second is for the nice customers: how perfectly can you fit the book to their loved one?

All modesty aside, I was better at the second. My friend Chad focused on the first. “I just sold a complete Feynman Lectures to that guy. His son’s an engineering major.” he told me as his customer walked out the door.

“That’s like, what, $200? Nice!” I said.

“Thanks. And you know the best part? He came in looking for A Brief History of Time in paperback”. (Retail price:$14.95)

My victories were harder to brag about, but better for me.

“Um,” a tall man in a Carhartt jacket and worn blue jeans walked up to me as I was shelving some books.

“Can I help you, sir?”

“Yeh. I’m looking for something for my wife. She likes readin’.”

“Okay! Well, you’ve come to the right place. Did you have something in mind?”

He shifted uncomfortably. His hands were huge, scarred, and calloused. My hands have often been called “decidedly feminine”. He looked down at me. “What would you get?”

“Well, let’s see. Maybe if you can tell me a little about her I can help you find something she likes.” Again, this is where you see how good you are. You can judge this guy as a Neanderthal who knows he’ll be sleeping on the couch until New Years Day if he doesn’t get something. Or you can try to make tomorrow a great day for two people; one you’ve only met once, one you’ll never meet.

“She likes them old books. Jane Austin and stuff, but she’s already read all them Pride and Prejudice ones,” he said, looking a little lost. “And she likes going outside, campin’ and hikin’ and stuff. We both do, really.”

“Okay, sir, that’s really helpful, I think we can find something…”

“An’, an’, she’s kind, but life ain’t all that kind to her, ya know, an’ she been puttin’ up with a lug like me for a long time…”

I fell silent.

“Anyway, you got somethin’ that would be good?”

And now it’s personal. I’m getting this guy something good for his wife if it takes me an hour.

We looked at books of poetry, and he thought she might like Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. We looked at journals, something she could take camping, and picked a good spiral bound one that was on sale. We found her a CD of Bach in the music department that I thought she’d like. I wrapped all of these things, each individually, each in different paper, each with two colors of ribbon wrapped around the gift in different patterns. Finally I omitted the “Star Books” foil stickers. These are from her husband, not from us. He was out the door in under $30, but with some good choices.

“Thanks. I mean, I don’t always know how to find things like that an’…” he trailed off as I put his purchases in a bag and handed him his change.

“Merry Christmas, sir,” I said.

“Yeah. You too, er…” he squinted at my name tag, then muttered something about not having his “readin’ glasses”. And then he offered his hand. I shook it, and he left, smiling a little bit.

“Hey, Chad.” I said as he finished ringing up his customer.

“What’s up?”

“I win.”

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