[Caterwampus is a demon, and possibly the last remaining satirist in Hell. He is currently involved in a court case seeking an injunction against another demon, whom he satirized, from attacking him with an aluminum baseball bat. Catwerwampus is represented in court by Mr. Perry Mason. Caterwampus entertained himself during the trial by writing a number called "Mason's Jury Pool"; Thalia wrote him a complimentary note, but also chided him to greater efforts.]

Subject: GL: the demon Caterwampus to Thalia, Muse of Comedy

          Grand Stygian Hotel
          Infernal City

          25 June, 1996

Greetings, blessed Lady!

I sit at my desk and reread your kind note with alternate smiles and blushes. You have caught me at a disadvantage. I have been away from the Hotel for several days, since I have been "on the outs" with my lady Lilith, the first wife of Adam, and absence seemed the better part of valor. The minx still has her copy of my room key, and if I read her current mood correctly I might well wake to find myself the subject of an experiment in bondage and discomfort.

And it is totally unjust! It was not *my* fault that the walrus appeared in the carp pond, nor yet that he attempted to crawl bodily into the punch bowl. Nor did I encourage him to sing all seven verses of "The Seven Drunken Nights", including the suppressed verse about the cucumber. I did not invite him to devour the whole poached salmon as if it were an appetizer. Nor did I suggest that he get chummy with masters Tezuka and Miyazaki, nor that he teach them that parody of "Johnson's Motor Car" (which I did *not* write), nor did I instigate his making improper advances to Miss Melantha Frayne, nor to the Faery Ariandel, and I *certainly* did not suggest that he deck Paul Drake with his flipper when that gentleman objected. Whatever Lilith may insinuate, I did none of these things. I have been heartily maligned.

So, as I mentioned, I have chosen to absent myself from the Hotel as much as possible, camping out on Stygonyx's studio couch and sneaking in the back entrance of the Courthouse for my daily testimony. Miss Thalia, I don't know if you have been following my trial at all, but frankly it is not going well. To stretch a metaphor, not only are all my chickens coming home to roost, but the whole blasted hencoop has landed on my head. If Mr. Mason doesn't come up with a better strategy soon, I shall have to do something really *desperate*, such as reveal the location of Bathin's ticklish spots, or defect to the Cthulhu Continuum and become a shoggoth.

My Muse, you are only too correct about the ease of parodying "Barrett's Privateers". (I dimly recall a version about somebody's homemade beer, played on the public radio station after the real song when I was still residing in Washington.) But I will explain my apparent lapse: first, Stygonyx only told me about the contest the night before, and then only after my fifth pint of Guiness. Second, the object was to impress the audience and the judges, and what better way to be remembered than a chorus of burly sailors bellowing "God DAMN them all!" after every verse?

Of course here in Hell we're not allowed to name the Deity, so I had to mute the effect somewhat with "Hell take them all!" Still, it did get their attention.

Third, the audiences in Hell are so starved for any kind of satire (that being a banned art form here) that one tends to get lazy. If I'm ever out from under this gag order (and I *do* think that Mr. Mason meant it about the muzzle) I shall write the sort of material my Muse deserves, and dedicate the first performance to Her eternal glory.

My Lady, should you ever need fresh "material", might I humbly suggest that you visit Hell? Much of what goes on here is not pleasant, not to say distasteful. But as your devotee Mr. Clemens has discovered, you'll never find a better country for the investigation of pure irony, not excepting the Surface.

My Lady, I am as ever,

      from the Invisible World,
      the demon

Subject: GL Thalia replies to Caterwampus

[Thalia is the Greek Muse of Comedy, currently incarnated as a Greek woman who right now is separated from her Guinness, has all of her musicians busy writing Satires, and is grumpy.]

My Dear Caterwampus -
    I will gladly forgive the understandable delay in your answering my letter, if you will forgive my delay in answering yours.
    Your delightful missive arrived in the same post as the clipping of an outlandish Letter to the Editor from one Ed Gein. I do not know if you are familiar with this creature, but if he did not come from the Infernal Regions, he will be coming to you shortly. He is an offensively unhumorous bit of work who has been attempting to wreak a path of destruction up here in the vicinity of Jack's Place. Jack made mention in a letter to me of "I now understand what having one's Muse working for him means." Whether this is Acknowledgement of the patronage of myself, or of one of my Sisters, it is enough - I have declared him one of my Chosen. Besides, he serves Guinness. Properly.
    And this Gein Garbage has slandered him! Publicly! I could not tolerate it for a moment. I had to pronounce a Bardic Curse upon him and get all of my poets working on a Satire. I have already fired the first barrage.
    On to brighter things!
    You didn't write the parody of "Johnson's Motor Car"? Oh, dear! I was so hoping that you could get me a copy of the lyrics. Perhaps you can find them, anyway? I already have "The Seven Drunken Knights" (although it seems to be a slightly different version than yours, it does have a curious verse about a cucumber.)
    I know the difficulty of getting parodies written under pressure. All I seem to get out of my poets recently is based on World War II songs and Rogers-and-Hammerstein musicals. The reason I teased you, my dear - and I'll admit it - I was trying to goad you to write more.
    I was afraid that Mr. Mason and Lilith (although their intentions may be for your best - I have limited access to the minds and hearts of those who have not Chosen me as their Muse) I was afraid that they are having an insidious, sobering, effect upon you. Look, they even have you disclaiming all the best parts of that spectacular Party, and claiming that being credited with such comic genius is being "maligned".
    Or is it the stress of this trial that has so strained your humor?
    If you are going to do something desperate, I recommend revealing Bathin's ticklish spots. Cthulthu's Continuum is even more seriously unfunny than Hell.
    If there is anything that I can do to help, to restore you to your true, boisterously satirical, Cosmically parodying self, do call. I am your Muse, and you are my Beloved Imp.
    Give Stygonyx my love, too.

My warmest Love -

Subject: GL: the demon Caterwampus to Thalia, Muse of Comedy

          Grand Stygian Hotel
          The Infernal City
          June 30, 1996

My beloved Muse,

Your note of the 26th has finally arrived, so mutilated by Hell's censors that it resembles a lace antimacassar. Hence I am much puzzled to make out the contents, other than your request for the words of the "Johnson's Motor Car" parody performed at Lilith's garden party, and your eloquent plea not to let the serious natures of Mr. Mason *et al.* hamper my comedic output.

As for the former, I regret that I cannot enlighten you. I was chasing the kangaroo while it was being sung, and then I spent several minutes attempting to crawl out of the carp pond and to clear the water lilies from my ears. The kangaroo, none the worse for his ducking, sat belligerently on the rim of the pond attempting to kick me back in as I emerged. Happily, he did not succeed after the third attempt, being distracted by the squirrel and Miss Melantha.

Although I do not know what the subject of the "Johnson's Motor Car" parody was, I do know that it was *not* the infamous version based on the Bhagavad-Gita and banned in India, "Vishnu's Avatar." You've heard it, no doubt -- the one that starts "We have orders from Arjuna/ To win this bloody war/ But how are we to win it/ Without an Avatar?" and ends up "We cheered, 'Hare! Krishna! Hare!'/ For Vishnu's Avatar!" As I said, it was not this version, but I have no idea which one it actually was.

As for your admonition -- my Muse, I bow to no one in my dedication to my satiric career. But I am in difficult circumstances, not the least of which is that the souls of Mr. Mason and his associates are to be forfeit should he lose this case. Although prudence is not sufficient motivation for me to moderate my behavior, pure altruism may be. Please do not tell Mr. Mason that I said this, as he is convinced that I have no one's welfare at heart save my own. I should hate to be accused of being a sentimentalist as well as a certifiably Mad Artist.

Best of luck to you in your current endeavors, Thalia, whatever they may be. Perhaps next time you can disguise your letter in such a way as to avoid our overambitious censors?

      from the Invisible World
      the demon

Subject: GL Thalia replies to Caterwampus

[Thalia is the Greek Muse of Comedy]

Caterwampus was glumly slumping in his chair Being Quiet, when he felt a tickling in the back of his brain. He had a sudden odd mental image of a greek woman in a green silk dress - a woman he instantly Knew was Thalia - standing in a concrete pipe, sticking a broom handle up through a grate.

"My Dear Caterwampus -
    I am sending this letter by the Underground Passages which only Muses use. That's me tickling your mind. Just relax, and my words will come clear to you."

The mental image of Thalia seemed to look straight at him and grin. Then her lips moved in a clear and exaggerated manner - "Relax!" He sat back in the chair and smiled.

    "I suppose you'd better run this by old Pudding Muff there. I hope he will agree to read it in court. I THINK it will help all of you. I do want to help you get free of this awful trial thing, so we can sing some bawdy songs together.

    "If you agree that this would be effective, then by the same token it would be safe to send a clear copy by the Regular Post. For now, you'll have to transcribe it if you want Mr. Mason to read it."

Caterwampus looked around and located pen and paper - they usually weren't too far away, even in his current dreary limitations. Then he sent a mental grin again, to show he was ready.

(Transcription follows)

Subject: GL Thalia dictates to Caterwampus: A Speech to the Court

[Thalia is the Muse of Comedy. Caterwampus is receiving a letter fom her in mental images that cannot be censored by all the Powers of Hell.]

Transcription of speech coming to Caterwampus by the Underground Passages of the Muse:

Thalia the Muse, Amicus Curiae (Friend of the Court),
Addresses the Court of Hell in the Matter of
Caterwampus v.s. Bathin:

Now, is this hell? Or am I out of it?

Did I hear right? A DEMON has to DEFEND his right to throw INSULTS around in HELL?

Excuse me? Demon dears - is it your job, perhaps, to throw celebratory bouquets at sinners? To run about the surface making good people feel they ARE good?

NO! Hell is SUPPOSED to be insulting!

You may say, "We are supposed to insult humans, and other sinners. But a Demon is not supposed to insult another Demon. Who is bigger than him. And meaner than him. And has an aluminum baseball bat."

Let me explain:

The quality of Insult is not strained.
It riseth as persistent mud from swampland
Seeps into everything. It is twice Damned;
It Curses him that gives, and him that takes.
It both release anger and arouses; is bestowed
On rulers far more often than reknown.
Hell's Demon's show the force of Hellish power,
The attribute of terror and cruelty,
Wherein doth sit the sinner's abject dread;
But Insult is above all Terror's sway;
It is enthron-ed in the hearts of Kings;
It is an attribute of Hell itself;
A Demon's power doth then show likest Hell's
When Insult seasons Cruelty. Therefore you,
The Jury in this plea, consider this,
That protected from all Insult, none of us,
Would taste Damnation; never Tested be;
And that same Insult doth teach us all to render
The deeds of Insult. Thalia speaks this much
To bring the gifts of Slamming to this court,
Which if you honor, this grand Court of Hell
Must needs give sentence 'gainst ol' Bathin there.

End of transcription

"Dear Caterwampus -
    You must tell Pickle Moue that he has my permission to use my speech 'in whole or in part', because he has the best legal judgement.
    Tell him that I was awfully responsible, though. I already edited out the part about "Why don't you ask The Big M. what he REALLY said to The Big G. that got him The Big Boot?"
    And because you know the current Corporate Culture down there better than I do, I give you my permission to change any words or references that would be currently unacceptable in Hell.
    It worked for Portia! And what's the difference between a bunch of Venetians and the Jury of Hell, anyway?

Signing off!

Thalia's image slowly faded from his mind.

Her grin was the last thing to go.

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Thursday, 17-Jan-2002 07:40:41 EST