In anticipation of the coming event, tongues began to wag in Wobbiton and Buythewater, like the tails of so many animal-shelter dogs. Local wobbit Ham Sammich, known as the Grasper, took this as an opportunity to share his anecdotes about tending the gardens at Bulbo’s condo. Bunkins had purchased his apartment below Virginia’s Beauty Parlor when he became rich. Trying to live up to his new role of “job creator,” he hired Sammich as gardener, primarily because it meant his new servant would never have any duties inside the condo.
Sammich, who Bulbo employed without benefits, was a dreadful old bore. He was old, but actually younger than Bulbo, but because of Bulbo’s mysterious eternal middle-age, Sammich acted like his cranky grand-dad. The Grasper attributed his own long life to avoiding work and drinking beer, and did both regularly at a small inn called the Ivy Drip. He was addressing a small audience. Small even for wobbits.
“I swear,” slurred Ham, “tha’ Misser Bulbo’s all right!” Bulbo indulged Ham’s belief in his own genius at growing rutabagas. “Master Hammich,” Bulbo would often say, “you’re awesome at growing rutabagas!” But Bulbo wasn’t around at the moment.
“Sure, Bulbo’s all right,” said Daddy Shortlegs (a neighbor of the Grasper), “but who’s this young Promo Bunkins that lives with him? Bunkins or not, he’s really a Buckiebrand from Buckie Hall, where folks are so queer.”
“You’re right, Dad!” said the Grasper. “And I’ve never seen tha’ young Promo out on a date. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. They do have queer ways in Buckieland, across th’ Buckiewine River. Still, as long as his ‘dad’ keeps paying my wages, tha’ Promo is all right, too.”
“Did I ever tell you about how Promo’s parents died mysteriously?” the Grasper said. “Promo told me in the strictest confidence, so if you repeat this, tell everyone it’s a secret.”
“You don’t say, Grasper!” said Ted Sandywobbit, the Wobbiton miller, who always liked to butt in.
“Oh, yeah! Prob’ly killed each other! Mr. Drono Bunkins and tha’ poor Miss Tremula Buckiebrand. They were paddleboating on a second honeymoon at the Murkywood Wood-Elf Lodge when the paddleboat capsized. Horseplay was suspected, or perhaps even rough-housing. And they were both somehow related to Bulbo. Tha’s even more mysterious.”
“That doesn’t sound mysterious at all. Not much of a story. More of an anecdote. I hate those paddleboats, all that pedaling. No wonder they fell in.” The miller was hard to please.
“Anyway, Promo went to live with the Buckiebrands until Mr. Bulbo adopted him. What a shock tha’ must have been to the Snackbag-Bunkinses. First his eternal middle-age and then a new beneficiary suspiciously being named.”
“What about the rootball card collection, and all the silver and gold?” said Daddy. “And the jools?’
“I’m sorry, the ‘jewels.’ What about them?”
“He never had any jewels,” Ham said, “and Mr. Bulbo refused to diversify his portfolio, taking only gold as payment on his contract instead. As for his rootball memorabilia, all of the cards, programs, merchandise, jerseys, and even a rare game ball are all going to Promo.
“But my boy Sham can tell you all about that.” Ham’s son, Sham Sammich, was following in his footsteps, which meant drinking and watching rootball games while on the clock for Mr. Bulbo. There was hardly enough work for one of them. “Sham’s a rootball nut! He knows the rules better than a referee. The game’s not the same anymore. All the expansion teams ruined it. It’s a huge waste of time in my opinion.
“Horsecollar tackles and false starts! I says to him. Rutabagas and ghost-payrolling are good enough for me and you! Pay attention or you’ll get caught goofing off! I says.
“You can says what you want, but that Bulbo’s got strange interests beyond rootball,” said Sandywobbit. “Visits from comic book collectors and weird foreign musicians. He’s even had dwarves calling after normal business hours, with that old self-employed “wizard,” Pantsoff. Bug End is a queer place, and it’s folk queerer. Queerer by the moment, in fact.”
“Shouldn’t you be at your mill, doing your milling, Mr. Sandywobbit?” said Ham. “All I know is my Sham is going to Mr. Bulbo’s party. I hope he brings a date.”
Keep coming back for more of Superfriends Of The Ring.
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