twice the brinded cat hath mewed

by John Bellairs
February 27, 1959, Scholastic #15

Scholastic (Feb. 27, 1959)

Due to the fact that Charles Bowen, dissolute vagrant that he is, has ridden off in search of Eldorado (Mass.), I have been given the privilege of writing 150 forty-character lines for the second week in a row. Thus I have finally overcome the forces of Mammon, and am on the road to hegemony in this space. I will not be satisfied, however, until Bowen is reduced to writing aphorisms for Chinese fortune cookies. He might even be forced to do Back Pages.

ENEMIES REVISITED

Due to the hard-hitting satires I have done in the past weeks, I have gathered enemies by the gross. In fact, I have a large war map of the campus on my wall, with alienated sectors blocked out in red. As it stands now, the only places which I may visit with safety are the Rockne Memorial, the B-X, and the Boathouse on St. Joseph Lake. One day, in a spirit of adventure, I decided once more to invade two of the more prominent hostile territories; the Radio Station and Howard Hall.

When I got to the Radio Station, I noticed a few changes since my last fruitful visit. The door was guarded by a former member of the Potsdam Guards, replete with bearskin shako and bayoneted rifle. A picture of me was hung from the ceiling by a string, and thus my likeness was kept constantly before the guard's eyes. He kept staring at the photo and muttering "Program Director good…Bellairs bad," and was so wrapped up in his task that I was able to get past him with ease. Once inside, I wandered about for a while until a door opened and I came face to face with the evil Director. He chased me the full length of the studio, pounding on my head constantly with his little plastic scepter. I fled down the stairs in mortal terror, and was able to escape because my pursuer became entangled in his serape and rolled to the bottom of the stairway. "No sense of humor!" I yelled (from a safe distance).

The next day I set out for Howard, but was stopped dead in my tracks by a frightening thought: How does one go about visiting a non-existent place? I decided that Logic, the realm of pure reason, might assist me, so I visited the office of Professor Darii Ferioque, the prominent logician, who edited The Hardy Boys Meet the Square of Opposition, Polysyllogisms in the World Today, and the Classic Comics version of Aristotle's Metaphysics, besides many other favorites. When he heard my problem, his brow wrinkled in contemplation, and he soon had mapped out on the blackboard a complex forty-three party polysyllogism, in which the minor term is woven in and out of the premises (producing a very pretty pattern), the major is naturalized, and the fullback goes over center for three yards and a first down. The professor covered with chalk dust, paused in his labors and looked at me in disgust. "It won't work," he said. "Your middle is undistributed."

The professor's secretary, Barbara Celarent, showed me to the door, and I left somewhat saddened. I spent the whole afternoon standing where Howard should have been, but I could figure out no way of entering that unreal world. I went home somewhat crestfallen, and convinced that the world of those who were friendly to J. Bellairs had grown smaller. Perhaps the day will come when I will be barricaded in my room with the thud of battering rams and poleaxes ringing in my ears. Then I will be unable to get the little native boy to carry my work over to the Scholastic offices. But I suppose I must cross that bride when I come to it.

THE LIBRARY AND OTHER STORIES

A week or so ago I decide to return a copy of Glibtrite's History of Byzantium Vol. I to the library. I needed Vol. II of the same work in order to complete my thesis on the evolution of curse-words among fishermen in the Sea of Marmora. I knew that it was going to be a trying day in the Notre Dame Parnassus when I caught my coat on the turnstile at the entrance to the library. This problem required the services of three maintenance men armed with sledgehammers, pliers, and acetylene torches, who all worked diligently to set me free. Once I had rejected the suggestion that the coat by cut in two and the larges part be given to me, these stalwarts got down to business, and in a matter of an hour I was free.

In the meantime, those who wanted to get past me had to hurdle the rail (some were injured in the attempt) or go in through the checkout section, and thus be considered subversive. Once I was free, I went to the main desk, where I found four librarians hard at work. The one who was dealing the hand at the time turned to me and said: "What can I do for you? (Aside) Three clubs."

I told her that I wanted to return a book. At this she shrugged her shoulders, laid down her hand, and snatched my book. She threw it disdainfully into a large dustbin labeled "Books to be Shelved." As my book landed in this chaotic mass, a cloud of dust rose, then settled slowly. It was explained that the librarians have a phobia about catching diseases from books other people have handled. Therefore the pile of returned books is allowed to gather until it begins to block traffic. Then (I am told) the books are taken out and burnt, thus rendering them forever germfree.

I pushed my way past a tottering pile of books and went up into the stacks in search of the tome I wanted. I came upon a worker who was in the act of pouring a bottle of red ink down a vacuum tube. I found that the book I wanted was in section ZZ. Half this section was to be found in the south end of the library, and the other half in the east (three floors up). Once I found the right section, I discovered that the book was missing.

After an hour of litigation I found that my book had been filed under J, since Justinian was a Byzantine emperor (Mnemonic devices have always puzzled me). The trouble now was that section J had been placed inside the Grill (there being no other place for section J. The lock on this massive dungeon had long ago rusted shut, so the locksmith and janitor went to work. While waiting for the blasting operations to begin, I leafed through a collection of Titian's paintings. I am not familiar with his work, but it exhibits a terrible monotony. Each plate shows nothing but a cut-out space, as though someone had cut a hole in the page. Puzzling over this, I was interrupted by an explosion, after which the janitor told me that I could get my book.

I was almost saddened at the prospect of leaving the pleasant company of the librarians. I had been with them so long that I was beginning to be accepted as a member of the group. They even let me play a hand or two of bridge. At long last, I saw the janitor coming through the stacks (rather, I saw the cloud of dust around him) bearing my book. Suddenly the xylophone on the wall began to ring. At this, the worker bearing the book stopped, threw the said book onto the dust pile, and vanished into the rear of the library. By this time I had become somewhat resigned to my fate, so I checked out. Ahead of me in line was a man wheeling a cart on which was the complete set of Encyclopedia Brittanica. "They belong to me," said the man to the checker as he trundled past.

I however, was thoroughly frisked. There was an hour's delay as my address book was checked to make sure that it was not Library property. At last I was free to leave, and did so, giving the revolving file a good spin as I went out the door.


Commentary

In the Enemies Revisited section, "John talks about visiting the Rockne Memorial, the B-X, & the Boathouse but for the life of me, I can't remember what the B-X is or was," says Myers. "John also mentions visiting the campus radio station & being confronted by the evil Director. As I described in my commentary to his original radio article, that incident actually happened, though the outrage of John Casey, the Director, was purely verbal (and secretly amused the rest of the radio staff). Casey's humorless reaction of course increased Bellairs' pleasure in having written the original article in the first place.

Bowen also confirms Casey was someone who didn't have much sense of humor. "He got highly offended by John's first column about the station. I don't know if he actually ordered that John be kept out of the station, but he did do something or other that provoked the second column.

"This manager had a friend whom I knew slightly and later got to know much better when we both attended Yale Graduate School. Klaus had come to the US from Germany as a boy and spoke English with a noticeable accent. Apparently he got involved somehow in this quarrel, and was rewarded by being portrayed as a doorkeeper in the uniform of the Potsdam Guard, trying diligently to memorize the data 'Station manager good -- Bellairs bad.' John, being an avid collector of odd historical facts, used the Potsdam Guard because he knew it was a crack unit in Frederick the Great's Prussian army. However, he didn't know that Klaus's American home town was Potsdam, NY, and he was greatly amused when I told him this after the column came out.

"As for the cover, this is one by Ivan Osorio, a talented cartoonist who I think did the best covers. He was from Nicaragua or some other Central American country."