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This story arc has been published as a novel!

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Mouse-traps, and the Moon, and Memory, and Muchness

When the doorbell rang, Ira hurried to get it before the "helper" could.

The dapper man on his front step had changed very little since Ira first met him in the 1960s. His bright blond hair had altered nearly imperceptibly to shining silver, his moustache was still a neat, slender line, and his smile was unfaded. He was wearing his trademark white linen suit and panama hat, and had added a silver-topped walking stick to his ensemble.

Ira felt the little shriveling in the pit of his stomach that he'd always felt on seeing this man, who was so charming, natty, and well set-up, but combatted the sensation manfully. "Carolus!" he exclaimed. "Thank you for coming."

"Ira, you're looking well," Carolus said, warmly shaking his hand.

"Well, come in, come in," Ira said, standing away from the door.

Carolus stepped inside, removing his hat, green eyes taking in the foyer at a glance. "Suzanne's at work then?"

"Yes, always working, that girl," Ira said, making sure the door was securely shut. "Come on into the living room. Coffee?"

"No, thank you, Ira," Carolus said. "Can't abide all the cat hair." He dropped gracefully into an armchair.

Ira sat down opposite him, reminding himself that there were aspects of any conversation with Carolus that one must ignore. "I'm grateful that you could come, Carolus," he said. "I hope I didn't interrupt any important business."

The helper looked in at them briefly, caught Ira's eye, nodded, and backed out. Ira might complain about having the girl in the house, but at least she had good sense and social grace.

Carolus smiled. "Oh, no. I never have important business. It's all terribly critical."

"Ah. Right." Ira fidgeted with his cuticles.

"Who's the woman?" Carolus asked with elaborate carelessness.

"Oh, her," Ira said. "Andrea guilted the Guardians into forking over more cash for a 'helper.' Said Suzanne and I were tired. So this woman comes in during the weekdays, and two nights a week and on Saturday, another woman comes in. They help with Josh and cleaning and cooking and whatnot. Suzanne seemed awfully grateful, so I'm putting up with it."

"Yes," Carolus said thoughtfully. "It does seem like she ought to've done her time by now for the crime of being a superhero's wife."

Ira blinked. Part of him wanted to take offense on Josh's side, and part of him--possibly the part that had been talking to Andrea recently--agreed. "Anyway," he said hurriedly, "I think they're mostly here to watch me. I think they think I'm on the Moon."

Carolus shrugged. "One gets used to it."

"You see," Ira persisted, "Josh spoke to me last week."

"About time he picked up the phone," Carolus said.

"But it was spontaneous. I hadn't even been talking to him much."

"Ah, but you and Suzanne have been ringing him regularly for years."

"Huh," Ira said, slowed by the metaphor. He recovered. "Well, anyway, he was giving me a warning about some invaders."

"One ought to be prepared," Carolus said.

"Exactly!" Ira said. "So I went to the Gold Stars, of course, to give them the tip."

"And they, admirable folk, gave Suzanne the tip that you'd cracked," Carolus said, stroking his moustache. "Very tight situation, I'd say. Very tight indeed."

"Yes! I knew you'd understand!"

"So what would you like from me?"

"I..." Ira fidgeted with his hands again, examining his ragged nails. "Could you tell if he actually woke up? If he actually spoke to me?"

Carolus turned an unsettling gaze on Ira. "Or if you're on the Moon?"

Ira sighed. "Yes, or that."

"I can tell you that every para I've ever met is mad as a... well, quite mad."

"You've said that before."

"It remains true."

"But the thing is, am I that kind of crazy?"

"We shall see." Carolus stood suddenly. "Is Joshua in his usual place?"

"Unless he's gotten up and walked while I wasn't looking," Ira said.

Carolus strode out of the living room, and Ira heard him knock and enter Josh's room.

Ira sat still for about ten seconds, then got up and went into the kitchen, where the helper was finally cleaning up the breakfast dishes.

"Is he an old friend?" she said. It took him a few seconds to parse her West Indian accent.

"An old something," Ira said.

She gave him a crooked smile and said, "Hah."

He was, reluctantly, getting to like her. He supposed he ought to try to remember her name.

About half an hour later, he couldn't restrain himself any more and went to Josh's door. He couldn't hear anything, so he knocked. Getting no answer, he walked in.

Josh was in his usual place. Carolus was gone. On the side table was a sheet of unlined paper with Carolus' neat handwriting on it. Ira picked it up and peered.

"Damned cryptic bastard and his stupid rhymes," he snarled, tossing it down and stomping out.

A telephone is a wondrous thing
A part that speaks and a part that rings
A part that listens and a part that hangs
No part that watches, no part with fangs.
It channels words across the miles
With vicious daring and sparkling guile
But the telephone has no voice of its own
It parrots only the words and tones.

All the best,
Carolus Lew, Master of Wonderland

Date: 2011-09-23 10:10 pm (UTC)
pheyne: Cat (Default)
From: [personal profile] pheyne
I like - a lot! Especially the end. Lovely touch.

Date: 2012-05-09 07:29 pm (UTC)
the_leaky_pen: (Default)
From: [personal profile] the_leaky_pen
"Carolus Lew". I see what you did thare! :D :D


Date: 2015-03-04 07:26 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I rarely comment on Web serials, but the character of Carolus was just so well done here. Enjoying how the serious storylines contrast with your pun-ative humor.
- CredulaPostero


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