Friday, March 25, 2011

Bathroom Monologue: Three Bindle Stiffs

Danielle La Paglia recently linked me to a list of 100 Whimsical Words. I was surprised how many of them I knew and actually used in life but not in fiction. For her birthday I endeavored to write one story using all 100. I'm a week late. Hope it was worth the delay.

There were three bindle stiffs at the docks - let us call them Jackanapes, Factotum and Callipygian, for that is what they were. A homeless threesome, gathered by the loquacious Jackanapes, a louche scofflaw, supercilious about himself and curmudgeon to all other matters.  Factotum was his manservant, as a factotum must be to someone, an aimless ragamuffin with nothing beyond size to his credit. More interesting than this oaf (and more interesting to the oaf) was the bodacious Callipygian, one lady concupiscent and rivaling Factotum as a flibbertigibbet.

Now Jackanapes proposed some minor skullduggery as pertained to the Captain’s Quarters, a local tavern. Within was an ill-gotten goblet, periwinkle festooned with opals and inscriptions of ancient Australian gobbledygook. It simply begged liberation. Liberation into Jackanapes’s possession, of course.

The Beerkeep, once a bold and raffish scalawag, was now pusillanimous and lackadaisical, scarcely lifting his head from the countertop. His wife, let us call her Harridan, was less easily hoodwinked. A cantankerous termagant, heart tainted by broken promises, face tainted by carbuncles of particular effluvium, and given her abstemious nature, not too pleased about living in a bar. The Beerkeep was broken, for if he complained she was no longer a nubile sylph? Well he didn’t have the washboard belly of the swashbuckler she’d married, either.

So our mendacious tatterdemalions infiltrated on Discount Ale Night. Callipygian strutted across the bar and whispered obsequious debauchery into Beerkeep’s good ear. Into the left, she osculated. Broken men are so easily finagled.

Meanwhile Factotum elbowed through the crowd like a willy-nilly whirligig, knocking the pint and the hat from a haberdasher. The haberdasher caterwauled, and Factotum responded with brazen fisticuffs. Our ignoramus spun him widdershins, spilling the gallimaufry from his cup. Gawkers flocked with hullabaloo. The ribaldry instigated such a kerfuffle that even Harridan peered its way. So was the plan: to obfuscate by infidelity or ruckus.

Harridan shrieked for her poltroon husband and barged in to squelch the catawampus, only to be struck by a flailing hat-seller. She was knocked to the floor while the Beerkeep was drooping to the bar top.

Amidst the folderol, Jackanapes slithered behind the bar. He paused an instant to bask in the resplendent chalice – then skedaddled. For you see, his hornswaggle was on four people, not two.

The conspirators didn’t remark Jackanapes’s absquatulating immediately. The Beerkeep was looking for tongue before Callipygian came wise. Poor Callipygian and Factotum looked at each other flabbergasted; neither had prognosticated his exit, nor their own exit strategies. Beerkeep roused and squawked that his spiffy cup was gone, and the crowd doubled in size with accusations of subterfuge. Imbroglio flummoxed our lummox, while Callipygian babbled defensive rigmarole.

Perspicacious Harridan recognized that while they might be in cahoots, it was cockamamie balderdash that they’d carried off the cup. They looked as lugubrious as Harridan on her wedding night, and neither had any goblets bulging underneath his or her corset. Pushing through the ballyhoo she took each by an ear, twisting and demanding explanation. She’d forgive their peccadillo in return for their mastermind. They responded with mumbling and borborygmus.

Malarkey, she accused. Hadn’t they served hortatory to these shenanigans? To play Jackanapes’s factotum for so long and left clueless?

Factotum let out a paroxysm of obloquy. Their original hideout. The docks! With boats to abscond, or as Callipygian hypothesized, merchants to entice. Sooner than Harridan could summon a steed, rambunctious Factotum tossed both ladies over his shoulders and bolted for the seaboard.

Now Jackanapes possessed a foible of confidence. At safe distance, he gallivanted and lollygagged, whistling orotund tunes and regarding the foofraw of his ill-gotten doohickey. What fortunes flagitious life afforded.

So taken was he by his own hijinks that he was tackled higgledy-piggledy from behind. Two ladies and one ex-factotum began beating him about the head and shoulders. They were at loggerheads immediately, and at the fusty hoosegow ten minutes later, one man incarcerated on two counts of “jiggery-pokery and maleficence,” and a farrago of lesser charges. He was left with no cups or opals, only a two-bit pettifogger to hear his hokum. So was his comeuppance.

Harridan’s comeuppance came up at auction for the stupid cup. Proceeds went to her own copacetic hodgepodge of a juice bar and a dance parlor. Her star dancer took in a wealth of tips, and they were both generous to the hulking (if dull) bouncer. She hired her own husband two months later as Juicekeep, after her competition put him out of business. There may be a word for that sort of thing, but I don’t know it.


  1. I doff my imaginary hat to you, sirrah. Not only did you succeed in your wordy task but you did so within an engaging wee story arc. No mean task, considering the ludicrous words you had to include.

  2. Wow, such a Herculean task performed so well! Kudo's!

  3. Brilliant! Absolutely brilliant. It was well worth the wait. #belatedhappyface

  4. A tough task very well executed and just plain fun to read!

  5. A clever story, shining through the legerdemain of obfuscation!

  6. I think it was worth the wait.

    Curmudgeon and skullduggery are such fun words. Love them.

  7. Jason and Mr. FAT, hammering an arc out of the words was the big task. I'm glad some people are enjoying what I came up with.

    Sylvia and Harry, if I managed to fit all one hundred words in and still make it entertaining to read? Then that's victory. Thank you both.

    Danni, happy second birthday! Glad you liked your present.

    Laurita, "curmudgeon" is actually in my daily vocabulary. I didn't realize it was viewed as so archaic a word.

  8. Too whimsical... :)

    I actually found that really fun to read. I especially liked "fisticuffs." And congradulations on quite an effort.

  9. Great work, with splendid use of language. It's lovely to see these words dusted off and given a fresh airing.

  10. What an astounding achievement, although I felt as if I was in the midst of a bruhaha at some local tavern, spun about with all that whirligiging and jiggerypokery. What a mastro.

  11. Wow! What a challenge that must've been John, but you met it above head-on. Fantabulous job sir, and with the perfect last line!

    I only had to look up a few words). ;) And now I'm going to start saying "hokum" to everything. :)

  12. Michael, was it too whimsical for you, or are you joking about the aim of the list of 100? Thanks either way.

    Joely, I really ought to keep some of these in my fiction-diction, especially all the synonyms for "nonsense."

    Alison, do you dislike my bruhaha, or think the story is too cheap? I might be misreading your "although."

    Deanna, the trick was to look for clusters of words that could describe the traits or actions of one type of person, then a story those folks could do. It only took two passes - a highly enjoyable exercise.

  13. John, This is an amazing piece. hats off to ya.

  14. Seriously impressive. I do not say that just to be obsequious.

  15. Excellent job! Not only did you succeed in your task, but you made it a lot of fun to read.

  16. You've used all the best words to describe this piece. Awesome and excellent just don't cut it.

  17. Mr. Solender, TS and Eric, honestly, thank you. I was very nervous at one stage of the composition and it's quite relieving to find people enjoy the final product.

    Raven, haha, all the best words? There must be a few left in that big dictionary. Not that the OED has added any worthwhile ones. Possibly "muffintop." Muffintop fiction?

  18. ...incarcerated on two counts of “jiggery-pokery and maleficence"...

    That sounds like it was certainly fun and worth the time being locked up.

    An excellent piece of literary art here, John. It takes a lot to pull so many words together, but you did a fine job of it.

  19. Oh John, my uneducated brain understood about half of the words in this, and it still had me laughing like a drain. Totally brilliant.

  20. That was a whole-lotta whimsey, sir! Well done!

  21. What a monumental task you attempted and what a phenomenal success you achieved. And by a strange coincidence I was once incarcerated for jiggery-pokery and maleficence so I can relate to the narrative.

    Is it just me, or do the verification words usually look like they belong on that list? Mine is "flowles" this time....

  22. Stephen, would you pull such a stunt on your cohorts?

    Meanwhile Steven, by chance did you feel you understood some of the words by context? Or was it all previous knowledge?

    Alan, the world needs more whimsy. I'll contribute whatever's in my pockets.

    Tim, once I got the characters, it was quite fun to pull them together. Thanks for reading and the considerable praise, Tim.

  23. That would take me hours to do. I bow to your proweress as a word smith.

  24. Any story that uses the words "flibbertigibbet" and "flummoxed" has to get a thumbs up from me.

  25. This was a fun language experience! I agree it was brilliant and I can't imagine how tedious to get just right.

  26. Holy doodles, them's a lot of fun words! Dani's a very lucky birthday girl!

  27. I went to your link and laughed at the first comment:

    Stephen on February 23, 2011 6:24 am
    This is generally a good and fun list. I especially like the words I hadn’t heard before, like cattywampus. Borborygmus is great since I don’t think there’s another word for the same thing.
    But I don’t like bindle stiff. It sounds horrible. Surely a stiff is a slang term for a corpse?

    Is that why you put Bindle Stiffs in the title?

  28. Now you've done it, John! I'll be up all night trying to craft my own gallimaufry gobbledygook! And knowing, all along, that it will seem fusty next to your perspicacious foofaraw!

  29. Lara, it took me about five minutes to get the trio, another couple for the plot, then about an hour to lay out the arc and where most words would go for action. Another miscellaneous half hour for polish. I hope it was worth the work for you.

    Icy, word choices after my own heart. Mine were deliberate, but I also enjoy outlandish phrases and unusual words in #fridayflash.

    GP, following up what I said to Lara, it wasn't actually tedious. Once I had my characters and the central actions, there were only about ten words left in the bag. Those smoothed out before the first draft was done.

    Cathy, what were your favorites?

    Madam Z, I welcome others to give this list the same try. I'm particularly curious to see how different a story people can make while sticking under 1,000 words and making 100 of them these puppies.

  30. So much fun to read. I'm amazed you pulled that off. You entertained me while expanding my vocabulary at the same time. :)

  31. Holy cow, my brain just exploded. Words aren't my friends. I bow in absolute shock and awe. Rock on John.

  32. Very nicely done. These are such fun words to play with. I really would like to listen to you read this one ;)

  33. john, I think your're the only one I think who could deliver this with aplomb... Tip of the hat, a raise of the glass.

  34. Dang. I usually don't enjoy having to look up words, but this one was fun! Very impressive. (I found my new "word of the day" list, too!)

  35. Cathy, I hadn't actually read that comment. I'm glad I accidentally stuck it to that reader, though. I took this title for the unimaginative cause of it beginning with three bindle stiffs.

    Chuck, that's a double-victory, then. Edutainment!

    Carrie, I've read your work. Words are your friends. I'm just introducing you to new buddies. I can already tell you want to get to know callipygian better.

    Aidan, a vote for an audio edition? I'll have to take a poll. I was very tempted to record myself as I was putting it together...

    Anthony, I'm abstemious, but I will take the salute and gesture. Thank you, good sir.

    Matt, haha, may I inquire how many you had to look up?

  36. The perspicacity of your lexical elegance is pulchritudinous.
    *doffs hat*
    Adam B @revhappiness

  37. Fantastic! It needs no more words than that, John.

    Have a great weekend, sir!

  38. Record, record, record, record, record, record! 6 votes! I win!

  39. An amazing feat, sir. Well done. Perfect last line.

  40. That was AWESOME! *grin*

    Seriously, it is. I love seeing obsure words used, especially if I'm not sure what they are. Got to spend some quality time with my dictionary. That hasn't happened in a very long time.

  41. Adam, I think your comment fulfilled some other sort of challenge. It's Extreme Literacy Weekend around here.

    David, I had a restful one if nothing else. Hope yours was good as well. Thanks for stopping by to read.

    Danni, j'accuse! Ballot tampering.

    Jon, I admit to really wanting that last line. I had it in mind before I was halfway done constructing the story.

    Jax, that comment was well-worth the wait! Thank you very much. I'm curious which words were your favorites to learn.

  42. as if you need any more comments, but:
    my dictionary can't help me with this:
    "regarding the foofraw of his ill-gotten doohickey."
    Now my mind is reeling. I have a picture in my head and i'm not sure it's legal.

  43. Flagitous, borborygmus, and catawampus! Not even for their meanings, just for the way they look. It was also really fun to work how to pronounce some of the words are realize that I use them, but have never seen them written before, like copacetic and concupiscent.


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