Wrapper detail from =Allan Quatermain=, by H. Rider HaggardConab the Bonehead, A Tale

by Jessica Amanda Salmonson

   

   

Yab Conab, son of Conab the Enormity, was in all things identical to his father, save only that his father was considerably older & punch-drunk. Young Yab, dubbed Conab the Bonehead because of his lumpy protruding brow, had been captured in his childhood by slave-raiders who took him out of Cimmeria, & set him to hard labor in a tomato garden. At age seventeen, he raised a rebellion. Armed only with a garden trowel & manure rake, he killed everyone, even his fellow rebels, & a pack of wolves for good measure, then set off for a career as a freebooter & suchlike. At long last by means of usurpation (or by marrying a homely widowed queen) he became king of some great kingdom (or a settlement of wattle huts by a walnut grove).

He thereafter spent a good deal of time deciding dull matters of state & eating too many berries, walnuts & pasta, brooding in his throne because of the sad emotions awakened in his heart, his small pointy jaw resting on his humongous fist, in an aspect of thoughtful & woebegone bewilderment, like unto a man who cannot think of the precise word or remember the capital of a given state.

One day King Bonehead stood in his boudoir gazing in a mirror of bronze. Ordinarily this was a joyful exercise, as the bronze surface of the mirror distorted his face, making him handsomer than was true, & gave his pallorous Cimmerian complexion a rosy hue. But presently he realized he was looking older, his paunch hung over the front of his swordbelt, & his hair was thin.

His mind drew back in time, when he was a young man. Thinking he was not even now too old for adventure, he set out for Cimmeria, hoping to be reunited with his greatly beloved father, Conab the Enormity. It was a perilous journey with many close escapes & minor conquests, like the Adventure in the Wilderness, where Yab earned impressive scars upon his rump, rendered by an angry hog. In Cimmeria he searched far & wide, at last encountering a pot-bellied drunkard whose scraped & meaty fists were used for nothing more refined than the sport of rat-mashing.

This was his father, whom Bonehead met in a low dive where he was busy mashing rats, one after the other, to the sound of riotous laughter, & downing, between mashings, whole buckets of the damp, spoiled chicken mash that passed for beer in Cimmeria.

"Father, 'tis I, Conab the Bonehead!" said Conab the Bonehead, master of his destiny. He held wide his arms, eager for an embrace, but the drunken rat-masher evaded the hug.

"What? Eh? What do you mean, 'Father.' I have no son."

"But look at me, if I were potbellied, aged, besotted, with rat-bites on my knuckles & a little punch-drunk & silly, you would see I'm your very double."

"What? Eh? Seeing double?"

"I am your son!"

The senior Conab waxed nostalgic. "Had a son once."

"I was captured by raiders, taken to a far land."

"There! You see! My son wasn't captured by no one. I sold him to some passing caravan for the price of a few potatoes."

"I am that son."

"If you're my son Bonehead the Unlamented, prove it by mashing a few strong rats."

Yab took one look at the manged rodents for several heartbeats before a sense of profound discouragement overwhelmed him. He turned on his heel & fled in horror of his father, though Conab the Enormity always assumed the fellow ran out for fear of the rats, proving the stranger was no son of his.

And so Yab returned to his little walnut kingdom, or town, & entered his castle, or wattle hut, & tried to be satisfied that things were as good as they were. Yet after many years had passed, Yab saw that he had become indeed like his father, though it was good wine instead of spoiled mash that made him sotted, & good pasta with sausages instead of rat-kabobs that made him wide.

He had three sons, dubbed Conab the Button-nose, Conab Smalldong, & his youngest, Conab the Player with Dolls & Kittens.

The lads liked nothing better than to gather about their poppa when he was on his throne, & listen to him cracking walnuts in his huge fists while telling unlikely tales of his glorious youth as a wolfslayer, freebooter, cattle-rustler, & roustabout.

When his sons reached their individual ages of fifteen, eighteen, & twenty, they conspired to poison old Yab, who fell dead in the walnut grove wherein he had been chasing after a pretty, flirtatious she-goat. The sons divided up the property, cut down the nut grove, & built highrise apartments with a lovely view of some ditchwater & a clearcut mountain called Baldy. The apartment dwellers claim the spirit of Yab Conab to this day wanders the hallways, & rides the elevators up & down, chasing after a bleating horned beast whom the ghostly Yab calls Daisy. A sad tale but a true one, & even so, nobody cares a tiddle nor gives a quid.





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