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The Essay
Show #531
The Land of Satan's Dancing Cows
David Gunn

"Johnny! Johnny Bumpkins!" Mother Bumpkins stood by the kitchen door calling to her son. "Where is that boy now?! Land sakes, I just know he's gettin' himself into a heap o' trouble. Johnny Bumpkins!"

Oh, Mother Bumpkins, if you only knew! For at that very moment, Johnny Bumpkins was standing in front of a very cross Tomás de Torquemada, the Grand Inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition. The year is--or was--1492; the place, the interrogation room of the court of the Catholic Church in Valencia in eastern Spain. How on earth did the boy come to be there when just an hour ago he was safely upstairs in his room? Well, it happened this way.

Johnny had been working on a report for his seventh grade history class. The topic was 1492. Naturally, his teacher expected his students to write about Columbus' discovery of America. But Johnny's increasingly eccentric sister, Bonnie Bumpkins, had said that he'd surely earn a better grade if he wrote about something else. And she handed him a little pop-up book on the Summis desiderantes, Pope Innocent VIII's papal bull of 1484 that made life a living hell for witches and magicians. Bonnie sometimes claimed to be a witch herself--for sure she knew all the words to "Witchcraft"--and the way her translucent hair wavered in and out of focus whenever she mumbled the word abracadabra, it was easy to give her the benefit of the doubt. Johnny opened the book to page one, and up popped an illustration of an auto-da-fé, the burning of a heretic at the stake. Johnny scraped the little scratch 'n sniff patch on the figure's leg and shuddered. It smelled just like when Bonnie had caused Willie the Weasel to spontaneously combust. He flipped to page three, and up popped a picture of a scowling Tomás de Torquemada. His left hand was outstretched and pointing right at the young boy. Johnny shuddered again, for he knew that he had to touch the hand. After all, it was only a dumb pop-up book--what could happen? He glanced at the calendar. It was Wednesday. He suddenly remembered that Wednesday back on the old Mickey Mouse Club was "Anything Can Happen Day." Johnny paused, his hand an inch from the pop-up book. Anything? And then, the cardboard cut-out hand of Tomás de Torquemada abruptly reached out, grabbed the wrist of Johnny Bumpkins and, simultaneously jump-starting the concept of probability theory, yanked him through time and space back to the final terror-filled decade of the fifteen century.

The interrogation room of the court of the Catholic Church was nothing short of horrifying. No matter the Church did not officially "shed blood," the room was filled with the most ghastly torture devices imaginable: the rack, the boot, red-hot pincers, thumbscrews, the jibbet cage, the floozy. A burly priest in a scarlet cassock led Johnny Bumpkins into the room. Clad in a dingy sanbenito and fettered, the boy had to take awkward little steps. Once he stumbled and fell to the ground. The priest cruelly poked Johnny with a haggis, and the boy got up with a shriek. He staggered forward until the priest halted him in front of a bejeweled throne from which the Grand Inquisitor looked down imperiously.

"Heretic!" sneered Torquemada. Fortunately for Johnny, everyone at the tribunal spoke English, though with heavy Spanish accents. "You are accused of heterodoxy in that you claim to be from a land called Cleveland." An uneasy murmur filtered through the courtroom, partly from the assembled arbiters, and partly from an outbreak of borborygmus caused by an overindulgence of haggis among the dinner theater crowd in attendance. Torquemada had paused to wrestle a sliver of sheep lung from between his teeth, but now he continued. "How do you plead?"

"I was only trying to do my homework," said Johnny Bumpkins bravely. "I don't know what you're talking about!"

"Fool!" spat Torquemada, along with a good sized chunk of suet. "Cleave is to cloven as hoof is to heifers! Thus, Cleveland is 'the land of Satan's dancing cows!' You shall pay for your sacrilege! Cardinal Hígado! Fetch ... the floozy!"

He clapped one of his hands, and a brightly red plumaged man having a crested head and short, thick bill entered the room with a supple young woman in tow. The arbiters and theatergoers all gasped in unison as the floozy, clad in a sequined body suit that left none of her womanly wiles to the imagination, practically oozed from one side of the room to the other. It was sheer torture to look at her and maintain wholesome thoughts, and several of the judges crossed themselves while silently reciting Confiteors. Even Torquemada licked his lips in a most impious manner as Cardinal Hígado led her to the dock in which Johnny Bumpkins was standing. So potent was her sexual energy that the front of the throne melted; the look that she gave Johnny burned like whole wheat toast. And yet the lad was oddly unaffected.

"Enough!" sputtered an enraged Torquemada, and the floozy abruptly turned off her charms. He glowered at the boy. "So you can withstand the floozy, eh? Well, we have ways of dealing with the likes of you! Cardinal Agrio! Fetch ..."

Meanwhile, Mother Bumpkins had looked for naught in all of Johnny's hiding places, and a sense of worry was gradually replacing her fury. Returning to his room, she spied the Summis desiderantes pop-up book on his bed. As her son had done, she opened the book to page one, however she suppressed the urge to scratch the heretic's leg. Turning to page three, she stared into the eyes of a leering Torquemada and shivered. She was about to turn to the next page when the hand that he had extended beckoned to her. As if in a trance, she reached out to it. Then, as before, the Grand Inquisitor reached across five centuries and grabbed her own hand.

Ahh, but it's safe to say that Torturin' Tom had never before met a person with such strong space-time powers. Instead of him reeling his prey back into the fifteenth century, Mother Bumpkins pulled him forward into the twenty-first, along with Cardinal Hígado, Betsy (a.k.a. "the floozy"), Johnny and the very worst part of the haggis.

"Johnny Bumpkins!" fumed Mother Bumpkins. "I've been worried sick! You go downstairs right this minute and wash up for supper!" She turned to Torquemada. "And as for you! ..."

Betsy watched in horror and Hígado swooned as she advanced on a suddenly alarmed Grand Inquisitor with the haggis.

Today's 531st episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar features neither inquisition nor floozy, however we do have a cardinal in the form of the Birdbrain Performing Arts Collective, not to mention, which I will anyway, the best part of the haggis, boiled Kalvos.