Kage Baker adored Gilbert and Sullivan. She always especially liked the villains. She said it was because they were usually bass-baritones (and thus easier for an alto to sing) and because they got the best lines. I happen to know, though, that Kage had an enormous weakness for bad guys – especially reformable bad guys; a sort of dark-side father complex. Look at Gard, the Black Sorcerer hero of House of the Stag. And there’s a certain amount of Roderick Murgatroyd, the Bad Baronet of Ruddigore, in Lord Ermenwyr.
As Sir Roderick sings warningly in Ruddigore (backed by the chorus of all his dead fellow Bad Baronets) “Duty, duty must be done!” Mine today have included taking the nephew in search of rare collectibles, plus getting him to college; helping the sister figure out what’s for dinner when the brother-in-law has meetings until 8 PM; and keeping the Corgi calm while squirrels rampage through the new buds and berries of the mulberry tree outside the living room window.
The most pleasant duty of the day so far, though, was brunch with one of my very oldest friends, all the way from high school at dear old IHHS: Kathy nee Malloy. Patient woman that she is, she went to the trouble of coaxing me out of my reclusion today: no easy task.
Long ago, Kathy was one of my co-conspirators in a Freshman Honours class that was so brilliant, so eccentric, so scatter-brained, and so much in some other dimension that the entire Honours program was scrapped by our high school for the three years following us. I think they were afraid to get that many nerds in one place ever again; even in an all-girls’ school, it was a wonder no one beat us up. We left burned, salted earth in our wake – but it was scorched by the fires of creativity and watered with the brine of angelic tears!
Miss Malloy was my lab partner in biology. She managed to do her frog dissection at arm’s length, the scalpel held by molecular bonding to the very ends of her anguished fingertips, her straight red Irish air wrapped around her face to keep out the formaldehyde smell. When it came time to pass the visual identification test, Sister Marcia (a true saint, that woman) asked Kathy to identify – a leg. (I got a pancreas.)
While Kathy may not have shone at frog parts, she was a genius at dramatization. The rendition of Lord Randall My Son she choreographed for English class – which involved the entire cast lurching about in stiff-legged zombie poses to illustrate the syncopation – sent our teacher Sister Callista from the room in homicidal fury.
We were seriously in our own universe. It didn’t help that the class a year ahead of us had been nearly as bad. They perpetrated the usual jokes with the anatomy skeleton (risque underwear, giant brown-paper doobies labelled POT). They hung drying underwear in the furnace room. They organized the kidnapping and liberation of a batch of fetal pigs. They ran an underground paper that led to rewards finally being offered for the names of the editorial staff – which I knew because one of those noms de guerre disguised Kage, who was modelling her earliest writing career on Marat.
It was also Kage – assisted by Kimberly and armed with a quarter as a screw driver – who figured out how to take the art room door off its hinges. Nothing was stolen; but several art projects that had been locked up by the art teacher got finished by unseen means … because they always rehung the door when they were done. Kimberly always blamed me for the Honours Program being cancelled, and she may have had a point – but now that I recall the art room door, it was probably only self-defense on the part of the high school …
Man, we had fun. Duty may have to be done, but remembering the times when it was scrapped for art and glory – those are the best.