Kage Baker thought the description of the Squeers family, in Charles Dickens’ Nicholas Nickelby, was about the funniest family ever committed to paper.
They are a sort of ghastly, but affectionate, ogre family who run an appalling boys’ school wherein the titular hero of the novel is an unhappy schoolmaster. Briefly. It all ends in tears, bloodshed and hyperbole, because the Squeers are only affectionate to one another. To everyone else, they are absolutely horrible – except for the daughter of the family, Miss Fanny Squeers, who is convinced she is a deathless beauty and falls in love with anything in trousers …
Fanny was Kage’s favourite. She even used the character in a bespoke story about Springheel Jack, and laughed her ass off the entire time she wrote the dialogue. It appeared in, I think, The Mammoth Book if Dickensian Whodunits, edited by Mike Ashley; Carroll & Graf, October 2007.
Since I have been mistaken about where I published my own stories lately, I could be wrong about this. My brain is leaking out my ears … but I think this is the one.
My day has been a long, long sled ride today, on a broken sled, over a morass of flaming shit. I have had severe problems with online systems which I desperately need to access, in order to pay bills and prove to the state of California that I am not dead, not in good health, and still in need of my disability benefits. ALL these systems refuse to acknowledge my user names or passwords, most have informed me I do not exist, and I have had it with all of them. Absolutely nothing has been accomplished.
The one time I got a live clerk, she sent me a verification code via phone – and then told me her system could not recognize it when I repeated it back to her. And by then, I had tried too many times to be accommodated until another 12 hours goes by.
Hence the title. For context, and for your amusement, Dear Reader, I attach here the original letter from NN, which so entertained Kage. You should have heard her acting it out …
“My pa requests me to write to you. The doctors considering it doubtful whether he will ever recuvver the use of his legs which prevents his holding a pen.
“We are in a state of mind beyond everything, and my pa is one-mask of brooses both blue and green likewise two forms are steepled in his Goar. We were kimpelled to have him carried down into the kitchen where he now lays. You will judge from this that he has been brought very low.
“When your nevew that you recommended for a teacher had done this to my pa and jumped upon his body with his feet and also langwedge which I will not pollewt my pen with describing, he assaulted my ma with dreadful violence, dashed her to the earth, and drove her back comb several inches into her head. A very little more and it must have entered her skull. We have a medical certifiket that if it had, the tortershell would have affected the brain.
“Me and my brother were then the victims of his feury since which we have suffered very much which leads us to the arrowing belief that we have received some injury in our insides, especially as no marks of violence are visible externally. I am screaming out loud all the time I write and so is my brother which takes off my attention rather, and I hope will excuse mistakes.
“The monster having satiated his thirst for blood ran away, taking with him a boy of desperate caracter that he had excited to rebellyon, and a garnet ring belonging to my ma, and not having been apprehended by the constables is supposed to have been took up by some stage-coach. My pa begs that if he comes to you the ring may be returned, and that you will let the thief and assassin go, as if we prosecuted him he would only be transported, and if he is let go he is sure to be hung before long, which will save us trouble, and be much more satisfactory.
Hoping to hear from you when convenient
“Yours and cetrer
“P.S. I pity his ignorance and despise him.”