Sunday, November 7, 2010

A selection from "Mr Yoop's Soup" by Michael D. Turner

Mr Yoop’s Soup
by Michael D. Turner

ing Gob Ghab was worried. Normally being King of the Munchkins
was quite a pleasant job. He got to wear fine clothes with fancy
buttons and excellent boots that were made just for him, instead of being picked from a tree like everyone else’s. He got to wear a crown.
His was a particularly nice one, a gift from the emperor of the Winkies, made of light and shiny tin with delicate gold-foil flowers tastefully decorated with thimble-sized sapphires. True, he had to sit in his court and settle any disputes his Munchkins brought to him, but his people were by-and-large a peaceful, settled folk, so he only had to do that an hour or so every other week. The rest was just making speeches at holiday festivals and having dinners with important Munchkin citizens. Not today though. Today was one unusual thing after another.
The first thing was a mysterious hole in Mob Cobi’s roof, accompanied by the disappearance of his prize cleaver. Mob Cobi was Munchkin City’s most popular (and only) butcher, and the cleaver—an enormous two-handed affair that dated back before the time of the witches, had not been used in many years. Instead it had hung on a stout wooden peg above Mob Cobi’s counter. Today the peg was still there but the cleaver had disappeared...apparently through a hole torn in the shop’s roof!
Theft! Burglary! Vandalism!
Such a thing had not happened in Munchkin land in many, many years.
Then there was the missing goose-girl. Nemi Omsbi was the daughter of an important farmer and by all accounts a most responsible girl. Every day for as long as anybody could remember she’d risen early, ate breakfast, and then taken her geese out to the meadows near her father’s farm. She tended the geese all day, usually knitting clever sweaters and scarves with patterns of blue geese in them to pass the time, always returning just before dinner time. Only today she hadn’t. Returned that is. Her geese were found milling in the meadows, calling for her. Her knitting was under a tree nearby but no sign of her. Most Munchkins assumed she’d finally run off with some lad but her geese said not, and her mother believed them and insisted there was foul play.
Foul play! In Oz!
Finally, for certain that in fairy counties such things always happen in threes, a most alarming report came in.
“Your majesty,” Vorodi, the High Chancellor, wheezed, “Mr. Yoop has escaped!”
“Yoop, your Majesty. Mr. Yoop, the giant cannibal who was caged along an unused road to the Winkie country long ago, before the time of the witches! He’s out; his cage is broken and empty! He escaped.”
“How?” asked the King. “When?”
“I . . . I don’t know, your Majesty,” the chancellor said, a worried look passing over his normally round and cheerful face. “A passing Jay had taken to taunting the giant every few weeks. Today he went to taunt and there was no giant. I don’t know how he escaped.”
“No matter,” the King clapped his hands in front of his ample stomach, the result of dining with too many important Munchkins. “This is too much for us, Vorodi. Holes in roofs, missing cutlery and goose-girls. Now a giant! We must send word to Ozma’s court and ask for help. Perhaps Princess Dorothy or Nick Chopper, will be about, to come lend us a hand.”
“Emerald City is a long way off,” observed the chancellor. “What are we Munchkins to do until help arrives?”
“The King paced a bit and then declared, “Send the constables around to every village and farm. Tell my people to stay indoors or in large groups.”
“You want the people to huddle in fear, while we wait for help?”
“That’s right,” the King agreed, “most sensible thing to do, really.”
“If we send out the constables, who will we send to Ozma?”
“I’ll go myself,” the King declared. “Get someone to hitch up the goat-cart.” King Ghab knew he was much too fat these days to walk all the way to Emerald City.
“As your majesty commands,” said Vorodi.
Soon the constables were scampering about, and Munchkins were huddled into their homes and cellars, waiting further news, while King Ghab was settled in his cart behind a goat named Nick, after the Emperor of the Winkies, that placidly munched vegetables hung before him on a pole, heading steadily down the yellow brick road to Emerald, capital city of Oz.
The king had not traveled very far beyond the edge of Munchkin City, his capitol, before he got to the edges of the great Munchkin forest. It wasn’t the largest forest in the Land of Oz but it was large enough, and home to many wild beasts. The forest was very quiet, which neither the king nor the goat took note of. The goat had been chosen for its phlegmatic personality and as long as its mouth was full it was content to plod along pulling the cart until the vegetables ran out. The king was just preoccupied.
The forest was unnaturally quiet because Mr. Yoop, the giant, was running loose in it. He was one of the most dangerous things to ever run loose anywhere in the land of Oz, and the beasts, living in a less refined but more natural state than city folk, were very sensitive to such things and not inclined to put themselves at risk by running about with a giant on the loose. King Ghab lived in the city however, and was more careless about such things.
So it was that he didn’t notice the cart was passing two suspiciously hairy tree trunks. The giant, whose legs those tree trunks were, was used to snatching unwary travelers who passed his cage and he snatched King Ghab up the same way. He wrapped his hand ‘round the King’s head, shoulders, and arms and lifted him right out of the cart as quick as you could blink. The goat Nick never even noticed and continued on for several miles while he worked through a large, juicy turnip currently hanging on his stick.
In three great strides the giant had them out of sight of the road. Thirteen more of his gigantic steps and they were deep inside the blue-tinged forest. Gob Ghab struggled in the giant’s grip, kicking his legs and even trying to bite the giant’s leathery palm, but he might as well have been wrapped in stone. The giant walked a long way into the woods before he stopped.
After he stopped he shifted his grip so King Ghab’s head poked out of the top of his hand and the King could see.
Nothing he saw did much to encourage the King. They were somewhere deep in the forest under an enormous Hickory tree. A low fire burned on a stone hearth laid near the tree’s trunk and over it simmered a huge iron pot, it’s outside quite rusted. Beside the pot was a rough hewn trestle table on which sat a coil of heavy rope, a pile of onions and what had to be Mob Cobi’s cleaver.
“Unhand me!” Gob Ghab demanded of the giant. “I am the King of this land! Put me down!’ This might have made more of an impression if he’d not squeaked so in the middle of “down!’.
Mr. Yoop simply grinned and plucked the great gold-foil and tin crown off Gob Ghab’s head. He held it up to his eye.
“The king you are of those I hate, a fine meal I’m sure you’ll make!”
“Don’t be ridiculous. The king is supposed to eat fine meals,” Gob protested, “not be eaten as one! Put me down! Let me go!”
Though the Munchkin King continued to protest it didn’t matter to the giant at all. In a twice he had King Ghab trussed up and tied down across the table. He then proceeded to pluck and pull off the King’s fine clothes, starting with his splendid tooled boots.
“Hey!” Shouted Gob. “Careful with those, they’re custom made! Ouch! That pinched!” Mr. Yoop finally shut him up by stuffing a fine knit stocking into his mouth. He finished undressing the Munchkin before Gob managed to spit the stocking out.
“Why are you doing this to me?” Gob cried.
Mr. Yoop paused to consider the question before replying,
“One hundred years in a cage, you can not comprehend my rage. No one to eat, nothing to gnaw. Now I’ll try you in my jaws.” He reached for the cleaver.
Gob Ghab, King of the Munchkins, howled as Mr. Yoop did his work. The giant’s cleaver was sharp enough to split hairs, and the blade caused a deep burning sensation as the giant slowly drew it through the King’s flesh, as if it were white hot. Tears welled in the King’s eyes as Mr. Yoop leaned in to complete his first cut, severing Gob’s feet just above the ankles. When the giant saw the tears he grinned and paused in his cutting long enough to wipe one on to his finger, thick as a fence-post, and touch it to his lips.
He then went back to his labor, cleaving every joint and splitting King Gob’s torso up the middle like a chicken. This did not kill the King, of course, because very few things can actually kill the residents of the fairy realm of Oz, but it was very, very painful and the giant worked his knife slowly and deliberately, saving Gob’s head for the very last cut so the King could fully appreciate the giant’s work.
King Gob didn’t appreciate any part of Mr. Yoop’s work, however.
“Enough, enough I say! Oh, this is awful. Stop doing this to me, please!” Mr. Yoop just grinned and lifted the lid off the great iron cauldron. He tossed the king’s left foot into the pot, and then his right forearm. He made a game of it, standing behind the table and flinging a thigh and buttocks, still attached together, back up from behind his head. It rattled around the rim before falling in with a splash, which was followed by a high-pitched “oomph!” from inside the cauldron.
The giant’s grin widened and he snatched the king’s head up and held it over the cauldron so he could see in. In the steaming stock inside Gob could see a girl, or parts of a girl, floating and bobbing along with the parts of him just placed. Her head came out from under his thigh, looked him square in the eye and spat out a mouthful of broth.
‘Oh my,” King Ghab said. “Are you Nemi Omsbi?”
Mr. Yoop frowned at him and crammed an onion in his mouth, but the girl’s head answered.
“Yes, I’m Nemi Omsbi. Oh, this is terrible! Watch out!” This, just as the giant stuffed his head into the simmering broth. The liquid was scalding of course, and also heavily spiced with pepper. It burned in Gob’s eyes and reddened his skin and made his ears itch inside, which was all the worse for having no hands and arms attached to scratch with. His face impacted something soft, which floated to the surface with him. He managed to spit out the onion and work his face around with jaw, tongue and eyebrows until he could see. His head was floating on top of Nemi Omsbi’s chest. If Gob had not already been scalded red he would have blushed.
“Look out!” Nemi Omsbi said, just as the rest of his parts started raining down. The stock splashed and Gob was knocked off Nemi’s chest and ended up somewhere near the bottom of the pot. It was much hotter there. Gob Ghab felt his eyes and ears swelling in the heat, so much so he was glad when the giant stirred the pot with a big wooden ladle and brought his head to the surface again.
The grinning giant was waiting for him. Once both heads were floating on the top of the broth he proceeded to pelt them with onions. Nemi was struck hard in her left eye, which immediately teared up. This delighted the giant.
 “Don’t cry, Miss Omsbi,” Gob said. “We’ll get out of this, somehow.”
“Idiot!” the girl replied. “I’ve got onion in my eye! And the only place we’re going from here is down his gullet.”
“The girl is right, you’re in a spot.” Mr. Yoop said. “Nothing can pull you from my pot.” Then he pasted Gob between the eyes with the last onion and put the lid on, plunging the cauldron into a sweaty darkness. This sent the stock to boiling and for quite some time afterward all the two heads could do was scream.