Frau Bütelspagen
and the
Puff-Hat Conflagration

It was only a quarter-past four, yet my healthy pups and I, Frau Bütelspagen, had lost our way in Passau. We had been strolling along the shore of the Isar River, letting brilliant sunlight illuminate our course. The sun had complied, strewing diadems and firestones in our path in place of pebbles, until the trail deviated and even the river vanished in perspective. But when the sky darkened, both land and water grew eclipsed by shadow. As my dogs growled softly—their scent mislaid in fragrant confusion—I worried about the family. My husband, Jürgen Bütelspagen, would be wondering where we had gone. On a stroll in the country, I'd assure him when we found our way back.

The countryside of Passau was thrilling in the early autumn (though its proximity to Czechoslovakia and Austria made it feel faithless to our Fatherland). In that orphaned region, the hood-sacheted musk of the Schließfrüchte beckoned to my pups, drawing them closer to groves both luxuriant and unwholesome. Even now, I fear it was those misted, unruly woods that upset my little ones—Kreutzler, Schpeppi, Pinzer and Dichtenblap. My schnauzers had always behaved perfectly in the city. And now that my husband was not present to soothe them, you may well imagine how anxious they became.

Little Pinzer began to gnaw at his own ruffled collar. He swiveled his head tentatively; the wide collar turned and reversed in the wind. Schpeppi's puff-hat bent at the center, and the brooch-pin I'd used to affix it to his skull etched pinkish circles across his wrinkling forehead. Baby Kreutzler's anklet jingled as he stared at me helplessly. Poor old Dichtenblap seemed to bear it all patiently, but how long could that last?

Suddenly, the dogs stood bolt upright: They sniffed the wind and attended a scent too nebulous for human detection. My babies have found the path! I cried. But no such luck. Distant vines rustled; four shadowy figures trickled single-file into the clearing. A quartet, I told my dogs. A quartet of rustics.

"We are athletic jugglers!" the rustics chorused while passing gaily-painted volleyballs to one another. "We speak only in unison—it is part of our routine—and wish you, the legendary Frau Bütelspagen, a healthy trip home!"

In greeting me, the rustics seemed not to notice my pups. "Danke," I replied half-heartedly. But how could my pups be expected to react? As the rustics disported themselves in the clearing, Baby Kreutzler began to slaver and whine. The other pups joined in, until the growling grew louder and open-mouthed. The rustics seemed not to care and continued to practice their gymnastics: stag-leaps, tuck-jumps, and other rural forms of healthy play.

The rustics did not notice my ravenous pups until the dogs leapt at their throats, and my pretty puff-hats lay strewn among the Palma Christi. The eldest rustic lacerated his eye on a Blütenzweig: His sclera voided its innards as carelessly as I had once sacrificed my maidenhead to Jürgen's healthy virility. The youngest was so busy shielding his eyes that he failed to notice the mischievous Schpeppi's red progress upon his trousers. The remaining rustics, a pair of Siamese twins, fell haplessly into the brambles, their four-leggéd pants sliding to their knees. This gave Little Pinzer and old Dichtenblap the opportunity to nip red shreds from their Schlüpferen. What a conflagration the dogs were causing! What mischief! Oh!

I beckoned to my pups, but my gesticulations grew lost in the folds of my puff-sleeves. As I grew more agitated, my hat toppled, and the fauna from my Florentinerhut interfered with the view. All around me, a whirlpool of panic blurred the landscape and spat wreckage like a Boccaccio tornado. My coiffure! I cried. But as I cantilevered, my lilies-of-the-valley brooch inadvertently stuck Dichtenblap's hindparts, provoking the veteran schünt to increasingly vicious onslaughts on the crippled gymnasts—until, finally, bowels and brains lay strewn among the cassia leaves.

All around us, the forest had darkened; all possible pathways felt utterly deserted. The scene was like something by Caspar David Friedrich and made me shiver. Thankfully, I had my healthy pups to show me the way. Refreshed and fed, they picked up the scent at last.

So it was linked sausages you craved, Little Pinzer! I joked to my sheepish pup. It would not look in my direction but pressed ahead in the healthiest manner possible. And soon we had got past the shade of the forest, and found our way to the sunlight and the river. "Danke!" I told the sun. Even the dogs looked upward gratefully before moving on.

If we wish to get home on time, I told my children, we must rush ahead! The dogs understood, and began to race with their master. What a spectacle we must have been, I with my bustle and crinoline catching on brambles and trailing behind me in a most indecorous manner, my pups with their puff-hats aimed forward and their vast collars flapping! Soon enough, we arrived in town and hurried back home. No one said anything, of course; my Bavarian neighbors approved of our vigorous activity.

When we walked in the door, I surveyed the wreckage with no small alarm. My children had not waited for dinner; they were not even eating healthy snacks! Instead of nibbling on the kale and Mortadella sandwiches I'd prepared, they had grown impatient, stuffing their faces with Mitzen bars! Even Jürgen had not refrained from sampling this after-dinner chocolate confection! Oh, Jürgen! I expostulated. But he barely looked up from his paper.

I see, he said wryly. You have decided to return with the dogs. How kind of you to favor us! Will you be staying long, Frau Bütelspagen? And how about your pups?

Oh, Jürgen! I cried. Please don't chide me! Put away the Mitzen bars or your appetite will be ruined!

Jürgen complied, of course. But not in a vigorous manner.

And why is your bustle torn? Did you have an interlude?

Not likely, my husband! I said with a carefree laugh. But as for my lateness and torn bustle, please refrain from asking! Now sit down everyone, and I will prepare a healthy meal.

And I did, of course. By the time the sky was completely dark, the children had feasted on Mortadella and indulged in a few sets of vigorous bedtime backflips. My Jürgen sat by the heat lamp, reading Der Spiegel as always. Only my dogs seemed famished and pawed at the kitchen door.

Kreutzler! I cried. You are wanting to enjoy more link sausages!

[Rob Hardin/story] [David Ouimet/drawing]

Rob Hardin bio on Cyberpsychos
Dark Echo review of Distorture
Cadaver Scan online
David Ouimet illustrator (on amazon)
Dare to be Scared
Cat in Glass
Goldenfly Records
Motherhead Bug
© copyright Thin Ice Press 2007
© copyright Rob Hardin 1999, 2007
© copyright David Oimet 1999, 2007