Field Notes, Installment III
“Oooh!” exclaimed the creature excitedly. “If it’s odd bits of the animal kingdom you’re interested in, then your best bet is to find the Master of the Menagerie.”
“The what?” asked the girl, edging a bit further away as the creature opened a second can of kippers.
“The Master of the Menagerie,” returned the creature. For a moment, it munched blissfully away on a kipper–bones and all. “He’s an odd one by all reports. They say his collection is the last word in collection, so if you’re the last of your kind, it is best to avoid him. I’m safe, I am. We togglers are yoooo-bik-kweee-tuss in these parts.”
Another kipper followed its predecessor.
“Ah!! I thee that thurpritheth you!”
“It’s only that you are the first of your kind that I’ve seen. In fact, I took you for a dachshund of sorts at first,” she offered. To herself, she added, “the very, very, very fat sort.”
A large blatting noise filled the air and the girl had to fight the desire to shield her nose. The toggler blinked confusedly and looked about it. Then, with a shrug, it dug a fork into the jar of sauerkraut beside it to eat lustily for a moment.
“We togglers are prolific breeders. There were seven in my litter and my parents have had four litters, all about that size. You wouldn’t know it to look at us, but we’re delicate creatures. Have to eat a great deal to keep up our strength.” The round little beast gave its belly rolls an affectionate pat. “Most togglers prefer to sustain themselves in their dens. Me, I like picnic. Always be prepared to enjoy a good view to the full. That’s my motto.”
Here the toggler waved an unopened can of kippers at the girl. “Happy to share!”
Before she could answer, another heraldic toot trumpeted through the air. Once more, the creature looked suspiciously about it for the culprit.
“Nothing for me. Thank you! Most kind!” returned the girl as she feigned blowing her nose. “You were saying about this Master of the Menagerie—”
The creature shrugged, a move that regrettably brought forth further eructation, saying, “That’s all I know really. No! Wait a minute. They say when you hear the bells you’ll know you’re nearly there.”
“The bells? What kind of bells?”
“B e l l s. The bells kind of bells, I expect. The kind that go ding.”
The opening of the third can of kippers defeated the girl and she fled. After rounding a bend a bit down the dusty road, the girl pulled out her field notes and quickly sketched a picture of the creature. She was pretty certain the creature was fatter than she’d depicted, but it already looked preposterous. With a sigh, the girl jotted a few notes about the Master of the Menagerie, concluding:
The toggler seemed oddly surprised by its own flatulence, which was indeed remarkable both for its volume and rapidity. The flatulence, that is. Frankly, I can’t imagine how it could be surprised. What else is one to expect if one consumes of a steady diet of sauerkraut and kippers?