NOTE: I live in Wakefield, Massachusetts and teach at Boston University. My most recent book is Petites Suites. I hope this whimsical tribute to Charles Dickens will be amusing to read. It was fun to write.
So you want the happiest of endings?
Why wait? What say we begin with all
of you applauding, bouncing on your seats,
lifted by a wave of approbation,
every soul satisfied by each detail,
collective gratification gusting from
the mezzanine above, joy whooshing
through the orchestra below.
Harlock, that irretrievably fiendish villain
who’d have put you through so much, deserves
a stern reproof. Without dwelling on
it, let’s briefly observe him snarling in
a particularly filthy dungeon,
guarded by who else but Smoot, the
jovial turnkey whose wife’s brought him half
a sausage. Please take note of that puerile pair
of fumbling fools who merely were misled,
I mean Peter Pickett and Jamie Jiggs
who’ve already begun to make amends.
Joyful events whirl giddily around you
and at their center sits that redeemed miser
Sir Randolph Vanderpoole flinging his
hoard abroad like fresh manure on which the
stunted and deprived commence at last to
bloom. What a delight to see the once-starving Lizzie
and her brave brother Tom cramming their little
bellies with stout roast beef and gingerbread.
And what’s become of that neurotic student,
Gabriel DeWitt? He’s sobbing in the arms
of the ex-prostitute Sally Potts who
smooths his noble brow, finally free of those
clusters of roiling fads. The two now share a
bedroom at Rowanrest, the derelict manor
house now majestically restored by
Vanderpoole’s millions. Out in the garden,
hard by the French windows, the Reverend
Musgrave, having passed through his crisis of
faith, mouths words of solace to the widowed
Lady Alice in whose eye you may spy
the glint of something more than high regard.
As for Janet, she will not have to wed that
ponderous hypocrite Bramwell Ledd,
not now young Oliver Trent has been left
fifty thousand pounds by some
superfluous uncle in Australia.
Long-suffering Mrs. McClintock is
safely delivered of twins, no less, her
husband safely home but with a king’s
ransom in pearls; for, despite the dire report,
he survived that shipwreck off the Cape.
There’s more: the concerto by the brilliant
though impecunious young émigré
Auguste Duchampal, torn from his hands by
Harlock during the mutton riots and
thought lost, has turned up, retrieved by no
less a personage than that omnidexterous
orphan Jemmy; and its début’s a smash.
No more pocket-picking for Jemmy as
he’s to be Sir Randolph’s ward. The Reform
Laws having passed at last, the poor eat meat
and spend their newly disposable cash
at Cassius Harthorne’s erstwhile down-and-out
circus where the tigers again pace sleekly;
the two elephants, Jo and Bo, trumpet happily;
the ponies nod and nicker, full of oats.
Behind the big top, in her artiste’s cart,
that pale trapezist Sukey Peale no
longer coughs her life away; indeed she’s
entirely cured of her consumption
just in time to be proposed to by
the heretofore tongue-tied George Stumpole,
opening his bashful heart after a rousing
speech from greedy Finch’s trusty clerk
Timothy Martingale. But who’s that on Tim’s
arm? Can it be the lovely Lina Finch
whose father vows a dowry exceeding worldly
wants? Shall we anticipate a double
wedding Sunday next? Such a breathtaking
triumph of life nearly fully warrants
the indefinite deferment of death.
And see the background swell with scores of lovers
united at last, once blocked as so many drains.
Behold them discreetly preparing to procreate;
watch Eros conquer time after time
as old families are preserved, new ones founded.
Money, reconciliation, justice,
peace and love--all overleap the banks of
even your most sanguine expectations.
Mes chers lecteurs, why hike long baffling trails
of anxiety and rue, why be vexed
that things might turn out too ghastly or too
true, when this way no threads need unknotting?
On the contrary, all those whose travails
you’d have had vicariously to suffer, whose
fevers should have fretted and loves perplexed,
whose dolors would have dragged you down,
unite like velvet ribbons in a flawless knot,
gather on a temperate summer afternoon,
join hands and promenade across the lush
lawns of regal Rowanrest’s perfect park.
These verses first appeared in somewhat different form in Sou’wester.
© 2018 Robert Wexelblatt
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