A tail from Mark K. Leach’s Day of Anxiety and Other Stories

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Mark K. Leach resolved never to fall in Lake Superior in the wintertime.

Did you make New Year's resolutions? Have you kept them? Whether or not you did or didn't, you might enjoy reading Why Regnarts T. Cefrep Resolved Never to Leave the City of Rusted Nutcrackers

This story, and several others, will be included in The Day of Anxiety and other tales. Illustrations will be by a talented artist, who is not named Mark K. Leach.

These stories were inspired by Carl Sandberg's Rootabaga tales. Sandberg wrote that the Midwest needed its own fairy tales and something inside tells me the Midwest needs new ones. Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy this sample. You can sign up below to receive an e-mail announcement of the book's debut. Please let me know if you would be interested in a printed book or an e-book.

Why Regnarts T. Cefrep Resolved Never to Leave the City of Rusted Nutcrackers

A pre-publication draft from the forthcoming book The Day of Anxiety and other tales, by Mark K. Leach.


Wendy Why Phi and Janet of the Aches were visiting their elderly Aunt Step Ona Crack one fine summer afternoon, while the darting birds where darting in and out of the Penelope blossoms, which smelled like fresh baked cantaloupe with mango chutney and nutmeg. 

Wendy Why Phi and Janet of the Aches asked Aunt Step Ona Crack, “Auntie, please tell us a story.”

“No. Not today, I think,” she replied.

“Oh, please, Auntie,” implored the girls. “Tell us about when Uncle Bester Tester and Mister Green-Eyed Tomato-Face brought Mr. and Mrs. Bigfoot to your tea party.”

“No. Not today, I think not,” she snorted.

“Oh, please, Auntie,” began Wendy Why Phi. “Tell about when you taught the paddlefish in the Fondue River to yodel and you fell in and days later you were rescued by a fisherman in the Ocean of Potion Lotion.”

“Oh no! Not that story. I surely think not,” chuckled Aunt Step Ona Crack. “I will tell you what’s on my mind. But I’m not sure any of it is true. I heard it from Uncle Bester Tester, who got it from Green-Eyed Tomato-Face, who heard from Hap Hip the Hooper, who was told by Ever Ready Freddy, who said he first heard it from Elsa Olsen-Olson-O’Oosin, who was told directly from Perfect Stranger himself.

After a very long silence Janet of the Aches asked in her softest, sweetest voice, “So, Auntie, what did Perfect Stranger tell Elsa Olsen-Olson-O’Oosin that she told Ever Ready Freddy that he told Hap Hip the Hooper, which he told Mr. Tomato-Face, and he told Uncle Bester, because now I’m curious.”

“Well!” shuddered Aunt Step Ona Crack. “If you would stop interrupting, I could continue the story.”

Wendy Why Phi and Janet of the Aches looked into each others laughing eyes as they succeeded in keeping their mouths from laughing.

After another long pause, Aunt Step Ona Crack began, “It was a long time ago in the City of Rusted Nutcrackers, so long ago that the nutcrackers were not rusty and the city was called City of Nutcrackers. It was the tradition that each New Year’s Day, everyone in the City of Nutcrackers made resolutions. Some people thought they should stop smoking filtered mentholated cigarettes and they made resolutions to stop smoking filtered mentholated cigarettes. Some people thought they sat too much, so they made resolutions to jog all around the City of Nutcrackers, or to carry old engine blocks up and down six flights of stairs, or other huffy-puffy such-n-such. Husbands of wives resolved to listen to their wives whenever their wives spoke. Introverts resolved to be the life of the party. Loud mouths resolved to always think before speaking. Children resolved to always be kind, helpful, and patient with their idiotic parents.

“That’s not all they resolved. That’s just a small sample, as a way to illustrate the situation as it was in the City of Nutcrackers in the period prior to The Great Rusting,” explained Aunt Step Ona Crack.

She continued, “Every New Year the people made resolutions, but they never kept them. Smokers continued smoking filtered mentholated cigarettes. People continued to sit too much. Husbands of wives seldom listened. Introverts continued to sit silently in the darkest corners, if they went to parties at all. Loud mouths spoke their usual gibberish. Children were still mean, subversive, and demanding.

“That’s not all they kept doing. That’s just a small sample as a way to illustrate the situation,” illustrated Auntie.

“Out of all the citizens in the City of Nutcrackers, there was one person who thought the tradition of making resolutions every New Year’s Day was silly. His name was Regnarts T. Cefrep.

“At a young age, Regnarts T. Cefrep made many mean, nasty resolutions: to cut loud, smelly farts in church; to smoke cigars near ‘Danger! Explosives!’ signs; to give dead puppies to all the nice girls at school; and so on.

“As Regnants T. Cefrep grew older and stronger, with his developing imagination, talents, and understanding of the human condition, his resolutions distilled into one:  Everyday, act out one despicable impulse.

“As the City of Nutcrackers began to rust, all the people of the City of Nutcrackers made resolutions and proclaimed declarations and declared proclamations to do something about the rust. All the people, that was, except for Regnants T. Cefrep. He resolved to do nothing about the rust and to laugh evilly whenever anyone mentioned The Great Rusting.” Aunt Stop Ona Crack let lose a horrific evil laugh.

She smiled daintily, and continued, “Since no one ever followed through on their resolutions, the City of Nutcrackers was engulfed by The Great Rusting, and slowly became the City of Rusted Nutcrackers. All the people who had resolved to do something about the rust did nothing. People still smoked filtered mentholated cigarettes, and sat too much, and husbands with wives didn’t listen, and – well, that’s not all, but that’s enough for illustration.

“Regnarts T. Cefrep, with all his nasty resolutions, was no different from anyone else. He never kept any of his resolutions. He never cut loud, smelly farts in church. He never gave girls, nice or otherwise, dead puppies. He never acted out mean impulses. I’m not saying he had mean impulses, maybe he did, maybe he didn’t. I’m just saying, as an illustration, he did not act them out whether he had them or not.

“He did not keep his resolution to do nothing about the rust. He scraped and oiled nutcracker after nutcracker. This is when Regnants T. Cefrep noticed a most peculiar thing. The people of the City of Rusted Nutcrackers rusted along with the nutcrackers; they grew more apathetic and stupid, while Regnarts T. Cefrep grew wiser, kinder, and more energetic.

“So the next New Year’s Day, Regnarts T. Cefrep made three resolutions. He resolved to never spell his name backwards. He resolved to work twice as hard, and twice as hard as that, and double that double, until all the rust was gone. He also resolved to never leave the City of Rusted Nutcrackers until all the people were able to do with a smile whatever they resolved to do. That’s what he resolved and what do you expect he did?” asked Aunt Step Ona Crack.

Before Wendy Why Phi and Janet of the Aches could expect what he did, Aunt Step Ona Crack was off again, “That afternoon Regnarts T. Cefrep began spelling his name backwards and left the City of Rusty Nutcrackers, never to return, resolving to make a new resolution every year, which he never did.

“In time he became a popular motivational speaker. You may have seen him on ‘Whispering Wizard, hosted by Loopy-Poop Snoopy-Droop.’ I never have, but I hear he is perfectly charming. What Perfect Stranger said to Elsa Olsen-Olson-O’oosin is exactly this: ‘Being who you are is the best way to be your best.’”

After a time, Wendy Why Phi and Janet of the Aches decided that the story was over. And being who they were, they thanked Aunt Step Ona Crack by taking her into the garden to see the darting birds dart in and out of the Penelope blossoms. Aunt Step Ona Crack stuck her nose in a blossom and said with delight, “It smells like fresh baked cantaloupe with mango chutney and nutmeg.”

 ©2017 Mark K. Leach      All rights reserved

You might also be interested in these books from affiliated used bookstores.

Carl Sandberg's Rootabaga Stories are Midwestern fairy tales. They describe a simpler time, with wit, passion, and often surrealism. You can find various editions in used bookstores for less than $5 by clicking here.

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