This is my latest invention, created when I ought to have been packing and preparing for the Jane's Ville Renaissance Faire this coming weekend. While I was Agecrofting my hankies (pressing creases into 'em, because my audience is BRILLIANT and demands fascinating details about which to quiz me), I thought, "That Whoopie Cushion. I gotta do something more than wrap it in one of these hankies. And I know I have ten yards of that black and gold ball fringe menacing the rest of my trim stash..."
THE REASON it is called The Mildmay has to do with Sir Walter Mildmay -- not the actual factual dead one, but the chap playing him at the Bristol Renaissance Faire. And now I think you know what happens next. Yes! I'm finally, and at very long last, going to tell you the Story of the Day of the Whoopie Cushion from last summer. It still makes me laugh; hopefully it will distract you from all the other nonsense clouding your pate these days.
At Bristol, for the past decade or so, it has been my custom, as Jane the Phoole, to attend the first jousting tournament of the day, the one that happens at Wyckham Field at 11:00 a.m. Sometimes the excellent Hanlon-Lees fellows will add a little part for me into their shows, but generally I simply go to enjoy a view from the dais in the company of some marvelous funny people.
Foremost among funny is Richard Weber, in any guise you like or no guise at all, but I'm accustomed lately to playing alongside him when he's Bristol's Lord Mayor Egads Newcastle. He has been the first joust's Master of Ceremonies since before you and I met. I will generally gauge my dawdle from the gates of the city down to the tiltyard so that we arrive at about the same time.
Also on the dais for the joust will be the necessary consort, starring The Great Antone (Antonio Albarran of The Darbuki Kings) and featuring the Bristol Brass (who have a nickname which I will tell you about if you ask me, and Steve Fassl, who is Odorferious Thunderbottom, also calls them by the same nickname, which is a term of extreme honor but which has a naughty word in it). And then a passel of guests will ordinarily join us on the dais as well.
On this particular day, on my saunter from the gate to the lists, I encountered a large family who were all standing in the sun, peering at their programs, turning the maps over and over, trying to figure it all out for themselves. I instantly pounced on them and insisted I'd show them around, as I had some time to kill before achieving jousty-time.
I gave them a kind of tour of the Bristol Renaissance Faire, at least the East side, but as these things do, it swiftly degenerated into me telling them outrageous stories blending people's character lives with silly details of their actual foibles, all in Elizabethan vernacular, d'accord. I sensed I was only puzzling them into a faint, but they were very obliging folk, and they followed me around and nodded and humored me, and we had a pleasant stroll down the giant hill toward the tilts.
When we arrived at Wyckham Field, I cast a jaundiced peep at the sun-bleachy stands and decided I would take this entire family, whose names I could not and cannot recall, on the dais with me. I would just cram them all up there. There were, like, twenty of them, but I would make them fit onto the bench-and-a-half left up there. I got everyone settled, introduced Egads and Antone and the band, and instructed the bewildered family that if anyone hassled them, they were to point to me and say that they were MY OWN PERSONAL FAMILY. I assumed that would prevent any awkward confrontations, as I am a gigantically famous superstar.
As it happened, the plan never needed enacting -- no one asked a thing. Lovely! A Stage Manager did come over, but she had to, because she had to give Richard the microphone.
Now, about the microphone -- the tiltyard has violently poor acoustics, and any shouting drifts immediately over the hill and into bogs and weed-patches and is gone the second it leaves the vocal cords. So a sound system is mandated, and if you don't want to know about it, because you don't want The Magic to be disrupted, then, well, I don't know what to tell you. You might need to have someone read this to you and edit out all the bits with the microphone mentioned. When we're on, we either never refer to it or we call it Goofy Euphemisms, like "The Farspeaker" or -- I like this one -- "The Infernal Device."
I liked my new family, and felt they deserved an extra layer of experience, being stuffed onto the dais and all, so I told them all about The Infernal Device and how it's wireless and how Egads and I are extremely ill-behaved and how I learned from him how to Ride the Mute Switch and so on. I'm not sure it meant anything to them, but they were tacitly agreeable to all the goings-on, so we had a charming chatter-away while we waited for horses to come thundering out of the mews.
And then -- AND THEN -- Sir Walter and Lady Mildmay appeared on the dais, as was their custom, except this time they were, quite out of character for Mildmay's usually choleric aspect, giggling like about-to-be-expelled schoolchildren. They were positively sanguine, biting back big laughs, and I naturally wanted to be in on the fun as soon as possible, so we shuffled people around on the dais benches again so that everyone could have a proper sit-me-down. Mildmay and Lady plucked at my sleeves and whispered, with deadly urgency, "Jane, we have a PRESENT for you."
As you know, there's No Time Like Time for Presents, and just the fact that I was about to get a gift nearly sent me over the moon. They produced, wrapped in a delicate muckinger and a silk ribbon, a WHOOPIE CUSHION.
Well, I couldn't wait! I immediately hurled the thing onto the throne and hopped up and down on it like mad. Frt, frt, frt, frt, frrrrt! It was instantly delightful. Richard lowered his face into his hands, realizing it would probably be a long morning. I explored velocity, pressure, volume, refractory period -- it proved an astoundingly resilient thing, and I jumped up and down on it constantly until the trumpets sounded for the beginning of the joust.
The Master of Arms rode out and spoke with the Mayor, and then the knights came barrelling out of the mews on their mighty steeds, and they drove ferociously around the arena in complicated patterns like they do, because they are professionals. And just as all of the knights assembled in their final, grand formation, facing the dais, with the Master of Arms at attention, the Mayor came to stand at the very furthest downstage edge of the dais and discreetly turned on The Infernal Device, and opened his mouth to speak --
And I swear I didn't think it would be that loud. Seriously. But I somehow managed to jostle my bottom on that Whoopee Cushion, and it let forth such a BRRRRRRRAAAPPP that it registered on The Infernal Device and ECHOED ALL OVER THE ARENA.
And then I died, I think, or exploded, because there was a roaring, laughter from everywhere, and through my tears of mirth I beheld the jousters quaking with laughs in their armors, and the puzzled smile on the Master of Arms, and Richard's shaking head and quaking shoulders.
Once the laugh had crested and begun to recede, Richard just said, "I'm sorry, Master of Arms -- Jane's just so gassy." And everyone exploded with guffaws again, and I think I laughed the rest of the entire day.
I'm actually still laughing now. The timing on that faux fart was so amazing -- I will not say that I did all; it happened, it was serendipitous and magical and rude and perfect. And that is the story of the Whoopie Cushion, and why it is now dubbed The Mildmay.