Kimberly C. Stickrath
The green, misty hills of Bink humped around like a parade of handsome green soldiers guarding the flowered floor of the central plain; but smashing down on the hills’ shoulders, like the foot of an oppressive giant, was The Great Paper Wall of Daily Laws. The closer one got to the Great Paper Wall, the greyer and deader and more singed the earth became. It looked like the land around the capitol of Bink was sharing the people’s sadness and was dying of pure grief.
A more curious sight was the strange little fellow hurtling up the dirt and gravel road at a break-neck pace. Because it looked like he was really going to break his neck!
“Ohhh-Whoa-Oh! Help! Stop!” he hollered, though no one was around to hear him. “Oh, My! Oh! Whoa! Oh! Heh-ELP!”
He was a curious sight because he was no more than three-feet tall, and was therefore a good half-foot shorter than the average Binkarian. He was even more curious precisely because he had no good feet. Instead, he had polished wooden rockers where his feet should be; and to move forward, he had to take big hops that rocked him to and fro when he landed. Each time he rocked “fro”, he would almost overbalance and fall on his rump. Each time he rocked “to”, he would almost land flat on his nose. This caused his face to go all squinchy, though what really caused his face to go all squinchy was that he couldn’t help but imagine how much it would hurt his face if it really did knock into the ground. The simple truth was that his imagination made his face hurt almost as much as a real bump!
Gasping and red-faced, Funny-Foot finally flopped down to rest his face near the entrance to the Great Paper Wall. His face was all squinched up tight with the strain of traveling, and just as sore as could be. And he had awful cramps in the bows of his rockers. He rubbed his thumbs hard into the achy wood to ease it, and then sucked on one thumb that had caught a splinter.
Funny-Foot sighed around his thumb.
“Ohhhh,” He said to himself. “This would have been so much easier if I could have just come here in a pambanouche.”
For a long time, Funny-Foot huffed in great, deep breaths. He rolled over and flopped on his back, staring at the sky. (He wanted to count the sheep in the clouds, but he didn’t dare for it was against the law.) Eventually, his lungs stopped hurting so much, and his face relaxed back into its normal appearance – that of a happy gentle clown. It still felt ouchy, but at least he could unclench his teeth now. He sat up, and scooted himself against the Wall. After taking a quick look around and assuring himself that no one was watching, he scratched his lower back against its crinkly flash paper and sighed in relief. Then he turned his head to the Wall, and spoke to it. (Not many people take the time to talk to walls, but Funny-Foot had always found them to be good listeners.)
“In case you didn’t know, a pambanouche is the kind of carriage generally used in the Bink Country: they are light, cheerful buggies, drawn by a pair of three-legged donkeys.” He paused and considered for a moment. “It is very important that the donkeys have only three legs, for it is always the forth leg of a donkey that makes it go along all jerky and bumpy.”
The Great Paper Wall said nothing, but a few pieces of paper shifted politely in the wind, and Funny-Foot took that as an invitation to continue.
“My Uncle Mizz was the inventor of the pambanouche… and he even raised the very first three-legged donkeys.” He chewed on his thumb, and finally released the splinter. He frowned and spat it out. “The prettiest pambanouches were made in my country. The Woon wanted them all, but didn’t want to pay for them. So, he declared pambanouches against the law in my country. Then he confiscated all of the pambanouches for the capital of Bink. And my Uncle Mizz… my poor Uncle Mizz --…”
It took a moment for Funny-Foot to go on. “Uncle Mizz is in a Jug-jail forever an’ ever. And what makes it even worse is that I never even got a chance to ride in a pambanouche. Not even once. And now I never will.”
The Great Paper Wall rustled sympathetically. The wind blew on Funny-Foot’s face, and dried his tears a little. The sun felt warm on his rockers.
“See this?” Funny-Foot unpinned a shiny, copper ribbon from his vest and held it up for the Wall to see. The ribbon was a lovely smooth satin, and had the words ‘Nicest Person Ever!’ written on it in big silky letters. “The people in my country gave me this. Said this little copper ribbon meant I was to be their ‘Bassador. When I asked what a ‘Bassador was, they said it meant ‘somebody who had to go ask the Woon to stop making so many new laws. Or at least ask him to hold off a bit until everyone’s learned the old ones’.”
Funny-Foot stroked the ribbon and pondered it uncertainly.
“Wonder what it would have meant I’d a gotten a little green ribbon.”
The Wall had no response for that.
Funny-Foot sighed something that sounded like apologetic hiccup. Initially, he’d been flattered when they’d given him his ribbon and new title. Still, he couldn’t help but feel the people of his land were, well … a little silly. (And this was quite true. The people of his country were always known to be remarkably good-hearted, but they were also known to be terribly naïve. They thought that if they liked and listened to Funny-Foot, that everyone would like and listen to Funny-Foot. But that said, it should also be mentioned that none of them were naïve enough to actually want the job of ‘Bassador.) Frankly, Funny-Foot didn’t have the vaguest idea how to go about changing the Woon’s mind. He didn’t get the feeling that the Woon was very impressed with nice people. The very thought of facing the mean old Woon and his five-thousand lawyers made Funny-Foot’s face squinch up and hurt more than all the imaginary bumps he’d ever almost had.
“Ohhhh, if only there weren’t so many things against the law,” moaned poor Funny-Foot, daubing liniment on his face with his handkerchief. The liniment made his sore face feel a little better, but it didn’t quite do the trick. Funny-Foot decided to put his face back in the cool grey grass. He did so, and his face felt better still. Then he thought about all of the laws of Bink, and his poor Uncle Mizz -- and that made him cry, and the tears cooled off his face even more. That was why he did not see the Detective coming. He was so busy crying, with his face down in the grass, that he'd been caught for ten full minutes before he even knew it.
Maybe he wouldn't have known it even then if the Detective hadn't sneezed. However, when the Detective sneezed, his sneeze was so big and so hard that it blew Funny-Foot's cap right off his head. (The Detective had been granted the Woon’s Special Dispensation to Sneeze. In fact, the Detective was