The Hobnob, or Hairy Back Again – Chapter 1

In late 2005 or early 2006, fresh off the not-total-abject-failure of The Sillymarillion, I embarked on a parody of The Hobbit because it seemed like the next logical step and because Harvard Lampoon had already done Lord of the Rings. But by the time I got a few chapters into it, a funny thing had happened… writing it had begun to feel like workWhile I’ve always liked The Hobbit, I’ve never really been nearly as passionate about it as I am about the other Middle-Earth stories, so my enthusiasm for the parody had dwindled quickly.  At the time there were a number of other stories I wanted to write, so I set the few chapters I’d written aside indefinitely.  I still have no particular urge to pick up where I left off, but on re-reading the text recently I found myself chuckling often enough that I decided post it here.

So here without further ado is the first very rough draft – complete with [placeholders] where images that were never created should be – of Chapter One of The Hobnob, or Hairy Back Again.  Chapters 2 through 4 (as far as I got) will be posted separately over the coming week.  (Oops! I guess that was further ado, after all.)

CHAPTER 1: PARTY ON, HAIRY DUDES!

On a hole in the ground sat a Hobnob. The hole was, in fact, dark, wet and dirty, filled with all sorts of little wriggling, crawling things of the sort that tended to wriggle and crawl in dark, wet, dirty holes in the ground. But, hey, when indoor plumbing hasn’t made its way to one’s corner of the world, one has to make do with what’s available.

Such was the case in The Shiner, ancestral home of the short, fuzzy people called Hobnobs. A thousand years ago, a greedy real estate developer from the kingdom of Ardor had bought up much of the land that now made up The Shiner, with plans to build a large townhouse community, a shopping mall, a hotel, and one of those “active adult lifestyle” neighborhoods for empty-nesters.

Counting on a political favor to help him obtain the necessary permits to fill in the protected wetlands he’d purchased, the developer embarked on a massive land-clearing, swamp-filling undertaking on a scale never before seen in this part of the world. But when it came time to call in that favor, he discovered that his contact in the Land Use department had “agreed to resign” after the department head caught him using her niece to polish the same desktop the two had polished together themselves on several occasions.

Unable to continue his grand project and facing law suits and bankruptcy, the land owner skipped town and is said to have disappeared into the East. Embarrassed by their failure to catch his activities sooner, the Department of Land Use decided to just pretend the whole incident had never happened; so all those acres sat unused for generations.

The wandering tribe of Hobnobs looked at this uninhabited piece of ground in the same way they might look at a shelf full of donuts while an accomplice kept the convenience-store clerk distracted with an argument over the price of a 12-pack of prophylactic devices. In all things, the Hobnobs followed one simple creed: If nobody’s looking, it’s mine.

And so was founded The Shiner, named for the black eye given to its founder by his wife when she found out that he, too, had been polishing desks with the Land Use Director’s niece.

This particular Hobnob – the one mentioned briefly several pages ago, before that long bit of mostly needless back-story – was an upper class Hobnob, by which I mean his ancestors had been consistently much more successful at stealing from their neighbors than the other way around. Big’uns was his name, Bulbous Big’uns. The Big’uns had lived in Hoozitown for as long as anyone could remember, but, of, course, memories were short in a land where the only major agricultural product was pipeweed.

Bulbous’ home, assembled over many years from assorted bits and pieces surreptitiously removed from other houses in the region, was a wide, three-story affair which combined various sorts of architecture into a disjointed whole that was a bit confusing to look at while sober, but made absolutely perfect sense while under the influence of said pipeweed. Its windows were round or square or elliptical or rhomboid and usually broken, and its door was a perfect dodecahedron.

The tall grass that hid much of his property from the view of passersby on the street made a perfect home for a wide variety of the insect and rodent species that made up much of the typical Hobnob diet. This is not to imply that Hobnob food was in any way bland or unappetizing; no, they simply preferred not to eat the meat of anything larger than themselves (and thus potentially able to successfully fight back). In fact, the little people had developed a wide variety of excellent recipes for the preparation of all manner of easily-killed fauna – recipes in which they indulged quite frequently. Their indulgence usually led to morbid obesity, which, because it kept them relatively sluggish (and thus out of one another’s business and pantries for the most part), was one of the foundations of stability in Hobnob society.

Bulbous’ mother was the infamous Betchasheeza Crook, daughter of the Old Crook, a family that was said to have held onto its rather prodigious fortunes primarily by inbreeding to keep outsiders from getting access to their money. When she fell in love with and married an unemployed patent clerk named Bunko Big’uns, she chose to keep her maiden name rather than leaving herself open to the wide variety of jokes that would have ensued had she gone the traditional route and adopted her husband’s surname. Both parents had perished some years ago in a tragic accident at a Gobbler S&M club somewhere on the East Side, leaving Bulbous living alone in their grand manor, Big End.

It was outside Big End where, to try again to get to the actual story, Bulbous was currently sitting.

On second thought, let’s just bypass the part about the Hobnob hole and skip ahead just a bit, shall we?

Bulbous sat on his front porch puffing away at his first post-breakfast pinch of pipeweed, blowing out smoke in the shape of small, puffy clouds – an ability he was proud of. As he looked around for a missing glass of bourbon he was sure he’d left there earlier that morning, his keen eyes spotted a tall, grey-haired man standing so close that the stranger’s long beard almost caught fire from Bulbous’ pipe.

“Get your ass off my property!” said Bulbous, and meant it.

The stranger looked at him quizzically. “Does that mean that I should leave your yard altogether, or that only my posterior region need dangle over the sidewalk? Or are you implying that I have some sort of small donkey secreted on my person somewhere, and if so, may I stay if I dismiss said donkey?”

“Er, all of the above, I should think,” Bulbous replied. “Except for the first one and… oh, just go away!”

“I am Gadfly, called by some Muckrakir, or Gadfly Gohome, or Gadfly Stormcow, or the Grey Pillager, or –“

“I like the third one. It’s good advice. I don’t want to buy anything and my soul doesn’t need saving, so if you’ll please excuse me, I’m going inside for a snack of spiced muskrat.”

“Hmph. To think, I was hoping to find another companion for an adventure myself and some associates are about to embark upon.”

“Adventure?” Bulbous laughed. “Sounds dangerous. Nobody around here will go in for such foolishness – wading into deep puddles is about all the adventure we Hobnobs are up for.”

“Then let’s call it… profitable breaking and entering.”

“I’m in.”

“Very well. Tomorrow my co-consp-…<ahem!>… my friends and myself shall visit your home to discuss the specifics.”

And with that, Gadfly raised his long, felt-tipped wooden staff, which bore the mystical logo “Sharpie”, and proceeded to inscribe his own runic symbol on Bulbous’ nearby mailbox.

[runic ladies’ room symbol]

“No, wait, that’s not it.”

[Another symbol – hand with raised middle finger?, first is now scribbled out]

“Hmm, something’s still not right.”

[third symbol – biohazard logo?, 1st 2 now scribbled out]

“Dammit!”

[all three symbols scribbled out, “Meeting with Gadfly in here –>” written in regular alphabet]

He paused a moment in thought, then added:

[BYOB]

He nodded wordlessly when his task was complete. Then, from somewhere within the folds of his robe, he produced a small donkey. After a brief (“brief” in this case meaning a good fifteen minutes) struggle to get the beast to cooperate, Gadfly and his valiant steed ambled slowly down the dirt road that led away from Big End.

* * *

The next day, a knock on the door roused Bulbous from his afternoon stupor. On the front step stood a tall man – “tall” in the “too big for a Hobnob to eat” sense, but not big to you and I, unless we were oh, about three feet tall – who, like the even larger Gadfly, had a long tuft of hair hanging from his chin rather than from his feet, where such hair belonged on civilized folk.

“Droolin at your service!” said the dwarf, for that is what he was.

“Bulbous Big’uns at yours!” the Hobnob lied. “Will there be more of your fellow, uh, vertically challenged individuals coming?”

“Please! We’ve got at least a couple of thousand years before we have to worry about that political correctness nonsense – don’t try to invent it early! In answer to your question, yes, a few close friends will be joining us. Oh, and my brother. And some cousins. Uh, and their friends and cousins, and some of their friends’ cousins. Let’s see, my old frat brothers, my sister’s field hockey team… oh, and this great dwarvish rock band and some groupies and papparazi. So not really that many.”

With that, he hung his hat on a peg in the foyer and strode into Big End.

Before Bulbous could stop Droolin from raiding his refrigerator, the doorbell rang.

“Foolin at your service!” said a second dwarf before nearly knocking down the Hobnob in his efforts to get to the kitchen pantry.

Ding-dong!

“Slakker, Yakker, and Hakker, at your service!”

“H4XX0R!” corrected the youngest of the most recently arrived dwarven trio.

“What did you say?”

“H4XX0R!”

“I can see how it’s written but I have no idea how to pronounce it.”

“ROFLMAO, |053r!”

Yakker took the Hobnob aside and explained, “Our parents raised Hakker remotely via the internet so he never learned the common tongue. He speaks only a particularly illegible dialect of Chat Room.”

“Sad, very sad,” Bulbous replied.

“7h15 p|4c3 15 t3h 5u><><0rz!!!!1111!!!oneoneone!!11111!!”

Bzzzzzt!

“Drifter, Shifter, and Snifter, at your service!”

Knock-knock!

“Who’s there?”

“Please just open the door and let’s not turn this into a knock-knock joke.”

“Okay, sorry, it was just force of habit.”

A green-clad, red-haired dwarf greeted him at the door this time. “Chucker, Plucker, and I Bet You Thought The Next Name Would Start With An F, at your service!”

“Inky, Dinky, Blinky, and Kinky, at your service!”

“Yo. ‘Sup. Name’s Philly, this is Killy. We’re at’cher freakin’ service here, but don’t be gettin’ no funny ideas or nothin’.”

“Bumpem, Boppem, and Bitem, at your service!”

“Lucky, Bucky, and That Joke’s Already Been Done, at your service!”

“Growin, Glowin, and Flowin, at your service!”

“Snooti, Frooti, Patooti, Cooti, and Slooti, at your service!” said one member of a particularly hairy, wrinkled, big-nosed, long-bearded dwarf-cluster.

“Woohoo!” came a drunken cry from inside the house. “Alriiight, the babes are here!”

A long line of dwarves filed slowly into Big End, with each small family group identifying itself and emptily pledging to be at Bulbous’ service. There were Wheezy, Cheezy, Eezy, and Sleezy, Bugger and Banger, Bling-Bling and Sing-Sing, Happy, Slappy, Snappy, and Crappy. After them came Frogger and Blogger, Icki, Tricki and Sticki, Ranger, Danger, and Stranger, Strider, Rider, Glider, and Slider, and one sad, lonely little guy named Rizzo. Next came several pairs and trios whose names happened to be alarmingly close to those of copyrighted cartoon characters owned by large, lawyer-wielding media conglomerates. Those names, of course, will not be mentioned here in specific, and a clever way will be found to conveniently remove them from the story in the very near future.

These dwarves entered Big End, and, corny dwarven names being entirely too easy to invent, many more came as well who will not be detailed here. They came in numbers too great to list for fear of becoming boring and redundant, and Bulbous lost track of them all anyway.

Finally at the end of the line stood Gadfly, standing beside the tallest dwarf Bulbous had yet seen. This new arrival was stout and strong, regal yet foul-smelling, with a peroxide-blonde beard that reached nearly to his toes, and fine, shimmering golden ribbon woven into his ear and nostril hairs, ending in precious dangling ruby charms where the two follicular strands met.

“Thornless Brokenshield,” said the dwarf.

“I know, I know, you’re at my service,” muttered the Hobnob.

“No. You are at mine.”

* * *

Now that his guests had presumably all arrived, Bulbous turned his attention to the raucous ruckus that had been going on inside his house for so long. The dwarves had obviously gotten into his pantry, fridge, food storage hallway, food-filled spare bedroom, secret snack stash in the master bathroom, and attic pizzeria, not to mention the wine cellar, beer sub-basement, and the plastic bottles of rubbing alcohol and cough syrup in the medicine cabinet.

Bulbous ran through the house, terrified of the mess he expected to see. This would never get cleaned up! This would wreck his home! This would leave the place smelling like dwarf for years! This… this was, Bulbous noted when the initial hysteria wore off, the cleanest he’d seen the place in years.

The dwarves, as it turned out, were fastidious cleaners even in the midst of their merrymaking and debauchery. In fact, they sang a song of cleanliness as they ate and drank and did other things Bulbous tried to forget having seen, all the while taking the time to perform the sorts of menial housework he usually paid that Grungee family down the street to take care of for him.

Wash the glasses, scrub the plates,
Hang up the shirts and try not to splash!
Vacuum the carpets to pristine states!
Straighten up well even though we’re smashed!

Polish the silver, take out the trash!
You break it, you buy it, and pay with cash!

Wash the laundry, match the socks,
Iron and fold that pair of jeans!
This anal retentiveness sure does rock,
Wonder why we’re so lax ‘bout our own hygiene?

Polish the silver, take out the trash!
You break it, you buy it, and pay with cash!

Shine the counters like precious stones,
Spotless linoleum sure looks great!
But leave the shower stall alone,
‘Cause that’s where Bulbous masturbates!

Polish the silver, take out the trash!
You break it, you buy it, and pay with cash!

The oddly tidy party went on for some time, and Bulbous had almost reached the point where he could allow himself to relax when suddenly he caught a whiff of a familiar smell wafting in through a nearby window.

“My pipeweed!” he grumbled angrily. Sure enough, when he stormed out onto the front porch, there was Gadfly, with perhaps a dozen dwarves, passing around several pipes loaded with Old Nicaraguan, the finest weed in the South Farthing.

“Alright, you’ve invaded and, er, sanitized my house and eaten all my food – that, I can understand – I’ve done it to enough people myself. But to raid a man’s pipeweed stash without asking? That’s unconscionable! No way am I going to give you any sort of assistance after this!”

The Hobnob’s fury had risen to the point where his face was red and his heart thumped loudly. Though he would never admit this to them, his anger was also fueled by the fact that their cloud-shaped-smoke-blowing skills seemed superior to his.

He turned back toward the house and shouted to those inside, “I hope I never see any of you again!” He slammed the knobbed dodecahedronal slab as hard as he could, and shifted his attention back to the smokers on his porch.

He opened his mouth to shout at them to get away, but a loud noise behind him made the words catch in his throat.

<CREEEEAK!>

What an odd time for vague memories of something about building codes and weight limits to spring to mind, Bulbous thought absently.

<POP! SNAP!>

It occurs to me now that Father once mentioned the need to replace something called a “load bearing member” that had rotted out, but I thought he was just making up a dirty joke of some sort…

<RRRRRRUMBLE!>

Say, it’s become awfully quiet in there suddenly. I wonder if something interesting is going on?

<CRASH!>

Standing just outside his door, facing toward the street, Bulbous was staggered by an unexpected blast of dust and wood chips from behind him. The disembodied feathers from a hundred dwarven caps floated lazily in the air around him. Gadfly and the surviving porch-dwarves all stared wide-eyed in his general direction.

“On second thought,” he began without ever looking back, “I may need to raise some cash to purchase some home repair items…”

“[)00[)5, 1 4m t3h 1337 h4><><0r 5urv1v0r!” came a call from somewhere over Bulbous’ left shoulder.

The Hobnob called out to whatever author or editor might hear, pleading: “Look, I know this is a parody, so I know I’m going to be ridiculed and insulted through the whole story. I can deal with that. But please, please, have mercy and don’t make me have to be around this guy for the rest of the book!”

And from somewhere beyond the glowing monitor phosphors, over the clickety-click of the coffee-stained keyboard, the author heard, and took pity upon poor Bulbous.

“<THUD!>”, he typed.

He considered adding mention of an “Oof!” sound followed very closely by what he would have Bulbous describe as “a satisfying SPLAT!”, but decided some readers might be too squeamish to handle such language.

“Thank you!” Bulbous shouted in genuine gratitude.

The author gave a benign nod before frantically scrambling to appear as if he was doing actual work, having seen the boss coming his way.

Gadfly cleared his throat to break the silence.

“Well, there’s no sense hanging around here any longer, I’d say. Everyone ready to leave?”

“Where exactly are we going again?” the Hobnob queried.

“Ah, well, my lad, that’s of no matter until we get there, now is it? I-“

“Look, don’t worry about scaring me off with stories of dangers we’ll be facing. We’re already almost done the first chapter and I kind of called in a big favor early on, so I’m stuck here at this point – there’s no way I’ll be able to weasel my way out of the rest of the story. Just tell me now so I know what I’m up against.”

“Very well,” said Gadfly in a resigned tone. “Thornless, if you will?”

The dwarf rose to his feet, warmed up his voice by gargling from a day-old misplaced glass of bourbon, and then began to sing.

Beyond where the Missing Mountains should be,
Out past a bunch of rocks and trees,
There’s a place we know there’s a lot of loot,
So we’ll sneak inside, steal it, and scoot!

Those old time dwarves ran quite a racket,
Piles of gold high as they could stack it.
They sold cheap baubles to the elves
Who were too conceited to make them themselves.

They made swords and axes and weapons keen
That could slice out your heart or rupture your spleen.
They carved lewd sculptures of themselves
Doing unspeakable things with hot female elves.

Beyond where the Missing Mountains should be,
Out past a bunch of rocks and trees,
There’s a place we know there’s a lot of loot,
So we’ll sneak inside, steal it, and scoot!

Those dwarves couldn’t seem to get enough
Of money and riches and jewels and stuff,
And now we’ll try to take it back
While bad guys try to eat us for snacks.

Risking death and pain in all sorts of ways,
Like being ground into pulp or squeezed into paste;
Beheading, or boiling, or burnt alive,
With luck one or two of us will survive!

There could be maiming or torture, castration too,
Never know what’s in store when they capture you.
But they say that most monsters are partial to
Little men, and Bulbous that’s why we’ve got you!

Beyond where the Missing Mountains should be,
Out past a bunch of rocks and trees,
There’s a place we know there’s a lot of loot,
So we’ll sneak inside, steal it, and scoot!

“Greensleeves!” Bulbous blurted.

“What?”

“The song – it was Greensleeves.”

“No it wasn’t. It’s my song, I wrote it myself.”

“The words, yes, but the tune was definitely Greensleeves.”

“Are you calling me a liar, Hobnob?”

“Uh… no, no, forget I said anything.”

Gadfly nudged Thornless and mumbled, “Nice touch,using the Greensleeves thing to distract him from the lyrics.”

Thornless smiled and nodded almost imperceptibly. Most dwarven nods were, in fact, almost imperceptible, because the mass of hair surrounding their entire upper bodies tended to mask any sign of head movement.

“Now then,” said Gadfly, “we’ve got to get some back-story out of the way before we get on with this, so let’s get to it! Now where did I leave that map?”

He frisked himself in search of the item in question, but failed to locate it.

“Droolin, did I give that map to you?”

“I can’t remember – let me see if I have it.”

He reached both hands into the depths of his beard – so deep that he had to bend forward to reach down far enough. After a few moments’ rummaging through a collection of objects that alternately rattled, clanked, tinkled, squeeked, squealed, vibrated, and squawked, he finally found one that crinkled, and yanked it free of its hairy prison.

The item in question was not, in fact, a map. Rather, it was what appeared to be a very old, very well-worn vintage Elvish dirty magazine.

“Hey, that’s mine! Give it back!”

Gadfly grabbed the magazine and tried to yank it away from the dwarf, but Droolin kept a tight grip on it. As they tugged back and forth, Miss Undying Lands unfolded in all her glory, dangling from the magazine’s center, the struggle making her appear to sway from side to side in a seductive if two-dimensional dance.

“What use have you for such a thing, old man?”

“I said give it back, you stubby little thief!”

“Side show magician!”

“Pygmy Wookie!”

“Dirty old man!”

“You don’t understand! Not only this issue a classic, but it’s a collector’s item because it was once owned by – !”

<RRRRIP!>

Both combatants fell backward, thudding to the ground amidst a flutter of airborne pornographic paper shreds. When the fragments settled, among them could be seen a small, white, folded up napkin with writing on it.

“The map!” cried Thornless, lifting it carefully away from the surrounding debris.

“This map,” began Gadfly, dusting himself off and gazing sadly over the remains of his reading material, “was given to me last month by Thornless’ grandfather when I met him in the-“

“Grandpa? Grandpa’s alive!?”

“Well of course he is.”

“Why didn’t you say something!”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t know you were looking for him.”

“Didn’t know? You came to the memorial service just last week! You gave a speech about our dear departed King and then you cried in front of everyone, you even tried to hit on his widow after the funeral!”

“Oh, uh, that. Well, sometimes you just get caught up in the moment, you know, and forget about some of the trivial things.”

“Trivial? We’re talking about my grandfather’s very life-!”

“He’s just a dwarf and he didn’t owe me money, so why should I-“

“Gentlemen!” Bulbous interrupted. “The map?”

“Hrmph. Yes, the map.”

Gadfly spread the document out on the ground for all to see:

[map picture here – just has “you are here” on one side and a crooked line drawn to an X on the other]

“This is supposed to reassure me?” Bulbous asked.

“What’s wrong with it?” Thornless countered testily. “It shows where we are and where we’re going – what more do you need from a map?” Bulbous decided the point wasn’t worth arguing, and switched to another line of questioning. “So what’s the big deal about this Homely Mountain place, anyway?”

“Ages ago my ancestors fled the north to escape some gambling debt,” Thornless began, “and after a time they settled in a cave under the Homely Mountain near the human city of Dull on the shores of the River Run Away. There they delved deep into the earth, and awakened – oh, no, that’s a different tale. There they delved deep into the earth and brought forth precious stones and metals; and our smiths and craftsmen created works of great renown and high Suggested Retail Price.”

Thornless grew wistful as he continued. “A favorable trade balance and beneficial socioeconomic conditions led to a high standard of living and an elevated level of per-capita disposable income.” A single tear made its way down his face as he spoke those words.

Then his eyes grew cold and a muscle in his forehead began to twitch violently.

“But then the Dragon came. Smudge the Terrible was his name, and on a clear, bright morning he swooped down on the Dullards and reduced their city to ash, devoured their livestock, drank up their ale, and as a final prank bought hundreds of white mice from a pet store and set them free in the high school cafeteria. When Dull had fallen, the Dragon then moved on to the Homely Mountain, where my people were killed to the last, save only myself and the several thousand others who had started running at the first sign of trouble hours earlier.”

“I see,” said Bulbous. “So now you want to return to avenge your people and restore their kingdom to its rightful place.”

“Avenge? Restore? Bah. I just want to get my stuff back. Gold, jewels, a few place settings of nice silverware… that sort of thing.”

“I seek the great axe my ancestors carried to the ancient wars,” Droolin said.

“My family’s treasured battle helm and armor shall be restored to us!” Foolin vowed.

“I had this cool ant farm,” said Blinky.

“I’m gonna get back my assortment of Lord of the Rings movie merchandise,” said Slappy, “and my rare autographed Revenge of the Jedi poster!”

“I want my rock collection!” Dinky chimed in.

“Dude, I had some, uh, personal stuff stashed in a shoebox under my bed,” Glowin offered.

“Enough!” Gadfly cried at last. Exasperated, he went on, “We all have our reasons for joining this expedition, but we’ll never get there unless we actually get up and start walking!”

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3 Responses to The Hobnob, or Hairy Back Again – Chapter 1

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