Conab the Bonehead, A Cimmerian Tale

Yab Conab, son of Conab the Enormity, was in all things identical to his father, save only that his father was considerably older and punch-drunk. Young Yab, dubbed Conab the Bonehead because of his lumpy protruding brow, had been captured in his childhood by slave-raiders who took him out of Cimmeria, and set him to hard labor in a tomato garden.

He was often hungry because he’d been told the tomatoes were toxic and were only harvested to make poisons to kill wolves. At age seventeen he discovered this was a lie to keep the slaves from eating the harvest. This angered him sufficiently that he raised a rebellion.

Armed only with a garden trowel and manure rake, he killed everyone, even his fellow rebels, and a pack of wolves for good measure, then set off for a career as a freebooter, mercenary, and chimney sweep. At long last by means of usurpation (or by marrying a homely widowed queen) he became king of some great kingdom (or a settlement of wattle huts by a walnut grove).

He thereafter spent a good deal of time deciding dull matters of state and eating too many berries, walnuts and pasta, and drinking great flagons of hot melted pork fat, brooding in his throne because of the sad emotions awakened in his heart. His small pointy jaw rested on his humongous fist, in an aspect of thoughtful and woebegone bewilderment, like unto a man who cannot think of the precise word nor quite remember the capital of a given country.

One day King Bonehead stood in his boudoir gazing in a mirror of bronze. Ordinarily this was a joyful exercise, as the bronze surface of the mirror distorted his face, making him handsomer than was true, and gave his palorous Cimmerian complexion a rosy hue. But presently he realized he was looking older, his paunch hung over the front of his sword belt, and his hair was thin.

His mind drew back in time, to when he was a young man. Thinking he was not even now too old for adventure, he set out for Cimmeria, hoping to be reunited with his greatly beloved father, Conab the Enormity. It was a perilous journey with many close escapes and minor conquests, like the Adventure in the Wilderness, where Yab earned impressive scars upon his rump, rendered by an angry hog whose slop pail Conab had attempted to rob.

In Cimmeria he searched far and wide, at last encountering a pot-bellied drunkard whose scraped and meaty fists were used for nothing more refined than the sport of rat-mashing.

This was his father, whom Bonehead met in a low dive where he was busy mashing rats, one after the other, to the sound of riotous laughter, and downing, between mashings, whole buckets of the damp, spoiled chicken mash that passed for beer in Cimmeria.

“Father, ’tis I, Conab the Bonehead!” said Conab the Bonehead, master of his destiny. He held wide his arms, eager for an embrace, but the drunken rat-masher evaded the hug.

“What? Eh? What do you mean, ‘Father.’ I have no son.”

“But look at me, if I were more greatly potbellied, aged, besotted, with rat-bites on my knuckles, punch-drunk and silly, you would see I’m your very double.”

“What? Eh? Seeing double?”

“I am your son!”

The senior Conab waxed nostalgic. “Had a son once.”

“I was captured by raiders, taken to a far land.”

“There! You see! My son wasn’t captured by no one. I sold him to some passing caravan for the price of a few potatoes.”

“I am that son.”

“If you’re my son Bonehead the Unlamented, prove it by mashing a few strong rats.”

Yab took one look at the manged rodents for several heartbeats before a sense of profound discouragement overwhelmed him. He turned on his heel and fled in horror of his father, though Conab the Enormity always assumed the fellow ran out for fear of the rats, proving the stranger was no son of his.

And so Yab returned to his little walnut kingdom, or town, and entered his castle, or wattle hut, and tried to be satisfied that things were as good as they were. Yet after many years had passed, Yab saw that he had become indeed like his father, though it was good wine instead of spoiled mash that made him sotted, and good pasta with sausages washed down with warm semi-liquescent lard instead of rat-kabobs that made him wide of bum and big of belly.

He had three sons, dubbed Conab the Button-nose, Conab Smalldong, and his youngest, Conab the Player with Dolls and Kittens.

The lads liked nothing better than to gather about their poppa when he was on his throne, and listen to him cracking walnuts in his huge fists while telling unlikely tales of his glorious youth as a wizard-slayer, wool-strangler, freebooter, cattle-rustler, and roustabout.

When his sons reached their individual ages of fifteen, eighteen, and twenty, they conspired to poison old Yab, who fell dead in the walnut grove wherein he had been chasing after a pretty, flirtatious she-goat. The sons divided up the property, cut down the nut grove, and built highrise apartments with a lovely view of some ditchwater and a clearcut mountain called Baldy. The apartment dwellers claim the spirit pf Yab Conab to this day wanders the hallways, and rides the elevators up and down, chasing after a bleating horned beast whom the ghostly Yab calls Daisy. A sad tale but a true one, and even so, nobody cares a tiddle nor gives a quid.

Illustration by Denis Medri

Jessica is this year’s Guest of Honor at Diversicon and a new collection of her poetry has just been published by Raintree, titled The Death Sonnets. Centipede Press is about to publish a big omnibus of Jessica’s novels, tales, and poems. From Alchemy Press early this year will be a volume of the complete weird epistles of Penelope Pettiweather, ghost hunter. And the Sidecar Preservation Society will release during Diversicon Pets Given in Evidence of Old English Withchcraft and Other Bewitched Beings. She has also written an introduction for a forthcoming edition of the complete poetry of Michael Shea. Also, from her Duck’s-foot Tree Productions comes Daisy Zoo and Other Punk-Ass Nonsense to coincide with Diversicon.