Professor Butterburger and the Magic Chair

This is a slightly edited repost of the prelude to a NaNoWriMo entry that I never got around to finishing. If anyone else was subjected to the same sort of bizarre children’s stories I was (I’m looking at you, Enid Blyton!), they’ll know what I was shooting for here.

It’s probably an allegory for something. If I ever work out what, I shall, of course, pretend that that was my clever artistic intention all along.

Once upon a time, there was a gentleman by the name of Professor Butterburger. Professor Butterburger liked sitting on things. Hard. When he moved into the town of Jollyton, everybody had been extremely pleased to have such a learned man join their community, and he had received countless invitations to take tea. His visits would go something like this :

“Why, Professor Butterburger! How lovely to see you today. Have a seat while I make us a nice cup of tea, and maybe a spot of cake.”

“Why thankyou! Don’t mind if I do!”, he would say, targeting the nearest chair, and collapsing upon it with as much force as he could muster. KRUMPH!

“Oh my! Dear Professor, are you hurt? I am so terribly sorry.”

“My goodness. How on EARTH did that happen? It must have been broken already!”

“Yes, I suppose it must have been. Please, you must be quite shaken up. Do sit down.” KRUMPH!

“My chair!”

“My bottom! You must have woodworm! I cannot think of any other possible explanation. Let me test your other chairs.”

“No! I mean, I just remembered that I have a terribly important appointment that I really cannot be late for. I’m afraid we shall have to take tea another day.”

“Oh dear, that is a shame. Well, I bid you good day!”, and he would leave, feeling extremely pleased with himself. Upon reaching home, he would write the details of his sitting in his sitting journal, and mark himself for style, strength, and quantity.

After a time, it will not surprise you to hear that people stopped inviting him to visit.

His wicked sitting ways were not restricted to chairs of course. He had wide-ranging tastes, and no snoozing small animal or child’s toy left upon a couch was safe from being sat upon. He quickly became despised by the cats of Jollyton, who would hiss at him, from what they judged a safe distance, when he passed. Fortunately he was built for sitting, not speed.

The cooling of his social opportunities were not at all unexpected by the Professor. This was not the first, second, nor even twelfth town which he had visited, and he was sure he would have plenty more good sits in Jollyton before it’s exceptionally forgiving denizens finally stopped letting him into their homes at all. But all was not well. He took great pride in his sitting, and was concerned that without regular practise of his skills he might become rusty, and so he resolved to visit the shop of Mr Knot the carpenter to buy some emergency chairs.

Although the arrival of Professor Butterburger had been good for business, Mr Knot took a dim view of his behaviour. A craftsman does not only make things to pay the bills, but also because he finds some amount of pleasure in the act of creation, and in the thought that people used his creations. An artist does not paint so that his painting can be used as tinder, and nor does a carpenter like the idea of his works being deliberately reduced to matchwood. Still, a sale was a sale, and before long he was selling three or four chairs a week to his new customer.

On the day which this story concerns itself with, Mr Knot was feeling especially proud, as he was animatedly telling the Doctor’s wife.

“And so you see, due to the magical nature of the wood with which the pixie supplied me, the chair itself is magical! Of course, it takes a lot more skill to work magical wood than it does to create even the finest ordinary chair! It is unseemly, I know, to blow one’s own trumpet, but I can barely contain myself!”. Indeed, he seemed fit to burst, such was his effervescence. Happily, he did not.

“Such an enchanted chair! Why, that could be my opus! The pinnacle of my career!

Knot’s face paled as he turned to face his nemesis, “Professor Butterburger! I didn’t see you come in! I must regretfully inform you that this chair is not for sale. And in any case, I think you’ll find that it is MY opus, and it deserves better than you have in mind for it.”

“I must insist sir, that you sell it to me! Else I fear I may begin to feel quite faint, then I shall need to sit down.”

“You wouldn’t!”

“I would, and I shall! Repeatedly!”, cried Professor Butterburger, casting his eyes menacingly about the shop. So many targets, he could be here all afternoon!

Mr Knot knew that he was beaten, but quoted a quite extortionate price for the magical chair, in the hope that it might discourage Butterburger’s enthusiasm. The Professor was determined though, and pulled a fine collection of banknotes from his wallet, paying in full. Picking up the chair gleefully, he ran home chuckling to himself. Knot sighed sadly.

“Four legs, a seat, a back so proud.
Of ancient wood, and mortal toil,
Deserved a carpenter less cowed.
Should serveth one who would not spoil.”

The Doctor’s wife tried to console him. “You must not feel bad, Mr Knot. He would not have wavered from crushing every piece of furniture in your shop had he not gotten his way. You have a family to feed, after all.”

When Professor Butterburger got home, he first of all decided to move all his furniture to one end of the living room. As he certainly didn’t want to break his own comfy chairs, precautions were needed. This was going to be such a tremendous sitting that he thought it possible that the area of devastation might reach several yards. In the cleared space he placed his new chair.

“Ho Ho! This shall be my most awesomely wonderful sitting ever. A once in a lifetime squashing! I must savour it. I know, I’ll take a “Before” photograph for my journal!”. He dove into his study, and recovered his long-legged camera from beneath it’s shell of dirty shirts and socks. Setting it up back in the living room, he loaded the flash gun and prepared to record his greatest target for posterity.

“Say Cheese” he giggled.

“Cheese!”, said the chair.

“Good gracious! A talking chair! Though come to think of it, it’s about time you did something magical. I was beginning to think Knot had tricked me. I shall be famous for being the man that sat on the talking chair!”

“Ah yes, the, ah, sitting thing. I’ve been thinking about that, and on reflection I’d much rather you didn’t sit on me, if you don’t mind. Not in the way you’re intending. I don’t at all mind being sat on in the normal way, of course, but I don’t think I trust you enough to take the chance.”

“Ho Ho! Sit on you I shall, and you will be crushed into talking matchsticks! And then I shall crush them too! I must be careful not to get a talking splinter. That could be awkward.”

“I certainly can’t think of a fate worse than being stuck in your rear end.”

“A cheeky chair! A saucy seat! I shall crush you doubly for your impertinence!”

“Oh woe! Please, Professor Butterburger, have mercy upon me! I am a living being, sort of, and I have rights!”

“Too late! No bill of rights for you, for I have a bill of sale! Prepare to meet your maker!”

“Mr Knot?”

“Hmm, bah! Alright. Prepare to cash in your woodchips! Heheheh. To bite the sawdust! Heheheh.”, and he launched himself majestically into the air, like an elephant from a catapult, coming down with a bone-crunching KRUMPH upon the magic chair.

Or rather, where the chair had been moments before.

“Hoy! That’s cheating!”, growled Butterburger, bringing himself back to his feet, and girding himself for another leap. “Your rules, not mine!”, cried the chair, who took off about the room as fast as his four legs would carry him. “Help! Help! Murder!”

Around and around the room chased the Professor, crying vengeance with every wheeze, until suddenly he paused in horror, as an enormous round face filled his window fully. It was the Omnicaterpillar…

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