Buck Wondrous & the Academy of Witchcraft and Tomfoolery
or How the Light Was Kept Alive Over Millennia
At the venerable Biltmore Academy of Witchcraft and Tomfoolery, Buckminster Wonderhouse IX, who answers to Buck Wondrous, paced the Olympic-sized Persian library rug and pondered: “How am I ever going to do dis?”
The “dis” Buck was pondering was a set of classes he needed to pass, in order to be considered for the coming year. He looked around in wonder at all the beauty, all the history, all the future, and all the possibilities...if he should pass. Then he could pack up and move from his wretched hinterlands, and renew his spirits at this new wretched hinterlands.
It really wasn’t that much of a hinterlands, nor was his home. He knew, from overhearing discussions, that Biltmore Academy would, in future, be recognized as being the big prize, the beautiful reward for a dedication to truth, honesty, evolution, kindness, and a spirit of cooperation. Other than the competition to get in, the trick soon becomes: How wisely can you cooperate? How will you evolve the evolution of cooperation?
The Academy is, in essence, the “as below” of peaceful and useful coexistence, to the as above of the entire world.
Well, this entire world, or I should say planet, for there are many worlds as you will soon see. There will, at times, be oblique references which you may not understand at first, but rest assured, those who are meant to hear it will understand. The problem now is dealing with the thing. But nobody wanted to talk about the thing.
The Wonderhouse family could trace their lineage all the way back to Eve, and even a few nameless generations before, as they trundled their way north, from the comet crater in Africa.
Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania, Africa
Over the centuries, the name Wonderhouse got whittled down to Wondrous, in exactly the same way that Waterhouse, a related family as it turns out, became Watrous. So at one time our main character, Buck Wondrous, if using the full name, would be Buckminster Wonderhouse, which is easily a mouthful by today’s standards. And we won’t even get into his middle names. Later, maybe. At any rate, water is wondrous.
While ranging his eyes across the ample main library (there were several specialized libraries scattered here and there, both on the premises, and at other nodes around the globe), he noticed a chess set that was reputed to have some connection with Napoleon, who is such a character, he is known by one name, like Moby Dick, well, unlike Moby Dick. Like Cher, maybe, or Beowulf.
Suddenly, and without warning, his ears were seized by a sound or noise not entirely unlike that of Wondrous World Choir, whom all the kids were dancing to now. He then remembered that they were to perform there that very, or even very, very day.
“I hope they are recording this” he thought, probably impressed by the unusual acoustics of Biltmore, which should have had a visit by Paul Horn.
It didn’t dawn on him that the Wondrous of the Wondrous World Choir was none other than one of his kinfolk who had also attended here at one time, and who had also adopted the Wondrous family moniker, whilst leaving untouched the Wondrous family Monica, who was their pet and protector chinchilla.
But that sound again, now gaining the attention of all:
Surely it was Wondrous World Choir, but it could have been the Very Tall Choir, who is one of their fiercest rivals.
As if awaking from a dream…
A very fine-looking young lady walked by and gave Buck a glance.
“Who was THAT?”
A man sweeping the floor overheard him and said:
“That, my dear boy, is your competition.”
Buck snapped out of his trying to hold that smile in his mind, looked over and said “What was that, Sir?”
“That sweet young lady who is now stuck in your mind, is also vying for a position here. And she is a legacy.”
“I’ll try not to hold that against her.” Buck walked over and held out his hand.
“Buck Wondrous, Charlotte”.
“Oh I know who YOU are. I run this place.”
“Pardon me for asking, Sir, but is it your job to be, um, working with your hands?” Buck was a little perplexed.
“Master Wondrous, if you are blest with hands, it is imperative that you use them, and for good, never ill. You will learn how to balance your various talents, should you be so fortunate as to be among those who pass into our carriage.”
“Well that is a strange way of putting it.” Buck shot back.
“Putting what?” The headmaster said. “Do you know what I mean, when I say “carriage”?
“I guess I was assuming you meant this place.” Buck moved his hands around to indicate that he was talking about the building and grounds on which he found himself. “At first, I thought you were going to say “care”. “Pass into our care”. But then you said “carriage” which was unexpected and cool.
“So people are saying “cool” again?”
“Oh yes. I am a cool again hooligan.”
“And a wordjones too, I see. Well good. You’re gonna need that.” He walked to a special bookshelf and retrieved a volume. It was called “Codex Seraphinianus”. “Come look!” He motioned to Buck, who walked over and looked at the book laid out on the table.
Forgetting how to sleet, Molly and Holly Olive hailed from Holly Springs, but their parents were from India. They speak Malayalam, which sort of rhymes with Molly Olive. They live near the Olive Grove - Holly Springs Road, which is why the parents, Satyajit and Lakshmi Mukerji named their twins Molly and Holly. Why they changed their name from Mukerji to Olive is another matter, or matar perhaps, and one that no one seems to know, although some say that it is to honor someone in the Olive family who supposedly helped them to come to America.
“Namaskaram, Master Wondrous!” Molly called from across the rather large room in which Buck and the Headmaster perused the Codex.
“Namaskaram!” Buck responded, wondering how she knew he would know how to respond. Or did he know? Maybe he just repeated what he heard.
“Nandi!” She replied back.
“Ah, Malayalam! Beautiful tongue!” Buck retorted before he realized the bad choice of words.
“I had heard you were obsessed with...um…” Molly was hesitating.
“Languages!” Buck blurted. “Yes I…”
“No, body parts.” Molly corrected.
“WHAT??” Buck was a little loud.
“Shhhhh!” A studious older woman shooshed from an official looking desk. “There are souls in here.”
At first, Buck didn’t think too much about what she said. He may, or may not, remember this later, at a critical moment.
After their quieting laughter ceased, Molly asked if she could show Buck a secret place she had found.
He looked over at the Headmaster, who was replacing the Codex back in its proper place, who turned and said “Run along!”
THE SECRET PLACE
As Molly Olive and Buck Wondrous made their way down the various corridors, and up and down stairs, and through gardens, Buck would occasionally notice that some of the rooms they would pass would be full of young people, with a sprinkling of adults, and not because they were Presbyterians, who were known to sprinkle, although some of them were, while others were pescitarians, and often they would get confused with one another, with risible result.
Buck wanted to stop and chat, but Molly kept rushing him along, as if time were important.
“Come! Hurry! Curry!” She was nearly running, and panting as she said these words.
“Curry?” Buck thought to himself. But then he remembered her Indian heritage, and figured he had some delicious eating in store for him, which was perfectly fine for him, since he had not eaten anything other than some kalamata pate on a ricecake, and that is not enough to hold anybody.
THE KEYS TO THE WORLD
Students at the Academy were expected to know basic greetings in all the major languages. They were also expected to know the general placement of the others, in order to make educated guesses, if one is not already adept at, like I said, your basic greetings. It is thought to be akin to a handshake, in the computer world, where computers recognize one another, so to speak, and then communicate, albeit in code.
The students start out with 26 languages, each assigned to a letter of the alphabet, and they have electives on the languages they can choose. For instance, my first 26 were Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, Dutch, Estonian, French, German, Hawaiian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latin, Malay, Norwegian, Occitan, Portuguese, Queretaro, Russian, Spanish, Turkish, Ukrainian, Vietnamese, Welch, Xhosa, Yiddish, and Zulu.
My final year, I was learning Amharic, Bulgarian, Catalan, Dari, Extremaduran, Faroese, Galician, Hindi, Indonesian, Javanese, Kazakh, Latvian, Macedonian, Nepali, Odia, Persian, Quechia, Romanian, Sanskrit, Tamil, Urdu, Venetian, Walloon, Xhosa still, Yoruba and Zazani. All a great deal of fun, especially since you won’t have to fool with the script, but rather learn it all by sounds and transliteration...or written as if in English, using our familiar script.
I hope you will pardon me my narration skills, as I have only come out of my usual comfort to take on the task of narrating this adventure, because I was asked, frankly, and because I have some familiarity with the subjects.
I warned the agency, when they hired me, that I am not one to stand in the way of a good digression, if I see one coming on. But they said that was alright by them, so long as I can provide even a modicum of entertainment or edification in the digressions, and I assured them that I could indeed guarantee that I would at least give it my best.
And, I went on, no one should have to worry about “grown-uppy” subjects, which may be better suited for experts in those fields.
The keys to the world cannot only be found in language and communication, but also in one’s particular path to now from antiquity. Every student will learn their particular path and will thus be better able to understand what natural gifts they might already possess. Some choose to work on those natural gifts in order to evolve them, while other students opt to work on those in which they are weak, in order to find a greater balance. Neither is better. What might be best is a combination of the two. If I find out, I’ll let you know, my dear reader, for we have to help each other out if we are ever going to evolve the planet itself. But I jump ahead.
QUALITY NOT QUANTITY
Among the principles our pupils will learn is that quality is more important than quantity.
Among the important principles imparted to students at Biltmore was the primacy of limiting one’s activity. If you tried to multitask everything, you would invariably wind up doing everything badly. And so they practice the zen of monotasking. When you eat, eat. When you think, think. When you write, write. Some people talk when they should be eating, and wind up choking on the food. We have learned these things from centuries of guided observation, and copious notes, handed down over the centuries.
Biltmore comes equipped with a set of the finest in time travel gear and accessories, including the newest model Time Trebuchet.
JUMPING AHEAD IN CHARLOTTE
One day, Buck was tinkering with Time Trebuchet, and was noticing how quickly the dial would move through the years. His curiosity could not keep him from seeing how far forward it would go, and on this fateful day, it was a sneeze that had cause him to hit the launch lever, which sent him soaring into Charlotte’s future.
And where would he land, but smack in the middle of town, at the corner of Trade and Tron Streets. “Tron?”, he thought to himself. But this is “Tryon” street, like “try on these shoes!”
He once had a job at a Butler shoe store on Tryon Street, just a block or two away, but little looked familiar now.
The groundskeeper, “Chance the Groundskeeper” he liked to call himself, being fond of the works of Peter Sellers, and the movie, “Being There”, in particular, had a peculiar habit.
Every day, he would walk around the grounds, with a pick-up stick, and he would pick up the trash that might have graced the grounds from the previous day.
Some people say that they have heard him mumbling to himself, on these morning walks, and wondered if his faculties were beginning to dwindle.
I know Chance, so I know that his faculties are very much with him, and that he, in fact is simply cycling through the languages he knows, alphabetically.
One evening after group dinner, as a lark, I slipped a voice-activated mini-recorder into the jacket, which I knew he always wore in the morning, provided the weather was not inclement.
After I was able to get it back, we shared laughs over it, and I have since shared it with others who also got a good laugh from it, but also a few languages.
Here is the transcription of the tape:
“Morning has broken like the first morning. May this day be a blessing.” Then you hear a door shut, some walking down a hall and steps, a little breathing, now some birds, and “Afrikaans. Hallo...dankie. Heee Haaw!” He imitates a donkey. “Donkey Haute. Only the best in donkeys.”
He would play around with the words, and try to find something funny or humorous or even both, because he had heard, and indeed, he had learned, that if you can make something funny, you are much more likely to remember it. And so he spent his days making light.
Making light. There are many darker ways in which one can spend one’s time.
The tape continues…
“Akkadian. Allu. Need to find out what “Thank you” is.”
When Chance first started his project, he had bitten off more than he could chew. He tried to learn too much. He did not limit his activity.
Eventually, he had reduced it to one word per language. “Hello”. The simplest of greetings. But he found that too many were the same. Most were either hello, hallo, helo, halo, alo, salam, salom, salem, salami, shalom, salut, and so on. So he added a few. Thanks, Thank you, Farewell, Goodbye.
Then he ran into a different problem. The goodbye bit could be construed as negative. Bu-bye! Don’t let the door hit ya on the way out!
So he dropped the goodbyes but kept the thank yous. The world needs more gratitude.
All this to say that, if nothing else, Chance knew how to say Hello and Thank You in over a hundred languages, at this counting, and he practices them every day, and cleans the grounds until his mental practice is done. And so we make it to Aklan.
Aklan is a province in the Philippines as well as its language, and like Filipino or Tagalog, the normal hello and thank you is Kumusta and Selamat. Only difference with Aklan is that they leave off the middle L.
“Aklan. Kumusta. Saeamat… kumusta, from como esta”
A distant alpenhorn can be heard in the air.
“Albanian. S’cemi. Schemy. Hello! (sarcastically) Falamenderit. Follow me in there, it…”
“Alsatian. Salut or Hallo. Merci.
Amharic. Selami. Note to self. Remind to pair with Yoruba, Bawo ni. Get it? Selami, bawoni.” Get it??”
“Amesiginalehu. A message in a bottle. Thank you Amharic for that! Very kind indeed. ”
And so he carried on like that…
“Arabic. Marhaba. Shukran.
Aramaic. Shlam lac. (Swan Lake) Yishar. (Yessir!)” He would say these parenthetical reminds under his breath, but they got picked up by the tape, and provide much of the entertainment value.
“Armenian. Parev. Mersee. I think it can also be Barev. Note to self.
Assamese. The most eastern of the Indo-Europeans, and derived from Sanskrit. Similar to Bengali, in the same area. Namaste. Dhanyabad.
Azeri or Azerbaijani. A Turkic language. Salom. Tesekkurler.
How come there are so many A languages and so few X or O languages? Does it have anything to do with tic-tac-toe? Glad most letters aren’t so fruitful.
Belorusian. Dobry Dzien. Dziakuj.
Bengali. Ben gaaaaali Sargeant! Namaste. Dhanyabad.
Bosnian. Zdravo. Hvala. Like most of the southern Slavic languages.
Bulgarian. Zdraviete. Blagodaria. Blogger Darius.
Four Bs? Is that all? Four B or not four B? That is the question.
Catalan, the language of Catalonia, where you will find Barcelona and Gaudi, and where they say “Hola” and “Gracies”.
21st Century King of the World
Up until America, the world was awash in kings and queens, and many many offspring of kings. Doesn’t take much digging to find a handful of kings in your backstory. It’s all about the backstory.
Most people are just too preoccupied to bother to look. Our American did bother, and learned much more than could ever have imagined…
ALL THAT NEED BE SAID
You are an average person anywhere on Earth. You want to be friendly. You, like most people, realize that life is easier for everybody, even you, if you are, generally, nice.
You have your people, and are not particularly interested in new friends, but would like to be able to say something positive to everyone you might happen upon. I am talking about the physical world now, and not social media, where different thoughts apply.
You will never need to know how to say: “What size panties do you wear?” or most words beyond eight syllables.
Hello. Hi. Thanks/Thank you. Please. Welcome. How are you? I am fine. Good day! Water? Yes! Food? Help? Bathroom? Good morning! Good afternoon! Good evening! Good night! Goodbye! Peace!
Bonjour. Salut. Merci merci. S'il te plaît. Bienvenue. Comment ca va? Je vais bien. Bonne journée! L'eau? Oui! Aliments? Aider? Salle de bain? Bonjour! Bon après-midi! Bonsoir! Bonne nuit! Au revoir! Paix!
You can navigate through other languages with the above link, but if not available, here are some which you may be able to figure out. They are secret keys that open up cultures.
Hola. Gracias. Por favor. Bienvenidos. ¿Cómo estás? Estoy bien. ¡Buenos días! ¿Agua? ¡Sí! ¿Comida? ¿Ayuda? ¿Baño? ¡Buenos dias! ¡Buena tarde! ¡Buenas noches! ¡Adiós! ¡Paz!
Ciao. Grazie. Per favore. Benvenuto. Come stai? Sto bene. Buona giornata! Acqua? Sì! Cibo? Aiuto? Bagno? Buon giorno! Buon pomeriggio! Buona serata! Buona notte! Arrivederci! La pace!
Olá. Obrigada. Por favor. Bem-vinda. Como você está? Estou bem. Dia bom! Água? Sim! Comida? Ajuda? Banheiro? Bom Dia! Boa tarde! Boa noite! Adeus! Paz!
Buna ziua. Mulțumesc. Vă rog. Bine ati venit. Ce mai faci? Sunt bine. O zi buna! Apă? Da! Alimente? Ajutor? Baie? Buna dimineata! Bună ziua! Bună seara! Noapte bună! La revedere! Pace!
Hallo. Danke. Bitte. Willkommen. Wie geht es dir? Mir geht's gut. Schönen Tag! Wasser? Jawohl! Essen? Hilfe? Badezimmer? Guten Morgen! Guten Tag! Guten Abend! Gute Nacht! Auf Wiedersehen! Frieden!
Hallo. Bedankt. Alstublieft. Welkom. Hoe is het met je? Het gaat prima met mij. Goededag! Water? Ja! Eten? Hulp? Badkamer? Goedemorgen! Goedemiddag! Goedenavond! Welterusten! Tot ziens! Vrede!
Hallo. Takk skal du ha. Vær så snill. Velkommen. Hvordan har du det? Jeg har det bra. God dag! Vann? Ja! Mat? Hjelp? Baderom? God morgen! God ettermiddag! God kveld! God natt! Ha det! Fred!
Hej. Tak skal du have. Vær venlig. Velkommen. Hvordan har du det? Jeg har det godt. God dag! Vand? Ja! Mad? Hjælp? Badeværelse? God morgen! God eftermiddag! God aften! Godnat! Farvel! Fred!
Hallå. Tack. Snälla du. Välkommen. Hur mår du? Jag mår bra. God dag! Vatten? ja! Mat? Hjälp? Badrum? God morgon! God eftermiddag! God kväll! Godnatt! Adjö! Fred!
Dia dhuit. Go raibh maith agat. Le do thoil. Fáilte. Conas tá tú? Táim togha. Lá maith! Uisce? Sea! Bia? Cabhrú? Seomra folctha? Maidin mhaith! Tráthnóna maith! Oíche mhaith! Slán! Síocháin!
Halò. Tapadh leat. Mas e do thoil e. Fàilte. Ciamar a tha thu? Tha mi ceart gu leòr. Latha math! Uisge? Tha! Biadh? Cuideachadh? Taigh-beag? Madainn mhath! Feasgar math! Oidhche mhath! Mar sin leat! Sìth!
Helo. Diolch. Os gwelwch yn dda. Croeso. Sut wyt ti? Dwi'n iawn. Diwrnod da! Dŵr? Ie! Bwyd? Help? Ystafell Ymolchi? Bore da! Prynhawn Da! Noswaith dda! Nos da! Hwyl fawr! Heddwch!
Kon'nichiwa. Arigatōgozaimashita. Onegaishimasu. Irasshaimase. Genkidesu ka? Watashi wa genkidesu. Yoi tsuitachi! Mizu? Hai! Tabemono? Herupu? Toire? Ohayōgozaimasu! Kon'nichiwa! Konbanwa! Oyasuminasai! Sayonara! Heiwa!
Nǐ hǎo. Xièxiè nǐ. Qǐng. Huānyíng. Nǐ hǎo ma? Wǒ hěn hǎo. Zàihuì! Shuǐ? Shì de! Shíwù? Bāngzhù? Yùshì? Zǎoshang hǎo! Xiàwǔ hǎo! (“Shallow Hal”) Wǎnshàng hǎo! Wǎn'ān! Zàijiàn! Hépíng!
namaskaar. dhanyavaad. krpaya. aapaka svaagat hai. kya haal hai? main theek hoon. achchha din! paanee? haan! bhojan? madad? snaanaghar? subah bakhair! namaskaar! susandhya! shubh raatri! alavida! Shaanti!
salamu. shukran liki. law samahtu. 'ahlan bika. kayf halika? 'ana bikhayrin. yawm jid! ma'? niema! taeami? yusaeidu? (“You say you do.”) dawrah almiahi? sabah alkhayra! masa' alkhayra! masa' alkhayri! tusbih ealaa khayri! mae alsalamati! Slam!
Halo. Terima kasih. Tolong. Selamat datang. Apa kabar? Saya baik-baik saja. Selamat tinggal! Air? (“Air” is their word for water.) Ya! Makanan? Membantu? Kamar mandi? Selamat pagi! Selamat siang! Selamat malam! (Not to be confused with Malan from another fine institution.) Selamat tinggal! Perdamaian!
Kamusta. Salamat. Pakiusap Maligayang pagdating Kumusta ka? Ayos lang ako. Magandang araw! Tubig? Oo! Pagkain? Tulong? Banyo? Magandang umaga! Magandang hapon! Magandang gabi! Paalam! Kapayapaan!
Halo. Asante. Tafadhali. Karibu. Habari yako? Sijambo. Siku njema! Maji? Ndio! Chakula? Msaada? Bafuni? Habari za asubuhi! Mchana mzuri! Habari za jioni! Usiku mwema! Kwaheri! Amani!
Having yet to learn patience, Bucky (the name he preferred when doing mischievous deeds) trebucheted himself forward enough to receive:
“Welcome to the Biltmore, and The Greater Society of Global Stewards, among whom you may count yourselves as Freshmembers.”
Those words kept ringing in Buck’s heart, and he could hardly believe he had made it to the end...or rather the beginning, anew. The end was, in word and deed, just the beginning.
THE END OF BOOK ONE
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