Twenty-Four

"Excuse me," said the witch. "Are you the new king or are you the boy?"

"They said you asked them to send me first," said Brian. "Can't you see me for yourself?"

"No," said the witch whose eyes were pink. "I can't see very well at all. Give me your hand. No, your finger's too puny. Six weeks in the cage will fatten you up."

"You can't eat me," said Brian. "That's cannibalism."

"I'm a witch," she said. "Eating you don't make me a cannibal. It makes me a carnivore."

"Release the boy, Little Eva," said Mimbleshaw. "He is a guest of the King."

"What?" she said. "Allow the filthy little beast to run loose in my kitchen. To whimper from where I can't see. To touch things when it's time to watch me stories. When we got a perfectly functional cage all idle and empty."

"I share your outrage," said Mimbleshaw. "I revise an opera in my spare time."

"Please, Your Majesty," said the witch as Spot arrived. "I strongly recommend you reconsider eating the boy. This island ain't got no human population. Children have to be shipped in if we are to dine on them."

"Sacre bleu," said Spot. "The children must be shipped in? How can this be? Fire up the grill."

"Hey," said Brian.

"Ah ha ha?" said Spot. "You mean Monsieur le Brian? No, no. Take not the skillet. Boil not the oil. We will cook not Monsieur le Brian. So I may continue to splash and laugh on him as he gives the bath. We have the relationship, you see."

Gentle Reader, should you find yourself in only the company of riff raff — such as witches, insolent chimps, and the dogs who take their dedication — pray. Pray to keep safe Heaven's stranded children from what they know.