Ravens, Wrens, and Writing Desks (Jack and the Genre-nauts, Act 4)

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“Welcome, one and all,” says Will Scarlet, with a broad smile and a bow, “to Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre!”

“Every Saturday,” says Allyn-a-Dale, “Will and I and our friends from the story world of ‘The Outlaws of Avalon ’ trilogy—”

“Coming one of these days to a book retailer near you!”

“—Will take at random two of the suggestions gleaned from you, our gentle audience, and incorporate them into… well, the sort of tomfoolery Will calls entertainment.”

“So make yourselves comfortable,” says Will, “as we now present to you: ‘Ravens, Wrens, and Writing Desks’!”

<<<>>>

[The curtain rises on a jungle scene all wet and green, steam rising from the grasses below, water dripping from the broad leaves and vines of prop trees. Making their leisurely way through the fake underbrush are Allyn-a-Dale as Jack Snow and Will Scarlet as the Mad Hatter – both carrying hiking gear, the latter dressed up in khaki shorts and a pith helmet.]

Will/Hatter [in an exaggeratedly bad Australian accent ]: Previously in our genre-hopping adventure, we’ve explored the idyllic bed and breakfasts of Hobbiton, New Zealand, and the rugged, dragon-ridden Lonely Mountain. Today, our travels bring us to the wilds of a primeval rainforest!

Allyn/Jack [slapping at biting insects ]: A rainforest even remotely on the way to the North Pole?

Will/Hatter: Sure, sure, all in good— Jiminy Crikey!

[Will comes to an abrupt halt, leaving Allyn behind him no time to do anything but crash into his back. Unbothered, Will points to some high spot beyond the audience’s view.]

Will/Hatter: Why, it’s a gold-crested, tiny-winy thingummy bird!

Allyn/Jack [peering upward ]: That’s a wren.

Will/Hatter: Right, same difference. Extremely rare, those! Next to never seen in these parts!

Either a Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) or a Gold-Crested, Tiny-Winy Thingummy (Aviarus nosuchthingus). Hard to tell for sure.

Either a Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) or a Gold-Crested, Tiny-Winy Thingummy (Aviarus nosuchthingus). Hard to tell for sure.

Allyn/Jack: Actually, their various species occur in a wide range of habitats, with many preferring Neotropical regions like this.

Will/Hatter [tossing an irritated look over his shoulder ]: Fancy yourself an expert, do you?

Allyn/Jack: I grew up in a forest. I’ve also spent a great deal of time getting dragged around by loons and cuckoos. [pointed look at will ] So yes, I’m familiar with several common birds.

Voice from Above: Common? Nothing common about me!

[With a flutter, Robin Hood drops down onto the stage, a golden circlet on his head, and wearing a great kilt made of feathers of every shape, size, color, and ornithological species of origin.]

Will/Hatter: Ha! What’d I tell you? Gold-crested, tiny-winy thingummy. Sometimes appears like a wren, sometimes takes the shape of a hooded robin. Native to Scotland.

Robin/Bird King: Nothing of the kind. [poses grandly ] I am Raasuii, the Bird King, god of every feathered creature, great and small.

Allyn/Jack: Shapeshifting animal gods? Hatter, do you realize how far off course you’ve led me? This is the jungle of the Abishan!

Will/Hatter: What, that genie you met in the Fairytale Forest during that other adventure of yours?

Robin/Bird King: Genie? Far more than that! The great Abishan is lord over all in this jungle, even his fellow immortals. There are none with more power than he! …Well, maybe one.

Will/Hatter: What one? Which one? Does it start with the letter “M”?

Robin/Bird King: No. Perhaps you will encounter her in your travels. This jungle is, after all, lately part of her domain. But now, it is best you departed this place. There are creatures here less likely than I to see you as anything more than a meal. Even I might be tempted to do you ill if you don’t offer me any incentive not to, hint, hint.

Allyn/Jack: Oh. An offering. Of course. [reaches back into knapsack and withdraws a small pastry ] Perhaps you’d like a snack pie. A number of birds enjoy apple, yes?

Will/Hatter: Mm, pie for dinner. And I’ll throw in a riddle for dessert! This one’s in your honor, your birdship: Why is a raven like a writing desk?

Robin/Bird King: Why?

Will/Hatter: Why else?

Allyn/Jack: What??

Will/Hatter: Exactly. Come on, Jack! Things to go, places to see, people to do! Cheerio, Bird King!

[Will drags Allyn away, Allyn tossing the apple pie into Robin’s hands before vanishing offstage. Robin stands blinking at the audience in shock for a long beat of silence.]

Robin/Bird King: I don’t think that man is flying with a full wingspan.

<<<>>>

“Aaaand SCENE!” says Will.

“Thank you to audience members Miranda McNeff and Chelsea de la Cruz,” says Allyn, “for providing us with the inspiration ‘a wren’ and ‘apple pie’.”

“If you enjoyed yourselves,” Will says, “(or if you didn’t, but you totally did, right?), don’t forget to leave suggestions for future productions in the comments! Words or phrases we’ve got to include, a prop to use, a prompt to run with… anything goes! ‘Til next time, friends:  Will and Allyn out!”

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