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Chapter 3

     The Story The Authors
Muff Potter stared at his plate, mouth agape and frozen in horror. The nausea began to well up from deep inside his bowls and he clamped his hand over his mouth. It was bad enough to see the grubs on his plate, he couldn't bear to see partially digested bits coming out of his own mouth. Why, oh why did he come down into this hole the first place? But deep in his wretched heart he knew that his whole pathetic existence would culminate in a moment like this. Tears welled in his eyes. He broke out in a cold sweat and began to hyperventilate. He heard a click click click thunk click click behind him, the unmistakable footsteps of Gregor, the cockroach with a wooden leg.
"And how is Monsieur enjoyink his meal?" the insect asked.
Muff could no longer hold back the tide of nausea and with gut wrenching heave, he emptied the contents of his stomach back onto his plate, onto his table and onto Gregor's shiny patent leather shoes.
Instantly Gregor's shoes had been engulfed by a frantic tide of small, translucent, adolescent cockroaches. Horrible, slobbery sounds of licking ensued. "My brood," said Gregor proudly as they dispersed as quickly as they'd arrived. His shoes, of course, were now spotless. Philip
The resultant heave brought further samplings of the contents of Potter's stomach roiling across the table. He emitted a series of high whiney squeaks as Gregor's multitudinous offspring scrabbled up his legs and across his lap and over the stinking tablecloth, fighting each other over the large chunks. On stage, a trio of shapely caterpillars, dressed a la Carmen Miranda, crooned sweetly to a hot Latin beat.

Cotton farmers may think 'evil'
When they see a boll weevil
But even Evel Knievel
Couldn't possibly leap
Over this hocus pocus
Infinite plagues of locusts
But when you shake your ovi-posi-tor
I fall in a heap...

"Monsieur!" Gregor said in his most haughty voice. "I am afraid I must ask you to leaf."
The old drunk wiped his mouth on his shirt sleeve, stumbled to his feet and staggered back out to the dark hallway where he fell to his knees and vomited again.
"Humans," spat Gregor as Potter bumbled away. "Zey are worse zan ze Germans and ze Americans. Zey do not know how to tip, zey do not know how eat, and zey do not know how to make ze luff. Ptooey!"

Meanwhile, back out in the hallway, Geraldine was awakening from her post-glossolaliac sleep with a staggering headache. The inside of her mouth tasted like the bottom of an old tennis shoe. Adam was still snoring, and Assistant principal Hadley was nowhere to be seen. Where in Hades are we? she wondered, squinting to make out distinct features in the gloaming gloom of the place. "My name is Geraldine," she sad sadly. "So don't call me asparagus."

Wearily she picked herself up and with a steadying arm against the tunnel wall began to make her way back to where it had all started. She called out Adam's name. Hollow echoes fled from her into the blackness. First Hadley and now Adam too. She began to cry.
In another part of the tunnels Assistant Principal Hadley was encountering problems of his own. Knowing how easy it would be to get lost in the complex maze of caverns he had taken off in search of the others leaving behind a small trail of bagel crumbs to follow back. Unfortunately he was rapidly running out of bagel. Not too mention the strange scurrying he seemed to hear all around him. His flashlight would seem to occasionally catch the tiny yellow glow of eyes in the corners sometimes but before they could even register as anything they would be gone. He gulped and carried on.
As he walked, he couldn't shake the feeling that he was being watched. Yet all he heard was the sound of his footfalls scraping against the dirt and rocks of the tunnel floor. Soon the bagel would be gone and all he would have left was the lox. And there was no way he was going to waste Zabar's finest nova on a trail, even if it meant the difference between being lost and finding his way back to the surface. As he was lost in his smoked salmon induced reverie, a sound intruded from behind -- soft, like a whisper, yet hissing like gas escaping from a valve. Assistant Principal Hadley stopped. Swinging around, he raised the quivering flashlight and shined the beam into the dark distance. It returned the reflection of two sets of glowing, yellow eyes, growing ever nearer. He froze in terror. The beam was fixed on the approaching shapes, growing more defined as they crept closer. And as they did, the whispers took on the form of words:
Bagels for breakfast
Bagels for lunch
We long for bagels
Bagels by the bunch

Onion and garlic
Poppy and plain
Egg, salt, and everything
We eat them again

And then they were upon him. Small, unkempt creatures they were. Years of living underground had left them with pale skin, almost transluscent. They were dressed in torn, black rags with shredded white shawls draped over their shoulders. Long, filthy black beards covered their faces and deepened the shadows around their eyes, making their yellow glow that much more intense and unearthly. Assistant Principal Hadley noticed that they were both wearing small beanies on their heads, each with a strange six-pointed star on top. He could smell their fetid breath as they drew within a few feet of him. And then, the one closest to him raised a clawed hand and pointed a scrawney finger at him, accusingly, and hissed, "We smells it! We smells it! Give us the lox! Give us the lox!"

Abe Frohman
Assistant Principal Hadley had seen many strange things in his years of acedemia. At that moment all his experience came together and he knew what these foul creatures were. He knew what they had to be. Yes, they were the dreaded Bagel Gnomes! Often wispered about in the cafeteria during breakfast. Whenever someone's bagel was missing, most knew the bagel gnomes were there! The smell of lox can draw a bagel gnome out from miles of their subterranian tunnels. Being the conservative that he was, Hadley never believed these tails. They would be his down fall! Was his life worth the price of this imported smoked nova lox? It would have to be. So he had an idea. Paul
Stripping naked and covering himself in lox scent, he began to dance about. Upon smelling such strong scent, the gnomes raced toward Hadley. When they arrived, out of breath and sweaty, they saw up close what had been giving off the smell. Upon seeing said sight, one unclothed conservative Principal Hadley, most appeared to die promptly, falling over with a strange twitching and heaving. The others began to babble and shriek as if they went insane or were so frightened that they would never return to steal bagels again. Hadley was most proud of himself, and began to dance naked for what seemed like hours, something he'd always wanted to do in the cafeteria. He then began to realize something about himself; he liked being naked! How, though, might he remain both naked and Principal? There's the problem. Plas Matics
He decided he couldnt do that and he would only be naked in his own time, however, he was naked now. He hid his shame and ran off before anyone saw him Kelly Briggs
Hadley took a step back, making for the way he had come, but the bagel gnomes had him surrounded. "Be a Mensch and give us the lox and no one gets hurt" croaked the creature nearest him. "A little nosch is all we ask." Assistant Principal Hadley began to sputter a protest. "tsk tsk tsk This is how you would treat us? Oy Vey! We ask politely for you to share your Nova and you bubber like an idiot. The Lox, please. See? I'm asking nicely." They began to close on him. "Isaac, Abraham, help the gentile." Instantly the ragged little gnomes were on Hadley and clawing at his pockets until they had wrested the lightly smoked fishy goodness from them. "See? Now was that so hard?" Lanark
With still more similarly formless thoughts, inspired by the oungent odor of the precious lox (not to mention an insipidly precise hankering for Zabar's whitefish salad) Assistant Principal Hadley ran giggling down the dark maw of the nearest tunnel, leaving behind the mad chirruping of the Bagel Gnomes as they tore his clothes to shreds, fighting each other and the tough fabric to get to the hidden whereabouts of the smoked salmon ("Heh, heh, heh," thought Assistant Principal Hadley; "The hidden vest pocket trick always gets 'em...")
The grunts and squeals of the feeding frenzy faded behind him as he raced deeper into the tunnel. He felt as if he'd shed years along with his garments... It felt good to be naked, damnit! And to get the ol' juices pumping through this body again. Vitality! Nectar of the gods! He felt like he could keep running forever.
He stumbled into a large room and fell to the floor. In this large room was an almost equally as large Queen Bagel Gnome. She looked down on him and smiled gleefully. His terror was relieved when the King Bagel Gnome returned to the room and put a long rusty sword to his skinny chicken neck. Hadley was then bound and gagged and taken to the main dinning hall, where it apeared he would be the main course! Hadley thought, damn, I wish I could get the smell of nova lox off of me. Mom always said my poor eating habits would be my downfall, but this. Eaten by bagel gnomes as a lox-kabob. It just couldn't be! Paul
"Hey there, big boy," whispered a gruff but unmistakeably feminine voice in his ear. The voice was followed by good heavens, the moist tip of a tongue. On top of that a giggle. "Psst, my name is Geraldine," it said. "So don't call me juvenile delinquent." Philip
She slipped a knife from her pocket and began to saw at Hadley's bonds. The Bagel Gnomes had tied him so tightly and so thoroughly he couldn't even turn his head to see her. "Yeek!" he yelped as she accidentally nicked him with the knife-blade. "Sssshhh," she hissed back. "We have to hurry. They're in the kitchen right deliberating on just what the best way to cook you will be. I myself favor live roasting over a slow fire, after the mess you got Adam and I into, Assistant Principal Hadley. Vlad the Impaler favored that particular method as the roastee could often be kept alive for days in a state of unspeakable agony. Tenderizing his own meat, you might say..."
"Just finish cutting those confounded bonds and let's get out of here, Geraldine!"
"That's right. My name is Geraldine. So don't call me Amaranthus." She cut the last cords binding his ankles and pushed him down off the table. Already approaching voices could be heard.
"Here," Geraldine whispered tersely. "For God's sake, cover yourself up!" She grabbed the white table cloth off the table and handed it to Hadley who proceeded to wrap it about himself like a toga. "This way, quickly."
"Stop!" called the King Bagel Gnome. "That's our breakfast you're running off with!"
"My name is Assistant Principal Hadley so don't call me breakfast!"
Geraldine and Hadley broke into a run, heading down the first passageway they came to. The bagel gnomes followed.
"God, you smell like lox." Geraldine said as they ran, keeping just ahead of their pursuers. "Will never ditch these fuckers as long as you smell like that!"
"Language!" the assistant principal admonished.
"Language aside, we have to get rid of that smell."
"Well, I'd love to take a nice hot shower right now but I don't think it's very practical."
"Oy! Come back with our breakfast!" cried the gnomes.
"No, we have to cover the smell with something else."
"Like what?" the principal asked.
"Like shit." Geraldine answered.
"like what?!"
"Shit! There must be bats living in these caves somewhere. We can rub guano all over you."
"I don't think so!"
"You got any better ideas?"
"Breakfast! Give us back our breakfast!"
"No, I mean I don't think there are any bats down here."
"Then you'll have to use your own!"
"Oh God!"
"It's that or be eaten by those little monsters!" The two ducked into an alcove and Mr. Hadley quickly squatted and deficated into his own hand, just like the monkeys at the zoo. He suppressed his gag reflex as he smeared the stuff all over his body. The gnomes, having lost the scent of the lox, ran right by them without so much as a sideways glance.
"Damn! We were nearly caught," said Mr. Huxley. I smell like crap!" "Well, be careful next time." Geraldine found herself in a peculiar frame of mind. Here she was cowering in a narrow alcove of a dark cavernous hallway of an underground tunnel with the principal of her school who was crouching naked next to her and had recently covered himself in his own feces. Although the smell was overwhelming, the intensity subsided as the seconds had passed and her olfactory system acclimated. She began to giggle. Huxley realizing his predicament tried to blunt the peculiars of the situation by distracting her with conversation. As the excitement of the recent chase subsided, Geraldine found herself swept with fatigue and confusion.

Geraldine woke up...

Still where she'd been before; oh, how she wished the 'guano' were a dream, but alas, it was still coating his (Mr. Huxley's) body. He seemed tired. Sleeping the night coated in his on filth hadn't helped him. He hadn't slept.

At the same time that Geraldine was opening her eyes and nose to the disgusting sight and even more disgusting smell of Assistant Principal Hadley covered in his own excrement, a previously unconscious Adam was opening his senses to the equally unpleasant olfactory experience presented by Potter, who lay face-down and snoring in a pool of his own vomit. Philip
Potter groaned in some bourbon-induced nightmare and retched again as Adam rose, stretched, yawned, and clothespinned his nose. Philip
"We gotta find you some water or something to get you cleaned up. (Not to mention clothes"
For the first time Assistant Principal Hadley became fully aware of his near nakedness in the proximity of an underage student of his. This was not the sort of thing that couldbe easily explained away to a group of glowering P.T.A. parents. He could probably get awawy with being covered in his own shit. But...
Adam looked around the debris-strewn chamber. No Geraldine. Where in god's name was that girl? He tightened the clothespin on his nose and went over to where Potter lay in his upchuckity sleep. He nudged the pale prone figure with the toe of his desert boot. "HEY, OLD SOUSE, WAKE UP."
Potter answered with a groan. "GRUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUBS," He moaned in his sleep. "NO MORE GRUUUUUUUUUUUUBBBBBBSSSSSSSSSSS!"
This last remark cut through potter's sleep like a hot knife through head-cheese, and instantly he was on his feet, clinging to adam's upper arm and looking wild-eyed around the floor. "NO WORMS!" He stammered. "Please, sir! Let me come with you!"
"only if you let me ride piggy-back," replied adam... And so, astride his new mount ("mush, old timer!") Away into the tunnels they galloped.
It wasn't long before Muff was completely exhausted. He stopped and dropped Adam off of his back. Adam would have climbed back on but Muff had dropped to the floor breathing heavily and clutching his chest.
"C'mon, old man, let's keep moving."
"Please," Muff panted. "!"
"I haven't got time to waste on you, old man." Adam sniffed the stale air. "What is that smell?"
Muff Potter sniffed the air. "Smells like-" Muff sniffed again. "Smells like Assistant Principal Hadley smeared himself with lox and then tried to cover up that smell with his own feces. It's coming from that direction." Muff pointed in the direction they were already heading.
"Then let's get going." Adam, realizing that Muff Potter's remarkable olfactory aptitude may be of some advantage in the future, helped the old souse to his feet and they continued down the tunnel towards the smell.
Perhaps a hundred yards down the tunnel, a large patch of phosphorescent lichen growing up the wall illuminated a large, bulbous shape lying on the tunnel floor and looking (from that distance) for all the world like a deflated size 37 air-elephant... The horrid olfactory broth in which were monstrously co-mingled rancid smoked salmon with the excrement of a middle-aged man whose diet consisted almost solely of red meat, cheap vodka, salted snack treats, and saturated fats grew ever more pungent as they approached the heaped, mysterious shape on the floor, and as the light grew stronger they could see a familiar lapel, a familiar tie...
"Assistant Principal Hadley!" shouted Potter, and ran, choking, stumbling and sobbing towards the prone shape on the floor...
But it was only his clothes, the last shred of salmon pried from between the stitches of their inner pocket of his vest and the hidden compartment beneath the swivel heel of his left oxford. The Bagel Gnomes (of whose existence Adam and Potter as yet knew absolutely nothing) had abandoned the garments in a pile of poop which had flaked off Assistant Principal Hadley's naked back as he and Geraldine fled down the tunnel.
"What the hell do we do next?" said Adam...
Potter was about to respond in the Comcomitantly Indecisive when from the floor there arose the familiar (to Potter, at least) Gallic squeak of a voice from the floor...
"I sink you comm to see ze boo-lesque show, non?" Gregor stepped into the phosphorescent light.. Potter screamed and fainted atop the foul mess of Assistant Principal Hadley's garments.
Adam was quite astonished to see a talking cockroach dressed in top hat and tails, carrying a cane and wearing shiny patent leather shoes on 5 of his good feet with the sixth leg being wooden.
"Wot are you lookink at, peasant boy?"
Adam was just about to squash the bug under his own shoe, but instead scooped up the bug and stuffed him into a match box he'd been carrying in his pocket. With the insectile Parisian stowed safely in the matchbox in his pocket, he shoved Muff Potter aside and examined Hadley's pile of clothes, trying to determine what became of the man who formerly inhabited them.
Now [he thought to himself] Buster Keaton's 3 rules for detectives in Young Sherlock Holmes were... but the thought dribbled away there. He couldn't remember. Something to do with... clues! Ah, yes, search for conspicuous clues... Hmmm... Well, besides the truly, truly radically rancid odor emanating from the lining of an even cheaper suit than I would have suspected Assistant Principal Hadley of (worse even than a pair of door-to-door Mormons' suits) besides that, one finds... claw marks! In the lining! Oh golly, dude, this is like, worse than I imagined. Eaten by badgers, fuckin' A! But wait... what're these... um, dude, uh... uh... wait, it's coming to me... bagel crumbs! Christ, what I'd give for a bagel right now, dude, it's been so long since I've eaten it's like I have the munchies from too much a the ol' kind bud... Alright, now, let's see if the dude's wallet is still here...
It was at this point in his reverie that the high squeaky voice issued from the matchbox in in Adam's pocket. "I advise you to look een zee vest pocket, Monsieur."
Startled, I looked around. No one was about, and I knew I hadn't made up the voice as I had recently had a cat scan proving me sane, so who (or what) had just given me advice? "If you do not like my advice, den I dink that you maybe have better idea, no?" said the voice again. "What in the hell..."I muttered, utterly confused. However, in my line of profession, nothing is overruled. So, hesitantly, I pulled the pocket lining out, and with the matchbook in hand I slowly opened it. Hyprgrl
My GOD! It was the Golden Fingernail of DOOM! Right there in my hand! I panicked. jonk
Adam leapt back as if from a striking snake. Gregor snickered. "Heh heh heh. I learn zees treek from my fazzer. Doan worry, Monsieur, you veesion weel be restored een a few meenutes. In zee meantime, however, I seenk zat now I have you undeevided atten-see-own, oui?" Philip
"Yu most comm to zee ahjalad een orderr to condinue!"
"The what?" exclaimed Adam.
"Zee ahjalad."
"What's an ahjalad?"
"Dond be zilly. All Ajgashes know about zee ahjalad!"
Geraldine was puzzled. "My name is Geraldine so don't call me ajgash."

...Oh, how much Adam missed Geraldine then, and so mad was he at Gregor for impersonating her voice that way, that he snatched Assistant Principal Hadley's left oxford from the pile of his clothing and made as if to squash Gregor. "Wretched cockroach of doom!" he spat. "Prepare to be flattened."
"Non, non, pardon, pardon, monsieur!" begged Gregor. "Spare me and I weel take you and you sleeping friend to le jeune femme. I know where zee Bagel Gnomes are keepink her."
Adam rubbed his eyes, his vision finally returning to him. Gregor regarded him curiously, with a tinge of amusement skewing his mandibles slightly leftward; mischief was not a quality Adam was accustomed to associating with cockroaches, and yet this one (look at him; waxing his fucking moustaches, the vain little bugger!) had already tricked him not once but twice in the span of five minutes. The little red light that read DO NOT TRUST was blinking on and off in Adam's head. But the other little red light in his heart that read GERALDINE was blinking faster, and brighter. "Alright," he told Gregor, tossing Assistant Principal Hadley's shoe aside; "Where is she?"
Gregor cleared his thorax and began:
"'Will you walk a little faster?' said a whiting to a snail,
'There's a porpoise close behind us, and he's treading on my tail." sang Gregor, tapping his wooden leg to keep the beat.
"See how eagerly the lobsters and the turtles all advance!
They are waiting on the shingle - will you come and join the dance?
Will you, won't you, will you, won't you, will you join the dance?"
Adam picked up Hadley's shoe and was about to finish off the cheeky little insect once and for all.
"Stop!" shouted Gregor and Adam stopped. "I apologize! Zometimes I just cannot help myself. Wake up your pickled friend and follow me!"
At this oblique reference to his vomit- (and now excrement- and lox- as well) smelling personage, Potter rolled over in his bourbon stupor and vomited yet once more, the stinking tide of which threatened to bulldoze Gregor under. "Sacre blue!" squealed the little cockroach, scurrying in terror up Adam's pantleg. "Ess like ze Germans in ze Franco-Prussian War..." He hauled himself up onto Adam's shoulder, lengthy antennae tickling the boy's nostrils. "Voila. Zat ees better. So long as you do not make ze up-chuck, Gregor ees safe." Philip
"Gee," muttered Muff, "I could have sworn Geraldine had been with us. Maybe I'm starting to hallucinate. That's it! I have a fever. That's why I've been throwing up and hallucinating."
"Az I vas zaying," continued Gregor, "zey are keeping Geraldin in zee ahjalad."
"What?" asked Adam in surprise.
"Oh, ve have been through zis beforre! But zis time I vill dell you zee whole truth. Zee ahjalad is zee place where ze Bagelle Gnoms keep their ahjrahs!"
"What's an ahjrah?" asked Adam, still very confused.
"Oh! Eet iz zo terrible zat I cannot bring myself to zay it! Ve must hurry now bevore it is too late! To zee ahjalad!"