|The Story||The Authors|
|The shrapnel lolled sleepily on its back in the light swells and gazed up lazily at the sky. Its tiny metal mind wandered over the course of its existence up to this point and decided that it really rathered needed a vacation. This could be it. It yawned. The gentle ocean current propelled the easy weight of the shrapnel along with it and for hours and hours. The tolling of the bell receded deep into the distance and the shrapnel dozed. A few curious gulls swooped and skimmed the surface of the sea investigating the shrapnel. They seemed to deem it inedible and wheeled of in search of pilchards and young herings. The shrapnel knew that the presence of the birds meant that land of some sort was nearby and presently there appeared a small hump of sand in the middle of the vast and horizonless sea. It was occupied. On either end of the sandy lump sat a small bronzed and hairy little man staring out in opposite directions. They seemed to be purposefully ignoring one another. Strewn about their shelterless island were the remains of a large number of sea tortoises torn apart by bare hands and devoured raw. It was not a pleasant sight but land was land and the shrapnel was tiring of its drifting so it lazily made its way toward the island.|
As the shrapnel surfed into shore, the two figures bookending the tiny cay came gradually into focus.|
The tattered remains of their uniformly black clothing -- boots of Spanish leather, cheap imitation Zorro suits, Transylvanian capes, and floppy black hats like the wings of alcoholic gutter-ravens -- reminded the shrapnel of something he couldn't qquite place.
He hauled himself up onto the beach. "Ahem," he cleared his throat, rising to his full height. "Er, gentlemen, um, forgive me for, er, disturbing your, er, solitude. Allow me to introduce myself: my name is Shrapnel Q. Shrapnel, but you may call me Shrap. Everyone does."
The two figures fixed him in their equally hostile glares, saying nothing.
Shrap looked from one to the other, suppressing the urge to start giggling, they were so silly. Just like those stubborn Tweedles, Dee and Dum.
And then -- like a bolt from the blue of his memory -- it came to him, where he'd seen these two seedy characters before. But of course! The nineteenth century's hallmark villains and confidence-tricksters! From edge to edge of the Republic they'd left their nefarious trail of deceit, tomfoolery, and folderol -- now reduced to squabbling on an island in poor, bloating Vashondra's stomach -- none of there than -- Dastardly Dan and Injun Joe!!