In Which Our Hero Offers Academic Assistance
Verily felt there was nothing that better repaid his debt to mankind than imparting nuggets of knowledge to those less intellectually evolved than he. However, out of necessity, Verily generally bestowed these little gifts of expertise sans explicit request, because the poor fools so often didn’t know they needed help until they’d already met with a fate worse than death: the Pass/D/Fail deadline.
And yet, there were those, like young Bona Baceolus, whose parents were blessed with greater foresight than their substandard offspring. Old Bruty B was a longtime polo teammate of Verily’s own excellent father, and during their last match (a nail-biter to the very end), Brutus the Bruiser had mentioned—with great apprehension—that his darling daughter might benefit from a few extended encounters with Verily’s academic brilliance.
So, not a moment too soon, here Verily stood, between the hand-carved twin peacocks flanking the entrance to the Baceoluses apartment, waiting for the doorbell to conclude its rendition of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.
An ancient man wearing a three-piece suit, a watch chain, and a name tag that read “Watson” answered the door, grunted in Verily’s general direction, climbed into the dumbwaiter near the entrance to the dining room, and vanished, after several agonized tugs on a crimson velvet rope.
There was stillness for a moment as Verily considered whether to proceed or to wait for further instructions, but then a great “HIIIIYAAA” tore through the air and a whirlwind of hair and noise came careening down from the cavernous ceiling. Verily threw himself to the ground in terror, glancing up apprehensively to discover that the chaos was, in fact, a ten-year-old girl swinging from a trapeze, currently hanging upside down with her head approximately six inches from Verily’s face.
“YOU’RE HERE TO TEACH ME!” she announced, rattling his teeth.
“Yes?” Verily gasped.
Arching her back impossibly far, Bona locked eyes with him, nose brushing his chin.
“I hate you,” she whispered murderously. Verily blinked.
After a moment locked in a silent standoff, Bona flipped herself upright to sit on the trapeze, and Verily scrambled to regain dignity.
“Something I intend to teach you about today,” Verily declared, smoothing his trousers, “is the danger of hyperbole. You do not hate me. You do not even know me. And besides, I am a consummate delight.”
From the ear-splitting shriek that Bona let out immediately following this declaration, Verily hypothesized that she had doubts about his reasoning.
Suddenly, Verily heard a woman’s voice like scissors slicing through paper: “Bona,” the matron Baceolus cautioned, “Sit down and behave for Verily.”
Bona obeyed. The matron glided out in a billowing Prada perfume cloud, and Verily seated himself across from Bona and began to teach.
“So, Mademoiselle Bona, I hear you’ve begun some basic physics in your science courses. Let us begin by constructing a pulley system, and I can instruct you on the nature of the forces at play.” From his briefcase, Verily produced a length of rope, four small weights, and several other tools for pulley construction.
“No.” Bona said flatly, staring at Verily with soulless eyes.
“Ah, Bona, it’s quite natural to be hesitant, I daresay. To ease your mind, I shall construct the pulley in the first instance, and then you can replicate my work with different weights.” As he spoke, Verily had been preoccupied with his materials, so he was surprised to find, upon looking up, that Bona had disappeared.
“Bon—” Verily began, only to feel a jerk on his ankle so forceful that he was flipped upside down, dangling by one leg from a rope that Bona had somehow tied around him as he spoke. She stood solidly on the floor, at the other end of the rope, laughing maniacally.
“How?! What?!” Verily spluttered, flailing about and catching sight of a ceiling-mounted wheel over which Bona had pitched her rope.
“I demand you release me this instant!” Verily bellowed.
“Never!” Bona replied, and Verily realized that he needed to shift tactics.
“You’ve made a pulley!” Verily announced. Despite Bona’s stunned expression, he added heroically, “If I must be victimized by science to advance your knowledge, so it shall be!”
With a thud, Bona released him. He crashed to the ground and lay in a crumpled heap on the floor.
“Shall we progress to literature?” Verily groaned, rolling (gracefully) into a standing position.
Bona bounded over to sit cross-legged on the tabletop and regarded Verily as she might look at a mildly interesting squirrel.
Verily, a firm believer in teaching literacy beyond one’s grade level, had not reviewed the texts that Bona’s so-called teachers had provided.
“We shall begin our literary study today with the building block of all great literature,” Verily paused for dramatic effect: “Iambic pentameter.”
“The key to iambic pentameter,” Verily began, “is its whimsical, bouncing rhythm. Regard me, Bona. ‘Two households, both alike in dignity.’ Observe the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables.”
Bona puffed her chest out, looking down her nose at Verily. And then, primly: “Would thou wert clean enough to spit upon.”
Verily gaped. “Wherefore have you encountered that phrase? To flawlessly quote Timon of Athens at your tender age! Extraordinary!”
And then, to add insult to injury, Bona bit her thumb in his direction!
“I know it because it’s a sick burn, Double V!”
“Shakespeare is positively saturated with sick burns, Bona!” Verily replied eagerly. “Let us analyze the meter of some of the—most profoundly ailing flame-wounds!”
But alas, at realizing that she had inspired hope in Verily, Bona lost interest in Elizabethan insults and turned her attention to drawing enormous lines over the marble floor with scarlet chalk.
“Covering many subjects, I see. On we go to geometry. Could you perchance enlighten me as to the shape you are drawing? I shall measure the angles.”
Bona’s face, as she regarded him, was the calmest he’d seen it, until she roughly shoved him into the center of her mysterious shape and said, voice dripping with wicked glee, “It’s a pentagram, Double V! I finally have an assistant for a demon summoning!”
Verily gasped in abject horror: “Bona, you cannot possibly be serious! I am a tutor, I am no satanic accomplice!”
“My father said you could help me with whatever I needed, and as you can see, I need no help with physics or iambs or anything else you could teach me.”
“Ay, me! I am the victim of this shrew’s plot!” Verily screeched, falling to his knees and wringing his hands.
“By the pricking of my thumbs, Double V, something wicked this way comes.”