Twenty-One

On their way to confront Tuffy, Brian, Spot, and Mimbleshaw encountered Scooter on his way to leaving. Scooter would not have stayed dry had Brian's parents not surrendered to the circus dupes. He told Brian they should retrieve from Tuffy the key to the cage that held Brian's parents. Even more importantly, they should retrieve from Tuffy the crown and magic bag. To help them do this, Scooter agreed to trade clothes with Brian and give him his slapstick face.

"Magic what?" said Brian.

"A paradox," said Scooter, "is a fact that sounds like nonsense when you say it, even if it's true."

"Like the menace of the meow-meows that fall and still live?" said Spot.

"More like how boiling an egg too long only makes it powdery," said Scooter.

"Or like how toast falls onto the side with the butter?" said Brian.

"My point," said Scooter, "is that if all we had were to think our way through life, we would never be sure from all our dithering to have seen a sunrise. Then we would have no idea how to feel safe anymore. And we wouldn't be able to stop the thoughtless strangers happy to help us stay that way. Like how a handful of bearded riders can conquer a civilization of millions of people. You can't think your way to dedication. To fulfill the trust given to us by love and by misfortune. To service."

"Like how the postal carriers return even when I teach them only to flee?" said Spot.

"All you have to remember tonight is the bag," said Scooter. "The bag is how Tuffy never failed to remove Spot from our performances. You'll see."

"But Scooter," said Brian. "Why haven't you left before now?"

"Our princess rescue story was sweet," said Scooter. "And we never failed to draw a crowd. But without trust, privilege is only a dead thing for misers to hoard and keep score with. So when we should have trusted in a good thing, we instead needed it. Old Tuffy and his rage. Me too comfortable hanging on for too long. Everyone else had the sense to take off on their own. But the older you get, the more practice you have with your old set of habits. Then the more trust it takes to believe you'll ever come across anything good again by starting over."

"Au revoir, Monsieur le Hobbit Clown," said Spot. "Always stay the wise old owl. To make the most of the short little arms and legs. Now go before I can no longer resist the urge to bite the adorable and teeny hobbit clown cheeks."