mildredandstella.com

The Secret Subway

OVERVIEW


Zachary and his teacher Valerie travel to Crystal City as Mr. Maynard's proxies and meet Bidrix, their wily Parliamentary Clerk. Zachary champions rights for sprites and gremlins against improbable odds and Bidrix offers to help them. Zachary encounters Loeticia, Georgette's cunning sister, who tries to steel him away, and his own personal lady luck, Lois, who succeeds. Plus the usual mayhem and fireworks on All Hallows and Mid Winter and new mayhem on Constitution Day.

Chapter 1 - Subway Rules

One morning when they were having supper and Zachary was having breakfast, Mildred & Stella drew themselves up and gritted their teeth and told Zachary they had something very important to tell him about the secret subway. So Zachary told them it was just like Big Hat and he wasn't to go anywhere on his own ever because kids always needed a grown-up around to help.


Chapter 2 - The Arbor
The following Saturday morning was warm and windy and Zachary and Chocho were on their way to meet Sarah & Tracy in the lane for their regular play-date. But when they got to Mildred & Stella's back gate they were amazed to find something new on the other side of the hedge in the lane. It looked like the wooden frame of a hut with a big shaggy bush growing on top.


Chapter 3 - Mildred & Stella's Alarm Clock
But then the alarm clock began to take no notice of "church bells in the distance" and got stuck on "pond full of frogs", and wouldn't let him change it. That was when Zachary discovered that his MyPhone had an alarm clock prog and he set the prog to wake him up instead. It worked the first morning but after that Zachary discovered that while he could set the prog at night, someone else had always unset it by morning.


Chapter 4 - Of Sprites & Gremlins
Finally one evening in August, as they were going to bed and Zachary was feeding the sprites, the alarm clock went off with a drum roll, and suddenly all the sprites came together into a rolling ball and formed a shape. It was a grumpy little man with a beard and he nodded and winked at Zachary - and Zachary clapped his hands and laughed in delight.


Chapter 5 - The Parliamentary Services Administration
The squid had a beard so Zachary thought the squid was male, and he had a great big mean beak. He was fearsome indeed and it was easy to see why people who didn't know he was a parliamentary clerk might be frightened out of their wits.


Chapter 6 - All Hallows II: the Flight of Fancy
Everyone was laughing and cheering as he directed them into Mr. Maynard's garden and Muriel's kitchen and everything seemed to be going so well - when suddenly Zachary felt himself being lifted up by his arms - and then he was hovering ten feet in the air. Down below his friends and their families and the neighbors on the ground were all laughing and cheering as Zachary flew back and forth across the garden and everyone wondered how Mildred & Stella did it and said it must be hooks & wires but they couldn't see them.


Chapter 7 - The World Shield
The longer the night went on, the colder it got, the heavier the rain drove down, the more the living ran away into the shelter of the stands, and the more the dead hollered in raucous delight.


Chapter 8 - The Fine Wines of the Members' Lounge
Bidrix explained that there was no morning session because the members were sleeping in after a night of revelry in the Bontahopa; and that there was rarely an afternoon session either because the members were always having an agreeable lunch in the Members' Lounge; and then in the evening some of the members might occasionally show up for an argument on their way out to another night of revelry in the Bontahopa.


Chapter 9 - An Unusual Request
Then, and while they were still temporarily discombobulated, Zachary pointed out that taking all the alcohol out of the wine in the Members' Lounge would be very mischievous - and he spelt it out for them - m-i-s-c-h-i-e-v-o-u-s - and then he told them (because he'd figured out a thing or two about Mildred & Stella by now) that pulling off a stunt like that would be the greatest prank of all time.


Chapter 10 - Giving Thanks at Mildred & Stella's

As the responsible adults Pamela & Big John expected to be left in charge to get on with dinner, but Zachary insisted on his role as supervisor in planning, shopping, and preparing the food, and (as long as it didn't involve knives or ovens), he was there with his clipboard and check lists every step of the way in cooking it.


Chapter 11 - The Desserts of the Dead
Sarah & Tracy complained that the fly cake got stuck in their teeth, and Chloe & Morgan reassured Mildred & Stella that the widowflower nectar was vile and the lizard liver sorbet was disgusting, and everyone agreed that dessert was horrible.


Chapter 12 - The Estate of the Aristoffanes


Finally they emerged into a gigantic dome on the surface with beautiful gardens and a big pond and an immense grand chateau. The subway car trundled to a halt at a station outside the front door.


Chapter 13 - Luncheon on the Veranda
Later on Lord Aristoffanes came to see them and was rather put out to find that Lady Aristoffanes had sat Zachary in his chair.


Chapter 14 - Journey to the Bontahopa
The rift valley at the foot of the mountain was 100 miles long, 5 miles wide, and 2 miles deep. In the middle there stretched a magnificent space port and on either side of it the lights of the infamous Bontahopa.


Chapter 15 - Diamond Jack's

Zachary liked blues music and asked Georgette what the band was called and Loeticia told him they were the famous 'Lay-About Friends of Gustavo'. Zachary and Georgette fell over in surprise and exclaimed that Mildred & Stella were always complaining about the "lay-about friends of Gustavo" when things went wrong and the Gustavo in question was Stella's son!


Chapter 16 - The Gatecrashers

 The whole wall of noise and clanking of the sword caused panic on the other side of the screen and Pamela sprang forward and threw herself against the secret door - bursting it open. Big John helped her to her feet but by then Max was already running ahead out of the customs hall and into the beautiful gardens of the Parliament.


Chapter 17 - A Mid Winter Night's Caper
But then the mirror popped a pulse of light and suddenly there was Dean Hillick, larger than life, and in ultra-definition, and floating in the air as if he was right there in front of them (hovering like a great intergalactic turkey), and just behind him was Uncle Friedrich and Professor Hussenfuss and Aunt Persethememe, and the looming over everyone was the Grand Duchess of Picquantinck, and they'd even roped in Zapestra too, and everyone was laughing and cheering "surprise!" and laughing and laughing and falling about and wishing Mildred & Stella a very Merry Mid Winter's Day and then laughing and falling about some more.


Chapter 18 - Deathcare Reform
So the next Monday Bidrix took them aside and schooled them in parliamentary tactics. He hatched a plan for Mr. Maynard to slip a standard clause into the Report on Deathcare Reform by the Committee on the Rights of Sprites, a standard clause that would not ordinarily be there (because sprites had no rights) but which might well (because the clerks were so used to seeing the standard clause everywhere else) go unnoticed upon further review. If no one noticed, and it survived intact, when the bill was passed the clause would entitle sprites and gremlins to coverage by the deathcare system.


Chapter 19 - Zachary's School House
Zachary had his blackboard and chalk at the ready and proceeded to drill the gremlin children on their sums, just like Valerie did. Zachary expected the gremlin children to be unruly but to his surprise they were not, and he expected them not to be very good at their sums, but in fact between the six of them they were very good indeed, which is not what he expected at all, and he was very surprised, and he asked the gremlin children how come they were so good at sums, and the gremlin children laughed in triumph, and told him you had to be good at sums if you wanted to get on with your job.


Chapter 20 - The Cooking Lesson

The gremlin children had a wonderful time with Zachary in Muriel's kitchen. They particularly enjoyed stirring all together with the wooden spoon, and then all holding a knife and cracking open the eggs - which they did better than Zachary!


Chapter 21 - The Grand Heist
Alice & Claude had this brilliant scheme for parking a utility truck next to the bank and using a strongonomic thermonoid (a gigantic rock eating slug) which would eat out a tunnel and swallow the safe and wriggle back and then disgorge the safe up into the utility truck in the street above. Mildred & Stella were extremely impressed by the level of detail they didn't need to know about and they gave the scheme the go ahead and rubbed their hands in anticipation.


Chapter 22 - Pamela's Trump Card
It didn't matter what Pamela wore because the loan officer was far more impressed by the young gentleman who knew so much about the Big Hat subway because he was a Big Hat subway buff too!


Chapter 23 - The Zephyrs
The Zephyrs were notorious for having complete control over the form they could take, and they were expert at manifesting themselves as whatever creature they needed to be for the purpose at hand, which was usually mischief at someones else's expense, and for a high & mighty purpose.


Chapter 24 - Swipe!
The Zephyrs were ready for the Grand Duchess, and grabbed Zachary and sucked him away into a cloud of vapors, and sped him away through time and space - and in an instant - they were at Loeticia's secret hiding place, an old barn, way out west, on one of the farms on the Aristoffane's estate. Then Booka stormed in with Chocho at his heels and a whole pub full of their friends (of many different species) who flooded the barn and boxed the Zephyrs into a corner (pending the arrival of their parents and the ghost police).


Chapter 25 - Lois, Small Goddess of Ice Cream
As it happened, Zachary was back in the lane, in the treehouse, with Lois.


Chapter 26 - The House of Proxies
Zachary and Mr. Maynard had tea in his office on Thursdays to discuss his duties as Member for Big Hat [and the Galactic Brim]. Mr. Maynard told Christine they were discussing Zachary's moves in a computer game he was playing with his teacher Valerie; and then, very politely (as was his way) he threw Christine out, along with her paperwork, and Colin, and the rest of his management committee.


Chapter 27 - The Fate of the Standard Clause
So when they had scrolled down to the Report of the Committee on the Rights of Sprites Bidrix rippled his tentacles in the air and trilled "oh no, that one eagle-eyed clerk must have spotted the secret clause, what bad luck!" But Zachary stepped forward and pointed at the screen and said, "Oh no, but look, the standard clause - it's still there!"


Chapter 28 - The Big Bad Van Trip

The ghostly public gasped in disbelief: why were the living children poking the goblin with sticks and waving tree branches in his face and kicking him in the shins?


Chapter 29 - Beyond Crystal City
Zachary was fascinated because sometimes the subway cars ran around like they were buses in Big Hat and picked up lots of passengers; and other times they shot down tubes like they were cars on expressways; and other times, down in the Underchanges, they all queued up and joined together like they were subway trains.


Chapter 30 - The Secret Garden of Croon
The man in the strange hat also appeared with a table and chairs, a big pink table cloth, and knives and forks and cutlery. He lay the éclair upon the table, and cut it precisely with a beautiful bejeweled cake knife, and then he asked for their drink orders and sent away flying waiters to bring them directly from the Grand Opera Tea House.


Chapter 31 - The Nanset Island Railroad
Chocho tried to calm Zachary down but instead, and to Chocho's utter consternation, Zachary ran into Mildred & Stella's bedroom - in the middle of the afternoon - and woke them up - he was so surprised!


Chapter 32 - The Sorcerer of Nanset Island
Mildred & Stella thought this was all very clever, and they had no idea how the Sorcerer was doing it, and they turned to Zachary and told him to look around the car and guess which passenger was casting the spell. Zachary thought that they all looked like ordinary people but Sarah & Tracy suspected everyone. Chocho sniffed the air and fixed her eye on a big angular man with a tall hat at the other end of the car who was quietly reading his magazine.


Chapter 33 - A Visit to the Doctor's
Mildred & Stella were horrified when they saw who it was and made the Station Manager stand over there on Mr. Maynard's side of the fence and then they went and hid under the Ferguson's deck. After that they proceeded to have a discussion with the Station Manager by shouting slowly at one another. Zachary was quite infuriated with Mildred & Stella's behavior and went to stand by Valerie in protest.


Chapter 34 - Victoria & Hilda's Tea Party
Victoria congratulated Zachary on his perspicacity and explained that one of them was the greater goddess of mischief - Mildred pointed at Stella and Stella pointed at Mildred - and the other one was the greater goddess of magic - and Mildred pointed at her herself and Stella pointed at herself - but that they could no longer remember which one was which.


Chapter 35 - The Board of Regents
And Chronigon duly voted for sprites and the Board recommended the retention of the standard clause in the section on sprites in the Deathcare Reform bill. Victoria & Hilda were perfectly appalled and insisted that the whole House of Regents would never vote for rights for sprites.


Chapter 36 - Dom
Dom made the gremlins thank Valerie & Zachary very much for the right to deathcare, which the gremlins did through gritted teeth, and while groaning, because they were not looking forward to tales of gremlin children doing outstandingly good deeds - and, besides, they all thought that being sick never did anyone any harm.


Chapter 37 - The Party in the Lane
Finally, with great fanfare, Uncle Friedrich showed up with Robert Solon. The Professors Ferguson gasped and declared that their costumes were simply divine. Then, entering into the spirit of the occasion, Janet told Uncle Friedrich that his philosophy was too gloomy, and Frank told Robert Solon that his recipe for concrete was sub-standard.


Chapter 38 - The Study Group in Crystal City

Agride & Uncle Friedrich tucked into the chocolate, with its fabulous gooey vanilla fudge ice cream. Then they complained that Chronigon wasn't a real philosopher because the moment (of which he was the greater god) was neither here nor there and was gone as soon as you'd noticed it. Zachary laughed and pointed out that this was certainly true of one of Chronigon's chocolate eclairs (it was gone as soon you noticed it) and Agride & Uncle Friedrich accused Zachary of not taking philosophy seriously, and they solemnly declared there was no such thing as not taking philosophy seriously.


Chapter 39 - School

Since he could now train himself to turn his visibility on and off (and Zachary began to protest that actually he could not) they had decided, as his legally appointed guardians, that come September he should go to a proper school for normal living kids, just like normal living kids did.

Copyright Christopher Stephen Toulouse.
Brooklyn, NY. 2013