“A story has no beginning or end: arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead.” – Graham Greene
Table of Contents
Chapter 2: Baron ‘Gobble’ Von Chomp
“Oh, darling! Isn’t he the most handsome baby you have ever seen?” Mrs. Von Chomp gushed, as Mr. Von Chomp stood by the side of their pond at No.9 Wolkeville.
“Taking sides much, my dear? Aren’t we supposed to love them both equally?” Mr. Von Chomp said teasing his wife, who by now had plopped herself down near the lotus blossoms and was thrashing the water with her webbed feet. Baron and Knightley, who till now, were floating around aimlessly, began a game of catch with their mother, swimming away with each splutter and splash, then circling back near her feet as the ripples faded.
Mr. Von Chomp watched this gleeful play for a minute or two. Then, as if settling the ongoing debate in his head, he straightened the scrunched lines on his forehead and said, “Ahem, love…uh..say, don’t you think his eyelids should have…um…erm…separated by now?”
Mrs. Von Chomp’s body tensed up. Her heart was not ready to accept what her brain had been telling her for some time now.
“He is a late bloomer’s all. Some babies are like that! They will open, you’ll see. I bet by the time he is out of the pond, he will see clearer and farther than Aquila could ever.” Mrs. Von Chomp said.
“Yes, yes. Of course. Of course, dear.” Mr. Von Chomp agreed, a bit too quickly if you ask. Then again, a man is bound to agree with his wife sooner or later. Mr. Von Chomp was smart enough to know sooner is always better.
But when it was time for the children to move into the Von Chomp mansion, his worries remained unchanged.
So did Mrs. Von Chomp’s optimism.
“There’s still time,” she said as Baron wobbled out of the pond, gripping onto his parents’ arms and stumbled, slowly and awkwardly, towards the mansion. Knightley waited for a minute, watching Baron bump and trip. Then he was done. He whooshed past them all straight into his new bedroom.
“Still time, still plenty of time…” Mrs. Von Chomp kept mumbling.
Baron’s eyelids never separated to grant his eyes the power of sight. They remained as glued together as the day he’d hatched out of his egg into the lotus pond.
To have two perfect looking protruding eyes tightly shut in perpetual sleep was a cruel, pointless joke of nature and Mrs. Von Chomp suffered the most for it. After all, a mother’s hope tends to transcend the bleakest of despairs when it comes to her children. But there was nothing to be done. Baron was blind and all of Mrs. Von Chomp’s hopes and prayers were not enough to wish this curse away. As for Baron himself, he never really understood his mother’s desperation. How could he possibly miss something he never had in the first place?
* * *
With time, Baron’s senses evolved a notch above sighted beings with his nose and his tongue serving him in a manner his eyes never did. He could sniff out Knightley’s hidden stash of honeydew bubbles within minutes. His mother could be miles away from home but one quick whiff of the wind and he could tell how long before she was due back. He never got caught red-handed in the middle of a mischief! Not that Mrs. Von Chomp could ever envision Baron doing anything wrong. After all, he was her favorite son and no one could argue otherwise.
As a child, Baron liked being the “seeker” more than anything. In fact, to everyone’s delight, he loved being “It” every time the Von Chomp boys and their friends played a game of “hide and seek”. But, this joy, like Knightley’s stash of honeydew bubbles, would be shortlived. It was only a matter of minutes before Baron sniffed out the children, one after another. Soon, everyone would lose interest in hiding. “What’s the point?” they’d argue. But Baron would still be grinning, ear to ear and insisting that they should continue playing.
When the Von Chomp boys grew up, Baron decided to become an enforcer, just like his father had been before him. Not that he particularly liked the Big Book of Rules or following all the big and little rules in it, but boy did he love enforcing them! To him, it was an unending game of “hide and seek” and he was the perpetual seeker. The rest of Wolkeville residents were his hapless victims – always anxious, always scared of being discovered in the wrong.
Baron, on the other hand, could take his time, savor the moments as long as he wished, before pouncing, unannounced mostly, on his prey. Yes, he loved the thrill of the chase. He loved the fear he instilled in the residents – the constant watching over their shoulders, the constant worry of rule breaking – and he loved the anticipation of a pursuit.
He’d sniff out the direction his victim was hiding in. Then he’d slowly drag his five-feet long, coarse tongue along the track, hanging loosely on one side of his open mouth, tasting every inch of gravel on the path to his prey. He’d stop often, sniff the wind, and grin. This insidious progression was enough to send chills down the spines of the six hundred thirty-four adult residents and eighty-one children of Wolkeville. But the eighty-second child, the new arrival, was different. She was blissfully unaware as to what her presence in Wolkeville meant.
If only she knew. If only someone could shake her awake this very moment in the storeroom of the community hall and give her a history lesson. If only she was even remotely aware of the legacy left behind by one Mr. Von Chomp of No.9 Wolkeville. If only she could hide deeper than Baron could seek.
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