Last Laugh in Floogle Park
by James Powell
EQMM, July 2011

Chief Inspector Bozo of the Clowntown police, a baggy picture of plaid and checkered elegance beneath a pearl gray fedora, sat behind the wheel of his car at a Suit City stoplight. Some pedestrians in the crosswalk smiled and waggled their fingers, taking him for a guy dressed up like a clown off to brighten a kid’s birthday party. The backseat crowded with bright balloons added to the impression, which was why Bozo’d put them there. Bozo waggled back, hoping his painted smile would cover his impatience.
Suit City frowned on real clowns—or mimes, vaudevillians, or burlesque types, for that matter—within the city limits. Its inhabitants didn’t like to be reminded that they or their ancestors had abandoned one of those high callings to join the common herd. Big Bozo, his father, used to say that if you stared at Suitizens long enough you could tell which of the four tribes they were descended from. For Bozo it was easier just to avoid the place. It made him sad. But when his opposite number in Vaudevilleville phoned that they’d found old clown Cuddles murdered on a bench in Floogle Park, Suit City was Bozo’s fastest way to get there and assist in the investigation.
The light changed and he drove on. Years before, Cuddles, who got his name the way big guys get called Tiny, had been Bozo’s buzz-cut drill instructor at Big Boot Camp. Foul up and Cuddles would shout, “You’re damn sad excuses for clowns!” which meant go stand on your heads, smiles pointing down, until he ordered otherwise. Still, it was a proud moment when Cuddles got up there on the reviewing stand that last day and called them all clowns. And this time he meant it. Then came the big cheer and a hundred small red cadet noses were thrown up in the air to come bouncing back down onto the parade ground as the graduates clumped forward to receive their big new ones.
And now Cuddles was dead. He’d gone to Vaudevilleville with a van full of residents from Slumbering Smiles, the clown retirement home, for the funeral of Atlas O’Grady, whose act was famous in its day. “Hawaii, Hawaii,” Atlas greeted his audience, and from there on his patter was a cascade of place names, from the Alabama School of Elephant Dentistry in Tuscaloosa to “What did Delaware?” “I don’t know. Alaska.” to “Norway, José.” As the undertakers closed the coffin, those in attendance shouted in one heartfelt voice, “Abyssinia, Atlas.”
Then came the job of fitting twenty-five old clowns into a van made to hold six—a complicated, honk-filled business but they refused to travel any other way. So the driver lost count of his charges, pulling away without Cuddles, who’d chosen the wrong moment to go to the john.
Bozo imagined Cuddles returning to the curb, blinking with confusion, and finally wandering away. Any Clowntown passerby would have recognized his disoriented look, laid a helpful hand under his elbow, and led him to a gaga collection point where he’d have been reunited with his loved ones. Amnesia was commonplace among the clown elderly. Doorheadedness, as it was called, resulted from a career of deliberately walking into doors and lampposts.
But there was no helpful hand in Vaudevilleville, and somehow Cuddles ended up dead on a park bench.

Scarecrows in the field told Bozo he was nearing Vaudevilleville. No matter the month, it was always harvest-moon time there. On the outskirts, Bozo stopped at a police checkpoint. (Clothing with checks over a certain size was not allowed beyond that point.) A policeman in a bright, well-frogged uniform and armed with calipers gave Bozo the once-over and waved him on.
The mandatory porch, porch swing, and picket-fence ordinances gave the place a small-town air. And the police carried electronic billy clubs that turned those picket fences into xylophones. Here, if a policeman took an apple from a grocer’s display it was only to polish it with his elbow and put it back. Or if enough needed polishing, he might step inside to have a word with the grocer.
Vaudevillians were slim, graceful, and neat in their tailored clothes and well-coiffed hair. Their feet were small. Their smiles sparkled, thanks to a universal dental health-care plan. And they were so damned talented. If four strangers came together at a corner stoplight a pitch pipe would appear from some pocket followed by “Sweet Adeline” or “Buffalo Gal.” And when the light changed it said “Dance” and dancing across they’d go.
But Bozo never liked his trips to Vaudevilleville. He always left feeling garishly dressed, clumsy, and slow.
Checking into the downtown Granny Cheap Sleep Motel with its complimentary clown breakfast, Bozo walked the few blocks to the morgue. Twice along the way he saw a priest, a minister, and a rabbi walking into a bar and remembered back in his hard-drinking days how theological the bar talk had always been here.
He put on his sunglasses and entered the morgue. Inspectors John and Mary Sunshine were handling Cuddles’s case. Resplendent in the many-striped blazers of the Vaud Squad, the police special-investigations branch, they saluted him smartly. Bozo honked his horn in a Clowntown reply.
“Great to see you again,” smiled John, a handsome man with a firm handshake and a fine baritone voice. “Sure is,” smiled Mary, a blond, blue-eyed soprano. The memory of those smiles had prompted Bozo to wear his sunglasses.
He’d worked with the Sunshines before, tracking down Hacko, the cleaver-wielding clown impersonator who killed his victims wearing a hockey mask with a big red nose glued to it. Cornered at last in his apartment building, he’d shouted down a defiant “Come and get me, Tappers!” which was slang for the Vaud Squad. Anticipating defiance, the Sunshines had come armed with a boom box. As it played “For Me and My Gal,” they and six other officers tap-danced their way inside and up the stairs with Bozo clumping along behind. (His feet seemed to get bigger the longer he stayed in Vaudevilleville.)
Without missing a beat, the police kicked down the door and danced inside, where Hacko stood waiting, a cleaver in each hand, ready to sell his life dearly. But the music said big finale. Why not see it, then wade in cleaver-wise?
Bozo arrived in the doorway out of breath just as the Vaud Squad ended with their famous cascading leg splits with their arms outstretched to gather in the applause. Hacko couldn’t help himself. He had to stuff a cleaver in each armpit to free up his hands for clapping. Meanwhile, four other Vaud Squaders who’d scaled the outside of the building and come in through the window soft-shoed up behind the murderer and overpowered him.
Hacko wasn’t the first Suitizen who, in a fit of self-loathing, had sneaked over the border with murderous intent. But the clown impersonator had a darker purpose. By killing Vaudies, he later confessed, he hoped to provoke a war between Clowntown and Vaudevilleville. That done, he planned on donning mime face and killing Burlies.
Vaudevillians didn’t hold with the death penalty. Murderers got life in a special prison whose inmates made submarine, hero, Reuben, and gyro sandwiches which were delivered by high-speed pneumatic tubes to fast-food outlets. The sentence was called the death of a thousand cold cuts.

A morgue attendant wheeled in Cuddles’s body. The makeup around the clown’s eyes had been washed away as if by many, many tears while the real smile frozen on his dead face crowded the edges of the painted one.
John explained, “The coroner says a heart attack with severe side splits left and right. Someone made him laugh himself to death. A patrolman heard laughter around ten last night. But we don’t have the manpower to investigate laughter in Vaudevilleville. And we get a lot of it in Floogle Park.” John stepped back to let Mary take her turn.
“Here’s the thing,” she said. “We’ve had similar cases recently. Two months ago it was Preston Changeau, the magician. Maybe you read his tragic story in the papers last year. Sawed his beautiful assistant in half and suddenly couldn’t remember how to put her back together again. Bad case of what we call the spangles. The footlights, the glitter, and too many curtain calls can do that. The stage manager dropped the curtain and asked if there was a magician in the house. Lucky for the beautiful assistant, Abraham Cadabram was there, come to check out the competition.
“There’s no Funny Farm anymore. Today we try to home-medicate people like Changeau. But some wander off. Changeau liked to go to the Magic Barn, the magicians’ supply store, to shoplift rabbits, popping them into his high hat for later release. About five one rainy afternoon a patrolman saw this furtive fat guy in a raincoat come out of the alley behind the Magic Barn. On investigating, he found Changeau’s body among the trashcans.
“The next one was at the airport,” said John, “An incoming flight reported a passenger acting erratically. A Mr. Pipkin, a traveling salesman for the Mimeapolis Glass Box Company, was led off the plane so out of it he couldn’t even remember if he was supposed to walk with the wind or against it. By the time the medical people decided he wasn’t a threat to anyone and let him go on his way, he’d missed his Mimeapolis connection. The next flight was at six o’clock. The woman in the Peter Pan costume over at the Neverland Air counter said she’d keep an eye on him and take him to the boarding gate when the time came. So they sat Pipkin down nearby and left him there. Unfortunately, the Neverland Air lady got very busy. Once she looked over and there were three guys standing around him talking and a fourth one banging on a drum. Next time she looked over Pipkin was dead in his chair. Same symptoms, side splits plus massive damage to the vascular system, lungs, sinus cavities, et cetera, as if from snorting and choking and holding in laughter.”
“Sounds like he died true to his faith,” said Bozo.
“After Pipkin there was Miss Wales,” said Mary, “a downhearted frail just out of the Burlington jail who couldn’t even remember why she was so sad.”
Burlington was the Vaudevilleville suburb where the burlesque people lived. Bozo’s last time there, the police at the checkpoint claimed the check in his pants wasn’t big enough and he had to show his badge before they’d let him in. Burlie police looked like their uniforms had been balled up and thrown under the bed every night for a month. Their billy club was a rubber chicken which they twirled by the neck. If they took an apple from a grocer’s stand they ate it.
“Anyway, maybe we’ve had a break,” said John. “Woman called to say she might have some information in the Cuddles investigation. We sent a car for her.”

“Interview room two,” said the headquarters desk sergeant, handing over a folder. Mary read aloud from it as they walked down the hall. “Maxine Latour. She’s one of us but she works as a stripper at the Burlington Roxy on the corner of Bump and Grind. That’s near Floogle Park. Hey, says here she’s got a heart of gold. Not many around anymore.”
The woman waiting for them was amply endowed, if a bit old for her line of work. Her smile seemed genuine if not as quick as a Sunshine one.
“I was very sorry to read of the Cuddles gentleman’s demise,” she said. “I fear I failed him.”
“Please continue, Miss Latour,” said Mary.
“Well, I often go to Floogle Park before a performance to commune with Terpsichore, my muse. Yesterday, around four, I was interrupted by loud laughter. There was the Cuddles gentleman besieged by the Toesy brothers.”
Bozo knew the act. They’d started out as The Toesy Family, the three comics Ernie, Marnie, and Manny plus Modeste, their singing sister billed as the Toesy Nightingale. The brothers’ stuff was right out of Joe Methuselah’s joke book. Only Modeste’s lovely voice kept them going. When she died, so did the act.
“The Toesys were telling him these old, old jokes,” said Miss Latour, “and he was just breathless with laughter. Oh, I pitied him. Those Toesys, they’d even brought along a drummer, Dingo they called him, to rim-shot all the punch lines. Tears streaming down his cheeks, Cuddles started begging them to stop. So I went over and told them to shove off. Well, they got all sheepish, but off they went. Anyway, I stayed with the old gentleman until he’d settled down and was breathing easier and chuckling to himself. By then it was almost show time and the show must go on. Well, I was sure those Toesys wouldn’t be back. So I left Mr. Cuddles there in the park.”
Mary thanked Miss Latour and arranged for a car to take her back home.

The Sunshines took Bozo to Frivolous Sal’s, a peculiar kind of a bar where unemployed comics hung out. With Bozo holding the door open, John took Mary’s arm. They smiled at each other and, smiling forward, entered the gloomy place. Its customers quickly hid their eyes in the crooks of their arms against the incoming smiles.
Sal behind the bar told them the Toesys would be right along. “They never miss our five o’clock Happy Hour.”
They sat down at a table to wait. Bozo wondered about the place’s eerie silence. No customer spoke. Raise a finger and Sal would bring a drink over. Did it make the comics sad if they said something and nobody laughed? So what would Happy Hour be like?
In trooped the Toesys, a tweedy trio with the library pallor of researchers into ancient humor. When they took a booth in the corner, Bozo and the Sunshines joined them. “Indeed, we did Floogle Park yesterday afternoon,” said Manny. “Had a few laughs with this clown until Miss Latour, an artiste whose work we all admire, suggested we give the old guy a break to mull over our amusing stories. Did you ever see Miss Latour’s tableau work back in her Variety Theater days? Her ‘Venus Rising from the Bath’ was so beautiful, so life-affirming, it broke your heart.” The two other brothers nodded. “But time takes its toll,” continued Manny. “How she puts up with all the Roxy hubba-hubbas and va-va-vooms is beyond me.”
John asked if they’d come back to the park later.
Three heads shook as one. Manny swore they’d spent the rest of the night here. Sal nodded in agreement.
Manny gestured around the bar. “Suppose making people laugh is your life,” he said. “Imagine how tough it gets when the laughter stops. Fortunately, my brothers and I are blessed with the Toesy nose. It can smell an amnesiac a mile away. The nose runs in the family. Get it?” he added after a moment.
The Sunshines cranked their smiles up a notch. Out of the kindness of his heart Bozo raised his chin, which made his painted smile seem larger.
“So when the need is on us, we follow our noses until we find some poor soul with memory loss and unload our act. They get to laugh because they don’t remember our jokes and we get laughed at. What’s wrong with that?”
“Tell us about Preston Changeau,” ventured Bozo.
“We left Mr. Changeau chuckling to himself and grinning from ear to ear in the alley behind the Magic Barn and came back as we do every day.”
Sal nodded again.
“And Mr. Pipkin at the airport?”
“Ditto Mr. Pipkin. Oh, perhaps we went on a little longer with him because he refused to laugh out loud and just sputtered and snorted.”
“And Miss Wales?”
“The young lady with the jailhouse pallor? She really needed cheering up. And we were glad to oblige. But we left her alive and agiggle, I swear.”
Sal announced Happy Hour and turned on the television behind the bar. The comics looked up from their drinks. The program was called Laugh Tracking with the Stars, a splicing together of old laugh tracks taken from radio and early television days. The short pauses between the canned laughter were just right for a bar patron to stand up, deliver his favorite old joke, close his eyes, and revel in the old laughter. Then another comic took his turn and so on. This was Happy Hour at Frivolous Sal’s.
Manny nodded at the TV. “Thanks to the Toesy nose we don’t need this stuff,” explained Manny. “But we never miss it. It’s a pleasure to see our friends and colleagues enjoying themselves.”

When they were back out on the street, the Sunshines invited Bozo home for dinner and a chance to meet their two young daughters, Dolly and Dimples. Bozo politely begged off, claiming weariness from his trip. The Sunshines were what all Vaudevillians should be. He liked that. But he wasn’t up to more smiles, the polite meal, and the singing and dancing afterwards. John and Mary agreed to meet him at the police station the next morning.
Bozo ate at the Whamburger Heaven across from his motel. He had his usual, a double cheese Whammy with everything. Back up in his room, he watched a Suit City channel doing reruns of Lou and Ordure, the series about this nice guy with the dirty job of cleaning septic tanks. Then he opted for an early dose of clown shuteye.
Bozo woke at midnight. Somewhere across the city a silver cornet was playing “Carnival of Venice” and beyond that came the faint sound of a moaning Burlington saxophone. Back home, he knew, the smiling monks of Saint Cluny had mounted the belfry of their abbey to honk the immense horn there twelve times. Meanwhile in far-off Mimeapolis a clarion silence marked the midnight hour.
He fell back to sleep, sure something in the Cuddles case was staring him right in the face.

The next morning Bozo had just finished dressing when there was a knock. When he opened the door a bellhop was standing there with one hand behind his back. “Good morning, Chief Inspector,” he said. “You’re looking good.” The next thing staring Bozo in the face was a custard pie. “Damn,” he remembered, “I forgot to cancel the complimentary clown breakfast.”
After another shower Bozo still had time to visit the scene of the crime before meeting the Sunshines. Floogle Park stood along a creek separating the city from suburban Burlington. It was a scattering of benches and bushes along a meander of paths all surrounded by a tall iron fence. Bozo went in through the gate and walked around to get the lay of the land.
On a bench right up against the fence on the creek side he saw a small, freckle-faced, redheaded man dozing with his chin on his chest. Hoping he’d found himself another park regular like Miss Latour with information on Cuddles’s death, he sat down on a bench across the path and cleared his throat several times. The dozer dozed on. A man emerged from the nearby public toilet, stopped at a drinking fountain, took a glass from his pocket, and filled it up. Then he came over and sat down right next to the redhead and slipped an arm behind the dozer’s back.
The dozer’s head snapped up and his eyes popped open. “Well, back at last, Mr. Tinkle.”
His companion nodded from behind the water glass.
Bozo said, “Excuse me, Mr. . . .”
“Howdoyoudo,” said the redheaded.
“Fine, thank you,” said Bozo.
“No, that is my name. Maybe you’ve seen our act at The Variety, Mr. Tinkle and His Dummy Howdoyoudo. How lucky we two were to meet in the unemployment line. There I was a mind reader—Little Mr. Know-It-All, I styled myself—out of work because I couldn’t hide how bored I was reading all those boring, boring minds night after night. And there he was, a ventriloquist who’d thrown his voice one matinee and it never came back. Imagine a comic genius like him with all that hilarity trapped inside his head.”
That’s all I need, thought Bozo. I’m talking to a dumb ventriloquist and his mind-reading dummy. I hate these trips to Vaudevilleville. Out loud he asked, “Do you come here often, like, say, last night?”
“Yes, we were here last night about ten going over new material. Believe you me, if I didn’t read Mr. Tinkle’s stuff ahead of time I’d be laughing too hard to get it out on stage.” Howdoyoudo smiled. “Oh he’s a funny man, Mr. Tinkle. How did the police know a cheese truck was involved in the hit-and-run accident? Debris on the road. Get it? The brie.” He waited for Bozo to laugh. At last he said, “Why do you ask?”
Before Bozo could answer, Howdoyoudo said, “This bulletin just in: Mr. Tinkle has to go to the john again, meaning I’m due for a nap.” Before his chin hit his chest he added, “In our work, illusion is everything.”
With an apologetic shrug Mr. Tinkle headed off, returning a few minutes later with a fresh glass of water from the fountain.
“Why do you ask?” repeated Howdoyoudo.
“I’m Clowntown police investigating a murder here around ten last night.”
The dummy grew solemn. “Yes, we were right here on our regular bench,” he said. “But we didn’t see any murder. When we arrived we heard somebody laughing, but that stopped abruptly. Two people were sitting over there, an old clown who I thought was sleeping, and another guy with a drum. After a bit the drummer did a couple of loud rim shots. Then he got up and kicked the clown on his big shoes like he was trying to wake him up. After a minute the drummer turned and marched right by us. I read a snatch of his thoughts as he passed. Evil stuff. But I didn’t catch anything about a murder. Oh, that was one chilling mind to glance into. Even if I’d known I mightn’t have gotten myself or Mr. Tinkle here involved by going to the police. I’m sorry. I know you think badly of me.”
Boy, this guy is very, very good, thought Bozo.

Back at police headquarters John Sunshine said, “We checked out this Dingo character. Remember Hacko the murderous clown impersonator? Turns out Dingo’s Hacko’s brother, here on a percussion scholarship at the Burlington Academy of Burlesque Music. Earned his nickname from his work on the triangle. So we paid Hacko a visit behind bars. He says Dingo hated us even more than he did. But Dingo couldn’t stand the sight of blood. Looks like he found himself a bloodless way to kill.”
Back at Frivolous Sal’s Manny nodded. “Yes, Mr. Dingo tags along with us sometimes on rim-shot detail.”
“Yesterday in Floogle Park?” asked Bozo.
When Manny nodded, John asked, “And with Preston Changeau and Mr. Pipkin at the airport?”
“And Miss Wales?” asked Mary.
“I swear we left every one of those people alive and chuckling and came back here,” said Manny.
“Did Dingo come, too?” said Bozo.
Manny shook his head. “His hangout’s Tomtom’s, the bar where drummers go. Now you mention it, we Toesys go on the hunt because of our need to be laughed at. I never really understood what Dingo got out of it.”
“Maybe you and your brothers were his hunting dogs,” said Bozo.
Manny thought for a moment. “Oh, dear,” he said.
Back out on the street John said, “What we got is all circumstantial. Dingo was sitting with Cuddles and kicked his shoe. No crime there. We need to establish homicidal intent. What we need is to find ourselves another clown with amnesia.” He and Mary turned and looked at Bozo.
“Norway, José,” said Bozo. “At Clown U I majored in highway engineering and poultry psychology. No Toesy joke can make me crack a smile.” Then he added, “But maybe there’s a way. I know somebody who owes us one.”

That afternoon, beneath an overcast sky, the Vaud Squad moved through Floogle Park inviting the strollers and bench sitters to join them around the corner for a demonstration of the latest dance craze, the Little Goody Two-Step. Everybody went except for Howdoyoudo sitting on a bench on the main path wearing a bushy beard and dark sunglasses. The Sunshines and Mr. Tinkle with his glass of water were crouched in the bushes nearby.
The Sunshines’ plan seemed well thought out. But Bozo was used to Clowntown methods where everything went wrong, ending in much clown collisions and horn honking. So on a hunch he chose his bush near the bench up against the iron fence where he’d first found Howdoyoudo.
Right on schedule the Toesy brothers, noses at the sniff, led Dingo, in a loose raincoat to protect his drum against a change in the weather, into the park and over to Howdoyoudo. When the brothers started firing off their groaners, Howdoyoudo, reading the fresh material on the mind of his comic genius associate, began to roar with laughter. After ten minutes of their terrible jokes, the Toesy brothers stopped and walked away. (Out of respect for Mr. Tinkle’s bladder Bozo’d told them to keep it short.) Dingo went, too. But he deliberately dropped a drumstick along the way. At the park gate he showed the Toesys the remaining drumstick and pointed over his shoulder as if he was going to find its mate. Then he walked back, taking his time. Bozo knew he wanted the brothers to be out of earshot before he made his move.
When Dingo reached Howdoyoudo he started telling more Toesy jokes and doing rim shots. His victim was screaming with laughter now and purple in the face. (Mr. Tinkle must have saved his best stuff for this last part.)
After seeing enough to justify murderous intent, the Sunshines revealed themselves and told Dingo he was under arrest. The Vaud Squad quickly blocked the park gate. Dingo tossed his drum away and sprinted down the path toward the bench up against the fence. Bozo’d called it right. The murderer meant to use the bench to leap to freedom. But guess who’d be there to save the day?
Unfortunately when the triumphant clown sprang from behind the bush to apprehend his man, he got himself all tangled up in his own big feet, missed the grab, and fell flat on his face. Dingo would have made his escape if he hadn’t collided with and been knocked to the ground by Mr. Tinkle dashing for the men’s room. Before Dingo could get up, the Sunshines had the cuffs on him.

For his legal counsel Dingo’s people had hired the legendary shystress Suit City Sue. They sat together at a table in the Vaud Squad interrogation room at the foot of a broad, impressive, three-landing staircase. As the footlights dimmed, a harvest moon descended from the ceiling and the musicians under the staircase began to play. Now John Sunshine with straw hat and cane and Mary with a bouquet of flowers and spangles in her hair appeared at the top of the staircase and started tap dancing down, stopping at the first landing to sing a song stuffed with moon, June, croon, and tune. The effect was so wonderful that only a few hardened criminals ever got by the first landing. Most felt so unworthy by comparison that they broke down and confessed so they could watch the rest of the descent with at least that much off their conscience. Dingo held out to the second landing before, over Suit City Sue’s objection, blubbering his guilt. He was led off to the death of a thousand cold cuts with his brother.

After all the paperwork was done, it was too late to head back to Clowntown. Bozo wrapped himself around another double-cheese Whammy and returned to the motel. Canceling the next day’s complimentary clown breakfast, he paid his bill so he could make an early start.
That night he lay in bed staring up at the ceiling. Clowns weren’t given to speculation, chair-headedness they called it, sitting around thinking when there was real clowning to be done out there. Still Bozo wondered about things. Mimes, of course, believed they were made in the image of the silent Being on the other end of the invisible rope in their tugs-of-war. And Vaudevillians were confident they were following in the trim footsteps of He who hung their harvest moon when they tap danced down life’s staircase. The Burlies probably gave the matter no thought at all. But clowns had a single religious conviction, one that was reaffirmed every morning when they looked in the mirror: They were not, could not have been, made in their Creator’s image.

The next morning, anxious to get home to Clowntown and its smell of peanuts, sawdust, and elephants again, Bozo checked the backseat of his car. Though puckered, the balloons there looked good enough for one more shortcut through Suit City. Off he went.
A few hours later, with Suit City well behind him, Bozo pulled off at a rest stop. The day had turned hot. He opened the back door and herded out the trembling balloons. They quickly grew taut in the sunlight and rose up into the air. Bozo watched as the sensible balloons drifted toward Clowntown.
He bought a Royal Clown Cola from the machine and drank it sitting at a picnic table. How many more times, he wondered, would police work bring him back to Vaudevilleville before he reached retirement age? Then, suddenly tired, he stretched out on the table, aiming the bottoms of his feet toward the sun, an old clown-napping trick. In their shade Bozo felt himself dozing off. “Abyssinia, Cuddles,” he said before he did.