Quimby’s Revenge: Diary Excerpts From the Ill-fated Tilverton Arctic Expedition, Circa 1904

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28th July 1904

Firstly let me state unequivocally that the tuxedos were Quimby’s idea. I found the use of formal wear to acclimatize any penguins to our presence patently ridiculous. Secondly I remain steadfast in my conviction that there are no penguins in the Arctic; alas my protests go unheeded. And now the ever-trustworthy Borghetti has informed us that Quimby surreptitiously traded away our fur mitts and overcoats for a croquet set and forty cases of “Coca-Cola,” a sickly sweet libation from America. We must now lash the dog sleds to the deck to accommodate it in the hold. The elixir has wondrous medicinal properties, he says; the croquet set will build camaraderie and esprit de corps among the men. I must confess that I am doubtful…

3rd September 1904

We are undone! The premature onset of the winter freeze has left our redoubtable ship, the HMS Obdurate, encased in yards-thick ice! And now the cola bottles have frozen, and begun exploding en masse; we must waste precious fuel to warm them. To make matters worse, we have had to fight off several waves of polar bears, inexplicably drawn to the tincture. They have made short work of our sled dogs, and have breached the Obdurate’s very hull to get at the stuff. Once the giant beasts have procured a bottle, they either force it upon their whimpering cubs, or guzzle the contents whilst sliding drunkenly about the icy slopes…

15th October 1904

While we now have three polar bear furs to supplement our meager tuxedos, we spent valuable bullets during the siege. Combined with Quimby’s ill-conceived bottle shooting tourney, we find ourselves desperately short of ammunition…

29th November 1904

As our supplies dwindle and the temperature drops, the croquet matches have grown more contentious. Ever-watchful Borghetti has apprised us of bad blood between The Swede and the churlish Kugelfresser. Apparently the Austro-Hungarian took great offense to a particularly brutal “sending out” by the big Scandinavian, and rather unsportingly hurled the Swede’s ball well out onto the pack. Only expert mallet-work from the ever-resourceful Borghetti kept them from coming to blows. We have been forced to organize search parties to retrieve the balls, which have become precious to the surly crew; scores must be settled, and manly croqueting honor regained…

1st December 1904

After a sup of malamute hoosh and the last of the jerky called pemmican, ever-observant Borghetti spoke of difficulties between the young Yank Johnson and the loutish Quimby. The silver-tongued cur has convinced the naïve lad that a narwhal tusk they came upon whilst fetching the croquet balls is in fact the fabled horn of a “snow unicorn.” The crew jeered the boy heartily when he relayed his discovery, but he stubbornly keeps the tusk close at hand…

13th January 1905

Lost Johnson last night. After the penguin/tuxedo travesty, the exploding elixir bottles, the enraged polar bear siege, the bitter croquet rows, and the narwhal/unicorn controversy, I had felt our luck must surely turn for the better. Ever-vigilant Borghetti informed us of the tragedy over a luncheon of rat-pemmican and heated bottles of the accursed cola. Johnson was a simple farmboy, true, but even Quimby didn’t expect the yokel to believe another cock-and-bull story, that one could tip a sleeping walrus as easily as the dairy cows back home. The strapping Yank will be sorely missed…

9th March 1905

The flesh tastes of succulent peppered venison, he said. The blubber veritably melts in one’s mouth. Well little did the rogue Quimby realize that this is how he himself would taste to our desperate icebound crew, not the narwhals he has enflamed against us with his off-key arias, bawdy limericks and incessant whistling. The once-stalwart Borghetti giggled with unseemly delight during our dread repast, and danced a macabre jig, brandishing both his bloodied mallet and Johnson’s unicorn horn. The Swede offered a bitter toast to our huddled band of tuxedoed survivors, raising the last of the despised green bottles in mock salute to the hated Quimby. He will not be missed…

23rd May 1905

Huzzah! We are saved! The now-demented Borghetti has informed us — between fits of maniacal giggling — of a ship’s masts on the horizon, and several figures advancing across the pack in our direction. We ate our paltry breakfast of Quimby-pemmican and icicles in eager anticipation. Having espied them myself, I must say their shocking appearance gives me pause. Their sleds are drawn by dozens of ravenous poodles; they are armed with stringless badminton racquets; and they are clad in filthy, matted bear suits. And perhaps most disconcerting of all, their leader bears an uncanny family resemblance to the late Quimby…

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