Hey Arnold was created by Craig Bartlett, and is owned by Viacom Inc. No infringement is implied nor should be inferred.
Edgar Allan Poe wrote "The Raven". No infringement on his property is implied, nor should be inferred.
Ave Imperator moritur te salutant
Like strategically placed planks in the floors of a shogun's palace designed to chirp when an unknowing stranger stepped upon them, her attention immediately turned to the hallway outside when she heard a floorboard creak.
No one should be up at that hour, so Gertrude Shortman slowly rose from her chair, carefully creeping to the sitting room entrance while holding a roll of Christmas wrapping paper gripped in her hands with all the reverence due a katana before taking a quick glance out of it to make sure that,
One: No one found that she was up prowling around.
Two: No one was lurking her dojo as an uninvited guest. Yesterday a ninja was sent to assassinate her for the terrible vengeance she took upon several members of the dreaded Minamoto clan with a flyswatter for crawling over her raspberry cobbler last week, and she was still a little jumpy.
Of course, it could always just be a simple, run of the mill burglar again, which could be fun.
Once, some poor soul had tried to squeeze into the house through the black rubber flap her husband Phil had put in the bottom of the kitchen door to allow Abner, and the other various assortments of animals that did, and sometimes did not belong to them enter the Sunset Arms after hours.
Gertrude would have allowed the man entry, and perhaps even shown him some hospitality by frying him an egg in the "good" bacon grease as she tried to guide him towards better outlets for his time rather than dishonest theft.
This unappreciative and quite rude young man however, had no manners at all, and to boot, chose to threaten her physical well being.
Gertie was a woman of action, but stayed her hand until the final straw in their exchange was that he called her crazy in conjunction with a word that rhymed with "itch". She despised that hateful word with a passion and since hospitality only goes so far; Gertie introduced the foul-mouthed man to the business end of a size twelve frying pan.
Roused from their sleep, everyone poured downstairs like runny pancake batter to see what she had done that time, because in accordance with her design, it could have been anything.
When they all found the Sunset Arms had an uninvited guest spread eagle on the floor, both knocked out and helpless, her husband Phil suggested that they roll the crook, and see if he had any cash to pay for the damage he did to the door as Abner sniffed, then licked the miscreant's open, unprotected mouth.
Mr. Potts suggested that they let some persuasive friends of his "take care" of the man in a wet, violent way, and then dispose of him in a lot that the company Ernie worked for was pouring concrete over the next day.
Oskar wanted to revisit an unlawful nautical tradition practiced at the turn of the century, and sell the unconscious man on the black market into slavery on a Chinese garbage scow.
In the end, Gertrude was the most forgiving, and merely hog tied the foolish thief with the kinked avocado green cord from their old rotary telephone, leaving him to drool on the floor in blissful, knot headed slumber until the police arrived to take him away for his measure of justice.
Dragging herself back to the present however, satisfied that the noise in the hallway was as Poe suggested the wind and nothing more; the aged woman went back to her history books to tweeze accurate facts out of them.
She had been a western history professor at State College for over thirty years, but her memory was slipping, and even though she still loved the topic, unfortunately, the details of her vast interest had become rather fuzzy. Despite such, Gertrude was a fastidious, details oriented woman, and she strove to have everything as accurate as possible for tomorrow's activities.
Soon Gertie had done all she could to prepare, so she replaced the collegiate history book she wrote in the sixties for use in her classes to the shelf.
Even though she should be going upstairs to get some rest because she had breakfast to cook for a house full of boarders in a few short hours, Gertie's eyes caught the well worn faux leather grained spine of an album that her loyal heart screamed for her reluctant hand to take down.
Knowing the familiar pain to come, Gertrude took the priceless witness to the table where she was studying mere moments before, sat back down, took a breath, and opened it.
As her fingers trailed over the first photograph, Gertie had a light, but fond smile twisting her lips upwards.
What a surprise Miles was in the early fall of hers and Phil's life together, but oh so welcome, and wanted just the same. She remembered the ache of her younger days wanting, hoping, praying, and trying so hard to have a baby, only to be cheated of the incomparable pleasures of motherhood.
Having resigned herself to never having her fondest wish granted, needless to say, it was a complete, but happy surprise for Gertrude to find that in her mid forties she was pregnant.
Phil knew Gertie wouldn't make up something as outlandish as that, and was so grateful for the miracle that he didn't question so as not to jinx it. When Gertie told her mother that she was expecting, she thought it was another one of her daughter's April fool's Day jokes despite the confusing fact that it was early May. After the initial shock though, she was overjoyed at the prospect, and Gertrude's father would have been jubilant with the news as well, but he didn't live to learn the happy news, god rest his soul.
The best gift she ever received during the entire span of her life, Miles Davis Shortman was born on December twenty fifth, Christmas Day.
Loud, and just a touch flatulent, the bright eyed boy had inherited all of his father's social charms, but in looks, Miles favored her, with that unruly shock of blonde hair and those free spirited, piercing green eyes that were much wiser than his time on earth.
Miles was an old soul, Gertie just knew it.
As Gertrude thumbed through the album, memories flooded her mind as pictures of muddy mischief, grudgingly accepted baths, birthdays, her beloved son with pets long passed, school pictures, and graduations sparked them, the last few pages being poignant reminders of the marriage of her sweet baby boy.
Oh, how she missed Stella too, another old soul, a kindred spirit, and the beautiful daughter she never had.
For years they searched off and on over several trips, and spent their life savings searching for their son and daughter in law, but despite all the praying, nothing was ever found of that light beige colored bi-plane or the precious human cargo it carried.
There was always the prospect of hope, but even that of a mother's, no matter how strong, can be crushed by heartbreaking reality.
The seventh trip was the last one they took to San Lorenzo, and when they found nothing again, Phil said in a comforting way so as to hide his lack of faith for her sake, "Next time. Next time we'll find them, Pookie."
Gertrude would have agreed, but in a moment of realization said firmly while shaking her head negatively, "No. We're not coming back."
Phil screamed at her, one of the few times he ever raised his voice at her in true anger, but she silenced him with a painfully logical explanation, her heart tearing with feelings of betrayal. "They may be gone, they may not, but either way, if we wish to honor Miles and Stella, we need to care for their legacy now. " Resigned, she finished, "We can't do that here, and he is home waiting for us definitely, while we have nothing but indefinite here, Phillip."
Phil understood, for Gertrude never called him Phillip or spoke such heart wrenching truth before, and as he took her hand, their cold fingers entwining tightly, they both looked out over a dark, threatening sky weeping with tears so hard, that it was as if Quetzalcoatl and Chac were grieving with them as Eduardo stood to the side with his hat in his hands looking downwards in guilt.
Never did they return to San Lorenzo again.
In the unforgiving present, tears fell from Gertie's eyes as she wiped them away from under the thin frames of her glasses, but there was not a wrist swift enough to catch them all, so some fell on the yellowing film covering the old photos. She mopped them away as best she could with her fingers, and after a loud blow of her nose in a hanky, she dabbed the rest of the dampness away with the corner of it.
Sometimes Gertie wanted to curse Eduardo, the Green Eyes, and even the jungle that swallowed Miles and Stella whole by damning them all to Hell for what they had greedily stolen from her, Phil, and most importantly, Arnold, with their selfishness, and battle cries of good intentions.
Bitterness, hate, and anger would not bring them back though, and ultimately, indulging it would shame Miles and Stella's memory, so Gertie tried to understand rather than condemn, and reconcile their loss with varying degrees of success.
None of the hurtful theories could possibly be farther from the truth, but a lot of people in the neighborhood spoke about her behind her back, making up outlandish theories as to why she acted the way she did from insanity, to dementia, and worst of all, thinking that she didn't care anymore.
Ever since she was a young girl, Gertie Shortman knew her own heart, and in the end, that was all that mattered, besides, she had to be strong for her grandson. The unanswered questions of people who didn't matter could wonder about her sanity to her dying day, but just as long Arnold believed in her, she could endure anything thrown at her.
Gertie knew that all of the love she and Phil could muster combined would never make up for the lack of his parents, but the truth of the matter was that she needed him more. Arnold was his own person, yes, but as long as she had him, there would always be that little bit of Miles to hold onto too, and that gave her permission to live the rest of her life without him.
She'd never dream of telling anyone, not even Phil, but it was hers and Miles' secret you know.
The Fourth of July on Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving on Christmas, Groundhog Day melded with Christmas on April Fools Day. Gertie and her beloved son would exchange gifts; with no one the wiser as to why she had decorated the house in incorrect holiday trappings.
Later in life, finding that she thought life was a bit dull for her daydreaming grandson, Gertrude went a step forward, and began to draw from a cast of characters Broadway would have been hard pressed to top.
From private detectives looking for lost Packards, sensei to her Tadpole, trusted Bwana, faithful bushman to Kimba, and a ukulele cowgirl rounding up stacks of pancakes in the back of a rolling chuck wagon, with each character Gertie portrayed; the more in love with impromptu theatre she became.
Yes, sometimes in the dead of rational night when the masks of theatre were off of her face, and she was alone with her thoughts, Gertie's grieving heart was still broken, but still, just as in a production, life does and should still go on, even if missing a player or two.
Gertrude placed the well worn album back in its place, turned off her flashlight, and went to find her bed.
It was going to be a busy morning.
Just as she finished feeding the boarders, Gertrude wrote a message on a piece of paper and securely tied it to the neck of the Imperial messenger.
Now the highest ranking officer in Legion Italica thirty six after the last attack sent by Alaric, Gertiemius wished she could send a few turmae to break out of the city bearing the vital communication, but all of the horses were dead, along with their riders, and the few men left were manning the gates for as long as they would hold.
In a pinch, a pig wearing a dog collar would do just fine.
"Abnerius take this scroll to Ravenna, and tell Caesar that for now, the rebelling slaves and Visigoths are driven back from Rome!" Gertie shooed the porcine messenger away with the backs of her hands with dire alacrity, "Make haste for the fires grow, and they will soon rally to make another push for entry!"
The pig obediently ran away down the hall, and then up the steps to Arnold's room.
After relaying what might the last orders she would ever give to the herd of four legged soldiers running through the green painted front gate, the brave Centurion rubbed the red dyed transverse horse hair plumed crest of her galea for luck before donning it, readying for combat in close quarters.
That day she would either earn the spoils of war, or a hallowed place in the ranks of the warriors preceding her who now trod the Elysian Fields.
In a few minutes Arnold came down the steps, and what greeted his eyes was astounding, even by her standards, but before the surprised football headed boy could make a comment on his grandmother's costume, an announcement was made.
"Senatus Populus Que Romanus!" With her gladius drawn towards the top of the steps, Gertrude held her left fist and arm clenched to the hard metal scales of her lorica squamata in a masculine salute.
Bowing her head in reverence to the shining light of her emperor, Caesar's loyal centurion raised her greave strapped leg to rest on the first step that led upstairs as Arnold descended them, and informed gravely, "We who are about to die salute you, Gaius Caesar!"
As he passed underneath the bridge of Gertie's risen sword, Arnold greeted his dear, crazy grandmother with a wide grin as she announced as if he were the head of a majestic triumph headed towards Capitoline Hill, otherwise known as the dinner table. "Make way for the Emperor! A golden feast of flapjacks awaits his majesty's discourse!"
The only thing suitable for a wild callithump the likes of this, a loud, cackling laugh issued from the happy woman, another battle won.