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The Horrible Holiday

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I was once imprisoned for four months, one week, and three days with a woman who like to recite passages from David Flanagan's X Toolkit Intrinsics Reference Manual, Volume 5 whenever she was worried, which was frequently, given that our captors had fled the country and we were locked in a three-room basement with only a barrel of old socks for nourishment. However calming she found such recitations, I found them tedious, a word which here means, "creating in me an ever-growing desire to bang her head repeatedly into a barrel of old socks until she fell silent forever."

Violet Baudelaire found Count Olaf's recurring attempts to marry her tedious as well, but unfortunately, there were no barrels of old socks available. In fact, old socks would be preferable to Count Olaf, because while old socks can keep your feet warm in a pinch, and can even provide nourishment of a sort for four months, one week, and three days, Count Olaf can do neither. Which is to say that he could keep your feet warm if you lit him on fire and roasted marshmallows on him, but that is not usually the chosen tactic of a girl who lost both her parents in a tragic blaze. And he could provide nourishment of a sort for four months, one week, and three days if you ate him, perhaps with a delicious puttanesca sauce, but all nice boys and girls know that we frown upon cannibalism, and Violet Baudelaire was a nice girl.

Specifically, Violet Baudelaire was a nice 14-year-old girl, the eldest of the Baudelaire siblings, and a prisoner of Count Olaf. Violet was bound hand and foot and tossed in the back of Count Olaf's schoolbus, which was racketing down Grizzly Mountain at a pace which was almost certainly illegal. Schoolbuses are unpleasant and dangerous locales at the best of times, and I heartily recommend that you avoid them, perhaps by dropping out of school and joining the circus as the training dummy for the assistant knife-thrower. Count Olaf's schoolbus was worse than even the most unpleasant schoolchild-packed bus on its way to a reenactment village for a class trip.

"You are mine, now!" Count Olaf cackled, a word which here means "laughed in such a way that may possibly have been the laugh of a person chortling pleasantly who because he has smoked too many cigarettes is interrupted by a coughing fit which sounds quite ghastly and unpleasant, but is probably the laugh of an evil maniac who has spent many books trying to trap you and your siblings in order to force you into marriage or death so he can win your fortune and avenge himself upon the VFD members he has already betrayed."

Violet sighed, exasperated. Although she had little hope -- for what reason had the universe provided for her to have hope? -- she still found Count Olaf's cackling worthy of mockery. "I don't see what benefit it is to you that I am tied hand and foot in the back of an unpleasant schoolbus that is rapidly careening down Grizzly Mountain," she said. "Because I can see from the blue lights flashing in the mirror and I can hear from the sirens that are causing interesting Doppler effects as we accelerate --" (the Doppler effect, reader, is a sciencey thing that Violet knew about because inventors need to know about sciencey things, so she would occasionally encourage her younger brother Klaus, who loved to read, to discover information about sciencey things in books so he could tell her about them.) "-- that we are being followed by the entire police force of Sesquipedalian Valley, and I know I will soon be freed."

Count Olaf cackled again. "You don't see the beauty of my brilliant plan," he shouted. "The beautiful Esmé Squalor is at the bottom of this mountain with both of your vile little brothers." (Sunny Baudelaire was, of course, Violet's sister, but Count Olaf counted himself too important to pay attention to such things.) "Right now she has them both dipped in honey. If I don't return to her safely with you within 15 minutes, she will throw both of them into a pile of fire ants. So you see, when the intrepid police forces of Sesquipedalian Valley arrive, you will explain to them that I am your older brother and we are playing a fun game of hide-and-go-seek, which is why you were tied up."

Violet, who was as we have previously mentioned a scientist, was by necessity extremely intelligent. Because of this, she knew that you could roll your eyes up toward the top of your head if you wanted not to cry. Right now she was rolling her eyes as hard as she possibly could. This was partially because she was worried about her own life and the lives of her siblings, and partially because she was horrified that Count Olaf had such a slim grasp on logic that he thought it was reasonable for participants in a game of hide-and-go-seek to be bound hand and foot and tossed at the back of a schoolbus accelerating down Grizzly Mountain at a breakneck speed, but also because it was September, and the mention of honey reminded her of her dead parents, who had celebrated the new year with apples and honey every year during September. Some of you may be wondering why her parents were celebrating the new year in September instead of in January, and to those of you, I will say only that if you cannot educate yourself about cultures other and older than your own, perhaps you deserve to be dipped in honey and throw to the fire ants by Esmé Squalor, unlike Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire, who deserved no such thing.

Thinking of her parents galvanized Violet into action. If you're familiar with the term "galvanized" you might be confused, because you know that galvanization refers to any one of several electrochemical processes named after the Italian scientist Luigi Galvani, commonly used to describe an electrodeposition process which deposits a layer of another metal to an item made of steel in order to prevent rusting. Violet Baudelaire, as you know, was not in any danger of rusting. In this case, however, "galvanized" simply means that Violet was sick of feeling like a carp in the bathtub, and knew that her parents would have expected her to protect her younger brother and sister and prevent the vile Esmé Squalor from tossing their helpless, honey-covered forms into a pile of fire ants. Bound hand and foot as she was, Violet could not tie her hair back with a hair ribbon, which made it difficult for her to invent a solution to her current dilemma. However, Violet was nothing if not resourceful, and the nostalgic thoughts of new years' celebrations past with her beloved parents gave her an idea.

Violet rolled across the vile schoolbus floor until she came to a seat which had been vandalized by a long-gone vile schoolbus inhabitant. The hollow metal frame of the seat had been cracked, leaving a gum-encrusted aluminium tube. Ignoring the gum (because what sister would not ignore vile adhesive substances as necessary to protect her siblings?), Violet pressed her lips to the end of the tube and blew a raspberry. You might think that blowing a raspberry is an excessively rude activity for a nice girl such as Violet, but as Violet knew from blowing a ram's horn (an act which to you sounds ridiculous, but is an act of great solemnity in cultures other and older than your own, as you would know if you spend some time reading at the library instead of sticking gum all over schoolbuses), blowing a raspberry at the end of a small metal tube can produce an extremely loud noise. Moreover, Violet knew that Klaus and Sunny would hear the sound at the bottom of Grizzly Mountain and know exactly what it meant, because she knew that they would remember the last time they had heard a ram's horn as well as she did.

For you see, Violet, Klaus, and Sunny had frequently played games of hide-and-go-seek, which is how Violet knew that getting tied up and tossed in the back of a schoolbus was not part of the game. Hide-and-go-seek is a variety of the game "tag", in which the players must hide, all except for one who is designated a seeker, and who must find and tag the hiders unless they can get back to home base and yell "Olly Olly Oxen free!" before they're tagged. It may surprise you to learn that Violet, Klaus, and Sunny, though they had loved their parents desperately, were not always well-behaved children, and sometimes when their parents were alive had played hide-and-go-seek in inappropriate locations, such as in the china cupboard, and underneath the garbage disposal. These days, of course, they would never do such thing, partly because they were older and more intelligent and understood that hiding in the china cupboard would result in broken china and hiding under the garbage disposal would produce bad smells and potential injury, but mostly because their parents were dead and their house was burnt to ashes and there were no more china cupboards or garbage disposals or parental rules. But when they were smaller, Violet and her siblings had sometimes misbehaved. In these disobedient games of hide-and-go-seek, all three children were tasked with keeping an eye out for their parents. If one of them saw the parents returning, it was that child's responsibility to warn the others by running as quickly as possible to the china cupboard where the ram's horn was kept (and which they were forbidden from touching without a parent around, as you would know if you were from the kind of family that kept a ram's horn of its own instead of the kind of family that cuts down trees and brings them indoors for no apparent reason), and blowing the ram's horn as loudly as possible. This was a sign to the other children that they should immediately drop to the ground and roll under the nearest piece of furniture in order to be hidden from potentially angry parents, and it was a sign to potentially angry parents that they should be startled and clap their hands to their ears because they should not be expecting the sound of a loud ram's horn just as they came in from the garden.

When Violet blew a raspberry on the disgusting, chewing gum-encrusted aluminum tube of the broken schoolbus seat, the sound as it came from the bus was much like the sound of an illicitly-blown ram's horn, except much louder as it echoed back and forth down the valley which gave Sesquipedalian Valley its name. (Nobody knows why Sesquipedalian Valley was at the top of Grizzly Mountain instead of at the bottom.) Violet knew that her brother and sister would be hearing the sound and dropping their honey-covered selves as quickly as possible to the ground, so that they could roll beneath the nearest piece of furniture while Esmé Squalor clapped her hands to her ears because she did not expect the sound of a loud ram's horn just as she was about to throw two small, innocent children into a pile of fire ants. Perforce (a word which means here "your author wants to show off his brachysyllabic grandiloquence"), she knew, it would be safe for her to tell the truth to the police officers who just now were spiraling in front of Count Olaf's stolen schoolbus causing him to slam on the brakes in order to keep the schoolbus from going off the side of Grizzly Mountain. It would be safe to tell them because she was sure that her brother and sister had successfully rolled beneath an ant-free item of furniture during Esmé Squalor's moment of distraction, allowing them time to escape.

But of course, the luck of the Baudelaire children was always bad, and why Violet had ever expected otherwise is something which I will detail for you in another story, because the terrible events which occurred next were simply too dreadful for me to sadden you with now. Suffice to say the your best course of action at this point in time is to find a book about something cheerful, perhaps one about vampires who sparkle in the sunlight, and then read it while sipping mai tais at the poolside, and never come back to another story by me about the Baudelaire children, because I assure you that these stories will be dire indeed.