A Very Special Episode

Posted on January 31, 2004 by Jenna

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It is 1212 the year of our lord. Bertramus enters the hovel. He is carrying a clod of dirt. There’s a pile of clods of dirt near the fireplace. Bertramus lovingly places the clod of dirt in the pile. “I love collecting clods of dirt, ” he says, picking them up in turn. “This one is from last summer. A maid cast bright eyes at me as I found it in the field. This one fell from a raven’s claw. It’s lucky. This one I took from old man Blayves’ field.”

Hernais enters, whistling.

Bertramus says, “You shouldn’t whistle that song.”

“… Sunny day, troubles are miles away …”


“Frederick II doesn’t like it.”

“But we serve the Welf Otto of Brunswick.”

“Not any more. Frederick II just got crowned King.”

“But why would anyone crown him King?”

“He had the support of the Pope.”

“But the Pope supports Otto of Brunswick.”

“Not after the assassination of Philip of Swabia. That was bad politics!”

“But Philip wasn’t assassinated.”

“Yes he was! The Welf gave you that job himself!”

“I didn’t assassinate him.”

“The heralds said, ‘PHILIP ASSASSINATED!’ They had a picture. You were holding a knife.”

“Is that why they drew my picture?”

“Yes. So that’s why we’re supporting Frederick II.”

“But I didn’t assassinate Philip.”

“You didn’t?”

“I just put him under my bed.”

Bertramus looks under Hernais’ bed. The man under the bed waves. “Hi,” says Philip of Swabia.

“Hernais, —why do you have a contender for the German throne under your bed?”

“Where else was I going to put him?”

“You can’t keep Philip of Swabia under your bed,” declares Bertramus firmly.

“Why not?”

“He’ll attract unfavorable attention. Then people with knives will come for you.”

“Oh.” Hernais thinks. “Thanks, Bertramus! That could have been really stupid.”

Hernais takes Philip of Swabia out from under the bed.

“What are you doing?”

“I’m putting him under your bed! That way, if Frederick II finds out, no one will come after me with knives.”

“Argh!” says Bertramus.

“… can you tell me how to get, …”

An immortal Count stands over the battlefield and watches the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa. A dying soldier, bleeding from an arrow in the lung, staggers up onto his hill.

“One Christian King,” counts the Count. “Two Christian Kings. Ahahahaha!” Lightning flashes. Thunder booms.

The soldier winces. “Do you mind? You’ll attract attention.”

“One arrow!” The Count looks disappointed. He doesn’t like counting to one. He yanks the arrow from the soldier’s chest. He treats the soldier with secret muppet medicine and a bandage. He breaks the arrow into three pieces. “One arrow piece. Two arrow pieces. Three arrow pieces! Ahahahaha!”

“Do you think we’ll defeat the Almohades?” asks the soldier.

“I should count the Almohades!” declares the Count. “Then we’ll know! … zero! Zero Almohades in Spain! … I think you’ve won.”

Lightning flashes. Thunder booms.

Counting to zero makes the world go awry.

“… how to get to Sesame Street?”

Stephen stands on the street, talking to the strange furry creature known as the Messenger.

“Messenger, what does it mean that the Arabs and Turks hold the holy land?”

“When a man commits a great sin, then it is the will of God that he make a penitential pilgrimage.”

Stephen looks confused.

“It’s where you prove that you feel bad about things by taking a long and painful journey to the sites of Jesus’ life and death. It’s like in the song:

“When you’re feeling bad about something you’ve done,
Remember that you’re not the only one,
Since the fall of Eden everybody’s sinned,
Repent of your shame and your journey begins.”

Muppet Cherubim descend from the sky, singing,

“Everybody sins,
Everybody sins,
People kill and steal and lie,
And when those people die,
It’s down to Hell unless you’ve served God well!”

The Messenger wiggles his finger at Stephen.

“When you’re wanting Jesus to wipe clean your slate,
A hairshirt’s nice, and you can flagellate,
But the best of all is a trip in His name;
A pilgrimage will scour away your shame!”

The Cherubim sing,

“Everybody sins,
Everybody sins,
People don’t give God their love,
When push comes down to shove,
It’s down to Hell unless you’ve served God well!”

The Cherubim ascend back into the sky.

“Wow,” says Stephen. “And the Turks and Arabs don’t let people do this?”

“They’ve been accused of many atrocities against the Lord,” agrees the Messenger. “Of killing communities of Jews, attacking good Christians, and so forth. You can still make a penitential pilgrimage, but it’s harder with so much hostility. That’s why people have Crusades—so they can end the conflict by killing the Arabs.”

Stephen thinks. “When I grow up, I’ll join a glorious Crusade and fight against them. We’ll take back the holy land!”

The Messenger studies Stephen. “Why wait?”


“How many times have we talked about excuses?” he asks.

“It’s important never to make excuses,” Stephen says. “Just do what you know is right, and the Devil can take the consequences!”

The muppet Devil pops his head around the corner. “Consequences?”

Lightning strikes the muppet Devil. His head steams. He screams in pain. He flutters off.

“It’s best not to say his name,” says the Messenger. “But yes. You can’t be a good Christian if you don’t take moral responsibility.”

“So I should go now, because I know it’s right?”

The Messenger smiles. “What do you think?”

“I should go now because I know it’s right!”

Stephen looks around, and then puts his fingers in his mouth and whistles. All the kids run up.

“Kids!” he says. “Leave the plows and carts you’re driving. Leave the flocks which you’re pasturing. Leave aside all the things you’ve doing. Close your ears to the wishes of your parents, your relatives, and your friends. Take up the cross; like our brothers in Germany, we march against the holy land, and Devil take the hindmost!”

The muppet Devil pokes his head around the corner. “The hindmost?”

The Messenger, standing behind the children, blows a trumpet loudly in the muppet Devil’s ear. Dazed, the muppet Devil retreats. In the distance, a voice counts, “One mysterious way, two mysterious ways, three mysterious ways, four mysterious ways, five mysterious ways, ahahahahahaa!”

Lightning flashes. Thunder booms.

“… how to get to Sesame Street?”

“What shall happen, Messenger?” asks Stephen.

The Messenger considers. “You will reach Marseilles, and there be sold into slavery.”

“And is that good?”

“No,” says the Messenger flatly. After a moment, he adds, voice soft and sad, “But it is the best that can be hoped for, given the sickness of our times.”