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Tales of Three Rivers

Lewis Bruser

Born in 1929 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, Lewis Bruser grew up in the town of Macklin, Saskatchewan. He is a retired electrical engineer, is married, has three children and four grandchildren, and lives across Puget Sound from Seattle, Washington, USA. You can also see Lewis’ creative work in the poetry section.

Each of the following three stories is based on a pun. The puns came first; the stories were invented so the puns could be used. Lewis’ notes:

Crimea River
Everyone may not have heard the song "Cry Me a River." Even if you have, the connection with Crimea may not be made when you read the story. Other helpful notes: There really is a Hoover Institution, at Stanford University. The Van Cliburn event really was a great sensation. The remark "I knew Harry James..." is a take-off on Lloyd Bentsen's famous remark to Dan Quayle during their vice-presidential debate. Harry James was a famous band leader and trumpet player; one of his big hits was "The Flight of the Bumblebee." Gaspadin is the Russian equivalent of Mister. "Dark Eyes" and "Volga Boatmen" are Russian songs; "And Quiet Flows the Don" is a Russian novel; "Silent Spring" is a book by Rachel Carson; "young Virginia creepers" is a phrase from the song "June is Bustin' Out All Over"; and "where is thy sting" comes from I Corinthians 15:55.

The Conference on the River Tehl
Salleyrand is a composite name, made up from Talleyrand, the great French statesman, and Sally Rand, the strip tease artist who later became mayor of Sausalito, California. "Cardinal Richard's loo" is a pun on Cardinal Richelieu, another French statesman. The "droit du seigneur" (French for "right of the lord") was supposedly a custom in feudal times which permitted the lord to spend the first night with the bride of one of his serfs.

The Crossing of the River Styx
Eratosthenes calculated the diameter of the earth (supposedly within 4%) using elementary geometry. The "lucrative spin-off" I had in mind for Archimedes was his method of determining the relative amounts of silver and gold in the king's crown. "Euclid, thou shouldst be living at this hour" is from a poem by Wordsworth, except he wrote "Milton," not "Euclid," and "England hath need of thee," not "Athens." Of England he said, "she is a fen of stagnant waters." "Let me count the ways" is from what is probably Elizabeth Barrett Browning's most famous sonnet (How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.) "They also wait who only stand to serve" is a rewording of the last line from Milton's sonnet "On His Blindness": "They also serve who only stand and wait." The Styx (adjective Stygian) is a river in Greek mythology. Cars of the future may not have stick shifts, so I thought I had better memorialize this for my great-grandchildren.

Photo by Robert Balcomb

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