Deathmatch - Men of the Cloth
Henry Tilney vs. Edmund Bertram
Disclaimer: Any similarities to "Rocky I" or "Slap Shot" are purely intentional.
(Theme music plays)
"Good evening, and welcome to another round of Austen Celebrity Deathmatch! This is Dan, and with me, as always, is Stan. Hello, Stan!"
"Hello, Dan! Have we got a great match tonight! The Reverend Henry 'Da Man' Tilney vs. the Reverend Edmund 'So Bland He Has No Nickname' Bertram!"
"Well, Stan, everybody knows that the great lady, Jane Austen herself, bestowed her personal favor on Edmund, and that Henry, despite his charm and wit, holds the world record for never delivering his own sermons. Bertram's expected to win this going away."
"Yes, Dan, but this is Austen Celebrity Deathmatch, where anything can happen! And now to the ring for the introductions!"
The room fell dark, except for a single spotlight in the center of the ring. A man wearing a tuxedo strode to the middle and took hold of a microphone that descended from the ceiling. "Good evening, ladies, gentlemen, and half-pay officers! Welcome to Austen Celebrity Deathmatch!"
The crowd roared appreciatively.
"Please welcome tonight's combatants! In this corner, wearing a fetching outfit of non-fraying green muslin and appearing to much advantage, please welcome the charming, witty, and very close to handsome Henry 'Da Man' Tilney!"
Screams of a particularly feminine timbre emanated from the crowd. A tall young man bearing a striking resemblance to Horatio from the Hornblower movies, wearing a long black muslin coat with "Da Man" embroidered on the back, entered the ring and brandished his fists over his head. He was followed by three long-haired young men wearing thick Buddy Holly-style glasses and carrying hockey sticks. There was more screaming. Henry winked at a dark-haired young lady seated at ringside, who blew a kiss and waved a copy of The Mysteries of Udolpho.
"And in this corner, wearing orange and black, please welcome the boring but always moral Edmund 'No Nickname' Bertram!"
The crowd applauded politely. A tall young man bearing a striking resemblance to Horatio from the Hamlet movie, wearing a long black satin coat with orange trim, the back embroidered with "This Space for Rent," entered the ring and bowed. Three young men in Regency-era costumes followed him.
A demurely dressed young lady in the front row cheered, "Yay Edmund!"
He smiled at her. "Thank you, Fanny dear!"
The tuxedoed man spoke again. "And now, I would like to introduce our celebrity referee! From the City of Brotherly Love, the author of several well-received fanfics as well as unproduced screenplays of particular brilliance, please welcome your Gentle Authoress, Mags!"
"Uh-oh, Stan! Edmund's in trouble now!"
The spotlight focused on a tallish woman with curly reddish-brown hair, dressed in a black-and-white striped shirt (several sizes too large) with orange armbands, black leggings, and well-pedicured bare feet. She was doing t'ai chi warmup exercises in a corner and completely ignoring the announcer.
She continued to ignore him.
She turned around and glared at the announcer. "Yo, I'm meditating here!"
The demurely dressed young woman in the front row piped up. "That's like praying, isn't it?"
"Well, kind of, I guess."
"Then we should leave her alone."
"Thank you!" Mags returned to the meditation position for several minutes while the crowd buzzed uncomfortably. Finally she shook her head, fluffed her curls, and signaled to the announcer that she was ready.
"All righty then! LET'S GET READY TO RRRRRUUUUUMMMMMBBBBLLLLEEEE!!!!"
"Dan, I see that the corner crews are setting up. They are certainly an interesting group of characters!"
"Yes, Edmund's cornermen appear to be Henry Crawford, Tom Bertram, and James Rushworth. Not a very experienced crew, I'm afraid, Stan."
"Unlike Henry's cornermen, the Hanson brothers from that 'Slap Shot' movie. I dare say they've stitched up a few faces, eh, Dan?"
"You got that right, Stan!"
The referee stepped to the middle of the ring and beckoned the two fighters to approach. "Okay," she said. "This is my story, and my fight, so you're gonna play by my rules."
Edmund looked alarmed at this news; Henry merely grinned. He winked at the referee, who blushed and made a kissy face at him, then turned businesslike once again.
"Since I'm really only familiar with one contact sport, namely ice hockey, we're gonna follow National Hockey League rules." She looked at Edmund with compassion. "You shouldn't have worn orange and black, dude. It makes me think you play for the Philadelphia Flyers, which means that your opponents are allowed to do anything they want to you, and I don't have to call a penalty."
"That's not fair!" Edmund protested.
The referee shrugged.
"Wait a minute," said the demurely dressed young lady, paging frantically through an NHL rule book. "There's no rule like that in here."
The referee frowned. "There must be," she said. "They've been calling games like that for at least twenty years now." She shrugged again. "Go back to your corners, and come out fighting!"
The fighters retreated to their respective corners. The Hanson brothers grabbed Henry's hands and began taping wads of aluminum foil to his knuckles.
Edmund watched apprehensively. "What are you doing?" he called.
"Puttin' on the foil!" yelled Jeff Hanson.
"Yeah! Every game!" yelled Steve Hanson.
"Want some?" yelled Jack Hanson.
"NO!" yelled Henry. "You're my cornermen, you cementheads! Don't give him the foil!"
"Sorry," they mumbled, and finished taping the foil.
Edmund retreated to his corner. "Any advice, gentlemen?" he asked his crew.
The three men looked at each other. "Keep a stiff upper lip," offered Rushworth.
"Follow the rules," said Henry Crawford. "Trust me on that one."
"Tom?" asked Edmund. "Do you have any last advice for me, brother?"
Tom scratched his head. "Not really," he said.
The bell rang, and the combatants approached the center of the ring. Henry directed a flying kick at Edmund's head. Edmund managed to duck out of the way, but Henry landed on one foot and spun, connecting with Edmund's midsection with a roundabout kick.
"Oof!" said Edmund, collapsing to the mat.
Henry rushed toward him, but was grabbed by the demurely dressed young lady. "Don't you hurt Edmund, you, you--sportsman, you!"
The referee blew the whistle, her arms crossed in front of her. "Two minutes, obstruction interference!" she yelled, pointing at the young woman.
Fanny looked at the referee, bewildered. "Why did you make that call?" she asked.
"Henry didn't have the puck," the referee pointed out patiently. "You can't grab him like that."
"This is Austen Celebrity Deathmatch! There is no puck!"
The referee was not impressed. "So?"
"That's not fair!" protested Fanny.
The referee blew the whistle again. "Five minutes, unsportsmanlike conduct on Price!" she screamed. "Keep talking, hon, and you're taking an early shower!"
"How dare you call Miss Price 'hon'!" yelled Edmund.
"I'm from Philadelphia, Edmund. We call everybody 'hon.' Now, would you like to join Fanny in the showers?"
Edmund's face lit up, as did Henry Crawford's.
"They're not co-ed showers, Edmund!"
"No, I guess not," he mumbled.
Fanny left the ring, her head down. "I'm sorry, Edmund dear," she said to her fiance on the way out.
"That's all right, Fanny dear," he said soothingly.
Henry was hanging over the ropes, chatting with the dark-haired young woman reading Radcliffe. "Is that a nice horrid book, Catherine, my sweet?" he called.
"Oh, yes, Henry. It is quite horrid!"
A middle-aged gentleman in a red military uniform rose from his seat several rows behind Catherine. "I thought I told you to forget about Miss Morland!" he shouted at Henry.
The referee approached Henry. "Do you want me to have him ejected, sweetheart?" she asked, taking his arm in a very friendly manner.
He grinned at her. "Don't worry about it, Mags. I've got it under control."
She made another kissy face at him. "Just let me know if you need me."
"Always, babe." He winked at her, and she blushed and giggled.
Catherine looked concerned. "Excuse me, Ms. Referee?"
"Yes, Cathy dear?"
"Why are you making love to my fiance?"
"I wish," muttered the referee, then remembered that the phrase had a much different connotation in 1798. "Don't worry about it, Cathy," she called. "I got stuff in my refrigerator that's older than Henry Tilney. You can have him back when this is over."
Catherine sat down, much relieved.
The bell rang, and the combatants came back out of their corners. They exchanged several blows, with Edmund getting a bit of an advantage on Henry. "Had enough yet, Tilney?" he shouted triumphantly.
"The fight's not over yet, Bertram," panted Henry. "And don't forget, I'm much smarter than you are."
Edmund looked at him in surprise. "Why do you think so?"
"Because I think with my brain, not with another organ lower down!"
Edmund turned to the referee. "I protest! There are ladies present!"
"Sorry, Edmund. I happen to agree with him," said Mags.
Edmund was indignant. "What do you mean?"
"Well, Henry had Isabella Thorpe sized up pretty quickly. It took you three whole volumes to figure out that Mary Crawford was a manipulative tramp. The only conclusion is that Little Edmund was running the show."
Fanny gave a faint cry and covered her eyes.
"Neener neener neener," Henry taunted Edmund.
"At least I give my own sermons!" Edmund yelled back.
"Yeah, and they put everyone to sleep!"
His repetoire of trash talk expended, Edmund simply charged in and belted Henry again. Henry rocked on his feet but regained his balance. His eye and lip were cut and swollen.
"That's it, Bertram," he said. "I tried to warn you."
"You're all talk, Tilney," Edmund taunted.
"Time for the secret weapon!" shouted Henry. He put his fingers to his mouth and whistled. The sound of barking dogs echoed throughout the arena, and then three terriers and a large Newfoundland puppy leapt into the ring.
"Sic 'em, Bear!" yelled Henry, pointing at Edmund.
The Newfoundland puppy flew at Edmund, knocking him over and pinning him to the ground. He stuck his muzzle in Edmund's face and salivated freely.
"Ugh!" screamed Edmund. "I'm being drooled! Oh, God, somebody help me!"
"Oh, no, Dan! What a cruel move! Newfoundland drool!"
"I knew Tilney was determined to win, Stan, but I never thought he'd go that far!"
"Oh, the humanity!"
The weaker stomachs in the audience were forced to turn away from the sickening sight. Finally the referee took pity on Edmund and donned rubber gloves and waders. She grabbed the puppy's collar and hauled him away from Edmund, surreptitiously slipping the puppy a bacon-flavored dog treat. "Way to go, Bear," she whispered.
Henry kissed her on the cheek. "Thanks for writing him for me, Mags," he said.
The referee grinned at him. "It was Jane's idea. I just gave him a name. Now go to Catherine, and be happy," she instructed. "And don't let her read all that trash, no matter how much it entertains you, my dear."
Henry looked properly abashed. "Yes, ma'am," he mumbled.
The referee turned to the microphone and announced, "The winner, in a unanimous decision, is...Da Maaaaaan!" She raised Henry Tilney's hand to the sky, and the crowd erupted.
The theme from "Rocky" swelled as the audience rushed the stage, milling around the combatants. The clergymen embraced. "Won't be a rematch," gasped Henry. "Don't want one," agreed Edmund.
Catherine managed to get up onto the ring, but she was on the opposite side from Henry.
Stan was trying to interview the champion, asking the usual lame questions. "How do you feel right now, Henry?" he asked.
At that moment, Henry caught sight of Catherine on the other side of the ring. "Catherrrriiiiinnnnnnneeee!" he screamed, his eyes and lip swollen so that his words slurred. They fought their way through the crowd, trying to reach one another.
"Hennnnnnrrrrrrrrryyyyyyy!" cried Catherine.
The music continued to play, reaching a triumphant crescendo as they made their way through the crowd and into one another's arms....
Edmund and Fanny went out the back door, the better to avoid the crowds of tortilla-throwing, jeering women. The next day, Edmund fired his corner crew and hired "Ogie" Oglethorpe, Tim "Dr. Hook" McCracken, and Dave "Killer" Carlson from "Slap Shot," the better to be prepared for the inevitable rematch.
Henry Crawford left with Isabella Thorpe, who was working the tortilla stand.
The referee left with the Hanson brothers, and was heard asking them if they knew
Eric Lindros' e-mail address.
The authoress would like to state, unequivocally, for the record, that since this story was written, Eric Lindros has become Rangers Scum and is, therefore, dead to her. Go Flyers!