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As promised, a dramatis personae of the games of my childhood.

My sister and I had a cast of stock characters we played in our games, kind of like an in-house Commedia Del Arte, each with his or her shtick. Some of the characters were fairly one-dimensional, others were more developed, depending on factors such as how silly and far-fetched they were, how often they were played, and whether or not they were supposed to be one-dimensional. For example, Benson Belly ate fried truck motors. That was what he did. He ate fried truck motors. That was all we needed him to do, as eating fried truck motors provides sufficient comedy in and of itself. Of course, it was even better when Benson ate the motor out of Barbie’s “motor home” (shoebox) or from one of the inventions Mr. MacGroovinally was building.

Without further ado, here follows a list of the most important characters in our games, with bios and fun-facts.

Moosha the Mess. Moosha was Pig-Pen from Peanuts, plus malevolence and turned female. Moosha talked in a high, gravelly voice and delighted in annoying and destroying. Her nemesis was Cashay Clean-Girl, the over-perfect, prissy chit whose tidy, fragrant existence was nearly a personal affront to the chaotic, filthy Moosha. Moosha had an army of clones, or an ability to split herself into dozens of selves, and would occasionally go on the swarm. This made it possible for both of us to play Moosha when the occasion required it. Moosha was a blast to play because she is 100% id: she is as bad as she wanna be, and nobody can tame her down.

Cashay Clean-Girl: The foil to Moosha the Mess. We didn’t play Cashay as much as Moosha, because she existed only as a foil to Moosha. We introduced Moosha into scenarios with other major characters, but Cashay very rarely put in cameo appearances. Except for when she was reacting against Moosha, Cashay was not a terribly fun or interesting character. She was tidy, well behaved, prim and prissy, and altogether humorless. The only time she lost her mantle of propriety was when Moosha pushed her to the breaking point. Then Cashay lost her cool, and tried to quash the irrepressible Moosha, invariably unsuccessfully. Cashay got even with Moosha about as often as Silly Rabbit got the Trix cereal.

Stowaway: Stowaway was a tiny pixie-like creature (when we played with dolls, she was represented by these tiny 3-inch-tall Japanese Barbie dolls that we had). Stowaway was generally in league with Moosha. She lacked Moosha’s malevolence, but she was somewhat mischievous, as pixies are wont to be. Stowaway found Moosha to be a useful distraction, which would allow her to slip past her victims unnoticed. The main thing about Stowaway was that she never wanted to be left out of anything, and would secrete herself in the most preposterous of hiding places, then get in loads of trouble when found out. Stowaway was most often found whenever anyone was going on a roadtrip, participating in a parade, going on a date, or having a private conference.

Benson Belly: As mentioned earlier, Benson Belly ate fried truck motors. He would eat darned near anything, so long as it was not considered human food. Pavement, Chistmas bulbs, garbage cans, sheds, bicycles, other kinds of motors. Benson was basically humanoid in form, but he had a very big belly–hence the name—a long nose for sniffing out snacks, a vast, dark unibrow, and three spikes of hair on top of his head, like an enhanced Alfalfa. Mostly, Benson showed up at inopportune moments, ate a motor or two, and disappeared. Usually he’d eat the motor out of the protagonist’s vehicle, though on one memorable occasion, Benson ate up the motors of a multi-deck parking garage full of cars. He was an especial nuisance to Mr. MacGroovinally, as Mr. MacGroovinally was a mechanic and inventor, and practically everything he ever built was motorized in some way or another.

Mr. MacGroovinally: Mr. MacGroovinally was a cracked auto mechanic and World’s Worst Inventor. Predating Terry Pratchett’s Bloody Stupid Johnson, but definitely cut from the same cloth, everything that Mr. MacGroovinally built worked, but it didn’t work in any predictable or sane fashion. When you took a car to MacGroovinally to be repaired, you would get back a driveable car, if you didn’t mind the occasional explosion of spaghetti from the steering wheel. If you put in an order to MacGroovinally for a dog-grooming clipper, you’d receive a device that was ideal for re-roofing tin shacks. Sometimes MacGroovinally would go vigilante and roam around “fixing” things unbidden, so that unwitting owners would find that their toasters now tootled out “Dixie” and their bathtubs generated lime Jello, their dog-house perambulated on tank tracks, and their front door dropped down like a drawbridge and catapulted visitors through the house. You could tell when MacGroovinally was on the prowl, as he was always singing a series of nonsense syllables in a jouncey, twanging fashion. His song went “Aing-gang bane-shom, farm-bang ain-sain, soap-barn ain-sain, vroom boomboomboomboomboomboom, pip-bom ain-sain, whoooop, hoomhoom.” MacGroovinally was generally genial and laid-back, except for when Benson Belly ate one of his inventions. Then he’d cuss. Because we weren’t allowed to cuss, MacGroovinally’s cussing involved gibbering loudly like Donald Duck or Yosemite Sam.

The Booze Brothers: The Booze-Brothers were a pair of drunkards by the names of George and Gus Guzzle-Guts. George & Gus were always drunk and their slogan was “Want some in the cup?” which they would ask each other before pouring drinks. They hung around with Benson Belly, for reasons unknown, and didn’t really do much, outside of pour each other drinks. Mostly, they existed because at some point, my sister had invented the phrase “Want some in the Cup?” (singsonged so that “want” was in a low key, “some” was spoken a little higher, “in” and “the” were low-beat syncopations, and “cup” was pitched pretty high, stressed hard, and spoken just about a beat after the “in- the” was spoken) George & Gus, when played with dolls, were represented by two identical green Weebles with porn-star moustaches.

Bibsy Bibswah: Bibsy Bibswah was a preternaturally precocious toddler with an uncanny talent for unwittingly putting herself in danger. She was the charge of Teeny Teenager (about whom, more later). Bibsy was innocent and friendly, high-spirited and charming—and a danger to herself and everyone around her. Much like the character Mindy from Animaniacs, she came through her daily harrowing adventures unscathed and unaware of how close to death she had come.

Teeny Teenager: Part Mary Poppins, part MacGuyver, Teeny was the indefatigable babysitter who took care of Bibsy Bibswah. Teeny was the ultimate heroine, unhingeing beartraps, talking down kidnappers, killing vicious dogs, and tracking down lost (hiding) infants. On the surface, Teeny was very prim, in fact, nearly as prissy as Cashay Clean-Girl, but underneath her fussy, girly exterior, Teeny had a will of steel and the brains of a super-secret-special agent.

Alligators: Alligators were our bogeymen. We knew there were no such things as monsters in the closet, but who knew whether or not there might be an alligator under the bed or behind the toilet? Granted it is the rare alligator who can and will brave the arid and occasionally frigid conditions of landlocked western Nebraska, but, hey at least alligators were real. Alligators threatened characters in our games, they provided impetus in games of “don’t touch the ground” and generally served us as mythical figures of nervous unease. Before one of Mom’s renovation projects, the bathtub had been surrounded with some kind of laminated chipboard which had begun to blister and peel along the bottom edge. My sister and I imagined that those long, greyish-brown chips where the laminate had peeled away were “alligators” and we paid homage to the alligators each night at bath-time by pouring water over them, which obviously was salubrious to the alligators, as it made them grow. Um…Mom didn’t really like for us to feed the alligators, as you might guess.

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