After that little interruption we return to our alphabetic schedule with L. And as with G, L is a double bill, for L stands for both Lettuce and Leeks.

According to the BBC, there was much amusement recently when police in Hampshire released an e-fit picture of a burglary suspect who appeared to be wearing a lettuce on his head.


What has gone unremarked is the possibility that the image may be devastatingly accurate, and that it is the habit of burglars and other ne’er-do-wells in the Hampshire area to sport the makings of salads upon their bonces. It would not surprise me if some urban folklorist, attached perhaps to a polytechnic, was at this very moment preparing a monograph on, say, the radish-wearing footpad of Gosport, or the Winchester Watercress Rascal.

A wider range of vegetables has been used by miscreant scamps in the past, of course, though for hiding behind rather than wearing openly upon the head. Six long years ago here at Hooting Yard we dealt, in passing, with the case of the chap who skulked under cover of a serried array of leeks hanging from a ceiling.


It just goes to show that sooner or later the so-called “real world” tends to catch up with Hooting Yard, albeit sometimes at a slightly lopsided or tangential angle.


I have decided that K, in our alphabetic schedule, stands for Knowledge. More specifically, this postage is about the status of Knowledge, how we know what we know, and how we can “know” things which we know are untrue. Actually, the real reason K stands for Knowledge is simply that I wanted to advert to this splendid postage by backwatersman. Having read just the title, and been astounded, I now “know” that…

The last words of the Emperor Napoleon were “weasel trappers may be lurking in your area”.

Alas and alack! I then continued to read the full postage, and though I was mightily entertained – and learned a thing or two – I was shattered to discover that these were not Napoleon’s last words, nor had anybody ever claimed them to be. But to look on the bright side, there is a part of my brain that will always have the comfort of once, very briefly, on this day, having “known” that they were.

I am happy to admit that this was a pretty desperate attempt to shoehorn an otherwise K-free postage into my scheme. I could have waited for M for Misreading, or N for Napoleon, or even W for Weasel, but I was impatient. You will thank me for it one day.


The OED defines jiggery-pokery as “deceitful or dishonest ‘manipulation’; hocus-pocus, humbug”. By OED, I mean the Oxford English Dictionary of course, the common referent of that abbreviation. The out of print pamphleteer Dobson, however, tried to foist upon the world another OED, the Omni-Encyclopaedia Dobsonia. We must be careful, when ploughing through the works of the pamphleteer, not to mistake one OED for the other. If we look up “jiggery-pokery” in Dobson’s own OED, we are told simply, “see pamphlet”. In fact, pretty much anything we look up in Dobson’s OED carries the same advice or instruction. It is difficult to see the point of this so-called reference work, which consumed many, many hours of the pamphleteer’s time. Even if we consider it as a sort of universal index to the contents of his pamphlets, it is by and large worthless, as he never deigns to inform us which particular pamphlet he is enjoining us to “see”.

In the case of jiggery-pokery, though, we are on firm ground. The pamphlet to which the OEDobsonia refers must be The History, Theory And Practice Of Jiggery-Pokery, From Ancient Times Up To Yesterday Morning, With Practical Tips And Cut Out ‘N’ Keep Cardboard Display Models For Your Mantelpiece (out of print). At barely a dozen pages, the pamphlet is distressingly brief, and nowhere does Dobson grant us a definition, so we are never entirely clear what he means, or understands, by the term “jiggery-pokery”. There is one lengthy paragraph which seeks to describe, in mind-numbing detail, a series of “manipulations”, “passing movements”, “flummeries and gesticulations” and “hoo-hah” which the pamphleteer watched being performed by a man he describes as “a shattered ship’s captain” on board a boat plying an unidentified sound on New Year’s Eve 1949. If we accept this to be a description of jiggery-pokery, we are none the wiser regarding its purpose, as Dobson does not bother to tell us. One suspects he had no idea what he was looking at.

The pamphlet’s title makes great claims, which only the most charitable reader could consider are met. History? Well, Dobson has a couple of sentences in which he makes glancing reference to “well-known instances of jiggery-pokery by Lars Porsena of Clusium and one-eyed Horatius Cocles” and to “that funny business involving a certain Frankish king”, but we are left scratching our heads wondering what on earth he is talking about. I just scratched my head, incidentally, and a beetle fell out of my bouffant. Time to wash my hair with a proprietary shampoo! Wait there.

I have returned, cleaned and preened and ready to proceed. Where were we? Ah yes. If the “history” element of the pamphlet’s title is scarcely justifiable, what about “theory”? On page five, Dobson announces, with quiet menace, “The time has come to consider jiggery-pokery in the abstract”. This is menacing because anybody who has even a passing acquaintance with the pamphleteer’s work knows that when he embarks upon passages of “abstraction” the best thing to do is to bash one’s head repeatedly against a surface of adamantine hardness until one loses consciousness. There was a time, when I was foolishly attempting to write a magazine article entitled “Abstract Dobson”, when I actually installed a rectangular panel of granite next to my writing desk, so I could do the bashing without having to get up from my chair. If you fear your cranium cannot withstand repeated bashing, it is important to find an alternative method of dealing with the all too potent horrors of Dobson in “abstract” mode. Some illegal pharmacists with pharmacies tucked away down sordid alleyways may be able to procure for you the kinds of powdered tranquilisers that can stun an entire herd of cattle, but ingesting them, even in a bergamot-scented tisane, has its own risks. Some more experienced Dobsonists have tried the trick of simply flipping past the awful pages and resuming their reading when the pamphleteer gets some sense back in his head. Do what you have to do.

For now, all I will say about Dobson’s “Theory of Jiggery-Pokery” is… glubb… glubb…glubb-glubb. Some of you will recognise that as the telephone call made by a terrifying semi-aquatic creature in The Thing On The Doorstep by H P Lovecraft. Warning enough, I think.

And so we come to “Practice”, which I suppose Dobson addresses in that interminable paragraph about the shattered ship’s captain, but as we have seen, whether what he witnessed was jiggery-pokery, or some kind of maritime ballet, is by no means clear. Over the years I have watched various crew members of ships, from Rear Admirals to barnacle scrapers, perform all sorts of baffling physical manoeuvres, and not once have I thought any of it fitted the definition of jiggery-pokery, except on one occasion when I was aboard a very sinister ship which sailed into a clammy mist, in which all sorts of ugly shenanigans took place until, at the last, I was marooned, with several other paying passengers, upon a remote atoll, populated only by squelchy creeping things, and bereft of paper and pencils and writing desks and panels of adamantine hardness. Luckily, the one, brine-soaked, Dobson pamphlet I managed to salvage from the ship was written in his more familiar majestic sweeping paragraphs, with nary a pippet of “abstraction” within it. Its title, by the way, was Popular Games And Pastimes Suitable For Those Marooned On Remote Atolls Pending Rescue By A Ship Of Fools (out of print).

Returning to the pamphlet under discussion, my copy of The History, Theory And Practice Of Jiggery-Pokery, From Ancient Times Up To Yesterday Morning, With Practical Tips And Cut Out ‘N’ Keep Cardboard Display Models For Your Mantelpiece contains neither practical tips nor cut out ‘n’ keep cardboard display models for my mantelpiece, not that I have a mantelpiece in my chalet, for architectural reasons. I suspect Dobson appended these items to his title to woo a wider readership, attracting the kinds of people who like practical tips and the construction of cardboard display models. I once cut out, from a Kellogg’s cornflakes carton, ‘n’ constructed ‘n’ kept, a cardboard display model of the head, just the head, of Henry VIII. But that was long ago, when I was young and tiny, and almost as long ago it was lost. Both are lost, the time of my youth and the cardboard head, lost too, one suspects, the wits of Dobson when he sat down to write his jiggery-pokery pamphlet. Perhaps that was his own kind of jiggery-pokery, as a pamphleteer, to convince us he was a sensible man writing sensible prose, when more often than not he was a nincompoop.


This morning I embarked upon the latest, and I hope final, proofreadnig of the forthcoming Hooting Yard paperback anthology. As I read, a Great Imponderable occurred to me, and as it happens the ‘I’ in our alphabetic schedule stands for Imponderable.

Why is it, I wonder, that so many of my stories are set in the countryside, and feature peasants and farmyards and rustic squalor, given that I grew up on a suburban council estate and have lived my entire life, apart from about two months in 1980, in what Keith Pratt in Nuts In May calls “the hurly-burly of the urban conurbation”?


H is for Hybrids

“Indeed, many people… think that the aliens, having subjected abductees to breeding experiments in parked spaceships or secret underground laboratories, have already produced a race of hybrids who will someday rule or even replace us. The hybrids may in fact be shopping and commuting all around us as I write. And even if they aren’t, their mixed parentage could help to explain the familiar images found in abduction memories like the following…

He’s got on a, a multistriped t-shirt… And some, like, little blue shorts…  They had sophisticated-looking toys… They have a yo-yo… It looks like an Etch-a-Sketch screen, except it’s filled with all sorts of stuff.

They were dressed like 1920s thugs, and came into the bedroom with old-fashioned Tommy Guns, aiming at me and blazing away.

Beth Collings saw a naked man in an enormous white cowboy hat.

Karla Turner… mentions two people she knows who have seen aliens disguised as hillbillies. Katharina Wilson had an experience with an alien masquerading as Al Gore.

“Once recollections of this kind are taken to be authentic, guesswork as to the aliens’ true nature and purpose becomes irresistible. What if, for example, Katharina Wilson’s visitor wasn’t just masquerading as Al Gore but was Al Gore – the hybrid or body snatcher who has already replaced the man from Tennessee? And if so, the alien takeover of our executive branch surely wouldn’t have stopped at the second in command. Consider this provocative observation by the renowned abduction expert David M Jacobs:

Because the late-state hybrids are mainly human, they have strong sexual drives but little conscience. It is as if they have human attributes but lack human controls. Even if they do have a conscience, they know that the human victim will immediately forget what happened to her. The hybrid might assume there is no lasting effect upon the human and he can therefore do and say anything he pleases with impunity.

“Could the space creature who assumed the form of Bill Clinton have been hideously mocking us when it kept invoking ‘executive privilege’?”

Frederick Crews, “The Mind Snatchers” (1998) in Follies Of The Wise : Dissenting Essays (2006)


G is for Mrs Gubbins, obviously

“Bathsheba Gubbins! You have been found guilty of a raggle-taggle salmagundi of crimes, some so heinous that they beggar belief and make strong men break down into convulsive weeping. Now, by dint of the awful and arbitrary power invested in me, do not ask when or by whom, I pronounce sentence. Mrs Gubbins, you shall be taken from this place, by horse and cart, during a rainstorm, and deposited none too kindly in a chamber within the sort of institution appropriate to a crone of your advancing years, and there you will remain, and there you will knit. You will knit and knit and knit forevermore, without cease. When cities burn and the planet crumbles and the sun is extinguished, still you shall knit, Bathsheba Gubbins! You shall knit tea-cosies and scarves and miscellaneous woolies, and at the very instant they are completed, they shall unravel and you will knit them again from scratch. From dawn until dusk and through the cold dark horrors of the night, you shall knit much like Sisyphus hopelessly pushing his boulder uphill. As he gaped to watch it roll down to the bottom of that hill, so shall you see your knitting unravel until all you have to show for your toil is a tangled skein of wool, wool you must knit again and again into a tea cosy or a scarf or a wooly. The only sound in your chamber shall be the interminable clack clack of your knitting needles. Knit, La Gubbins, knit! From now until the end of time, and beyond, clack clack clack! Take her down.”

Crikey! What a revelation! Until now, it has been beyond the most acute of wits to grasp why on earth the criminally-minded octogenarian crone never ever ceases to knit. Veteran of innumerable armed robberies and mystic badger abductions, La Gubbins sits clacking away, occasionally dribbling, staring into the middle distance, seemingly happy in her toil. Only the chance discovery of this dictabelt recording, in a cardboard box underneath a sink in an outhouse in the grounds of a mysterious country pile situated behind enormous wrought iron gates partly hidden at a bend in a bosky lane lined by titanic cedars and larches along which brightly coloured sports cars driven at reckless speed by raffish chaps wearing cravats and goggles zoom past, has revealed the truth of the matter. The matter being that endless knitting, which at last we can understand as Sisyphean.

Where and when the dictabelt recording was made is unclear. It is fanciful to suggest, as Van Spurtbosch does in his recently-published monograph, that it came from the same cache that yielded the dictabelt recording from the police motorcycle of Officer H B McLain whose radio microphone was accidentally stuck in the open position as he accompanied the presidential motorcade along Dealey Plaza in Dallas on the twenty-second of November 1963 and thus picked up sounds and “impulse patterns” which were to become germane to the inquiry regarding the identity of the assassin or assassins of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy on that day, and in that place. Waters were muddied in that case by Officer McLain later suggesting his dictabelt was not the source of the recordings, but rather that of one of his colleagues. Equally fanciful is Van Spurtbosch’s wild claim that John McClane, the character played by Bruce Willis in the Die Hard tetralogy, was based on the Dallas police motorcyclist. One need only compare the spellings of the names to see it ain’t so. Had Van Spurtbosch done his homework, much grief, much much grief, indeed as much grief as there is Gubbinsy knitting, could have been spared.

Grief, like Gubbins, begins with G, so in this instalment of our alphabetic postage schedule, you have had double helpings. Remember that, next time you are minded to bemoan your lot.


Flares. That’s right, flares. And not just any old flares, but solar flares, up in the heavens, immense and dazzling. Solar flares due to create a space storm that could incapacitate the infrastructure of civilisation on earth. Or, as The Sun puts it, excitingly, “could turn the sky red, wipe internet and paralyse Earth”.

These world-shuddering solar flares were an item on last night’s Channel Four News. In spite of the fact that these huge explosions of energy from the sun which could crash electricity grids and paralyse the earth are due to occur in just three years’ time, the story was not the main headline. Nor even the second or third. In fact, it came at the tail-end of the bulletin, the place one might expect to be told about a skateboarding duck or a pancake bearing the face of Christ.

Has it come to this? The destruction of civilisation is considered to be of lesser account than Nick Clegg? Yes, yes, we know Clegg smokes and idolises Samuel Beckett and weeps when he listens to the Four Last Songs by Richard Strauss, but remember, too, that Chris Mullin, a man of (I think) some integrity, who still watches television in black-and-white, describes him as “easily the biggest charlatan of the lot”.

The terrifying thing is that, if two-thirds of the skies will indeed be smothered in a blood-red aurora, what will become of Hooting Yard? Let’s get our priorities right. The Lib Dem party conference may be of interest to smoking Beckettian Straussist charlatans and their hangers-on, but any sane person would be preparing themselves for a hideous new dispensation of pre-industrial scavenging, untold savagery, and silence like unto death itself falling upon Dobson and Blodgett and Tiny Enid and Pebblehead and all your Hooting Yard favourites. Surely even Krishnan Guru-Murthy can grasp the horrifying implications.

There is a crumb of comfort, I suppose, in the likelihood that we will reach the end of our alphabetic postage series long before 2013.


Our alphabetic postage experiment continues with E, which in this case stands for Embargo

I have decided to place an embargo on this postage. It is, or was going to be, about the cargo of a barge. It was a large barge, freighted with spectacularly interesting cargo, magnificent in both quantity and quality, on an impossibly extensive canal system, beginning at Tack and terminating at Bluff. But I have told you too much already, bearing in mind my embargo.

The reason for the embargo could be termed “quaint,” I suppose, were one to be seeking a descriptive. To describe the nature of the embargo is not, necessarily, to justify it, and I am aware that some readers may wish to have it so justified. “Oi,” they will be braying, gobs wide and knuckles dragging along the ground, “What do you think you’re up to, mister, putting an embargo on a Hooting Yard postage?” At least that is the kind of thing they might bray if they could string a sentence together. Be assured I am referring only to a tiny minority of my readers, the ones who gather, on Monday evenings, in the shabby annexe just down the lane from the eerie mysterious barn at Scroonhoonpooge Farmyard, there to squat on stools in mysterious eerie candlelight and to read my prose aloud to each other. As it happens, the annexe is on the banks of the canal, so the large barge with its tremendous cargo either will pass by or has already done so, at the time of the gathering, in the autumnal dusk. I can appreciate that they will fume and fret, wondering what in the name of heaven I would have had to say about it, in fact, have said about it, or rather written about it, but then, quaintly, embargoed. But I am not about to reverse my quaint decision. To do so would catapult me into muddy waters, from which I might not emerge. Even if I did emerge, I would be stained with mud, perhaps forever. “You could go to the launderette!” my Monday dusk readers might shout, voices raised in a collective whinge.

But ah, launderette begins with L, and we have six postages to post before we get that far. I am taking this alphabet seriously.


D is a Date for your Diary

Mr Key is very pleased to announce that he will be reading a couple of (short) stories as part of a night of live radio art presented by the Resonance Radio Orchestra at the Jellyfish Theatre on Sunday the third of October. Tickets are just £5, and doors open at 7.30 PM.

The Jellyfish Theate is a temporary structure built of pallets and discarded doors and old nails. You can read about it here and find out where it is here.



Our alphabet continues with C for canker worm.

Sorely perplexed was I, that I was waking each morning, and had been for months on end, engulfed in a miasma of unutterable spiritual desolation. I sought advice from a quack I encountered on a charabanc outing. He was sitting in the seat next to mine, all wrapped up in a visible aura of wisdom, a sort of pinkish violet haze, and his one good eye seemed, to me, to emit a ray, a ray that could pierce my spiritual innards were he but to train it upon me. I tapped him on the shoulder, so he would turn to face me.

“You look like the kind of fellow who might be able to diagnose the miasma of spiritual desolation within which I tremble, engulfed,” I said, not beating about the bush.

“I am that man,” he replied, and about thirty seconds later he added “You have a canker worm nestling within the very core of your soul, and it is gnawing away at your spiritual vitals.”

“I knew I could rely on you,” I said, possibly a bit too loudly, for elsewhere in the charabanc heads turned and craned to look. I slipped some coinage into the quack’s outstretched palm, settled back in my seat, and shut my eyes. Soon enough we reached the destination of our outing, a ruined fortification of great antiquity and becrumblement, lashed by wind and rain. Tugging my windcheater close about my puny frame, I fairly skipped out of the charabanc into the mud, animated by a sense that, having discovered the cause of my unutterable spiritual desolation, I could now do something about it.

But what was I to do? The canker worm was nestled in my soul, and we still do not know whereabouts within us the soul resides. Indeed, there is a growing body of opinion that we do not have souls at all, that the whole idea is a phantasy, or a metaphor, or just blithering nonsense. Well, I laugh in the face of those who deny the soul’s existence! I may not know precisely where mine is, in brain or heart or spleen or kidney, but I know that it is about the size and shape and colour of a plum tomato. I was told as much by a Magus at a seaside resort, long, long ago.

Traipsing round the ruin, and then on the charabanc journey back – during which there was no sign of the quack, his seat next to mine having been taken by a television chat show host to whom I could not quite put a name, and dare not ask, for he was frowning mightily – I mentally chewed over what I might do about my canker worm. Was there some substance or formula I could ingest that would do me no harm but would blast the little canker worm to perdition? Some potion or preparation, of milk and aniseed and potable gold? Or could I somehow excise it with a pair of ethereal pliers? That might put me at risk of irreversible psychic injury, of course, but was it a price worth paying?

I juggled these and other thoughts until my brain overheated, at which point I went to bed, for it was by now late and dark. While I slept, I had a dream, like Dr King, and when I awoke, I wanted to go and stand on a podium, like Dr King, and declaim the contents of my dream to the gathered masses, declaim it in powerful preacherman language. It took me a few seconds to realise that I had not the magnetic charisma of Dr King to attract the teeming thousands to hear me. The next thought that popped in to my head was to wonder precisely when “Dr King” became the preferred way of referring to the Reverend Martin Luther King, and if this had happened at the same time as it became obligatory for all United States Presidential candidates so to mention “Dr King” in at least one campaign speech, to garner guaranteed applause. Seconds later, the next, and most important thought, occurred to me. For the first time in months, I had woken up without feeling engulfed in a miasma of unutterable spiritual desolation! Quite the contrary. I was filled with vim and gush and pep. I was ready for a large eggy breakfast, and nothing was going to stop me.

Tucking in to my eggs, prepared in accordance with the Blötzmann system (see the appendix to the third handbook in the Lavender Series), I tried to remember my dream, as clearly it provided the clue to my new-found mental and spiritual wellbeing. But I could remember nothing, so after a post-breakfast hike along paths and lanes and canal towpaths, and through a municipal park, I took from its cubby my hat-sized metal cone, plopped it atop my head, aligned my head at the correct angle (see the instructions in Blötzmann’s seventh handbook, Lilac Series) and stared into space, mouth hanging open, dribbling.

Gosh! It soon became apparent that, in the mists of sleep, I had visualised my little canker worm, gnawing its way through my plum tomato-shaped soul, and instead of seeing it as an invader to be repulsed or expunged, I had cosseted it as a pet. I named it Dagobert, and furnished it with a hutch, and pampered it, and took it for walks, insofar as a worm can walk, attached to a lead. The lead was made of ectoplasmic string from a spirit-viola.

The question now was whether I was able to apply these methods to my real, albeit invisible and intangible, spiritual canker worm. Perhaps, if I kept the metal cone on my head beyond the recommended time-limit, thus risking weird head judderings, paralysis, and death, I might be granted the powers to construct Dagobert’s little hutch. After all, I reasoned – ha, reason! – if he was snug in his hutch he would desist from his gnawing, wouldn’t he? I was certain, though on what grounds I knew not, that my plum tomato soul could regenerate sufficiently to repair all the damage caused by the gnawing. But where would I take my little canker worm on its necessary walks? Under the metal cone, my head grew hot and frazzled, and I fell into a swoon…

The following week, I once again boarded the charabanc for an outing, this time to a den of iniquity preserved in quicklime. I sat down next to a different quack, one whose visible aura was purple and golden, and whose spirit-piercing ray projected, not from his eye, but from a star in the centre of his forehead.

“Excuse me,” I said, “But you look like the kind of fellow who might be able to see into my soul and tell me if it is being gnawed at by a little canker worm named Dagobert.”

“I am that man!” he roared in reply, and aimed his ray at me. I waited for him to report his findings. As I waited, the driver lost control of the charabanc and we veered scree scraw off the road and plunged into a ditch. The ditch was riddled with puddles, and each puddle was rife with worms, and some of them were canker worms, and they were legion, and uncountable. But somehow, I could count them, and I did, and I learned that as we flailed, panting and stricken, in the ditch, their number had increased by one. Little Dagobert had gone to join his fellows in their cankerous ditch-puddle of doom, and I was free!


B is for Bat, and for our entry on Bats who better to quote than the preposterous, ridiculous Aleister Crowley? This is from “The Cry of the 18th Aethyr which is called Zen”, from The Vision And The Voice (written in 1909, as far as I know, or care).

“And now there dawns the scene of the Crucifixion ; but the Crucified One is an enormous bat, and for the two thieves are two little children. It is night, and the night is full of hideous things and howlings.”

From B To Z

A thought has occurred to me – possibly a rather foolish one, but then, many of my thoughts are foolish, as I have no doubt are many if not most of yours, dear readers. The previous postage, because it took for its subject the thirteen Bierce siblings, all of whose names began with A, I chose to entitle ‘A’. Once posted, I noted the elegant simplicity of it upon the screen, in contrast to all those postage titles formed of whole words and phrases, some of which, distressingly, fail to fit neatly on to a single line. This is when the foolish thought bubbled up in my brain. Mayhap, I thought, I should entitle the next twenty-five postages alphabetically, from B to Z. Their subject matter would, of course, be constrained by the letter of their title. Thus I would be following an Oulipian procedure for a couple of weeks at least.

Whether or not this thought becomes a plan and then an actuality, well, who can say?

File under vague, ill-thought, pointless twaddle.


Many moons ago, when the Hooting Yard website was but young – on the ninth of March 2004, to be precise – I noted the fact I had learned that Ambrose Bierce had twelve siblings, all of whose given names began, like his, with the letter A. In the brief postage where I mentioned this, I included a request for a knowledgeable reader to let me know what all those names were. Six and a half years have passed, and do you know, not a single one of you has bothered to respond. This is simply not good enough. I do not think it is too much to expect that my loyal and devoted readers should register such a request and beaver away, burning the candle at both ends, putting their own lives on hold if necessary, until they have discovered the information I am seeking.

Wait a moment while I emit a sigh, an expressive sigh which somehow commingles saintly patience and inordinate mental suffering and fathomless disappointment.

There. Now, because of the distinct want of diligent research on your part, I have had to find out the names of Ambrose Bierce’s siblings all by myself. You see what trouble you have caused me? Anyway, let bygones be bygones. Let us move forward in a spirit of happy comity, striding purposefully towards the slightly overcast uplands, me a preening magnifico and you lot stricken by unassuageable pangs of guilt.

Oh, and before I forget, here are those names, of the thirteen children of Marcus Aurelius Bierce and his wife Laura Sherwood Bierce, of Horse Cave Creek, Meigs County, Ohio. From the oldest to the youngest, they were: Abigail, Amelia, Ann Maria, Addison, Aurelius, Augustus, Almeda, Andrew, Albert, Ambrose, Arthur, and the twins Adelia and Aurelia. Unusually for those days, all but the youngest three survived to adulthood (which also begins with A).