The Winner of the 1998 Second Annual Imitate Keeler Competition:

The Mysterious Miss Bigg

by William Poundstone

"Jest yer size," sneered the sheriff as the noose tightened around Burgoyne TerCramble's neck, "an' I reckon this'll larn you to go up aginst the mentally defective giantess who makes the laws in this town!--name o' Tiny Bigg!--also known as the Himalayan Hoosier!--or the Bounteous Bride of Brobdingnag!"

As TerCramble stood on the gallows, he espied the sign that was the start of all his troubles:

Welcome to Starkeyville
--City on the Go!--
--The Town Too Busy for Fantasy and Deception--

NO effigies
NO dioramas
NO puppets
NO ventriloquist's dummies
NO mannequins
NO anatomical models
NO polychrome statues
NO robots

Why? TerCramble asked himself--why didn't I turn around the instant I saw that nutty sign? What made me drive my circus truck through Starkeyville--emblazoned, as it was, TERCRAMBLE'S TRAVELING CHINESE WAX MUSEUM AND MOTORIZED ORIENTAL CHAMBER OF TERROR!?

"It is my awesome duty," began Sheriff Bob Heevy, "to oversee yer execution under Starkeyville's Anti-Diorama Statute fer the Pertection of Children's Impressionable Minds. Does you mis'rable, effigy-totin' varmint have any last request?"

"Only," TerCramble retorted, "to see the freakshow whosis who writes the screwy laws in this burg! What crazyhouse have you people got her stashed in, anyhow?"

"Suh!!" sputtered old Col. Roscoe T. Cuthspore. "Miss Bigg doesn't come into town on account of her... mental indisposition. She's a fine woman, and she made this town what it is today. When she declared herseff Mayor, Protector, and Empress fo' Life--well, that was a mite unusual--but Miss Bigg practically owns this town--ever' square inch of it--and the people in it, too, I reckon. Miss Bigg was the finest mayor this town eva' had until... her problems. Suh, that pore ol' girl was scared silly by a diorama she saw up Nawth. A Chinese diorama depictin' the Opium Wars--most dreadful thin' she eva' laid eyes on! Afta' that, she nevah was the same..."

"You let a crazy woman run this town?"

"Suh, folks with Miss Bigg's money are not 'crazy.' A nurse up at her home looks after her..."

"Vait!" came a cry. "Stob de brocedinks!! STOB DEM IMMEDIATELY!!!" It was TerCramble's attorney, Fritz Schinkelgruber! "Accortink to de Starkeyfille lekal code, any laws written py dat chiant are--how you say?--kaput! Null und woid!!"

"Suh, kindly explain yo'seff!"

"Pecause no law is effectiff until its author signs it--in an official ceremony--in de Starkeyfille courthouse!"

"A technicality, Suh! Miss Bigg has been meanin' to sign that law..."

"Ha! Iss to laugh!! Fraulein Bigg iss--how you say?--huge! De house she liffs in iss a monster's house! Mit chigantic furniture und chigantic doors! Vich means--Fraulein Bigg cannot fit through de courthouse door--und she cannot sign de law!"

The Colonel bit his lip. Old Fritz had pulled through after all...

"NO!!!" thundered a voice.

It was Miss Bigg--in the flesh!--who, notwithstanding the propensity for exaggeration to which the advertising of giants and giantesses is prone, truly exceeded her billing. Without another word, Miss Bigg herself sprung the lever of the gallows trap.

Six inches of air opened beneath TerCramble's feet--his lifeless figure plummeted. He jittered a few seconds until the gallows' miniature motor shut off. Miss Bigg flicked TerCramble with her finger, grinning maniacally...

"Tiny! How did you get up here?" scolded Nurse Violet Slander. "That door was locked. You know Dr. Clay Cooneyberg told you never to come in here again--no matter that you do have the world's biggest collection of dioramas and automata!--specializing in realistic depictions of executions and massacres!--because it's not healthy to be so obsessed with your little 'scenes' (like that one you're playing with now, which according to the label on the back represents 'The Starkeyville Lynching')--you must follow Doctor's orders, dear!--even if you are Tiny Bigg!!--America's most famous female midget!!!"

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