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by Justin Teerlinck
Ah, Gübinsberg! A keystone city known for so many fine things (not to mention the capitol of this wise and peaceful nation): the invention of the wobblepuff, the domestication of the squeezal (squeezus domesticus), the iconic sand-keeled Dork Boats specially designed to navigate the playful and bedeviling currents of the Vonk River. It was here, in a dork called the Henry Snathers Nicked It (a jest directed toward His Lordship, the 3rd Mayor Commander of Gübinsberg) the famously historic Treaty of Much Importance was signed. It was this treaty that allowed Gübinsberg to flourish as a center of art and commerce for the next thousand and a half years.
That flourishment led to the founding of The Committee of Experts in 1203, and my own alma mater Multimodal Technical University (then called The Monkish Institute for Quiet Somber Studies) in 1204. It also begat the generation of Gübinsberg’s Glossy Knobs. Although the Knobs of Gübinsberg have written of ad nauseam, there are certain historical and aesthetic facts that most accounts have neglected to show.
Historians tell us that Generalissimo Field Marshall Henri Gubinstine De Las Lunas first began the tradition in the frontier days of Old Fort Velvet Horn during the Siege of Flowers during the Several Hours War, which was actually just a collection of skirmishes between the Gübinsbergers and the Many Others Who Are Not Gübinsbergers (“Nictgübinickt,” in the Güberish language). It was a cultural war, as you well know, which was fought over whether or not an umlaut should ascend the “u” in Gübinsberg, or whether the “u” should remain nude and defenseless. Because both sides were exceedingly well-bred and opposed to any sort of violence, the war expressed itself as a series of full front shoe scuffings. Since the 1st Gübinsbergian Defense Brigade wore patent leather, hip-high boots that did not flex at the knees, they found themselves at a decided disadvantage whenever Colonel Jacob Johnson Forthwith’s Calvary, the Prancing Long Legs, attacked from fortified positions around the city. After many days of shoe scuffs with a high casualty rate, Generalissimo De Las Lunas was implored to raise the white flag of surrender. There was only enough shoe polish left to hold out for two days at best, and the few men who remained presentable enough to stand in public with their dignity intact were quickly becoming fatigued from defending their honor. Something needed to be done.
Being the genius tactician he was, De Las Lunas ordered all his men—scuffed and unscuffed alike—to begin constructing numerous knobs, and placing them in various inappropriate places on the doors, walls, and bejeweled parapets of Old Fort Velvet Horn. Then, in a move that baffled his subordinate officers, he ordered all remaining shoe polish be applied to the knobs. He then sent a message by courier pigeon to the Regent of Gübinsberg, knowing full-well it would be intercepted by Colonel Forthwith. It read thus: “Polish depleted. 90% scuff rate. Men unable to maintain manly pride. Defeat imminent unless more polish sent immediately. God save us.”
Colonel Forthwith’s scout intercepted the pigeon as it tried to sneak out of the fort in disguise (wearing a foppish hat and false mustache), and interrogated it. Upon discovery of its message, Colonel Forthwith attacked at once. He and his Prancing Long Legs soon found themselves at sixes and sevens as they ruined many white leather gloves attempting to turn the glossy knobs in order to gain entry into Old Fort Velvet Horn. Some of the knobs were so slick that not even sandpaper could gain purchase around them. Others were so fragile, they loosened and came off at one turn. Some of the knobs were so sticky that entire platoons of Long Legs could not retreat once they realized the hopelessness of their doomed charge. It was then that Generalissimo De Las Lunases’ troops all exited the fort and presented their shiny, patent-leather boots that could not flex at the knees. At that moment, the sun had reached its zenith, and it reflected so powerfully off of the polished boots and knobs that it caused many of the Long Legs to be somewhat annoyed by the glare, and with the humiliating assistance of their enemy, they were freed of the knobs and sent home over the hills with a sound drubbing, mocking jeers, and a stern talking-to, and the umlaut remained over the “u” in Gübinsberg forever more.
In honor of this victory, great artists from Nablo Bigasso to Agatha Misty created art, sculpture, frescos, murals, and fiction about the Glossy Knobs of Gübinsberg. Knobs were erected, polished and glossed and affixed to the roads and streets, the windows of every home, the roofs and chimneys, and even on the handlebars of the Gübinsberg Bicycle Constabulary Patrol. In Gübinsbergrian tradition, every youngster is given their own knob to polish at the age of thirteen, and it is a sign of great respect to present one’s polished knob at church, during graduation from university, at weddings, funerals, and other events. Knob polishers (“Knübistscrübbers”) are craftspeople that require decades of apprenticeship before achieving mastery, and belong to a sacred guild. They have honed the art of polish-making (Knübpülishkraftick”) over hundreds of years using complex forges and lard smelters and blubber kilns to melt down the fat of the Lake Superior Sea Cow in order to make this rare and beautiful homage to all knobs. Presently, Knob Studies and Knob Design are offered as graduate degrees in the Department of History at Multimodal Technical University.
If you ever find yourself in my fair city of Gübinsberg, hire a dorkolier to guide you in a dork boat down the Vonk River at dusk, take your significant other in hand and sip a glass of wine. If you are lucky, your dorkolier will know the words to the romantic anthem of Gübinsberg, and while it will hardly ring as melodiously as it does in my native Güberish, you will catch a glimpse of the melancholy beauty of this beautiful city in its English translation (first translated by Agatha Misty).
O Glossy Knobs of Gübinsberg
More graceful than a silver bird
Greased by Superior Sea Cow blubber
Squeezed with difficulty from their udders
Foes try to turn you this way and that
You kept Gübinsberg’s honor intact
Until golden dawn we shall hone thee
Your unctuous sheen is like liberty
O Glossy Knobs, O Glossy Knobs
My palm shall ever polish thee
Until you set our people free!