A Shoe-In Plan from the Tall Tales Tavern

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own, and you know what you know. And you are the guy who’ll decide where to go.” -Dr. Seuss

**********

To any visitor unfamiliar to The Briar Patch, an old man and a woman in a corner booth with sketches and pictures in front of them would be the least abnormal thing in sight.  The left over hairs from the Jabberwocky’s last that lay loosely from the rafters made strangers stare with wonder.  The rabbit bartender usually raised a few eyebrows to the uninitiated crowd.  Those curiosities were in addition to the standard assembly of trolls, the ageless nymphs, and the talking farm animals.  Yes, The Briar Patch was always a place of wonders, so it’s no wonder that these two normal looking elderly people didn’t draw much attention.

The old oak table that the two occupied was still loose from the last time Calamity Jane decided to kick off her cowgirl boots and dance on the make-do stage.  An assortment of pages ripped out of fashion magazines were placed in the middle of the wood surface.  Closer to the two people were pictures of the nearby woods and architectural sketches.  As they sipped their hot tea and cold ale, the two talked excitedly about the woman’s plans.

“I keep telling you Myrtle”, the man exclaimed.  “You could get what you want for much cheaper.  I’m no slouch at such crafting matters, but it’s going to take me years.”

“What’s time?  We both have plenty of time left and you darn well know it, Horace”, the woman replied.  “I want it done to my specifications and I think you’re the right one to do it.  Even if Cinderella says otherwise.”

“Wait, Cinderella?  Is she still telling that same old story?”  Horace pulled at the hairs in his head.  He had been going bald for the last three hundred years.  Happily, whenever he pulled a few wispy strands out, he found that they grew back the next morning.  It was handy being an immortal creature of fairy tales.

Pic from Wikipedia

“She says that no matter how many times she took her shoes back to you, they kept breaking.  She said you should have offered her a higher-quality product.”

“It’s glass!”  Horace shoved the papers away from him and grumbled into his ale.  “I told her every time that she came back to me with those impractical things that they were going to keep breaking.  If you wear glass shoes on a rock path, the glass is going to break.  If your prince steps on your feet while dancing, his boots are going to crack the shoes and possibly cut your skin with the shards.  And no, wearing glass slippers up close to a raging fireplace is probably not the best idea.”  Horace sighed.

“I don’t know what kind of enchantment her godmother claimed she put on them, but it has apparently worn off.  Those shoes will never last.  I tried to get her little feet into a sensible pair of wooden clogs.  But no, she wouldn’t have it.  Cinderella decided that she was living the royal life now and needed the attire to go with it.  Silly, fashion-hungry, nutjob.”

“Now, she really is a perfectly nice girl”, Myrtle offered.

“Nice, sure”, Horace admitted.  “But the girl is still a child.  Her prince found her when she was, what, seventeen?  They were married a month later.  Why, my Estelle was a good deal older than that when we tied the knot.  She must have been at least nineteen or twenty.”

“Truly, those three years imbued her with boundless founts of knowledge”, Myrtle said sarcastically.

“Look, I think she’s delightful to be around, so long as you don’t get her started on fashion.  She’s impractical.  And Myrtle, you’re being impractical too.  I talked the idea over with Estelle.  It’s not just me.  You should give up on this whole idea.”

“No.”

“Tell me again why you won’t go to a giant?  You could buy anything you wanted off them from all the money you’ve made off of tourists.”

“Have you ever been around a giant for any extended amount of time?”  Myrtle shivered at the thought.  “They claim that they can only get clean in a waterfall, so whenever we see them in the towns or in the densest forests they smell like you wouldn’t believe.  Now imagine what sort of unholy stench must emanate from their shoes.  I don’t want to even think about it, let alone live inside one of those.  Besides, I have high standards.”

Public Domain in the U.S. due to age

Horace laughed.  “The old woman who has lived in a shoe all these years has demands?  Your sense of style has really grown that much since your children moved out?”

Myrtle watched her tea bag as she dipped it slowly and methodically into the cup.  The water rose and fell with each dipping motion.  The lighting in the dim establishment was just bright enough that the old woman could see her wrinkled face in the reflection of the drink as little waves of liquid came and went.

“Do you know how many years we have left, Horace?  I don’t.  I doubt that know-it-all wife of yours does either.  I say, if we’re going to stick around until all stories come to an end, then we might as well enjoy ourselves.  I’ve spent centuries in that tattered boot.  No more.  I want a nice one-story, fashionable dress shoe as my retirement home.”

Her hand stretched to the other end of the table and brought the pictures back between her and Horace.  Page after page depicted the newest fashions, the hottest trends, and the longest lasting footwear that money could buy.

“I want a nice pair of sensible flats”, Myrtle described.  “Give me something that will let the sun in when I lounge about by the heel.  Also, I want the home to have high sides to keep the rain out when it starts to flood.  If I could have some sort of garden in the toe area; maybe some sort of open point at the end?  Come now Horace, I know you have more help up your sleeves than you let on.”

“What exactly are you getting at, Myrtle?”

“Those elves of yours.  I’ve seen them about town.  Offer to buy them a few honey-glazed cookies and they’ll give away all your secrets.  I think you should take advantage of them.”

“How so?”

“I want a house the size of a giant shoe.  You have a crew that can work wonders overnight.  Imagine what sort of productivity they could manage if you put them into different shifts working around the clock.  You’d be rich and I’d have a nice new home for my retirement.  A woman can’t climb up stairs forever, Horace.”

“Myrtle my friend”, Horace said as he paused to take a sip from his ale.  The drink was starting to go flat and the old man knew he’d probably need a fresh serving to get through the conversation.  He held up his cup for the bartender to see as he continued.

“Have you ever seen the contracts involved in elf employment?  Once I figured out those guys weren’t going anywhere, I tried to branch out into shoeing horses.  With all the carts and animals around it seemed like a guaranteed get-rich plan.  To shorten my tale of woe, I’ll only assure you that Elf Unions know exactly how to get what they feel is due to them.  Your shoe-home would cost a fortune.”

By this time the bartender had hopped over to their table.  He held out his paw expectantly.  Horace placed his empty container at the edge of the surface.  Br’er Rabbit shook his head.  Horace nudged the cup closer to the brim.  The vest-wearing critter only shook his head again.  Horace tried once more, watching as the vessel almost teetered over onto the floor.  Br’er Rabbit took his mighty right foot and tapped it impatiently on the dusty floor.  A low booming sound echoed with each tap of his paw and a small cloud of debris was gathering under the tabletop.

Seeing the bartender’s arms folded in defiance, Horace capitulated and placed five gold coins on the table.  Br’er Rabbit’s eyes lit up and his front two teeth showed.  He eagerly snatched the payment, put it in his breast pocket, and grabbed the cup from the table.  Whistling a merry tune, the bartender jumped and bounded back to the bar.

“As I was saying”, Horace persisted as he rubbed his temples.  “This house of yours is going to be a pain for us and will cost you a fortune.  Even if we don’t use the elves, I’m going to have to hire some outside help.”

“That’s fine by me”, Myrtle said, unrelenting.  “Hire those birds and squirrels that helped Sleeping Beauty.  I don’t care.  I want my house made to my specifications and I’m willing to do whatever it takes.”

“Wait”, Horace said as a notion in his head started to take shape.  “Those children of yours; I can’t even recall how many you have.  It’s at least a dozen, isn’t it?  How old are they?”

“Oh Horace, how old are any of us.  We’ve stopped keeping track.  No one really knows.”

“No, no.  I meant by normal standards.  What’s their perceived age?”

“Ah”, Myrtle replied as she thought back to the last time she had seen her offspring.  “I imagine they’re probably all in the twenty-five to thirty-five range.”

“Perfect”, Horace replied.  “I was hoping you’d say that.  How long has it been since they gave you a Mother’s Day gift?”

“What, that silly trend people are trying to push?  They’ve never subscribed to that, the little ingrates.”

“Maybe”, Horace said as some of the weight started to fall off of his shoulders, “just maybe they can be convinced to do their sainted mother this one favor for all she’s done for them.”

“And if I convince them?”

Horace grinned with joy.  “Then, Myrtle my friend, your labor worries are over.  We could have that shoe-house built for you in no time at all.”

The King (Kong) of Skyscraper Cleaning

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told.  Some will be fun, some will not.  Some will be great, some will be less so.  Some stories are true, some are merely possible.  This is one of them.

The King (Kong) of Skyscraper Cleaning

Good things never last Mr. Dehnam.” –King Kong (2005)

King Kong sat at the window of The Briar Patch and sipped from his bucket-sized shot glass.  The piña colada was much too small for his tastes, but it was all that Br’er Rabbit had in stock.  Unfortunately there was a giants’ family reunion not too far away.  The behemoths had not only taken up all the extra-large, reinforced stools inside the tavern, but they had helped themselves to all the super jumbo glasses as well.  Terrific, Kong thought to himself.  One more surprise in my stinkin’ life.

Br’er Rabbit couldn’t stand having his curiosity unrequited.  In what appeared to the other patrons to be a rare show of kindness, Br’er Rabbit closed up the bar and walked outside.  He looked at the giant gorilla seated on the dry ground.  A few stalwart blades of grass grew here or there, but most of the landscape was as dismal and depressing as Kong’s furrowed brow.  That’s the way things are when our dreams don’t quite go our way.  The rain may fall and grow our hope for another day, but in the meantime we’re left sitting outside and squinting at the harsh sun.

Kong took another gulp of his drink and looked down at Br’er Rabbit.  Normally, a creature so small would have been beneath his notice.  But Br’er Rabbit was not just any animal.  As the host, and with a following that gave him presence, Br’er Rabbit cast a shadow as big as Kong’s; perhaps even bigger.

Finally, Kong stared the rabbit right in the face.  The bartender let his hind leg scratch behind his ear as he looked at the massive mammal quixotically.  Seeing Kong focusing on him, Br’er Rabbit put down his foot, tilted his head to one side, and twitched his nose.

“What?”  Kong was never known for his patience, even on his better days.

“Now I don’t mean no disrespect.  If a critter wants to drink itself into a stupid, I can certainly accommodate that.  I was only wondering what’s got you all worked up today.  You’ve been throwing back drinks like I haven’t seen any man or creature do in quite some time.”

“I feel like drinking.  Is that so wrong?”

“I reckon I just told you that I was happy to provide drinks.  Only I can’t seem to figure it all out.”

“What’s so hard to understand”, Kong asked.

“I don’t quite know how to ask this.  I mean, I’ve seen you ‘round here several times.  Now it’s gotten to that point where it’s a little awkward to ask, if you follow my drift.”

“Spit it out!”  The gorilla slammed his massive fist onto the ground as a show of his impatience.  Br’er Rabbit was tossed up twenty feet in the air from the blow, but he landed comfortably enough.  Being surrounded by larger-than-life creatures who liked to drink had only quickened his reflexes.

“The thing is”, Br’er Rabbit continued.  “I heard it told that you were dead.  You went and made your debut as the Eighth Wonder of the World and all that, and then you fell off a skyscraper.  Splat.  Isn’t that how it happened?”

The gorilla handed Br’er Rabbit an empty bucket and shook his head.  “You of all people should know that dead never really means dead for us.  They want to tell our story again, so there we are.  If we aren’t alive in their story, then they won’t retell it.”

“Now I’ve certainly found that to be true”, Br’er Rabbit conceded.  “I still think there might be a little more to your tale.”

King Kong only grunted and snorted out of his two gigantic nostrils in response.  Br’er Rabbit ducked and tried to avoid the gust that flew towards him.  Snot blown on a forest creature was immensely disgusting, no matter how big or small it was.

“I tell you what”, Br’er Rabbit said after he checked himself over and found he was still clean.  “I’ll get you five more pina coladas if’n you’ll just tell me what’s depressing you so much today.”

“Make it six”, Kong declared.

“Fair enough.”

“You heard my story more or less correctly.  I fell.  The story itself is nothing new.  A woman led me to get carried away, caught me up in a worthless feud, and then I ended up with nothing.  Word is that she’s doing fine for herself.  Hurmph.”

Kong began to motion for a drink, but Br’er Rabbit just stood there.  Apparently payment would wait until after all services had been rendered.

“I, of course, took that mighty tumble”, Kong continued.  “What they didn’t mention however, was that I didn’t die.  The darn fools didn’t know how to check a heartbeat properly, even though I would think it would have been pretty easy for them”, he shrugged.  “Turns out my injury only left me with a concussion.

“Those humans and their logic said that it was my fault.  I was the one that had climbed all those buildings.  I was the one that had caused all the ruckus, so I should have to make amends.  Also, they knew they didn’t have any jail cells or warehouses big enough to hold me.  Plus they could never manage my food bill without a public outcry on ‘wasteful spending’.  This government official told me that I would have to work off my debt to society.  ‘You like to climb buildings so much’, the man said.  ‘You are now sentenced to wash every window on every building for the next ten years’.

“That’s how things are now.  I can’t swim home because it’s too darn far.  I can’t get a day off because they keep raising more and more structures every day.  As soon as I’ve cleaned off a building and made my way around town, the first few are dirty again.  It’s an endless cycle, Rabbit.  Plus, I always have to start at the top and work my way down.  If they catch so much as one toe-print on their fancy windows, they make me clean the whole thing all over again.”

Pic from WPClipart

“How long can it really take you to clean one skyscraper?”

“If I were doing it my way, I’d be done in a matter of minutes”, Kong answered grouchily.  “The landlords; they won’t let me scurry up and climb how I want.  They say their buildings weren’t made to support my weight. The higher-ups complain that if I make dents in their cheap concrete that the bill will have to come out of my salary since their insurance doesn’t cover giant gorilla feet.  I tried to get them to submit their claims as an ‘act of god’, but apparently the agencies all updated their policies for New York City.  I have my very own exemption”, Kong said with a sigh.

“Instead I have to rig up a series of ropes and safeties for every building.  I’m faster than any other window washer, but I’m not an authentic gorilla.  A real gorilla wouldn’t stand for this”, Kong protested.  “A real gorilla would be set free and allowed to swing by vines, not safety lines.  I’d be free to mate and growl, not tethered up in some ugly harness that rides up and pulls on my fur.  Stupid city people”, Kong snarled.

“How many years do you have left?”  Br’er Rabbit was already forming an idea in his mind.

“Five”, Kong answered.  “It wouldn’t be so bad if I could just get a vacation.  I’d like to go out by the ocean and splash in the water.  Maybe make my way down the seaboard and live up the Florida scene.”

“So why don’t ya?”  Br’er Rabbit rubbed his ears together excitedly.  “Why don’t you hire someone to clean windows for you?”

“Go on now”, Kong growled.  “Who can possibly cover me?”

“Correct me if I’m wrong, but they’re not interested in your size.  It’s your speed that they really cherish, right?”

“Yeah”, Kong answered.  He took his hairy fingers and scratched the top of his head.

“What you need is someone who is an expert climber; someone who likes a challenge.  You, King Kong, need a guy who is crafty.  A person who is willing to help you out for a little bit and is already rich enough that money is not important.  Your substitute has to be a guy who likes a thrill every once in a while.”

“Br’er, you’re talking funny.  What sort of thinking are you working on down there?”

“I’ll tell you King Kong, but I gotta do two things first.  Oh, and of course there’ll be a minor finder’s fee for my services”, Br’er Rabbit said with a grin.

Public domain in the U.S. due to age

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.  First, I’m gonna go in and make you a few of those piña coladas I promised you.  Then I’m going to call up a regular customer of mine.  He gives me a great bargain on goose eggs.”

Br’er Rabbit headed inside.  He rubbed his paws together and chuckled with excitement.  “Yes, I think ol’ Jack is just the man we’re looking for.  Surely he can climb ropes just as well as stalks.”

The Woman in Red

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

The Woman in Red

(A certain blogger inspired this post, and she knows who she is.  And how she inspired it.)  😉

…how else can an intoxicated drop-dead-lady-in-red gorgeous girl survive being single?” –s1ngal

Chaz called himself a man about town.  If there was a new restaurant to visit, Chaz had been there.  Chaz somehow managed to adopt the newest hairstyle and the fanciest shoes before they appeared in the stores.  The man outclassed fashion week and had a history of being the go-to source for trends.  All at once he was the Alpha Consumer, Mr. Joe Cool, and a walking style magazine.  Put simply, Chaz had seen it all.

The metrosexual’s innate ability to out-do the fashion gurus had started in college and had served him well into his mid-twenties.  Chaz had no way of knowing that tonight would be the night that would finally catch him off guard.

Well-dressed in a slick blue shirt, black pants, matching belt and watch, and shoes with a fine polish to them; Chaz entered into The Bar.  (Any bar that needed a creative name simply wasn’t hip.  If one was going to a drinking establishment, there was no place quite as swanky in town as The Bar.)  He walked with a stride that was confident and familiar.  He nodded to the patrons and a waved to the wait staff.  This was Chaz’s scene.  He had a long history in this locale.  He exchanged handshakes and ticket swaps with the men, and phone numbers and pick-up lines with the ladies.  Chaz was in his element.  He was in control.  Mr. Smooth was ready for anything.

Then he saw her.

From across the room, the woman in red was clearly attractive.  A brunette of her caliber would have stood out in any room, certainly with the gown that she was wearing.   And it was quite the red dress.  There was no need for sleeves when the attention lavished upon her was guaranteed to keep her warm.  The dress wasn’t so much skintight as it was strategically cut.  All of her curves and charms seemed to be perfectly highlighted.  Chaz was not a shy man.  He made his way through the crowd to find out her name.

Natalie smiled wickedly and ran her fingers along Chaz’s chest.  Betty made a point of nudging her hips into Chaz’s as she walked by with a tray full of drinks.  Brad and Tad slapped their pal on the back and cheered out his name.  Normally, Chaz would have stayed and welcomed the heaps of adoration that his clan lavished upon him; especially where Natalie was concerned.  Still, Chaz didn’t know this woman in red.  He couldn’t stand feeling out of the loop.  If there was this crowd of five guys gathered around her, she must have that special quality to her.  Chaz was determined to find out what he wasn’t privy to.

If it were any other man, a set of five glaring faces would have met him as he approached.  However, Chaz had that gift about him.  He wasn’t cruel.  He was charming and everybody liked him.  Guys wanted to watch football at his parties and women found him intriguing and handsome.  When Chaz walked up to this unknown woman in red, the other five backed off out of respect.  They had a notion of how the conversation would go.

“Hey there”, Chaz began.

“Hello”, the woman replied.

“I don’t mean to bother you, but I just couldn’t help it.”

“Oh?  And why is that”, the woman asked.

“I have this trait.  It’s a shame really.  I see an attractive gal and I just can’t let her walk away until she knows how amazing I think she is.”

“How long does that usually take?”  The woman raised an eyebrow of curiosity as she played with the two olives in her drink.

“With you; I think we’d be here a while.”

“That seems like such a pity for you”, the woman replied.  “I mean, you’re clearly popular.  All your friends look pretty eager to hang out with you.”

Pic from Blogspot. (One of the few PG red dress pics out there.)

“Maybe, but they can wait.”  Chaz normally meant that as a line, but the closer he got to this woman, the truer it became.   There was an undefinable quality to her.  Sure, she was gorgeous.  But at the same time, there was an air about her that he couldn’t put his finger on.  He tried to recognize a unique perfume or a look that completely captivated him, but that wasn’t it.

“I’d really just like to talk to you tonight”, Chaz admitted.

“A classy fellow like you could at least offer a gal another drink.”

“Would you like a beer?”

The woman in red grinned.  “Actually, I’m drinking martinis tonight.”

Chaz looked at the olives in her glass once more and shook his head.  “Of course you are.  I don’t know why I jumped to the beer conclusion.”

“I think I might be able to venture a guess”, the woman teased.

“Oh, could you?”

“Perhaps”, she said as she ordered herself another beverage.

Sensing their sensei’s need for space, the crowd around the two started to disperse.  There was no planning to it.  Somehow they all shared the knowledge that Chaz need a little extra space to operate this evening.  The closer wasn’t quite on his game.

His words were failing him, so Chaz went the action route.  Without fully knowing why, he reached up to her long wavy hair and ran his fingers through the colored strands.  He had never seen hair quite like hers before.  It was clearly brown, but there was something extra in it.  The hair was obviously recently conditioned, but another color seemed to be hiding beneath. It was soft, but in an ethereal way.

“I’m Chaz.  I have to ask, what is your name?”

“Molly”, she replied with a smug grin.

“Molly, what is it about you”, Chaz inquired.  “Why can’t I tear myself away from you?”

“I think there are many positive points to me.  I’m not easily scared, I swim like you wouldn’t believe, and I can do the crossword puzzle without any help.  Up to Thursday that is; a girl has her limits.”

“Oh, I think you’re the whole package”, Chaz agreed.  “But there’s something else, isn’t there?”

“I’ll tell you, but you’ll have to come in closer.”

“How close”, he prompted.

“Pretty close”, Molly replied as they leaned in.  Their faces were only an inch or two apart.  Molly ran her fingers along his pants leg as she stared him confidently in the eye.  “Do you want to know my secret?”

“Of course”, Chaz admitted.

“Earlier tonight, I showered in beer.”

For once in his life, Chaz had no clever response.  He didn’t know if the woman was joking or not.  Clearly she was confident.  She definitely exuded an approachable sexiness.  But was she crazy?

Molly laughed.  “It’s true.  I’ve been told that beer makes an excellent conditioner and a few gal pals told me it would lighten my hair.  I figured I would try it out.  It turns out the after-scent is like nothing else I’ve come across.”

Chaz felt a grin coming.  He felt like a fool, but he rather enjoyed it for once.  “You’re telling me, that all of these folks can’t do without you because you washed your hair in beer?”

“Well, it was the highest quality beer that money can buy, I assure you”, she assured him.

“Naturally”, Chaz laughed.

“So are you going to kiss me or what?”

“Huh?”  It was clear now.  This woman was operating on a whole other level.  Chaz didn’t know what act she would follow up with.

“Look, Chaz.  There’s more to me than just hair.  If you can’t keep up, I’m going to have to ask you to move along.  I’ve got boys to tease and dancing to do.  If you can’t match me stride for stride while sitting, how are you ever going to get me sweating on the dance floor?”

The man who had formerly been the coolest, most in-control person in the bar sat there dumbfounded.  Perhaps the beer scent had numbed his response time.  Maybe Molly was just too much woman for him.  Whatever the case may have been, Molly gave up.

“I’ll see you around, Charles.  Look me up when you’re ready for a challenge.”

With that, Molly got up, kissed Chaz on the cheek, and strode out onto the dance floor.  Chaz watched her move and laugh.  He didn’t know woman like her existed in the world.  Good golly, Miss Molly”, Chaz thought as he recalled the song lyric.

Chaz knew there was only one way to describe the woman in red with the beer-scented hair.  Molly was, perhaps more than any other female before her, absolutely intoxicating.

Therapy Time at the Tall Tales Tavern

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

Therapy Time at the Tall Tales Tavern

(Not so very long ago, I wrote about the Tall Tales Tavern.  I’m kinda taken with it so we’re returning there.  You shouldn’t have to read the first one to follow along, but it is linked just in case.)

Every tale is not to be believed.” –Aesop

“All right everyone, if you’ll all settle down.”  The old man ran his fingers through his thick white beard and stomped his walking stick on the hard wood floor.  “Okay, I think we’re all here.  Welcome old friends and new to Therapy Time.  As always, I’d like to thank the operator of The Briar Patch for letting us meet here in his fine establishment.”  The man raised his arm in appreciation and the rabbit bartender nodded in return.

Pic from Wikipedia.

“For those of you who are first timers, I bid you welcome.  My name is Aesop and I’m here just to facilitate the conversation.  Why don’t we go around the room and introduce ourselves?  After all, ‘No one can be a friend if you know not whether to trust or distrust him’.”

“Oh great, he’s quoting himself again”, an overweight pig muttered from the table across from Aesop.

“Now pig, why don’t you wait your turn?  After all, ‘One cannot be first in everything’.  ”Chicken Little, why don’t you start?”

“All right.  Well, like the man said, I’m Chicken Little, and I’m here because I’m a coward.”

“Hi Chicken Little”, the voices from the table all said in monotone.  Many of the creatures seated reached for a drink from their cups and slurped noisily.

“Well”, the small bird began as he shook nervously and a clump of feathers fell to the floor.  “It all started back when I thought the sky was falling.  The whole thing just sent me into a series of worries.  I mean, no the sky didn’t fall.  But now there are so many other things to be afraid of.  I mean, bird flu for example.  I’m a bird.  What if I get the flu?  Logic dictates that I’m the first to go, right?  So I’ve been bathing four times a day and washing my wings with sanitizer.  That’s why I wouldn’t shake any of your hands or paws.  Plus, there’s a wolf here.  What if he gets hungry?  I can’t fly very fast, so he’d probably come after me first.”

“You make an excellent argument”, the wolf said as he grinned.  He made a point of showing all of his sharp teeth.  They all looked ready to tear the chicken asunder.

“See!  This is what I mean!  There’s danger everywhere!  I can’t sit on the comfiest stool because it might tip over and send me falling to the floor where I might break my leg.  I can’t sit by the window or underneath that swinging light because there could be an earthquake at any moment.  We don’t know!  Danger is all around us!”

Chicken Little continued to cower.  He had worked himself up into a frenzied state and Aesop quickly moved on.

“Thank you for sharing, Chicken.  I know that wasn’t easy.  Keep in mind that there’s always hope.  ‘Time and place often give the advantage to the weak over the strong’.  Next?”

“My name’s The Youngest Billy Goat Gruff and I’m here because I use others as a shield.  I’m ashamed to admit it, but it’s true.”

“Hi Youngest Billy Goat”, the collective responded.

Pic from Wikipedia.

“You can just call me Youngest.  It’s cool.  Mom never really believed in short names.  Anyhoo, I use others to get me out of trouble.  When this troll guy wanted to eat me, I didn’t stand up to him.  I didn’t even have the guts to tell him off.  I sent my older brother after him.  It’s a cycle that most of my family goes through.  Even the Second Billy Goat Gruff does it.  Really, only Oldest has been brave enough to stand up for himself.  I mean, Second and I pretend that it’s all part of a big plan.  Y’know, we say that we’re getting into trouble so that oldest can feel all heroic.  But really, we’re just cowards.  I’m ashamed of what I’ve become.  No wonder there’s no Mrs. Youngest Billy Goat Gruff.  Who could ever love an animal that can’t stand up for himself and walk with his goatee held high?”

“Now Youngest, ‘Some men underrate their best blessings’.  There’s more to you than you think.”

“Some men?  I’m a goat.”

“Who’s next?”  Aesop did his best to gloss over the questioning tone that was always present with Youngest.  “Come on now, let’s all have a sip and take the nerves off.  It is often necessary to ‘Stoop to conquer’.  Anyone?”

“Yeah, well I got brothers too and I work together with them.  I wouldn’t put ‘em in danger like some sad sacks of fleece.”

“I’m a goat, not a sheep.”

“Whatever ewe say, Sheepy.  My name’s The Second Little Pig, but my friends call me Sticks.”

“Hi Sticks”, the crowd responded.

“Not you!”  The pig slammed his hoof on the table and yelled at the woof.  “I said my friends.  You aren’t any friend of mine, wolf.”

“Oh c’mon, you’re so tasty.  You’re looking good and plump today.  I could just eat you up.”

“That’ll be enough of that, wolf.  Remember, “Those who cause evil are the first to be overwhelmed by its ruin’.”

“Please, I would overwhelm you in three bites.  Four, if I have to use utensils.”

“Oh, shut up you big hairy monster.  It’s supposed to be my turn.  Anyways, people get mad because I’m bitter. And y’know what?  I am.  Pigs are clever, look it up.  Houses are still made of wood every day.  There are other countries that use bamboo for scaffolding.  Why wouldn’t I make a home for myself out of twigs and branches?  It’s better than that flimsy straw hut my brother built.”

“But it wasn’t enough to keep me out, was it?”  The wolf jeered at the pig.  He laughed so hard that beer came out of his nostrils.  The pig slammed his drink on the table in anger.

“This is what I’m talking about!  This; right here.  I made a perfectly sound structure, and this creature thinks it’s funny to tear it all down with a few huffs and puffs.  Do you know how hard it is to construct with cloven hooves?  How tasking it is to hold a hammer and bundle up a stack of lumber?  It’s almost impossible!  And yet, he laughs at me.  I’m especially bitter that this jerk is even allowed here tonight.  What moron invited this guy?”

“I did”, the swan said.  “I’m trying to be nice to others.”

“Oh please”, Sticks snorted.  “Why would you be that naïve?  C’mon, if there’s anybody a wolf is going to eat before a pig, it’s gonna be you.  Fresh fowl?  That wolf is gonna gobble you up as an appetizer.”

“Hey guys”, Chicken Little peeped.  “Could we keep it down a little bit?  I’m afraid of confrontations.”

“Oh hush.  You’ve had your turn, we’re done listening to your silly little problems”, the swan said dismissively.  “I’m here because I’ve been told that I’m too vain.  Oh, I suppose I should introduce myself properly.  I’m Reginald the Majestic, Regal, and Grandiose Swan.  You may address me as Reginald, if that is acceptable.”

“Hey Reg”, the creatures responded.

“Actually, and I don’t mean to be a bother, but I really do prefer Reginald.  It has more of the air of perfection which I feel I’ve attained.”

“No three guesses as to why this joker is here”, the wolf snickered.  “I shoulda eaten ‘em.”

Public Domain in United States due to age.

“I’m not entirely sure what thoughts the gentle-wolf is trying to convey, but others around me have begun to insinuate that I may not have the humblest of personalities.  Honestly, I just don’t think that they understand.  I started off so humbly.  I was the ugliest of all the feathered fowl in my family growing up.  But, when I finally hit puberty?  I found out that I had been adopted.  I took a good look at myself and suddenly it all made sense.  My early years of being insecure were washed away, and instead I learned to fully embrace this gorgeous creature that you see before you now.”

“Be slow in your own praise, Reginald.  ‘False confidence often leads to danger’.  Also, ‘Beauty is only skin deep’.”

“But Aesop, is it really false confidence if I light up any room that I come into?  Clearly you must admit that this dingy dump is only improved by my being here.”

The rabbit bartender’s ear twitched with annoyance.  He quickly grabbed the swan’s tab and added a few miscellaneous charges to the bird’s bill.  How much can charge for napkins and table service, the schemer thought as his revenge came across in exorbitant fees.

“My stomach will be much improved by you if ya don’t shut up”, the wolf growled.

“All right wolf, just relax”, Aesop said with a strained amount of patience.  ‘Do nothing without a regard to the consequences.’  Now what’s your story?”

“I don’t have a story.  I eat when I’m hungry.  Some say that it’ll get me in trouble.  Me, I don’t really believe it.  I just see all you silly critters running around like a to-go menu.  Swanny here figured I might not eat him if I just got to know him better.  Right now, if I weren’t so full of beer, I’d eat ya all up.”

“I told you!”  Sticks looked to the others at the table.  “I told you he doesn’t belong here.”

“Yeah, whatever”, the wolf replied.  “But speaking of ‘here’, that reminds me.  Hey bartender!”

The rabbit looked up from his glass cleaning with an innocent look on his face.  An angelic expression of innocence was on his furry face.  He pointed at his vest and bowtie-clad self as if to say, “Me?”

“Yeah, you.  I wanted real beer, not this cheap stuff.  If I ever see you again you better make amends.  Next time I’m served this swill I’m shoving your head into that tar baby.  Oh, and my cousin Br’er Fox says you owe him for what you did to him.  He says you know what that means.”

Br’er Rabbit only blinked a few times and went back to cleaning the glasses.  As the creatures turned back to their therapy session, Br’er Rabbit ducked under the counter, fell on the floor, and rolled over in silent laughter as the memory of his past escapades tickled him with delight.  Meanwhile, the wolf was done being polite.

“By the way Aesop, what’s the idea of getting us all together to talk things out?  I mean, are we supposed to be giving each other advice?  ‘cause I thought you yourself warned to, ‘Beware of the counsel of the unfortunate’.  Didn’t you once say, ‘Every man should be contented to mind his own business.’?”

“Perhaps you should heed this; ‘He is wise who is warned by the misfortunes of others’.”

“Or you’re just mad that I’m on to you”, the wolf said with a sneer.  “’Hypocritical speeches are easily seen through’ y’know.”

“I try to welcome all, wolf, but it apparently in your case, ‘Evil companions bring more hurt than profit’.”

The wolf laughed at the group, left without paying his tab, and set out for his long walk home.  He had a date tomorrow with a tasty young girl he’d been following.  Maybe she has some relatives I can devour, he thought to himself.  The wolf hoped that there would be much less talking and much more eating in his future.  The wolf walked through the starry night.  He grinned wickedly as he thought about the very full belly he might end up with tomorrow.

“I think this was a very nice session”, Aesop said as he tried to end on a positive note.  “Things didn’t go as planned, but I feel like we really explored some deep emotions here.  I want to thank you all for your bravery in participating today.  Now, before we go, what’s our number one moral to remember?”

“Contentment with our lot is an element of happiness”, chanted the group in an unenthusiastic grumble.

“Very good.  And number two?”

“Be sure that there are others worse off than yourself.”

“Excellent.  Let’s go out there and be on the lookout for those poor souls, shall we?  After all, ‘Gentleness and kind persuasion win where force and bluster fail’.  Be careful walking home!”

———————————-

(Many, many thanks to Google, Wikipedia, and especially Together We Teach for the Aesop assistance.)

Death in the Super Family

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

Death in the Super Family

A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” -Christopher Reeve

“What did you do?!”

The window that had formerly sat in the door to Forgotten Acquaintances shattered.  The shout that had emanated from the muscular and mask-clad character echoed off the walls threatening to knock the numerous pictures off the wall.  The people in the photographs were unspoken legends.  They had paved the way over the past century for the current generation.  Stories were still swapped about the narrow victory they had almost grasped or the hero that they had narrowly escaped from.  Forgotten Acquaintances had a reputation, a feeling that no other bar in town could match.  Only this bar could lay claim to hosting the cleverest and most infamous villains that Prosper City had to offer.

There were civilians in attendance, but one didn’t need to be a criminal mastermind to recognize the hulking figure of The Do-Gooder.   His white uniform; decorated by a blue utility belt and cape, with white domino mask to match; had been spread over countless broadcasts and newspapers over the years.  Fittingly enough, the fair-haired hero often spoke of fighting fair as well.  He was adored by young children throughout the city and even parents smiled when he flew by.  Any other person with the abilities of flight and super-strength would have frightened a populace within days.  But there was something about The Do-Gooder.  He wouldn’t punch super-villains below the belt, he operated in daylight, and he even took time to attend school assemblies.  It was his squeaky-clean reputation that made his outburst in the bar that much more unsettling.

All in attendance had the urge to whisper, however they could only cower and stay out of the way of his rampage.  The Do-Gooder had the ability to float, yet his legs took powerful steps and almost smashed through the floor.  A thin man with a moustache to match sat at the bar.  He felt the beer in his hands slosh out of the cup just enough to be noticeable.  He set down his beer, gulped down the nervousness that was building in him, and tried to maintain some composure.  Ned Neener could tell that the hero had come here for him.

“Well, Mr. Do-doo”, he tried to joke.  “What brings you to the bowels of the underworld?  Come to slum a little?”

“What did you do, Neener-Neener?”  The Do-Gooder’s voice had become eerily calm.  There was a focus behind his voice that was frightening.  It was clear the conversation was not going to end until the hero got the answers he wanted.  “What did you do to her?”

Neener sighed.  “I’ve told you before, I changed my alias.  For one thing, that childhood taunt wasn’t me.  Who wants to be robbed by a guy that goes by a playground jeer?  Just because I’m born with an appropriate name doesn’t mean I have to be saddled with it for the rest of my life, am I right?”

Neener’s attempt to diffuse the situation with humor only seemed to make The Do-Gooder angrier.  A table stood in the path between The Do-Gooder and Neener.  The occupants had abandoned it and ducked over the bar as soon as they had seen that they were in the route of possible destruction.  Without looking, and with no effort whatsoever, The Do-Gooder grabbed the table with one hand, ripped it free of the bolts that had previously held it to the ground, and threw it across the room.  There were no obstacles between The Do-Gooder and Neener now as the massive bulk of white menacingly loomed right over his nemesis.

“Fine”, The Do-Gooder said through clenched jaw.  “What did you do to her, Ne’er-Do-Well?”

“You’re going to have to be more specific”, the thief said as his voice started to audibly crack.  “There are a lot of ladies who hang out with me.  I’m a dangerous guy.  I attract lots of women’s attention; lots and lots.  Don’t I, fellas?”

Needer looked around the bar but could find no one to take his side.  All of his former drinking companions had either fled in terror or were choosing to remain silent.  Whatever Needer had done to get himself on the wrong side of The Do-Gooder, the man was on his own.  It was his fight to win or lose.  The bar was full of disreputable types.  They had been henchmen and thugs, so they all knew a “Super-Brawl” when they saw one.  There was a saying in the underground of Prosper City.  “You can deal with another guy’s B.S., but don’t ever get near another guy’s S-B.”

“You know who I’m talking about Needer”, The Do-Gooder snarled through gritted teeth.  “You killed the woman I love.”

“Killed?!”  Gone was the act of composure and posturing that Needer had employed up until that moment.  “Are you nuts?  I don’t kill!”

Grief At Cemetery by Petr Kratochvil

“You told me, the last time I put you away, that’d you make me pay.  You swore you’d take away everything you hold dear to me.”  The Do-Gooder’s rage came out in the form of a massive arm gripping Needer by the neck.  “I don’t know how you did it…”

“Wait”, Needer gasped.  “You’re making a mistake.  That isn’t my style and you know it.”

The Do-Gooder paused, a flash of doubt appeared across his masked face.  The grip around Needer’s neck softened.

“Look”, Ne’er-Do-Well said as he tried to pull the hero’s hands off of his neck.  “I steal from people.  That’s it.  I want a little more bankroll in my wallet.  But I don’t kill people!  Who do you think I am, Hangman?  C’mon, that guy belongs in whatever lunatic joint can hold him.  I’m greedy, nothing more.  Sure, we have our games back and forth.  I tease you, you catch me, but we don’t actually hurt anybody.”

“Last time… your threat”, The Do-Gooder stammered as he took his hands off of Needer.

“I was toying with you.  I meant I was going to steal your Do-Gooder Go-Cart and sell it for parts.  I already got a fence lined up; ask around.  I embarrass guys like you; I don’t off ‘em.  Really, it’s business between you and me.  I may not like being roughed up or tossed in the clink; but that doesn’t mean I’ve turned into a killer.  How would I sleep at night if I got all dark like that?  How’s a guy supposed to enjoy his own private island with blood on his hands?”

“So, you didn’t give Martha cancer?”  The whispered tone that had crept into The Do-Gooder’s throat showed how unsure he really was.

“Who’s Martha?”

“She was…” The Do-Gooder hesitated.  He knew what kind of place he was in and he knew that he had already revealed too much.  “She was someone close to me.”

“Oh man.  Look D-G, I’m sorry to hear that.  I really am”, Needer said.  “I wouldn’t give anyone cancer, though.  Life’s hard enough without that stuff.  Besides, I don’t really have access to anything medical or radioactive, y’know?  I think you might be giving me a little too much credit.  I’m a schemer, sure.  Only not on the level you’re talking about.  I’ll spend hours cooking up stuff in my secret laboratory.  You gotta remember though, I’m a gadget kinda guy.  The extend-o-arms that reach across a building?  The nanites with miniature hammers that chip away at a building overnight?  Those’re my kind of devices.  And they’re all non-lethal.”

“That’s it?  I didn’t bring this on her?  You’re serious?”

“Aw, man”, Needer looked at The Do-Gooder’s face and felt sorry for the large man.  All the powers he had, his never-ending feeling of justice; both had failed the hero in this fight.  “Look, why don’t you let me buy you a beer?  I mean, you can’t just go around tearing things up and scaring people like you are.  Do you realize you almost pulverized those two guys in the corner when you threw that table?”

“I wasn’t… I mean I didn’t…”

“I know, I know”, Needer said as he tried to console the man.  “Listen.  I’m going to tell you something.  This is between you and me and the room.  You ever mention this to anybody else and we’ll all flatly deny it.  You hear me?  This all sinking in, Do-Gooder?”

The man clad in white nodded solemnly.

“Okay.”  Needer took a deep breath.  He surveyed the room, made eye-contact with those left in attendance, and then turned back to The Do-Gooder.  “The truth is, we all respect you.  We want you to be better than this.”

“Hold on”, The Do-Gooder said.  “I’m confused.  You want me around?”

“I don’t want you around me”, Ne’er-Do-Well said quickly.  “But yeah, we like having you in Prosper City.”

“That doesn’t make any sense at all.”

“Sure it does”, Needer replied.  “If the dam breaks and our town might get flooded, you’re our best bet.  Whenever Hangman or somebody like him comes to cause trouble, we want you on the scene.  And if I’m being completely honest, my kid looks up to you.  Other heroes; like the ones with all the guns and facial piercings?  They scare the living daylights out of him.  He’s got you on a t-shirt.”

“Really?”

“Yeah”, Needer said with a touch of annoyance.  “I haven’t really told him about the whole Ne’er-Do-Well thing.  He thinks I’m an account representative for a textile company.”  Needer closed his eyes and shook his head from side to side.  “If that little guy knew how many heists I’ve pulled to get him what he wanted…”

“So, you want me to catch you?”

“No!”  Needer looked The Do-Gooder square in the face and commanded his full attention.  “I want to be left alone to do my thing.  All these fellas do.  However, there are times when life gets a little too dangerous around here.  There are days when the city needs a hero to believe in.  And for Prosper City, that fellow is you.  Right boys?”

The Do-Gooder turned his attention to the rest of the room.  They had been a captive audience to the entire conversation, but none of them had dared to leave their hiding spots.  They remained unsure as to how to proceed.  Yet, as The Do-Gooder turned to look at them one-by-one, they all nodded their affirmation of Needer’s statement.  “You’re A-O-K”, one man replied.

“All right, all right”, Needer said.  “There’s no need to butter the guy up.   He’s still gonna arrest you and wrap a light pole around your gut the next time he sees ya.”

Needer sized up his supposed enemy.  Normally there was an immense strength about the man’s stature, but today his shoulders were unmistakably drooping.  The fight that had raged so strongly when The Do-Gooder had burst in the door had now drained out of him.  He was, to put it mildly, in a sad state.

“What do you say I buy you a beer and you tell me all about her?”

“I’m surrounded by troublemakers.  I should be stopping crime or arresting most of you.”

“Yeah yeah”, Needer replied as he waved off the idea.  “You can catch us tomorrow.  Take a day to mourn the woman you love.  Everybody needs a day off, am I right?”

“I guess”, The Do-Gooder replied as a pitcher was slid towards him.

“Good.  Besides, you’re not in any condition to take on the newest invention I got cooked up for ya.  I tell ya D-G, this one’s really a pip.  I’m gonna make my fortune off of this one.”

“Needer…”

“Sorry”, he replied with a sheepish grin.  “It’s not the right time.  Pull up a seat and tell me all about her.”

That night, the police would comment on how quiet it was in the city.  It was almost as if the criminals had occupied themselves with something other than heists and devious plots.  Unbeknownst to the police the city’s less-desirables were sitting around a man and helping him deal with his sorrows.  Crime continued to be a problem in the days that ensued, but not onr that somber evening.

Pac-It-All-In-Man

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

Pac-It-All-In-Man

One should eat to live, and not live to eat.” –Moliere

“You just don’t understand, Mario.  They push and they push my buttons, and they just won’t leave me alone!”

The man wearing suspenders nodded his head behind the bar, his bushy moustache bobbing along in agreement.  He knew by now that the round fellow didn’t actually want a response, he merely wanted to vent.

“I mean look at me.  I used to have a healthy yellow exterior, y’know?  I was in prime twenty, thirty years ago.  But I just can’t catch a break!  And then, when the missus wants to go out?  We do the same thing we’ve spent all day doing!  It’s a never ending cycle of abuse!”

Mario closed his mind off to the pudgy character’s complaining and thought of his own special someone.  Maybe the princess of his life would join him and they could run around town tonight.  That was, of course, unless his brother had already made plans.  Bros before damsels, as they say.

Mario realized that the round guy had been talking all this time.  To the bartender’s ears, it had just droned on into some sort of “wonka wonka wonka”-esque white noise.  He looked the blob in the one eye that he could see and tried to match it with a sympathetic ear.

“You know what I do all day?  Eat.  That’s it!  I see something, I eat it.  It doesn’t matter if it’s yellow, or sparkly, or even glowing.  I eat it everything.  Every time that I try to pass up the tiniest pellet or morsel, the boss sends me back for more.  You think your grandmother got upset if you didn’t clean off your plate?  She was nothing compared to these guys!

“Then there’s the missus!  She’s as bad as I am.  You know how you’re supposed to diet together but never work together?  Keep the relationship healthy?  Well we have things the exact opposite of that.  She works for the same guys that I do and they couldn’t give a darn about her girlish figure.  They treat her exactly the same as me.  They don’t care how nice she looks in that bow.  They don’t appreciate how long it takes her to put on her lipstick or eyelashes.  They just send us into these cramped rooms and make us eat and eat and eat.  When does it end, Mario?  When?”

Mario only shrugged his shoulders and handed a fireball cocktail to his former coworker.

“You used to have to jump through the same hoops, I remember.  They had you in that tiny room with that ape of a boss.  All day long he’d throw assignments at you and all day long you had to jump over the obstacles and bureaucracy to get any face time with him.  Now look at you!  You can do whatever you want!  You get to run around outside, you drive race cars, I hear you even get to fly to far off worlds.  Who knew?”

The bartender watched his friend down the drink and felt bad for him.  It was true, he did look rather sickly.  Wrinkles were starting to form under the visible eye; he could only assume the same was true for the other.  His color was almost that of a moldy oyster, and if his form had once been circular, then the many feeding sessions had most definitely left him oval-shaped.

“I gotta find a way outta this maze, Mario.  They can’t keep sending me into room after room.  Day after day it starts out the same.  Even if I make great headway, they send me back to square one.  And now they can get ahold of me by phone!  I’m on call now?  That wasn’t the deal when we started out Mario!  I tell ya, those bosses are two-bit crumbs.  And me?  I’m just an eight-bit character living in a sixty-four-bit world.  I’m classic, I’m original; I’m not super!”

Mario watched the despondent man put his head on the bar and sob.  He didn’t have the heart to tell the character that the world had moved on past sixty-four bits decades ago.  Mario let his friend be.  Ol’ P-M had enough ghosts that haunted him already.

The Magic and Marvel of Monsters

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

The Magic and Marvel of Monsters

The monster was the best friend I ever had.” -Boris Karloff

Melvin the Magnificent was tired of being on the road.  His RV was beginning to smell too much like the rabbit cages he had stashed underneath his folding bed, and the highway’s rest stop signs were getting further and further apart.  The wilderness of New Hampshire was certainly nice to look at in the day, but the darkness blotted out all of the natural wonder and filled Melvin’s windshield with somber blackness.

He pulled off the interstate and parked in the nearest lot that was big enough to house his vehicle without being an inconvenience.  Melvin turned off the ignition, undid his seatbelt, and secured the brake.  Opening the door as wide as he could, Melvin stepped out the driver’s side and stretched his tired limbs.  He pulled his arms over his head and reached up for the clear sky that was lit almost entirely by the countless stars above.  Melvin made his living off of the notion that there was more in the world than one could see with the human eye.  Standing alone in the dark, hearing the leaves rustle, he suddenly felt quite exposed.

Melvin pulled the rabbit’s foot keychain and ignition key from the steering column, fetched his hat and cape, and locked the RV’s door.  He adjusted his twirled moustache in the rear-view mirror and made sure his cape and top hat were sitting “just so” on him.  He had an appearance to maintain.  It was bad enough that he left his cane in the back of the vehicle, but he doubted that anyone in the establishment would mind.  Once again he heard something in the bushes; a rustling.  Melvin tucked the key away in his pocket and walked briskly towards the closest building.

The only business that was open was the neighborhood pub.  As Melvin walked past the ten cars in the parking lot, the glow from the neon signs began to light up his white tuxedo shirt and red bow-tie.  He reached for the door handle, gave it a tug, and took in the scenery.  The building must have been at least a hundred years old, with patrons to match.  The wood floors were stained and splintering, the exposed beams gave off an impressive air of stability, and the codgers sitting around the bar were hunched on their stools.  A few good ol’ boys looked towards Melvin, but most were content to share their hunting stories or talk about their sainted wife hat had passed twenty or more years ago.  Melvin immediately felt out of place in his show attire and doffed his hat as he ordered a beer.

The bartender gave Melvin a look.  To his credit the man seemed to have dismissed any judgments about the performer by the time he handed Melvin the beer.  The bartender acted in a manner that said, “You don’t cause a stir, I won’t give a dang.”

Melvin thanked him for the beer and lifted the glass container to his mouth.  The air in the RV had been hot and dry, even with the air conditioner on.  The combination of the cold beer, the rickety fans above that wobbled with each circling of the wood blades, and the absent sun in the evening sky all made for a rather pleasant change in temperature.  Melvin couldn’t see himself getting up and leaving this well-worn leather seat for anything.  He had bellied up to the bar and planned to camp out there until he was sure the bedroom part of his RV had cooled off.

One of the locals, an elderly man who had impossibly white teeth, elbowed Melvin.

“Say there, fancy man.  What brings you to our quiet little town?”

“Oh, I’m passing through.  Gave a performance today, got to give another one tomorrow.”  Melvin smiled at the codger, glad to have some company that didn’t come from his RV’s stereo.

“What are ya?”  The stranger asked as his bushy white eyebrows rose up in curiousity.  “Some sort of pianist or something?”

“Oh, nothing as accomplished as that”, Melvin replied.  “I’m a magician.”

“Really?”  The man laughed and slapped his knee.  “Well, I’ll be.  What, you come in here to saw one of us in half?  Take Bernard.  His ol’ wife would be thrilled if you cut some of those pounds of off the big lug.”

“Jerry, you just keep to yours and I’ll keep to mine”, hollered a voice from across the room.  Melvin could only assume that Bernard didn’t appreciate his spare-tire being fodder for public conversation.

“Sorry friend”, Melvin said only half apologetically.  “I left my good saw in the RV.  Besides, I hear there’s a law in New Hampshire against drinking and sawing.  Certainly not when it’s after curfew.”

“Hee hee!”  Jerry wiggled back and forth on his bar stool, expertly keeping it from tipping over despite his glee.  “No drinking and sawing.  I like that.  Roger!  Get this city fella another beer on me.”

“You planning on paying for your beer first?”  Roger looked at Jerry with the wisdom that comes from being short-changed one too many times.

“Aaaah”, Jerry replied.  “You just hush up there.  Ain’t I your wife’s uncle?  I always pay back my kinfolk.  Besides”, Jerry said with a pointed look as he held his beer close to his lips.  “Didn’t I front you some money to buy this place not that long ago?”

Melvin had been too busy watching Roger’s embarrassed expression to see the smug look on Jerry’s face, but that didn’t stop anyone in the room from hearing it in the old man’s voice.

“Now Jerry Franford, you hear this…”

The rest of Roger’s angry retort was lost, for at that the moment the door slammed open.  The force of the blow and the jostling of the wall was enough to knock out the light bulb closest to the entry.  Melvin had to squint in the darkness, but he could see someone entering the pub.

The footsteps on the hard wood floor were like nothing Melvin had ever heard before.  They were like wet flippers or clusters of seaweed being slapped about on a ship’s deck.  As the footsteps came closer and the dark figure entered into the light, Melvin started to ask if the someone he had seen wasn’t actually a something.

Standing before Melvin was a creature with claws, green skin, and massively large eyes.  It looked like some sort of cross between an alien from the movies and a komodo dragon from a zoo.  It stood about five feet tall, had three fingers on each hand, and instead of feet it had some freakish combination of flippers and talons.  The webbing between the toes collected small pools of water, even with the heat outside.  Melvin felt his gaze intensify with fright as they started to challenge the size of the creature’s eyes.  He now knew what he had heard rustling in the bushes outside.

Melvin looked around the pub, hoping one of these men that had been so gung-ho about discussing fishing and hunting had happened to bring a shotgun, or at least a net, inside with them.  To his amazement, every other guest seemed to be going back to their drinks and conversations.

“Is there something I can help you with?”  Roger finished drying off a glass and then tossed the towel over his shoulder as he looked the creature in the eye.  The creature only gurgled.  “Did you want a drink or something?”

The creature pointed to the chalkboard on the back wall.  Roger and Melvin looked at it.  There, fashioned in several colors of chalk, was a cute drawing of apple pie, complete with a dollop of ice cream and a glass of milk beside it.  Underneath, in cheery slanted letters, the words advertised, “Greatest Pie for Ten Counties”.

“Pie”, Roger said.  “You want a slice of pie?”

The creature gurgled again and nodded his head.  His arms waved up and down like a drummer, emphasizing the point.

“Well I don’t mean to cause a fuss”, Roger said.  “But I don’t see any pockets on you.  Ya got some sort of payment?  We don’t give out food for free.”

Melvin was shocked at Roger’s unimpressed manner.  The magician had seen many things on stage.  Nothing had ever compared to this.  If he had been sitting further away, Melvin might have believed that it was a midget in some sort of elaborate costume.  From as close up as he was, even with the low lights, Melvin could tell this was no manmade costume.

The creature thrust his right arm at Roger.  For the first time, it unclenched its three fingers and revealed the contents that lay in the palm of its hand.  Three pieces of gold, looking even older than the hearty establishment, were dropped onto the bar.

Roger looked at the gold with a curious eye.  “I don’t know”, he said cautiously.  “These might be hard to cash in.  Hey Jerry, your brother worked in a bank.  He ever mention anything like these?”

Jerry put down his drink and looked for the first time at the creature.  He sized the thing up, raised his bottle in recognition, and pointed his finger at the coins.  “Hey there, mind if I take a look at those?”

The creature pushed a coin toward Jerry with the back of its hand.  Jerry leaned closer, holding the coin right up to his face.  “Picked a lousy day to leave my specs in the kitchen”, he muttered to himself.

Melvin sat there, his mouth open at the apparent normalcy of the situation.  He couldn’t believe the creature in front of him and he was shocked that no one was as stunned as he was.  The other men weren’t even stammering.

“Well Roger”, Jerry replied slowly.  “I’d say these are genuine.  If you don’t want ‘em, I’ll take ‘em.”

“Oh no”, Roger said, snatching the coin out of Jerry’s hand.  “If the coin is worth something, I’ll never get it from you.  I’ll trust this thing”, he said, pointing at the creature, “Before I trust you.  No offense”, he said to the animal.

The creature just gurgled once more and sat down on the bar stool in between Melvin and Jerry.  It pushed the other two coins towards Roger, who took them and added all three coins to his back pocket.  The creature pointed at the chalkboard once more with his hand, then gargled loudly.

“All right, all right”, Roger said.  “I’ll get you some pie.  Gimme a sec.”

Melvin couldn’t help but staring.  He wondered if the creature’s green texture was some sort of scaly substance or if it was mold-covered skin.  How could the creature retain moisture so well in this heat?  Before he knew what he was doing, the magician reached out his pointer finger and poked the creature in the arm.

The animal snarled.  He turned to Melvin angrily and raised his arm as his sharp claws extended from his fingers.  Melvin quickly retrieved his hand and shirked back in terror.  He hoped it wasn’t the last motion he would ever make.

“Now what’d you do that for?”  Jerry leaned back on his bar stool so that he could look past the creature to Melvin.  “The fella wasn’t doing nobody any harm; why did you have to go and get him all agitated.”

Melvin searched for the words to defend his curious nature, but no words fell out of his open mouth.”

Roger walked up with an irritated look on his face and pie in his hand.  “Here ya go”, he said to the creature.  “You can eat it at the table over there if you’d like.”

The creature’s eyes turned from Melvin and fell on the pie.  It stuck out its forked-tongue and licked its lips hungrily.  The creature pulled the plate close to him, stood up, and lumbered to the table.

“I’m gonna have to ask you to respect our other customers”, Roger said to Melvin.  “You seem nice enough; just keep your hands to yourself.”

“That… that thing”, Melvin stuttered.  “Have you seen it before?”

“Nah”, Jerry chimed in.  “It’s probably one of those Chupacabras. Legend has it that they live ‘round here.”

“That… I… you’ve never seen one?”

“We have now”, Roger said plainly.

“And you’re not at all surprised?”  Melvin couldn’t make sense of this pub in his brain.  Why weren’t these folks as shocked as he was?

“We’d never seen a magician before today”, Jerry replied.  “Here ya are.  Fella seems pleasant enough, why ask questions?  I ain’t never seen Bernard sober before, but I’d like to believe it can happen.”

“I told you”, the voice from across the room yelled again.  “You hush up and mind yer own dang business!”

With that, Jerry went back to drinking his beer and Roger went back to drying off his dishes.  Melvin the Magician shook his head in wonderment and took a sip of his beer.  He was witness to a curiosity that was guaranteed to sell tickets and it was a spectacle that he could never replicate.

Problems With Infinity

Confessions of a Delusional Maniac

Avoiding Neverland

A nomadic teacher's thoughts on preparing teens for life

Late~Night Ruminations

...for all the ramblings of my cluttered mind....

Short...but not always so sweet 💋

Happy endings are not guaranteed

Running Away To Booktopia

Because let's face it, reality sucks most of the time.

guclucy5incz5hipz

Exploring my own creativity (and other people's) in the name of Education, Art and Spirituality. 'SquarEmzSpongeHat'. =~)

The Land of 10,000 Things

Charles Soule - writer.

40 is the new 13

These are my 40s... what happened?

You're Gonna Need a Bigger Blog

This blog, swallow you whole

bottledworder

easy reading is damn hard writing

s1ngal

S1NGLE living H1GH thinking

Listful Thinking

Listless: Lacking zest or vivacity

Kim Kircher

Strength from the Top of the Mountain

The Byronic Man

We can rebuild him. We have the technology... Drier. Hilariouser. More satirical than before.

The One Year Challenge

A one-year chronical of no flirting, no more dating and absolutely no sex.

Beth Amsbary

Spirit Workshops Convener, Storyteller, Grantwriter,