Friday, June 19, 2009

Pa's Adventure, Part 2

"You want some coffee?" Dale asked me.

"Sure," I said, "I'm feelin mighty parched from tellin this here story. You know, coffee's good for story tellers and listeners."

"That's true," he concurred, "I, as a listener of this story, feel that coffee is improving my enjoyment of this yarn tenfold."

"Most true, most true. I would suggest that anyone listening, or possibly reading, a story of this nature would want to go get themselves a cup of coffee now. I'd even sit here and wait a tick while they did."

With that, Dale got up from the modified stool he'd been sittin on and went into the kitchen. While he was there, I took the opportunity to look around some more. I was seated on a floral patterned couch that had been covered in plastic. Next to me, on a small oak table, was an old fashioned oil lamp that had been converted to electric. All along the aged wooden walls were pictures from Dale's time in the circus; fliers for his act, adverts for places far flung, exotic places such as Altus, Oklahoma and Shreveport, Louisiana, and, on the mantle a portrait of young Dale with his parents standing in front of an aquarium, stuffed full of hope like a shark full of cocaine. The whole place was covered with a thin layer of dust and smelled like a library that had coffee brewing.

"Here's the coffee," Dale announced. He was carrying two thin china cups painted with roses on a silver tray with an angel motif inlaid.

"Thank ya kindly," I told him. Even when you're having coffee with a half man/half lobster that's sold meth to kids and killed people with his pernicious poots, it's important to remember your manners. "So, where was I?"

"Your dad had just fallen into a lake of stew in the middle of the earth," he told me.

"Right," I launched into the story again. "So there was pa, floating in a great lake of beef stew. He couldn't see no shore line or nothin out there, and he was so tired out from his fall and voiding himself of all that sand (if you know what I mean), that he just wanted to lay there and maybe eat a bit. Luckily for him, stew is dense and it takes no effort to float on top of it.

"There was pa, laying in the stew, lookin around him. He was in some sort of giant cave that was lit up, from where, he couldn't tell. The ceiling of the cave was so far above him he couldn't see it. He only knew it was there because he had recently passed through it. The light in the cave would wax and wane with what he thought was a copying of night and day, but without his watch, he couldn't tell how regular it was.

"He'd been layin there, occasionally rolling over to eat some stew, for three of those cycles when he spotted something on the horizon. At first, it looked like just another pea floating at the edge of his vision, but it became steadily larger as he watched it. It grew from a pea to a carrot, then to a potato, then to the size of a chunk of beef. Soon, it was larger than any of the food chunks floating around him and it began to resemble a small sailboat.

"When it got within hailing distance, pa yelled out, 'Hey! Over here!'. He waved his arms a bit until he saw the ship turn towards him. As it got closer, he saw that, instead of being a sail boat, it was a bathtub that had been rigged with a flag pole in the drain hole and a bed sheet tied to the pole acting as a sail. Steering this vessel was a small, black haired man wearing a black, three piece suit, the vest of which was white with red diamonds on it, and a black bowler hat.

"The man pulled the boat up alongside pa, dropped the sail, leaned over and shouted, 'What in tarnation are you doin in ma stew lake? You're befoulin it! Befoulin, I say!'

"Pa stayed calm, 'Well sir, if I'd had my choice, I'd not have fallen in your stew lake and befouled it, but, if you was to pull me into your fine vessel there, I'd be happy to stop befoulin it.'

"'Not before you tell me how you got here,' the man shouted.

"So that's just what pa did. He filled the small gentleman in on the whole story. When he finished, the man told pa, 'That's quite a story. I'd say that story alone is worthy of a trip into town, climb aboard. What's your name, stranger?'

"Pa told him, 'Evan, Evan O'Neil.'

"In turn, the small man introduced himself. 'Charles Noe,' he shook pa's hand. 'And I'm king of this here land.'

"Pa was duly impressed, especially seein as how it was only the third king of an underground land that pa had ever met, and he was pretty sure one of those had been lyin to him. He bowed, as he thought he out to, but Charles Noe was havin none of it. He told pa that he was king of the land by default, seein as how there was no one else there to share in the bounty. He was a king without people. That bein the case, he wouldn't have no one bowin or scrapin or callin him 'Sir'. Just plain ol' Charles. Or, if one was feelin fancy, Mr. Noe would do.

"As they sailed, pa asked all about the land, the cave, and especially about Charles Noe. The cave itself was beyond any measurement system Charles could devise, but, by his own admission, he wasn't much of a deviser. If it couldn't be measured with a length of string or less than twenty paces, it was unmeasurable to Charles Noe. The light, he told pa, ran on regular 12 hour cycles, though he, too, could never figure out where it came from. His theory was that the mountain in the center of the cave, clear as it was, went all the way to the surface of the earth and acted as a sort of skylight, but that was never confirmed. Whatever it was, it kept the land clear and bright.

"After sailing for two more days, they reached the shore of the stew lake. Charles Noe escorted my father to a camp site, explainin to him that the whether was so fine, he never felt he needed to build a house. In fact, since he'd been there, he'd slept out every night. Not to say there were no buildings. There was barns around, all of 'em full of hay which never rotted and never caused hay fever. There was also a coupla jails around. 'Don't worry about those, though,' Charles told my dad, 'they're made out of tin. You can walk right out again as soon as you are in.'

"That got them talkin about how long Charles HAD been there. He said he couldn't rightly say. He'd tried keepin track once, but gave up around the 3,000,000 day mark. There'd been some days before that, and a whole lot of days after that. He spent it mostly explorin, whittlin and playin the harmonica. It was a pleasant existence, he told pa, just a little lonely sometimes. He'd had a coupla visitors in his time. The first one was the man who invented work.

"Charles told pa, 'We didn't get on too well. He was a bit of a jerk. I ended up havin to hang him.'

"The second was this fancy pants science fiction writer names Verne who came down there. He'd been a bit too uppity for Charles' taste; actin like he was too good for the land. Charles asked Verne if he'd write about this land when he got back home, and the guy said he would, but when he got back, he ended up writin a bunch of drivel about dinosaurs and whatnot, not exactly the tourist lure Charles was hopin for.

"'But you don't need to worry,' Charles told pa, 'there ain't really dinosaurs down here.'

"Well, pa and Charles Noe ended up becomin good friends. Charles showed him all around that underground land. To the north was the stew lake, which dad was already familiar with. On the southern end of the cave was a second lake, filled with whiskey. On the shores of this lake lived packs of feral bulldogs. Charles walked right up to those bulldogs and wiggled his bottom at em, yellin, 'You want some of Charles Noe, you come get some of Charles Noe!'

"Them bulldogs took off at him like a barrel full of puppies shot from a cannon, growlin and barkin, but he didn't move an inch. They pounced on him at full speed, openin their maws wide to take the largest bite they could. Pa was convinced Mr. Noe was crazy and suicidal then, but he walked away unscathed.

"Dad stood there astonished and asked Charles, 'What kind of magic is that?'

"Noe just laughed, slapped my pa on the back and told him, 'It ain't no magic, Evan. Them bulldogs all have rubber teeth. They can't do no one no harm. You hungry?'

"They spent ten years wanderin that land, eatin handout grown on bushes, fruit straight from the farmers' trees and soft boiled eggs laid by the hens. When they got thirsty, they drank from the little streams of alcohol tricklin down the rocks and when they wanted to relax, they sat beneath the cigarette trees and smoked.

"One day, as they was sittin in their latest campsite, havin a drink and a smoke, talkin about how to populate this land of plenty, pa turned to Charles and said, 'I think I got it! You know who would love this place? Hobos.'

"'Hobos, huh?' confirmed Charles. 'I never thought of that. But how do we get them here?'

"They thought for a bit about that, the alcohol makin it tough. They had to think about things that hobos liked. Finally, they had it, trains! Hobos like trains.

"They was excited about that until Charles said, 'No, no, that ain't gonna work. There ain't no trains that come here.'

"Despondent, pa said, 'Yeah, you're right.' Then he fell asleep for a bit.

"Round about midnight, he woke up, 'We could build tracks!' he yelled to Charles in the night.

"'Ain't gonna work,' Mr. Noe told pa. 'There ain't no axes, saws or picks round here. But I still think it's a good idea. Let's sleep on it.'"

"You need a refill on that coffee?" Dale cut in.

I looked down to find that I did. "That'd be mighty kind of ya," I told him. "And when you get back, I'll tell ya all about the train to the center of the earth."

1 comment:

kaploy9 said...

Ooo, I love trains! I hope I'm not a hobo though... :/