During Pitch’s awkward pause, Wheeler walked across the bridge spanning Central Stream and took the empty seat beside The Librarian. “Hello you total bitch,” he says in a low voice without turning toward her. “Hello you complete bastard,” she answers back, also not looking in his direction. But both share a smile for a few seconds. Fences have been mended.
Mary turns around and whispers to her friend. “Where’ve you been?”
Wheeler holds up “Floydodo” for her to see. “I got involved,” she explains, shaking the book to emphasize what she’d been doing. “Lost track of time, sorry.” She looks toward Pitch. “Is he alright over there? Does he need help?”
“Why don’t you go up and say a few words, Wheeler,” Mary requested. “We’ve both had our turns now. You’re the town general, after all. Whatever you titled yourself.”
“Dictator,” Wheeler proclaims proudly. She stands and walks up to Pitch, then escorts him to the seat she formerly occupied. “Here, hold this for me,” she demands, picking up “Floydodo” and shoving it into his hands. He sits down with it. She returns beside the lamp post before the rocketship where Mary and Pitch had previously spoken.
“Greetings fellow Collagsitians. Wheeler Wilson here, you’re beloved former leader, haha.” Some sour looks appeared amongst the crowd. “Ah, I see we have a couple who disagree. Well, I can’t say I blame you. I was occassionally a bit harsh with some of my orders. But, overall, I think I did a good job.” She pauses. “Let me put this plainly. Your old leader Carrcassonnee will and cannot return. The play or interview form of speaking to each other, between the Bakers, between anyone in this town, has been rendered obsolete. Perch is perched up there in *my* diner.” She points toward the indicated eating establishment to her back and left, behind the rocket launcher from this direction. “So where does that leave us, citizens of Collagesity? We’ve moved forward, yes? We attempted to become assimilated into VHC City. Didn’t work. Baker Bloch here became Pitch became Woody and it all went to hell. Duncan Avocado’s our hope in that direction now. He has emerged from the PCH Forest — has that been mentioned yet?” Baker Bloch nods to her, thinking she means the woods itself and not Duncan’s exit from it. “Okay.” She then points back to the left rear. “What is our focus, then, people? What should be the entire reason for our existence here? Can you guess? What is it?” The crowd looks around at each other, basically wondering what she’s on about. She answers herself. “The *woods*. The *trees*. That’s what this is all about. I personally recommend sealing the whole town up again until Mary returns from a successful Muff-Bermingham trip. I’ve been (myself). I know what she’s up against. There’s power there. Osborne Well still controls. I should know, being a controller myself. And then there’s his children, his twins. Morris and Lou. I know the former but not the latter. But The Musician knows Lou. *Woody* here knows Lou (Woody nods). Having taken on the negative characteristics of her father, Lou is not the best of persons, I’ve heard. She wishes for everyone to dream, to keep asleep. What is reality? she wants everyone to ask, confused about what’s right and left, up and down, east-west. We’ve lost Tronesisia to her. We’ve lost Bendy. I’ve lost my Musician.” She pauses, appearing to wipe a tear forming in her eye, an emotional display especially surprising the several with the sour looks before.
Woody Woodmanson raises his hand. “Excuse me Mrs. Wheeler. Do you mind if I say a couple of words?”
“It’s *Ms. Wilson*,” she says, sniffing. “But, yeah, come on up here Woody. I’ve said my peace.” Woody gets up and Wheeler takes his seat. “Woods, people!” she shouts in emphasis while settling in.
Woody displays awkwardness. “Do I just stand beside this lamp post here? Is this okay?”
“That’s fine, Woody,” comforts Mary from the front row. “Go ahead and speak your mind as well. We have plenty of time. No rush on the launching.”
“Well, okay.” He loudly clears his throat for several seconds. Very high pitch, startling a couple in the crowd, including the already nervous Mary.
“I am… *very* grateful to be here in Collagesity. You cannot know the extent.” He clears his throat again. “I am a refuge of several worlds. My original master, Old Kringles — a lukewarm Santa Claus — use to tell me, ‘Don’t get sick, don’t get sick,’ over and over. It made me sick. I was expelled from his Christmas village. My second master, Luke Purden, owner of a spectacular mountainside castle, gave me better advice. He said, ‘Don’t judge a book by the color of its cover.’ At the time, half of the books I owned were green and the other half white. I always wondered why I preferred reading the white covered books. Then it hit me like a humongous hammer.” Woody hits one wooden hand with the other here. “Someone else was inside me that preferred the *green* colored books. Another Woody.” More throat clearing. “Which brings us to Muff-Bermingham.” Leaning forward intently, he looks in the direction of Wheeler. “I both know Lou very well and don’t know her atall. As such, I can vouch for her decency and honesty. Yes, she wants you to dream, to wonder, to envision the impossible. There’s a village at the bottom of the hill. But there isn’t. But there *is*.” He straightens up. “And that’s all I have to say about all *that*.”
(to be continued)