Tom Casey always drives fast down the road leading to the club house, because it passes through the dreaded front nine where he almost always plays bogie golf or worse. But it’s a necessary evil to prim and properly reach his beloved back nine… and the 17th hole. Had he replaced the flagpole from the last hole in one? He wasn’t sure.
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Squall Camp Site, thought Golden Josephine. This is where it all started for Gaeta V, planned to be the first of five continents in a Gaeta super-system. Only a bit of a second actually came to fruition: the Willy Continent as some humorously term it because of its resemblance to a penis and balls.
Legendary explorer Magellan Linden‘s airship: crashed on the beach here, or at least washed up here. Parts now on the land; that long, towery thing in the water over there — undercarriage to the dirigible perhaps.
The continent as a huge, peanut shape wilderness, the land closer to shoreline liberally dotted with linden palms. A kind of mountain range in the middle, true, but not like the dramatic, spectacular ones found on the old continents — even Corsica just to the west has a much more interesting topography. Everywhere the gradual slopes tinted that oh so tiresome Gaeta Green, as she called it. You can barely tell you’re walking uphill until you reach the top.
Where has it all led to? Vast majority of the palms long gone. Civilization came. Civilization has largely left now, she thinks bitterly. This is where Our Second Lyfe bleached its face off in an attempt to start something new and different. This was the end, though, and not a beginning. Plans for a continental super-system long in the rear view mirror. Number of Second Lyfe residents decreasing year by year. Capitol City, The Tree, are not too far from being all that we have left here. Lone pit or *sinkhole* filled in and smoothed over. Pittsboro becomes Pittinger becomes Darksity becomes Capitol City. Bland and boring. You need that wacky weed to liven things up, else one could go mad. Poor Marion.
She gets up to examine the camp site itself. Various pieces of trash litter the beach, the majority of which appear to be liquor bottles. Yes, Magellan was noted for being quite the drinker. And litterer.
A teddy bear left behind as well inside the lone, remaining camp tent. Seems to, um, bear a likeness of Magellan Linden himself according to the object’s description (sorry).
Tourists showing up. Time to take my golden hinny back to The Tree.
“I’ve decided to be a man for this, man…”
“So I’ll be over here, then. In the shade.”
Josephine looks down at her hands, her figure. “Oh dear,” she then said, and checked her inventory. “Er, my male shape seems to have simply vanished!”
“That’s okay,” Marion said from across the patio. “Do you want me to come over there to sit or do you wish to come back over here? Your choice. I’ve learned to follow your example.”
“I’ll come back over there.” Golden Josephine was truly puzzled by the inability to transform into the opposite sex any longer. She was stuck!
“Well I must say you look simply radiant today, Ms. Josephine, ha.”
“So I was asking about the ring?”
Still looking down, Golden Josephine was unable to shake off her shock. “Am… I wearing the ring? Is it on me?” She held out her hand to Marion.
“Um, no,” he replied, looking at the fully golden appendage. No green upon it.
“Then where is the ring? Where did you leave it? Somewhere safe and secure, I hope.”
“It’s in my pocket. In a little ring box I found in my service station.”
“Just… found? Like it was laying there, waiting for you?”
“You must be careful at all times. The ring is almost priceless as you know. It has power to alter space — and time — around you. The ring *must* have changed me… changed the tree. Before I was just a golden head. Masculine. Now I’m feminine. The tree has sprouted various, colorful growth. We cannot go back. We are, as you say, treed.” She lets the statement hang in the air, then: “You better check the box. Just to be sure.”
“Never mind. I *do* have it. That explains the change.” But she had somehow switched chairs with Marion, the latter nowhere to be found now.
Golden Josephine was alone again.
It took a month, but Baker Bloch was finally granted access to the higher planes of Clemscott by holiday entities Santa God, Halloween Jack, and Melvin. The latter asked if he could tag along, feeling Baker’s mission to find the great 3-n-1 in the physical realm was not as futile and meaningless as the other two.
“I met my wife Suzanna54320 here,” Melvin declared, referring to the plane they were then exploring, one up from his holiday castle realm and with a base level at 750 meters above the Linden’s absolute zero (for the record, there are no negative elevations that I know of in Our Second Lyfe; no Death Valley type scenarios, in other words). “We had a stare down, as you term it. Neither of us could believe the other was present. No one came to this plane — still don’t. We received mutual sex gratification in the spider’s cave that very night. The proximate fish promised to pivot their heads, but I couldn’t help notice Wanda, the largest and highest, sneaking peeks during the action. I don’t believe it was a, how you call it, *pervy* thing, though, since fish don’t perceive our species in a sexual manner, and visa versa of course. I think she was just curious how it all worked with us mechanoids. You see…”
Baker Bloch politely stopped him here, not wanting to hear some of the rather uncomfortable details about robot sex again. He had already suffered through the, er, ins and outs of several other such “actions” up to this point concerning his wife and also other robot women he had met before and even after his marriage. Baker instead steered the conversation toward Fourth of Juli celebrations coming up in less than half a year. Melvin was already preparing. This bridged the time it took for them to reach this Spider Cave.
Wanda was still there, flying high and mighty. Melvin avoided eye contact…
… and instead conferred with non-flying (“ordinary”) fish Skippy and Mr. Howe in the pool below on the possible whereabouts of the great 3-n-1. “Inside,” they burbled brightly, if a little out of rhythm with each other. Baker Bloch could feel Wanda’s eyes staring heavily toward them. Weighty like a planet; no wonder Melvin noticed the peeking that night(!).
Music began, a strange, somewhat jazzy piano tune. Haltingly subdued. Coming from the cave.
“Melvin?” Baker Bloch called back over the now louder music upon reaching the impasse within. “Did you guys happen to use a bed while you were in here?”
“Another one, Mary. This time with the primary.”
Maurey “Jiff” Monroe, the Gaston-Berry Police Station staff psychiatrist, wanted it plain and simple today. “Well, Tom Casey. Or, if you prefer it, Casey One Hole.”
“I do.” Casey was ever the method actor.
“Let’s talk about motives. Why would you kill a beloved Collagesity bartender with one deadly swipe of your metallic Wilson driver?”
“He had information he wasn’t providing for me. I hate… dislike people who don’t give me the information I want to complete my mission of…” He paused.
“Yes,” Jiff proclaimed, seeing an immediate weakness. “Tell me about this mission. Hopefully it at least serves free gravy to the poor.” He attempts a weak smile which, of course, wasn’t returned.
“I’m looking for someone.”
By now, George was back in his secret hiding place, listening in. His abbey as he called it. I had been stupid to walk the road today, he vilified himself.
“I did what you told me Casey One Hole. I befriended the bee person and got the scoop on Hunt. It has started.”
“You are my eyes, ears, throat in Collagesity now, Tammy Whatammy. Furry Karl was a much loved figure. Don’t let me down.”
“Now if you’ll excuse me,” he continues in his robotic, emotionless manner, “I must return to my dream of playing golf on the back nine of my course. I’m about to tee up on the 17th. I think an 8 iron will do it this round for yet another hole in one. I’m feeling more energetic all the time.”
He turns to his left. “Who is that starred man on the striped couch outside, Tammy? Did he come with you?”
Hucka Doobie also stops by to pay her last respects to long time Collagesity barman Furry Karl. She even sheds a number of tears. But he looks more filled out now than I remember him, contemplates the bee person. Still hairy but not so much. She then remembers Baker Blinker turning into something similar about a year ago, when all the oldest town avatars got together just after the Billfork Table Meeting at the Blue Feather. In fact, this is the same person… figure! She also remembers Baker Bloch transforming into Old Mabel at the same get together. She listened open mouthed at subsequent proclamations. Baker Bloch is *many* avatars in one. Baker Blinker is a couple. Hucka Doobie is merely “herself,” as she’s presently constituted, and then also herself in obsolete, “classic” form, which is more pure bee slanted and which she only pulls out during special occasions, like Halloween year before last, pheh. The party where she almost got killed by Wheeler. Hucka Doobie *thinks* she’s forgiven the former town leader, but still remains unsure. Anyway, I’m wandering, she says to herself. Karl… must ask The Bakers about this.
“Baker Blinker,” Hucka Doobie calls softly. But Karl definitely seemed dead as a doorknob (curious expression).
Hucka Doobie then turns to leave, but notices the teleporter on the floor in front of Pirate Bluebird’s coffin — complete with a blue rose someone left on the lid. She wonders what’s on the second floor now of what was once called Home Orange, so heads upwards.
Open toilets on one side. “Okay,” she says. “Kinda disgust-ing.”
And then this on the opposite wall: “The tide is turning…” A sign of things to come.
She then sits just outside on the front porch of Starbuccaneers, staring over at the Boos gallery across the way and pondering what it all means.
She sits there for the longest time.
“What are you looking at, little man?” the approaching Tammy Whatammy exclaimed, on her way up Cannon Road to pick up some things left behind at her old log cabin rental.