From the library window I looked up into the heart of reborn Collagesity, pansies in front of me, reminding me of, well… the truth. That Mick wasn’t real any longer; given up the Menace part. I was safe. For now.
I turned back to Bean the Librarian and asked if he had any Lafferty in the building. Funny thing, though: the pansies were still in front of me. I was on both sides of the window because I wasn’t there atall. I believe he was even laughing at me a bit.
I turned the other way and asked again and then started laughing myself, but not in a good way I gathered. My head starting spinning round.
“I’m tired of being a Menace, Grandpa.”
“Grumpy, please,” insisted the octogenarian soaking beside him.
“Right. You’re sure they didn’t see me.”
“No one can see you. Now.”
“No one takes heed of me any more. I’m *ever-present* you could say. And I never do no talking. Being naked all the time has its advantages. No one takes you really seriously.”
Mick looked over, noted the substantial package Grumpy was obviously protecting from harm. Star in his days, he thought. Still thinks he can make a comeback in that industry; still able to keep it up for 20 or so minutes at a time. With aid from the red and blue pills. “I’ve chosen a disguise,” he says over to his one and only true, non-goofy friend in the world, now that the wife has passed away. But he doesn’t like to think about the farming accident with the tiger and the grenade down in Bellisaria. “The doctor has arranged it. He will be known later on as… the Doctor of Mouse, and then, maybe, perhaps, simply become Dr. Mouse. He will do it. He has assured me it will work.”
Grumpy Grandpa thinks back to the days when they were trying to talk him into an operation to change a body part. Too big, they exclaimed to him, catching him in the shower with it one day. Perhaps his mother, perhaps a brother — but word got around. Drew has a big package, everyone found out. The girls at the school started taking more notice of him, a lot more notice. The boys respectfully bowed their heads now when he was around, instead of taunting him with jeers about his weight and such. He had found his niche, even though he didn’t know it at the time. No more residing between a rock and a hard place.
Mick brought him out of the past. “They’ll start with the head; get rid of all the black. Just like Bendy: you know Bendy, the attendant up at the gate house.”
“No.” But Drew “Grumpy” Cleveland, aka Grandpa Cliffs, knew all about Bendy and what went right and also what went wrong with *that* operation. Disguises all around in this here Castle Town of Southern Omega.
On a break, Fern rolled the prophecy cubes and then wondered who Tessa was.
She better get back to her shift at the cafe…
“I wish I had better news about the twins,” Fern Stalin later exclaimed to Lichen Roosevelt at the Yalta Bar and Grill down more in the innards of Castle Town. Actually, where we saw Barry De Boy last, taking up pen and paper for the first time and setting down his palette and paintbrush. Actually: both; he’s both an artist and a writer. Just like me. We return to the present conversation…
“All in this spell book?” Lichen exclaims back, surprised at the results of the equation. Q, she thinks. Barry knew all along.
One of the twins walks in. I wish I could say it was the right one but I’m not sure.
Actually I am.
“I was younger back then, still a rocker, still a moder. Cleveland had nothing on me.”
“Drew ‘Grumpy’ Cleveland?” Baker Bloch questioned, still shocked at the revelation. He hardly had breath to ask.
“Yes,” Stefan [last name still to be determined] admitted, thinking back to the lake, the peninsula. So calming after the pansies. He knew who he was… for the very first time. Then a Brendan appeared on a nearby peak and it began in earnest. He understood that this was not a bucolic paradise, and that paradise was a long way off indeed, like his sister knew before him. Brother too.
“Soooo…” Baker caught his breath again. “That’s when you began (inhale) to know… about Pansy…”
“Mouse,” Stefan completed for Baker Bloch. He held all the cards now, was playing with a full set of dice. Die — Certain Death. Red equals white. Alice in Wonderland would be proud. He let the word hang in the air again, like a kite cut loose from its tether, adrift in a sea of nothingness.
“What assets can *you* bring to me, Mr. Baker Bloch.” I wish Stefan [last name yet to be determine] had a German accent but it would be too hard to write. He was applying for an apartment in the Kidd Tower in Apple’s Orchard, a prospective neighbor, then, to the Man About Time who’d be living directly above him in the penthouse suite. This here was Mr. Babyface’s old apartment. Mr. Babyface had decided to move away from the city to carve out a bucolic life for himself in the land of Hana Lei, wherever the f-ck that was. Maybe Rose Heaven.
“Well,” Baker Bloch began his answer. “You’ll become an automatic member of the exclusive Blue Feather Club, with 10 percent discount on all items at any of the Baker Bloch owned businesses in town. That would include, let’s see, the consignment store down in Black Ice, the Red Umbrella (gallery) in same, the Rosehaven Yarn Shop — that would be selling story yarns and not yarn yarns mind you.”
“Shoot,” Stefan mildly cussed here. He was a natural born knitter, weaving and bobbing the needles to whittle away the dreary nights. But he could live with this handicap. Still full price for the yarn yarn. Baker Bloch continued without a beat.
“Then The Cones — that’s the all you can eat buffet style restaurant atop the Blue Feather, part of the overall Sunklands Institute complex. That would be, er, right down there or over there.” Baker Bloch pointed out the transparent wall to his left toward said complex. You can clearly make out the towers at the top from his perspective. Stefan had none of this. He remained undecided whether to move to NWES City, despite what Baker considered his pretty pitch, like a lob thrown to a junior leaguer who could then hit it out of the park on any given day. This was a given. It was up to Stefan to throw away the chance, make a clear error of judgement. Baker held all the aces, he felt.
“I know Pansy Mouse,” Stefan stated out of left field, a game changer. Baker’s plans suddenly flew up in the air like a pack of misshuffled cards.
He knew exactly where to look. He heads across the road toward the hills.
He pauses to roll two dice at Gigi’s place, red and white. “Twins,” he exclaims, seeing the result. “Good. I’m on the right track.” Certain Death can be avoided tonight.
He moves forward…
A wise sparrow looks down from a tree behind him. He stands in flowers again, pansies. This is where it will happen. He waits. He, again, knows Certain Death is not stalking him. This is the day, this is the portal. He waits. The sparrow knows too.
His head begins to vibrate rapidly. It has begun.
“Dum de *dum* de *dum*.” Riiiiinnnng. “Oh dear.” Riiiiiiiinnnng. “That’s the phone.”
“Over… *there*.” Riiinnng.
“Over where, honey?”
“On the wall.” Riiinnnng. “Just over… *there*.”
“The wall… the phone on the wall?”
Riiinnnng. “Yes. Don’t you remember. The phone… on the wall.”
“The *pay phone*? The one that hadn’t worked for 20 years?” Rinnnnng.
“Yes. I think. Go check. I’m scared. I’ll be back in my room.” Riinnng.
She was so happy just seconds before. Now the world seemed to be ending.
Riinnnng. Herbert Glenn Gold walks over, answers the phone. Riinnnn– “Hello?”
“You have become old, Stefan.”
“No… not old. I can still rock.”
“You are a classical man through and through now. Get up out of the rocker. You cannot rock any longer. You are an old man. You…”
“Pansy,” he said, trying to reassure. “I acquiesce.” Old Stefan steps away from the DJ equipment and the dance floor as a whole, walks outside, stands in the flower bed.
She should have never gone into that cave. She was out in the open, the fresh, clean air with the star studded sky spreading out above her, and then she wasn’t. A path, but not leading to clean, fresh water. Dank, dingy, green, algae congested. Atrophied. Some say her life was atrophied when she got hitched to her twin brother Toothpick/Philburt back at the end of photo-novel 22. Only the Free Tilists, with close ties to the Deep South (of Black Ice), would marry them. “Amoral,” cried to Pentagonists, worshipers of all things 5 sided and 5 pointed and originating on Mars. “Blasphemous, a slap in the face of Our Lord God of Heaven,” bemoaned the Trilogists, better known as our Christians. Only the 4-square Tilists would touch it, but only in Catalpa outside the direct influence of the city council who had ultimate judgment in these matters and could expel the couple if the ceremony was held on their grounds. Instead: All Orange, between the wine red apples of Apple’s Orchard and the slick yellow banana symbolically lying at the center of Black Ice, which all revolves around like a Beanstalk or Pope to a helmet wearing monkey (crook) with one upturned and one downturned eyebrow. It was only in All Orange where it could happen. The 5th, but in a good way this time (we hope).
Barry De Boy settled back in the rocking chair with the maple leaf pillow and felt it was good. I have acquired the power of the three now, the scissors to begin, then the paper, then, lastly, rock (in the middle). Rock solid I am. Jeffrie Phillips I am. He he he. He he he he he. Ho ho. Hu. Huh.
It was Waldrip. Or was it Waldrup. Waldrop? …drep? Anyway, I could feel his presence even if I couldn’t see him. Like a mouse.
He stopped rocking, stood up. “Who goes there?”
The next morning, Tickie finally caught up with Jeffrie Phillips, who was scared out of his wits at the events of the night before, damaged beyond repair even.
In the weakness and as a cure, Tickie *merged* with Jeffrie to become something else, unafraid of fear. A new superhero but hopefully not supervillian. Blue Thorn, perhaps the Blue Rose Thorn but with the Rose dropped because of fear of copyright infringement (see: Santman).
Blue Thorn looks around with new eyes for both, sensing that Knob Noster was not here in the Inbetweenland. Never mind Mr. Platinum/Operator/Undertaker/Zero Hero, because he was a different animal altogether. Blue Thorn could change back into Jeffrie Phillips (and Tickie, I suppose) after he had nabbed the similarly blue beast and brought him (or her) back home to mama (Charlene Brown the punk, who we know now is a type of bigfoot *herself*) for detailed study. She could finish her cryptozoology dissertation that way. She could become a doctor herself. Maybe then Jeffrie could find a way to finish off the other doctor he knew well, the one who could turn into a mouse (Pansy). It was all coming together if it wasn’t all falling apart. And actually it was both. The Blue Thorn stepped forward away from the now closed portal into the past.
It was kind of irritating how he never wore clothes in the hot tub but octogenarian Drew “Grumpy” Cleveland had information I needed to complete my school project. Pansy Mouse! The mouse history has forgotten. Perhaps I shouldn’t even be writing about it (!). Keep it to myself for later.
“Pansy?” he started after the prompt. “Yeah, I remember Pansy. That was before Mickey. That was before ‘Floydada.'”
What a goldmine!
“That’s very nice, Mortimer. Let’s stop there.”