Peet Archer didn’t know he would be dragged all over town with his 200 meters worth of 3/16 inch braided nylon rope trying to hold onto Toddles through time. “Whoa Nelly!” he exclaims exactly halfway between 23 22 and 22 23. “Down in the road she goes (*snap*?).”
The snake has let loose of its tail.
“So you see, Hucka D. The 3 cars closest to the portal represent the alchemical witches I just met over at your gym, with the 4th missing, just like the Citrinitas stage is often left out of the alchemical process.”
“That’s *us*,” uttered the witches in unison. “*We’re* the cars,” and then they cackled like a pack of hyenas. Flushing Baker Bloch, a skunk with a rash as far as they were concerned, had forgotten who he was speaking to. Certainly not Hucka D. “*Hardly*,” as each of them would say in turn, I’m sure.
But what of the 4th? The 4th could save them all. If she could figure a way into the X-ed out square. Picturetown. Those clever, evil witches!
“*Here* Mr. Archer,” she said, seeing one of the witch’s cars at last. “A temporal opening I can finally wedge through. You’ll have to stay behind, pull me out by the rope if needed.”
“Just like Niagara,” Peet said under his breath, looking down at her sweet, wee yellow head.
“I’ll warn you. I’ll be much heavier when I return since it will be 11 years later; you’ll have to hold tight.
He estimates his 200 meters of 3/16 inch braided nylon beside him should do the trick just fine.
“*Two* Beetles instead of 3 down the road now, Mr. Archer.”
Peet Archer considered requesting, “Peet please,” again, but decided against it. Toddles had somehow shrunk down to her “normal” diminutive size during the trip into the heart of this fine Canadian hamlet, warm on an early spring day. “Who have we lost this time?”
“Lennon, it appears. Must be the same, yes, as Lemon. The lemon tree went missing from Springfeld, Mr. Archer. Shelbyvale stole.” Toddles needed to rest her wee mouth again. She put her thoughts into Archer’s brain, as she did sometimes when this happened.
“So *what* is the equivalent to Shelbyvale for our Picturetown here?” he said. They both peered down the alley with Mary York at the increasingly diminutive skateboarder, almost out of sight now. Might as well say he’s gone. There: he’s gone.
“All blocked up, Mr. Archer. Someone has sealed off the passage to the interior, ‘X’ed it out in effect.”
“We didn’t come soon enough,” he said for her. “We better check the 102 alley for changes as well.”
“How are we going to get up *that* thing, Mr. Archer?” Toddles said in her wee, cute voice, so full of hope just moments before. Then they heard the roar and remembered. They’d forgotten for so long. The obstacle.
“How are you with barrels?” Archer returned, thinking of a solution. Toddles would go up first and then lower down a rope or something.
Toddles suddenly had a growing spurt, then another, then another to make 3 total. She was 5’10”. Then three more to reach the needed height to simply pick up tiny Mr. Archer (to her) and set him on top of the reverse falls along with the car, then step up herself via a large rock pictured above.
“Handy you can do that!!” he shouted up when they were back together on another rock.
“WHAT??” she replied from a great height, and then shrank down again.
“No need to shout now, Mr. Archer. I’m right beside you here.
“Please… call me Peet,” he requested, seeing her quick dry herself as well. She had shrunk down three but not the remaining. She remained a pretty big girl. Pretty grown up. “We’ve been through a lot.”
At the “Picturetown 30 miles” sign he wondered if she was ever going to step back down those original three. She was not a toddler. In fact, she offered to drive after Niagara.
She walked right past the baby doll, not even tempted to pick it up for a cuddle. She was more grown up than infantile Jeffrie Phillips in that way.
She had to see for herself. The mother! Poor Katy Kidd. Another infant grown up too fast, thus the madness. She walked between the Big Boy legs, which probably wasn’t an error in this case. Just something she had to do to go inside.
She stops to ask a survivor if the beach was still straight ahead. The head nodded without sound. She wondered if this could even be All Orange in another guise. After all, a bloody dress was involved.
It was getting even creepier but Toddles kept moving forward toward the sea, the beach, the… explosion. A stick figure on a bike skirted her to the left without apology… a white doll boy in a tilted chair with slackened mouth also in that direction. Straight ahead: another survivor. One of the lucky ones that was able to receive a mask.
“Is this the way to the beach? Darn bike!”
Another silent affirmation. She kept walking, rounding the old boathouse to the right to meet up with The Librarian, still perusing that Octopus book from the last photo-novel. The stench was becoming overpowering for the little girl. “Where is she?” Toddles demanded, tired of looking and wanting to get the hell out of this hell. She just had to see for herself. I still don’t think it was an error to enter, but we’ll see.
The Librarian didn’t stop reading but tilted his head to the left, indicating that direction. And there she was, face down in the sand. Or Toddles assumed it was her. She inched forward, the awful smell thicker and thicker.
She stopped at the tire. She could get no closer without fear of passing out. But she knew it was her now.
Katy Kidd, a little more grown up than we’ve seen her before. But definitely not reaching adulthood now. Toddles could go to Picturetown with a type of closure.
Toddles and Peet Archer were hopelessly lost in the Heartland of Canada. They spotted a fisherman screwing a hole in the ice and decided to stop and ask for directions. “Hellooo!” Peet Archer called when they neared the tiny fishing shack on the frozen lake. No answer. “Howdy,” Peet tried again as they got within about 15 feet. Still no response. In fact, the man hadn’t moved — wasn’t screwing into the pond at all.
As Toddles and Peet made their way back to the blue car stolen from that Tungaske residence seen in photo-novel 23, they realized he was just a symbol, a prop. All he really represented in his Maple Leaf hoodie was the Canadian flag and the country itself through it.
They still had a fur piece to go to reach Picturetown way over in Ontario.
“Very funny Mr. Archer.”
That belt is giving me strange dreams, she thinks after waking up and recalling. Must stop using it so much.
She goes to check on Toddles. “Toddles?” Not in the bedroom, not under the covers. “Land sake’s child.” She calls downstairs. “Are you down in the kitchen!?” She descends the stairs — not there. She searches the entire house. Her precious precocious grandchild is gone! The belt did something to her that night. Broke through the drugs that Toddles had carefully and stealthily dispensed into her bedtime toddy, as was common. The belt doesn’t want Toddles to succeed in her mission of growing up way too soon so that she can save the world, several worlds in fact. All Orange.
If she wasn’t so worried about Toddles, Alice Farrowheart would have noted that the belt was gold instead of steely grey in the dreams, and wondered what that meant. It too is growing in power. A face off (to the death?) is probably in the works.
“Grounded!” I say. “GROUNDED. And gimme those drugs you use to doctor my toddy. You’ll grow up to be a heroin addict or worse and put me in an early grave, Toddles.” Alice Farrowheart, her dear dear “Granny,” could stop shaking her head; the belt did this, the psychic toddler realized. Alice F. held out her hands. “DRUGS,” she demanded. “I want to see what you’ve come up with in that wee evil noggin of yours.” Toddles produced 2 pills, one red and one blue, from the pocket on her baby jumper. “Take them,” she said. It wasn’t a request. It was an order. Time to pull out the big guns, hypnosis and not what. Toddles had collected a bag full by now.
“Where were you Toddles? I was looking all over for you. I was worried!”
“Just getting some milk for me and Whimpers (cat).”
“Aww,” Grammy let off. “That’s so *sweet*.”
“Phew. That was close!” she admitted to milk sipping Whimpers after Grammy puttered off back to bed.
“Oh no, Toddles. Those are much too big for you. Let’s go over there to the children’s section if your heart’s set on new shoes today.”
“I want *those*,” she demanded, quite unlike the kind, precocious, precious little thing we’re accustomed to in this here blog and accompanying photo-novel. She knew what they were. A one way ticket out of here. “*Those*,” she reinforced, holding her point. Holding, holding…
“Land sake’s, child. You’ll never be able to walk back across town with those things on.”
“I’ll manage.” She’ll grow into them soon enough.
Mary Pippins’ red umbrella and the Red Umbrella gallery
Bake’s Bakery (newly relocated!) with Barry X. Vampire and pretty Poetry Dancer
Zapppa’s apartment? (dreaming of that chick down there)
that chick down there — actually, those chicks, including the Her Majesty bigfoot/yeti in the doorway just down
Toddles roaming the mean streets of Black Ice at night again after drugging up her Grammy
Stumpy, the new bartender at Moe’s, smoking bong hit after bong hit while listening to noise rock with Gotham the psychedelic reggae monk. He’s got a head! He *is* a head!
Charlene Brown the punk working late night on her cryptozoology dissertation, unaware that off again on again boyfriend
Barry X. Vampire Jeffrie Phillips is with Poetry tonight, the bastard
Melvin the devil boy offers a passing skateboarder some suspicious looking soup while half-sister Eldwina ponders her 1st assignment as an official member of the City Squad. Knew it! thinks full brother Judd from the stairs.
“It was a little toddler. Just like you Toddles. In fact…”
“Don’t say it,” she requested while having another spurt. We had just finished up the 3rd game of pool after she sank the Homer ball — as we started to call it in game 1 — for the win. I retrieved the yellow sphere from the side pocket and placed it back in the center, along with all the others. Losers have to rack. I kept pondering while I did. Toddles was now about 5′ 10″, so not a toddler. I was wrong in that, a loser once more. 3 feet to start, then a little under 4 1/2 after the second, then this. How much would she grow? I thought back to broken Big Boy at the entrance to the abandoned and clearly haunted park with the baby holding a doll. This tall? I fairly easily made it between the legs, but clearly an error to enter.
“Continue your story,” she requested while bending over to break the triangle (*crack!*). 6 balls sunk right off the bat; odds are stacked way against him to begin. With height comes increased skills, seemingly. I decided to appease her.
“Kite flying Jimmy Jackson and fly fishing Johnny Jimson were down at the pier, absorbed in their pastimes and trying to ignore the stench of the bodies that had freshly washed up on the shore that morning.”
“‘Ahh, there’s our old friend Reader perusing the octopus book’, I said, peering around the pier more, ‘perhaps looking for a smell spell to end it all.'”
“Octopus? Where’s this going?” she asked. The 7 ball was sunk, then the 2, then the 6. Did she even have any left; had she already won once more? He checked: not the Homer ball this time, but the orange, the 5th. It seemed to smile at him, telling him she was the one, the only. Here was All Orange in the flesh. The pool stick lowered, aimed…
“… annnd *CUT*!”