“Thank you again for coming in on your day off, Hoss, to help me.”
“Well,” he answers. “Sounds like the fate of the whole town depends on us finding some facts!”
“So right,” Teebestia replies. “According to this ‘Big Book of Moths and Butterflies’, the name Astarte comes from a particular moth, just like Lapara and almost all sims of the continent we’ve checked. Not a local demon. How ’bout you? Found anything?”
“Still looking through this old book on Malone, the one that told us its most famous resident was Wheeler.”
“Which is impossible. She just showed up there! Still, we should interview her.”
“Hold on, Teeb… here’s a section on Owls Head.” He turns the page, reads a bit further, then utters: “Oh me Godz.”
“What is it?”
Nancy finally forced Danny to eat a salad and they had to carry him out of the eatery on a stretcher.
“I’m so sorry, dearest. It won’t happen again.”
“Alderaan?” exclaims Paul. “Where the heck is Alderaan, Wheeler?”
“Sure are a lot of clowns on this tv.”
“Clowns are everywhere,” she says. “Everywhere,” she reinforces.
“We’re going to have to look for Mary again sometime, Wheeler. You can’t just have this doll substitute sitting beside you forever here.”
Wheeler begins to sob. Paul joins her a bit.
Peter SoSo returns from The Above. “What are you guys looking at?”
“What else?” answers Paul, sniffing.
“Well,” Peter says, staring at the doll and exhaling, “I think I know what must… be done. We can all chip in.”
“What happened to your mushroom house in this spot, Rocky?”
“I don’t know. I have my market now. What happened to your Bettie?”
“She’s still around. I think.” Nancy pauses, looks across the street. “Who lives in that house over there, Rocky? The one with the rams in front.”
“Dunno. I’ve seen people.”
“People?” Nancy parrots.
Nancy looks down at her white hand. “People people? Or, you know, animal people. Like you.”
“People people,” Rocky responds.
“Pretty normal, probably. A man and a woman one time. Then another time: two men. Then another time: two women, a man, and another woman. And another man.” He puts his paw to mouth. “Let’s see, I think that’s it.”
“Let’s go take a look.”
“I don’t like to pry in other people’s lives,” replies the raccoon.
“Oh sure you do,” Nancy says, and gets up to cross the road. Rocky follows.
“Hopscotch, Rocky. Go ahead and try it out.”
“Baaaad,” the closest ram opined. “Rocky stepped off the hopscotch animation and moved toward the creature.
“Baaaad?” he asked back. The ram stared at him. The matching sheep kept grazing on what little grass was left in the yard.
“Bettie told me once that Ram dies with Lamb,” the anime girl says. “I found it curiously puzzling. Have you heard that (expression)?”
“Nope. We might as well go inside while we’re here.” A chill filled the air. Something was different in Olde Lapara Town today. And it wasn’t just the new fall foliage. Something else was fallen here. Rocky opened the front door. They entered.
“I don’t really feel comfortable being here now, Nancy. This may be the home of the town owner, Levi Clownski.”
“Check the files on this computer, Rocky.”
“I’m not doing that Nancy.”
She walked toward the kitchen in the back. “Suit yourself. I wonder if they have any meat here? Or if they’re vegetarians like me?”
“You like fish, though. I think that makes you a, what do they call it, a Pisces something.”
“Pesetarian,” Nancy offers.
“That could be it.”
“It is it.”
“Come here, Rocky. Bread. I made two more slices for us. Nom nom nom — pretty good. Hands free eating.”
“I see. But we better leave. I need to get down to the market and open back up. Night shift — until I hire someone else. I’m trying it out.”
“Oh. Can I come?”
“Oh why not.”
Then Nancy spotted it. She indicated the formica table between them. “What is that over there?”
“Um, that’s cookies, my dear. But you’ve given up sweets.”
“No. The green and gold thing behind it.”
Rockky saw the object too. “Looks like a ring from my angle.”
Nancy then made the unfortunate mistake of putting it on her hand. She shows Rocky. “Pretty?” she asked.
Soon after Nancy put on the Owls Head ring, Danny had a set-back at the hospital despite the successful stomach pumping and blood transfusion. He died on September 10th at 8:57pm. He was buried across the SLRR tracks in a family plot tucked within a long strip of Linden eucalyptuses, ironically the very same kind of plants he ran away from all his life. Danny’s parents Richard and Linda Defiance, a well respected Lapara welder and psychic respectively, had been interred many years before on either side. He was with loved ones now.
But what would become of Nancy, who maybe didn’t love Danny but liked him some? At least they had had a physical relationship… of sorts. Nancy wanted more. She desired a psychic relationship as well but Danny shied away from it because of his mother’s involvement with the subject. He never understood the tarot card and tea leaf readings which repeatedly warned that running away from plants all his life would eventually catch up with him.
Nancy didn’t even have anyone to share her grieving with. No relatives remained; Danny was an only child and so were his mother and father. Bettie and Buster were still missing. Rocky had to run his market — he hadn’t hired that extra hand yet. Perhaps Nancy should go work for Rocky. Or there was always Wheeler for it.
Wiping her eyes, Nancy then lay on the roof of the train stop shelter just across the tracks, looking up at the blue sky and pondering future things while fiddling with that cursed ring which most certainly was not finished with her.
A twisted house…
… for a twisted man.
Danny’s Magical Room
“Everybody in town will die now, Danny. They’ll all come here.”
“Cool. Where’s James Dean?”
For a while, Nancy spent a good chunk of each day in the High Line park where she could gaze down at the last resting place of her beloved Danny in the long strip of eucalyptuses across the railroad track. Peter SoSo had joined her this particular morning, but kept his distance. He didn’t know Nancy personally but eventually figured out this must be the grieving lover of the town’s recently deceased plumber. He followed the direction of her repeated, teary stares and glances; understood the tiny Defiance family cemetery recently increased by 1/2 was their focus.
Peculiar talents considered, Peter decided it might be his fate to help the girl. After nightfall he approached the freshly dug grave, attempting to speak with Danny.
“Mr. Defiance,” he whispered. “Daniel,” he tried again, stronger. “Danny,” he then said, with a quick response.
“Yeah?” came a steady but muffled voice. “Is this the Lord?”
“No Daniel… Danny. This is Peter SoSo. You once unclogged my commode… when it was running over. The Grand Lapara Hotel. Room 401. Remember? I’m a merman, if that helps. A former carnie.”
“Yes, I remember. How’s that problem doing? Does it still flush cleanly? You may have to change the piping beneath the floor eventually.” There was a pause. The sound of night bugs began again. Then: “You call me first if you have problems, see. I’ll fix you up.”
Peter SoSo measured the spirit he was dealing with. Not uncommon — the recently departed didn’t quite understand the gravity of their situation yet.
“Yes, I will… definite-ly do that Danny,” he assuaged. “You did a good job before. I’ll remember you. You were… are a fine plumber.”
“Thank you. I am very tired. If you will go away now please.”
So Peter SoSo understood that Danny *could* be brought back if the powers that be were willing. He was very close still. Just down in the grave. Itching to get back to work. He might be able to convince them. Peter made a visit to Pervimus Rex over at the local Gathering Bar just across the mountain range.
“Astarte, eh?” spoke the Northeast District’s judger of souls, sipping on smoking hot coffee. He breathed deep from the aroma. “Yeah, we’ve had trouble in that sim. Demons posing as regular avatars and stealing souls before their time is up. Okay, we’ll agree to send him back. But you’ll have to pay the delivery fee still. 1200 lindens.”
A poorer but smiling Peter then gladly took his leave of the stench filled bar. He’s sure he made the right decision.
“Welcome back, Danny.”
“Um, glad to *be* back? Hmm.”
Plunger at side, he looks toward the open door.
Lapara. But soon: Astarte. What would happen?
Paul had returned from Rocky’s market with another load of supplies. Wheeler was waiting.
“You’re not a clown,” he observed after walking up.
“No, I have periods of reprieve.”
“Where’s the wife?”
“Fishing,” Wheeler responds. “Over there on the edge.” She points in the appropriate direction. “Chasm Deep. Fo fo fo, hehe. She’s trying to regain her memories. Thought angling would help.”
“Clownfish are hard to catch,” offers Paul, looking over at Mary. “Small and wirey. Not good eating either.”
“Jamie said she saw a shark down there once. I didn’t know whether to believe her.”
“We don’t talk about Jamie,” Paul reproved.
“Oh right.” Wheeler changed the subject. “How’s Aboveland? I’ll go back sometime. But not this month.”
“Above’s okay. Rocky says hello.” Paul then saw something else. “Hey, where’d you get the ring?”
Wheeler quickly puts her hands behind her head. “Oh I found it. Beyond the chasm. What do you call that place? Owls Head.” Paul nods here. “Just laying there on the white surface.”
But the green jewel of the ring had no owl signet on it. Just a “plain” emerald. Astarte had lost some ground on Lapara. Time to up the stakes.
Usually puffing on one of his favorite cigars, Hoss liked walking the streets of town after dark when no one much was around. Killing two birds with one stone, as he called it: thinking and walking/exercise. Tonight he was dwelling on the confusion he and his boss Teebestia (playfully: “Hoss Boss”) had over the Malone book found in the law library. Teeb thought he was talking about Malone Central in the bowels of this city’s underground. But no, the book was about a Malone, New York, very much above ground like Olde Lapara Towne and indeed with a most famous resident called Wheeler. But certainly not the Wheeler Wilson temporarily holed up with Paul, Mary and the rest in Malone Central. No, this was William Almon Wheeler, the 19th Vice President of our US of A under Rutherford B. Hayes from 1877 to 1881. “Booger” Hayes. Although, curiously, upon further digging Hoss had uncovered that the vice president *previous* to Wheeler was called Wilson — Henry in that case. But his birth surname was Colbath; he had it legally changed upon turning 21. Curiouser and curiouser, as they say.
Then he spotted the red shoes in the tall yellow grass underneath the train ramp. Hoss catches his breath. Dare he take a look?
Thinking about racial profiling again, he decides to go back to Rocky’s market and phone up Teebestia. “Wait there and we’ll check it out together,” his boss advised. 15 minutes later she and Hoss find out who the victim was. The most famous clown Renaldo O’Donnell. Yellow like the grass around him and red like the blood oozing out of his several stab wounds.
The fuzz took over. “Back here Deputy Pot Head,” the sherriff called. “Another one… green this time.”
“Like us,” says the approaching, stoned robot.
Turns out Casey the Alien was only passed out drunk and not dead. Being of suspicious color, though, he got pinned with the O’Donnell murder. 15 years later he was again free to roam the streets of OLT and immediately went to the sheriff’s office and thanked him and his deputy for their support during the trial. “The mob will have their way,” he said, which made both law officers nod their geometric heads.
Teebestia sits on the southern edge of Olde Lapara Towne, just beyond the Magill House, and looks out from whence she came: the Atoll Sea. Will she return now to life beneath the waves? “There’s always Story Room,” she says to herself, trying to stay. Teebestia ponders some more. “Yes, I’ll go in that direction next.”
“So long for now, Omikron City.”
Cats see, cats know.
The dog too.
Something appeared today in Grasslands. Sand… dunes to be more precise.
And a castle on top of perhaps the highest and sandiest one.
It has a ring to it.
two and one
“You don’t mind if I take notes do you Wheeler?”
“Not if you don’t mind me watching tv while we talk.”
“Fair enough. Oh me, what iz that?”
“It’s comedy. Blowtorch to the head. Side splitting.”
“I guess so,” says a confused Hoss. “So we better start. Teebestia warned me I have to get above ground by sunset.”
“She’s smart. Have I met her?”
“I’m not sure. She sent me down to do the initial interview. She may enter later.”
“Cool. So what do you want to know about me pumpkin?”
Hoss blushed slightly. “First off, where are you from? Where are you born?”
Hoss gets chills. So that checks off, he thinks. “And your birth name is Wheeler Wilson, like it is now?” Others warned him that this may not be so.
“Nah,” Wheeler admitted. “I was born a man. Wilson Wheeler. I reversed the name when I reversed sexes. Or changed sexes, whatever. How’s that?”
Hoss scratches his head. He didn’t expect this! How to proceed: he decided to ask the most obvious question to get it out of the way. “Why… why did you do that, Wheeler?” Then he realized he probably went too far and backed off. “I mean, only if you want to tell…”
“I was in disguise. I was a woman all along. Except I didn’t realize it. Until I became one. 21.”
“Years. 21 years. That’s when I became Wheeler Wilson and not Wilson Wheeler.”
Hoss was, fer sure, thinking that Wheeler was lying now. She knows about Henry Wilson!
“What’s your stance on civil rights, Wheeler Wilson?” He eyed her keenly.
She threw up her hands. “Civil rights for all. Man, woman, black, white, Muslim, Christian. Why wouldn’t I be for civil rights since I’ve been on both sides of the fence? Gimme a break. How can you be prejudice of someone you’ve been!”
“Have you been black as well?”
Without answering, Wheeler locks stares with Hoss.
For a moment he was somewhere else.
Upon returning from her trip to Omikron City, Inertia immediately got rid of the bleating rams which had wandered into the yard from parts unknown. “We’ll not start that cycle of life and death over again,” she proclaimed while knitting a coffin purse on the front porch and enjoying the peace and quiet of nighttime Astarte.
The next day the local butcher shop started a special on mutton.
pass the vegetables
Also the next day, a fully returned Mary made an announcement to the citizens of Lapara’s Malone Central gathered around the boob tube. “From now on,” she declared, “my name is Mary Tyler and our group will no longer be called Peter, Paul and Mary but Lamb. No argument.”
Everyone nodded their heads, just glad that Mary had put down her fishing rod and joined the living once more.
The great sim battle begins.