Chapter Twenty Two All Around The Conference Table, Cock-a-Doodle-Doodle-Doo
Sir Admiral Premier Gleeg Bleeekxpritzle, Fifth Colony, Twin Dwingeloo Galaxies Federation sat to the left of the currently unoccupied Big Spiffy Chair. To his left, along the conference table sat his chauffer; Bruce Willis (of no relation to the Hollywood film star whatsoever), Mickey Mouse (genuine film star), Bunny McRascalrabbit (profession undisclosed), Philbert Dickerson (bodyguard) and Pamela Baker (food prep/customer service). Across the table from them sat the five wearers of white they’d met in Detex One of the Tweeporan reconnaissance ship C.H.B. Lurking Vulture along with two more white-robed persons they’d never before seen.
“Welcome to the Office of Light and Wellbeing,” said Lady Mimosa. Her lantern was not present. “I believe we’re all sufficiently acquainted except for my esteemed colleagues here: Lord Tippery Spinwobble; Keeper of the Holy Spectrum, and Lady Noodels Petunia; Director at Large.” There was a general round of nods and how-do-you-do’s. “His Gloriousness The Bean Pheasant is running late. He texted me to say that the line-up at the coffee shop is otherworldly but he’ll be along quite shortly. He’s asked us to begin without him. I trust there are no objections…? Good. Lady Peejchelly, do you wish to present the tokens?”
Lady Peejchelly nodded and removed from her pocket a small red box which sparkled as if made of rubies. “Mr. Willis,” she said. “We are indebted to you for your brave act aboard the Tweeporan ship Lurking Vulture. Without you, we may not have succeeded in extracting the Admiral Premier alive; nor your fellow earthlings, I might add.”
“But I failed,” said Bruce. “All I did was spray a bunch of aliens with ice cream.”
“Ah yes,” said Lady Peejchelly. “Which they found most distractingly delicious! It was the perfect plan. The hull and shields of their material ship could in no way be breached, but thanks to your distraction we were able to slip into their tesseract deck through the fourth dimension, bypassing the hull altogether. We could not have asked for a better partner. Now, to show our appreciation we offer you this token gift.” She handed him the box. “May it always remind you of your brave heroic deed.”
Mr. Willis opened the box and peered inside. He frowned.
“Your very own olde cheerio and pocket lint! Souvenir size of course.”
“Ah,” said Bruce. “Thank you so much. Um. Do they have similar powers as your own have?”
“Nothing of the sort,” said Peejchelly.
“Okay. Well thanks.”
“If he is to always be reminded of this event,” said old Bill Blake, “Then I take it that you do not intend to erase our memories?”
“Perhaps His Gloriousness the Bean Pheasant will wish to speak on that matter personally,” said Lady Mimosa, “But I believe I can summarize our position accurately. How should I say this…”
“They’re all going to laugh at you,” said Admiral Bleeekxpritzle.
“What he means is, no one would believe you even if you told people about us or about the other - ah - constituents of the universe which the Admiral, as I’m aware, has previously explained.”
“If I may interject,” said the gray-faced Lord Tippery Spinwobble, “The story has already been leaked to some entity known as Fantasy Writer Guy or else New Day Rising - he’s a schizophrenic I presume. Anyway, it’s being posted on his web log as we speak and there are no plans to act against him. He’s largely ignored and regarded as a freak by his three or four regular readers.”
“So that suits our interests,” said Lady Peejchelly, nodding. “The whole matter has already been categorized a satirical entertainment.”
“As does every religious event on this planet, eventually,” came a voice from the open doorway. “Though it once required the passing of one civilization to the next for such perspectives to migrate.” The speaker resembled a very large brown bean, or football perhaps, with wide, very narrow eyes, puffy sensuous lips, a massive upright colourful fanning tail and long long crane-like pencil-thin legs. He held a paper coffee cup in both spindly little hands, standing barely five feet high or almost six including the tail. “But such is the marvel of your age; the age of the internet; a whirl of recklessness and speed.” The beast raised high a skinny knee and stepped onto the Big Spiffy Chair where it then crouched at general eye-level to the others. He placed the coffee on the table. “Any other questions?”
“Ladies and gentlemen,” said Lady Mimosa, “I present His Gloriousness The Bean Pheasant.”
“Charmed,” said Bunny.
The Bean said nothing but appeared to wink one of his slim brown eyes. Mickey Mouse frowned and looked back and forth between he and Bunny.
“I have a question,“ said Philbert. “I would like to know just what we’re supposed to do now. I mean - how am I supposed to go back to my life now, knowing that on a universal scale, we’re the objects of disgust; respected slightly less than dolphins?”
“Slightly?” barked Lady Noodels Petunia. She burst out laughing but checked it as she realized everyone was staring at her. She cleared her throat. “Sorry.”
“What you can do,” said the Bean Pheasant, “Is evolve.”
“Oh. Okay then. I’ll just put that on my to-do list. Evolve. I can fit that in Wednesday morning. There we go.”
“You can lead by example,” said Lady Peejchelly. “Evolution happens, or doesn’t happen, with every single thought and action. You just have to be mindful.”
“I wouldn’t even know where to start,” said Pamela.
“It starts with humility and courage,” said Miss Zhadow.
“That’s right,” said Lady Mimosa. “You must realize that all that you think you know comes from corrupt and untrustworthy sources; the ruling institutions which seek to enslave you, the flawed and misguided imaginings of your neighbours and associates.”
“Your own instincts,” said His Gloriousness. “Your own mind.” The earthlings looked to him. “You must stop listening to your mind, and start informing it, but not from books and talking boxes. From your own contemplation of your own observations. You must discover the meaning of truth. It comes only from experience. Stop rationalizing. Stop looking for the answers you want to find. You will always seem to find them. Dare to sincerely want the truth, no matter how unsavoury. It really does set you free. And what seems a horror at first, will become benign when you finally approach it from the proper perspective.”
“I don’t like the sound of this one bit,” squeaked Mickey Mouse.
“No, you wouldn’t, would you?” said Lady Mimosa. “You are just another institution; a pop culture icon. A profit algorithm. You are not a voice of truth.”
“I’m the voice of goodbye and so long,” said Mr. Mouse, climbing down from his chair.
“That’s good,” said The Bean Pheasant. “You really have no place in this story.”
“I beg your pardon! My chauffer was killed for crying out loud!”
“I expect that will be edited out of the story, along with every other reference to you. Especially the elevator fart scene. That was crass and regrettable.”
“Hey! I’m Mickey Mouse! I own this town! I don’t have to take this shit! ”
“You’re a mouse. You are not significant. You have no consciousness. You’re no more than a robot.”
“Come on. We’re going.”
“I’m staying,” said Bunny.
“What! You’re not getting taken in by this crap!”
“Goodbye Mick. It‘s been fun.”
Mickey nodded, his arms crossed. “I’m going back to my wife!”
Bunny turned to face him. “I think that’s a good idea,” she said gently.
Mickey stared back. “Philbert,” he said finally.
“It’s been a slice,” said Philbert.
“I beg your pardon?”
“Best of luck,” said Philbert. “You already have my resignation.”
“Right,” muttered Mickey. “I’m out.”
“Live long and prosper,” said Bleeekxpritzle as the mouse departed.
“So the seeking of truth is the path to evolution?” said Philbert.
“For most sentient life, it is the start,” said Lady Mimosa. The blind and treacherous motivations of your dark mind; your instinct, are just variations of the will to kill. They become suicidal when there are no more species to challenge your dominance. That is when consciousness must replace instinct as the driver of motivation. On earth you have waited far far too long to make this shift. Your evolution stalled two thousand years ago.”
“It is the truth of yourself that will set you free when you come to know it,” said the Bean. “When you truly know yourself, and not the puppet that takes your place in the charade of society, well then,” he paused, “Then you can not help but change. You can not help but want to change. You gain the opportunity to start again, to discover your new self. For the puppet dies. And now - I believe that is enough instruction.”
“That is how you start,” said Lady Mimosa. “What you will learn; the realities behind all the illusions, that we leave for you to discover.”
“How long will it take to change the world?” said Mr. Willis.
“The world changes every moment,” said The Bean Pheasant. “Every single moment.”
Chapter Twenty One This Chapter Is Brought To You By The Letter H
“Friends,” said Bleeekxpritzle to the earthlings. “I give you Gladys Turnkey, Quasi-Glorious Personal Assistant to His Gloriousness The Bean Pheasant. The woman on the floating carpet smiled and nodded. “This is Lady Mimosa; Carrier of the Blessed Fire.” Lady Mimosa nodded solemnly. “Lady Peejchelly; Carrier of The Olde Cheerio And Some Pocket Lint.” Lady Peejchelly had placed the giant lint ball on her head and wreathed it in place with the Olde Cheerio. She bowed deeply upon introduction, holding the Cheerio-lint hat in place with one hand. “Miss Zhadow; Director of Ambient Lighting.” Miss Zhadow smiled and waved. “And of course, Lord Pheltphondle, Director of Very Minor Things Beginning With H.” Lord Pheltphondle who currently wore a ham sandwich on top of his hat, was a firm believer in handshakes (obviously) but the pedestal’s distance could not be bridged by the man’s perfectly ordinary arm, a problem currently at the forefront of everyone’s mind.
“Can you summon a bridge?” Lady Mimosa proposed.
“What kind of bridge begins with H?” said Pheltphondle. None could offer an answer. The director pondered the problem. “Give me some space,” he urged, and all backed away a few paces. “Hedgerow!” he commanded and a great wall of bush suddenly spanned the gap. “Can you crawl across it?”
Pamela chewed a nail. Philbert and Bleeekxpritzle looked concernedly at old Bill Blake with his rollie walker. And then, with a great rustling noise the shrubbery sagged at the middle and then folded, falling into the pit.
“Ack!” cried Pheltphondle. “Helium balloon!” The shrub then returned to the surface in the form of a balloon with dangling string which the lord grabbed hold of. He then contemplated: What could he turn the balloon into that would effectively bridge the gap?
“I mean not to pressure you, my lord,” said Lady Mimosa, “But the sleeping agents will begin wearing off any moment now and the entire crew of this ship will descend upon us.”
“Thank you,” said Pheltphondle. That helps me think more clearly now.”
“I’ve got it!” he said finally. “But it will be very big. So everyone must step far away.” The bepedestalled moved to its far edge. “Now listen,” said Lord Pheltphondle, “The larger the object, the shorter length of time I can keep it incorporated. So the moment it appears, you must run through it to this side just as immediately as ever possible! Do you understand this with perfect clarity?” They all nodded and the Admiral drew old Bill Blake aside to confer with him.
“Ready?” Pheltphondle warned. He then cried his command. The prisoners could scarce believe their ears, nor their eyes.
It was big indeed, easily spanning the gap. The ponderous thing lay mostly on the main floor of Detex One with a minority of square footage resting on the pedestal. The earthlings gawked up at it, stunned. It’s exterior was a patchwork of rotting boards; A semitransparent face glowed ominously from a third-floor window. Flying bats encircled the leaning chimney. The front doors lay tilted open, barely clinging to their hinges. Eerie howls and cackles emanated from somewhere within.
“Are you fucking kidding me!” squealed Mickey.
“Run!” cried Pheltphondle. “RUN!”
Bleeekxpritzle led the way with Bill Blake Senior riding his shoulders. They crashed through the side door, knocking it off its hinges and onto the floor, taking a myriad of spider webs with it. The interior was dark and dusty.
“Blaccherrschmawzzle!” shouted Bleeekxpritzle. For he was confronted with two sets of stairs; one leading up and one down, and no other options.
“I see this is going to be complicated,” said Blake. The admiral thumped down the lower set of stairs while the others all followed.
“Whoa!” cried Bleeekxpritzle, halting suddenly and throwing wide his arms.
“Oopsy daisy,” said Blake. The others piled into them. Below them yawned the void of the pit.
“Upstairs!” said the admiral. “Hurry now!” They turned about and raced up the canted rotting staircase to the second floor, the piggy-backing alien now in the rear. They fled down a second floor hallway where the doors to black bedrooms lay open, half-demolished or just laying on the floor. A white-sheeted figure leapt from one of the doorways hooting maniacally at them. Pamela and Bunny halted and screamed and were just about trampled from behind. Philbert punched the faceless thing in what might have otherwise been its face, though there is no way we’ll ever know, and the thing fell to the floor and was trampled by the group who were now dragging Bunny and Pamela along.
“Find another staircase!” hollered Bleeekxpritzle.
“Ask and you shall receive!” shouted Philbert. They’d come to what might have been a grand lobby if not for the great sheets of spider webs and for the giant spiders themselves creeping around the walls and ceilings chittering excitedly. Looking over a battered railing they spied the front door leaning open. Dual staircases led down to it. They descended the nearest. At the rear the tubby alien barely kept his feet as half the steps he trod on snapped beneath him.
A terrible cackle filled the dusty air and a woman in black came soaring out of the gloom at the party, riding a broom through the air. Her skin was green, her hat tall and pointed. “I’ll get you, my pretties!” She shrieked. “Aaaaauughh! Curses!” The admiral had flung a tentacle around her broomstick and she lost control, careening face-first into a wall.
They hit the ground floor and raced for the main doors. “I believe we’re still over the pit,” stated old Bill Blake. “Though metaphorically we’re perhaps more so at the bottom of it.” They spilled onto the rickety front porch which hung over the great nothingness, and there they performed the whole pile-up, squeal and reverse deal again.
“This way,” the admiral blurted as he found himself in the lead again. They turned down a hallway to find a giant white mouse in tiny top hat squatting there. He had red eyes and he sniffed the visitors as they slowed before him.
“One of you smells delicious,” said the mouse, and then, “Oh my gourd! You’re Mickey Mouse! May I have your autograph!”
“Next time, home boy!” squeaked Mickey. “Out of the way now!” The white mouse stepped aside and the party barrelled through.
“Follow me!” cried the admiral as he charged through a doorway at the end of the hall. There appeared no way out of this room. Bleeekxpritzle kept running.
“Excuse me, admiral,” said Mr. Blake. “I say, excuse-” The Admiral hit the wall.
For the most part, as a result, the wall was demolished. The alien stumbled onto the floor of Detex One with Old Bill on his back and Old Bill’s bowler hat lost somewhere behind in the debris, leaving the old guy looking very much like Albert Einstein without it. The others came pouring out after them and with scarce seconds to spare. Before the gang had caught their breath, the giant crumbling structure behind them suddenly vanished, replaced by a wiener in a bun. These, along with the bowler hat, promptly plummeted into the void.
Mickey mouse marched up to Lord Pheltphondle, glaring at him. “A haunted house…! Really!”
“It’s all I could think of on short notice,” stated Lord Pheltphondle.
“How do you go about thinking up haunted house without thinking of simply house! Don’t you think that all might have been significantly less risky without all the ghosts and shit!”
The lord tugged at his collar and cleared his throat. “I was under pressure.”
This relatively unedited first draft, in case you've forgotten or joined in late, was born out of three "Prompt" exercises which I used to kick off the June Camp NaNoWriMo celebration and posted to this blog for reasons of shits and giggles. At the time I did not title them Chapters One, Two or Three because I had no idea I was about to challenge myself to turn the unrelated pieces into a proper story; a 20k word novelette: Admiral Bleeekxpritzel Versus The Drones Of Doom. It is perhaps regrettable that I posted it here prior to proper editing, as there is no wider audience I would care to promote a superior version to. This blog was the appropriate place for the edited version, thus there is now little reason to edit it. Which, now that I think about it, is fine. Except for the closing few paragraphs of chapter 22 (the final chapter), the story was completed in about two weeks and the rest of June camp was spent on other projects. I've taken my time posting chapters here basically in order to buy time in case I wanted to do some editing and take the story to some other place, but this never happened. It has done its little job in its original form. I am on vacation from August 18 to September 1st with little-to-none internet access. I will post the final three chapters before I go. If anyone has read the story complete, it would be great to receive feedback. Not praise. Feedback.
Chapter Twenty Some Pretty Weird Sh*t And No, The Author Is Not On Drugs
The first sign that something was up was another rising of the level of nervous energy among the Tweeporan military population. They began to natter excitedly in their alien language and many of them left their workstations with anxious equine faces in order to communicate in hushed manner. The prisoners, now numbering seven, could sense the growing state of alarm amongst their captors.
The second sign was the faint musical rumblings of what sounded like a Hammond organ. It was clear that this sound did not appease the alien guards. Those with staves gathered near the great doors.
The third sign was the emergence of a second melody; that provided by a harpsichord, at which time the organ music promptly died. The fourth sign was the subsequent replacement of the harpsichord music by that of a harmonica. Admiral Bleeekxpritzle nodded his head knowingly.
Another hole very suddenly appeared, this in the wall itself, and this without the introductory swirling effect or slow dissolve. It was also larger the whole which the chauffer, Mr. Willis had come through earlier. The Tweeps tensed as they braced themselves for whatever might be coming through the new portal.
And what finally stepped through was a white-haired woman in stretchy off-white body suit smacking of Space 1999 crew wear. She looked possibly human but for hugely big eyes. She carried a contraption like some kind of oversized remote control device but with a pair of metal rods sprouting from each side. “Pardon me,” said the visitor. “I just need to take some light readings.”
Most of the Tweeporans looked at each other quizzically but not the one who’d copacapocabingoed Bruce Willis onto the pedestal. He marched toward her immediately. “By whose authority!” he demanded.
“By the authority of His Gloriousness The Bean Pheasant!” said another voice; this coming from the new hole where a second person had arrived, this one in white robes and sitting cross-legged on a hovering carpet. This woman might also have been human if of African descent. A pair of Tweeps approached her with staves held forth and she swiftly rose into the air, carpet and all, beyond their reach. “Lay down your staves and submit to the lawful liberation of these innocents!” the carpet rider shouted down to them. “In turn your dignity shall be spared and you will receive safe passage to that home in Orion which I know you cherish despite it being the least popular tourist destination in the entire universe, for reasons, not the least of which, include its very peculiar odour!”
“The Bean Pheasant has no say in this!” cried the copacapocabingo man. He pointed his staff directly at the carpeteer and a blue glow appeared at its terminus, growing very swiftly in intensity. From the hole in the wall then, a creature bolted through; a howling hyaena which took all by surprise. In a flash it pounced upon the ‘bingo man, knocking him onto his back. The staff flew from the Tweeporan’s hands. Immediately then the hyaena changed form, suddenly mutating into a hound dog who promptly fetched the staff and trotted happily back toward the portal. Now there stood three more individuals just inside the hole in the wall.
“To the contrary…! His Gloriousness has much to say!” challenged another powerful voice. This was another white-robed, white-haired woman who stood on her own feet holding a kind of lantern on a chain. The lantern was shielded but a light of whitest intensity sprayed razor thinly from the seams of the metal contraption. “Indeed this last century he has scarce been known to shut up for even a few seconds!”
Beside her stood yet a third woman in white robes; this with objects held in each hand. One looked like an oversized plain donut; the other a formless pill of grey fuzz; perhaps a very old and tattered wig. It was to her the hound dog trotted with the staff in his jaws. She bent down; reaching with the grey fuzz ball. She touched it to the proffered stick and immediately the staff seemed to rubberize and be sucked from existence through the fuzzy grey mass. The Tweeporans gasped at this.
From the hole there stepped a fifth visitor; a man in similar body suit as the light reader wore. He also wore a long white goatee, a harelip and the most generic of hats. He took his place beside the lantern and fuzz carriers and suddenly the hole disappeared. Simultaneously there appeared a hamster, perched on the man’s hat. He stood haughtily, with head held high and hands on his hips; the man, that is. The hamster seemed distracted and he poked about the roof of the hat, sniffing everywhere.
“How dare you trespass on this ship!” cried the staffless bingoist. “All of you, disembark at once or you shall be taken into custody and tried for piracy in the Court of Intergalactica, Tweepora Major where death is the only consequence for such an inappropriate and rude interruption!”
“You chant gibberish!” cried the lantern woman. “This is planet earth and our council are here by the will of the O.U.C.H. No other permit has been granted. You are the trespassers!”
“You hide behind forms and bureaucracy!” spat the bingoist, who’s name, it so happens, was Bing. “While you subvert the naïve sanctions of the Gabrielites! We are the watch dogs! And our actions will be vindicated when the Pheasant is outed for the madman he is!”
“Tell it to the judge!” cried the hamster man.
“You tell it to the judge!” cried Bing.
“No, you tell it to the ju-!”
“Shut up!” cried the fuzz carrier, who smacked the man on the back of the head with her donut-shaped thing which may in fact have been a very large donut for all appearances but which was more properly referred to as The Olde Cheerio as it were. This action sent the hamster tumbling off the man’s head and onto the floor where it immediately began a game of chase with the hound dog.
“These affairs are beyond your station, scorekeeper!” said the lantern carrier. What you need to consider is do you really wish a showdown with us? You are badly outgunned! It would be a shame to lose lives here and all for nought.”
“Count again, lamp lady! It is you who are outgunned!”
“These are boys with sticks,” said the lantern woman. “And you are a boy with a temper and no stick. Cool your head, young Bing! Yes. I know who you are. Cool your head and you will find clarity tomorrow. Turn over your detexees to us.”
“I propose an alternate resolution,” said Bing.
“I will listen.”
“I propose you shove that lantern up your snoot and set your head aflame!”
The lady just shook her head ruefully.
“Take them!” Bing cried.
There was a group Tweeporan roar, and then, as earthlings are prone to say, all hell… broke loose.
Sir Admiral Gleeg Bleeekxpritzle and his six earthling companions stood watching anxiously, aware they’d more than a little invested in the outcome, as a battle was waged before their wide eyes.
Tweeporans attacked, hand to hand. Others attacked with their staves. Others stood back and fired bolts of some energy or another from their staves. The lantern lady swung the device around by its chain, knocking Tweeporans about the head and deflecting enemy energy beams away. Her companion held the Olde Cheerio aloft in one hand and the grey fuzz in the other. The latter seemed to soak up most of the energy attacks as the beams bent and were diverted into the grey mass, while the former seemed to emit circular bursts of energy and light of its own; the effects of which, were not easily deciphered by the prisoners.
The man in white wandered into combat, battling opponents now and then with a hacksaw, now and then with a hammer, and for one brief period, with a hookah pipe.
The hound dog transformed into a hawk and it flew about, diving at the Tweeporans and pecking at their ears and noses. It became a hornet following that, and stung an attacker or two, before becoming a hippopotamus at which time it didn’t do anything particularly useful. It then became a hummingbird. It then flew up behind the hammer-bearing man and once between his legs, turned into a horse.
The lady on the carpet circled overhead like an airplane in holding pattern. She had brandished a notebook and stayed busy keeping notes on the affair. She would be required to submit a lengthy report later.
At one frightful moment a staff laser attack made it past the fuzz ball’s defence web and flew at Lady Mimosa who struck out with the lantern, deflecting it away. Unfortunately it caromed directly at Lady Peejchelly and knocked the sacred Olde Cheerio out of her hand. It rolled through the crowd unhindered in the direction of the pit. Lord Pheltphondle saw this and, sharing Lady Peejchelly’s horror, he cried out a word; the first barrier he could think of.
“Hearth!” he snapped, willing the item to appear between the Olde rolling Cheerio and the pit. A bloodied pink normally-internal organ appeared there, thumping with a beat. “I said HEARTH!” he cried, and the heart turned immediately into a large brick and wood arrangement with several big red socks tacked to it’s topmost edge. Most unfortunately the Cheerio rolled straight through the opening where no actual fireplace existed and then rolled off the edge of the pit.
Sir Admiral Premier Gleeg Bleeekxpritzle watched this all with mounting horror and stepping to the pedestal’s rim he flung out a tentacle and snatched the giant Cheerio just as it was tumbling into the air with ought but eternal doom below. In the same motion he wound the kibble up like a yoyo and then snapped the tentacle like whip, releasing it so that it flew like a frisbee right back at Lady Peejchelly. She caught it deftly, and just in time to have it belch a cloud of instant sleeping gas at a pair of attackers. “Sweet dreams,” she muttered as they fell about her feet.
The battle fared the way of the wearers of white from the outset and in due order the Tweeporans for the most part had been knocked silly or had retreated to cower beneath their work stations. Only Bing and a few of his most staunch supporters remained at the end when the lantern bearer cast back its metal shield. Beams of magnificent light shot out; one for each enemy. They were each struck in the face by these beams and screaming, they fell to their knees. To the prisoners o’ the pedestal it was like being in a welding chamber without sufficient eye protection. They all diverted their gazes at once, throwing up hands before their faces.
These last defenders suffered a temporary blindness which began to abate once all the Detex One forces were subdued and rounded up. All of their staves had been damaged or destroyed in battle. The wearers of white all came to gather at the edge of the pit and greeted their associate, the Admiral Premiere.
About twenty four years ago, Peter Pan, an on-and-off motorcyclist, informed me that it was wise to leave extra room when driving behind a motorcycle; more space than you would normally allow behind another car. Because if there is some kind of accident and a motorcyclist comes off his bike, you really don't want to run him over.
I took that advice and for twenty four years I have allowed that extra space.
The other day, driving on a major street, I was following a motorcycle. It started to rain and very suddenly, the bike slid out from under the rider and he fell to the road in front of me.
I stopped in time. The rider was okay. The bike not too badly damaged.
The dogs and I have been watching a lot of movies in between walkies and treats:
Fantastic Mister Fox ****
FWG: Stylish, original and highly entertaining adaptation of the childrens book of the same name by very creative author Roald Dahl. Done in painstaking stop-motion puppetry. Edgy and funny. Great stuff. Is it meant for children? It's kind of for everyone I guess. Don't miss it.
Oliver: Crap. All the dawgs were portraied as ideots.
Princess: Very realistic. The dogs were beagles after all.
Miller's Crossing **
FWG: I have a lot of respect for the Coen Brothers and their adventurous spirit in creating movies of diverse genres and with unique approaches. Inevitably they had to try a gangster movie, I guess, but where was the unique approach? This felt like Gangster 101 For Beginners. Biggest problem: None of the main characters were likeable. Couldn't wait for them to all kill each other and get it over with. Disappointing.
Oliver: Thugs take some long walks in the woods and a bunch of other things I didunt understand.
Princess: Excellent walk-in-the-forest scenes with a lot of unneccesary minutea between.
How I Ended This Summer ***
FWG: One of those realistic flicks where the purpetrators are portrayed as normal people who slip into badness through the frailties of human perception and obsession, wisdom usually the domain of foreign, not Hollywood, flicks. This one - I had trouble buying into the characters' motivations but perhaps that's my fault. I was partially side-tracked by a steak and asparagus dinner. Russian with subtitles.
Oliver: I was also side-tracked by FWig's steak. He didn't share a single morsel, the fat greedy bastard.
Princess: Good arctic scenery and an excellent performance by the polar bear.
Everybody's Fine **
FWG: Funny at times with nuggets of rich emotion but painfully unsubtle. A children's movie in terms of giving the audience not a thing to figure out for themselves, but with adult material. Another sign of the times. Alarmingly our society is still growing duller. When does it stop and when will DeNiro ever do a half-decent movie again?
Princess: A pointless film about a bunch of people living in big houses but none with dogs or a pet of any kind.
The Day After Tomorrow *
FWG: I don't mind storytellers cheating science for the sake of a good story but this is a grotesque mockery. Roger Ebert says "Two thumbs up; the special effects are terrific!" He must have misspelled terrible or else he's completely senile or else taking bribes. The first 50 minutes was garbage, then I turned it off for fear my brain might turn into pudding.
Oliver: I would have liked sum pudding
Princess: I can not adequately analyze a film based on just the first 50 minutes.
FWG: Intelligent exploration of human nature with delightful performances by Ewan McGregor, Melanie Laurent and Christopher Plummer.
Oliver: I coodent understand a thing.
Princess: Faithful dog is told by heartless owner that he was "bred to be cute."
The Future **
FWG: Funny at times but I fear that all these strange and fantastical ways to tell a story about a lot of people who range from dumb to extremely dumb might have been done for the hell of it and without a point. Slightly creepy, intentially or otherwise.
Oliver: Oh my gawd, I wanted to chase that cat all over the place.
Princess: The cat had a broken leg. In a cast. Only a heartless jerk would want to chase her.
Margin Call ***
FWG: Surprisingly tense and compelling dramatization of an American financial "disaster"; pretty clearly the sub-prime mortgage fiasco which blew up a couple years ago, and the Wall-street leetches-in-suits who must navigate the fall-out.
Oliver: I fel asleep
Princess: Man suffers emotional breakdown over beloved dog's death and buries him in his ex-wife's yard. Potentially moving tale ruined by way too much preliminary fluff about the big office where he works.
As promised, I have interviewed my host family's fish population and come to know them each a little better. They weren't terribly sophisticated interviews unfortunately. A bit of a rush job as they don't like coming out of the water for a very long time. Here they are in no particular order:
Zippy The Wonderfish
Zippy's favorite things are colour-enhanced fish flakes, long baths and miniature castles. He considers himself the most likely candidate for King of Tank come next election due to his flashy attitude and overall manoeuvrability.
Lou (for short) claims to have swam the English channel in under a minute prior to captivity. His favorite things are colour-enhanced fish flakes, miniature castles and belly rubs.
Goldentoe is the current King of Tank. His favorite things are miniature castles, Guinness and colour-enhanced fish flakes but not the brown ones.
Gilly has one eye slightly larger than the other. She claims that her larger eye can see spectral shadows from the spirit world as well as normal things. Her favorite normal things are long baths, shiny stones and colour-enhanced fish flakes.
Misty is one of the quieter denizens of the tank. Her favorite things are colour-enhanced fish flakes, long baths and people-watching.
Flash recently broke up with Gilly and is now on the prowl. His favorite things are colour-enhanced fish flakes, miniature castles and Burt Reynolds movies. He brags that he has watched Canonball Run 27 times and even more outrageously, watched Canonball Run II, the sequel, twice.
Aqualamb is a bit of a loner and tends to hide out among the tendrils of plastic sea plants. His favorite things are psychedelic music and erotic auto-asphyxiation.
Bob was asleep at every opportunity for interviews. It is rumoured that his favorite things are long baths and colour-enhanced fish flakes but this could not be verified.
Flip and Myrtle
Myrtle and Flip have been going steady for so long that they are virtually indestinguishable. Their favorite things are sad movies, scrapbooking and colour-enhanced fish flakes.
"Halo" for short was runner up for King of Tank in the last election. His favorite things are travel blogs, colour-enhanced fish flakes and looking at himself in reflective surfaces.
This is the most gregarious of the fish community. His favorite things are colour-enhanced fish flakes, celebrity gossip and the internet. He boasts to have collected more than ten facebook friends; some of which he has never met personally.
Rupert Calverton Essex Mio VonEngelbert Esq.
Rupert declined to be interviewed at this time pending counsel from his lawyer.
Mrs. Whipley was widowed when her husband succombed to injuries sustained at a drunken brawl. The subsequent hearings aroused a latent interest in the law. She is now Rupert Calverton Essex Mio VonEngelbert's lawyer. Her favorite things are marine law, long baths, opera and colour-enhanced fish flakes.
The smallest of the tank population, Alice is nonetheless popular with the other fishes. She is currently dating Bibby McWaterpepper. Her favorite things are pina coladas, long baths, romantic dinners and Ringo Star.
Bibby is an amateur comedian with a love for the outdoors. Once, prior to captivity, he became lost for weeks and ended up in Queen Elizabeth's bidet where he barely escaped with his life. His favorite things are miniature castles, bungee jumping and colour-enhanced fish flakes. His pet peeves are car alarms and tarter sauce.
Well, there you have it. Good god that was stupid.
IF GOD IS YOUR CO-PILOT, MAYBE YOU SHOULD SWAP SEATS
This is what the sign says outside the Baptist church as I drive by. It concerns me that I have no clue what this means.
[Editor's note: Yeah, sure it does.]
Later, driving back to Multispirit House, home of the Thoughtful Educator and his excellent wife and daughter, I share with them my concerns. We have just been to dinner at Red Lobster where a steady parade of staff dropped by the table to see how some of their most regular of customers were doing.
"I'm not sure which seat the church expects that I'm in," I explain, "Nor which seat I'm supposed to be in. Am I the pilot? Am I supposed to be the pilot? I'm not sure if I should be changing seats or not."
The rest of the car's occupants sympathize. They don't get it either. Also, we're worried whether it's safe to be playing musical chairs while the plane is in flight. Shouldn't we land first to be safe? And since this is all metaphorical, just what does landing the plane mean? Death and rebirth? What if I come back from the dead a zombie or vampire? This is now getting scary.
T.E. is taking a slightly longer route home. I've come to stay for two weeks to look after their two lovely dogs, Princess and Oliver. The three humans in the family are about to bugger off to Northern Ireland for shits and giggles - oh yeah, and a wedding.
I'm also lookiong after their fishes who remain sadly anonymous. I think I shall make it a goal this particular visit to get to know them better. I'll see if I have any innate fish-whisperer abilities.
"You're not going out of your way just to see this sign, are you?" I ask.
"Of course I am," says the Thoughtful Educator. Not only that, but he pulls into the church parking lot. "I have to ask them what the heck this means," he says, and sure enough he proceeds to the front door while the rest of us shake our heads and laugh.
He has been invited inside and does not quickly return.
"Okay," says I, debarking. "I'm going to go say I'm a doctor and my patient has escaped." I intend to describe T.E. and ask if they've seen anyone by that description wandering around.
But T.E. and the pastor (priest? Minister?) are just emerging as I approach. The holy man is a tad too friendly and sets off my creep-meter when he invites me to come around for a good ol' baptist celebration some time. Not likely, Thumper. You're sniffing up the very wrong tree.
Oh - I almost forgot. The explanation: Bumper stickers have been common, apparently, which read: Is God your co-pilot? Father Baptistman disagrees with this. God should not co-pilot your life. He should pilot your life. You are just a giant nobody who is along for the ride. So don't even bother getting out of bed in the morning.
IF GOD IS YOUR CO-PILOT, MAYBE YOU SHOULD SWAP SEATS
Now if some prankster came around and fiddled with the interchangible letters of this sign, what might Father McBaptistpreacher find on the lawn as he arrives at work one morning?
GO AHEAD MISS - SWAP YOUR SPIT, IF YOU BE COY OLD LOTUS
Hmm. Sounds more Hindu than Baptist, doesn't it? How about:
GOD SHOULD SWAT YOUR MOIST ASS, YOU LIPPY-FACE BOIE
Hmm. Overly rude and bad spelling. One more try:
YO BOY - FEED US SPAMSLAW, YOU STUPID COOTISH GORILA
I know. I know. I ran out of L's. Oh well. Fun with anagrams. Try it some time. Or not.