Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Looberry Shack

(Just a note by way of giving credit where credit is due. The entries that tell stories about Looberry Island are all my original work, but not all of the settings, plot devices, and/or characters are. They belong collectively and individually to a wonderful group of writers who come together every November in the Urinal Cakes thread on the NaNoWriMo forums. (And other places in the off-season.) I enjoy our random absurdity so much, I decided to continue it on my own, just as a writing exercise. If you are one of those wonderful authors, and you are not happy that I am borrowing your character, please let me know. I promise I will stop. But I hope everyone will see this as a tribute to this strange wonderful world we create together, and not plagiarism.)

The elephant, having decided that I was clean enough now, was sitting in front of me with a look of expectation on her face. (Yes, sitting. Like a dog, in fact.) I stared back, not sure what to do. "She's waiting for a treat. You need to give her a treat after all that hard work." The typist said, without looking up from her Macbook.

"Ummm... what do... I mean... what does...umm... I don't..." I stammered. What do you give an elephant for a treat?

I jumped. The lady in black was back. She had a large mug of what I was pretty sure would be cooking sherry in one hand, and a tattered notebook in the other. I could smell the notebook from here. In fact, like a cartoon, I could see little wavy lines of stink rising from it. I felt nauseous.

"What is that?" I asked through the rising gorge I felt in the back of my throat.

"Cooking sherry, naturally." She answered, taking a long pull from the mug. I shook my head and fought the urge to cover my nose.

"No. What is that smell?"

"Oh. Poetry. I have a talent." The lady in black seemed pleased that I had asked, and she opened up the notebook. The elephant jumped up and began running around in circles, her little tail wagging back and forth. The ground was shaking, and I was feeling pretty nervous, but nobody else seemed to even notice that the elephant seemed to think it was a dog.
"You think that is weird? Wait til you meet the dog." The woman in black said.
I forgot she could read minds. The lounging typist had reached beneath her chaise and located a set of what appeared to be knitted ear muffs and was busy affixing them to her ears when a swarm of seagulls appeared out of nowhere.
I stood there, mouth agape with no clue where to turn, or what to do. I almost jumped out of my skin when someone grabbed my hand. I spun to see who it was, then my mind did some more spinning when I saw that it was a disembodied hand floating a few feet above the sand that had grabbed me. I thought I was going to pass out, but then the woman in black snapped: "Twilly! Invisible!"
A muffled voice replied: "Oh yeah, right. Forgot." The hand lengthened into an arm, then a shoulder, then a complete body holding a shimmering piece of knitted cloth in one hand, my hand in the other. It was a chubby guy wearing a "Dave Barry for President" t-shirt and a pair of tattered khaki shorts.
"You might want to get inside. It is about to get fishy out here." The flock of seagulls circling round the woman in black were dropping payloads at regular enough intervals that it sounded like a rainstorm, and then the pelicans showed up. Twilly tugged at my hand, and gestured with the shimmery cloth up the beach, away from the cavorting elephant. I looked where he was gesturing, and saw what I took at first to be a pile of construction waste. On second glance, I realized that it was actually some kind of a building.
"Let's go! You really don't need to hear this!" Twilly appeared to be getting nervous, and he looked longingly at the lounging typist's earmuffs. "I gotta get Chaimann to knit me some too!" The woman in black cleared her throat, and looked around imperiously at all of the people gathered around her on the beach. (By which of course I mean the elephant, the lounging typist with the knitted earmuffs, who was managing ten-finger typing while holding the tattered umbrella to protect herself from seagull payloads. And myself and the person she called Twilly, although he seemed to be determined to subtract us from the total.)
"Ode to Spatulas Employed as Disciplinary Tools" she proclaimed. And I swear I heard the elephant gasp: "OOOOH! My Favorite!"
Then Twilly was literally dragging me across the sand, shrieking at the top of his lungs: "I CAN'T HEAR YOU! I CAN'T HEAR YOU! I CAN'T HEAR YOU! LALALALALALALALA!" A fish dropped from out of nowhere to the sand, and a flock of gulls and pelicans pounced on it. I finally came to my senses enough to get my feet moving and Twilly and I picked up speed. As he neared the ramshackle building he screamed: "POETRY WARNING! TAKE COVER!" Several fish fell flopping to the sand, and a dark-haired woman in a tropical print mu-mu ran out with a skillet and caught two or three before dashing back inside. We reached the porch and Twilly dragged me up the stairs three at a time, all the while keeping up an ear-splitting racket of nonsense syllables and warnings of impending poetry and fish showers. The door slammed behind us, and Twilly collapsed against it, gasping for breath.
"What is this place? And why does it smell like a truck stop bathroom?" I asked the quivering Twilly. He looked at me for a second, then without a word, flung the shimmering fabric up and over his head. One second, he was sitting there staring at me with wide gaping eyes, and the next, I was staring at the spot where he had been sitting by the door. The gong orchestra in my head was back, and ticked off at the lack of applause. I was also beginning to feel a bit nauseous. I saw a tattered couch nearby, and I decided that for now, that looked like a safe place to relax and lose my mind. I plopped into it and massaged my temples. I was just beginning to calm down when I heard an imperious voice with an obviously fake British accent speak.
"Most Exalted of Castaways, may I interest you in a beverage and an anti-inflammatory tablet for your headache?" Finally! Someone interested in my comfort and sanity! I looked up to see who this un-looked for savior was, and the gong orchestra went berserk.

A baboon dressed in a starched tuxedo stood in front of me, holding a polished wooden tray with a glass of ice water (with a slice of lemon perched artistically on the rim) and what looked like two Extra-Strength Tylenol tablets on a neatly folded napkin. I gaped for only a moment, before nodding my head and taking the proffered refreshment and medication. I swallowed the tablets and drained the glass in one long gulp, then held it out to the baboon with a trembling hand. Although I am not an expert on animal behaviors under normal circumstances, I was positive that the baboon's eyes lit up with delight.
"May I serve your excellency some more fresh spring water?" I nodded numbly, not sure whether the very toothy smile the baboon was wearing was ingratiating or predatory. He placed my glass back on the tray and with a very polite bow turned and walked quickly out of the room.

Elephants that think they are dogs, fish that think they are rain, and now a baboon who thought he was a butler. What could possibly top all of that?

© 2009 Tyler Willson. All rights reserved

Friday, March 27, 2009

Housekeeping the Blog...

UPDATE: All the copying is done! Plus, I hated that Housekeeping picture. So I killed it.

Look over there to the right for old posts that might be interesting, if stale.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Welcome to Looberry Island!

"Who are you?" I croaked to the blurry figure in black. It laughed at me again and proffered a coffee mug. "Take a drink before you try talking. Your whistle needs wetted." She was right. (It sounded like a she, but to be honest my eyes were not yet filling me in on such nuances of personality.) I sat up and took the proffered cup and poured a healthy portion in my mouth. It mixed poorly with the sand and seaweed already in there, and I heaved most of it out. Which was good on the one hand because it washed some of the sand and seaweed out of my mouth. On the other hand, my head was still in "Torture Device" mode, and dry heaving sand, seaweed and some kind of wine seemed to be encouraging its cruelty. Not wanting to be ungrateful, I tried to hand the mug back.

"You got any water?" I asked, my voice a bit smoother this time. (I mean, I was not yet as smooth as Tom Jones, but I had passed the Leonard Cohen stage at least.) "Water?" the lady in black asked, sounding confused. "There is an entire ocean of it right behind you. Why would you want some in a cup?" I strained to focus my eyes and see her face, to try and decide if she was kidding or not. I still couldn't tell. "I think I should try some water before I start into the hair of the dog." I said, but that does not seem to have answered her question. "Are you one of those people who prefer straight liquor?" she asked, her voice tinged with disdain. I shook my head, which was a mistake. After the world stopped spinning and the gong orchestra in my head wandered off for a union break, I tried to explain. "I am not sure how I got here, but I am pretty sure it involved adult beverages in rather large quantities. I think I had better stick with something a bit softer for a bit, at least until I can hold down some water. Also, I want to wash the seaweed and sand out of my throat." I was pleading now. The lady in black seemed unmoved. "Too good for my sherry are ya?" she snorted. "Find yer own water then." and she got up and stalked off. I sat there, watching her go. Part of me wanted to just collapse back to the sand and go back to sleep. The rest of me wanted to get the sand out of the various crevices it was lodged in. That part won. I struggled to my feet and limped after her, the gong orchestra back to work and doing their darndest to earn that Christmas bonus.

I limped after her as fast as I could. For some reason I was starting to panic. I had no idea where I was, how I got here, and the sight of another human being was somehow comforting. Plus, if she had sherry, I couldn't be too far from civilization could I? My eyes were squinted mostly shut with the pain of the pounding in my head, and so I didn't see the sign until my forehead cleverly pointed it out to me. I fell backwards onto the sand, and lay there rehearsing my entire curse word vocabulary at the cruel fate that I found myself living. And then the elephant showed up. Actually, the water preceded the elephant, since she was spraying it from her trunk. Nevertheless, I was suddenly doused by what felt like a high-pressure water hose. It succeeded in washing the sand off of my face and the part of my body that was not lying in sand, for which I was somewhat grateful, once I coughed my lungs clear. I looked around for the source of the sudden shower only to see what my fevered mind told me was an elephant butt disappearing into the treeline. Whatever it was, it was crashing through the trees away from me at high speed. As I sat staring after the departing... umm... creature, a voice startled me.

"She can be so helpful! What a wonderful animal she is!" I whipped my head around, (greatly distressing the gong players) and found the source. A slender woman with graying hair reclined nearby on a frayed beach chair. I stared at her for a moment, before shaking the water out of my (mostly) sand-free eyes and blinking like a newborn.

"Huh-whuh-who?" I managed to mumble. But the woman had already returned her attention to the shiny silver Macbook on her lap. She was pounding away at the keys with a rapid-fire pace. Every so often she would giggle to herself, as if her writing was unbelievably funny. I was about to make another attempt at communication, when the ground began to shake. I stood up as quickly as my sand and waterlogged body would allow, and turned to see an elephant charging towards me. I froze in terror. I was about to be trampled. By an elephant. With a bow behind each ear. What? Who puts bows behind an elephant's ears? The elephant skidded to a halt a few feet away and pointed her trunk at me. I stood there trembling, wondering what new pain I was about to experience. The wet kind. The elephant discharged her entire trunkful of water at me with the force of a firehose. The watery blast knocked me back off my feet, and I landed at the feet of the slender woman in the chaise lounge. She had somehow managed to open a ragged umbrella to protect herself from the deluge, which she now daintily shook the water off of and stowed beneath the lounge. Then, picking up a large mug of what I strongly suspected was cooking sherry, looked at me over the top of her sunglasses and remarked calmly: "I told you she was helpful."

The elephant had rumbled back off towards the treeline again, I assumed to refill her mobile shower device. I stood up and shook the water out of my eyes, which caught sight of the sign that had so recently met my forehead. It took a moment for the words on it to register with my brain, but when they did I was not sure whether I felt more scared, confused, or just plain high on crack.

The sign had three panels, each emblazoned with a different phrase that looked as if it had been spraypainted by a delirious monkey. The first read:

"Abandon hope, all ye who enter here!"

The second,

"This way lies madness!"

and the last,

"Beware of the Leopard!"

As I pondered these three phrases, the elephant returned and washed the rest of the sand off my back.

"Good Clara!" The lounging typist said.

(To be continued...)

© 2009 Tyler Willson. All rights reserved

Monday, March 16, 2009

Cooking Sherry?

Bacon. It was the sound of bacon frying that had drug me from the depths of unconsciousness. It had to be bacon the way it sizzled and hissed in my ears. That meant it was time for breakfast. Bacon and orange juice, with some toast and jam. That sounded wonderful. My stomach rumbled with hunger, and I realized that my throat and mouth were parched, and tasted of seawater. And sand. My mouth was full of sand. How did my mouth get full of sand?
I tried to open my eyes, and felt sand in them too. And my ears. I was covered in sand, I could feel it gritting between my toes. I could feel it between my pants and my skin, rubbing me raw. I wiggled my toes a bit, then my fingers. I tried to open my eyes, but the coating of sand over them had crusted them shut. I tried lifting my head. That was a definite mistake. Lights exploded in my head, pain shot from the crown of my head, down my spine and radiated like lightning across the back of my legs. I tried to cry out, but my throat only made a hoarse rasping noise which caused even more pain. My head dropped back down to the sand beneath my head.
That was stupid. I should just go back to sleep. Except I could still hear the bacon frying. Only I couldn't smell it. Probably because my nose was full of sand. Something cold and wet touched my feet, and my muscles twitched involuntarily. The cold wet receded, then with a rising hiss covered my feet again. Water. Why was water hissing at me like frying bacon and touching my feet? Why was I laying here, covered inside and out with sand?

"Why are you just laying there covered with sand?" A voice asked from somewhere above my head, startling me. My startled twitch caused the lights and lightning to explode again. Begging my head's forgiveness, I lay still again. A hoarse laugh came from the same place out there in the darkness, and I tried my hardest to pretend it did not exist. If it existed, then I would be forced to look and see who it was. Looking to see who it was would require movement of my head. Movement of my head seemed to trigger a torture device of some kind. Torture was bad. Never having been a great fan of pain, I tended to avoid torture. So I did my best impersonation of a statue. A statue covered in sand, listening to bacon fry, feeling water touching my feet. The laughter continued. I continued to deny its existence.
"You can't deny my existence.” Oh yeah? I thought, watch me.
“Any more than you can keep laying there in the sand. The tide is coming in." Apparently the voice could read my thoughts.
“Nah, I am just good at reading people.” That was strange. Especially for someone who did not exist.
"Do too..."
I refused to argue with a voice that did not exist. Especially with my mouth full of sand. And my ears. And my nose. And my pants. The sand in my pants was really starting to bother me. Almost as much as the non-existent voice. Then the coldness hit my feet again, this time travelling up as far as my crotch before receding. Perhaps the non-existent, mind-reading voice was right. Sand in all of my body crevices was one thing. Water in those same places would go from uncomfortable to downright dangerous.
Steeling myself for the effort, I tried again to get up. I got one hand beneath myself, pushed against the sand and rolled over to my side. My eyes were still crusted shut but I could tell that I was now facing towards the harsh sunlight. I continued rolling until I was on my back. The pain was still quite intense, but seemed to be mercifully receding a bit. I tried to take a deep breath in preparation for an attempt to sit up, but the sand in my mouth was somewhat incompatible with my throat and lungs. I gagged, choked, coughed and swore simultaneously as my body involuntarily sat up in an effort to clear my airways. Another wave of water chose this moment to splash into me, and I accidentally gulped a lungful of seawater to match the sand already in there. I rolled over to my hands and knees so that I could more properly wretch my guts out. The water had de-crusted my eyes at least, though they were still bleary and unfocused. I could make out two grayish shapes in the tan colored blur before my eyes. Must be my hands. Another wave rolled in, covering my hands with blurry foam. The wave came up at least as high as my elbows, and I realized with sudden horror that the non-existent voice had been right about the tide coming in. I crawled painfully up the beach, blinking my eyes and coughing and retching to clear my airways.
The non-existent voice was now cackling loudly. I was beginning to wonder if I should continue to insist on its nonexistence, since I needed some serious help and non-existent people are not very helpful. At least in my experience. I continued crawling away from the water hissing across the sand. (My initial fantasy of a nice bacon breakfast having been utterly ruined now.) I was picking up speed as my lungs found themselves processing more oxygen than sand and seawater now. My eyes were also clearing up, and the two grayish blurs became two grayish hands, which I recognized faintly as my own. I was crawling past bits of dried seaweed and driftwood now, so I guessed I was somewhere close to the high-tide water line. I stopped crawling and collapsed to one side in the sand. I lay there gasping for breath for a moment, until I noticed the blurry black shape a few feet away. It seemed to be a human shape, but my eyes were still refusing to give me anything more than a rudimentary impression of anything they were seeing. I tried to gasp out some kind of question about where I was and who it was, but got nothing more out than a sandy grunt. The black shape rippled with another short bark of laughter, then responded.
“Welcome to Looberry Island.” It said, waving one black-clad arm expansively. “Where all of your most demented pipe dreams come to life and run around quaffing cooking sherry.”

Cooking sherry?

(To be continued...)

© 2009 Tyler Willson. All rights reserved

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Crazy Dreams

As long as I can remember, I have had dreams about crashing airplanes. Never as a passenger, but always as an observer on the ground. Although the time and place differ, the circumstances are nearly always the same. Something directs my attention at the sky. Sometimes, it is another person, most often it is the sound of a low-flying airplane in a place where such a thing is unusual. I then see the plane in the sky, flying very low. Sometimes it is obvious that there is trouble, but most often the plane simply is flying too low. Then it crashes. What happens after that is more variable, but one thing is consistent. The utter feeling of dread that pervades the entire dream. The feeling generated by the low rumble of background music in a horror film. The feeling that something terrible is about to happen and I have no power to do anything about it. I usually immediately head out to try and help the victims, but the dream always moves on and I never make it there. Instead I begin having other adventures, every so often remembering that I was trying to get to the crash site to help the victims and feeling frustrated at whatever it is that keeps distracting me.

Last night I had one of these dreams. It was unique in that it was very clear and I remembered many details the next morning, but followed the same pattern. I was travelling down a country road in Texas. I don't remember how I knew it was Texas, just that it was near the place I used to live. I don't recognize the road, but that is what my mind was telling me. Someone in the car with me pointed out two helicopters up in the sky which appeared to be chasing each other. One was marked as a TV news chopper, and the other was marked as a Navy chopper. (Oddly enough, their paint jobs were very similar in color and design, but one had the call sign of a TV station on it, and the other said: US Navy.) We watched them for a while, until we saw two Coast Guard choppers approaching as if to assist the Navy chopper in chasing the news chopper. It was then that we noticed that the sky was filled with aircraft of all kinds, all circling around in seemingly random directions. Then we saw one that was clearly in distress. (I think we also heard on the radio or something that an airplane was circling the airport because its landing gear would not go down. It is not clear how I understood this.) The airplane was performing increasingly haphazard maneuvers, flipping upside down and finally diving towards the ground. This time, unlike many of my crash dreams, I saw the impact and the fireball. I stood on the side of the road with a large crowd of people watching in horror, and heard the sound of the debris whistling through the air at us. We all started to run, searching for some cover. I remember trying to get down behind the road bed for shelter, but kept moving on to find better shelter because I did not feel safe. Debris was hitting the ground all around me, but none hit me or any of the others with me. Finally, it seemed to be over and people started picking up the pieces. I was very insistent that nobody touch anything, since the investigators would want to find the pieces exactly where they lay. I even yelled at a few people who were collecting pieces of debris. Then, the investigators came along and were just picking up the debris and throwing it into a wagon. I remember feeling a bit foolish for having made such a big deal about leaving it in place.

From there, the dream wandered off in another direction that was much more incoherent and my memory has already faded. I have always wondered precisely how significant our dreams are, and whether they are related to our everyday lives. Sometimes I am sure that they are just the random firings of brain cells recharging themselves during sleep. Other times it feels as if they must be some kind of message from the subconscious. Maybe a combination of both is closer to the truth.

Regardless, if any of the people who stumble across this have any expert knowledge of dreams wants to express their opinions, that would be great. Or, if you have no expert knowledge, but want to share your completely uninformed opinion, that would be interesting too.

© 2009 Tyler Willson. All rights reserved

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Springtime is...was here.

Monday was a beautiful day. I came home from work to find all of the kids out front playing in the cul-de-sac with the other neighborhood kids. They were all getting along for a change, and I decided to relax on the porch and watch them. The warm sunshine on my face just felt good!

I love spring, the winter is dark, depressing, and cold. The summer is just too hot to want to be outside. And fall just means that it will be dark and depressing soon. Spring is the season of expectations, anticipation, refreshment, and renewal. In the spring, you are still amazed to see the daffodils appear suddenly on a brown bank of dead grass alongside the highway, or pink hyacinths blooming before you were even aware of them poking through the ground. One day you realize that the lawn needs to be mowed, and unlike later in the summer you feel a surge of excitement to do the job. In springtime you WANT to be outside, to hear the birds singing, to smell the fresh breeze, to lay on the trampoline and look at the stars in the night sky.

Then, Tuesday morning I scraped a thin layer of ice off of my windshield. Drat! Winter is back!