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

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