ABOARD MY TRAIN OF THOUGHT
© 1996, 2016 By Scott Endsley
Looking out of the window aboard my own train of thought, I suddenly realized I was on the wrong track.
"Good Godfrey!" I exclaimed, "Stop this train!"
How could this happen? How could I repeat this tragic mistake, especially after being in the same situation previous to this one?
I kicked open the door to jump ship, landing head first on a large pile of rocks before I even got the chance to jump! I was then approached by a small Merry Band of Calypso Singers who were caroling the lyrics of "Amazing Grace", to the tune of "Gilligan's Island".
"Have you any water?" I begged in thirst for an answer. But they went about their merry way, not noticing my bleeding pride, or for that matter -- my scraped elbows. Staggering to my feet, I looked in the distance noticing nothing at all. But, after a lengthy observation, I realized I was mistaken, and moved on. Tired, thirsty, embarrassed, and in my mid-thirties; I came across a large maple tree. I looked closer and read the carved inscription:
YOU'RE PROBABLY HERE.
What could this mean? How did they know? I became very paranoid while watching my step; then, suspicious of my own two feet, I let my fingers do the walking.
"Pardon me?" a voice said.
"Er... Ah... Yes?" I answered.
"Could you tell me the way to the Grand Entrance to the Gate of the City of the Intellectually Inept?"
"Yes, that's in the first episode of the first story," I told him.
A bit of a strange stranger he was. I couldn't help but notice his golf ball eyes, potato nose, and watermelon smile, even from my own disadvantaged perspective (whatever that means?). But, I gave him a map to Big Buford's Buffalo Barf Bucket Burger Bistro, and kicked him in the direction he should go. Speaking of food, I realized I had a rather deep valley in my stomach. "I'm hungry!" I yelled.
"And who isn't?!" Echoed the mountains.
Then a large loaf of manna fell on my head; two days later, I came to... and ate it...
The evening and the morning were the third day, and what a wonderful day it was to be. For on that day, I, Clyde P. Hipwing, was to learn the answer to the question not yet asked by the Gentleman in the Back Row, with the Gray Flannel Suit and Funny Looking Nose.
"Why have you not asked the question yet?" I asked.
I asked again: "I asked, why have you not asked the QUESTION that you were to ask?"
"You sure are inquisitive for a fellow your age," he sarcastically insulted me with his insinuation.
This offended me greatly, so I grabbed the first available QUESTION MARK and struck him right between his optic receivers; and left him for dead. Running from the scene, I tangled my feet in some railroad tracks as I heard the approaching clickity clacks, and I realized the dilemma I was in....... "How can it be that at the beginning of this great journey I am to partake, I am to be run over by my own abandoned Train of Thought?" I thought. So I changed the subject -- and went home.
COMING IN FROM OUT OF A BRAINSTORM
© 1996, 2016 By Scott Endsley
It was an ordinary Oklahoma, Monday morning during the early fall of 1995, in the small south-central town of Mountain Oyster; though I was in a bit of a bad mood after cutting off my nose while shaving. Ah! But what a beautiful day it was; the leaves were falling, the trees were singing; and I was enjoying an action packed game of Ping-Pong with my cat.
"Jolly good for me, Clyde!" she purred enthusiastically, "A perfect 21, how about another?"
Just then the phone rang; and I could tell by the way it was ringing that it was not an ordinary phone call. So I didn't answer, instead, I grabbed my coat and went out for a walk. I came to terms with a fact I couldn't escape-- that I was being followed by a 6 foot, 8 inch, 250 pound, phone booth (that not only was ringing, but ringing loudly). I cut sharp to the right, down a dark alley-- but it was only a dead end. There was no use. I had no choice.
"Okay... okay... I'll answer!" I screamed, "Just stop following me!"
But of all things, it stopped ringing before I could get to it. The very nerve! Angry, I began kicking the blasted phone booth, just as its door opened and swallowed me whole. "Am I going to suffocate and die?... Who's going to feed my cat?" I thought to myself. I panicked....
WE INTERRUPT THIS STORY TO BRING YOU THIS NEWS BULLETIN.... SAM'S DELI, ON THE CORNER OF "I" AND "AM," WAS ROBBED THIS MORNING. MILLIONS OF DOLLARS WORTH OF GOODS WERE REPORTED STOLEN, BUT ACCORDING TO SAM, IT WAS NOTHING MORE THAN JUST A BUNCH OF BALONEY.
POLICE ARE SANDWICHING THE AREA, AND WHEN ASKED IF THEY WERE GOING TO SEARCH FOR THE SUSPECT AROUND THE CLOCK, POTHOLE COUNTY SHERIFF MARSHALL DUMAS, WAS QUOTED AS SAYING: "WELL, WE'VE SEARCHED THE ENTIRE PREMISES, SO I DOUBT HE'S HIDING ANYWHERE AROUND THE CLOCK." THE MAYOR IS TO CALL A PRESS CONFERENCE AS SOON AS HE CAN GET HIS CLOTHES ON... IF YOU HAVE ANY INFORMATION ABOUT ANYONE WHO, IN THE LAST FEW WEEKS, HAS DEMONSTRATED AN INSATIABLE APPETITE, YOU ARE TO CALL POLICE SERGEANT HAROLD THIGHMASTER, AT 1-999-GLUTTON, IMMEDIATELY! OPERATORS ARE STANDING BY...THE FIRST 3 SECONDS ARE FREE! COME ON...BE THE FIRST ONE TO CALL!!! ... NOW BACK TO YOUR REGULARLY SCHEDULED PARAGRAPH, ALREADY IN PROGRESS......
(Meanwhile) ...I got away from that blasted phone booth right before I was about to die! What an impossible situation...What a cat!... I was never going to make her sleep outside again. Not noticing where I was going, because of all the excitement; I bumped into the town odd-ball. Quite an outlandish, but lovable old man; he was still wearing the same suit he put on for his wife's funeral, three years ago.
"Good morning, Homer." I bid him.
As predictable, he just tipped his hat and muttered, "Dawn Comes with Rosy fingers."
That was all he would ever say. Nobody knew why... but he was treated lovingly as a novelty in our mundane existence, there in Mountain Oyster. Someone who professed to have witnessed him uttering anything at all, recalled he was convinced he was on a particular sort of odyssey, that supposedly lead to nowhere. I always thought that was just called 'life.' Well, at least he appeared sanguine in his mythical world. While calculating the morning sun in concordance to the billboard with the half-naked woman on it, I realized it was the 11th hour, and I hadn't eaten a full meal since my last big train ride. I looked west, and spied a Big Buford's Buffalo Barf Bucket Burger Bistro, and salivated uncontrollably. Once inside, I accosted the counter and noticed the strange stranger I had encountered a couple of days ago in the introduction.
"Been waiting for you all morning," the strange stranger in an audible whisper waved me over to his booth in one of the dark 90 degree angles of the restaurant. "Is this the Grand Entrance to the Gate of the City of the Intellectually Inept, or should I look elsewhere?"
"Yes, you're here, but what is the secret verse?" I asked, amusing myself by toying with his obviously displaced reasoning.
Without being forewarned, a waitress who expressed no remorse in regard to interrupting our conversation, butted in, "Whad'll it be?"
"Oh, uh, I'll take the Catcher on the Rye, hold the Tartar, please?" the strange stranger drooled, then looked back at me with a double-take when I regained his attention with my former question about the secret verse. He slumped in his booth, wiped his sweaty brow, then sat up straight again; and cleared his throat while he reached in his coat pocket for a pitch pipe. After rehearsing a series of ear bending, obnoxious and embarrassing renditions of "Mommy made me mash my M&Ms" musical scales, he began: "Where seldom is heard-- a discouraging word.... for what can a buffalo say?"
The entire crowd in the bistro busted out in ovation, as the boisterous waitress barked, "Cute... now whad'll YOU have?"
I realized we couldn't conduct business there, so I ordered a Baby Barf Burger and Bunion Rings to go. "Okay, you're in." I said, as we split from the joint.
As we were scurrying away from autograph seekers, a metallic silver, early model Mercedes, rounded the drive-through on two wheels, then screeched to a halt, landing back on all fours. In my original glance, I failed to witness anyone inside, as the windows were tinted beyond legal standards. But gradually the door creaked open, though all I could see was a cowlick and the crown of what I thought was a juvenile's head. Miniature fingers gradually wrapped around the exterior of the driver's door and abruptly hurled it shut.
"Your cat, or your life?" a one-eyed midget, with a hideous limp, and an equally silly pawn shop discount special aimed just below my knee-caps, imposed as a difficult choice... His finger trembled disturbingly on the trigger.
"NO.. Not my cat! Not my Matilda!" I motioned over at the Strange Stranger, ".... over HIS dead body!" I bellowed as I swept her up, fled, and looked back after hearing the firing of his weapon. The Mercedes sped away, and a lone figure in a pool of black gooey substance, resembling ink, laid dead.
"Good Godfrey! The Strange Stranger!" I shivered.
How could I have done it? I caused the loss of an innocent life. Well, at least I still had Matilda, my best friend and Ping-Pong partner. But what was it I was to learn from the Strange Stranger? What was it he wanted? Then it hit me... The maple tree! The inscription!... I had to get back and look again. I went deep into the woods, until I found it:
YOU'RE PROBABLY HERE.
I got out a knife and carved:
YOU"RE PROBABLY RIGHT.
Just as I had crossed the "T", a bolt of lightning struck the tree. After the debris cleared, I couldn't believe my eyes as I read:
YOU COULD HAVE SAVED US BOTH A LOT OF TIME AND TROUBLE, IF YOU HAD DONE THIS TO BEGIN WITH!
Then there was a terrible earthquake! As the ground parted, a black cloud swirled overhead, and I feared for my life. But the ground stopped shaking as the earth belched up a Rand McNally road map, with a note attached:
You're going to Los Banos, California, where you
are to meet a certain fruit picker named
He will give you further instructions...
Oh by the way --
Don't blow it this time, Clyde!
With no means of transportation, for my car was in the shop, I didn't look forward to the long journey. But walking along Interstate 40, somewhere in the panhandle of Texas a week later, Matilda and I exchanged old war stories. I was amazed at how much I didn't know about my own cat.
Being of some Siamese descent, her great-great-great-great-great- (and then some) grandfather, lived in the royal household of Genghis Khan. Gramps would often lick Mr. Khan's wounds after he'd return from battle. He faithfully kept the rats out of their dwelling, and even helped Genghis with hunting prey from time to time. Gramps would strive earnestly to secure his master's fondness, being as faithful as he could. One Saturday afternoon the Mongolian King got real ticked-off with Kublai, his grandson, for leaving the lawn mower out in the rain, despite persistent reminders. Being that Kublai was much bigger than Genghis, poor Great Grampa Kitty took the brunt of his exasperation, and ended up that evening with a bright red luscious apple stuffed in his mouth on the Khan's dinner platter.
Then there was one of her great-great-great (etc) uncles, who helped Christopher Columbus discover America. Seems Chris stepped on Uncle Tom's tail, who instantaneously belted out a deafening shriek. It alarmed Chris so severely, he turned the ship west and unexpectedly spied a peninsula. Upon returning to Spain, Queen Isabella attempted to knight the potential Sir Tom, but like Chris, she accidentally stood on his rear appendage, resulting in the same consequences. Startled by his loud squall, the queen tumbled over him and, unfortunately, hurled her sword into King Ferdinand's chest. Uncle Tom was immediately sent before the Spanish Inquisition, but was spared being burned at the stake, as long as he agreed to become a court jester. When she needed a good laugh, Isabella would, from time to time, call upon him to remind her of the governing factors surrounding the matter of how the Good King kicked the bucket.
On a couple of Wednesdays later, Matilda and I had walked a good twelve hours before we stopped for the night just east of Santa Rosa, in the barren desert of New Mexico. She caught a couple of rats and I roasted them over some burning tumbleweed. We were delightfully filled for the evening, but bored with my cooking. After successfully panhandling along the way the next day, we acquired a decently adequate amount of change to purchase a few pre-packaged peanut butter sandwiches along the way, for the rest of the journey.
We had just made it to the California border nearly a month later, when Matilda suggested, "You know, this is dumb. We ought to hitch a ride." We had plenty of opportunities to hop a train or two, but after landing head first on a pile of rocks for the umpteenth time, I stayed away from them as much as possible, so we walked on. We had just about made it to the San Joaquin Valley when, coming over a hill, we noticed an armored road block. When we got no more than about 15 feet away, they raised their guns while a short but stocky BATF officer blared on an amplified megaphone, "Clyde P. Hipwing?!"
"Yes....And I can hear just fine without that thing!"
"Oh, uh sorry, drop the knapsack, sir...and walk away slowly," he demanded, aiming his gun nervously. "You and the cat hit the ground, NOW!"
Lying flat on my face, I observed a small bomb squad of three men, in fully protective clothing, gently putting my knapsack in some sort of sealed heavy metal capsule. "It’s just our lunch!" I laughed.
"We know what it is...I'm afraid we're gonna have to take you both in for questioning concerning the Sam's Deli robbery, back in Mountain Oyster, Oklahoma." We were rushed frantically to the Prune Pit County sheriff's office in a convoy of five squad cars, followed by three FBI vans and two armored trucks, filled with SWAT teams escorting us on either side. The sheriff was a big beer-bellied type displaced Texan, and was all haughty for having brought us in. "You wanna tell me bout this here robbery in Oklahoma, boy?"
"I'd like to, but I know nothing about it," I answered.
"Well you're writing this story, aren't you? Come on...You did it. You stole all that stuff, didn't you?" he insisted with his face into mine.
"And you stole that baloney, didn't you, boy?"
"I don't even know what you're talking about. I was being swallowed by a telephone booth about the time of the robbery... If you don't believe me, just ask my cat. She's the one who saved me!" I stood up.
Sheriff Bonehead really liked that one. I should have just kept my mouth shut. "Ok, Mr Hipwing...Clyde, why is it you can clearly remember what you were doing at the time of this here robbery over a month ago, but you can't tell me where this half-eaten baloney sandwich, that was found this morning in your knapsack, came from?"
"I don't know! I don't even like baloney. If I remember correctly it was a peanut butter sandwich, but, I'm not really sure."
"Well, boy, sounds to me like your long term memory is purdy doggone good, but as for the short term........"
"Alright," I smarted, "Ask me about that baloney sandwich again... and I'll give you an answer in about three years, Ok?!"
I was locked up overnight with one other prisoner, who snored monstrously. The next morning, I thought I'd get friendly and introduce myself to my cellmate in the top bunk. "Good morning. When do they serve breakfast here?"
There was a long pause. Then suddenly he replied, "Dawn comes with Rosy fingers."
I hit my head as I raised up. "Homer!?"
I was charged with eight counts on possession of stolen property, four counts on "the intent to distribute" (I guess they meant sharing four sandwiches with my cat), and one count on "not properly packing your lunch like your mother surely taught you!" I was to stay in jail for two long months without a word from Matilda. Poor cat, they probably put her to sleep, I thought. I was so depressed, I didn't bother to prepare for the trial, which was to be held in California because of all the public rage back home in Mountain Oyster. To top it off, I was assigned a court appointed attorney who rarely came around.
Sometime later, the hearing was well into its third hour as the DA was twisting testimony out of his concluding witness.
"Now, you're employed by the only meat packing plant in downtown Helenback, Arkansas. This has already been established for the record. But could you tell those of us who have never been to Helenback, Mr. Kimble, what exactly is the name of that business, trademark or establishment, as registered with the Internal Revenue Service?"
"'The Only Meat Packing Plant in Downtown Helenback, Arkansas', Sir."
"And just what is your job title?" The cocky Prosecutor drilled.
"I'm the Head Meat Inspector!" Mr. Kimble boasted.
"Very well, Mr. Kimble," the DA praised his witness, then confidently approached the bench. "Your Honor, I'd like at this time to introduce Exhibit H to the jury as a momentous segment of consequential evidence in this egregious litigating procedural criminal prosecution process!"
"For heaven's sake, Benson," the Judge harped, "It's just a stupid piece of baloney! This is the eighth exhibit you've introduced today...When are you going to wrap-up all of this baloney, it's getting mighty stale.... Hey, that was pretty witty, wasn't it!?"
"Joking aside, Your Honor....This isn't just a piece of baloney; but a 'half eaten' piece of baloney!"
"All right, let the record show Exhibit H....another piece of baloney has been submitted into evidence," Judge Thomas grumbled, looking at his watch and thinking about lunch.
"Now, Mr. Kimble, explain to the jury what this is...." Benson commanded, dramatically holding the exhibit against the witness' nose.
"Uhhh Yer kiddin', right?" He snickered, insulted. "Why, it looks like a piece of baloney to me, but of course I could be wrong...I ain't an expert; I've just managed to keep my job through the years cause I'm with the union!"
The courtroom broke out in silly laughter, while I noticed my Public Defender looking as if his hopes had been lifted. However, humiliated by his immediate fiasco, and sensing a mockery was at hand, the Prosecuting Attorney bitterly chewed out the jury:
"Ladies and Gentlemen, this significant piece of evidence was found on the defendant's person at the time of his arrest by a BATF (Baloney Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms) officer! When this case retires for deliberation, you'd better really strive to consider how seriously damning this is to Mr. Hipwing's alibi. Not only do the bite marks match his dental records, but I've spoken with every lunch meat connoisseur in this state, and all of them concur that...."
"Benson, this is not the time for your closing remarks! This is the fifth time this morning you've tried to manipulate the jury. I won't have any more of it in my courtroom; and if I should, you won't be released from holding, until you miraculously pull out of your nose $25,000...Now, direct only questions, exclusively to your Witness! Do you understand Me?!!!!!" His Honor Shouted.
Benson immediately humbly bowed himself apologetically before the Throne, "Yes Sir, it won't happen again, sir!!!!"
"Good.......You may proceed!"
"Thanks...I'm sorry, Sir, Your Honor...Yes, Thanks Again, Sir!... Now.... Uh, MR. Kimble, just how old would you say this particular, half-eaten scrap of baloney is, just by inspecting it?"
"Hmmm, I wouldn't throw a Bar mitzvah any time soon!"
"Mr. Kimble," Judge Thomas spoke softly, but firm, "I'm very serious...Would you like me to hold you in contempt?"
"What? NO, I wouldn't like you to hold me at all...no matter how serious you are! Just what exactly are you hinting at with that question?"
"Your Honor, I have no further questions." Benson sighed and rolled his eyes, throwing his notes so as to scatter them all over the table, and sat down.
"Very well, if there are no further questions from the defense, you may step down, Mr. Kimble."
"No further questions, Your Honor," my lawyer declared.
Before stepping down from the witness stand, Mr. Kimble made known his regret for his behavior: "I'm sorry, Your Honor, if I hurt your feelings when I was shocked by your offer. I'm just not into that sort of thing, but if I were in your shoes...uh well, I don't mean to say I wanna be gettin' into your shoes or nothin', uh..but of course, I don't have nothin' against nobody that does!...but uh....." he finally gave up trying to explain and offered a hand of tolerance, praying His Judgeship wouldn't kiss it.
"You Will Step Down, Mr. Kimble!!" Judge Thomas, whose face would have caused confusion on a busy interstate, being that it was as red and illuminating as a traffic light, couldn't believe all that was happening in his courtroom.
"At this time, Your Honor, I'd like to call a surprise witness to the stand, a certain Miss Matilda Waudlebaum," my court-appointed counselor announced.
"Very well, let the record show that........A CAT IS GOING TO TESTIFY?!" Justice Administrator Thomas gasped. I started crying tears of joy as my beloved feline approached the bench. I was equally comforted by the judge's facial adoration for such furry cuteness. "Well, I guess I can confirm this morning that I haven't seen everything in these 30 years! You may proceed, Council."
"Thank you, Your Honor. Miss Waudlebaum. You're a cat. Would you say this is true?" my attorney asked.
"I would," she proudly affirmed, though slightly bewildered because the Judge, probably from being over-stressed, forgot to make her swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help her; Saint CATherine! Matilda was a devout CATholic--Never missed one day of CATechism! She always wanted to be a Nun, but she got kicked out of Parochial School for chasing a "Cardinal" up a tree.... I know, enough already! Okay, back to the trial............
"And as a cat, you were pretty close to the defendant, were you not?"
"I object!" the DA shouted. "Council is putting words in the witness' mouth."
"Overruled! Come on, let's hurry this thing through! You may answer the question, ma'am,” the Judge's stomach spoke up on his behalf, more eager than ever to go to lunch.
"Yes, I know the defendant well... I know the way he thinks... How else could it be that he has yet to beat me in Ping-Pong?"
"I object! This is irrelevant to the case... I want to go to the meat of the matter! What about Exhibit H?" the DA huffed.
"Overruled! You'll get to cross examine... Now go ahead, precious little kitty you... I mean, please continue, ma'am," said the Judge.
"Thank you, Your Honor," she purred. "There's not a dishonest bone in his body. He's always been good to me. Never once as a kitten did he rub my nose in it when I messed on the carpet... he..."
"I object! Your Honor, you're falling in love with that cat!"
"Shut up, Benson, or you'll be removed from this courtroom, even if I have to forcibly take you by the hand and lead you outta here myself!!!!!"
"Well ain't that just the cat's pajamas! I'm sure Mr. Kimble would really be fond of that!" the D.A. stomped. "Never in my..."
"Bailiff, take Benson out of here... This case is now dismissed! Now where were you, precious little fuzz ball, hmmmm?" The Judge, like a charmed adolescent school boy, melted as he gave ear in a mesmerized daze for at least 30 more minutes, before shyly begging Matilda to give him the liberty to take her out for lunch. Once again my beloved cat had saved my life and we were at last reunited. I asked the bailiff if I could go back and say goodbye to Homer and was then led down to his cell. My few hours of freedom made me take for granted the long black hall, cold and damp as it was, all the way back to the cell we shared. Homer just stood there clutching the bars as if he could inflict pain on them.
"Well, Homer, I don't know what they got you in here for, but when this is all over I'll come back for you," I promised, putting my hand on his shoulder. He just looked down at his shoes and mumbled his ever familiar line: "Dawn Comes with Rosy Fingers."
I paused and sighed, ".... Yeah, I know…"
After all the charges were dropped and my record once again spotless, Matilda and I headed west. After walking a mile or two, Sheriff Bonehead pulled alongside of us.
"You'n yer cat wanna ride, boy?" He asked.
All along the way to Los Banos, Matilda and the sheriff exchanged hidious Star Wars jokes.
"Now let's see if I can say this one right... Hee! Hee!.... Obi-wan Kanobi had a son that was born mute... What was his name? Obi Quiet! Get it?"
Then Matilda fired back, "What did Obi-wan Kanobi suggest when Luke Skywalker was trying, but failing, to perform the Jedi trick of manipulating a tasty morsel of hamburger with his mind, into his mouth?"
"Hee Hee! Heck, I dunno, tell me?!" the Sheriff asked in anticipation.
"Use the fork, Luke!" Matilda slapped her paw on Bonehead's knee as he swerved out of the wrong lane of the highway, and almost off the road. Luckily for me it was just a 45-minute trip... We later pulled into a Christian-owned 'discount' service station called 'Jesus Saves' in Los Banos, about three o'clock in the afternoon. I went inside to ask for a phone book, to look up Mr. Pigglesworth's address, only to find the entire 'P' section had been ripped out.
"Excuse me, can anyone tell me where I can find an Elmo Pigglesworth?" I asked. Everyone stopped what they were doing and turned to study me.
"Who wants to know?" inquired a rather large tough, barely visible in the dark of the garage. I told him my name as two cars just about hit each other trying to split the scene. "How do I know you are who you say you are?" he squinted.
"Well, let's see... let's just say... `I'm probably here." I sneered.
His face turned as if he were wearing talcum. "`You're probably right`.... Come with me." He lifted a manhole cover and lowered himself in. He then asked me to follow. We must have walked for miles underground until we approached daylight peeking through a crack overhead. "Well this is the place. Climb out of the manhole and knock on the farmhouse door.... But please, Mr Hipwing...... don't tell him who led you here, okay?" he begged.
I gave him my word. I had just about got to the door when an old man came out with a shotgun. "Oh! It's the writer lost in his work." He laughed.
"I beg your pardon...." I said throwing up my hands, “I was told to come and see you. You see I'm on a mission and...."
"Don't need to finish. I already got you figured out... Where's yer side-kick protagonist?" he questioned.
"I don't follow you."
"Where's the strange stranger?" he asked again.
"Oh, he's dead... You see..."
"It was either him or the cat, right?" he laughed, with tobacco juice running down both sides of his chin. I couldn't help but think to myself, "Well, at least he's level headed."
"How did you know?" I queried, puzzled.
"My thoughts are your thoughts," he said, as he spat on the ground. "Come on inside---Oh, I don't allow cats in my house."
Pigglesworth was an eccentric ex-con, who swears to the day of this writing, he'd been wrongly set up. As the story goes; he claimed at one time to have the ability to predict the future. Though it was all bunk, he made quite a lot of money at it. Soon, he became very publicized around his neck of the woods, but in an opposing way.... Word got around among his followers that many of his predictions turned out to be frivolous. After most of Elmo's clientele quit coming around, he 'fessed-up about being a fraud, as far as having the ability to foretell events, but maintained he still had supernatural abilities. Only, not as most would understand. He took out a giant ad in the Los Angeles Times, claiming not only was he truly clairvoyant, but was blessed with a gift no other has ever claimed... The miraculous ability of 'For-sawing The Past!'
He listed 36 major world events that in fact did happen, including times, dates, years, centuries, decades, and believe it or not, record breaking temperatures! He named who won the World Series the previous year, and by what score! People marveled over his 100 percent accuracy so much, that he was paid one million dollars in advance; to write a book on '1000 post-dictions of the 1st millennium.' But the apple cart was soon to turn over (though he couldn't see it coming).
Rumors began to circulate about his authenticity, so much so, that the FBI launched an investigative probe, to determine whether or not he was a fraud. Soon afterward, a librarian claimed to have identified Pigglesworth, in spite of women's panty hose pulled over his face, engaged in incriminating activity.... reading! To back up her story, she presented to the authorities a library card with his name and address on it. He supposedly left it behind by accident. That was all they needed to get a search warrant. Searching his home while he wasn't there, they found over 125 books, 45 magazines, various video tapes, and a complete collection of newspapers dating back to 1962. But what they found that really could have nailed him, what convinced them to bring him in, what left him without anyone willing to vouch on his behalf... was.... a.........(GASP!) .........TELEVISION!
They interrogated him for five hours, but the evidence was all circumstantial. They had to let him go. But being the likable guy he was, there weren't any hard feelings. He talked motor racing for a while with some of the cops, traded Vietnam adventures, and bragged about his kids. Out of friendly curiosity, the police chief casually asked him where he bought his solid gold Rolex watch, because he had one at home just like it. Elmo thought for a minute, shrugged his shoulders, and said, "I can't recall..." He got 10 years.
Elmo Pigglesworth enjoyed a peculiar looking dwelling. There were a lot of maps scattered all over the floor, yet some were hanging on the walls with thumbtacks pinned on various strategic locations.
"The thing you need to do is get back on that there Train of Thought," Elmo began, "and reverse the locomotive back to the duration of the time, when you first met the Strange Stranger. Then find out what kind of information he has. Once you find him, commence to lead him to the Grand Entrance to the GATE of the City of the Intellectually Inept, which is Big Buford's Buffalo Barf Bucket Burger Bistro. Now you, as the Gate Keeper, are to lead the Strange Stranger to the Intellectually Inept."
I couldn't believe that after traveling 1500 miles on foot, that was all he offered us (besides a rather greasy lunch). Especially since none of it made any since to me At least he was kind enough to point out the nearest railroad tracks to us. After walking approximately, a mile, Matilda and I waited around for about an hour till we abruptly heard the rumble of the approaching train. As it approached, we jumped in one of the boxcars and immediately pulled a lever (that was oddly located on the ceiling) and abruptly threw my Train of Thought in reverse.
The long ride from California back to Oklahoma took all of two days. I noticed from the beginning, that the sun rose every morning in the west, and set in evening in the east. From what I gathered we were making a voyage reverse in time (Duh...).
On the second morning, when I got up to stretch, I noticed I was approaching familiar surroundings. Again, I suddenly spied a small Merry Band of Calypso Singers and realized it was time to bail out. Same as before, I landed head first on a large pile of rocks, but this time I rose to my feet to join in with the singers--- I was curious to find out where they were going. They at once stopped playing and singing, as one of them shouted, "You're not one of us!" and began hitting me over the head with their guitars and bongos. I fled realizing they weren't so friendly after all, and walked on to the large maple tree to wait for the strange stranger; but fell fast asleep. The wind danced in my hair as the old maple swayed and creaked. Then suddenly, I awoke to the sight of large smelly tennis shoes.
"Pardon me, could you tell me the way to the Grand Entrance to the Gate of the City of the Intellectually Inept?" the Strange Stranger asked.
I got up on my feet and told him to follow me. We strolled into the City of the Intellectually Inept and looked for Big Buford's Buffalo Barf Bucket Burger Bistro. When we got there, we found a quiet place in the back of the room. I whispered, "Okay, you're here, what is it you want to tell me, and what do you want to know?"
"Are you the Intellectually Inept?" He stared into my eyes.
I paused thoughtfully, "No, I'm just the Gate Keeper."
"Do you know where I might find him?" He leaned closer.
Fresh out of oblivion, who else but Homer slowly sauntered up to our table like molasses that's been refrigerated for a year. Or a scene in a movie that dragged, and never got to the line that you knew was coming next. Or like a book that pretty much does the same thing while you wonder, “why am I reading this? My kids will probably grow into teenagers before he gets to that stupid line that I've been expecting, and waiting on now for 84 words; all for the privilege, at the expense of my bladder, just to once again read Homer mumble, "Dawn Comes with Rosy Fingers."’
"And leaves with dishpan hands!" Strange excitedly fired back.
"What color were her eyes?" Homer asked, as I fell out of my booth.
"One was strikingly beautiful, and blue as robins' eggs, the other green with envy!" Strange got some applause from the table behind us with that one.
"And why was she frugally walking the tightrope, while nervously balancing her checkbook on the tip of her nose?"
There was a long meditative pause.... "..........Because it was two days before payday, and she's a lousy juggler!"
"Yes! Yes!... But!... Most importantly, why was she balancing the checkbook on her 'nose?'"
Strange slumped and wiped his sweaty baffled face. He'd been stumped. But being one to never accept being outplayed, he guessed ... "Because there wasn't anything else to write on?"
"Ok Charley, tell Mr. Strange here what wonderful prizes he'll be taking home today!" Homer sarcastically praised... along with everyone else in the joint, and even some in the drive-through, who hoorayed. Streamers and confetti fell. A beer barrel polka band, consisting of World War II vets, marched inside and down the isles playing-- what else but-- The Beer Barrel Polka; as Homer and Strange got out maps and diagrams, conversing amongst themselves in even more ridiculous riddles, while each person stared with great interest.
"Uh, fill me in guys, huh?" I suggested, wanting them to clarify, what in the world was going on.
"Shh!" the Strange Stranger whispered, "Homer here is the Intellectually Inept!"
"You just now figured that out?"
"Don't you understand?" Strange asked elated, "Now the Question can be asked by the Man in the Back Row with the Gray Flannel Suit and Funny Looking Nose!"
"But first we have to go into the Fictional Forest to find him!" Homer announced. "Didn't the 'Anti-Beast' you met in the 5th episode of this story tell you that?"
I wasn't going to even bother trying to figure out 'who' that was. I just gave both Homer and Strange a self-evident, bewilderedly born-brainless, dumbfounded look.
"Don't worry who he is right now," Strange said, tossing me an explanatory life jacket. I swam over to it as he continued, “you'll know about him soon enough, but you'll probably have to wait until you have completed the last story in your upcoming sequel."
We camped by the large maple tree deep in the Fictional Forest. As I was munching on sardines and crackers, Homer was finally explaining to me things I found puzzling. "You see, we're all here cause you brought us here. Without you, we wouldn't exist!" Homer got out a hunting knife and pricked his thumb. "You see that, that ain't blood... that's ink...your ink.... our life support. Everything that's here is only here cause you wanted it to be."
I was beginning to understand, I thought. "You mean I've dreamed up the whole adventure and we're not really here?" I grabbed Homer's knife and pricked my thumb. "INK!. Oh great, even I'm a figment of my own imagination!" I surmised, flipping the knife to the ground.
Homer put his hand on my shoulder, "You'll understand later, just enjoy the ride until then."
It was the break of morn as I rolled over and studied Homer, ungracefully waking. He sure was an ugly sort that time of day. It appeared as though he had combed his beard and mustache with a sand blaster, and without his dentures, looked like a wide-mouthed bass. One undeniable trait about old Homer though, was that he had plenty of hindsight. I was told he used it quite a bit in his spare time, sitting on park benches observing the pretty ladies that went by.
"Dawn Comes with Rosy Fingers," I laughed. He just threw his drool-soaked pillow at me as I darted from its path. Strange was snoring away, sounding like a hog with asthma, till I got up and yelled, "We're hungry!"
The mountains echoed back, "Hold on a second, will ya?" Seconds later, it began raining manna as Homer and I began gathering it.
"The manna's gettin' hot, and the coffee's gettin' cold," I informed Strange as he finally threw back his covers, with a "I can hardly wait" look. Just then, there came a loud MEOW out of the maple tree. I stopped to realize I hadn't seen or heard from my cat in a while. "Matilda... is that you?"
"Yeah, I didn't want to disturb you all when I came back from the convenience store to get some beer and pretzels... So I passed the time away with 'The Wall Street Journal,'" she answered, folding the paper and hopping down.
"Homer, Strange, this is Matilda," I announced. "As you can see she's not an ordinary cat."
"I'm so hungry, she'd make a mighty fine omelet, if you'd ask me," yawned Strange, refusing a manna loaf because he was watching his cholesterol.
"So what's the plan?" questioned Matilda. I began filling her in on everything as she was batting at some moth or something. "Have you met with the Man in the Back Row with the Gray Flannel Suit and the Funny Looking Nose, yet?" she asked.
"No," I answered. "That's why we're camped here for the evening... we..."
Just as I almost completed the sentence, the one-eyed midget in his Mercedes swerved up to us. He slowly got out of his car, limped over to our campsite and pulled out his small revolver. "Your cat or your life, which is it?"
Out of nowhere popped a 6 foot 8 inch, 250-pound ringing phone booth.
"Wait just a minute." I demanded, "I've got a phone call.... Hello..."
"Yes this is your editor calling. I tried to call some months ago, but you refused to answer. I just wanted to let you know this is YOUR story, and YOU shouldn't fear the one eyed midget... He's at your mercy. All you have to do is erase him, if he gives you any more trouble..." (Click)
"Well... well... well," I sneered, hanging up the phone, "Seems you think you can intimidate me. I think I'll just erase you." The one eyed midget's eye got real big as he dropped his gun and ran for his car -- but I erased it.
"Who sent you and why do you want my cat?" I yelled.
"Please, Sir, I ... I'm the Man. The Man in the Back Row with the Gray Flannel Suit and Funny Looking Nose..." he tearfully answered. "It's just, well, I got a family... and I never get any good parts... you see, because I'm divorced from my wife, my kids, they don't think much of me... I..."
"Oh knock it off..." I growled in disgust. "Look, I promise you, in my next story you can play the one-eyed midget, okay? But we're wasting a lot of ink right now. So I wish you'd just ask the BIG QUESTION that you're supposed to ask."
"Well... ah... Okay. Here goes... What if anything is the meaning of this story?" he asked.
"That's it? ... Why didn't you ask me that in the very beginning like I asked you to?"
"Sir, my time had not yet come, and for that matter, your thoughts are my thoughts," he shrugged.
"Homer, what is he talking about?"
"Well, Clyde, best as I can figure, he's trying to tell you that had you wanted him to ask that question in the first place, your felt-tip pen would have put the words in his mouth."
"All right, here is the answer to the quiz... All I have created is meaningless... as meaningless as your very life. You're nothing without the stroke of my pen." I could almost feel his heart sink as the one-eyed midget picked up his own gun, and with a pull of the trigger.... spilled his own ink.
We buried the one-eyed midget's remains in a sardine can, after cremating him over the fire we set the night before to roast marshmallows, said a quick prayer... then told the Creator he could go back to whatever he was doing.
"Well what now, Homer?" I asked.
"Well, before all this was goin' on, we figured a way to get you back to your physical reality," Homer smiled.
"Look, Homer and I have devised a plan. Read it carefully, study, then eat it," Strange added.
"Eat it?" I questioned in puzzlement.
"Yes, if you don't, some character might find it and follow you back into your physical existence," Homer spoke up. I didn't want to go, life was so much more interesting in their world, but I knew if I didn't return now, I'd never be able to do so later. Homer, Strange, and Matilda walked with me to the tracks. We all shared a tearful farewell.
"I'll think about you guys often, and maybe from time to time, visit you. It's been a most enjoyable three months," I expressed with tears pouring, and snot-rag in hand.
In the nick of time, prior to the moment I would have drowned in my own swimming hole of grief, I heard the train whistle blow. Matilda and I started running to gain momentum to leap aboard. Just as it approached, we clung on to the engine and climbed in. I looked back and waved to Homer and Strange. I gazed ahead and saw the many characters I had fabricated, waving as the train went by. Then I passed by the Calypso Singers and yelled out the window at the top of my lungs, with all the sincerity I could muster, "Get a job!"
I suddenly felt uneasy as I had no I idea what lay ahead. I reached in my pocket and pulled out the plan that Strange gave me. It read:
"It's not very often a writer and his characters become the best of friends, and now as your friends, we ask you to leave this Fictional Forest. The only way for our world to rest in peace is for you to leave. Homer and I have theorized a way to return you to your physical reality. You must die a fictitious death. It's risky, but you must try it.
Strange and Homer"
I stuffed it in my mouth, swallowed and began looking around at all the unfamiliar scenery, while pondering to myself as to how I should die. I was scared, so I decided to put it off for a while, and succumbed to a snooze. Two hours or so afterward, I awoke and looked out the window, noticing in the distance there stood a mountain range. It was then that I chose my death. The track veered off into the mountains, then it divided in two different routes. One track remained unfinished over a half-built bridge. This was the one I elected to use. My Train of Thought gained speed as it swerved to the right and proceeded straight for a downhill plunge. The rocky embankment approached at a high rate of speed. I closed my eyes as I heard the loud split-second flash and envisioned the iron shrapnel exploding all around Matilda and I. Then I felt...... nothing?
I opened my eyes. I was at my writing desk and the half-written story was scribbled on paper. It had in fact been fantasy. I sat there for a minute, then got up to get something cold to drink. Without realizing she was there, I stepped on Matilda's tail as she let out a loud squall. "Oh Matilda, I'm sorry. I didn't see you...Are you all right little kitty, hmmm? I sure didn't mean to do that," I apologized.
She just rubbed her side against my pants leg. "Think nothing of it, Luv, I know you didn't," she replied.
Proceed to Story Two…