(This post is part seven of a series. If you’re interested in reading the tale from its beginning, look here .)
From the journal of one Michael Gideon
June 19, 2010
I didn’t sleep well last night, Journal. I tossed and turned until after five, and when I did sleep, uncomfortable dreams wrecked any chance of rest. One took place in the middle of a moonless night. I was wandering a flat, lifeless field, all alone. Lost, yet in search of something. I don’t know what I was looking for or why I was so unnerved by the dream upon waking.
My imagination is working a little overtime, I guess, given its diet of weird things to digest around here.
God, I’m craving scrambled eggs and black coffee. Some toast, with strawberry jam and butter. And a newspaper to read. Some normalcy. Waking up at such random times lately seems to be wrecking my eating schedule. Regardless, there’s nothing in the fridge but o.j. and pears. (When did I buy pears?)
There’s a diner in town; Sally’s Place. Think I’ll go see how the locals do breakfast.
Well, I never made it to the diner.
On my way there I thought I’d look at what I was getting myself into if I did go to this gathering, so I walked by the Post Office to look at Mrs. Nicoline’s place.
I had just made out the little path that she’d mentioned in her note when my attention was drawn to the lot behind the Post Office. It lay empty, or so I thought, except for one structure, what can only generously be described as a shack, which leaned precariously near the back of the lot.
In front of the shack, sitting on a stack of magazines with his back to me, was a man wearing a sort of hat, constructed out of a gallon milk jug. A few little wisps of silver hair stuck out through holes in the plastic, and the rest of his mane he tucked under what appeared to be a patchwork green overcoat. I could only just make out him yelling something:
“No, no, no! How do you ever hope to perform for anyone if you don’t take your lessons seriously?”
Investigating further, I saw that he appeared to be berating an opossum at his feet, a squirrel in his lap and a robin that was hopping around his “hat”.
“Domingo, you can’t let Carreras overpower you. Your voices are to blend. Blend! And Pavarotti, don’t think that I haven’t noticed your slacking down there. I am surrounded by undisciplined layabouts!”
I asked if everything was okay and the gentleman turned to face me. His look was intense.
“What is it?!”
At his shout, the robin took to the sky while the opossum and squirrel ran for the shack.
“Rehearsal is not over you know! Okay, okay. Take five. Domingo, no! You’ve had your breakfast, you naughty squirrel.” He sighed and then turned back to me, his face had softened, “Carreras won’t be back in five, you know. Birds have such a terrible sense of priority. I don’t believe we’ve officially met yet. My name is Lord Jarboe,” he took my hand, shaking it, “proprietor and sole custodian of Tater Town.” He spread his other hand, the one not shaking mine, as if to guide my eyes to our surroundings.
“Tater Town?” I asked.
“Indeed! Heard of us, have you? How exciting! Mr. Gideon knows of Tater Town!”
“No, I meant-I only just-”
“I’d offer you some of our world famous potato bits but, alas, this damnable heat wave we’re currently suffering through has managed us too small a crop this season. I must always see to it that the villagers are fed first, lest the gypsies curse me.”
I looked around his yard at the small mounds of dirt scattered all about as he straightened the milk jug on his head.
“Heavy is the crown in this dark age. Makes a body wonder why we try sometimes, and not just chuck it all in and buy a boat. There’s good fishing, on a boat. Or, well, from a boat, at any rate. If, of course, you don’t mind all of the sharks.” He readjusted his plastic crown again, blinking rapidly as he looked nervously around at the ground. I noticed his eyes, then. He has one dark green eye, one intense blue.
“Well, I didn’t mean to be a bother. I just heard the yelling and thought I’d make sure nothing was wrong.” I made to leave.
“No bother, no bother at all! I’ll be seeing you tomorrow then? At the Gathering?”
This caught my attention.
“At Mrs. Nicoline’s place? Do you know her?” I thought I might finally get some straight answers.
“Of course! We lords and ladies all know one another. She resides in the neighboring sovereignty.” he pointed down the little path in front of his, well, his town, “This will be my first official Gathering, though. Been just political niceties before now. Oh well, best get back to it. These lads of mine won’t practice if I don’t make them.” And with that, Jarboe headed back into his shack of crooked boards and duct tape before I could ask anything further of him.
Just then my cell rang. It was Patty, finally allowed by the cell phone gods to check up on me. I lied to him about the status of my book all the way back here to the house.
Guess I’d better at least try to put something down.