The deceptive title of this chapter would imply that my new beautiful gatekeeper Madeleine and I are already at odds with one another and that she has already begun acting as a dictator. She is a bit bossy and blunt, of course, but only in a loving way. And I am thick-headed and enjoy resisting authority. For sure there is a new sheriff in town, but it might not be such a bad thing for me...as I hope the reader will see as the chapter now truly begins:
My sun greeting began as I approached Achilles' Last Stand, predictably enough. And, predictably enough, it was already well into the sun greeting. Madeleine was on the ground not far from the gate and appeared to be digging a hole. Before I could ask her what she was doing, she had already jumped up, dusted dirt off her talons, and handed me a clipboard with several papers and wished me a good sun greeting. As I looked over the paper on top, I asked her, "Garden Gate Activity Log?!"
"Yes, Kev, I just need you to read through it and sign on the bottom acknowledging that you reviewed it," Madeleine replied, and added, "Since you are so fond of sleeping, I want to be sure you are properly updated on the garden's activities you have missed." Then she hopped off and went back to apparently digging a hole.
"Couldn't you just tell me the important stuff when you see me, like Raven used to do?" I asked, and added, "And are we going to be doing this every sun greeting?" Though I questioned her, I did continue to read through the Activity Log.
Without turning her head to look at me or interrupting her mysterious task, she said bluntly, "I could, yes. But I'm not Raven, and I'm not going to have you accusing me of not telling you something important. As to the frequency of the Garden Gate Activity Log, we will only need to do one on those sun greetings in which you sleep."
I decided that humoring her was the best strategy for now, though in my mind I was open to resisting this later on. I read though some of its contents and commented, "Oh, I see dear Caesar Emeritus and Ptolemy stopped by...how nice! Oh! And I'm to see the attached homework packet. Lovely. Holy crap! 14 forest fairies have already stopped by the garden gate this sun greeting?!"
Madeleine hopped up again and dusted off her talons and began rifling through a burlap sack as she looked at me only for a second and said, "Yes, Caesar and Ptolemy are off to the Lemmington Town Square for some sort of public story reading, and Ptolemy of course wanted to tag along and promote his Ptolemyce Cream. The homework, it appears, has something to do with a treasure hunt of sorts. It seems Caesar Emeritus came upon some interesting Xanaduvian scrolls and was hoping you could shed some light on them." Then Madeleine started counting out seeds she had retrieved from the bottom of the burlap sack and continued, "14 fairies are much less than the usual, based on the information Raven provided me with. It seems they check in constantly to see if Andrew has come by lately. I was very clever though! I started an online forum for them and promised to update them immediately of his presence from here on out if they agreed to register as my AOL Instant Messenger contacts. Good, huh?" Madeleine by now had dropped the seeds in the hole and started shoveling dirt on top of them. She seemed quite satisfied with herself. "You see, they'll stop bothering us at the gate all the time, plus we'll have eyes all over Interterrestria now as they will consider me their friend."
"That's brilliant, my beautiful gatekeeper!" I said enthusiastically, and I meant that. It was a brilliant and efficient plan. "But can I ask what it is you're planting there by the gate?"
Madeleine smiled at me proudly and replied, "Kale."
I scrunched up my face a bit--not on purpose--it's just my natural reaction to it. And I clarified, "The wrinkly weird leafy thing? It's not very pretty, you know."
Madeleine chuckled as she replied, "It's not for decoration, silly...it's for eating! It's very healthy you know. I'm quite sure you'll enjoy it."
I cringed, and I think my stomach fell over on its side. "You mean you expect ME to eat it? Oh no, not me," I resisted. "I'm just not a weird wrinkly greens kind of dude, you know."
Madeleine wasted no time responding, "Well I happen to like it, and maybe you should be! You're not getting any younger, you know?"
I was almost annoyed, and rebuked her, "You know very well we don't age in the Xanadu Forest unless we choose to, and that we don't believe in or observe time!"
"Quite right you are Kev, thank you for the correction. What I meant to say was, you aren't getting any thinner," she quipped. And she had me there. I wondered for a moment whether there might be some sort of magic in the forest that could make kale taste like nachos. And crunch like them too.
I grumbled a bit under my breath, much like Edwin the Bee often does with me, but I continued on with the Garden Gate Activity Log, "It says here Mitzy stopped by and delivered the surveillance equipment! What's that about?"
"Oh yes, we're installing high resolution cameras all over the garden...all of them fed directly into my computer so that I'll be able to monitor all the garden's activity with no trouble at all. Cousin Eddie has already installed some of them." Then she walked me over to her desk, Achilles' Last Stand, tapped a couple of keys, and showed me, "See? Cool, huh?"
"Actually, it's a bit unsettling, Madeleine, to be honest," I explained. Then I freaked, "Hey! That's the Persian rug! You mean you're going to be watching me sleep? Now that's just creepy, Madeleine. I don't like this at all!"
"Oh, come on Kev," Madeleine said in a fun and carefree way, and she punched me in the arm playfully and continued, "Are you afraid I might see you do something embarrassing upon the Persian rug? You have nothing to fear...Raven already filled me in on your quirks. And don't think she didn't watch you sleep! She most certainly did... but she did it with her own eyes which is even creepier if you ask me!"
That was an interesting and valid point, Madeleine had. I had never thought about it, but I'm sure Raven was watching me sleep. It was pretty creepy, wasn't it? I guess it's good I had never thought about it before. But would it be strange now that I would forever be conscious of it? I would have to leave myself open to resisting this later on, I decided within myself. But I would hold my peace for now. I nodded halfheartedly in Madeleine's direction, and let out a long, slow breath.
Madeleine spun my shoulders around and took off her glasses, and looked deep into my eyes, "Look, I know some things are going to be different around here, and I know not all of it is going to be easy for you to adjust to. But we don't have any choice. The fact of the matter is, I'm a Peahen, not a Raven...I can't get around like her. I can't soar the skies and see things like she was able to do." Then she chuckled and put her glasses back on, and concluded, "And obviously, my vision isn't as sharp as hers either!" And she slapped me on the shoulder and sat down upon her desk. "We'll make this work, you'll see," she assured me finally.
And I believed her, and felt comforted...though I also considered she might be well versed in the art of brainwashing. Then it hit me, and I asked, "Peahen?! What is a Peahen? I thought you were a Peacock!"
Madeleine laughed and nearly fell off of Achilles' Last Stand, "I'm a girl Peacock, silly--a Peahen! I never bothered correcting you before because I wasn't your gatekeeper before. Don't feel bad, it's a common mistake." And she typed away on her keyboard.
Just then Cousin Eddie the Raven zipped up to us in his remote control patrol jeep and tumbled out of its seat and rolled on to the ground. "Good sun greeting, guys!" Cousin Eddie cracked open yet another can of beer and tossed one to me. I looked at Madeleine before I cracked it open, wondering if she might protest this, but she said nothing. Cousin Eddie and I happily toasted and chugged our beers and tossed the empty cans into the little cart behind his remote control patrol jeep. It was nice to see that at least some things would remain the same around here.
Cousin Eddie updated Madeleine on the progress he'd made installing the surveillance cameras, and they both seemed pleased. Then he turned to me and asked, "I could use your help installing the master cam atop the crow's nest, if you don't mind, Kev?" Then he retrieved another can of beer and cracked it open as he continued, "It's a big, heavy camera. Pretty sweet though--and it's actually 4 cameras in one! Total 360 vision! And according to the manual that came with it, the camera can spot the veins of a leaf in high resolution from many miles away! Nice, huh?!" Then he finished off his beer and tossed the can into the cart.
I was genuinely impressed. Leave it to Cousin Eddie to make a surveillance state awesome and fun! "That is awesome, Cousin Eddie!" I finally replied, and added, "I think we should put on a Van Halen record and play it loudly, and finish rigging those cameras!" I winked at Madeleine and blew her a silly kiss, and chased after Cousin Eddie who had already disappeared into the brush in his remote control patrol jeep.
Life is pretty sweet.
I'm a lucky dude.
Thank you. All of you!
I love you.