I started noticing that I was becoming more responsible and even somewhat productive in some ways...without making any conscious effort to do so. I had been signing off on Madeleine's Garden Gate Activity Logs regularly with no argument or displeasure at all. And I had been doing more and more of dear Caesar's Xanaduvian language homework packets myself, instead of having Caw Caw Carl, my assistant to the assistant County Clerk, do them for me. Learning more and more of the Xanaduvian language had made me more conscious of and fascinated with the rich history and culture our blessed lands hold within them. And, more and more, how I was very much a central figure in it all without ever imagining that. What a season it has been!
On a particular sun-greeting, I found myself at Madeleine's desk (Achilles' Last Stand we call it, for the benefit of new readers), pleasantly signing off on the Garden Gate Activity Logs. My beautiful gatekeeper didn't even have to message me on my modified Casio calculator watch, or ask me to do it! I just arrived near the garden gate and started doing it happily. I noticed there were quite a few fairies visiting the garden gate again lately, looking for updates on Andrew...or perhaps--Olympus willing--hoping to be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of him somehow. I decided to ask Madeleine about the recent increase in fairy visitations.
"Happy, sun-greeting Kev. Yes! I'm glad you brought that up. I've been meaning to ask you to help me with that," my beautiful gatekeeper said.
I replied by asking Madeleine, "But I thought the online forum you had created for them had solved the problem?"
And Madeleine replied, "Yes. It has, mostly. But I've been running short on Andrew things to post there lately that they haven't already seen. Or heard. I swear, Kev, these fairies are nothing short of ravenous when it comes to Andrew! That secret song of his you gave me to post the other sun-greeting held them off for a while--they loved it. But now they want more. So do you have some other things I could start posting in the forum?"
"Sure," I answered gladly, "I have lots of stuff. All sorts of pics they've never seen of him. And his secret songs they've never heard. Maybe even some of his writings. I can go put some things together for you now if you like."
"Thank you so much, Kev, yes, that would be very helpful," Madeleine said in a most proper and gatekeeper-ly and way. Just as I was turning to walk back to the Persian rug and gather some Andrew material, however, a paper airplane came zipping across my Sacred Garden out of nowhere, struck Madeleine on the side of the head, and fell onto her keyboard. Madeleine picked it up and began to unfold it for examination. And she gestured for me to come sit down next to her upon Achilles' Last Stand. I chuckled as I approached her desk, knowing for sure it had to have come from Andrew.
"A gift from the child of Olympus himself, I imagine!" I exclaimed to Madeleine, as I sat down and stole a kale chip from a little bowl that was sitting on her desk next to the computer. It was indeed from Andrew! I looked around, but there was no sign of him anywhere in my Sacred Garden. Upon the inside of the paper airplane was an elaborate drawing of a "333" surrounded by stars and random designs...all drawn in purple ink. Beneath the drawing was a neatly-written message that read:
"My dearest and most fabulous fairy lovelies,
Worry not! You shall find me soon at Fabupalooza in your glorious land of Lustra! Bring your glitter
and dust, for the air will be thick with glamour and gentle grooves. And please, dear lovelies, let
beautiful Madeleine do her work! Mwah!
Andrew of Olympus"
And beneath Andrew's elaborate signature were glittery purple, perfect lip-prints. My beautiful gatekeeper wasted no time in scanning the paper airplane and posting the image of it to her online forum. Then Madeleine laughed, and said, "This is wonderful, haha! The forum is exploding; they're eating it up, haha! I hope they don't crash the server! I have no idea what this Fabupalooza thing is, but obviously they love it.' Then Madeleine asked me, "Have you heard of Fabupalooza?"
I shrugged my shoulders, and shook my head gently, "No, I've never heard of it. Knowing Andrew as I do, it's hard to say. I mean some sort of concert, I'm sure, but other than that I've got no idea."
Madeleine was nonchalant--but visibly pleased--as she concluded, "Well whatever works, works. If they're happy and stop showing up at our garden gate in droves, then I am doubly happy." And I saw her type some replies to fairies that were replying to the paper airplane posting.
By then, my soulmate, Cousin Eddie, had strolled up to Achilles' Last Stand and tossed me a can of beer while he chugged one down himself. "Drink up, Kev, I need more cans. I want to get my remote control boat finished soon." [For new readers, Cousin Eddie builds all sorts of things out of empty beer cans]
I asked Cousin Eddie, "A remote control boat? What do you need that for? You already have a jeep and a helicopter."
Cousin Eddie cracked open another can of beer and replied, "Yeah, but I don't have a boat. Boats are cool, you know. You get to be a captain that way. Besides, we have the Pond of Fanciness that we hardly ever use anymore, so I thought it would be fun. But I ran out of empties. So drink up, Mr. Kev!" And he tossed me another can of beer.
I couldn't come up with a good way to argue Cousin Eddie's logic, so I simply moved on and told him about the paper airplane from Andrew and asked him if he knew what Fabupalooza was. He hadn't heard of it either, but suggested it sounded like some sort of fairy thing. Then he told me again that he needed a bunch more cans, and suggested we play a board game to pass the sun-greeting while we emptied them. Specifically, he suggested the game SORRY!: Board Conquest.
My beautiful gatekeeper Madeleine jumped into the conversation then with, "Oh! I've heard of SORRY! I even know how to play that one! I think. What's the board conquest thing about though?" she asked both Cousin Eddie and I.
Cousin Eddie explained, "Oh, cool, Madeleine! Yes, of course you can play too! If you know how to play SORRY! it's basically the same. Same cards, same board, same game pieces. You just have to get your game pieces to different homes is all. I'll go get the game," Cousin Eddie continued, you two meet me at the Persian rug and pick out some records to play."
Madeleine hopped off of Achilles' Last Stand enthusiastically and exclaimed, "Yes! Sweet! We'll meet you there. This will be fun! And I'll bring the kale chips...I just made a fresh batch of sour cream & onion." And Cousin Eddie zipped off into the brush in his remote control patrol jeep. I retrieved a bag of caramel corn from underneath Madeleine's desk, and her and I made our way slowly to my Persian rug.
As Madeleine I walked slowly and peacefully, I explained, "The main difference in Board Conquest is that you have to get your game pieces in each of the 4 colored homes on the board instead of just your own color. One game piece in each of the 4 colored homes. So it's like you're conquering all the other colors in the game. That's the conquest. But you start the same as regular SORRY!...with all 4 of your game pieces in your own colored start. All the same rules from regular SORRY! apply." I paused my explanation to be sure this made sense to Madeleine. Not that I doubted her intellect, of course, for my beautiful gatekeeper is quite brilliant and perceptive. And, in a practical sense, at the very least, she is much smarter than myself! She acknowledged that it all made sense to her so far, so I continued, "But there is a catch, of course. There can only ever be one game piece in a colored home. That's where the dice come in."
This intrigued my beautiful gatekeeper greatly. "Dice?" she asked.
"Yes," I continued, "Dice. See, once you've entered a colored safety zone and draw the right card that gets you into the home...if another player's game piece is already in there you have to invade them. As the invader, you roll two dice and add the number. But the defender that was already there gets to roll 3 dice and add the total. See, they have the strategic battle advantage because they've already occupied it. The higher number occupies the colored home of course. The conquered piece returns to its color's start."
Madeleine seemed to really enjoy this variation. "You and Cousin Eddie are so silly and clever," she said, and added, "I love it! But I can imagine this game taking a long time to finish."
"Oh, yes indeed," I replied, "But thankfully we don't keep time in our beloved Xanadu Forest, so we technically have forever to finish the game if it were ever needed. Eternity hasn't been needed so far in games we've played in the past. Plus we never run out of beer! Cousin Eddie will have more than enough empty cans to finish multiple remote control boats even!"
"I see," Madeleine chuckled, and she started thumbing through record albums, since we were now upon my Persian rug awaiting Cousin Eddie. And she added, "Yep. Sounds perfectly like you guys haha! I have to say, I'm really enjoying being your gatekeeper. This is a truly wonderful place to live." Without asking permission, Madeleine slid a U2 record out of its sleeve and began playing it on my turntable. A bold move by her, indeed! But I wasn't upset or even annoyed really. Just surprised, you know. She was definitely feeling at home here in my Sacred Garden. And that was a very, very nice thing for all of us.
I thanked her for her kind words and told her what a pleasure it's been having here in my Sacred Garden. And how great a job she was doing as my beautiful gatekeeper. Then I remembered a SORRY!: Board Conquest variation I had neglected to tell her: "And I almost forgot! The colored home that matches your game piece always gives you the home advantage, even if someone else already occupies that colored home. So even if you are invading, YOU get to roll 3 dice while the defender only gets to roll 2. But only when it's your color."
"Got it!" Madeleine confirmed, and by then Cousin Eddie had arrived and was setting up the game board. Cousin Eddie commented to Madeleine that he liked her choice in the record album. And they talked about U2 while I arranged our snacks, and claimed the green SORRY! game pieces for myself. The game went smoothly, once we finally got it going. And we were all three of us truly enjoying this lovely bonding period. It was so comforting to all of us, I could feel. For the next album, I chose Gerry Rafferty's City To City LP. Neither Cousin Eddie nor Madeleine commented on my choice. After that, Cousin Eddie chose to play Van Halen's Diver Down. And I made it a point to discuss Van Halen with him for a bit, knowing my beautiful gatekeeper knew very little about them. And the game went on. And on. Kale chips and caramel corn were devoured, and a pile of empty beer cans was growing. Both Cousin Eddie and I offered a can of beer to Madeleine multiple times, but she politely refused every time.
Then Madeleine REALLY surprised me when she finally said, "I don't like canned beer typically, but a bit of wine actually sounds good right now. I'll be right back" And my beautiful gatekeeper excused herself, and disappeared into the brush. By the time she returned, it was time for us all to say goodnight to my cousin the Sun, and to greet my cousin the Moon. And so we all did, happily. And that's when she shocked me: Madeleine uncorked a large bottle of wine, held it high into the air with her mighty white wing, and shouted, "Cheers!"
Surprised, but happily so, Cousin Eddie and I raised our cans of beer into the night sky and harmonized, "Cheers!" Then we both watched in wonder as Madeleine, my beautiful gatekeeper started chugging wine straight from the bottle. "Nice!" I thought. And also "Badass!" Then I smiled, realizing what a breakthrough moment this was in our bonding...and, with suspicion, said to my beautiful gatekeeper, "I never knew we had any wine in my Sacred Garden."
Madeleine laughed, and chugged more wine, "There's lots you don't know, Kev, haha!" Then drew her SORRY! card, entered my colored home, invaded, and rolled her dice. And I rolled mine. And she won the battle. And conquered my home color! But she hadn't won the war, I reminded her. And we all three laughed and imbibed and the game went on and on. And many records continued to be played throughout the moon-greeting.
At one point, out of the blue, my soulmate Cousin Eddie the Raven caught me off-guard and decided to ask me about the glitter bulbs we had planted along the pathway down to my sister the River so long ago. He thought they might have bloomed by now, and wondered that they hadn't. I invaded Madeleine's home color, and rolled my dice. And she rolled hers. And I won! I conquered my beautiful gatekeeper's home color! Feeling bold, I finally replied to Cousin Eddie, "How many of the glitter blooms would you like to see?"
A bit perplexed, Cousin Eddie shrugged his wings, but finally answered, "How about all of them. I don't remember how many we planted."
I winked at both he and Madeleine and said, "Watch this!" I meditated quickly, and one by one, the glitter bulbs bloomed, and shined, and lit up a very large part of my Sacred Garden. I made 4 of them sparkle and glow green to match my SORRY! game pieces. And I made 4 of them sparkle and glow red to match Cousin Eddie's SORRY! game pieces. Then I made 4 of them sparkle and glow blue to match Madeleine's SORRY! game pieces. Cousin Eddie and Madeleine clapped their wings and began a lovely toast. A toast that was only for the 3 of us. A beautiful, most memorable toast I'll not share here.
Life is beautiful beautiful.
Thank you all for joining me on this journey.
I love you.
Lovely of lovelies.