Once my lovely cousin the moon shone brilliantly upon Zoe's gown, I welcomed it graciously, and blew it a kiss. Yes, gratitude began to dominate my thoughts once again, and I was grateful for that. I was indeed a lucky dude. I began to remove my boots so I could dip my toes into my sister's warm, timeless flow, and suddenly I heard Madeleine's voice blaring from an overhead loudspeaker I could neither see, nor even knew existed, "Kev, please report to the garden gate. Guest waiting. Kev, please report to the garden gate. Guest waiting!" My heart's first response was to wonder whether it felt more like I was in a department store, or in a woodsy penitentiary. Either way, my peaceful moment had been shattered, and I sighed and began marching toward the garden gate at a furious pace. Yes, this I must resist! Boss and beautiful gatekeeper she may be, but now she had interrupted peaceful communion with my sister, and I was going to let her have it! I decided halfway to the garden gate that it felt more like a woodsy penitentiary.
As Madeleine, seated upon Achilles' Last Stand, of course, came into view, I filled my lungs with as much air as they could hold with the intention of releasing it all in the form of many loud and unpleasant words. But before the words formed, an old friend came into view next to the garden gate, and my words, though loud, became pleasant ones, "Holy crap! T-Yay!" I ran straight at him and fell into his kind embrace. "I thought you were never coming back!" my breath finally concluded. T-Yay nonchalantly explained he had been recruited to manage the opening of a new record shop in Lustra (Land of the fairies), and that it took much longer than he anticipated to get them set up. But he was glad to be back now. [T-Yay, for new readers, is a black Labrador retriever who wears a brown leather cabbie hat, and has a matching brown leather record satchel always slung over his shoulder. And Skittles. T-Yay always has Skittles with him. T-Yay is the greatest record hunter in all of Interterrestria, and proprietor of the Record Emporium that lies just north of my sacred garden. And he is a good friend] I placed my hand upon T-Yay's shoulder and guided him toward Madeleine's desk with the intention of introducing the two of them.
My introduction never happened, however, because my beautiful gatekeeper (who I suddenly remembered I was angry with and still needed to rebuke) interrupted by saying, "You don't need to introduce us, Kev. I'm the one that paged you, remember? Besides, handsome T-Yay and I spoke at length while he waited so patiently for you to arrive at the gate. We had a lovely discussion about U2's discography, and he even told me that we have almost all of their records here in the Record Emporium...you know, that place where you and my uncle hid your makeup and costumes from me?" I glared subtly and Madeleine, and held in any words I might have had for her just that moment. If our wonderful guest T-Yay had noticed the awkward tension, he didn't let on.
By then, Cousin Eddie had strolled into our conversation and began telling of the time his old band opened for U2. From when Bono was just a boy. His story surprised both T-Yay and Madeleine, but not me. I hadn't heard this specific story from Cousin Eddie before, but I had heard many like it from my garden soulmate, and there wasn't a doubt in my mind of its truth and accuracy. You see, Cousin Eddie's full name is Eddie Van Raven, and he was once a brilliant guitarist in a touring rock band he formed with his brother Alex, and two of their friends, David Lee Thoth and Mike the Chimpanzee. How Cousin Eddie abandoned the rock star life and came to dwell permanently in my sacred garden as my eventual soulmate is a story that may be worth telling in another chapter sometime, no? *note to self*
I was beginning to feel like an outsider as the three of them bantered on pleasantly and I looked on. But Cousin Eddie, ever my soulmate, read my heart perfectly and removed two cans of beer from his remote control jeep, and tossed one to me. And he winked and nodded to me knowingly, while cracking open his beer and holding it up as if to toast. I followed suit, of course, and particularly enjoyed chugging down that particular can of beer. I was waiting for my beautiful gatekeeper to say something snide so I had an excuse to unleash my inner repressed resistance upon her, but she was far too clever to take the bait. If she noticed my eyes burning laser images into the back of her head, she didn't let on. She would probably see it on one of her surveillance cameras anyway, I imagined, and the rebellious part of me hoped she would! Cousin Eddie and I crinkled up our empty beer cans and tossed them into the the little cart behind the remote control patrol jeep in unison as if we had rehearsed it. The small and silent victories, you know!
I decided then that I wanted some alone time with T-Yay, and thought of an excellent excuse. I politely asked T-Yay to wait there for a moment while I retrieved something from the Persian rug, and told him that after I returned, we were going on a walk through the forest so that he could meet a couple more new friends. Madeleine reminded me that we had already broken the "no-guests-in-my-sacred-garden rule" that was still in effect, and I glared visibly at her and dashed off into the brush. In my beautiful gatekeeper's defense, I can't pin that one on her: the no guests rule was my own, not hers. She was only reminding me, which was actually a good thing for her to do. I returned shortly thereafter, completed homework packet from Caesar Emeritus in hand, and I wasted no time placing my hand upon T-Yay's shoulder once again and guiding him toward the garden gate.
Cousin Eddie stopped T-Yay and I just before we exited the garden, and insisted on stuffing a few slices of pumpernickel into T-Yay's record satchel, thinking it might come in handy later on since pumpernickel was still officially the current currency of the Xanadu Forest. T-Yay and I thanked Cousin Eddie, and I said "I love you" to Edwin the Bee and blew Him a kiss as we exited my sacred garden. Edwin groaned and sighed.
Shortly thereafter, as T-Yay and I were passing the Record Emporium, I told him about Ptolemy the gentle Boxer who was living there now, and was the purveyor of the ever more popular Ptolemy-Ce Cream, and I assured T-Yay all the record albums were still properly in their places upon the racks--except for the ones Cousin Eddie and I had taken to the Persian rug--and that he and Ptolemy would make excellent roommates. T-Yay nodded pleasantly, as if it say "Nice." It was a much longer walk to the Library Tree near the center of our Xanadu Forest, which was perfect since I had so much information to update T-Yay with. As I shared with him just how much had been turned upside down and inside out both inside my sacred garden and the forest as a whole, it was fascinating to see how calm he remained. He mostly just kept saying, "Nice," and one time he even said, "Nice, nice." It was a bit of an epiphany for me to see how it was possible for someone to remain so unfazed with all these changes that had so easily overwhelmed me when I learned of them. I suddenly realized that I stood to learn a thing or two from T-Yay, the record hunter.
When we finally reached and entered the Library Tree, dear Caesar Emeritus the Baloo-eyed Akita AND Ptolemy the gentle Boxer were genuinely happy to see us, and welcomed T-Yay most warmly. They were having tea and discussing the pleasant pleasantries of Lemmington, it seemed, until T-Yay and I arrived. Their introduction was short and to the point, as is common among canine, folk (And no--for any readers that may wonder--We Xanaduvian residents are more refined-in many respects-than your earthly counterparts, and not a single butt was sniffed!)
I hopped onto the Love Seat near the center of the Library Tree, sat cross-legged, and patted my hand in the hopes my canine friends would join me. They happily did. I handed dear Caesar my completed homework packet, and we all watched with anticipation as he skimmed through it. "Hmm," he finally said, and continued, "Ahh. Yes! Of course. Excellent work, Kev. I knew you could shed some light on this."
The three dogs must have anticipated my upcoming monologue, for they all nuzzled close to me and gave me their undivided attention.
"You see, I began, it IS a treasure map, as dear Caesar wisely surmised, but it is also a song. That part he couldn't have known, of course, though T-Yay here will know it well, of course! It is a song by Donovan, who has been known to wander Interterrestria from time to time, though I've never met him myself, and he's never been to my sacred garden. The song is called 'Skip-Along Sam."
At that, T-Yay pricked up his ears and proudly exclaimed that we have that very song on multiple records inside the Record Emporium. He didn't know it was a treasure map, however, and, truth be told, I didn't know either until completing the homework packet dear Caesar Emeritus had given me. Ptolemy added that he too knew the song well, but was unaware it was inside the very place he was living! At that point Ptolemy and T-Yay began discussing what great roommates they will be, and even how the combination of Ptolemy-Ce Cream and record albums is sure to be a tremendous draw for residents throughout Interterrestria...and perhaps beyond! It's well known that canines often have short attention spans, but gratefully dear Caesar Emeritus was an exception, and he politely reminded T-Yay and Ptolemy that they were digressing. I was glad dear Caesar did so, for I couldn't find it in my heart to interrupt them, but also felt we were quickly losing our place in the story. I could feel dear Caesar bursting to hear more, just as I was bursting to tell more. So the three dogs re-nuzzled next to me, and I continued:
"I'm familiar with every single place Donovan references in his song map, though he mistranslated some of it. His inaccurate translation is what was causing dear Caesar confusion, in fact. You see, dear Caesar believed he was translating an original Xanaduvian Dead Tree scroll, but he was actually translating Donovan's song--a MIS-translation of the Xanaduvian Dead Tree scrolls. This is clear by Donovan's mention of Honeycomb Hill. Honeycomb Hill should properly be translated as 'Dew Mound', atop which, rests the cottage of King Midas LeBottom, the dragon slayer. And before dear Caesar begins thinking I'm making leaps and bounds in my studies of the ancient Xanaduvian tongue (I'm still just a babe, in this respect--and perhaps others), I must admit that I was only able to decipher this because I have been to Dew Mound, and King Midas LeBottom is a friend of my sacred garden. That much information alone was enough for me to determine two things: 1.Donovan has met with King Midas LeBottom at some point, and 2.King Midas LeBottom intentionally misguided Donovan so that the sacred diamond in Donovan's treasure map song would never be found. I'm very grateful for that, in fact, since had the good King not misdirected him, Donovan would likely have found and stolen the sacred diamond. You see, that diamond is very special to me. It was buried in a secret place by Andrew...yes, OUR beloved Andrew of Olympus. And I know exactly where it is, but I would never speak of it. Let's just say Donovan was never anywhere near it, and never will be. Perhaps someday we should go to Dew Mound and thank King Midas LeBottom in person?"
My question to the three dogs was meant to be a test to see if they were still awake, for their heads were now resting silently down upon their paws, and only gentle breaths could be heard from them. Somewhat to my surprise, all three canines quickly replied that yes indeed we must make the journey there sometime--almost in harmony. I considered silently that I might be getting better at telling my stories. Then dear Caesar Emeritus interrupted my brief and egocentric thought and asked me about the secret door mentioned in Donovan's song.
"Yes, I know the secret door, and it doesn't go to the earth's deep core, as Donovan mis-translated, but it does go to a deep, dark place beneath Mt. Nol. And no, I would never take any of you there...and I would never again go there even myself, unless there were no other choice."
That moment, I became aware of just how many stories there were to tell them, and I suggested I tell them more as we properly celebrated T-Yay's happy return by finishing the moon greeting at the Sacred Pub over some Minute Meads. The three dogs apparently agreed, since--just as I was finishing my sentence--they jumped up and off of the Love Seat, and their tails wagged in rapid succession. I too jumped up and off of the Love Seat...and stuck the landing! Then, before we left the Library Tree, I suggested we stop by my sacred garden briefly to invite Cousin Eddie along, as I knew my soulmate would want to be part of this festive occasion.
From just above dear Caesar Emeritus' desk I heard the blaring voice of my beautiful gatekeeper again, "You guys can just go there. I'll let Cousin Eddie know. I'm sure he'll be happy to meet you there."
Madeleine was not upon dear Caesar's desk of course, but it was another intrusive intercom. My face turned marquee red as I stomped over to the speaker and shouted, "Madeleine! Have we no privacy in our forest any more at all?!!!" Dear Caesar rushed up behind me, apologizing quietly that he had neglected to tell me about the recently installed intercom.
Madeleine replied, "I'm sorry, Kev. I thought it would be efficient and convenient for you. If you want privacy, you need only turn the switch to 'Off.'"
I drew closer to the intercom speaker above dear Caesar's desk, and examined it more closely. Ptolemy and T-Yay examined it along with me and confirmed there were no buttons or switches upon it at all. My voiced still raised, and face still marquee red, I replied, "Um, there's no off switch or buttons of any kind here, Madeleine!"
I was sure I heard a soft Albino Pearhen chuckle right before Madeleine responded, "Of course not, silly. The switch is here at Achilles' Last Stand. Would you like me to switch it off now, Kev?"
I wanted to say so much more, of course, but I made do with a loud "Yes, please, and thank you! 10-4! KeV out!" Then I whispered to the three dogs that apparently we'd have to whisper our conversations from here on out.
"I heard that!" Madeleine blurted out through the GARCOM. Before I could shout back at her again, she spoke, "Just kidding, Kev. I didn't hear anything, I just know you well enough to know you were going to whisper some sort of snide remark to your friends. You boys have a lovely moon greeting at the Sacred Pub. And Cousin Eddie is already on his way. 10-4! Beautiful gatekeeper out!"
And, truth be told, we DID have a lovely moon greeting at the Sacred Pub. Myself, three dogs, and my soulmate, Cousin Eddie. Gratitude. Yes, sweet gratitude.
Thank you, all of you.
I love you, all of you.
Lovely of lovelies!