I remember a time, not long after the day of that unfortunate lesson, when my dad made a chart of chores I could do throughout the week and earn an allowance. To be fair, it was a logical plan on my dad's part. Kids like money, right? But I wasn't always a very logical child. No, I chose instead to become a newspaper delivery boy. Somehow in my mind, I decided that getting up at 4 a.m. and delivering newspapers 7 days a week was better than cleaning the bathroom, vacuuming, taking out the trash, loading the dishwasher, etc. To this day, I'm not sure why I chose that path, but I'm glad that I did. It certainly paid much more than my dad was willing to pay me. I was even able to buy my own pair of blue suede Nike Diablo's (with the yellow swoosh & hexagon tread) at the mall, on top of always having access to arcade (Alladin's Castle) and mall nacho money. And I even remember proudly buying my first ever cassette tape (Scorpions' "Love At First Sting"), and, not long after that, my second cassette tape (Motley Crue's "Shout At The Devil"). Not long after that I figured out that I could have even more arcade and nacho money if I started "borrowing" my dad's cassettes. Enter Led Zeppelin, Boston, Deep Purple, and Yes. I never had to purchase my own Star Wars toys or K-Tel records and tapes, since that was what Christmas and birthdays were for.
These were the sort of things I was remembering as I stepped off my peaceful Persian rug and went to meet with my beautiful gatekeeper Madeleine, and Cousin Eddie, my soulmate Raven. I considered also that it's good to remember the time I spent on Earth...but also in moderation.
Madeleine seemed genuinely pleased to see me. "Happy sun-greeting, Mr. Kev! Are you finished doing absolutely nothing productive yet?"
I thought of my dad again, and smiled gently before answering, "Yes, beautiful gatekeeper, I think that I am. For now. And happy sun-greeting, Madeleine! I'll sign off on those garden gate activity logs now, if you like." She handed me the clipboard, and it took me longer than usual to sign off on the GGALs since the pages had divided and multiplied while I was busy doing absolutely nothing productive. I scanned over the pages to make sure there was nothing unusual on them. There wasn't. Mostly just shipments from Mitzy the Arctic Fox (mostly cases of canned beer for Cousin Eddie, but also spices and seasonings I assumed Madeleine was using for her kale chips) and ever less visits from forest fairies looking for Andrew. And homework packets for me that dear Caesar Emeritus had dropped off. My beautiful gatekeeper was crunching on kale chips as I was reading and signing, of course, and so I crunched on a couple of them too. They really weren't so bad. Then I saw an entry that said Caw Caw Carl had stopped by because he was having problems with the servers at the County Clerk's office. I had to ask Madeleine about that, of course.
"Oh yes, Mr. Kev, I'm glad you brought that up," she replied, "I need you to go fix the servers for Mr. Caw Caw, if you don't mind."
I replied sheepishly, "I don't mind, Madeleine, but you know I know very little about computers and servers. Wouldn't you be better suited for it? I could mind the gate for you for a bit while you're away."
"Yes, you're right, Mr. Kev, which is why I've printed out this server and router troubleshooting guide to help you," my beautiful gatekeeper answered, and continued, "Normally I would go fix Mr. Caw Caw's servers, but I can't...which brings me to another item on the next page of the clipboard: my old Yoga instructor is coming by, and I'll need some meditation time with him."
I flipped to the next page on the clipboard, and saw it. "Ahh, I see...Yogi Sugaldo Smada. What sort of critter is he? And will he be coming by regularly?" I asked.
Madeleine answered, "He's a monkey, Mr. Kev. A very nice one at that. And brilliant and gifted! I'm surprised you haven't heard of him; he's quite a famous author you know. And no, Mr. Kev, Sugaldo just happens to be passing through our forest this sun-greeting, so it's a rare opportunity to see him again. Which is why I need to embrace this opportunity."
"I don't mind at all, my beautiful gatekeeper, so long as he's not going to force ME to do Yoga too!" I replied. "And I'm also surprised I haven't heard of him if he's such a famous author. I've read lots of books from the Library Tree, you know. But his name doesn't even sound familiar."
Madeleine chuckled, "As I think about it, it makes sense you haven't heard of him. He mostly writes books about healthy living." Then my beautiful gatekeeper looked purposefully at my waistline again, and added, "His most famous book is 'The Urban Commuter's Guide To Healthy Living,' though 'Bypass The Bypasses' is also quite popular. Oh, and there's '42 Ways To Leave Your Blubber'! That's a good one too...I mean not for you, but for people that enjoy healthy living." I made sure Madeleine saw me roll my eyes at her little jab, and she continued, "And don't worry, Mr. Kev. Not only will Sugaldo Smada NOT make you do Yoga, it would actually be preferred that you and Cousin Eddie keep a good distance from us while my old Yogi is here, and that you make as little noise as possible, so as not to interrupt our meditations. If you don't mind, Mr. Kev, I mean."
I assured my beautiful gatekeeper that Cousin Eddie and I would do our best not to disturb them, and she thanked me. And I was off to attempt to fix Caw Caw Carl's server problem. Edwin the Bee looked at me curiously as I passed by and exited the garden gate, but He said nothing. And I only said, "Namaste. Or Namago, maybe. I love you, Edwin." He grumbled, and closed His eyes again peacefully upon His lotus flower.
Surprisingly, I was able to fix Caw Caw Carl's server problem very quickly, since the troubleshooting manual Madeleine printed out for me wisely suggested that I try unplugging the router and plugging it back in again before reading the rest of the manual. It actually took longer to exchange pleasant pleasantries with Caw Caw Carl and his imaginary friend Gemini Cricket than it did to get the County Clerk's office servers functioning again. Caw Caw and Gemini were doing quite well and enjoying their analog Sacred Garden simulation, it turned out. I truly enjoyed seeing that...though I couldn't see Gemini Cricket, of course!
Almost before I realized it, I was back inside my actual Sacred Garden again, and immediately noticed that Madeleine wasn't upon her desk, Achilles' Last Stand. This intrigued me, and brought out my inquisitive side. I mean, I knew she was somewhere in the Sacred Garden with Yogi Sugaldo Smada--I wasn't wondering about that at all. But it had occurred to me that I had never before had the opportunity to play around on her computer before--and her fancy surveillance equipment--that's what really intrigued me!
It all started out innocently enough. I sat down upon Achilles' Last Stand and started looking at folders on Madeleine's computer's desktop. Nothing unusual at all...just the sorts of folders I had expected to see. I did find her forum she had created to update the fairies on Andrew-related events in order to prevent them from disturbing my beautiful gatekeeper endlessly at the garden gate. I may have posted a thread or two to Madeleine's fairy forum that Madeleine may or may not have liked me posting. And someone (presumably a fairy) with the user name LuckyFluffles13 may or may not have responded to a thread with something along the lines of "Preach it, sister! Ale and cigarettes are sooo totes better than kale and Yoga!" And another forum user named Fabulubis666 may or may not have replied to another thread with something like "Hahahaha! If I had known kale gave you such bad gas, I would've started eating it a long time ago! #BreakLikeTheWind"
Then I decided to go into settings to see if the official garden server was still named "DrPenisOstrich," as my son Weasel had re-named it while he and my daughter Butterfly were here visiting on their break from the Starmappers' Academy. Happily, it still was. That brought my face and heart large and warm smiles. Such a good Weasel! For my tastes, anyway. And then, "almost" on accident, I found the controls for the surveillance system Madeleine had installed throughout my Sacred Garden [GARCOM, it's come to be known as in our beloved Xanadu Forest--yes, word of such anomalies spreads fast in our lands!] That's mostly when the trouble began.
It didn't take me long to figure out how to bring up the various controls for surveillance cameras and intercoms. I tinkered with the controls a bit, and even wished a good sun-greeting to Ptolemy and T-Yay who were discussing Billy Squier records in the Record Emporium. And I checked in with Caw Caw Carl and Gemini Cricket too. I told them I was learning how to be a gatekeeper too! And we all chuckled--via the GARCOM, of course. Then I scrolled through camera angles some more, and I found Cousin Eddie in the crow's nest, atop the Tree House. He was fidgeting with some sort of cylinder he had apparently just made out of beer cans. I decided to surprise my Raven soulmate via the intercom, speaking loudly, "Aarghh, me matey!" I rather enjoyed Cousin Eddie's look of surprise as I watched him on Madeleine's computer. I suddenly understood why Madeleine enjoyed the GARCOM so much. But that's also when the trouble FULLY began. For though I was attempting to speak only through the intercom atop the crow's nest, I had, in actuality, spoken through the overhead loudspeaker that sounds like a prison yard announcement. I saw my beautiful gatekeeper--on another camera angle--topple over from her meditative Yoga stance, and watched her albino peacock (peahen) feathers ruffle greatly upon her Yoga mat. I saw her instructor, Yogi Sugaldo Smado, help her to her feet, and encourage her to not be so easily distracted. He was indeed a handsome little monkey!
Had it stopped there, it really wouldn't have been much trouble. But ,since I'm always ME, it didn't. I did manage the sense to stop messing with my beautiful gatekeeper's computer. So I hopped down off of Achilles' Last Stand and relieved myself of all gatekeeper-type duties for the foreseeable future. But then Cousin Eddie arrived in his remote control patrol jeep. He tossed me a can of beer, and we chugged them down. And laughed. And he showed me the cylinder he had made out of beer cans. And we chugged another beer. The mysterious cylinder, it turns out, was a telescope he had made, and he was testing it out from the crow's nest. We both had a good laugh when we realized how unwittingly appropriate my pirate announcement over the loudspeaker was. And we chugged more beers. And a few more.
The events that followed get a bit foggy for me after that, but I remember that Cousin Eddie and I ended up inside the Tree House, rummaging through the treasure chest. We both laughed immensely when my soulmate Raven removed the key chain that was made of strips of leather from Mike Reno's pants. Then we chugged more canned beer and wondered what the single key attached to it was for. Cousin Eddie speculated it was a key to some very unlucky hotel room. And we laughed a lot and chugged. And I suggested it could have been the key to Don McLean's Chevy. And we laughed some more. And Chugged some more. I also recall that at some point, we managed to find eye patches and wooden swords, and decided to be Garden Pirates. The wooden swords, I would later learn, unhappily, were actually Nerf guns. And the eye patches, I would later learn, more unhappily still, were bits of fabric I had at some point decided to cut from my shirt. Cut from the wrongest of places, I should add. And they were secured over our eyes using rubber bands.
I remember almost nothing else of the rest of that particular sun-greeting, aside from lots of running around my Sacred Garden with Cousin Eddie and yelling things like, "Aargh, me booty!" And I eventually awoke peacefully upon my Persian rug, noticing that my entire Sacred Garden was littered with Nerf darts, and that there were holes cut into my shirt so that my nipples also greeted my cousin, the Sun. I promptly went back to sleep. Not so much that I needed more of it; but that I was not looking forward to hearing from my beautiful gatekeeper Madeleine. I didn't want to imagine what sort of vengeance Madeleine was going to unleash upon me for this. I really didn't. I fell back asleep to the sound of the soft and gentle laughter of my sister, The River. Beautiful beautiful.
Life is truly beautiful, beautiful.
Thank you, fabulouses!
Lovely of lovelies.
I love you.