lost time incident 10
Welcome, welcome, welcome. Another week has come and gone and so I’m sitting in front of a computer screen, typing away, not sure what is even going to go into this here newsletter. I hope there are words appearing underneath these words, from your perspective in the future.
What have we been up to. Ran into an old friend yesterday who’s sporting an Alfred E. Neuman look these days. When asked what happened to the missing Upper Left Central tooth that had vacated its traditional spot in his smile, he said “Entropy.”
We spent a bit of time thinking up interesting replacement. A transparent tooth, to leave the gap but stand as mute witness to the original loss, a ghost tooth haunting his upper gum plate. A tooth with an LED light inside. Blinking, rotating. A mood tooth. Is this smile sincere or not? Check the tooth color.
A tooth made of diamond. In case of a vehicular emergency, he could carve his way out through a sealed window, tooth first. A pneumatic tooth that, when activated, would handle all chewing duties on its own. It pays for itself with the effort saved.
We have the ideas. What we don’t have is a dental surgeon who shares our sense of adventure.
Also, I went through a dollar bin and picked up some old comics. You’ll see a couple of them below, as part of some weird selfies, serving as writing prompts.
once upon a time
“The one thing you must keep in mind, children,” said the old crone, “is that you must never go into the Woods of Eldermire after dark.” But they did anyway and it was fine.
There were two of them, the children, a boy and a girl. The girl found a magic stick that was quite good for hitting things with, and the woods were full of things to be hit. Spiders. Warlocks. A prince who was on an unrelated quest but had some antiquated thoughts about gender roles that he was entirely too free with during a conversation around a campfire.
The boy found a magic ticket that let him enter the Faery Realm whenever he wanted, allowing him to disappear from one place and come back in another. Unfortunately, each trek took six subjective months for him, and it only took a few encounters with danger before he ended up more closely resembling the girl’s father than her brother.
The old woman went into those woods all the time. She’s one to talk. She’s got a tent out there where she keeps her, uh, adult etchings. And dried herbs festoon lines strung between trees, but not a lot of cooking gets done, is what I’ve heard.
The real threat in the woods is the guy who owns them. He’s got the sort of contacts in local government that can help you avoid the sort of property taxes that ought to be levied on parcels like the Woods of Eldermire. When it rains out, this guy pays villagers to lay in the puddles that form in front of his house so he can keep his feet dry, walking on their backs, jingling a bag of coins. He once paid a shopkeeper he didn’t like to punch her own nose for him. That’s what I heard.
Anyway, one day, the boy– err, the magically-aged man and his sister exited the woods and came across the home of this rich forest owner. “Those woods weren’t a big deal at all,” said the sister, knocking the flowers off of plants with her stick. It hummed with every swing.
“Not sure why we were warned not to go in there,” said her brother, rubbing at his arthritic left elbow. It was going to rain soon, he thought. That elbow can always tell when the weather’s changing.
Oh, now I remember why they weren’t supposed to go in those woods. It’s because the old woman would sometimes become a dragon and she used to hide in the woods when that was happening. I should have mentioned that near the beginning of the story.
But you get it, right? You see where this is going.
The rich guy gets hit with a stick really hard at some point. The brother has to face off with an opossum that’s also an assassin? That the rich guy had on staff? And he drags the killer raccoon into the Faery Realm and their fight goes so long that the brother is effectively lost forever.
I should have mentioned that opossum assassin earlier, too. It’s great. Has a lot of attitude. Says things like, “Yeah, and I’m not a opossum that has learned the dark arts of murder!” Lot of sarcasm, that critter had.
Girl takes over the rich guy’s home. Villagers don’t have to lie in puddles anymore, save for once a year, because they go and create a holiday to celebrate their emancipation. And this is celebrated by recreating the whole “laying in puddles” activity. They could have made their holiday anything. Eaten cakes, run a race. Decorate trees, chase foreigners out of town. But nope. Laying in puddles to celebrate that they don’t have to lay in puddles anymore.
You can’t fight tradition.
going my way
We pulled over to pick up the hitchhiker because it was a lady and we were feeling generous. “You’re not a murderer, are you?” we asked as she climbed into the back seat.
“It’s difficult to say that having committed the act of murder makes you a murderer,” she said. “You don’t want to confuse an individual’s actions with a statement of primary identity. You probably mean to ask me: Have I murdered anyone?”
“Okay,” my wife said from the passenger seat. “Have you–”
“And even then, a more relevant question than ‘Have you murdered anyone?’ is ‘Do you intend to kill again?’ Or ‘Are you currently under any compulsion to murder?’ Or ‘Do you intend to murder us?'”
“These are all great points,” I said. “So do you–”
“How far are you going?” our hitchhiker asked.
“Not too much further, because who’s this, now?” I said, pulling over to pick up another hitchhiker. This one was a young man holding two signs. One of them said “Heading West” and the other said “I do not intend to murder you.”
As he slipped into the back seat, my wife turned around to face the back. “I wonder if we’re making too big a deal out of the concept of ‘intent.’ While you may not intend to murder someone, that still leaves a variety of unplanned violences, including manslaughters and whatnot that could even be accidental.”
We pulled over to pick up a hitchhiking police officer. She climbed into the back seat, her hand on her pistol.
We pulled over to pick up a hitchhiking trailer salesman, who convinced us on the spot that we ought to invest in a trailer. The trailer had sleep areas for five, a weak shower that ran off the car battery, a USB plug and inlaid speakers to play music, a shallow sink, and a restroom that we’d have to pump every few weeks. He explained all the features to us while we picked up a hitchhiking blues musician, a hitchhiking family of five who were fleeing religious persecution and a hitchhiking journalist who was covering the hitchhiking scene for a national magazine.
“Been hitchhiking long?” we asked the journalist and he gave a weary nod.
“There’s plenty of source material available,” he said, “don’t get me wrong. But it can be hard to get people to open up to being interviewed until you’ve gone through the whole ‘Are you going to murder me?’ song and dance. It gets tiring.”
“Sure,” said the police officer, “but the one time you forget to check: Bam. Murdered.”
“They can’t murder you if you ask ahead of time,” a gas station attendant told us while we refueled. Then he climbed into the trailer and was still in the shower when we crossed the state line.
By the time we hit the coast, there were thousands of us in a linked together train of vehicles, ropes and pulleys allowing hitchhikers to navigate from one vehicle to another down the line, swaying in baskets suspended above the asphalt. We had two kites trailing behind and a hitchhiking monkey that would run supplies up to the fliers, who otherwise earned their keep letting us know about speed traps.
Nobody got murdered. We all asked the right questions.
But nobody thought to ask us what we were going to do when we hit the sea.
ending theme song
Last week’s Daredevil giveaway must have worked. I checked the link yesterday and it was claimed. So that’s a success. If you grabbed it and you like it, let me know.
Amanda and I have got a pile of postcards we’ve been drawing/writing on that are going to need new homes in the near future and I’d like to turn that into a benefit of membership. Friends of ours have received mail from us for years, but there are a few of you subscribers that I know for a fact I don’t have mailing addresses for. So if you want to be guaranteed of getting something in the mail every once in awhile as a side benefit for signing up for this nonsense, not to mention giving me the motivation to keep writing something, then please reply to this email with your current address.
Speaking of Amanda, she drew the missing tooth replacement illustrations. Pretty sweet, right?
What else. I think I’m going to put this newsletter down and hop on the Xbox. I’ve been spending time recently embodying some quasi-military oddball who’s been tasked with walking around a plague-ridden New York City in THE DIVISION recently. In this game, a highly infectious disease has swept through NYC, killing thousands– or millions– and everything’s in free fall. It’s post-Christmas, so the streets have decorations up, but not enough to maintain cheer in the face of mountains of garbage, abandoned vehicles, subways converted to body storage, and the sight of guys in hazmat suits trying to burn alive anyone they think might still be infected.
But it’s beautiful. I spend a lot of my time just walking the streets, admiring the play of light on snow, or the feeling of being lost in fog. I look around abandoned apartments and imagine the lives that were lived there. I’m basically a tourist, converting a game that’s supposed to be run-and-gun into a walking simulator, enjoying having the streets mostly to myself.
Or occasionally handing an energy bar or a bottled water to a civilian in need. Santa Claus with a virus-protection mask.
That’s where you’ll find me.
At least until next week.
–Michael Van Vleet