Disvillage Story 7 – Red, White, and Blue

It was that time of year again – hot during the day and cold during the night.  Michael lay on his futon in his underwear.  He was a tighty-whitey guy.  The heat and sweat had made the gathering around his legs loose and it seemed that every time he moved his underwear slid uncomfortably up his ass cheek giving him a wedgy.  He thought about getting up and doing some chores as he adjusted his underwear for the umpteenth time, but he was sad today and his body felt heavy, so heavy he could hardly move.  Some Saturdays were about staying in bed.  

Michael was micro living in the attic of an old house whose inspiration was a southern plantation. These had probably been imagined as slaves’ quarters, he mused, perhaps they had been for a nanny.  The apartment consisted of four rooms – four rooms crammed into four hundred square feet of an apartment.  Michael did his best to make poverty look fashionable and he was grateful that his occasional guests thought of his pad as cool.  However; no insulation and single pane windows (that did not always shut completely) kept the apartment freezing in winter and sweltering in summer.        

He had bought the plastic, tape, and heat gun necessary to insulate the windows.  But it was a meticulous job he wasn’t feeling up to. He thought about calling up Dulcinea and seeing if she wanted to go to yoga, but sometimes yoga (oddly enough) put him in a bad mood.  Thoughts of Dulcinea gave him a wedgy in a different direction and he rolled on his back.

Later he found his way out of bed and into a bath.  The apartment didn’t have a shower as there wasn’t room for one due to the sloping ceilings.  Most of the apartment wasn’t even useful as the ceiling sloped to 4 feet of wainscoting. He was forever bumping his head. The bath was wedged in an acute angle of wall and corner – four feet past a dormer window.  If the toilet and bath could switch places, there would have been room for him to stand showering while looking out onto treetops.    

He was a shower guy and it had been a challenge to relearn how to clean himself.  Now he had come to find a bath as a guilty pleasure.  He waited until his little plastic rubber temperature duckie reached 105 and then got in the tub.  A little porcelain pitcher and sponge helped him rain water on himself.  He had found it was a very relaxing way to get clean.

Cleaning was done. His body was scrubbed, and his hair was rinsed.  He lay lethargically in tepid water.  He found his thoughts returning to Dulcinea.  Had they really been naked together in this very tub three days ago? Why did pleasure always seem to be so temporary while this pain in his heart seemed so constant.        

Dulcinea, he mused, the town witch.  She certainly was magical.  And, she certainly had him under her spell.  It had amused him to find out that this was how she was referred to in town after they first met – the town witch.  A co-volunteer he was working with at the respite center for the homeless had been impressed by his casual conversation with Dulcinea.  “Chatting up the town witch, handsome?” he had asked.  Michael had laughed back and asked, “what makes her the town witch?”.  

As far as he could tell it had something to do with her always wearing black when she first arrived in town and the fact that her one piece of jewelry had been a necklace of quartz crystal wrapped in silver wire.  That had been enough in this town to have her “burned at the proverbial stake”. 

She was remarkably comfortable to be around, and they had found so much stuff to talk about.  One conversation flowed into the next effortlessly. They never ran out of things to say to each other and things to ask each other.  They could discuss scientific books and wonder at their meaning then revert to playful imaginings – abstracting the science, telling each other wild stories trying to make the other guess if they were true.  

One time after church Dulcinea had turned to him and told him that she had a dream a few weeks ago where she had been humming a song that she had heard in this church.  She said she had woken up singing it and had sang it for an hour until her mind had been caught up by something else.  It must have been an hour later, she said, that when she tried to remember the song again, she had completely forgotten it. She had been listening in church for the congregation to sing it again but so far they had not.  “I think maybe I never heard it here,” she confided.  “I think it must be a song from Fairy.  They don’t let you remember everything you know,” she continued.  “And even when they do let you keep a memory, it’s no guarantee they will let you have it forever,” she sighed wistfully.  

Michael loved these flights of fantasy.  He wasn’t even sure it was a lie.  Maybe she did visit Fairy.  He knew from experience that time occasionally ran different for him – faster sometimes, slower others.  Sometimes he even thought he could feel the presence of things that weren’t there – like the evil presence near the train tracks.  He had meant it playfully when he mentioned it to her at dinner when she had spoken of her dark cloud.

“On the path near the train tracks?” he had inquired.  “Why would you say that?” she had asked.  He had taken her hand reassuringly and then the waiter had arrived and they both let the moment pass – like the moment had been stolen from them by Fairy.  That night had been their first intimate night together.  And later, a bath.  It was as he was sponging water onto her back that she began to talk to him of the serial killer that the town did not have.       

She became the first person he shared with about why he was here.  That he was looking for answers about his best friend Presley.  He had died here.  It had been ruled a suicide.  He had been lying on the tracks and had been hit by a train.  Dulcinea reclined into him and reached back to stroke Michael’s hair as they lay still in the tub.  They could almost hear each other’s thoughts.  A coincidence that they should both meet?      

Much like Dulcinea, Presley was otherworldly.  And like Dulcinea, they could spend hours and hours talking and talking.  They had worked together as Mounties on the Canadian border.  They had spent a lot of time in remote areas staying in rarely used cabins as they patrolled the boundary between Canada and the US.  Presley had been perfect in so many ways.  His clothes were always ironed, and his bed was always made.  He was someone you would describe as “type A” personality. Presley could talk to anyone.  Whenever they came to a town, Presley would know everyone by the time they left.  He had a gift of gab and comradery that Michael envied.  Isolation, video games, and semi nudity had provided the perfect environment for the blooming of their bromance.  

The little apartment reminded him of the cabins that they had stayed in.  His time with Dulcinea reminded him of the times they spent together. 

Their intimacy had scared Michael even as he hungered for it and he had been terrified he was turning homosexual – maybe this is why he had never really had a connection with a woman. One night they had gotten drunk and horse play had led to caressing and kissing.  To Michael’s dismay It had grossed him out.  He had even thought he was going to vomit.  It had just seemed so – against God’s plan.  He had laughing pushed Presley away saying “well, that was a mistake.”  At the same time he said this Presley said “I love you”.   

They spent the rest of the winter coming out of the closet to each other.  Michael as a straight man and Presley as a gay one.  Presley explained that Michaels reaction to him was exactly what he experienced when he tried to be intimate with women.  Michael in turn confessed that sex with women had come easy to him and he enjoyed it tremendously, but he had never been in love. He had never enjoyed the easy way he had of being with Presley with a woman.  “I love you dude.  And I always wished for someone to love me like you do.  I wish I could love you back in the same way.”

They both agreed to put in for different partners after their winter patrol.  At the time it had seemed for the best, but Michael had always wondered if they should have found a different way.  With no role models of their own, maybe they could have explored being role models for someone else.  

They had promised to keep in touch but then Presley had found a boyfriend – of course he had.  They had lost track of each other for a few years and Michael had been surprised to find out (from someone they had both worked with) that Presley had slipped into depression and mental illness and then drugs (or maybe it was the other way around).  A year later he ran into their mutual friend again and had discovered that Presley was dead – last seen in this American town on the west coast.  

That’s why he was here. To find out what had happened to his best friend – the only person he had ever loved.  Presley had brought him here, he thought as he got out of the tub and into a towel.  Presley had brought him to Dulcinea.  It was a sudden flash of insight – his old love was introducing his new.  

Disvillage Story 6 – Dulcinea “The Mother”

Her head moved to a position that her ears thought made them hear better and listened for a train.  No train appeared to be coming.  What had caused this unexpected wave of emotion? She didn’t know.  The overwhelming sensation had abated, but the feeling of horror clung to her.  It was not terror, but horror.  It was not a feeling she felt often.  It overwhelmed her and upset her.  It was the second time she had felt it at this spot on the trail that ran along the train track she used as a short cut between her house and her brothers.  She picked up her daughter Tabitha, who had started crying.  

“What is that mommy?”

Dulcinea looked at her daughter. Her heart tightened and a little tear escaped her eye.  Tabitha had felt it too.  Yesterday she had thought she had made it up.  Now she wasn’t so sure.  She looked around.  It was quiet. There was no train.  No birds either.  No rabbits or squirrels rustling in the bush.  The feeling of being watched made her grab her daughter tighter and hurry on.  Running seemed pointless as anywhere to run was to far.  It seemed best to pretend that nothing was happening – to discourage a confrontation.

“It was just a stick, baby. I thought it was a snake too.” She said aloud, inventing a reason to be upset.  Miraculously, Tabitha said nothing and stuck her finger in her mouth.  As she walked away, the feeling left her.  Maybe she had made the whole thing up.  

She was almost in bright spirits when she reached the door of her brother’s, Jamison Lee.  It was hard to shake the feeling that her spirits were so bright because she had just escaped something.  She thought about the non-existent serial killer that didn’t live in her town.  Had he recently killed there?  Had he been watching her?  Did she fit his profile?  Did she seem vulnerable?  Was she an outsider?  She knew she wasn’t main stream, but she had never thought of herself as “that” different. Somewhere inside of her head she heard a voice say, “Nice girls don’t walk alone in the woods.  Nice girls aren’t single mothers.”  If this was her mind saying these things it was a betrayal of everything she believed about herself.  Or… maybe she was just making the whole thing up she thought firmly to herself.  

She had walked the same way at the same time of day more than she could count.  She had created a pattern that, imagination running wild or no, she would not repeat.  The path had been a staple of her routine.  Before this week she had walked it many times in enjoyment.   She was sad to lose it.        

She knocked on the door of her brother’s house.  He and his spouse Tyco had agreed to watch Tabitha so she could go out on her date. Tabitha escaped her grasp as just as the door opened so that she could bust in.  “Uncle Jamie,” she yelled running past her uncle Jamison Lee searching for Tyco.  

“We look nothing alike, but somehow being a couple has made us twins,” remarked her brother inviting her into his house.  

“Thank you so much for doing this.  I can’t stay. If I don’t leave now I’ll be late,” she said declining his invitation with a kiss on the cheek and a step backwards. 

“Pick her up in the morning. Sometime before noon,” said her brother in goodbye.   

Dulcinea continued her walk to her date.  There was a new pedestrian overpass and now access to downtown was more readily possible. When they had originally put in the freeway it had completely cut off walkers from the town.  Progress always seemed to be designed for someone else. She was pleased to be utilizing progress that seemed to benefit her.  She felt reunited with community.    

The mood of the path near the train track was wearing off and she was starting to get excited about her date.  There were no expectations.  She was just excited to be hanging out with a handsome man.  

She had run into him while she was helping a homeless person find a church that was offering food and respite.  Michael had been arguing with a neighbor of the church about the line of homeless people with shopping carts in front of the building.  The neighbor was trying to sell his house across the street.

“Are you even zoned for this?” he had demanded of Michael.

“We are zoned to be a church.  Helping those in need is the work of the church.  What do you think a church is?  A country club?”

“You know, I’m a Christian too!” the neighbor snapped and then stormed off.

Michael had sighed with frustration and then turned to Dulcinea to ask her if she needed help. Dulcinea explained her situation and waited patiently for Michael to explain the services to the homeless person – who then left them suddenly, alone together, heading into the respite of the church.

The absurd situation had made them comrades and after a brief pause of silence between them, he said. “I get it.  I mean, if it were my yard, I would like it to be free of needles and human feces too.  But helping these people didn’t bring the problem here.  They were already here.” He finished turning to her with a sigh clearly eager to change the subject.  “I’m Michael.” 

“I’m Dulcinea.”

Michael was a Christian. At first that had concerned her. The bible had a tenuous relationship with those gifted with magic.  Sure, there had been magicians at Christ’s birth, but the book also gave instruction on avoiding witches and killing them when possible.  In the bible magic was the soul property of prophets.  

But Michael wasn’t a Christian of the “dreadful sort”.  Which seemed to mean he asked more questions than he pretended to have answers to. She had even gone to church with him. When she had lifted her hands in prayer, she had felt power.  There was magic in that old church.  While it hadn’t made her want to “come out of the broom closet” to him, it had turned out that him being a Christian was not a show stopper.    

She wasn’t sure what she would tell him or even how to broach the subject.  I’m a witch?  What did that mean anyways?  For her, witchcraft wasn’t so much about a belief system or a deity structure.  It was more like a language not everyone could speak.  

Regardless, Michael made her feel good.  It had been a pleasure to help him go through his closet looking for things to donate. They had found an old uniform of his. Michael had been a Mounty – of course he had.  He was one of the good guys.  She couldn’t help leaning into the feeling that this Christian Canadian was the Dudley Do Right to her Penelope Pit Stop.  

She hated that analogy. It was too accurate and at the same time not at all who she was.  She was perfectly capable of getting herself out of any jam she got herself in. However, it was undeniable she was always getting herself into trouble.  Or that trouble had a way of finding her.  Eglantine attributed it to her green eyes. “The lipochrome attracts magic, wild magic, unpredictable magic.  It creates a vortex”, Eglantine had once explained.  What ever the cause, it might be nice to have someone who’s hand she could depend on taking from time to time.  It was exhausting figuring it out by herself all the time.    

Dulcinea reached the restaurant and descended the stairs into the lower part.  They would not be dining at the fancy restaurant on top, they would be eating at the bistro underneath – listening to the Celtic Rock Band playing in the corner.

Michael smiled when he saw her come through the door and stood up to pull out her chair.  “How was the walk?” he asked her.

“Funny you should ask. I feel like I just walked through the worst cloud of evil,” she replied dismissively as she took her seat with a little chuckle expecting him to take it as a joke.  

“On the path near the train tracks?” he inquired.  The question caught her by surprise and she almost fell into her chair.  

“Why would you say that?” she asked.  

Disvillage Story 5 – Eglantine “The Crone”

“Is this dough ready?” asked a mousy albeit flamboyant girl who was probably closer to middle age than childhood.  She really had no business being so thin in this occupation.  Her small waist certainly kept her young – that and the big silly bow in her vibrant red hair.  In reality, anyone younger than Eglantine by ten years was considered a girl in her head. She was careful to be patient with herself when she had these ageist thoughts.   She hated growing old, but it did make each season dearer.  She had always loved autumn.  Now she wondered how many more there would be.      

It was early morning, about an hour before sunrise (or late at night, depending on which circadian rhythm you were dancing to).  The first chill of the season could be felt outside, but they were warm and snug in the little shop.  

“It needs to be kneaded” replied Eglantine to her assistant baker.  

“I need you” whispered Dulcinea setting her head at level with the bread dough.  

Eglantine wondered if the girl were simple, trying to be funny, or gifted.  It was a thought she often had in the many years she had known her. Not for the last time, she was sure. 

They both set about adjusting the shop getting ready for customers.  They flipped the sign open, turned on the customer music (for some reason they preferred to work in silence) and sat down to one of the small bistro tables.  Eglantine with her croissant.  The croissant being the shops signature bake.   On the inside was all the chewy doughiness of an American croissant.   On the outside was a crisp explosive French inspired shell guaranteed to blast crumbs all down your front.   And, Dulcinea with her paper and black coffee.  Coffee was their other signature.  It was roasted especially for them by a roaster in the mountains hundreds of miles away.  It had a unique and delicious flavor.  People drove almost as far to buy it from them. Together they waited for customers. 

“The serial killer has struck again”, stated Dulcinea absently as she continued to read and sip her black potion.  

Eglantine wasn’t exactly sure there was a serial killer in the area – even with all the mysterious deaths. However, she did know there was a demon in the city.  There had been for 20 years.  

Eglantine was a witch. She knew these kinds of things.  Her gift had always been identifying the supernatural.  Just as Dulcinea always seemed to know the difference between truth and lies and could guess the truth when she heard a lie.  Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on how you looked at the situation, neither of them knew (if there even was one) who the serial killer was. Funny, she thought to herself, she was always one-hundred percent sure of her own gifts and only fifty percent positive of anyone else’s.  Eglantine, Dulcinea, and Tabitha; Dulcinea’ s daughter, made up their little coven – the maiden, the mother and the crone.  Tabitha was not yet even five.  It was hard to know what her gifts would be.  

Dulcinea was the daughter she never had.  She had come pregnant and desperate to the little shop some years ago looking for work. The shop had crackled with magic as she walked through her door alerting Eglantine to the presence of power.  She had thought she was barren, yet she knew this was her daughter the moment she walked in to her life.  

A few years later when relationships had been established and Eglantine had shared her first impression of Dulcinea with her, Dulcinea had asked, “does that mean Tabitha is your granddaughter?”

“Good heavens no,” stated Eglantine emphatically.  “I will never be anyone’s grandmother!  I will be her fairy godmother.”  

Tabitha had started preschool this year.  Eglantine looked wistfully to the corner of the shop where her playpen used to live. 

The bell over the door rang announcing a customer.  It was Gwydion their demon, and first customer always.  She greeted him warmly and without pretense.  Yes, Gwydion was always their first customer, followed by the truck drivers, then you had your business owners, followed by laborers and professionals, and finally ending with students and those in service.  

It had scared her when Gwydion had first walked into her shop.  She had been terrified.  Even more so when she learned he had purchased the local hot springs and was to stay.  She had never thought of her town as the type to attract a demon.  But, apparently there had been just enough indifference in the community for him to settle.  

A young man had been murdered 21 years ago.  He had been pushed by a pack of boys off a bridge.  One of the boys who had pushed him had been the chief of polices son. The only eye witness had been a homeless person that soon after disappeared.  The young man that had been murdered had an effeminate way about him that made a lot of people uncomfortable.  It had been ruled a suicide.  There had been no outrage from the town.  No uncomfortable questions were asked of the police, just silence came from the community.  It was enough.  It was enough for a demon to slip in.  

She was the third generation to own her family’s business, but she had seriously considered selling and moving.  She knew what the blight of a demon looked like.     

But, Gwydion (it seemed) would not fulfill her expectations.  Mysteriously he seemed to be hell bent on doing good.  His business attracted an upscale clientele and like many shops in the town, her little business thrived.  She often made deliveries to the resort.  She was amused by his use of old magic to organize the hot springs.  Old magic, gray magic, magic that had not been designed for the service of good or evil.  It was the same magic given to the earth to spin and the sun to burn.    

Gwydion had arrived looking well worn for a man in his twenties and now looked well preserved for a man in his forties.  When the time came, he could probably pull off claiming fifties.  But, unless there were amazing breakthroughs in plastic surgery, sixty he would have a hard time claiming to be.  She wondered if his time here was coming to an end.  An immortal could only pretend at mortality for so long. Just as the serial killer could only pretend at being God before mortality caught up to him.  She was old and knew the strength of youth did not last forever.    

While his evil nature and demon spirit had not attracted the crime one expects to follow his goblin footsteps, perhaps it had attracted a serial killer. It was a serial killer that made accidents happen to homeless and vulnerable people insisted Dulcinea.  A body found floating in a canal, someone hit by a train, a person slipping and cracking their head while walking in a ravine – these scenarios hadn’t happened just once.  They happened over and over again.    

Evil always makes way for evil.  Even she had fallen to the snares of his charm.  Here she was every morning genuinely welcoming him to her shop – breaking bread with the devil.  Yet the world was complex.  She trusted in the fact that her vision was limited.  Maybe the larger picture was a combination of prettier colors she did not have the view to see.