Monday, September 22, 2014

Lord Slogar's Fine Fossil

Gloom Project #1
Character: Lord Slogar
Found a Fine Fossil
Was torn limb from limb

"Helena, please tell our guests the story." I wanted my guests to know my tale but fore the end of it.
"Of course, my Lord." Helena was always willing to tell it. I wouldn't have her without it.
"Lord Slogar wasn't always in such a delicate state. He was a man once. When we met he told me how much he loved to explore. He once adventured in to the sewers of New York city to find the giant lizard men rumor to inhabit their deepest caverns. Apparently during that excursion he found the skull of one of the creatures, but never a living one. No proof that they walked on two legs, but legitimate proof of their existence. That was one of the many adventures he told me about when we first met.
Helena always started it this way, just swapping out which of my previous excursions she fancied that day. She continued as our guests sat in silence. "In the summer of 1904 he was working with Mr. Osborn at a dig site in the southwest. He had been there on and off for a few years as the paleontologists were investigating fossils they had been finding."
"Helena, please clarify that they did not find anything of significance before my arrival in June." She couldn't forget that. It is the most importance part, besides her of course.
"It is critical to note that the paleontologists hadn't found anything of any significance before Lord Slogar's arrival,mostly bone fragments and unidentifiable pieces. For a few weeks they all walked among the desert hills only finding small pieces of animals long passed from this world. Sir showed up mid-June in then heart of the summer , some believed it to be the hottest day of the year. He walked work the men collecting dirt and sand in his traveling boots. They ate steak and potatoes for dinner every night, continuing to walk through the dust and sage brush when day. Lord Slogar was used to days of mundane being the salt to his pepper adventures, but this was becoming desolate and tasteless salt. He needed something more.
Lord Slogar chahed into the tent of my father, Dr. Osborn. The moment I saw him I knew that I would never forget that face. I had come along on my break from private school. This was risky due to my father's opinion of the sort of men who work for him. But they were fine when I wasn't visiting.  Otherwise, I was kept secluded from the corruptive men of his accompaniment. He was out visiting a man who had been injured on site when Lord Slogar arrived at our tent. We had a startling first interaction.
"Why are you hiding?" I had run behind the curtain where I kept my cot. He was a stranger after all.
"Because no one is supposed to know I'm here."
"Why?" He took a curious step forward, toward my hiding place.
"According to my father you are a filthy bunch of men." He was attractive to say the least. He took another step forward.
"That may be true for the rest of them, but I am not one of those men." Another step.
"Regardless, I think you should be going before he returns." Two more steps.
"But I have an urgent matter for him and, quite honestly, I would rather stay here and talk to you while I wait for him." He paused. "I'm Slogar, Lord Slogar." He bowed as he introduced himself.
"I'm Helena."
"I know. Your father has yet to stop talking about how proud he is of you."
"He is known to rant and rave since my mother passed. He doesn't have a lot to focus on besides me and his work. I think he was worried I was going to get into trouble when she was gone." It's true, it was hard for me when my mother died, but I made it through just like he told me I would.
"Do you mind if I ask, how did she die?"
"I do mind." I mind because most people think that my father killed her, but Slogar seemed to be asking with general interest, not gossiping harm. "She died at a dig site. My father had been trying to move a large fossil and his rigging system was unstable. She was guiding the fossil from the other side to ensure that it was replaced for optimal inspection -- she liked to look at all the small details. Too many crew men had destroyed the surfaces. So she liked to do this part herself -- the rigging malfunctioned and the fossil crushed her to death. There was nothing to be done, no way to move it in time. My father now oversees all of the riggings and placements when we pull large specimens."
"That is tragic. I am sorry for your loss." He was genuine in his remorse and stepped closer.
"Thank you, but you really should be going."
"I suppose you are right. I may have overstayed my welcome." He turned to leave, "please tell your father I stopped by and intend to speak to him tomorrow. Have a good evening." He left. He never told me what he spoke to my father about, but I did not see him again until after the accident.
Lord Slogar had been carefully tracing the land. He had noticed small variations in the placement of the small fossils that my father hadn't. He followed his instinct to the largest fossil find in recent history.
"Ma'am, I hate to interrupt, but are you telling us that he discovered the first tyrannosaurus?"
"Aaaaaaahhhhh! Why do they always assume that the tyrannosaurus is the most important fossil discovered? Do they know nothing of fossils and the history of man?" I had to interrupt Helena as well when my guests prove to be ignorant of my work.
"No, Lord Slogar discovered the first humanlike, but now would be considered an ancient alien like creature."
"What? That's not real." Lord Slogar was right. These 'reporters' were ignorant of his accomplishments.
"It was very real, but as they were pulling the fossil out of the ground the rigging failed. It landed on Lord Slogar. He almost had the same fate as my mother.
"When the rigging was repaired, it looked as though he had been into five pieces. My father noticed that he was still blinking. They rushed his head to the infirmary and called the doctor. I sat with him every day until his cousin came to see him. They didn't risk moving him, but his cousin was confident that he could keep his brain alive. They went through the remarkable procedure of removing it from his skull and placing it in the box you see on the mantel. I keep him there because he likes the warmth from the fire. We married once we realized that he and I could still communicate just as we did when he had his body.
"But now we get down to why you are here. I suspect you are not the reporters that you claim to be. You aren't like our usual visitors.
"Ma'am unfortunately for you, you are correct. We are here to finish what that boulder, or fossil you seem to think he found, didn't." They got up from their seats and pointed two pistols. One at me and one at the love of my life's brain in a box. They fired.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Kate's Meadow and Needing More Cigarettes

For my dad's birthday on Wednesday we decided to adventure up to Kate's Meadow outside of Ridgway. This is an adventuring location my parents have talked about for quite sometime. I had never been, so this became the birthday excursion. The drive up on the dirt road was scenic and reminiscent for mom and dad. They talked about the movies True Grit and How the West Was Won. My mom got a kick out of thinking that John Wayne, Robert DuVall, and Debbie Reynolds had all traveled up the same road.
Up at the top of the trail we frolicked through the meadow and Michael convinced me to climb up the rock from the final showdown scene. He chose this opportunity to be a supermodel!

After our lunching and light wood hauling we were driving down the mountain and around one of the last sharp turns was a tow truck parked on the edge of the dirt road. This was unnerving given that the tow cables were stretched across the road down a ~50 ft embankment. Please note: this is not where trucks are supposed to go.
After this little discovery, we decided that this may or may not be the worst part of this guy's day. Today, this guy's dog died, he ran over his cat, his wife told him she wants a divorce, his girlfriend left him, the liquor store is out of whiskey -- and burned down, then on his drive up the mountain he discovered that he was out of cigarettes! All the makings of a classic country song!
It was a great day!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Packing the car

Even before departure, in theory this is the worst part, Michael and I can't figure out how to properly pack the car. It's coming down to whether we take the things that we really should have in case of emergency OR blankets and pillows for sleeping in a tent in Wyoming in September OR large quantities of pre-made granola OR clothes. Of course we both understand that technically we should take all of these things. I've already sacrificed my plants, they will be living in Montrose for a little while. The Alaskan Pumpkin Porter and some Tim Burton on IFC are making it easier -- except for the mid-day, during the week, generic commercials. But panic mode has set in and Michael made another trip into town. I'm ready to get on the road and only worry about rearranging the trunk/bar/kitchen tomorrow

. We leave in about an hour and a half to go over a weather ridden Red Mountain pass, but oh well today is the day and we will make it happen!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The River and Roads

The journey was long, but he knew that it needed to happen. His mother kept saying, “You have to take her. She has to go and you are by far the most capable, also the strongest.” She kept telling him that he would need physical and emotional strength. Michael knew that what she said was true, but was skeptical that his mother’s claim – that he was the only one was capable.

It couldn't have been anyone else. Grandma knew it too, but she wasn't in any condition to argue with anyone.  See Michael’s beloved grandmother had passed from her earthly existence a while back and now she had to be delivered from this existence to the next.

“You get to take her. I left everything you should need on the bed side table. The map will get here tomorrow. Get a good night’s sleep.” Michael’s mom had decided he was the one to go yesterday. He wasn't sure it was a “get to go” situation, but he wasn't sure what he was getting himself into. So the hesitation was understandable. This was a unique opportunity that holds more weight with those who never have the chance to go.

He went to his room and crawled in bed, hopeful to get more sleep than he had the night before.

The directions arrived in his mailbox first thing on the day of his adventure. Michael read these through once and put them aside until after he ate breakfast. The LIFE cereal helped nourish his childhood side before this overwhelming journey. He grabbed the directions and the small container of grandma’s ashes he had to take with him and stashed them in his pocket. He walked out the front door of his childhood home.

He was heavy with the task in front of him and unsure of what to expect. Normally he was pretty confident in the decisions he makes when on adventures. The only thing he feared was the large hungry critters, but according to the directions he wouldn't find too many on this trek.

His directions were oddly detailed. It went like this:
Exit childhood home via the front door.
Walk until you reach the main highway via the residential dirt roads.
Continue to walk east-ish along the highway past the storage units.
Take a right on the next dirt road.
Do not look back.
Walk until you pass the large desert shrub with the worn green tag hanging from the top branch.
Take a right off the road that is no longer a road and not much more than a foot path.
Do not look back; you will not see what you are looking for.
Walk into the desert.
You will reach a large-ish rock with a circle engraved on its surface.
If you make this stretch of the journey before noon, your local time, the rock will shimmer making it easier to find from a distance.
Step over the rock.
Follow the path.
Do not look back.
You won’t have to go too far, epically speaking.
That was it. That was all the directions had to guide him.

He followed all of the directions outlined keeping an eye on the time as he found the shrub. It was still before noon. He turned right and kept walking. As soon as he leveled his focus he could see a glint of light what it seemed like a mile away. It was flat. He could see pretty far. He did not look back. He kept walking. 

Michael considered the difference between attractive and unattractive sports reporters, the dynamics used to calibrate the internet, and the perks of having a pet monkey (one of which is punching chavs in the balls) and the meaning behind a glimmering rock in the middle of the desert.

He kept walking and thinking. Walking and thinking. This was way more than a mile. Eventually the rock was getting closer. He picked up the pace and ran the last 200 or so yards to the rock with the circle engraved on the top. It was polished marble with the tiniest of yellow crystals embedded on the surface. He was tall enough to step over the rock, as instructed.

The desert landscape was gone.

There was a path under his feet. It lead him along the edge on a volcano on what seemed to be a deserted Hawaiian island. It was humid, hot, and nothing beyond the small island his feet resided on, but ocean for miles. He walked with the path as it curved around the volcano and down a small steep hill. He found his place in line.

Most of the people waiting were dressed in jeans and a black t-shirt. Every few people there were someone in obviously traditional religious garb, some of it excessively ornate for this climate. Michael was happy with his choice of yellow button down and dark plaid red shorts.

“What are you doing here?” He asked curiously as recognition of the presence he hadn't been able to shake, since he stepped over the rock, clicked.

She said nothing. He turned around to face her. Michael relaxed his shoulders as his grandmother reached for his hand. It was his job to take her. He understood why now. She had no words and they needed none. He was afraid, but she was comforted by the line they were in. They walked hand in hand as the line got shorter and shorter.

A giant tree stood on the bank of the river. Michael would consider giant an understatement as he slowly moved his glance upward in an attempt to see the color of its leaves, but they were well beyond the sunset rose clouds. As he walked closer he could see ragged boots sticking out from behind one of the roots. He approached who he assumed was the boatman.
"Excuse me." He knocked on the tree trunk. It made an intrusive gong sound and almost knocked Michael out of his own ragged boots.
"Really?" A grave and resonant voice came from the being inhabiting the boots. "You weren't expecting that were you? It’s a good way to remind people of where they are."
"Excuse me?" Michael was curious of how someone could not remember that they are standing on the bank of the river Styx.
"You think that everyone who comes to see me is the only one who could accompany their dead?" There was a pause. "Let’s just say that your grandmother is very lucky to have you escort her here. There are others who would have done it, if you hadn't and they aren't as unassuming."
"Sir, I’m not…what are you talking about?” Michael wasn't sure he wanted to ask for clarification, but it was too late now.
“Not all of the folks who die in your world have loved ones to bring them to me. I have a log of those who die so I know who to expect. We have to keep diligent records. For those who don’t have someone dear to them to bring them to me, I send a taxi, if you will. We had to set up a back-up plan since when we miss someone things get unpleasant.”
“Unpleasant?” He had to ask.
“Let’s just say more people end up dead than were in the first place. Anyway, she,” he pointed at the graceful old woman behind Michael, “is lucky she has you to watch over her.”
“Yeah, I wasn't sure what I was getting into bringing her. It’s cool that there is a whole process, but where do they go?”
“Wow, you are just full of questions.” He inhaled patiently like he had this part well-rehearsed centuries ago and the answer has gotten old. “Everyone goes to the same place. There is no heaven or hell. Folks have a way of finding their kind even on our side. Heaven is just used to reassure those who believe in righteousness. They believe in it so much that they don’t even ask me that question anymore, but they also aren’t the ones who bring their dead.”
Michael considered that last statement and assumed it was because they didn't believe in this afterlife, so why would they even concern themselves with the journey. “That sounds like a good process; it’s neat to know that nothing changes too much.”
“It is nice to know that a kid approves of our policies and procedures that have worked for centuries.” Talking to himself. “Thank you. Now we must get on with it. That is a line." He pointed behind Michael and there was definitely a longer line than when he was at the front of it.
"Oh right." Michael moved his grandmother to lie on the crude wooden raft tethered to the bank. He finally noticed how inky black the water was on this bank, while the other side of the river looked remarkably clear.
"Now place the coins on her eyes." Charon gracefully gestured to where her head now lay.
"About that, what does it cost?" He pulled two of each from his pocket, everything from pennies to Sacajawea dollars. He had even scrounged up two Kennedy half dollars.
He looked toward the clear water bank, "oh my, you weren't kidding. Okay, this is a penny ride.” Charon gestured toward a wooden raft .  “Nickels come with a feather pillow." He snapped his fingers with a false enthusiastic face and a fluffy pillow appeared under her head. "Dimes will get you an inflatable kayak, instead of this reliable raft, reminiscent of my good friend Mark Twain's iconic work. He talked us though how to build it more sturdy, but the kayak will help prevent her from sliding overboard if the waters get rough. Of the two, I would vote for the raft. We still believe in solid craftsmanship and we don't build the kayaks "A snap and the kayak appeared. “Now, if you want to spend quarters we can make it a Viking longboat. I know the mythology is wrong, but it is a customer favorite, if they sacrifice parking meter money." When he saw it, the longboat became a strong contender and totally worth 50¢. "It isn't very often that JFK graces my humble banks, so those who chose him get a black sail pirate ship with a busty figurehead." That was an intriguing option as well. "Now, for the dollar, the vote was to go with the theme. I think it’s a bit racist, but the Sacajawea dollar gets you a 'genuine' Native American canoe. Between you and me, those who bring me American coins get the most generic and offensive options. So what is your choice?" The boatman put his hands on his hips and waited.
"Pirate ship, for sure. She would've been a pirate. Will she know?" Michael had a feeling that this decision was for his comfort, not hers.

"Yes, she will know, but I've heard that it doesn't matter that much to most people. Those it matters too are more likely to be too much of a pain that their families didn't bring them anyway. Go ahead and place the coins on her eyes. We gotta keep this train a moving." Charon nods to how many people have been standing in line.

Michael leaned in and placed the half dollars on her eyes. He kissed her forehead and stepped away.
The boatman snapped his fingers and the ship appeared. Michael could see his grandmother finally at rest. 

"Can I ask one last question?"

"A quick one." Charon liked him and appreciated his love for his grandmother.

"Do you know who will bring me?"

"I don't have that foresight, but you will instill your love in all of your family and the person who is meant to bring you will. I have no doubt of that."

“Thank you.” Michael turned around to face the ever growing line and started his walk home.