Rory and Allen at Peace (#37)

Rory could not believe the crowd at The Bacchanalia. He had seen crazy gatherings in Williamsburg before. There was the yuppie, Miami Vice party goers at Club New York. There were the walking dead at Daddy O’s. None, however, brought the anger the way The Bacchanalia did. There were people from Rory’s past that he had wronged and each looked to be wanting a piece of him. There were middle school rivals, spurned girls, and a bunch of dudes dressed in flannel. Rory saw Allen and made his way through the crowd without giving off his sense of fear and guilt.

“This place is hopping,” said Allen.

“Hopefully, I don’t die here tonight.”

“Naw, relax, you’ll do the right thing.”

“I don’t know, Allen, this might be more than I can give. Maybe the Chupacabra has me this time.”

“Look, you’ve simply got to make amends. Let people know you are sorry for the way you treated them and get on with life,” said Allen.

Rory and Allen walked over to the bar. There was a guy walking around with a video camera. Rory recognized him from high school. He was working on a movie about middle aged people partying and Allen had given him the heads up about this party. The three of them had never been too tight in high school, although they were probably more alike than either of them ever realized.

“What’s up, Rory?” said the camera man.

“Nothing. Good to see you again. Sorry I was such a dick to you back in the day.”

“Thanks. Can you say that again? I didn’t have the camera running.”

“Eff you, want a drink?”

“Sure, what will it be?”

The bartender heard the camera man and yelled out, “It’ll be a Ricki-Ticki-Smack-Me.”

Before they could question the bartender, he had poured four glasses of a chocolatey looking drink. The quantity could have been a shot or an easy sip. Everyone but the bartender took their time. Nearly as quickly as they drank it, the mood in the room changed. Instead of three white guys singing the blues, Charlie Pride took the stage and The Bacchanalia went from angry to happy. He motioned for Rory to come to the stage and whispered some lyrics in his ear. Rory had not sung in public sense the chorus teacher in high school pointed out that he was off key. Tonight he waited for his part and belted out, “I’m just me…” Everyone went crazy. Charlie took the rest until the song was over.

Charlie handed the mic to Rory. “Everyone, I have to say one thing,” said Rory. “I’m sorry.”

The crowd nodded and went back to listening to Charlie Pride. There was an old couple, like ninety year’s old, old dancing in the middle of the floor. The flannel dudes were yucking it up with Rory, the cameraman was filming, and Allen came into the room holding a real live copperhead. He went on the stage with his snake in one hand and another Ricki-Ticki in the other hand and started dancing the Semi. He stepped from side to side and brought his hands, with thumbs extended, up to his chest and looked to the opposite direction of each step. He wore the snake like something from Flavor-Flav and chugged the last of his drink before the first step to the left. He was feeling the good vibes that were flowing through the room and there was something hypnotic in his dance. Charlie was smiling, the bartender was smiling, the copperhead was smiling, and then it happened.

Rory’s third Ricki-Ticki was the one that accomplished something few ever thought they would see. While listening to Poo-Poo, Rory’s non-stop talking basketball teammate go on about something, Rory took that last sip of the Duffy concoction and let loose with the biggest smile. He was grinning from ear to ear and the whole place stopped. Even Charlie Pride could not keep the show going. The copperhead slithered back to wherever Allen had found him and the doors to The Bacchanalia opened. Everyone raised an arm towards the door and looked to Rory and Allen.

Through all of their adventures, Rory and Allen had never quite understood their calling. In some ways they had been called to help others. In some ways they had been drawn into a spiritual quest that left them with wisdom and not dogma. They learned of personal responsibility and the value of leaning on others. Tonight was the end, they learned to be happy. Forgiveness has it’s way of unburdening a soul. Everyone forgiving Rory for his past idiocy felt good, but Rory and Allen both knew it was their ability to forgive themselves that made the greatest difference.

They walked to the parking lot and climbed into the cab of the truck. Rory turned to Allen and said, “Damn, that was fun.”

They turned west on Richmond Road and drove away for the last time…smiling…

Rory Gets Faced By the Chupacabra (36)

Chupa drove the Grand Prix down Richmond Road towards Williamsburg. Rory had made this drive thousands of times and never made it without hitting at least half of the traffic lights. The Chupa didn’t hit any. He leaned a little to the right while he drove and let the medium-old school rap stylings of 3rd Bass rise from the Kraco car stereo. Despite their similarities in appearance, Rory knew he was not at all the Chupacabra, which made him feel a little more relaxed.

“We’re listening to this because they are posers,” said the Chupacabra. “And you’re a poser.”

“How do you figure?” asked Rory.

“Because you have lived a life cloaked in hubris. That excessive pride had done you no good.”

Now Rory felt like the Chupacabra could actually be him. He felt the sting of being called out, but he couldn’t disagree with what Chupa had just said.

“Chupa, I don’t get it. Why are you after me?”

“First we have to get out of the car. When we get to Highland Park, I am going to explain things to you like you are from Sherwood Forrest or Palmer Park.”

“Highland Park is just around the corner. Those other places are in Detroit. I’m not getting the connection.”

“Of course not, you think you know everything, but nobody really knows anything about Detroit. I’m here to bust through the hubris and bring a bit of ego immunity to fortify your soul.”

Chupa turned into Highland Park and parked in the back of the neighborhood. The car was starting to overheat due to the holes in the radiator that leaked water like a sieve. Rory stared at Chupa thinking that this whole experience was more than he could ever understand. He had fought so many battles, experienced different levels of spirituality, and kept track of a flock of goats that may or may not be the bovidae reincarnation of some of the greatest leaders in the history of the world. Now he sat across from an evil entity that was set on erasing goodness and that evil looked just like him.

Rory said, “Well, we’re here. Why me?”

“You are intemperate and need to develop immunity.”

“Immunity from what?”

“Yourself.”

“How do I do that?” asked Rory.

“Do you know what ‘agency’ means?” Rory shook his head. “It means that you have control over your life. The choices that you make, the words you speak, and the way you treat others is in your control. The problem for you is that you don’t know how to make the right choices. In some ways you are a Presidential candidate without the spray tan.”

“Wow, do I do anything right?”

“And that’s the second flaw in your life. You live in victimhood. You’re good at masking it because you rarely flinch, but each time you get in a situation that isn’t going your way, you do something stupid.”

Rory listened to Chupa and thought about his life. It was true. Sure he had the peanut farm and had done some good things, but for the most part he lived in conflict. The root of each problem that he found himself in was himself. The evil of the Chupacabra was not real at all, at least in the sense that evil was looking to rid the world of goodness. However, Chupa was very real for Rory because Rory was the Chupa. He started thinking of the stupid things he had done, language issues, party issues, anger issues and slumped back in the pleather seat.

“Are you real?” asked Rory.

“Yes and no. I’m here with you, but not really around. I live because you allow me to. Get yourself together and then I’m gone.”

“How do I do that? Is that what the goats are for?”

“The goats are inspiration. If you notice, each goat has brought wisdom and perspective to you throughout your life. You have been able to understand how each of the goats, all great leaders, brought something to your life that was positive. You have always admired the study of religion, but not been trapped by the rigidity of religion. You understand that Jesus, Buddha, and Muhammed were great spiritual men and you have learned from each.”

“True, but I would say I am a Jesus guy.”

“Exactly, but you know that wisdom takes all thought and you are willing to consider the others.”

Rory nodded, “That’s good, right? If I’m all that, why are you here and why do I struggle with being happy.”

“You struggle because life is not just an academic exercise. It’s about feeling. You must feel the goodness that you read about from the goats.”

“And think.”

“The thinking is what keeps you out of the fray, Rory. The thinking allows you to take a breath before you speak. It allows you to brush off annoyances before you get yourself in trouble.”

“So the goats are just goats?”

“I’m afraid so.”

“Does that mean I am supposed to forget about them and change myself?”

“Right, again. You are going to remember the greatness of the leaders you saw in the goats and apply it to yourself. It’s simple and hard.”

“Thanks, Lao-tzu.”

Rory closed his eyes for a second. When he opened them he found himself behind the wheel of an F-150 pick up truck. He was not at all sure how he got in this truck, but the room inside the cab made him feel more comfortable in an automobile than he had ever been. He started the engine and headed towards a new beer garden in Toano. The drive was about 8-miles and when he pulled into the parking lot he was amazed to see every enemy he had ever made chugging beers at The Bacchanalia. The drunken revelry immediately put a stress on Rory that pressed him to remember the quote, “Kindness in words creates confidence.”

“I can do this,” he thought. Tom Petty’s, “I Won’t Back Down” played inside the beer garden.

Rory Faces the Chupacabra (35)

The arrival of a dove and crow was not lost on the goats. They knew these were signs of peace and freedom, but the birds did not bring a ceremonial feel to the island. Attached to their legs were messages.

“This is same Game of Thrones stuff,” said Allen. He removed the notes and read them before handing the notes to Rory. “This is not good,” he said.

Rory read the notes which divulged that the Chupacabra had taken over Rory’s peanut farm. All Rory could see was the demise of his peaceful oasis. He saw bands of evil spraying graffiti in his house, the fields being burned, and the charities that relied on the peanuts boycotting the evilness that tainted the farm. Thoughts of retaliation mixed with military jargon accelerated his thinking to a point where not even Lucy would be able to make sense of it all. Finally, he snapped, the pressure was too much and he had a temporary mental blackout. He awoke to Allen having a conversation with some of the goats.

“We cannot let him take Rory’s land,” said Sitting Bull.

“We will do whatever is necessary,” said Malcolm.

The only female goat, Harriet said, “I know how to get us there safely.”

The three spiritual goats were steadfast in the need for the Chupacabra to be stopped. They agreed to let faith guide the group and would not let their individual beliefs get in the way of stopping the evil enemy. MLK and Gandi advocated for peaceful resistance against the Chupacabra, but they knew there would be suffering before it was defeated. Their transformation from simple goats to leaders against a common foe showed devotion to their personal principles and to the one skill that would allow evil to be defeated, thinking.

“It’s not probable that the concurrence of evil would come together on a peanut farm,” said Einstein.

All of the goats looked at him with confusion.

“I’m just saying, why is evil using a peanut farm to rid the world of goodness?”

“Allergies,” said Rory. “He’s trying to make the world allergic to goodness. He thinks he can make hate the way of the world. Killing, debt, violence, drugs, distrust, anything evil is what he wants the people to run to. If people are allergic to peace, love, respect and anything else that is good, they will have to turn to his evil ways. We’ve got to change them, baby.”

“That’s Santana,” said Allen.

“I’m giving quoting movies a break.”

Harriet said, “We need to get going.” She made her goat noise and there was a great rush of air outside the house. From somewhere was a train being driven by Esther Rolle. It was the same train Rory has seen at the Stonewall Jackson Shrine. Riding along were the two atheists who doubted that other worlds existed. Now they were caught up in the whole movement.

“Come on, Rory. Let’s go kick some evil butt,” yelled one of the atheists.

Rory, Allen, and the goats got on the train and off they went. They each looked out the window thinking like they were some sort of European graphic designer. Rory knew evil could not prevail, but he wondered what the cost would be in shutting down this latest brand insolence. He imagined the Mr. Peanut that stood on Richmond Road wielding some kind of spray tan and verbal light saber that was tearing apart the farm that Rory had worked so hard to keep going. He didn’t know though what he was up against and the thought of fighting a big peanut made him laugh.

The train stopped at the end edge of the field and Rory’s worst suspicions were confirmed. The Chupacabra has ruined his home. There was no amount of HGTV magic thought would restore his home. The fields were smoldering from a large fire and at the end of the driveway sat a maroon Grand Prix. Rory stepped off the train and was followed by the three spiritual goats, the bearded one, the bald one, and the faceless one.

“You guys stay here. He’s after y’all, so I better go this one alone,” said Rory.

He began walking across the field. The ground was hot, but with the strength of the goats under him, Rory was able to cross without any pain. His heart rate was normal. His confidence was high. He was ready to deal with the Chupacabra on his terms. Evil would have no chance with Rory, Allen, and the greatest of all time in his corner. “This will be easy,” he thought.

As he neared the Grand Prix, he could hear Dylan singing, “Country Pie,” which got him thinking about the Grand Prix he once owned. The car had a big motor and pleather seats with plenty of room for the crew. He worried that there might be more than just the Chupacabra in the car. Then her remembered his team back on the train. They would be there for him no matter what. The door to the car opened and the Chupacabra started to get out. Rory recognized the untied high tops and calf high socks as the style back in the 80s. “This Chupacabra is out of touch,” he thought.

The Chupacabra got out of the car and turned towards Rory. The dove and crow flew from the train and landed on Rory’s shoulder. Their weight was nothing compared to the load that Rory felt when he saw the Chupacabra’s face. He looked back to the train. All of the goats were milling about in the field doing what Commonwealth Goatwork’s goats do, keeping everything in check. With their help, the field would be ready for replanting in no time. He turned back to himself and tried to reconcile how he could be with good goats and also the personification of evil.

“What do I call you?” asked Rory.

“Chupa works.”

“Why are we here?”

“Let’s take a ride. I’ll drive.” said Chupa.

The Goats Step Up (34)

With the water of the bay held back from Tangier Island, Rory and Allen took a moment to rest. They took their break in an abandoned house that was still in good shape. Inside, there was old furniture and stacks of old newspapers. Allen took one out of a pile and began reading.

“What are you doing?” asked Rory.

“Reading.”

“What are you reading?”

Allen looked up, “The paper, duh.”

“From when” asked Rory.

“July 28, 1964.”

“Wow, that’s before either of use were alive. What was going on then? Go Twitter and just give me some headlines.”

Allen countered with, “No, I’ll give you a headline and you give me a word that has something to do with our situation and the Chupacabra.”

“Alright, go.”

“MORE MATERIAL ALSO WILL BE PROVIDED TO COUNTER REDS.”

“Hmmm,” thought Rory, “Defense. We need to create a strong defense against this thing.”

“SENATE BARS PLAN TO LIST FINANCES.”

“Trump…Just kidding. Transparency. We need to see deeply within ourselves to understand why this evil is here.”

“U.S. TO ADD 5,000 MORE IN VIETNAM.”

“Presence. We need a presence to help us defeat the impending doom.”

“BANDITS IN PARIS LOOT GEM SHOWCASES IN HOTEL.”

“Theft. We know this Chupacabra steals people’s beliefs.”

“NORAD CENTER TAKING SHAPE INSIDE MOUNTAIN.”

“WOPR.”

Allen looked up, “What?”

“WOPR, the computer from War Games. The only way to win to not to play… Too bad we don’t have that option, but we have access to the goats and if we have to go to the top of the mountain to put our war operation plan response in action, we will.”

“Something is wrong with you. EX CONVICT STUBS TOE AND GETS IN TROUBLE.”

“Karma. Hopefully we have been good because we are being asked to protect some really good goats.”

“COLLINS SAYS VIOLENCE, EVEN FOR RIGHTS, THREATENS DEMOCRACY.”

“Shortsighted. The country is based on violence. Do what you’ve gotta due, right?”

“True dat. EXPATRIATE, ON CUBAN RADIO, CALLS ON NEGROES TO MEET VIOLENCE WITH VIOLENCE.”

“Allen, you know I hate discrimination. I also just said that violence might be necessary to protect the goats. I hope the struggle for equality does not come to that. I get the frustration, though. As for us, my word is a letter, X.”

“Riiggghhhht… BASIC RULE IS TO PRESENT OVERWHELMING SHOW OF POWER: CLUBS, HOSES, AND CHEMICALS OFTEN FOUND EFFECTIVE.”

“What was going on in 1964? Weapons. I don’t want to resort to those types of weapons. What would the goats do? They have the weapons that we need.”

“SENATE UNIT TO STUDY LINK OF DOCTORS TO DRUG STORES.”

“Systems. The doctors knew what they were doing by owning drug stores. They owned the corners and had legally operating stash houses. It was a perfect system, except that it was wrong. We must have a system that protects the goats, staves off the Chupacabra, and brings everyone together.”

Poodle was gone. He left a couple of Sea Grasses behind. They were cold, so Rory and Allen drank. As usual, the effects of the beer were quick and spiritual. The guys sat in folding lawn chairs watching the goats argue about something. One goat walked over to the guys. He had a goatee and wore black rimmed glasses. He gave off reddish hue and when he began to speak, he made it clear what he thought needed to be done.

“This Chupacabra will find us here. You are not ready for its evil. We must go.”

“Where are we going?” asked Rory.

“On a pilgrimage,” said the goat.

“To Mecca?” asked Rory.

“No, to Chadd’s Ford. Don’t ask why. You will know when you get there.”

As the goat started to walk away, Allen asked, “Hey goat, are you Malcolm?”

The goat nodded and kept walking. All the other goats began walking behind the bearded goat towards the shoreline. Somehow they were able to walk across without sinking. Rory and Allen trudged into the water until it was too deep for them walk anymore. They started swimming, but the distance to land was too far and they began to fear that they would drown.

“Take your pants off,” yelled Allen.

Rory did and copied Allen as he turned his pants into a flotation device. They tied knots in the pant legs and then blew air into the pants. They were able to float and join the goats on the shore. With about one hundred yards to go the waters parted and the guys were able to walk the rest of the way.

“One of them must be Moses,” said Rory.

They rested until night. The stars were bright and the only thing the group had to navigate by was the Big Dipper. They followed it each night for several weeks avoiding towns and cities as best they could. Finally, they reached the ruins of Mother Archie’s church and school. All that remained of the hexagonal structure were pieces of the stone walls and a neglected cemetery that was located on a downward sloping hill.

Malcolm jumped atop one wall. He was steady and spoke with a nasal tone that conveyed an urgency for the group. He said, “We are here. This is where we will learn. This is where we will come together and fight the persistent evil that is seeking to destroy us. These two will learn of their potential and use it however necessary to keep man’s goodness alive.”

An old tow truck pulled into the tiny parking lot. Living on Faith, by Eric Clapton blasted from the speakers as the door opened. A man got out and yelled, “Who needs a knot tied?”

“Shorty?” asked Rory to Allen.

“There’s no way this is a dream,” said Allen.

Shorty began stringing rope over the top of the the old school house. His pattern resembled something that might be seen over swimming pools in Florida.

“Keeps the evil out,” he said.

When he was done, a dove and a crow joined the group.

Rory, Allen, and a Good Ghost (33)

The boat ride back to Tangier Island was a race against time. The Chupacabra seemed to be busy with sheep instead of goats and the way the guys figured they had about two weeks before the goat sucker would be done with Cleveland and Philly. That did not leave Rory and Allen much time to figure out a way to keep the bay from claiming the island. Fortunately, Allen had been schooled in the art of pouring concrete and Rory was willing to do whatever to save this important piece of land.

“If that cemetery goes under and those souls are washed up, there is going to be a terrible cost,” said Rory.

“You think?” asked Allen.

Poodle was steering the boat and in total fear of what was happening. He could hear the dark voices more clearly. “They are restless,” he said, “We aren’t going to make it.”

“Take another drink of that Sea Grass and get us there?” yelled Allen.

Poodle did and he drifted into the haze of the life changing drink. The boat’s engine began to roar with a renewed strength. Within an hour they made it to the island.

Rory jumped into the water first, “There’s no time to waste. I’ll get the goats taken care of. You guys get everything set up here and we will begin building a sea wall.”

“I just hope there is time to get the pumps running,” said Allen.

“I’ll get the boat out of the way in case we need to make a beer run or something.”

“Thanks, Poodle,” said Allen.

The three got to work. When the goats were safely on dry land, Rory returned and helped Allen construct concrete molds like they had seen on Alone In the Wilderness. Their plan was to fill the molds with concrete and drop the slabs into the water. They would work in small sections and pump the water out of each section as they went along. They started near the cemetery since it was the most important part of the island to save. The whole time they knew the Chupacabra was infusing every bit of anger into the souls of people that he could. He had speech writers stealing from other speech writers. He led the FBI to erroneous conclusions about potential world leaders. He had people so angry that they were willing to shoot, shout, or smear in an effort to get ahead. The idea that people had the potential to develop maturity, forgiveness, or resilience to face uncomfortable situations was being usurped by the Chupacabra’s reliance on people’s willingness to micromanage the drama in every situation instead of seeing the big picture. Evil, in the forms of politics, race, and economic status, were blanketing goodness and bringing the end of everything more quickly than even the Doomsday experts could predict.

“I bet the world is over by November,” said Allen.

“At least I wouldn’t have to vote, then,” said Rory.

On the eighth day, a large fog bank moved into the bay. Poodle was totally freaked out because he remembered seeing The Fog at Martin Cinema. “Scared the hell out of me,” he thought. Rory and Allen kept working, but they were beginning to see the futility of their efforts. They had been able to build a small wall around the cemetery, but the rest of the island could never be saved without a massive effort. The fog was making the work more difficult.

“We’ll never make it,” said Allen.

“Did the Bandit and Snowman make it? Was it over when the German’s bombed pearl harbor?” said Rory.

“Movies, Rory.”

“I know, but the point is that we must keep going. The fog will break and we will keep trying. Allen, there is a lot riding on this island.”

And the fog did break. It pulled away to an incredible sight. There were hundreds of boats circling the island. Poodle fainted at the sight of colonial ships, canoes, and paddle boats from the basin in the nation’s capital. One small boat taxied up to the where Rory and Allen were working. The captain leaned over the railing and said, “Springsteen or Matthews?”

“Champ?” asked Rory.

“Yep, what’s your working music?”

“Before I answer, how do I know you are not some kind of evil imposter?” asked Rory.

“Because you sat in my house and watched rodeo on ESPN.”

“Good enough for me. You are who I think you are, but I’m not sure how you got here.”

“I’m here because there is plenty of good in the world and some of us who have moved on have decided to come back and help restore what makes people great.”

“And what is that?” asked Allen.

“The ability to think,” said Champ.

“Springsteen, then.” said Rory.

With that, the Ghost of Tom Joad blasted through unseen speakers. Champ yelled, “More south side.” The music got louder on the other side of the island. “I hope you guys are ready, this is going to be something else.” Champ had been a major league engineer. He had arranged the boats in a way that made a tight ring around the island. “Fill in the gaps with your concrete,” he said to Allen.

Rory and Allen went into automation mode. The mixed, poured, and set concrete between each boat. The people, more correctly the good spirits that had been on the boats, were now in the water scooping with whatever containers they had. They used buckets, spoons, and their hands to toss water over the boats. The guys never looked up and kept working until they could go no more. They crawled back into Poodle’s boat, The Contributor, and passed out.

The sun came up and horse flies used their bite to wake the trio. Rory could not believe what he saw. The boats were gone and concrete circled the island. They had temporarily saved Tangier Island, but were no closer to the origin of the Chupacabra.

“We need more help,” said Rory.

Rory and Allen Feel the Changes (#32)

Poodle had the pedal to the metal, or whatever the equivalent is for boats, and had the guys heading home as quickly as possible. As they made their way back to Tappahannock, two swarms followed the boat. The first was a cloud of gnats. The flying insects could never quite catch the boat, but they were so thick that their presence cast a shadow on the speeding boat. The second was a swarm of eels who wriggled behind the boat like a Natural Geographic video of snakes mating in a slithering orgy of reptilian delight. Rory saw the masses as signs and worried that the evil spirits had already been freed.

“Do you think we’re too late,” he asked Allen.

“I don’t know. Maybe you’re still asleep.”

“Stop it. We are hustling back to shore in Poodle’s boat with clouds of gnats and what appears to be eel porn following us and you think I’m asleep? I just hope we can do something before the evil is too strong.”

“Don’t worry,” said Allen, “We’re angry at Hell and we’re not going to take it anymore. Sing with me, “We’re not gonna take it, no we’re not gonna take it…”

Rory had to smile, “Twisted Sister now? You’re not right.”

Their drive back to Williamsburg took Rory and Allen back to the peanut farm. Rory grabbed his computer and found that the dock had been moved. “Damn updates,” he said. He noticed that he had a Facebook message from an old teammate, Carl Bannister. The message said that there was something weird going on at 18th and Columbia in Washington, D.C. and that Rory should call.

“Since when did I become a guy concerned with everything weird?” mumbled Rory as he dialed Carl’s number. Carl was one cool dude. He had been part of the Smurfs in high school, a tandem of shorter athletes whose symmetry made life very difficult for tall wide receivers and taller point guards. After graduation, he made a career of the military and followed events in the District as a hobby.

“Hello, this is Carl Bannister.”

“Carl, Rory. What’s going on?”

“I’m glad you called. There is an intersection in Washington with a bank. People think it’s haunted because lately people come out of it mad.”

Rory said, “It sounds like most banks. Why is that weird.”

“Because these people go out and commit crimes afterwards. They have no respect for other cultures, they burn churches, and they claim to worship a god called ‘Chupacabra.’ The lot where the bank is has a dark history, too. It’s the site of the Knickerbocker Theater.”

“Oh, no, Carl, I’ve got to go. I need more information on Chupacabra.”

“Alright, Rory. Let me know if you need help.”

The Knickerbocker Theater collapsed under the weight of a freak snowstorm in 1922. Ninety-eight people were killed in the collapse and both the architect and theater’s owner committed suicide after the tragedy. The appearance of bones around Tangier Island and the freaky crimes being committed around the old theater site was enough to convince Allen that something was happening.

“Do you know what a chupacabra is?” asked Allen.

“No.”

“It’s a goat-sucker.”

Rory and Allen looked at each other with panic. Allen’s goats represented the “Greatest of All Time” and they were in danger. There was the bearded one, the bald one, the one from the desert, the one shot in Memphis, the one shot in Ford’s Theater, and countless other goats that were nothing but good. Some were black, some white, some tan, but each goat in Allen’s heard was special.

“What do these chupacabras do?” asked Rory.

“They bite the goats and suck the blood out of them. Scientists think its an urban legend, though. Why are you asking?”

Rory explained what Carl told him. But he had more, “Remember how the voice said to save the island because more horrors would be coming? What if the horrors are these goat suckers. Tangier is in dire straights and it might already be too late. Maybe these crimes in D.C. are part of evil’s coming.”

“Why now, Rory? Tangier is still there. Something has got to be driving all this. Wildfires, police shootings, police being shot, the election, Britain, the Middle East, the environment, it’s all madness, man.”

“That’s what the voices said. Remember, they said that “Man” was the problem. Think of the damage we’ve already done. Chernobyl, the surface water there is contaminated. This is crazy, but that water has to go somewhere with its radioactivity. How are those isotopes rearranging what this world is all about? And relatively speaking, that’s a small part of the world. Stuff is going on all over the place.”

“Rory, we have to save the goats. They are goodness and if evil gets to them we might as well just stay asleep.”

Rory’s phone rang, “Carl…You don’t say. That’s good to know. Thanks.”

“Who was that?” asked Allen.

“Carl, again. He said that the people worshipping this Chupacabra are being described by the police up there as tenacious.”

“Is that all?”

“No, they vowed to cause a spiritual sterility across the entire world. They want a valueless society that is hellbent on destroying itself.”

“It sounds like they’re here already,” said Allen.

“Exactly. You get the goats and meet me at Poodle’s boat.”

“Where are you headed?”

“We are going Dick Proenneke on Tangier Island. I’m going to get the stuff to make some custom concrete. This island will not be swallowed into the sea. The goats will survive and men will learn how to act.”

“Rory, you’re dramatic, dude.”

Poodle and Allen were waiting with the goats when Rory got there. He was riding with a guy named Chuck.

“I don’t know if it will work, Rory, but this red bag mix might do the trick.”

“Thanks, Chuck, say hello to your sister. We’ve got to go,” said Rory.

They would need a miracle to save the goats.

The Coming (#31)

“We can go to Second Street,” said Coach Fraser.

Rory and Allen did not object. Second Street was a big part of their history. E Spernanza’s dad took Rory there when it first opened. The ceiling tiles were falling, but the burgers rocked. Through college, Rory dropped a fair share of cash in the more upscale Second Street. The ceiling tiles had been repaired and the burgers were still great. A few years back, Rory and Allen spent an epic night there when the cliche that “even a blind squirrel finds an acorn” would come to life. Heading to Second Street seemed like a good idea.

Except when they got there. The once Cheers like atmosphere had gone cosmopolitan. Rory felt betrayed by the new look and expressed his doubt, “Coach, are you sure this is the place you want to go? How about the Moose?”

Coach Fraser replied, “We have to go here. There is someone waiting.”

Allen secretly hoped it was an acorn reunion, but it was not to be. Sitting in a darkened booth and looking rather mechanical was Poodle. He had been witness to the epic nature of the aforementioned evening, but tonight he was looking scared and out of sorts.

“I found them. Now I’ve got to go,” said Coach Fraser.

He left without even saying good bye. “Some people never change,” said Rory.

“POODLE, what’s up my brother?” said Allen.

Poodle never looked over. He asked, “Are they out there?”

“Who?” said Allen.

“Those voices. The ones singing obscure Blue Oyster Cult songs like “Veteran of Psychic Wars” and “Flaming Telepaths.”

“How much have you had to drink?” asked Rory.

“If I’m still breathing, not enough. You guys, I need your help. Will you come to Tangier Island?”

Rory and Allen looked at each other. Both knew that there was disaster written all over a trip with Poodle into the bay. They would have been safer chugging up the Amazon. Rory still believed that whatever had been going on in his life was real, so he thought this was just another piece to his journey. Allen saw that nothing epic was going to happen, so he offered to drive the trio to Poodle’s boat. They got to the dock in about an hour’s time and Allen finally saw potential for the night.

“You got enough ballast in this tub?” asked Allen.

“She’ll get us there,” said Poodle, “It’s whether they let us come back that is the question.”

“Who?” asked Rory.

“I don’t know, voices. Just a bunch of damn voices I heard when I was crabbin’ the other day. I’ve been spooked ever sense.”

“Do you think it was some island dudes trying to scare you off?” asked Allen.

“No way. They told me to go down to the Yorktown Pub and pick up a case of Sea Grass. I never even heard of it, but the guy there was waiting for me. It’s some kind of micro brew. We’re supposed to drink it before we get to the island and then wait. No real person could ever set something like that up.”

They drank their first Sea Grass before leaving the dock. It was cold and dark like a Guinness. It didn’t have any of that hoppy taste like a pale ale. It was dark, smooth, and potent. There was a collective accrual of drunkenness that was taking them beyond boating under intoxication to a spiritual realm like that Rory had experienced at Carter’s Grove. This time, the goats were not present and he felt doom instead of being enlightened. Allen sensed the changing aura and began yelling that the boat needed power washing to appease the spirits. Poodle kept drinking and steered a course into the rising sun that was for him was blinding.

With the sun taking a mid morning perch, Poodle dropped an anchor. The water was a little rough, but there was not lagoon to put in. This end of Tangier Island had been abandoned. Once there was a village called, Canaan, but the island life offered little to people, so they left everything behind. Since then, the Chesapeake Bay had been taking in the leftovers. With little commercial relevance to the island, estimates of it’s death had been written in ledgers at between twenty-five and fifty years. Each of the guys chugged one last beer and jumped into the water. They had a short swim to a narrow beach that was cluttered with all sorts of trash from the bay.

“This is an environmental nightmare,” said Allen as he stepped over an axle from a lawn mower. One wheel was still attached and it was anybody’s guess as to where the junk had floated from. “Goats don’t leave trash behind,” he said.

“Look at this,” said Rory. He pointed to the ground at a human skull. “Where do you think it’s from?” He reached down and picked it up. At that moment, the full force of the beer hit. Clouds streaked across the sky and blocked out the sun. The boat sat perfectly still in water that did not move. Poodle passed out while Rory and Allen waited for whatever was coming.

“I guess this isn’t real either,” said Rory.

“I’m not sure yet,” said Allen.

A voice with an English and Virginia accent began speaking. Rory and Allen assumed it was coming from the skull, so they focused their attention there, “This was our promised land. We settled here. We were buried here. Now the waters dissolve our graves and the bay is taking the island away. Danger awaits those who do not heed the environmental warnings. Rising waters will be the least of the problems.”

“What are the most of the problems?” said Allen.

“Man.”

“What do you want us to do?” said Rory.

“You must fight global ambivalence. There are many fronts. Save this island before the horrors are released.”

The sun came back out. The choppy waters returned. Poodle woke up.

“Get in the boat,” said Rory. “We’ve got to go.”

Normalcy and Back To It (#30)

“Rory, we didn’t register,” said Allen.

“Stop it. When did that ever stop us? It’s not like we’re a couple of rejects. They’ll let us in.”

The timing of seeing Coach Cauthorn could not have been any better for Rory and Allen. His advice to them was to get back in the game, to rejoin the group. Rory felt like the last ten months had been going on for years. He thought he had been on a spiritual journey that included whacked out visions of all sorts of religious figures and people spreading their word in an effort to get Rory to find peace in his soul. As Rory saw it, Allen had been his Sancho Panza, who kept him focused on his journey. In reality, Allen had been beside Rory as he had a terrific sleep that was full of fantastic dreams. Seeing their old coach had put these two in a different frame of mind and the impact of his words had them heading to their high school reunion.

“I wonder if we were targeted by some middle aged twist of fate to start thinking about what life is all about,” said Rory.

“Dude, you were sound asleep. I don’t know what you’re talking about,” said Allen.

“Maybe, but just because you don’t remember doesn’t mean something didn’t happen to us. You saw Close Encounters, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Richard Dreyfus, nobody believed his character. Truth was, he knew the aliens were out there.”

“Rory, that was a movie.”

“I know, Allen, it’s an example. If we are going to say that stuff like that could never happen, then how do we explain God, Buddha, Allah? They are very real for the people who believe in them.”

“Now you are talking faith. That’s different than a movie,” said Allen.

“True, don’t get hung up on the movie side of things. How do we really know that there are gods? Why do we choose to believe in some and not others? It’s faith, there you are correct. I believe all that stuff was happening to me. Watch out, tonight I might be called to fly into battle and defeat alien invaders.”

“Shut up, man. That’s Independence Day. Hey, who’s car is that?”

Rory and Allen had made it to the homecoming game which was one of the events for their thirtieth reunion weekend. As Rory was trying to park, Allen had started scan the parking lot for familiar faces and thought he recognized the driver of another car.

“That’s Tina.”

“You’re crazy. You don’t know. When was the last time you saw her?”

“Twenty-five years, I think. You know the prospect of me being wrong is great. How about we bet?”

“Game on. Streaking at Sunken Gardens tonight under the full moon to the loser.”

“Deal.”

Rory and Allen walked over to the car. The driver got out.

“Oh, my goodness, Rory and Allen. I can’t believe my eyes.” Her name tag identified her as Tina, Class of ’85.

“Damn,” said Allen. The prospect of running across Sunken Gardens on a chilly night was not something Allen had counted on.

Word spread quickly that Allen and Rory were at the reunion. There is something about going home that is comforting and unsettling at the same time. Both Rory and Allen enjoyed their high school experience, but there was something about leaving Williamsburg that had seems inevitable. Physically, Rory went the furthest, although his recent episodes of soulful mining suggested that he never left. He talked to people he had not seen in thirty years. Their conversations were like they talked everyday. He missed that comfort, but also felt the weight of sameness that he felt when he moved away. The was no judgment against reuniting with his past, quite the contrary. Rory was invigorated and inspired by his old friends and wanted to have more contact with them, but he knew that tonight would probably be a short visit back in time. The football game went quickly and good-byes were said. Rory and Allen got back into the truck and headed for William and Mary.

“We will flee before there is an investigation,” said Rory. “Head Games” by Foreigner was playing on the radio.

“Eff you, Rory.”

“You’ll start down by the statue and run towards the Wren Building. I’ll be waiting there with your clothes.”

“Don’t mess with me. You better be there.”

“I’ll be there for you like that time you were there for me at that party with the Walsingham kid.”

“Right…”

Allen peeled off his clothes by the statue of two studying kids, lovers, whatever they were. While he waited, he thought he might ask the college if they would like to rent his goats because the area around the sculpture was a little overgrown. After a couple of minutes, Allen began gamboling down the middle of Sunken Gardens. Towards the middle of his naked run an emotion of freedom overtook his gait and he began skipping to a rhythm that was full of frolic and friskiness. He made it to the end of the gardens undetected where Rory waited and handed him his clothes.

“I hope I don’t get a rash from those woods,” said an out of breath, but jubilant Allen.

“I can’t believe you did that. Let’s get out here. I smell a cigarette. Someone is close by.”

“Rory and Allen. I thought that was you two,” said a man who was leaning against a tree with one leg up and his arms across his chest.

“Coach Fraser?” asked Allen.

“Indeed. I see you guys haven’t changed much.”

“You either,” said Rory. He looked to Allen and said, “I told you there is some weird stuff going on. When in the last time you saw Doug Fraser?”

“Thirty years,” said Couch Fraser. “Come on, lets go get something to eat.”

“I need a drink,” said Rory.”

“If you please, none for me, though,” said Coach Fraser.

Allen nodded, “If you please, really?”

AC, ABA, and Simplicity (#29)

“Allen, this whole time I thought we were making our way from the west after seeing my brother and running into all these people from high school and throughout history was a dream?”

“Yep,” said Allen.

“What about Ali, Parcels, and crashing the debate?”

“Never happened.”

“Ester Rolle, the leprechaun, my horse carriage business?”

“Nope. Nope. Nope.”

“What the hell, man? Am I going crazy?”

“I don’t know. You’ve always been a bit of a receptive spirit.”

“What do mean by that, Allen?”

“You know that song, Telegraph Road, by Dire Straits?”

“Yeah.”

“You’re like that, full of linear development and Rory, you know you’re my boy, but if I were to go about deconstructing you, I’d say you’re in need of some demassification.”

“I must be back in a dream. I’ll play along, although, this conversation is a bit woolly.”

“We live in an era of technocrats and you’ve been wrestling with your place in this word for quite some time.”

“What do technocrats have to do with anything?”

“You’ve never been one for special effects. You prefer acoustic or simple electric guitar to crazy synthed up sounds. You never turn your phone on and Facebook is the bane of your existence. You are the anti-technocrat.”

“Still waiting…”

“I’m just saying that all this technology and social media has been a catalyst for you to understand what you are all about.”

“Go on,” said Rory.

“You wrestle with social, media or otherwise, so all of this pressure to be on this or that has become much too weighty. You went to sleep trying to find meaning and purpose in a world that for all of its connectedness is a testament to isolation and an abundance of trivial social interactions.”

Rory thought for a moment, “That’s pretty good for a guy who once argued that psychology does not exist.”

Allen bowed.

“So what do I do with all of these dreams? They must mean something.”

“How do you resolve complex issues?” asked Allen.

“I shoot hoops.”

With that Rory and Allen hopped into Rory’s grandpa truck. They turned on the radio and Telegraph Road was playing. The song was nearing the end with the great instrumental when Rory turned into Quarterpath Park. He kept an old ABA basketball in back in case he ever wanted to shoot baskets somewhere. There was one car in the parking lot, a lime green Toyota from the late seventies. It was clean, not a speck of dust or a rag streak anywhere on it.

“You know who’s car that is, don’t you?” said Rory to Allen.

“AC, cool old, Alvin Cauthorn.”

Sure enough, out on the court in his blue sweat suit was the man himself. AC had been one of the coolest dudes ever. He was a stud football player, went to college, and came back to teach in his hometown. He had been Rory’s coach in junior high for basketball and Allen’s coach in football. He could have been Denzel’s study for coolness and everyone’s model for treating people right.

“What’s up, coach?”

“My goodness, if it isn’t old Rory and Allen. What’s going on fellas?”

Allen answered, “Since you asked, Rory is having a hard time figuring out who he is. What advice can you give him?”

“First of all,” said Rory, “are you here or am I dreaming?”

“I’m here, just as you are. What’s the problem?”

“I don’t know, coach. Life used to be so simple. Everyone told me if I worked hard and set ever challenging goals I could be something.”

AC stroked his beard and Rory wondered how there wasn’t a bit of gray in it. “You know, Rory, the idea that we keep getting better if we keep raising the bar is full of pressure. It’s too straight ahead for me. I think we move forward, test the boundaries, maybe fail, and try again. There are missteps, but we find a way that works. It’s messy, slow, and at odds with the establishment, but if we learn to think, we can to where we are supposed to be.”

Rory looked at Allen, “He didn’t say anything about technocrats.” Allen made a face back at Rory.

“This time we live in presumes that continued improvement is the only way. Technology has fueled that because of the speed involved in everything. I’m guessing you want something that is more simple.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Because you have an ABA basketball. What screams old-school more than a red, white and blue basketball? I’d say the ball represents your gratitude for what sports once were and a bit of pessimism for what sports are. In your search for simplicity and finding out who you are you hold on to the ball because it suggests that the past is within reach.”

“Whoa, coach, you made us think when we played, but you are blowing my mind now,” said Rory.

“Nope, I’m just helping you sort what you already know. What do you think about the ball?”

“I don’t know. It’s got style. The colors make it stand out.”

“How about you go in the corner and show me that patented Rory jumper?”

Rory went to the corner, squared up, and let the ball fly. His wrist flicked and hung over the rim. The rotation of the ball was perfect and the red, white, and blue mixed into a purple as the ball arched and fell into the net.

“Money!” said Allen.

“No, it was more than that. Those three colors became one. All the parts came together to make a perfect shot. Rory, it’s time for you to put the doubt away and rejoin the rest of us. No need to bring the ball, you have all you need. I’ve got to go. It was nice seeing you guys.”

Rory and Allen watched as Coach Cauthorn drove across the dusty parking lot. None of the dust stuck to his rims.

“Come on, Allen, we’ve got somewhere to be.”

Rory and Allen Get Steampunked

The wagon made it to New York City. Miss Moon foresaw the journey ahead for Rory and reached into a mini-fridge for a bag of arugula. She tapped the actuator on a modular culinary preparation machine and reduced the salad to liquid. She reached back into the fridge and pulled out a nearly frozen Piels beer. The bottle sighed as she twisted the top and poured the beer in with the green liquid. She handed the mix to Rory. He gave her a little smile and sipped a little.

“Save the rest for later,” said Memphis Minnie, “you’ll need it.” That struck Rory as weird, but he did not have time to ask her what she meant.

“We are leaving you now,” said Miss Moon. “You will see New York differently. You won’t notice the commercialized and sanitized version you’ve always known. You will experience the past in a futuristic way. the drink will give you energy to escape static ways. Your journey of discovery is turning into a battle beyond the present. Notice everything.”

“Wait!” said Rory, but it was too late. The Trio of Memphis was gone. Rory and Allen were in an unfamiliar New York. The skyline had lost its shape. Concrete was cracked and cars choked the streets. The steam was made by a fancy capacitor combined with a thing-a-ma-jig. There was so much steam that hair got frizzy, clothes stayed wrinkle free, and rust seemed to be taking over the abundance of metal that was everywhere. New York was a downtrodden warehouse district instead of the neon and glass mecca that Rory and Allen knew.

“Allen what year is it?” said Rory.

Allen picked up a newspaper and said, “June 16, 1935.”

Neither could comprehend the look of the city. Post apocalyptic would have been a good cliche to start with. Thoughts of Escape From New York and The Warriors ran through Rory’s head. “Well, what happened on this date back then?” he asked.

Allen said, “The students at Cornell graduated yesterday and heard from a Dr. Bixler.”

“Is that a big deal?” asked Rory.

“On this paper it is,” said Allen. It was the only story in the paper.

“Let me see that,” said Rory as he took the paper from Allen. Dr. Bixler told the graduates, “To fail to recognize how completely we place ourselves, at such times, under the influence of the unconscious, drives us to fail to the see the plane upon which free and creative spiritual activity can take place.”

“What’s it mean?” asked Allen.

“I don’t know, but lets start walking, see where things take us,” said Rory.

They started walking and paying attention to the way people were dressed. There was a common theme, clunky boots, leather pants, dark shirts, heavy duster coats and goggles that looked suited for mountain climbing. The clothes had angular cuts and hung off the people who moved like robots. The aura was cold, impersonal, and far removed from cool industrial chic. It was as if there had been an elimination of the human spirit and these people were just walking around as organic machines.

“Everyone is the same” said Allen.

“Why?” asked Rory. “I say we head to the Williamsburg Bridge and cross into Brooklyn to see what’s there.”

They walked to the bridge and as they were crossing a little kid who was dressed in a white suit came up to them. He said, “Find the cooper’s daughter,” before running away.

“The cooper’s daughter?” asked Rory. “Memphis screwed things up for us. We were heading home to live an easy life. No more thinking, no more discovery.”

“Hush, buttercup. I know who the cooper’s daughter is. I can’t wait to see this.”

“Tell me,” said Rory.

“Not yet.”

They walked into Brooklyn and asked people where they could find the cooper’s daughter. People would only look in one direction and finally after what must have been fifty people, Rory and Allen found the Cooper’s Shop. The smell of cedar was everywhere due to the wood shavings on the floor. The smell took Rory back to the Cooper’s Shop in Colonial Williamsburg where a black cat used to hang and the jokes of the coopers were great. This shop help that old world charm, but here too, rust was everywhere. Then there was the music, haunting and beautiful, techno smashed right into a nothing groove, Nine Inch Nails singing, Skin.

Allen rang a bell and stepped behind Rory. The cooper’s daughter came out and nearly knocked Rory over. She was beautiful and full of grace. She was also expressionless until she realized that it was Rory and Allen. A slight smile formed for just a second, but as the song changed to “Shred” she became a blank slate again.

“You’ve moved on. Drink and forget,” she said.

Rory did. He drank every drop and felt himself escaping the containment of his past. With the steam rising around him and Nine Inch Nails hammering his nerves with “Singe,” Rory prepared to let go. The cooper’s daughter helped him, “You can’t go back into the past.”

Rory woke in his bed. Allen was there. “What happened?” asked Rory.

“Dude, you’ve been tripping. Two nights ago you were dancing in the field yelling ‘I gotch you, Dr. Bixler’ and the next night you were insistent that Mr. Cooper was hanging around. I was about to put you in Eastern State.”

Rory looked around his bedroom. Everything was just right, peaceful. “What about Arizona, Memphis, and New York?”

“Nothing but a dream, killer,” said Allen.

“I need a beer,” said Rory.

“On the porch,” said Allen.

Rory walked through the house and out into the six thirty sun. He was struck by how beautiful the sunlight coming thought the trees was. He stopped short of taking a beer. There, in a cedar bucket, doubling as an ice chest was a six pack of Piels. Rory looked back to Allen who just smiled.