Where the Dragons Went - 1st Half

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
Strange weather even for this small town. A young man is trying to get home for dinner, it takes a lot longer than he would like.

Submitted: May 05, 2016

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Submitted: May 05, 2016

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“Where The Dragons Went”

(1st Half)

The weather grew very strange that afternoon, stranger than strange!

It started raining right after fog rolled into this valley and the rain was coming down in sheets. It's true, that November is a pretty rainy month around here, but I had never seen anything like this.

If I believed in such things, I would not have been surprised to see zombies emerge from the fog.

After the rain stopped I looked outside of the feed store door and it looked like one of those Vampire scenes from the movies, all foggy, kind of dark; a mysterious kind of creepy.

It was not the sort of weather that anyone wants to go out in, but I had only two choices. I could sleep over night in Farley’s feed store, or I could get wet and make it home for dinner.

Old man Farley is a nice enough guy and he pays me pretty good for part time help, but I don’t care to spend a night alone in his feed store.

There are all sorts of critters that make their way through Farley’s feed store, day and night. Just for instance, there are mice, rats, opossums, and then there is the skunk. 

We kind of named the skunk, “Stinky”, (What Else?). Stinky has never sprayed any of us because we don't bother that skunk, Farley's orders.

Stinky goes to the right, we go left, and if stinky wants to sleep under the pallets in the back of the store, we don't block the path. 

Stinky has never sprayed inside the feed store neither, so says Farley.

Personally, and this is just a feeling I get, I think old man Farley feeds Stinky so he'll stay around, but I can't imagine why.

 

In the summer months there are the spiders, snakes, lizards, moles, and some sort of big green bug that no one seems to have a name for; everyone just calls it, “The Bug”.

I guess I don’t have to tell you that we all stay clear of that thing and we let “The Bug” do whatever it wants to, whenever it wants. That being said, we don't even consider smashing it 'cause it's so big that it would leave a heck of a mess to have to clean up.

Now, as for deciding if I was going home that afternoon, you first need to understand that dinner is my favorite meal of the day. Not that other meals aren’t good, it’s just that dinnertime is special.

Dinnertime is the time of the day when the whole family sits down together. We tell each other about our day, shares news we've heard from our neighbors, or stuff going on in town. Someone always has some tall tale they've made up, or they've heard from someone else, so they tell the story just to liven things up and get some laughs going around the table. But most of all, it's just about being together and sharing a good meal, thanks to Mama.

Some nights Mama may bake corn bread to go with beans and ham-hock. Mama uses her own blend of spices, bacon ends, and brown mustard to give the beans that extra special flavor.

Mama likes to cook with Pinto or Navy Beans most of the time, but most any beans will do. Sometimes she'll mix the beans together before she cooks them up, but only if we don't have enough of one kind to feed us all.

I like them all, except for Lima Beans, there is just something about Lima Beans that I don't cotton to. So, when we have mixed beans I pick the Lima's out and give them to “Dog”, who is always under the table when anyone is eating.

Dog isn’t supposed to be under the table and Mamma tries to keep him out of the house a dinnertime, but Dog is pretty smart and he knows all the places that he can slip in.

Chicken is a big favorite at our house, don't matter whether it's Grilled, Fried, or Stewed.

When Mama stews chicken she likes to let the chicken and spices stew over a very low fire. It takes longer to cook that way, but she says it has a better flavor; and of course, we all agree.

When the chicken is done she pulls the chicken out of the pot and drops the dumplings in the broth.

Mama always makes extra dumplings just for me, because I’m not real keen on stewed chicken. The chicken is good, but I just don't like the looks of that skin after it's stewed. … Yuk!

Other times Mama cooks tatters in olive oil, spices, garlic, green peppers, and onion to go with some of my cousin Oink’s pork chops. … Oh Man!

Cousin Oink is a pig farmer and Mama trades with him from time to time.

Oink has no wife so he needs to barter for stuff he needs and can't do himself, or stuff that he just don't want to do.

Stuff like cooking and canning preserves, mending his clothes when they need buttons replaced, or something has a hole in it.

Mama even cuts his hair from time to time, in the hottest parts of Spring and Summer.

Oink lives down wind of our place so he always knows what Mama is cooking when the oven is hot. And seeing as how Oink loves Mama's Summer-Pies, you'd better believe that he is over at our place, Lick-ah-dee-split, as soon as he figures the pies have cooled enough for him to carry. His timing is uncanny!

Yes sir-re, when Oink gets a good whiff of something baking, here he comes with a pound of bacon for an Apple Pie or maybe a pound and a half for a Peach Cobbler. And if he's got clothes to mend, then he may bring the clothes and some fresh pork chops too.

Mama and Oink don't haggle much anymore, they pretty much know what each other wants and what it will take to get it; a pound of bacon for a pie, a large jar of preserves for six pork chops, etc, etc.

And of course, Mama always sends Oink home with a little bonus if it was an extra big trade, a half dozen peanut-butter, or cranberry, cookies.

 

Yes sir, like my brother, Joe-Dee, puts it "After a hard day of work'n, fish'n, or school'n, there is nothing better than to sit down with family to Mama’s fix'ns and a tall glass of Teeter’s milk"; Teeter is our milk'n cow.

Just thinking about Mama’s cooking always makes me hungry. So, you can see why going home was my only logical choice, even on a wet and muddy afternoon like this one.

 

I collected my pay and got a fist bump from Farley, gave my goodbyes to Farley’s Cocker-Spaniel, Goldie, and I headed for home.

 

I live on a farm outside of the town of “Mystic”.

Mystic is a small town and has only one paved road, all the other roads are mostly dirt, and some are covered with gravel.

The downtown area of Mystic has the only asphalt covered road and that is named "Main Street". (What else?) 

Main Street connects to the county’s access road, AR-113, which takes you through the hills to Old State Hi-way 45.

Hi-way 45 can take you east to the town of McNabb, over in Dill County, or North West, to Copper County and the State capital.

One side of Main Street has mostly businesses: (Six Lanes, bowling alley, beer bar, and pool parlor), (Full Moon, Chinese & Pizza take-out), (Penny's Pride, fabrics, sowing, and quilting supplies), (Look-N-Good, beauty salon & barber shop), (Mystic's Mercantile), and finally, behind the Mercantile is (Boats & More) wood working.

All these businesses are on one side of Main Street.

On the other side of the street is the Notary Public and law office of Woockmann & Goldberg, and right next door to those is the Old Town Hall Building, which is attached and in front of the Sheriff's Office and City Jail.

The city's park is, sort of, all around and in front of the Old Town Hall and Sheriff's Office.

At the very end of the street is “D.J.'s”, a Gas Station, Garage, & Towing Service}. 

I thought it best to stay off the dirt roads because they turn to mud in the rain and that mud turns to cement-like-clay when it dries. It is almost impossible to get the mud off something once it dries. That being the case, I thought that I would take my Rainy-day Shortcut home.

The shortcut takes me down Main Street to D.J.'s “service station. Dick & Joe's property is covered with black-top and the back of the property backs up to the old rock quarry.

After chatting with Dick about the weather, I made my way through the rock quarry and I climbed onto Thompson's split-rail fence, I balance my way down the fence until I came to Woockmann's rock wall and that takes me for another quarter mile.

My shortcut pretty well keeps my shoes out of the mud and my feet dry, but the only problem with that shortcut is that it takes me right to the river's edge and just across the bridge from “Slumberland.”

Slumberland is the local graveyard and it's over on the West side of Saw-tooth Hill.

I don’t like going anywhere near Slumberland, it is a creepy place, with or without the fog, and it is even creepier at night! Just thinking of it gives me Goosebumps.

Sometimes there are sounds that come out of Slumberland and those sounds make the hair stand up on the back of my neck.

My Papa says the sounds are caused by breezes blowing through the trees, but I’m not too sure (?).

Those sounds are enough to make anyone’s imagination go wild and those trees make for some real spooky shadows, especially under a big full moon.

Still, the prospect of cleaning clay off my shoes was even scarier than sneaking through the graveyard; so I headed for home via Slumberland.

My plan was to make it through the graveyard and home well before dark, thereby, avoiding most of the extra creepy stuff.

 

Oh drat! Where are my manners?

 

My name is Everett Andrew Ozcarp, but you can call me Andy.

My Mama liked the name Everett and Papa liked Andrew, but Mama put her foot down and got the last word on naming me, or so she thought.

My Papa is a pretty big guy and he knows how to throw his weight around, if you know what I mean.

Papa started calling me Andy from the very first day, and if anyone, except for Mama, called me Everett, well Papa would give them that “evil eye.”

In no time at all everyone was calling me Andy and that's fine with me.

I’ve got two older brothers, Joe David, aka Joe-Dee, and Basil Eugene, everybody just calls him Bake; Bake is the oldest. My sister is younger, going to third grade this year. Her name is Bessie Marie Ozcarp. My Mama’s name is Gloria LaVerne Sanders Ozcarp, everyone around here just calls her La-Verne, and my Papa is Raymond Woockmann Ozcarp, but everyone just calls him “Jake”; don't know why.

Papa has said, from time to time, that the Ozcarps come from a long line of Spell Casters and Potion Mixers. The women of the family do most of the potion mixing stuff. The men, the ones that own-up to it, have been known to cast spells and see bits of the future from time to time.

Not all of them are good at that stuff, or so I been told, and none of them can see exactly what they want to see in the future. If they could see what they wanted to, well, then I guess all the Qzcarps would be rich, fat, and sassy.

Papa says, “What an Oscarp sees is what an Oscarp was supposed to see, nothing more, nothing less, and there ain’t no reasoning that can explain it.”

Anyway, my Aunt Lucretia, my Papa's sister, everybody just calls her Lucy, can take warts off anybody. She just ties knots in kite string, one knot for every wart, and then she touches each knot to each of the warts while doing a little hocus-pocus to add drama. When she is finished, then she says some (so-called) magic words while she buries the string in her garden.

She says that it works every time provided she doesn’t touch the knots to anything accept the warts.

Oh yes, and Aunt Lucy says never, ever, touch any one knot to more than one wart. Lucy won’t say what would happen if you did, but I’m sure not going to try it to find out.

Lucy does other stuff to, like there is this "STY" thing. Aunt Lucy can remove Sties from anyone’s eyelids with her yellow-gold wedding ring. She just rubs the ring on the Sty, briskly, but lightly, and chants a little song. Afterward, she tells the person that the Sty will be gone in the morning. It must work because she’s never had anyone come back to complain.

Yah, Aunt Lucy does all sorts of stuff like that and everybody from around these hills comes to see her from time to time.

 

Now, Aunt Lucy’s sister, that would be my Aunt Fedora, we call her “Dora”, has a knack for mixing up herbs, roots, and flowers that she gathers from the fields and hillsides. Dora says her Granny taught her how.

Dora has a way of mixing what she finds with other stuff and makes potions, ointments, and soups out of them.

I’ve heard tell that Dora's creations cure most any ailment.

Just between you, I, and the fence post, everything she makes seems to work, but it tastes terrible, or so I've heard.

 

My Mama’s side of the family, well, they been called witches and warlocks by some of the less educated members of our community. And you'd better believe that there isn't anyone that would call them that to their face.

I, myself, have never seen any one of my Mama's family riding a broom, or wearing black robes with pointy hats.

Sure, some of the Sanders have black cats, but they have gray, white, and brown cats too.

And speaking of cats, Mama says people have it all wrong about black cats.

Mama says that Black cats aren't any friendlier with witches than they are with anyone else, it's just that witches aren't afraid of them. She says that Cats can feel fear and act accordingly.

Mama says black cats don't bring bad luck either. She says that what is going on is a kind of early warning system, a heads-up from the spirit world, so to speak. The cats are trying to tell that person to take another path, or trying to tell that person not to do whatever that person is about to do, or is considering doing.

The black cat is not the bad guy, it's trying to be the good guy!

Oh, and by the by, the Black Cat omen only counts when it is a strange cat you've never seen before, or a black cat that walks across your path no matter how hard you try to avoid it.

Now the size of the cat can make a difference too. Kittens are little warnings. Three black kitten are three small problems coming, a Momma Black Cat and one or more Black Kittens, that could be a warning not to get involved in someone's family dispute.

 

Caldrons, does my family have a caldron? 

 

You mean those big pots that witches cook potions in, and in some stories, children? 

Well yes, our family has a Caldron, but it isn't used for cooking anything creepy.

We use that caldron to cook Crab, lobster, mussels, and other such creatures for the Mystic Valley Festival & Fair. That seafood sells like hotcakes and the extra money we earn helps us make it through the winter months.

Bobby-Dean Sanders is one of my cousins. He has a lobster business out on the coast and every year, at festival time, he sends us whatever he can spare. And if business is bad, then he sends us whatever he can get from his friend Preston McCormick.

Preston is his best friend and Preston's family has a few fishing boats.

Bobby's sister, Betty-Lynn, helps him out from with his book keeping and shipping stuff, whenever it's needed.

Betty arranges to have whatever Bobby gets for us trucked right to our house, weather permitting. Sometimes it’s crab, sometimes it’s lobster, sometimes he surprises us and sends something totally different.

One time, I don’t know what Bobby was thinking, he sent us some Blue Fin Tuna, lots of tuna!

 “You can’t cook tuna in a caldron,” I said.

“No problem,” said Papa, “we’ll just build a Smoker and smoke us some fish!”

Well, I heard of smoking a pipe, and a C-gar, but I never heard of smoking a fish!

Mr. Moon must have heard that we had fresh fish, because he high-tailed it to our place on the same afternoon that it arrived. 

News travels fast around Mystic.

Well, Mr. Moon said this, Papa said that, Moon had a pow-wow with his two sons, and then he made a new offer. Papa scratched his head, rubber his chin, spit on the ground, and then they shook on it; it was a deal.

Moon got 12 of the largest tuna, he got to pick which ones, and we are going to get us a new outhouse, delivered. But we do the installation.

The part that sealed the deal, and the part I liked the best, is that we get six large pizzas, with everything on them, delivered on the next Super bowl Sunday.

Sounded like a good deal to me!

The Moon's build the best outhouses and row boats in the county, maybe even the whole state. And their little restaurant serves some great food too. I don't care if you want Pot-Stickers, or Pizza, Moon's place makes the best.

 

So, anyway, the whole family got together and cut and cleaned the rest of the fish, had to get it taken care of before the ice melted.

Papa and his brothers dug a hole in the ground, downwind of the house, then they stacked bricks roundabout and built a fire in it. It was a strange looking thing, but it seemed to do the job.

Fish fillets were going in and out of the smoker for days and they were still cook'n when the Festival started on Friday afternoon.

Well, let me tell you, that smoked tuna sold as fast as we could hall it into town. We even had orders to jar some for winter.

Mama was glade to oblige, she had just bought jars and lids for the strawberry season; fifty-six jars of smoked tuna were packed, sealed and delivered by Monday afternoon. 

Mama and cousin Oink did some haggling too, he walked away with three jars of tuna & we got one fine pork roast.

It was a good year, that year, and the best part was that we sold, or traded, every last eatable bit of that smoked tuna.

The fish heads and tails, they make great fertilizer, so we ground them up and mixed them with the compost for Mama's garden. And everything in her garden grew likes weeds that next season. Yep, we had a bumper crop of strawberry's, carrots, and tomatoes; Mama had to order more jars.

As for fish scraps, with a total of 8 cats and kittens around this farm, that was not a problem.

 

Now, I guess that I should tell you that some of my Mama’s family sees and hear things most folks can’t. You know strange things that don’t always make sense?

Some of those Sanders know, from time to time, when something is going to happen, but they don’t say anything about it ‘cause they don’t always know exactly when or where.

Now these “things” that are gonna happen, they're not the kind of things, like, when my brother Bake's bad knee gets all kinky just before a Cold-Snap is coming. No, it's different.

Like Mama says, “You might say for sure that your neighbor's horse is going to die, 'cause you saw it in a dream, but you just can't say what day it will happen, or where, 'cause the dream didn't show that stuff. Still, you know from past dreams that it won't be too long before it happens.”

So you just don't say anything, because if you did say something to someone, that someone might think you're crazy as a hoot and start gossiping about you.

For instance, one time my Uncle Shyless, Mama’s oldest brother, had a dream. In this dream he saw Milford Moore’s house burning. Well, being a friend of Milford’s, Shyless told Milford about the dream and he told him to have a good look around his place for potential fire hazards.

Dreams about fire don’t always mean a real fire, sometimes fire in a dream may be an infection, like the burning feeling in a wound, but fire is never a good omen; so says Shyless.

Well, Milford didn’t take my uncle seriously.

How do I know?

Because just one week later Milford's house burnt to the ground! It's a good thing he was near an open window, so he was able to get out easy enough.

Well, come to find out, and this came straight from the Volunteer Fire Captains mouth, Milford had put too hot a light bulb in his Covered Wagon Lamp.

Milford had bought this Covered Wagon Lamp two days after Shyless had told him about the dream. Milford bought the lamp from some lady at the flea market and she told him the lamp was hand made by a real convict, up at the state penitentiary.

The lamp had a tag on it that said it was rated for a 30-watt bulb, maximum! But when Milford got home from the flea market he found that the bulb in the lamp had broken.

Well, Milford didn’t have a 30-watt bulb, but he did have a 100-watt bulb. “It was a Big mistake using that hot bulb in that cloth and wood wagon,” so the Fire Captain said. 

Anyway, when the house burned down, old Milford swore up and down that my uncle had put a curse on him.  Milford said the curse was 'cause he owed Shyless money.

 

My uncle Shyless told Milford, right in front of everybody at the Bowling Alley, “Milford, you’d better mind what you say and stop talk’n so stupid! You only owe me $20 and everyone in this town knows that I don’t do no curses for less than $100!”

Then Shyless really gave it to Milford, “I tried to help you Milford by warning you, but no, you just made fun of what I told you.  It weren't me, or a curse, that burned down your house Milford, it was a blockhead with a 100 watt light bulb!”

Well, you can see why Mama’s family doesn’t say much when they do know something is going to happen. 

 

Anyway, where was I?

Oh, after chatting with Dick at the garage, I went along Thompson's fence and then down Woockmann's rock wall for a quarter mile. It was slow going, but better than trucking through the mud.

Soon, I was at Lady Gramling’s covered bridge, which is a great place for fishing in the rain, but on a day like this it can be really scary.

Lady Gramling didn’t really own the bridge, the town owns it, but some time back she got permission and paid a pretty penny to have the local carpenter cover that bridge.

The carpenter built a roof for the bridge, a wide roof, wider than the bridge itself. There were sideboards added to the lower half only, then side rails at the top of the boards, so no one could walk off the side of the bridge in the dark, or the fog.

It was a very practical design; you could see the river while you were crossing, or fish'n.

Lady Gramling told everybody that she didn’t want to get her “Sunday go to meeting” clothes wet during the carriage ride home, you know, if it were to rain or something. She said that she needed “a place to take refuge should nature go awry.”  Not that anyone cared why she wanted a cover on that bridge, as long as they didn’t have to pay for it. 

Her husband, Chester Gramling, was a jack-of-all-trades around these parts. If you needed something mended, or built, didn’t matter what it was, he was your man.

He could fix, build, paint, or plant most anything. If you needed a tree removed, he could do it, tear down a house, barn, or shed, he was the guy to call; that is, until he found silver.

Yes sir, one day he was just pocking around an old cave that was at the east end of the Gramlings property.

The cave was in a hillside of hard rock and Chester went in to see how deep the cave went and how many branches it had. He took two flashlights and a small hand pick.

Chester didn’t want to get lost in the cave so he used the small hand pick to mark the walls.  As he went in he would hit the walls, on the right, to put a mark on each one as he passed buy, that way, when he was coming out he could just follow the marks, on the left side, and he wouldn’t get lost.

As he went deeper into the caves he noticed that some walls seemed harder than others, in fact, one of the walls seemed a lot softer.

I've been told that when he shinned his flashlight on that soft spot he saw something he hadn't seen in years. It was silver!

Well, don’t you know Chester worked that vein for years, off and on. It wasn’t a huge strike, but it brought them more than enough money to last their lifetime. 

As the years passed, Chester found the silver vein was nearly played out. That is when he started doing some really dumb things.

Or so I been told.

Chester was doing stuff that anyone in their right mind would have never done, unless they were an expert. Yet, Chester had gotten silver fever and when someone gets “The Fever” they don't always think straight.

Sure enough, Chester started drilling holes in the walls and using dynamite to try and find another vein of silver. The trouble is that Chester must have used too much dynamite, because that last blast caused the cave to come crashing down on him.

 

Lady Gramling asked the pastor to hold the funeral service at the cave and had a big tombstone carved to fit over the area where the entrance once was; then she had it cemented in place.

Lastly, Lady Gramling paid my Uncle Shyless to put a curse on the stone so no one would try to open it up again.

Nobody dares go near it.

 

After the cover was built for the bridge, Lady Gramling would stop there after church. She would park her blue and white surrey just under the cover of the bridge and stare at the water in the river.

Some folks say that they had seen her there, on occasion, just sitting in the surrey, starring at the river, and crying. Just her and her best horse “Dandelion” would stay there for an hour or so.

Lady Gramling’s actions might have seemed strange except for the fact that the Gramling’s only child, Dillon, disappeared while swimming near that bridge. They never found a body, just a towel and his clothes on the riverbank.

Everyone said that it was bound to happen.

Dillon was such a hard head and wouldn’t listen to his parents, or to anyone else for that matter. He was always doing dumb things that could hurt himself, or someone around him.

Chester Gramling built Dillon a big swimming pool to try and keep him away from that river, but the kid liked that river best.

They tried everything to get him to mind his P’s and Q’s, but the boy had a stubborn streak that would not quit.

My Mama always said Dillon was “That Way” because of the time and place he was born; say'n he had conflicting signs; but that is a whole other story.

I don’t like to judge, but I always thought that Dillon didn’t have a whole lot of common sense; not that he wasn’t smart, cause he was. He just didn’t use that noodle of his for safety; you might say that he was just fool hardy. And being a spoiled brat didn't help any.

I sometime wondered if Dillon got in trouble just to see how far he could push Chester. It was almost like he was hoping that Chester would box his ears, but Chester never raised a hand to him.

Mrs. Gramling ruled the roost in that household and in her eyes Dillon could never do no wrong.

 

Anyway...

A few years ago, Mrs. Gramling didn’t come home from church one Sunday. One of her farm hands found her sitting in her surrey with tear stains on her cheeks. Her eyes were open and she seemed to be starring at that river.

Doc Sturgeon said, officially, that “she died of a heart attack,” but unofficially we all knew that she really died of a broken heart; after all, she was only in her mid fifties.

From that day on the whole town started calling the bridge after Lady Gramling, out of respect I guess.

 

As I walked across the bridge every little shadow seemed to have something hiding in it, not to mention the floor made all these creaking noises. Every time I took a step it sounded like someone was walking behind me!

I kept looking around to see if I could see anybody, but all I saw was fog, shadows, and a mouse here and there.  Even then, I had this feeling that I was not alone.

I was so glad to get off that old bridge, even if I was at the edge of the graveyard.

The sun must have gone behind some very thick clouds because it was getting dark, very quickly.

Like a cat on a picket fence, I moved along the edge of the graves, one foot in front of the other. I tried to be careful because everyone knows that it is bad luck to step on a grave.

 

I could hear bullfrogs down by the water’s edge and some crickets off in the distance, but then it became very quiet, very quickly!

I began to see the faint outline of the sun above me as the fog seemed to be getting thicker.

I could only see a few feet ahead of me, when…

 

“Screeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeccch!” 

The sound of a screech owl whipping past my head sent me into orbit! I started running so fast that I thought that I might actually be flying!

My mistake, not fly! Falling ... into what I perceived to be an open grave.

I must have knocked myself out because the next thing that I remember was being scrunched up in the corner of that grave. I was just lying there thinking, “I can’t move, I'm dead, Holy Mo-lee, maybe I am dead! 

Well, I wasn't, thank heaven.

When I regained all my movement I stood up and brushed myself off. “That’s strange,” I thought, “Why aren't I muddy?” Falling into an open grave, with all the fog and the rain falling on the ground, I should have mud all over me!

I felt the dirt floor and it was dry as a bone, then I touched the walls and they were dry too.

When I looked up I could see fog about three feet above me, yet there was no fog coming into the hole. There was a hazy light overhead, but it was pitch dark in the hole that I was in.

At that point I noticed that there was fog was beading up on what looked like a glass plate above my head, like there was a clear cover over the hole. The water was running off the glass, or whatever it was, but not into the grave.

My surroundings were so strange, downright unreal, but at that point I wasn’t too sure what was real and what was not.

I wasn’t even sure that I was in a grave. This hole was not the kind of rectangle like most graves are; it seemed to be square and somewhat deeper.

I reached up and touched what I thought was the glass lid, but it wasn’t. Whatever it was sparked when I touched it, little sparks. The sparks hurt some; they tingled my skin and made me want to pull away. I tried to grab the edge of the hole, but it was too slippery to hang on to.

 

After a few moments of thought I did the only reasonable thing that I could think of, I started yelling at the top of my lungs, “HELP ME, SOMEBODY, HELP!”

After yelling for a while, I thought I heard a voice.

At first it sounded like it came from far away. I thought it might be Billy-bones Jones the Caretaker, which left me with mixed feelings and goose bumps.

It’s not that Billy-bones is a bad guy. He’s just kind of a creepy cuss with one eye that moves separate from the other, he’s got pot marks all over his neck and most of his teeth are green. His real name is Billy Jones, but everyone just calls him Billy-bones, ‘cause he works in this graveyard.

Billy’s Mama and Papa died when he was young, he was ‘bout ten, and he came to live with his Uncle, Benjamin Jones, the Moon-shiner. Well, hear tell it, Billy had to just about raise himself because his Uncle “Ben” was a lazy old drunk.

The neighbors were always finding odd jobs for Billy to do just to help him out. Sometimes they’d pay him with a used pair of britches and shirt, sometimes with a descent pair of shoes. Some would give him a few coins for his pocket and a hot meal. They would do that so he didn’t starve, or take to thievery.

Billy’s Uncle Ben is a no-account and never looked after Billy very good, mainly ‘cause he was drunk most of the time and can’t hardly take care of himself.

Yet, everyone around these parts say things like, “blood is blood and family is where he belongs.”

Not sure I believe that is always the case.

I yelled again, hoping to get Billy’s attention, but there was still no answer.

Suddenly, I realized that the voice was getting loader and that the voice that I was hearing was coming from inside the hole!

 

“Will you please stop yelling?” It demanded. “Besides, no one can hear you while you’re in this portal,” it insisted. “You do know that the only way out of this portal is through the bottom and you are standing on the top, right?.”

 

“Who’s there?” I asked, not knowing if I really wanted to know.

“I am Shadow!” The voice replied. 

Then I asked what turned out to be a silly question, “Why can’t I see you?” 

“Because you are in a very dark place and you are standing on me,” it replied.

Forgetting that I was nearly defenseless and in a hole with a strange voice, I said, “That’s silly, shadows don’t talk, shadows aren’t even living things, they’re just shadows, besides,“my teacher says that you must have a light source and a material object to produce a shadow. And, right now, there’s no one in this hole but me and I don’t have any kind of light!”

“Well, Dah,” said the shadow, you should have paid better attention in class! The fact is that there is light from the sky above you, a faint light, but none the less, a light. You are the solid object, and so, ---- I must be directly under your feet! 

“Oh, sorry,” I muttered as I tried to step to one side.

Then Shadow scolded, “What is the matter with you anyway, haven’t you heard your folks talk about shadows before? Most of your family talks to their shadows, so, what’s with you? Are you a shadow hater, or something?”

“Hay, don’t talk to me like that!” I cautioned. “My family isn’t exactly considered normal and I’m sure they were just as confused as I am when their shadow first talked to them. That is, if any of them really do talk to their shadows."

 

Then I countered, "Besides, I never heard any of them say anything about talking shadows.

I heard about ghost and banshee down in Atwater Glenn.

Once in a while Cousin McNabb says that he sees elves and pixies in Skull-Chaser Woods. Although, I have always taken what McNabb says with the grain of salt, (if you know what I mean?). Either that cousin of mine is a little touched in the head, or he really does see odd things during full moons, but it is not my place to judge.

Now, my Mama’s half brother, Sammy Gray-feather, he said he had a fight with a Blue Troll under the Old State Bridge, that was last New Year’s eve. He said he woke up in the slammer the next day, all scratched and bruised; didn't know what happened to the Troll.

But as for anybody talk'n about talking shadows, no, never heard of any.

Besides, if you are my shadow you’d want to help me, us, get out of here!

I’m cold, hungry, and stuck in this hole talking to a shadow that I haven’t even seen yet. All this is very close to making me think that I’ve gone completely bonkers. I mean, I’d be more than glad to leave this hole if I could, but I don’t know the way out!”

“Chill Dude”, said the shadow, “just take it easy.

I guess what has happened to you would be unnerving for anyone so I'll help you out.”

“Help you out, get it? Ha-ha-ha, help you out of the hole, help you out. Get it?” He laughingly said.

“YES, I Get It,” I barked back at Shadow.

“Look,” Shadow continued, “If you really want out of here all you need to do is stand on your head.”

“What!” I yelled. Are you trying to make a fool out of me?”

But Shadow quickly replied, “No, no, really, standing on your head reverses everything. If you stand on your head you will fall up and out of this porthole.

Don’t you see? This isn’t a grave; it’s a porthole with six directions, you have five ways to exit right now. You came in head first, so you must leave feet first if you are going to get back to where you were, and standing on your head takes you back to where you were.

It's like this, touching your feet on any wall and letting any part of your body touch the opposite wall sends your whole body to where your feet are pointing.” 

(Yes, I had to ask.)

“What are in the other directions, you know, behind the other walls?”

“Ooh,” shadow moaned and replied, “Secrets of the ages, dangers beyond compare, great adventures for the stout of heart, in a place called, “Over There.”

“Very nice,” I said, “like I really need a rhyme right now! Besides, that was only three directions.  What’s behind the fourth wall?” I asked.

“Dragons!” the shadow said, “That place where the Dragons went. When you leave that porthole, if you were to make it out alive, you’d know everything that anyone could ever known about dragons. You’d know how they came to be where they are, instead of where they were. You’d know what kinds of dragons there are and what they look like. You’d even know what they eat, if one didn’t eat you first; snicker, snicker.

You would be the only person alive that has seen a real live dragon in over a thousand years.”

I hesitated before asking the next question.“How do I know which wall is which, which goes where, and which doesn’t?”

“You don’t, shadow replied,” laughing, “you just never know.

Besides, you just want to get out of here and go back to where you came from.  So, if home is where you wish to go, just stand on your head.”

I was never very good at standing on my head, so it took some time to get situated for my first attempt. The hole that I was in was pretty square and about five feet from wall to wall; I was 4 feet and 4 inches tall, so I figured if I kept my arm near my body I would have no problem with touching opposite walls.

I decided to lean against one of the walls to keep my balance, being very careful not to touch any other wall.

Still, I had forgotten one crucial point; I always fall down a few times before I am actually able to stand on my head.

(Guess what happened next!?!)

I pushed off with my feet and lost my balance, and then I tried to correct it and fell flat on my face. Unfortunately, my right hand was touching one wall and my left foot was touching the opposite wall.

 

Blast, blast and double blast! I fell right into a place called Dragon’s Nook.

I know it was called Dragon’s Nook because there was a big old sign saying;

“Welcome to Dragon’s Nook!”

“Please stay off the clover.”

 

There were four smaller signs pointing in different directions. One said, “Fire Dragon, this way”, another said, “Earth Dragons, that way”, still another said, “Water Dragons”, pointing toward a very large lake. The last sign said, “Sky Dragons”, but that sign pointed straight up into the sky; (an empty sky?).

I thought about my situation for a long time, at least two or three minutes, and decided that this place was not a good place to be.

“What can I do to get back to the hole,” I wondered? 

I tried standing on my head again, twice, but that didn’t do anything at all. All I was doing was falling over and getting dirtier.

 

There I was in Dragon’s Nook and Shadow was nowhere to be seen. In fact, there was no sun in the sky, yet it was like mid-day. Maybe that is why nothing in Dragon’s Nook showed any sign of having a shadow, not the trees, not the bushes, not me, nothing.

Dragon’s Nook was such a strange looking place too. “Stranger than strange,” I would say.

There were some clouds in the sky, but they looked more like soap bubbles in a bubble bath. The bubbles, I mean clouds, weren’t round like bubbles. They were shaped like ordinary clouds, kind of. Some of them were clear, others were white, and others were powder blue with white and clear streaks.

The sky was a greenish-blue, or maybe that’s bluish-green, I always get those two colors mixed up.

The lake looked like blueberry soda and it was smooth as glass, no waves at all.

The ground was covered with clover; everywhere you looked there were clover fields, valleys, and hillsides. The only place that clover didn’t seem to grow was on some parts of the mountains, and the trails and roads that went every which way.

Not all of the clover was the same color, mostly greens of different shades and some yellows here and there.

Some of the clover had little red and white flowers growing all through them, yet, when I tried to touch the flowers they sprouted wings and flew away.

The trees and bushes were a bit weird too, all twisted and bent around as if strong winds had formed them, but there were only light breezes.

Most of the trees had things growing on them, like fruit, maybe, but I wasn’t going to eat any of it to find out. Besides, I would’ve had to climb pretty high because all of the fruit grew on top of the trees. I thought that was very strange that there was no fruit anywhere else on the plants. Yet, considering where I was,  I guess that was normal.

The bushes had things growing on them, looked like berries of all different colors and shapes. The berries grew on the tops of the bushes too, mostly, and red and yellow flowers grew all around the sides.

After eying all the vegetation, I started to notice other strange stuff.

Some of the birds in Dragon’s Nook, I think they were birds, had round wings that folded up like an oriental fan. Others birds flew as if they were swimming, as if they were doing the butterfly stroke.

Oh, and there was another kind of bird that looked like it had no legs, just feet. That bird was the size of a pigeon and when it flew it took off and landed like a helicopter. It could even hover in mid-air and fly backwards. I saw one rise straight up in the air for about five yards, and then boom, he was gone! Boy, are they fast.

My personnel favorite is the Peek-ah-boo Bird; I call it that because every time I see one, it’s just sitting with its wings covering its eyes. Then, when the bird hears something, it lifts it’s wings just enough to see what’s going on. If there is no danger, then it covers its eyes again.  It makes a call that sounds like it is saying “see-u, see-u”. The Peek-ah-boo Bird is a little bit bigger than a goose and has brown and orange feathers, with white on its wings.

There were animals too; I only saw a few up close, but I reckon there were a lot more. One of them looks a little like a chipmunk, except, his hind legs are longer than the front ones and he doesn’t have a tail. When he runs across the clover he runs on his hind legs. He looks like he’s tiptoeing real fast. But when he goes up, into a tree, he runs on all fours, jumping ever which way.

Another animal looks a little like an Egret, or a Stork, but I figured it wasn’t a bird because it has no wings or feathers; it doesn’t have any feet either. 

It moves very slowly through the clover on three stick-like legs, looking for things to eat I’d bet.

It’s head looks like a lizard and it has a long tongue that reminds me of a straw. It sticks its tongue in between the clover and sucks up whatever it's eating.

Well, then there are the gophers, real cleaver gophers too.

I wish we had gophers like those at home, you know, instead of the ones we have.

These gophers are way better because they don’t leave big holes in the ground. When they come out of the ground, they don’t push dirt out and make a mound like regular gophers do. They just stick their heads up, with the dirt and clover still on top, like hats; then they have a look around and back under they go. When they go back under the ground, the dirt and clover cover the hole perfectly. You’d never know that they were there.

Dragon’s Nook was an interesting place to explore if I’d had more time and knew for sure how to get back home, but I didn’t know how to get home for sure and that was making me crazy.

I tried standing on my head one more time, to see if I would end up somewhere else, and I did.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t out of Dragon’s Nook, or home, that I went. I was suddenly on one of those soap bubble clouds, a blue one, and when I realized where I was it scared the Bah-geebers out of me! 

“How did I get up here?” I wondered, but I really didn’t want to know. Things like magic and how they work are much too complicated for me to ponder. 

Anyway, as I walked along the surface of the cloud I felt like I was walking on thick rubber shoes. I was very scared, at first, because I was afraid I was going to fall through the cloud every time I took a step, but it never happened. 

As I jumped from a blue cloud to a clear one I noticed a difference in the softness. Clear ones reminded me of plastic pillows full of air and I could bounce really high on those.

The blue clouds were more like hard rubber, good and stable, like walking on a sidewalk in a new pair of Nike’s.

Then I came to a white cloud; the white ones were like big feather beds, so soft. I just knew that I was going to sink right through them; but I didn’t.

It was not very long before I was running and jumping from one cloud to another. I was doing forward flips and backdrops, and then diving from the clear clouds into the white ones; it was like being on giant trampolines.

I made some mistakes though, I found out that it is not a good idea to jump from a blue cloud onto a clear one, because the clear clouds bounce you right back to where you started, (ouch!).

 

All the cloud bouncing and excitement made me very tired, so I stretched out on a white cloud to rest. There was a nice breeze blowing and I could hear the distant call of the Peek-ah-boo Birds, ---“see-u, see-u”.

I feel asleep.


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