The Lost Goddess Flag

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic


Just a story for the Spring Equinox. I don't know if there is any real point to it.

Submitted: March 21, 2018

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Submitted: March 21, 2018

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The Lost Goddess Flag

Merriam loved that Shinning Star Cafe. It was the quintessential Nederland. It was homey, quaint and, for the most part, patronized by locals. And there was great stage and sound system for such a small place. But this was to be expected as Keith, the male half of the couple that owned the place, played in the band Mountain Time. An extremely popular “Newgrass” band in the Denver, Boulder and front range area. The Shinning Star was a showcase for both his band and another Nederland based band called Elephant Revival. Keith had put a lot of time and thought into building both the stage, the sound system and recording system that tapped into it.

Merriam used to live nearby in a 400 square foot cabin above Rollinsville. Heated with wood. She had spent many nights at the Star when Mountain and Elephant had put on their free concerts. Most of the time it was too crowded to set foot in the place, so most people sat outside on the lawn or front porch. The building had started as an old 1930's style house surrounded by a large porch and yard and this was put to good use when the weather was warm enough.

Merriam was on stage now with her electric viola, which everyone assumed was a fiddle. Merriam preferred the instrument as it had more power than a violin and the the upper string, an “A” rather than an “E”, never skipped. And Merriam hated that violin skip with a passion. With her was Robert and his banjo and Robert's Korg synthesizer. Robert's wife, Gina, stood behind the synthesizer as if it was a piano and she was playing it, but really all she did was switch on the tracks when it was time and dance a little bit. She didn't even control the volume, Keith did that from the mixing booth. So in a sense, the band was a bit of a fraud, her and Robert singing playing along with Korg tracks they had recorded. But people liked the music and Merriam supposed this was what counted.

In Merriam's mind the crowd was just right. All the tables were full, and there were no people standing. Relaxed, with an easy path to the bar. She knew most of the people, growers, pot shop people and a few who worked down below at CU. Nederland types. Downtown Nederland had three bars, a co-op grocery store, a rock shop and six marijuana related businesses. Women with dreads were common.

The lights came on at 11:00. Keith and his wife didn't want to stay up all night. Merriam and Robert began to pack up their stuff and lug it out to Gina's Volvo station wagon. they had just finished stacking the stuff up next to the tail gate, and were preparing to start loading, when Gina commenced her bitching.

“You guys owe me for the gas. We used up half a tank coming up this mountain.”

Robert sighed. “I'll fill it up tomorrow. Don't worry.”

“And why did we come up here anyway”, asked Gina. “There's no crowd. What did we play for? Thirty people? Maybe forty?”

“It was a good night”, said Merriam. “The people liked it. That's how you get popular. You play for people. Hardly anybody makes it by wowing people at big festivals a couple of times a year.”

“Well, I'm tired of wasting my Saturday nights driving all over hell and back to play for a couple of hippies in some small town bar.”

“You're in a band”, said Merriam. Tiredly. “You work a lot of nights and weekends in that business.”

Robert broke it up before it got serious by starting the loading. Merriam helped. The two of them knew how to do it. Gina didn't. And if it wasn't done right, it wouldn't all fit.

“See you at practice on Tuesday”, said Merriam as Robert pulled out, Gina still looking sulky in the passenger seat.

“Bitch”, said Emily as she watched the wagon turn the corner to loop back to the road down the canyon to boulder.

“Pretty much she is”, said Merriam. “Let's get this stuff back to the car.”

Merriam carried the two viola cases and a laptop case holding the cords, volume pedal and DI. All were equipped with shoulder straps making this possible. Emily carried the Roland Acoustic chorus Combo Amp, which never really amplified anything. It served more as an effects box and a go between for the instrument and the snake to the mixing booth. They puffed to the other end of the street where the car was parked in the public lot next to the visitor center. They unloaded their sleeping bags and insolite pads from the trunk replaced this gear with the music equipment.

“I bet I'm the only person in the world who carries around a spare electric viola”, said Merriam.

“I guess you never know when it might fail”, Emily replied.

“They never fail”, said Merriam. “It's to convince the idiots in the both that their snake is no good. I can trace the signal all the way through my stuff and then they say that is has to be the instrument. So I pull out the spare and plug it in and it still doesn't work. Then. Finally. They go, 'Oh wow', and admit that their shit might be screwed up.”

“They're all guys. Right?”

“Yup. The can't believe I did it right”, said Merriam. “Oh, shit. We left the Goddess flag back there on Stage.”

“Want to go get it?”

“Nah, I'm sure Keith and Carol have it all locked up now. They wanted to go home. I'll stop by tomorrow.”

They began making their way up the fork of Boulder Creek next to the parking lot, to a secret sleeping spot they knew. There was campground just South of town, West Magnolia, but they avoided that. Drainbows lived there full time and they could be a bit sketchy. The Rainbow Gathering had lost some of it's innocence and luster.

They awoke to a wonderful mountain morning. Nederland is surrounded by hills that prevent you from seeing the peaks, but it was still a sunny, cool morning in the pines. The creek was running and making it's water noise. Merriam had always been able to hear music in the white noise of fast running water.

Not wanting to feel dirty all day, Merriam peeled off her clothing and waded into the water.

“Oh my gawd!!”, she screamed, and then began splashing herself with the water.

“Hit me quick or I'll chicken out”, she called to Emily.

In response, Emily began to filling a sauce pan and repeatedly pouring it on Merrian's head. Merriam screamed and rapidly ran in place.

“Ow, goddammit, you're splashing me. Settle down”, barked Emily.

“Gonna get you used to it”, said Merriam, crawling from the creek and drying off with a towel. Emily then took Merriam's place in the creek and also screamed when Merriam poured water on her head.

“Gawd, I've got brain freeze now”, said Emily. Merriam just nodded. They dressed as quickly as they could from the bag of clothing they had brought.

Dropping off the baggage at the car they returned to the Star to rescue the Goddess flag. Carol was cleaning up from the night before. The Goddess flag was no longer on stage.

“Did you see our Goddess flag?” Asked Merriam. “I left it up on the stage last night.”

“Was it blue?”

“Yeah.”

“Some little girl was playing with it this morning. She left with Bridgette. Bridgette from Elephant Revival.”

After a check around to make sure the kid hadn't stuffed it someplace unexpected, Merraim and Emily walked over to the Nederland morning hot spot. The Mountain People's Co-op across the street. It was run by the city for the city. They had coffee and big cranberry muffins on the porch. Bridgette, the fiddle player from Elephant Revival came down the street and climbed the front porch steps.

“Merriam, what are you doing back?” Bridgette knew Merriam. Basically, all adult string players pretty much knew all other adult string players.

“We were at the Star last night. Just hanging out now. Being hippies for a while and just getting the smell of Vail off of us.”

“The smell of money”, added Emily.

“The smell of thousand dollar track suits”, Merriam continued.

“Too funny. Are you coming to Equinox tonight?” Asked Bridgette.

“Yeah. That's why we're still here. I assume you guys are playing.”

“It's a tradition now.”

“Hey somebody stole my Goddess flag. I sewed on it for hours. Were you in the Star this morning with a little girl?

“Yeah, that was my niece. And we took it. I'll find it for you.”

“Appreciate it. I only have the patience to sew up one”, said Merriam.

“Well, use a glue gun. That's what I do. All my stage costumes are glued together.”

“A glue gun is not organic enough for the earth Goddess.” Merriam explained.

The two women cruised up that street and saw the Goddess flag hanging in the flag holder on one of the poles holding up the front porch of Patty's crazy thrift shop. They descended the stairs where Patty offered them shots of Peppermint Schnapps and several hits of pretty good weed. They then all made themselves comfortable in the chairs offered by thrift store and listened to Patti relate the gossip of the past year. Stories about a guy who got arrested for drunk driving after his truck landed in a tree, and a girl who got chased around an aspen by a moose for half an hour up by Caribou. That kind of stuff.

“That's my flag over there.” Merriam finally remembered to broach the subject. “I left it in the Star last night.”

“A couple of drainbows brought it in and wanted to trade it for a pair of jeans”, Patti replied. “I said no, they smelled bad and I didn't want their stuff around. Then they just left it here.”

After a moment, Patty kicked back in with one of her pet peeves. “There's a goddamn creek right there”, she said, pointing to the creek about twenty feet away. “There's no reason to fuckin' stink around here. Just wait for afternoon when it warms up and go swimming with your clothes on. How simple is that? I don't want their damn stinky stuff in my store. Fuckin' drainbows. They steal stuff too.”

Merriam left the flag, not wanting to carry it around. She told Patty to just leave it out in the flag holder and they'd get it later.

The rest of the day was spent in visiting old friends and driving the hills around Ned. The had a late lunch at the Sundance and it was warm enough to sit on the deck and admire the ski runs and the rest of the mountain view. After lunch they climbed the hill next door to visit the crazy old guy who had built a little house of loose stone on top. He'd started out living in a cave in a large rock and then built the house over the cave entrance. The house was still there, but there was no longer any sign of habitation. No clothing hanging out to dry or stacks of firewood. No food or belongings inside. The county must have finally rousted the guy. They'd been trying to do so for years. Both women found this sad.

Nightfall found the two in Chipeta Park on a picnic table near the pavilion. Elephant Revival was setting up and Merriam and Emily were sharing shots from a bottle of Kentucky Deluxe. The Nederland liquor stores sold bags of little plastic shot glasses, in all different colors, for a buck and a half. Quite the civilized place Ned was. There was also Schnapps, Gin, Southern Comfort, Tequila and Fireball to be had at various points around the park, so the little glasses came in handy. Weed had been legal in Nederland before it was legal in Colorado, so there was lots of that too.

It was the Spring Equinox and the weather had been warm enough to start melting the big piles of snow that had been piled up at various points. And while the concrete pavilion floor was dry, the area around the pavilion was muddy, as it should be. As it needed to be.

Elephant started at sunset and the first hour was pretty mellow. Merriam and Emily were feeling pretty looped and stayed where they were. Elephant then took a break and it was a long one. They pretty much knew everyone in town and had to talk to everyone in the crowded pavilion before picking up their instruments again.

There was a warm up song and then it started. A banjo and fiddle Scottish/Irish instrumental number called “Lexington”. This was the cue and Merriam and Emily began removing their boots, as did a large number of other women from the town. They moved to the area just outside the pavilion next to the band. A nice muddy area.

Lexington ended and the band opened up with “Sing to the Mountain”.

Let the fires burn tonight,

Let the jugs of wine get drunk.

The women filed out single file into the open space next to the band forming a large circle, and they began dance, continuing to move in the circle. A free form dance, each with her own style, but many momentarily taking on the Native American Eagle Dance position. Common to all was too stamp hard in the spring mud with their bare feet, and the mud splashed everywhere. In a few moments, both Merriam and Emily's legs were coated, and then drops began landing on their faces and hair. Merriam smiled and twirled, feeling the droplets. The song had a chorus:

Go and sing to the mountain,

Go and sing to the moon.

At “Go and sing to the moon” the women, and everyone else present, howled like wolves as loudly as they could. After the first time through the song, others from inside the pavilion joined and danced outside the women's circle, receiving their share of the splashed mud. Two times through the song finally ended and everyone relaxed and laughed.

No one could remember why they did this, but they did it every year.

Emily and Merriam returned to their table and let the mud dry. There would be a hose with warm water on the way back in the parking lot, but that wasn't needed now. After the music they rinsed their hair and faces and walked back to the car by the visitor's center. They were too drunk to drive so they made their way back to their secret place by the creek and camped. They brought the last of the Kentucky Deluxe with them.

Merriam lay under the stars and thought how she would explain being late tomorrow. Maybe she would just call in sick for the day. She caught herself going over what needed to have been done the week before. The orders placed for the hotel, the utility bills paid, the invoices processed and the calls placed. Her job consisted of a hundred small tasks, each easy to forget and each bringing horrible condemnation if forgotten. She liked to identify any forgotten tasks on Sunday evening so that they could be attacked Monday morning before they were noticed. And that was what made calling in sick on Monday dangerous. Some forgotten task left uncorrected.

But her father, who had referred to her as a mountain hippie when she was on the ski team, was now proud of her. She was the assistant manager at one of the major Vail Hotels. Most people were impressed with her title. But her salary was small as were her chances for advancement. Although unstated, she felt she had been a lot happier on the ski team. Rollicking with her friends and getting drunk in town when the coaches weren't looking.

The next morning the two just couldn't face getting in the creek. They would be back in Vail soon. Merriam had clean clothing in her office and there was an employee shower just above her. She would drop off Em and then go straight into work. Maybe only a half an hour late, which she would explain with a dead car battery after camping.

They stopped at the curb by Patty's thrift store and Merriam descended the stairs to the front door. The Goddess flag was gone. Knocking, she finally got a somewhat hungover looking Patty to answer.

“Do you have the Goddess flag”, Merriam asked.

Patty's eyes got big and she stepped outside in her robe to inspect the little flag holder on the post.

“Somebody stole it”, she said in a confused voice.

Merriam was silent for a moment and then said all she could think to say, “Oh well”.

Ascending the stairs to the car, Merriam thought that it was probably better if the Goddess flag stayed in Nederland. Whoever wanted it badly enough to steal it would probably take care of it. And it probably wanted to stay. It didn't really fit in Vail.

 


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