The following is dedicated to my dear friend, Baily Sue. She inspired this tale and all that will follow it. Thank you for the many laughs!
Hello there, friend. I am ever so glad that you are working tonight for I have much to tell you. Honestly, I fear that if I do not get this tale out of me I shall simply burst. May I have the usual? Excellent. Now, where should I begin? At the beginning? Of course! You are correct my friend. That makes a lot of sense. You will have to forgive me. My mind is racing. Why don’t you make that a double? Alright, I will quit stalling.
I awoke this morning a full hour before my alarm was scheduled to sound. Normally, I would roll over and fall soundly to sleep. This morning; however, I felt so refreshed that I decided to get up and start my day. Oh boy am I glad that I did because you will never guess what happened next.
I normally sit on my back porch in the morning to enjoy my coffee and watch the sunrise. There is something refreshing about the quiet of that hour. It calls to the primitive side of my nature. I am one with the wilderness. Every bird call is a delight. The dew drops on the grass have a special twinkle when the first rays of light dance across the surface. It is just magical. I see by how you are nodding that you understand.
I was working on my second cup of coffee when the most curious thing occurred. Something plopped into my cup just as I proceeded to take another sip. Coffee splashed in my face and my first thought was how grateful I was that it still was not hot. This was followed closely by the caw of a crow. I searched the sky looking for the creature, thinking it has flown over my head. I was correct, in a way.
The crow had landed just beyond the concrete of my patio and stared intensely at me. Perplexed, I stared back at him. I think we sat there for a good five minutes having the world’s weirdest staring contest. We could still be sitting there come the end of eternity if the bird had not winked at me. I know what you are thinking and trust me, if I had not seen it for myself, I would be thinking the same thing. I assure you that I am not bonkers. That bird winked at me. What did I do, you ask? I gawked, totally baffled. As I told you, I am not loony.
Just when I was ready to chalk the entire mess up to my imagination, I remembered the plop into my cup. I looked down into it, then up to the bird questioning. My new friend tipped me another wink. I have expected him to talk at this point, you know. I figured there was no harm in indulging the little critter, so I dumped the contents into the grass. I was shocked at what I discovered…….a gold, diamond ring.
I believe that was the same look of disbelief that I had on my face this morning. What makes matters even more incredible is that it was not an ordinary ring like you find in those box stores. If it had been, my entire day would had turned out differently. As you and I both know, I have zero luck. I guess that is not entirely true but you know what I mean. Anyway, about this ring. Like I said, it was not your average wedding band. No, this beauty belonged to none other than that hot actress, Anna Marie Boustead.
I see you know the name. You would have to live under a rock to avoid hearing about her and that was before she lost her ring. The media has made a big fuss about how she lost it while filming that slasher film in the next town over. I’ve seen that stupid ring on my TV so often that its image has been burned onto my retinas. I also remembered that there was a mighty handsome reward for its return. I would love to tell you that I was purely motivated to seek out this goddess so that I could ease her worried mind and return her lost treasure. That would be a lie. I am many things but a liar is not among them. Truth be told, I wanted the reward money. Who wouldn’t? There were a great many zeros attached and a man of my means would never see that many in such a humble life as I lead.
I thanked my feathered friend for bringing me a gift this fine morning with a palm full of sunflower seeds before breaking out my trusty computer. It did not take me long to locate the contact information for anyone who had a tip on the ring’s whereabouts. I dialed the number without a second thought. A very perky young woman answered. I swear her voice raised an octave and nearly blew out my eardrum when I told her I had found it. Seriously, I am surprised that you did not hear her squeal of delight from your house. When she finally stopped squawking like a harpy, I asked her where she was located so I could hand deliver the item to her. I carefully jotted down the address and read it back to her for good measure, twice.
As you know, my car is currently in the shop for repairs. I loathe taking the public transportation but the location was across town. It is only about one mile from my front doorstep to the nearest bus stop. That is manageable and it was looking to be one dandy of a day. I put on my comfortable walking shoes. Feeling like a man on an important mission, I started on my quest.
I was a couple of blocks from the house when I came across a group of people gathered in the street. My curiosity got the best of me. I gently pushed my way through the crowd to see what all of the fuss was about. At the center of the group was the most heartbreaking sight I have ever had the misfortune of seeing, an injured dog. The poor dear was on her side. Her breathing was labored. I could not see what was the matter with her at first, but it was obvious that she was in great pain. Her owner was this cute button of a kid who was bawling for someone to please help her doggie. It broke the heart into a million little pieces.
It was then that I realized that her dog’s stomach was much too big. I should have seen it immediately. She was in labor. Why no one else noticed the obvious is beyond me. I sprung to action. I told the little one that her doggie was going to be just fine, that I was here to help. I have never delivered any creature in my entire life. Why I was kneeling beside this one, ready to help her out was madness, but I was determined to try for that little girl.
Without getting too graphic, I looked at the business end. I saw this tiny sack of something protruding out of her. Something did not look right about it. Ok, nothing looked right about it. Against my better judgment, I gently pulled on the little package. The dog whimpered a little as I freed the first puppy. It was a breach birth. Because it was coming out feet first, she was having a hard time with the delivery. Once I got the first puppy out, the rest came easily. The mother took care of each one as nature intended.
Unfortunately, the first wee pup, she completely ignored. I pulled the mucus membrane, sack thing off. The little dear was not breathing. I looked to the little girl whose eyes welled with tears. I gave her a brief nod and a wink then did the most repulsive thing in the world. I sucked the fluid out of the puppy’s mouth and spit it out onto the pavement. I rubbed its chest while giving it tiny puffs of air in hopes that it would start breathing. Several moments passed with no results. I was about to give up when I saw that crow perched on a car across the street. It could not have been the same one from earlier. It did not matter. It gave me hope so I continued my efforts. To my astonishment, it worked!
The crowd erupted into applause as I returned the now alive puppy to its mother who started to lick it all over. The little girl hugged me tightly. Someone from the crowd gave me some mouthwash, to which I was most grateful. Another gentleman showed up with a box for the new family and carried it off with the little girl babbling happily after him. I got slapped on the back so much that my shoulders are still sore from all of the attention. As I was already on a mission, I excused myself and continued towards the bus stop.
My little side adventure had caused me to miss the bus. Another one was due along in twenty minutes so I sat on the bench to wait. It was really turning out to be a fantastic morning. The sun had been up for a few hours and it was going to be a picturesque day weather wise. A few people were window shopping on the other side of the street. I was busy watching them when I saw a suspicious looking vehicle pull up in front of the bank. A couple of gruff looking men exited the car while one stayed behind. I knew that they were up to no good instantly. I decided to follow them inside. I am glad that I did.
I have watched enough crime shows to know that I had to blend in to the background so that my cover would not be blown. I casually walked across the street, right past the parked “get-a-way” car. The driver took no notice of me. I was excited that so far everything was going smoothly. I entered the bank, full of bravado but still in stealth mode. I saw the two curious men. One was at a tall desk, appearing to fill out deposit slips. The other was casually waiting in line. I knew that I couldn’t take them both down right then. I had to wait patiently for them to make their move.
To keep from drawing attention to myself, I got in line behind Criminal number one. The line was moving abysmally slow so I looked out of the window to keep myself occupied. To my dismay, I saw my bus pull in and leave without me. Oh well. I could always catch another one as I had more important matters to attend to at that moment. Speaking of which, the line had moved up while I was woolgathering. Criminal number two had joined his companion. They spoke in hushed tones ahead of me, looking around from time to time, presumably to get the whereabouts of everyone in the bank. The two men nodded at one another and I knew that the moment had finally come.
Both men opened their coats and began to draw out shotguns. I jumped forward to try to tackle Criminal number one from behind. Just as they were screaming, “THIS IS A ROBBERY!”, my feet became entangled in that rope they use to corral patrons. You know the red velvet like rope. Criminal number two had knocked down one of the poles when he passed and just as my luck would have it, at the pivotal moment, I trip over it, but I did not fall. Instead, something amazing happened.
My right leg had become wrapped in the ropes. As I jerked it hard to free it, a post near Criminal number one rocketed through the air and smacked him straight in the temple. He crumbled to the ground like a sack of potatoes. Still struggling to free my leg, I kicked back my left leg like a horse to move the ropes out from under it so I would not fall. I did not notice that Criminal number two was sneaking up behind me. I made contact with his groin. I turned to see him bent over in pain. With my free leg I pivoted around just as he was coming back at me. I once again jerked my right leg and the pole that had knocked out Criminal number one, collided with Criminal number two just as he was about to pull the trigger.
Thankfully, he was knocked off target and the slug smashed into the wall harmlessly. The shotgun fell to the floor as I once again tripped over my own feet and the ropes, falling on my butt with a thud. The blast of the gun alerted the driver who rushed into the building. Criminal number two was after me in earnest and his new partner joined the pursuit. I scrambled backwards thrashing my legs wildly. Suddenly, to my astonishment, the ropes began to have a mind of their own and I became the equivalent of a human octopus. Every time Criminal number three tried to aim at me a pole would come out of nowhere and block his shot.
At this point, I don’t know who was more in danger from the ropes, me or the criminals. I had to duck out of their way as much as they did. The more I thrashed the wilder they became. Screw the human octopus! These things were possessed! I was fighting for my life to get out of their flailing grasps. I got my legs unraveled in time to scramble onto my feet but now my arms were tangled up. It was if I could not win. I flapped my arms wilding in dismay which turned out to be the best thing that I could have done. Criminal number one was coming around but got knocked back out with another pole. Criminal number two ducked another pole which passed by his head by mere inches. Criminal number three was not so lucky. He tripped on one of the ropes and the pole hit him square in the face, breaking his nose. With one last ditch effort, the last remaining criminal charged at me. I did the only thing that I could, I used the rope with a hook on the end as a lasso and smacked him in the forehead. His feet slid on the blood pouring from Criminal number three’s nose and he fell, hitting the back of his head hard on the floor.
I finally freed myself when the cops burst into the bank, guns drawn. I immediately threw my hands in the air. The other patrons who had stood in both shock and amazement during the whole ordeal rushed to my defense and started shouting how I had saved them. I was a hero! I spent about an hour and a half at the police station going through the events. Of course, I told them that it had been my plan all along to use the ropes as weapons. I would never disclose that I was just tangled up in them and flinging myself around like a mad man. Honestly, I think a part of me knew what I was doing all along. It took over in my time of need. Yes. My body knew what to do and took over. I was not trapped. I was a secret ninja who tapped into some lost knowledge that surfaced at the right time. That is exactly what happened.
By now it was getting close to lunch time and I was ravished. All of the excitement really is good and all but I needed food before I continued on my quest. A young desk sergeant, Mick or Rick or something like that, gave me one hell of a tip about this quiet, little diner a block over. Served the best hamburgers in the state, he said. My mouth watered at the prospect of beefy and cheesy goodness. The young lad was even nice enough to drive me there. I have to say, his car did have a strange smell to it and there were weird stains on the passenger’s seat. Police work is dirty business and as tired as I was from my busy morning, I figured I could suffer in silence for one block. Besides, despite the smell, which was rather nasty, the thought of hamburgers was more powerful.
The diner was set in classic 50s retro. I loved it immediately. The counter top was solid black with red covered bar stools lining the front. Chrome gleamed merrily under the soft over head lights. The booths were done in the same black and red pattern. The black and white tiled floor glistened with fresh wax. Oh and the smell, heavenly. I would have to remember this place and come here often. If the food tasted half as good as it smelled, I could count myself a lucky man.
I picked one of the stools in the middle of the counter. A lovely older woman brought me a menu and told me her name was Gretchen. She seemed to fancy me. Women do, you know. There is something about my eyes that draws them in. I gave her a knowing smile and told her that I wanted the best hamburger the house had in its stocks. Gently biting on the tip of her pen, she smiled slyly and shouted something in diner lingo to the short order cook, followed by an order that I did understand to unplug that stupid fan before he burned the place to the ground. Tipping me a wink, she went on with her duties.
She arrived a little while later with a monster of a sandwich, a half-pound burger with cheese. To make it more manageable, it was cut into four sections. I happily devoured it in its entirety, oblivious to the world around me. I paid Gretchen, and left a generous tip for such a fine meal. She slipped me her phone number on my receipt. I gave her a wink and asked where the facilities were. She pointed to the back.
The bathroom only had a single stall and a urinal. I like to do my business in private so I opted for the stall. It was then that I realized that I had a bit more to do than the usual in and out. I locked the outside door and proceeded to drop the funk on funky town. When I concluded, I was mortified to realize that instead of sending it all down, it was quickly rising up. I tried flushing again and it just kept rising. I did not want my favorite shoes to get wet so I exited the bathroom as fast as I could. Gretchen gave me a little wave on my way out of the diner. I waved back as the door closed behind me.
What our narrator did not realize is that his hasty retreat from the overflowing toilet led to some terrible consequences. The handle stuck in the down position causing the water to run continuously. Because the floor was not even, it gradually formed a little stream that seeped under the door and found its way into the kitchen. The short order cook was so busy that he did not notice his fan was throwing sparks from a cut in the cord that was now in a puddle of water. Moving past the fryer, his foot stepped into the growing puddle and he was got a mild electrical shock. As he jerked in surprise, his elbow struck a basket of fries just right to flip it out of the fryer and onto the hot grill.
While the cook was busy unplugging the fan, the fries caught fire. By the time he realized something was amiss, the entire wall behind the grill was engulfed in flames that were licking the roof. Before he could go for the fire extinguisher, the entire roof was ablaze. He quickly alerted Gretchen who helped him get the remaining patrons out of the diner before the whole place went up. By the time the fire fighters arrived, nothing remained of the diner but a gutted out shell. The days of the best burgers in the state were over.
After I left the diner, I noticed that time was getting away from me, so I cut through the park. They were having some kind of event for the kids. There were donkey rides and games, you know, that sort of thing. I only paused for a moment at the petting zoo. I know I am much too old to find enjoyment in such simply pleasures, but after the events of the day, I figured I had earned this treat. I watched the children feed the animals. Some of their parents helped them. To my delight, the little girl whose dog I had helped earlier in the day came up to me with the man I saw her leave with. The man turned out to be her father that had just arrived home from work to see the event at its ending.
She asked if I would help her feed the piggies. I could not say no to my newfound friend. She giggled in delight as the piglets sniffed her fingers. I think I could have stayed there all afternoon. It was a lovely time but I remembered that I was on a quest and soon had to part company with them. I bent down to give the darling a hug, banging my elbow on the gate of the corral on my way back upright. I made a comical face to the delight of my miniature friend. As I turned down Cider Street, leaving the park behind, I heard a bunch of people yelling in excitement. My curiosity got the better of me so I glanced back. People were chasing the animals that were scattering to the four winds after escaping the petting zoo coral. A minor pang of jealously hit me then. It looked like real fun to chase those animals. Why couldn’t they have had that activity while I was there? Oh well. I continued on towards my destiny.
There it is, finally. I had arrived at my destination, The Grand Townhouses on Cider Street. Number 104 was my target and I found it quickly. I gave myself a once over as I waited for someone to answer the door. I was greeted by a petite and bubbly woman with blonde hair. I introduced myself and realized this was the lady I had spoken to earlier when her signature squeak of delight pierced my eardrums. Doing my best not to wince, and grateful when she finally stopped, I followed her inside. She left me in the sitting room as she went to inform Ms. Boustead of my arrival.
I waited for what seemed like an eternity. I thought of pacing the room, then thought better of it. There was a mirror above the fireplace. I took a moment to check myself in the mirror when I heard footsteps behind me. I turned and received the shock of my life! In the movies, Anna Marie Boustead was a blonde with picturesque makeup. Before me was a striking brunette. How could I not have noticed! I had seen that face on my television a thousand, no uncountable times and I never put the pieces together. Anna Marie Boustead was really Anna Marie de los Vasquez, my long lost love.
It seemed that the crow that visited me in the early morning hours had been sent by Fate herself to reunite my love and I at last. I opened my mouth to say as much when she interrupted me.
I stood dumbfounded as she shouted this instead of letting it slip out in a whisper of desire and longing.
She continued, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?!”
Again, she was spitting the words at me. I realized what the problem was, after so many years, she did not recognize me. We were, after all, teenagers the last time I gazed into her beautiful brown eyes. With a smile, I introduced myself.
“It is me, my cherry blossom, Zachariah Hoodenpyle. I have come to give you a ring that I know you treasure.”
Her face contorted as if she had terrible indigestion. My heart broke to see her in pain. I rushed to my lady’s side to provide comfort in my arms but she pushed me away.
“Don’t touch me!” she barked.
“Of course, my love.”
She shot me another mean look before composing herself. I guess the pain had passed.
“If you have this great treasure then by all means, give it here and let’s have done with it. I am much too busy to have my time wasted.”
“As you wish, my darling.” I said as I started to search my pockets.
I started to panic as each one only turned up pocket lint. Over and over I checked then. Front pants pocket, empty. Back pants pocket, just my wallet. Right jacket pocket, just my keys. Left jacket pocket, just Gretchen’s phone number. I hid that one quickly. Inside right jacket pocket, nothing. Inside left jacket pocket, zilch. As I was going through the process over and over again, Anna Marie became more and more inpatient.
Finally, she shouted, “ENOUGH!” scaring me half out of my wits.
She descended upon me like a bird of prey. With each word, she jabbed me in the collar bone.
“You! You! You, vile man! How dare you! How very dare you! I cannot believe you would use my misfortune this way!”
I am not easily frightened but seeing my sweet angel act like this was a tad much. I started to back out of the room and towards the door. She kept me firmly in her sights.
“My father was right about you. Nothing but trouble. I was young and stupid but I see you for what you are! Come here pretending to return my grandmother’s ring! A RUSE! YOU! FAKE! LITTLE! MAN!”
I scrambled for the door and bolted down the front steps. I did not slow down as the sound of her growing fury chased me down the street. Just as I rounded the corner I heard her yell on last time, “HOODENPYYYYYYYLLLLLLEEEE!”
That’s my story, my friend. I came straight here after that. I can see by your expression that you are wondering what happened to the ring. It is funny. I know exactly where it is, at home on my kitchen counter. I put it there when I went upstairs to change and never grabbed it. I’ll give my honey bunches a few days to calm down before I try again. I am sure she was just distraught after my failing to deliver her beloved grandmother’s final gift to her. So what do you think of my story friend?
The bartender who had been only half listening to yet another of Hoodenpyle’s fantastic stories, sighs before having a brilliant idea. His evenings are going to get a lot more amusing. With a smile, he says simply, “What was, may yet still be. What is may not be as the prophecy foretold before the wolves came.”
Hoodenpyle sat looking into his whisky glass for a long time before draining it. He stared at the bartender with a new zest in his eyes. The bartender smiled even brighter.
“You are a wise man. I will do just that or my name isn’t Zachariah Hoodenpyle!”
“Oh yes”, the bartender thought as he watched Hoodenpyle leave, “the fun is just beginning.”
The next epic chapter begins in The Misadventures of Zachariah Hoodenpyle: The Reptile House