by Terry Hargrove
My wife and I had the following conversation in a grocery store in Old Lyme.
“Dost thou not see?” she asked. “The fruit in yonder basket was by sorceries strange brought even unto this frozen clime. Who possesses such magic that they can create, then transport to this place, the very harvests of lands that must dwell close to the sun? Grab some bananas.”
“Yea, verily,” I replied. “The color of yon grape is not unlike the scales of the dragon I did slay for your father, the King of Bristol. Such was the mighty cost of winning your hand as wife/mate. And with this strong arm and the enchanted sword of my grandfather, High Vizier of Hargrovia, I threw down the beast and smote his crest in twain. Blueberries?”
“Yes. And were you not rewarded?” she asked. “Did he not give to us for our wedding gift the magic pearls that became ruby throated doves upon a word? And was there not two and twenty wagons laden with silver and other precious metals? And a score of dancing girls that he was loathe to part withal. We need cereal.”
“All this is true,” I said. “Alas, that no store in this realm would take a check, and so we ate the magic doves at Thanksgiving. And the wagons of gold and silver were used as a deposit for our condominium, a poor construct for us, since it is bewitched by ants and neighbors. But most bitter is the loss of the dancing girls, who went to yon casino to work as blackjack dealers. Baked beans?”
“Three cans,” she said. “Speak no more of this. It casts a shadow o’er your heart, and darkens your eyes with grief. Make sure that bread is whole grain.”
“Tis much that we have risked to come to this place,” I said. “For the passing of eight seasons have we dwelled with these who laugh at our appearance and scoff at my regal robes. Yea, there are yet puzzles that must be solved ere we may leave this place for the joys of our homeland. How are we on diapers?”
“Low. What puzzles, husband/mate?” she asked. “To seek truth in this place is to search for words upon the clouds or to listen for meaning on the rush of waters. How are we on baby wipes?”
“Dangerously low,” I said. “Have we not trod these passages for two years now? Twice has the earth leaned forward into the golden paths of the sun, yet we have never, nay not once, seen a whale. And is not the whale, happiest of leviathans, the state animal of Connecticut? Ice Cream?”
“Strawberry!” she said. “I know thy grief. But I must, my husband, add that the state animal of Tennessee is the hippogriff, and no one has seen one of those since the elder days before the arrival of evil, professional hockey or the Tennessee Titans. Those are buy one, get one free. Grab four of them.”
“I saw one,” I said. “Twas on the eve of winter, when I was but a boy, yet old enough to walk the wild borderlands in search of renegades. Upon a stone he stood, and his demeanor was of a sad nobility, as if he were a king of some lost land. We‘re out of garbage bags.”
“Don’t get the ones that smell,” she said. “Yes, often have you told that tale. I mean, really often. Like enough, it was not a hippogriff, but some poor college mascot, lost in a season that was not football season. Bar soap?”
“Dial,” I replied.
“Yes, my son.”
“Did you know that a caterpillar goes into a raccoon and becomes a butterfly? If it’s a good pupil.”
“So the legends say,” I said.
“Um, excuse me folks,” said a store clerk. “Can I help you guys find anything?”
“A wandering mage,” I said, and clapped him on the shoulder. “No doubt we will find truth from this one. Tell me, master enchanter. Why is the skunk not the state animal of Connecticut? I see them everywhere. Many a summer night have I listened to the sad skunk song as a pod of these noble creatures passed. Into my refuse they have burrowed, for the wise look for treasure in the trash of the poor. Is it true, the tales they tell, of how in times past, the ruthless skunkers slaughtered these noble beasts for their oil? Are their skunk minds more developed than our own, and so the songs they sing are prayers of forgiveness from them to the Creator? Where is the aluminum foil?”
“Aisle 5. Uh, listen, I think I can help you check out whenever you‘re ready.”
“Do you have raccoons?” asked Joey. “Caterpillars go into raccoons and become butterflies.”
“If they’re good pupils,” I added.
As we checked out, the three of us were being watched carefully by a number of store employees.
“You guys aren’t from around here, are you?” asked the store manager.
“Nay,” I replied. “From the south, we have come, and are pledged to dwell for a time among you. Dost thou, perchance, redeem magic stones?”
“No,” he said slowly. “Is there a Renaissance festival in town? Are you guys actors?”
“Wherefore dost thou ask such things?”
“Well, you’re talking really strangely,” he said.
“We’ve been married a long time,” I said.
“Yeah?” and he leaned forward, as if he might hear something truly strange and wonderful.
“We’re just trying to keep the magic alive.”
“Oh. OK. That’ll be $135.07. Or six magic stones.”
“I must pay thee with the currency of the land,” I said. “My magic stones are fled. They are cursed, after all, so that when my need is most dire, they are impossible to find.”
As we were putting our groceries away, my wife said:
“It’s going to get warm someday. Even here, the sun cannot remain a stranger. Long has it been since my toes have felt warm sand and sun drenched grass. I’ll need some new shoes.”
“That is as it must be,” I replied. “Purchase some today. As long as the store that deals in them takes magic stones.”
Categories: scholars and rogues