My personal time this week has gone to a short-short story. A challenge was issued to write a story that must include honesty vs. deceit, a trickster, a bag, and a decietful activity. The story had to be 500 to 1,000 words, no more. So I decided to come out and play!
I nudged the accelerator of the yellow MG Midget. My pride and joy, the 1928 M-Type, I’d had it since it was new. One of the few cars that let me reach the pedals and see over the steering wheel, I wasn’t about to give it up. Yes, I’m that short.
After all these years the MG still looked brand spankin’ new. Okay, so it’s had a little help along the way. I didn’t look any closer to my age than the car did. You could say I chose my parents well. Or not. I was doomed to have warring impulses and burning thoughts. Ever compelled to trick someone or engage in some deceit, I tried to only do it for their own good. Sometimes it went bad and I was equally driven to fix the results.
I squinted into the morning light. Heading east I zoomed down the road to the Black Rock Desert. It was like driving into one of my father’s paintings, surrounded by colors of sage, dusty purple, and slate gray. Was that my quarry a head? I’d lost him during the night. I’d followed the old guy in the Stetson “Open Road” style hat all the way from San Francisco. From the beginning I had more than a sneaking feeling that codger was up to something.
I’d been sitting at an outdoor table of a Haight Ashbury restaurant having tea. I put down the post card I’d just read for the hundredth time, and opened my gig bag to remove the colorful flute. It was a gift from my father. The whimsical instrument fit right in with the setting, and I considered playing. That’s when the old guy in the Stetson showed up. He sat down at the next table but no one waited on him. He started making small talk and mentioned the postcard. “Greece? You got family there, young lady?”
Being deceitful by nature, I accepted the young lady part, though it was far from true. I didn’t correct him, just nodded and handed him the postcard. He read “Wish you were here,” then “Love, Themis.”
“From my mother.”
Bobbing his head knowingly, he asked, “Wasn’t Themis the Greek goddess of Justice?” I could tell he already knew the answer. Then he scrutinized my very dark glasses. “And wasn’t Justice blind?” He looked from the dark glasses to my flute and back again.
With a smile I told him that I wasn’t blind, just extra sensitive to light. I didn’t tell him my mother was blind. “I’m just an ordinary flute player,” I lied.
“Well, whistle up something then,” he said. I knew he could tell I itched to play.
It was early and business was slow so I shouldn’t attract mischief, though that’s what usually happened when I played. I put the flute to my lips and started a lilting tune. The manager didn’t mind and some of the staff stopped to listen. The old guy tapped his foot to the rhythm of my song while two of the servers danced, locked in an embrace, and oblivious to his presence. Then he took off his Stetson. Inside was a 7 3/8” size tag, with some folded bills tucked behind it. He wriggled his eyebrows in what seemed like a challenge, and then dropped the bills into my open bag, still tapping his foot to the beat.
When I finished the song I looked down at the cash he’d left. I gasped. It was a huge amount of money. More than I could accept. I raised my head to protest, but he was gone. I looked in every direction. He wasn’t anywhere. For once the trick had been played on me. Hours later I spotted the old guy rounding a corner. And I had been following him ever since — from San Francisco through Nevada.
The old guy had a shiny old car. It looked just as new as my 1928 MG. The only vehicle between us was a tractor trailer. Eventually I realized that he was letting me catch sight of him, just often enough that I didn’t lose him completely. That’s when I understood the wriggly eyebrow challenge. He knew my sense of justice would compel me to return that enormous wad of cash, and he was too much of a trickster to just tell me what was on his mind.
He stopped in the middle of the road. The eighteen-wheeler ploughed right through his car and kept going. I pulled onto the shoulder and walked to the gleaming undamaged car.
“So you’re a thought form,” I stated, “but what influx of burning thoughts would create you and cause you to travel here?”
He shrugged. “My desire to support my son. Each year I begin this trek from San Francisco to the Black Rock Desert. I don’t leave until the last effigy is ashes,” he said in a matter-of-fact tone. “When I saw you at the café, I knew there was purpose for you here. Though they don’t always realize it, many souls come here searching for inner truth. Enlightenment. Not just for outrageous whimsy. You are uniquely suited to help them. Daughter of Justice to set things right; daughter of eternal trickster, Kokopelli, to charm them into willingly getting on whatever path that is right for them. How could you resist the Burning Man festival?”
Burning Man, I pondered. And a thought form made of the burning thoughts of one man who, in truth, had wanted to encourage and support his son. Perhaps he was right. I could imagine both Kokopelli and Themis feeling at home at the festival.
Copyright 2012 – 2013 Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene. All rights reserved.