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Deal 997: Veterans

The dog was nearly as jumpy as the human it was escorting. Like peas in a pod, they were. Both going slightly grey about their muzzles, both lean and wiry.

He was clearly a veteran, and the dog may well have been too. You can’t always disguise the nervous tics of someone freshly home from combat. The strangest things would alarm both man and dog, sometimes causing them to practically levitate in surprise.

Then the moment would pass and they’d realize together that whatever the shared moment was about, it wasn’t real, wasn’t happening here and now.

So I sit here and watch people go by, and they sit over there and relive their shared pasts. I briefly consider telling them who I am and what I am doing, but then that never works out well. I can invent a better story for them from here than whatever it is that they share.

So I collect my cane, my hat, and my notes and make my way towards the parking lot to find my car, leaving them in their moment. Together.

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Deal 992: The Baron Accepts

Those days in the swamp are behind me now. Years, really.

Call me reformed.

It was a diversion, after several long boring lifetimes, to hang around in the swamps and answer the call when The Baron was needed.

I might have been the real Baron, I don’t really know any more. That was a long time ago, after all, and a long life (of sorts) doesn’t necessarily provide an equally long memory. There are others who may know more than I.

Real or not, it hardly matters. If not I, then the real Baron wasn’t paying enough attention. So I accepted his offerings, answered the occasional prayer as I imagine he would. And most of all, I demonstrated that if you live long enough, eventually even an alligator won’t eat you.

The Raven brought me news. The Owl has been sighted too.

It came to be that my days in the swamp were numbered. And I was ready.

I’ve slipped on the clothes of a new identity, and wandered far away from where I’ve been sighted often.

And I’ve taken to writing a few things down. After all, my memory is clearly not infinite. Even if I cannot remember any longer who I was first. It hardly matters who was on first. He was well before the Baron, and I’m well shut of him now.

Even if an alligator can’t kill me, it isn’t very convenient to run around short a foot or two while the alligator realizes his mistake.

So here I am today, making my way from the deep swamps into the modern city.

I don’t remember a city being here, either. There must have been a fur trading post, I think I remember that much. When was that? When is it now?

Just how did so many years go by while I was in the swamp?

The Raven tells me (not that I fully trust him, of course, but he was right about needing to find the city) that I need to find my way aboard one of those metal birds, and make my way to the west. Going faster than a bird can fly.

I guess it is time I joined our inevitable fray.

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Deal 983: Something may be falling

It really was the best of times. Peace had been the order of the day for as long as anyone could remember. And there was nothing that could change that.

Except.

People see things. But they don’t always see the whole of things. And that can lead to trouble.

As it appears we are heading now.

There are many stories of what was seen. Stories that contain some grains of truth, to be sure.

But what do I know really?

I’m just like you, caught up in the rising tide of events, watching the world get stranger.

And that chicken just won’t shut up.

Everywhere she goes, she just has to stick her neck in and peck out another story. Sometimes she even agrees with what she’s said before. Always, she is spreading fear.

Fear of the unknown.

Fear of the sky.

Fear of the fox.

Fear of the wolf.

Even fear of Old Mac.

And because people are afraid, they call for prudent responses just in case she is right.

Or maybe it is just a rain storm.

And like a rain storm, perhaps it will blow over and our peace will return.

I’m not as afraid as most.

What I fear, is the fear itself.

And I fear it won’t end well.

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Deal 943: Dreamlands

Arriving in the clearing, we found an idyllic setting, a grassy clearing surrounded by stately trees punctuated by the occasional rose bush. We arrived via a narrow lane between the trees. Opposite our entry was a slightly larger lane, and in the distance just visible over the next rise was a collection of chimney pots that likely was a manor house.

In the center of the clearing stood a massive table set for tea, with more places than currently occupied by guests. And there were guests seated already, making a good effort at consuming the ample spread of finger sandwiches, tea cakes, petit fours, and all the trimmings. I was concerned we were interrupting a private party, when a familiar voice announced “Well there you are at last! We have been expecting you.”

I looked around, but none of the guests seemed to have spoken, and the trees were maintaining their own council as usual.

We approached the table, and surveyed the guests. This was one odd tea party, with a variety of animals and personages seated along one side of the table. There was a large calico cat, a mongoose, an older gentleman, a very large fruit bat, a young girl, and a black sheep. It was the sheep that gestured to the seat beside her and said “Please do join us.”

For a moment I thought I heard the sound of a typewriter somewhere nearby, but then a breeze rustled the trees and it faded away again. That worried me a little. If the typewriter was getting through again, this reality was wearing thin.

I stepped up to the table, and took my place.

“Lovely weather today,” I began. It is important to follow forms in these matters.

“Yes, a perfect day for tea on the grass.” This was the bat, in a voice that was just barely deep enough for me to hear and understand.

The old man and young girl ignored me. I expected as much.

The cat reached for a loaf of bread, and I realized what I was here to find. The serrated knife he picked up to slice with fairly glowed with a lavender aura. The cat deftly speared the slice and tossed it the length of the table onto my plate, then gestured at a crock of butter which promptly hopped up on spindly legs and ran after the slice. It curtseyed to me, and politely held its lid to one side so I could take some butter. I considered my moves while buttering my bread.

As I chewed, I felt the clearing changing around me. Now the table was just the right size, and round. The trees were black ash, and both pathways had vanished. The cat was facing me, and staring intently. The others seemed unaware of the tension, but you could cut it with a knife.

A knife. That was it. I was here for a knife. The cat was good. I almost let it slip my mind as I paid too much attention to the world changing around us. That probably meant that the cat was my opponent in this contest as well, but it could always be an ally.

“I say old chap, could you pass me that bread knife?” It never hurts to try the simple and direct approach.

He gestured at the table between us. “What knife?”

This was going to be harder than I thought. The sounds of the typewriter surged again, and once more the world shifted. Now we were a small party in a diner, seated at the lunch counter. We had coffee cups, and mine smelled particularly good, but no food had been served yet. A case held cakes and pies, and from the activity beyond the small window in the wall, there was a kitchen at hand that could produce nearly anything you’d expect from a diner.

I looked around. The cat was seated a few stools down, in the guise of a woman in a fur coat. The bat was wearing his wings as an overcoat. The old man and young girl were easily picked out. The others seemed to have faded away, perhaps they were just extras all along, even though I was reasonably sure the sheep had spoken to me.

I noticed that the cake server beside the ring of coffee cake was glowing lavender, and before anyone had a chance to change the environment I made a grab for it.

As my fingers closed on the handle, I heard the typewriter loudly, and the scene dissolved.