October 28, 2018

THE 20TH DRAWING OF STRAWS

 

So anyway, she arranged for Carol to tend to Henry, stepped down the three flights of stairs of the St. Charles Lunatic Asylum and turned left to walk the block to the bus stop where she caught the line that took her to the ferry landing. There she boarded the Blue and Gold to Oaktown, where it did a turn about and headed out the estuary to Babylon and the Ferry Building. There she marched around to the other platform to take the big boat north to Larkspur, where she disembarked after a vigorous couple hours of sea travel and stood there as Pahrump arrived with his scooter to take her the long road through several towns along Sir Francis Drake and then through San Anselmo and Fairfax and over White's Hill and down to Silvan Acres in the San Geronimo Valley.

But as she did this something happened that was very serious.

As Denby turned the corner towards his new home on his daily walk, who should step from behind a tree but none other than the Editor himself, the orginal Editor, smoking a cigar as of old. It had to be an apparition, for now was come to the time of Los Dias de los Muertos, when the veil between the worlds is thinnest.

"Come along Denby," said the Editor with his usual gruff voice. "We must get to the annual Drawing of Straws which is tonight."

"But you are gone! I saw it myself! I thought all that was done and no more going back!"

"Denby," the Editor said. "You need to reread the end of Oedipus Rex. Especially the chorus part. Come along now."

As they walked to the new Island-Life Offices, the bus arrived from San Rafael and out stepped Rachel.

"Hello Boss," Rachel said, entirely at ease and with perfect poise as was her nature.

The three of them entered the new offices and there, as in each of the last 19 years past, Rachel walked around with the hat filled with straws per Tradition and each member of the staff drew so as to determine who shall be the one to cross over to The Other Side.

This year was especially important, given the market volatility, the violent, ill-nature of the current President, and the upcoming Mid-term elections.

As Rachel walked down the aisles, each staffer drew a straw with great hesitation, sweat beading out on the brow, nervously clutching the straw until it was revealed to be longer yet than any other to that person's great relief. Even Festus was made to draw -- nothing is uglier than an anxious, sweating hamster -- but it had to be done for the sake of Tradition.

"Hey, where's your brother?" Jose said, looking for clues as to how things will proceed from now on.

"He is on holiday," said the Editor. "Draw!"

"Awww, man . . .".

"Draw!"

"I had to go down there one time before the time Denby had a broken leg . . .", Jose complained.

"Draw, dammit!"

"Whew! Long one! Dios mio . . .".

"What was it like, Jose," someone asked.

"It really sucked man," Jose said.

Finally it came around to the reluctant Denby, who, as Tradition dictated each year, drew the shortest straw.

"Why must it be me each year," Denby lamented.

"Because you are Chosen," Marlene said. "It's just it is not always to advantage to be Chosen. Okay everybody, tea and coffee and cakes on the verandah!"

And so they all filed out, clapping Denby on the back congratulating him on his good fortune while muttering under breath as they exited the door, "Thank god it is not me, poor sod!"

Finally Denby was left alone with the Editor.

"So how is this going to work? The Island is miles away." Denby said.

The Editor snipped and kindled a new cigar. "A conveyance has been prepared that will take you to the Portal."

"Are you back to stay now? I thought all was done and all our trials, including yours, were done with. What is going to happen?"

The Editor arose and beckoned Denby to follow him out the back while there was laughter and candlelight happening out front on the verandah.

The two of them stepped into the glade there and figures appeared out of the darkness. Denby thought at first they were coyotes or deer, but they were in fact the Wiccan coven of San Geronimo Valley, led by Constance Washburn and Missy Moonbeam.

"I do not know what is going to happen next," said the Editor. "I wish I did."

The coven circled the two men and began to chant and sing as they threw their arms upwards into the star-studded sky confounded by the glare of a full moon.

"You saw him swept away. So, being mortal, look on that last day! And count no man blessed in his life until he's crossed life's bounds! Safe in the grave! And free of pain at last! Ahhhhhhh!"

"Y'know boss, what is it about ex-Marines that makes them so humorless," Denby said.

"We are not humorless," the Editor said. "You take yourself too seriously and so you cannot see the comedy. And there are no ex-Marines; once a Marine aways a Marine."

With that, he went back inside, followed by Denby.

The sound of the train horn keened from Oaktown across the estuary and wended its way through the fog-shrouded Marin's well-matriculated hills and slid over the sleeping bulk of Princess Tamalpais following the old, forgotten railbeds that once led along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard to the coast, stirring the coyotes who began to howl their evensong which carried forth on the winds over White's Hill and Fairfax, ululating through Silvan Acres and the cubbied niches of the San Geronimo Valley, coursing with faint gray shapes along the ridgetops through the mist to an unknown destination.

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