Saturday, February 4, 2012
Cloak and Dagger and Meerkats: A Joel Black Adventure
Once Upon A Time in a lovely house in the lovely city St.Louis in the lovely state of Missouri in the lovely U.S.A. on the lovely planet Earth in the lovely Milky Way galaxy there lived a lyrical young man. (Lovely just didn't sound right. Though he is.)
This boy's name was Joel Black. (Names have been changed to protect the identities of all involved). He had brown eyes, brown hair, brown shoes, and enjoyed wearing the color brown. (A pity his name wasn't Joel Brown, eh?). Joel was brilliant young homeschooler who was a bit or a perfectionist and loved to sing and dance in his spare time.
On this particular morning Joel Black was so excited he almost wet his pants but decided to call his friend Heather Baker instead. Joel was just pressing call when Heather burst through the front door and beamed beatifically.
"Whats the good news?!" She asked, slightly out of breath from running down the road a few houses down.
"Wha- how did you know I wanted to talk to you?"
Heather rolled her eyes. Joel and Heather had been friends for so long that if Joel so much as sneered a cow creamer Heather could sense it.
Joel waved his hand. "Nevermind. Guess what! I just heard from my literature teacher and talked with my parents and I'm GOING TO ENGLAND THIS SUMMER!"
Heather leapt for joy and they decided to celebrate by baking a celebratory cake and watching old Wooster and Jeeves episodes. Little did Joel know that in a few short months he would be wishing he was back in that cozy house, laughing so hard that frosting shot out his nose and dreaming of scones and tea.
4 Months Later...
"Why in the name of fish 'n' chips did I ever decide to come on this hike?" Joel muttered through his chattering teeth. He had been having a most wonderful time travelling through the rustic moors of England; visiting churches full of dead people, eating delicious food in London, lounging in the London Eye and singing with drunken Englishmen on the train. Everything was going just splendidly until his group had decided to go hike a the Cat's Bells mountain. Even that had been ok at first. It was a a bright and beautiful morning, like a freshly scrubbed goldfish. Joel leapt up the mountainside like a caffeinated goat with his delightful travel mates and admired the view of the lake below and the rolling land stretching as far as the eye could see and generously sprinkled with sheep.
Soon the travellers slowed, though. The higher they got, the harder the wind blew; shoving the hikers off balance of the steepest parts of the path and slicing rain ponchos to confetti. After the first mountain peak came another, then another, then another. With each peak the group grew slower and the once blue sky a rumbling boil of grey rainclouds. Then, somewhere far above them, God must have bellyflopped into his bathtub because water fell in not only sheets but in pillows, mattresses, and duvets of water. The last straw, however, was the realization that the all of the smuggled tarts had been eaten. Forgetting their hike, Joel and his friends fled back the way they had come.
Everyone was slowly becoming more and more waterlogged until they felt like soggy tube socks teetering down the mountain peaks in freezing cold rain. Well, everyone except Mary Magenta. She was leaping, perhaps even fueled by the harsh conditions, and already planning how she was going to go swimming in the sub-zero lake when they got back to the hostel. But thats Mary for you.
Almost an hour later, so cold that hypothermia had surely set in, Joel was inching his way on a narrow ledge around the final peak. Or was it the third to last peak? He had lost count. Somehow he had pulled ahead of his friends and was taking another step when he slipped on the slick rocks and fell forewards, turning, twisting, the world blurring until he felt the hard embrace of the ground and blackness enveloped him.
Joel was rudely awoken by an army on angry rubber duckies. Thats what it sounded like, anyway. He opened his eyes to find a dozen furry creature staring at him.
"AHhhhh!" screamed Joel like a little boy discovering he had cooties. He scrambled to his feet and promptly fell back down on the backside of his brown shorts from the dizziness of rolling down the side of a mountain.
"He-hello?" he squeaked, looking around him in vain for another human in the little cave he seemed to have woken up in. There was a fire burning brightly in the corner along with several copper pots and pans and a strangely out of place door in the packed dirt wall. All that met his eyes was the mob of downy grey creatures that had woken him. They perched on their hind legs, their elongated necks bending so they could study Joel with curiosity.
"Um...nice freakishly tall kitties?"
"We are not 'kitties", my good man. We are commonly known as "Meerkats"," rose a voice from the thrall. The animals parted and a rather posh meerkat strolled forward, pipe in hand. Joel had never seen anything like it. The meerkat was impeccably dressed in a velvet dressing gown and silk ascot and had a rye smile on his suave little meerkat face.
"Splendid to make you acuantince, Sir ....?" The meerkat paused, expectantly.
"Joel. Joel Black."
"Ah. Sir Joel Black. Welcome to our meerhome. I am Earnest Augustus Bob Meerkat the Fourth and this is my family. I do apologize for the mess, our guests don't usually roll unconscious to our doorstep."
"Oh, well, yes. Sorry about that, I slippped. Wait, I didn't think meerkats even lived in England?" (For some reason this was Joel's first thought, not why the meerkats could talk.)
"Quite. We were first attracted by the booming comercial industry but were so enchanted we decided to stay on. In fact, I have extended family living all over England working in the underground meerkat chocolate industry."
Joel rubbed his head, wondering just how hard he had hit it. "The underground what?"
"Chocolate making industry, of course. Why, its a well known fact that the finest sweets in the world are made by meerkats! The Queen herself has a meerkat on staff at each of her palaces, its that good. Really, you'd think you were the one who lived in a hole! Haven't you heard of Dove Chocolate?"
Joel felt quite a fool. "Yes, its delicious. But if its made by meerkats then why is it called Dove?"
Earnest sighed and puffed his pipe. "If I had a pound for every time I heard that question! Its the most frequently asked after the recipe for my prize winning watermellon and banana pancakes. Well, Dove actually stands for Darling Oblique Valiant Elephants. It was the name of my boy band back in the day. When the band failed due to the horrendous name we shortened it to Dove and have been using it ever since." Earnest re-lit his pipe and stared off into the distance for a moment. "Lennon always said the name should have been "Pugs 'n' Drugs". I just loved puppies too much."
Joel nodded thoughtfully. "I can see why you band failed. Well, its been a pleasure, but I must get back to my group." He regretfully stood up.
"Wait! You must be starving, let us prepare you a snack before you go on your way. Julia, bring out the pancakes!"
Soon Joel and the Meerkats were having an absolutely smashing time, frolicking about the den and dining on watermelon and banana pancakes the size of Newt Gingrich's head (and they really were quite scrumptious). Joel taught his new friends how to play Ninja and in return they made him a batch of specially made meerkat chocolate for the road. They even wrapped the sweets in individual gold foil with inspirational meerkat proverbs or yore.
Joel waved goodbye to his new friends and set off on the round-a-bout shortcut. When he reached the crest of the mountain and looked back to see he was in fact still ahead of his travelling companions he thought about telling them his fantastic tale of meerkats and chocolate...but decided against it. After all, he reasoned, if it was true that the chocolate meerkat industry was as well known as Earnest had said then he would look a right fool for admitting he was the last to know. And besides, the message on the inside of his chocolate wrapper he was eating said:
"Sir Joel, I almost forgot: Our den must be confidential knowledge. Please tell no one of our location, there are Wonka spies everywhere. Come back soon! Sincerely - Earnest Augustus Bob Meerkat the Fourth"
How the meerkats had managed to fit all that writing onto that tiny square of foil was beyond Joel but he kept his lips sealed. Well, except when he slipped a chocolate.
Joel's friends were amazed at how much energy Joel had when they caught up with him.
"Joel!" they said. "We are amazed by how much energy you have!" There was one bothersome thing nagging at Joel that the meerkats hadn't fixed, though. His trousers were so cold and wet still that it felt like he was wearing a fish. Mary came to the rescue however and lent him her extra pair of furry pants and Joel was soon running down the mountain to the waiting bus in his pink pj pants covered in pictures of Tinker Bell with wild abandon. Not even the looks of other hikers in scandalously short shorts when Joel's friends yelled "JOEL, YOUR PINK FAIRY PANTS ARE SLIPPING!" could slow him down. Now that, ladies and gentleman, is a confidant man. Or a silly American who didn't yet know that "Pants", in England, is what they call underwear.
Several Days Later...
"Good Gravy and Other Glorious Things!" Joel's seatmate Hannah Music flopped onto the minibus seat and pulled out her headphones to listen to some Kpop for the long bus ride ahead. Charlotte and Mariah started laughing uproariously at something they had seen on Mariah's laptop in the back and Gemima, Charlotte's little sister, ran over and sat on the seat across the aisle. Joel's group had just visited a quaint town on a walk through the rain to enjoy the scenery. And the gift shops. And perhaps most of all the heavenly bakery full of all sorts of whipped, baked, and flaky perfect dream desserts.
"Hannah! Can I listen to my favorite song again?" Gemima pipped up in her lisping British accent. Combined with angelic blonde hair and wide eyes, she was a force of cuteness to be reckoned with.
"Sure. Just give it back when you are done, ok?"
Gemima settled into her seat, nodding her head and singing, "Hey Sooouuullll Sis'ta! Ain't that Mis'ta Mis'ta on the Radiooo, Stereoooo, Oooh-ohhh-ooooh-oh-oh!" (There were some gaps in her knowledge of the lyrics).
"Whats the gravy about?" asked Joel.
"I'm just so tired. I feel like we just did the Hike from Heck all over again." Hannah yawned and wadded up her coat behind her head.
"What, I loved that hike! Except for those scary biker guys that almost murdered David and I in our sleep at the Youth Hostel."
Hannah rolled her eyes. "Joel. They were a bunch of older Scottish guys who liked to ride vintage bikes. I think your lives were hardly in danger."
Joel smiled. "You are probably right, Hannah. You always are! After all, you are supremely intelligent and beautiful and by far the most skilled Ninja player I have ever met."
(Ok, some dialogue might have been slightly altered. Just a little.)
Joel was about to go on defending his case as a near murder victim (ahem, praising Hannah) when something caught his eye just outside the bus window. A coal black 2000 Honda Civic paused next to the bus, stopping just long enough for Joel to see the window roll down and Earnest the Meerkat (wearing stylish Bond-esq shades, I might add) salute before the car roared off. Joel grinned to himself. While his friends might be bringing home pictures, little figures of the Big Ben on key chains, and a cold or two; Joel had a secret and memories that were so unbelievable that only the chocolate wrappers in his pocket could possibly make someone believe.
The bus rumbled to life and they were off. Somewhere, today, in the lovely Milky Way Galaxy, on the lovely planet Earth, in the lovely U.S.A., in the lovely state of Missouri in the lovely city of St. Louis in a lovely house there is a lyrical young man named Joel Black. He might appear to be like any other brilliant homeschooler with a knack for stacking cups but don't be fooled. Agents of the Underground Dove Chocolate Meerkat industry are well trained and only the most observant person might hear the crinkle of foil wrapper, the drop of milk chocolate on his t-shirt, and the twinkle of a secret in his eye. But you didn't hear anything from me.
Espionage and Ewes,