Chapter 4: Two Rays and a Forrest
Peter looked toward the hill where the Beautiful Woman All Dressed in White had been standing, and who just vanished like a bag of chocolate and white filling cookies that had been left on his kitchen counter. He sighed. He missed those cookies. He started to get a little perturbed and yelled out after her, though she had gone.
“Politikus Mediosus? That’s what my subconscious came up with? You’re kidding me!” He was hitting his stride. “Couldn’t I have thought of something more clever? I sound like Edmund Spencer or John Bunyan! And I’m too young to know who those guys are!” He muttered under his breath. “Why couldn’t I have had a normal schooling and learned, I don’t know, home economics?”
He turned and looked at the rocky promontory ahead of him. It jutted out into the golden gleam of ocean; at least it looked and smelled like an ocean to him. He had only visited one once when he was little, but it was unmistakable.
“Another reason why I believe this is all in my imagination.” He nodded and smiled to himself. “I’m literally off my rocker, so I might as well play along.”
He climbed the rock, went over to the edge and saw there was a rope that he could walk on, with rope hand rails suspended by rope supports, extending out from the promontory to the island boat a few yards away. It looked hazardous.
“I say,” said a voice from the island boat, “were you yelling at us?”
Peter shaded his eyes with his hand and he could see two figures standing on the island boat, near the railing of branches, looking out at him.
“No,” he yelled back.
“Good, good. Because we don’t know how to answer you,” one of them replied.
Peter just stared. His eyes were getting accustomed to the light. He could just make out two old men, one tall and thin and one short and portly, grinning out at him.
“Are you just going to stand there, or are you going to come aboard?”
“You were waiting for me?”
“Yep,” said the tall one. He didn’t have much hair and Peter could see his shiny head quite well by now.
“Who told you I was coming?”
The shorter one stood on his toes.
“I saw you down on the beach, and figured you were coming to us, and well, we could use the fare.”
Peter was a little disappointed. “I have no money,” he yelled back. His feet hurt. His shoes were too tight.
“Can you cook?”
“I can make toast,” said Peter.
“Good enough,” said the taller one. That will give our wives a rest. We can’t even make toast.”
“I can,” yelled the shorter one, who wore what looked like spectacles on his face.
“Yes, but not very well,” countered the taller one.
Peter looked about. There was no one else with him; he had to make this decision alone.
“What the heck. Permission to come aboard?”
“Permission granted!” They both said in unison.
So Peter took a step out onto the rope; it was firm and springy. After a few jumpy strides the rope looked and sounded like it was starting to fray, just possibly two feet ahead of him.
“Hang on,” yelled the shorter one. “It will only take a second.”
Just then the rope broke and his hand rails broke at the same spot. He was clinging onto a breaking rope hanging over the ocean and of course, he fell back against the rock with a thud and a scrape and a terrible jolt to his head. He kept his eyes open, hung onto his strand of rope and just dangled there against the rock, with the ocean water churning a few long yards beneath him. The broken piece of rope attached to the island boat fell into the water.
“Hang on, remember,” yelled the shorter one again.
In an instant, the rope sprang up vertically and so did the broken piece on the other side, along with the respective handrails. Quite remarkably, they reattached themselves, as if they were growing together like some strange creeper vine that he saw on a nature show on television, filmed to look like high speed. As a result, he found himself sitting on the rope, hands on the rope rails, again extended over the ocean, his feet dangling over either side of the rope. He was safe--a little scraped and bruised, but safe.
“Good trick,” he yelled out, nervously.
“Don’t just sit there; we don’t have all day,” yelled the taller old man.
Peter carefully got to his feet. He looked down at the swirling, churning gold crested waves and thought to himself, “It’s only cold ginger ale. I’ll be fine. It’s a dream, remember. A coma induced dream. You’re in a lot more danger in real life, probably lying in a hospital bed muttering unintelligible sentences to anyone in the room: Grandma, Bucky, the doctor, the coroner...” His thoughts trailed off. He started to walk across the rope bridge again, a little slower, and feeling that it was sturdy beneath him, he picked up his pace.
He wanted to get across as fast as he could and get safely aboard the strange island ship, so with a bound he leaped the last yard and landed with a thud on what felt like real dirt.
“Ouch. I expected a wooden deck.”
“Welcome aboard the Forrest,” said the shorter man. “My name is Ray, and this is my best friend, Ray.” He pointed to the taller one. They were about the same age but the taller one wasn’t wearing spectacles and the shorter one wasn’t bald.
“Hello,” said Ray the Taller. “Welcome aboard.”
Peter stood up and noticed he had scraped his shins. His pant legs were shorter than usual.
“Hello,” he said, holding out his hand to Ray the Shorter. Ray took it, and they shook hands vigorously. Ray had a big grin on his ample face. Peter turned to Ray the Taller and held out his hand. Again, there was a very energetic handshake and lots of smiles from Ray the Taller and Peter certainly felt welcome.
“I’m Peter Harrison. Most of my friends call me Peter. Actually, that’s not true. Most of my friends call me Potty, which isn’t very nice.”
“Why would your friends do that to you?” asked the taller one.
“They’re not really my friends.”
“Oh,” said the shorter one, “well now you have two new friends who will call you Peter. So! You make toast do you?”
Peter grinned. He liked these two men, but the warning from the Beautiful Woman all Dressed in White still went off inside his head. It was a low, muted, far away warning, as if it were a police siren on some lonely street far from his brain so it didn’t really apply to him kind of warning; but it was there, nevertheless. Still, these men were kind, and even though there was a warning, there was also something warm and generous about them. Peter eventually came to the conclusion that if people were on the outside who they really were on the inside, then these two people would be the perfect example of warmth and friendliness.
He brushed off the warning and looked around him. This was the strangest boat he had ever been on, and he’d only been on one, and it was a row boat at the river near Grand Lights, and he got his shoes wet. This boat was really an island. It was as if it intentionally grew and shaped itself into a boat. The most remarkable thing was that even though it looked like it was made of dirt and rock, it floated like a real boat, it pitched and yawed (whatever that meant; Peter heard that term in a pirate movie he saw one Saturday morning on TV) like a real boat, but the deck was all grass and pebbles, sticks and rock, some flowers of a yellow and white kind and trees. Real, honest to goodness trees growing right out of the center of the deck, tall and majestic, with pine needles that intertwined with each other to give the impression they were not quite capable of functioning as sails, although they really would like to.
“How does this boat move?”
Ray the Shorter looked a little disappointed at Peter. He was still of the mind that maybe some toast and jam would be in the offing. Ray the Taller spoke up.
“Rather well. We haven’t had it capsize or anything like that.”
Ray the Shorter got his mind off of the toast and back in the conversation.
“We haven’t even run aground, of course, because we essentially are the ground.”
Peter looked at them both. Yep, these two were all right.
“But,” he continued, “what motivates it?”
“Probably likes to swim,” said Ray the Taller. “We call him the Good Ship Forrest. Because that’s what he is. A good ship made out of a floating forest.”
Peter took this all in, but it still wasn’t helping him understand the basic principles of locomotion for this particular kind of vessel. He said as much, but the two Rays just looked at him with very comical but confused expressions.
“You’re not from around here, are you?” asked Ray the Shorter.
“No sir. I’m not. If I am right in my thinking, well, it’s rather complicated. This place only exists in my mind, like a dreamscape and you two are hyper-extensions of my subconscious ego.”
Ray the shorter looked even more confused. He really wanted the toast now, because when he got confused, he got hungry. Lots of toast would be a big help, with butter and jam and something cool to wash it down with.
Ray the Taller chimed in, “Well I don’t know about all that. All I know is, Ray here, he and I have been friends since childhood and we’ve never met you until now so if we’re part of your dream, well then, you’ve been asleep and dreaming longer than you’ve been alive.”
Now this indeed made a great argument that maybe Peter wasn’t hallucinating or dreaming at all, but then again, he looked at the impossible boat he was standing on. He shrugged.
“Where is the galley? I’d like to see if I could make the toast now.”
Ray the Shorter nearly jumped with glee. He had to push his spectacles back up his nose because they almost fell off.