Welcome Acolyte and seeker. The Church of the Blue Moon is pleased that you have chosen the path of learning and have advanced to lesson II of this series set forth by your spiritual leader, The Exulted One. As you may know, your leader suffered many trials and setbacks before attaining the wisdom necessary to fulfill the rigorous demands placed upon a Church leader. It is to be hoped that my travails will benefit you in you quest to SEEK and FIND rather then be THE AIMLESS WANDERER that I once was. Bless you, Acolyte! Bless you!
I could say that my difficulties began when I was Shanghaied By the evil Captain of the Polar Cyst, a sinister vessel of no known flag. Not so! The mistakes and failings of my early life landed me there, a smelt in an creek filled with toothy pike.
Had I only followed the sage advice of my Blessed Ma and furthered my career in the recycled bottle industry! Ma knew best, herself an expert tester of beer, always "clanking another one down the gullet" as she would so sweetly describe. A thrifty woman, putting each empty bottle securely away for her only son's future. When the mountain of bottles shifted, pinning dear old Ma to the dank cellar floor, crushing her like a wine grape, I knew I must go, and run I did.
taking refuge under the pier and in the company of a number of shady characters, my thoughts turned inward. I thought deeply for perhaps the first time in my young life. My thoughts were cut short, however when one one the larger and more disreputable of the bunch pointed a dirty, mangled finger at me and yelled: "That one'll do!"
Somehow, I would up in the bowels of that decrepit wreak, the Polar Cyst. Ankle deep in fetid, oily water. All I knew was to bail, bail, bail with my flimsy bucket. Bilge Rat, they called me, and bilge rat was what I ate every meal, if I could catch one. I was not a happy boy.
It was dark down there, a five watt light bulb the sole source of light and warmth. Have to tell you, Norway rat, grilled on a five watt bulb is not the world's worst meal. Still, my thoughts turned to escape....
I turned to prayer but my "prayers" went unanswered. I prayed harder, still nothing! Then and there I knew Ma's "Church o' Beer" Praying wasn't going to cut it. Starting right then, I decided my very own church was the route for me, no pop the cap and spit at the evil one. If only I received a "sign from above", Then I would know I was on the right track.
Wouldn't you know it!, just then, that exact second, a big, juicy rat slipped off one of the overhead pipes and landed smack in front of me! I trapped it in my bucket! A Blessing from above!
Shortly after my prayers were answered and I got my "sign", One of the crew came down the hatch, dragged me up into the blinding sunlight and threw me overboard. It seems the Coast Guard was bearing down on them so I got thrown into the briny deep. The Polar Cyst turned North into a fog bank and I was washed ashore.
So, Beloved Acolyte, the temptation of the salty sea was to follow the old ways and not follow my heart. That is the lesson I brought to you today. I still have Ma's old bottle cap puller here as a Holy Relic but the Church of the Blue Moon, Moon Beams on you Naked Booty, forges ahead. Bless you!
Your humble leader, The Exulted One
Enlightened boy at school for bad girls
Dear Acolyte thank you for your continued interest in matters spiritual and welcome to another lesson from the Leader of the Church of the Blue Moon, The Exulted One. My intention here is to instill in you the notion that you may escape the bonds of ignorance through hard work, study, and meditative thought.
Oh that I were given the helping hand that reaches out to you, my Acolyte. My years of AIMLESS WANDERING, have taken a toll but I find your youth and energy healing. For that I Bless and thank you. Bless you, Acolyte! This lesson entails that period of my young life whence I escaped the evil clutches of the Captain of the Polar Cyst. Yes, I was washed ashore, but I was cleansed not only by the surf of the salty sea, but cleansed by the faith of my newly founded religion, the Church of the Blue Moon. I did ingest a substantial amount of salt water, to dramatic effect, I might add, but never mind that. I was made pure and wholesome, and my eyes were opened to the wonder of the Universe.
Not far from that rocky shore where the sea spit me out, wrapped in seaweed and scratched by barnacles, was, a small village. Looking closer, I realized it was not a village, but rather a very large home or school where school age girls were dashing about. It seemed a safe refuge for a boy thrown upon the shore of a cruel coast of Pirates and evil mariners. I would scout around and find a safe camp.
Darkness fell and by then the effects of my shipboard diet of Norway Rat and the swallowed salt water was creating a distress in my bowels. lucky for me, there was a full moon that night enabling me to find a private spot to seek relief. No sooner did I drop my tattered trousers and assume the position, as it were, a loud and raucous cackle emerged from the direction of the school. By the pitch an timbre of the voice I could tell it was a teenage girl, first one then several joining in. Mocking, screaming and poking girlish arms out of the barred windows of the 4 story tower. Life with Ma had conditioned me early that all embarrassment was pointless and I was her best student.
Ma's solution to a problem was to hurl a beer bottle at it and that seemed to work for her. I didn't need enemies just then so I ignored the girls and slipped quietly into the shrubbery. I found a nice clear spot next to the substantial iron fence and fell into a deep sleep. Morning came and I awoke with a start when a girl inside the fence, poked me with a very long stick. " Wake up, freak", she whispered with the hiss of a viper. "I need you to take a note to my boyfriend!" I looked at her, she looked at me and I looked at the sandwich she was nibbling on. We made sort of an animal agreement then and there and my career as a messenger started at the end of a pointy stick.
The deal was, essentially, I do what ever the girls wanted in exchange for food. Mostly, I was sent into the real village to hunt down their boy friends, give them notes, and always be a spy. The work suited me just fine. I started putting on weight.
Besides delivering little notes, sometimes the girls would send me to pick up odd items at the little stores in town. Once I had to bring in some cleaning supplies for the girls. As a punishment, they were often required to clean their entire rather Gothic habitat with tooth brushes and the like. The girls would save countless hours with more practical tools of the trade. Life was good!
One fateful day, Girl 89065 edged close to the fence where I was concealed under my favorite bush. I knew there was going to be trouble. Girl 89065 worked for Girl 63208R. Apparently the "R" referred to a prior runaway situation long before I showed up. Girl 63208R was a big, tall, scary girl and always had some hapless girl doing little "favors" for her. Anyway, the flunky girl worked her way over to me pretending to snip errant blades of grass with a pair of rounded kiddie scissors. That how they did it at the "School.", snip here, snip there, snip, snip, snip.
Girl 63208R glared at me from a distance while -65 handed me the note and I took my instructions. I know that if I slipped up, I might never eat again or, perhaps, would be speared through the fence. Whatever it was, I had to do it. Naturally, the evil one was working hard on my merry little assignment. I had to go over to the School for Bad Boys, and deliver the note!
"You know I can't go over there!", I cried pointlessly to -65. Being a bit small of stature, and no one really knowing my true age, they'd grab me and I'd wind up a lifer in there!
I went! I skirted around town and positioned myself along the fence, waiting until the boys came out of the barracks for "Yard time" I didn't know the boys as well as the girls so I was at a disadvantage. All I know was that the message was supposed to go to Boy 1955H, the "H" was supposed to stand for homicide according to legend among the girls. My knees were knocking together, I was so scarred. I was supposed to look for the biggest, meanest looking boy at The School for Bad Boys, that'd be the right one and then I could see the number sewed on his coveralls. That was the plan. You couldn't just yell. If I did, it would be a over in less time than it took Ma to drain a six pack.
I tossed a pebble and bonked the huge teen right on the side of his head. He turned and I swear his eyes glowed red even in the sunlight! With barely a non, four or five of the town's most wicked boys jumped up out of the bushes and grabbed me. They ripped the balled up, sweaty note from my hand. It was a setup! These boys were fresh out on probation and owed a lot of favors to somebody.I bonked the wrong boy on the head with the pebble!
Boy 1955H wasn't quite the tallest, huskiest boy, just the one most like to slit your throat! Clutching the note, the boys dragged me to a small forested area near the school. I knew if I even barely squeaked, it would be curtains! The boys puzzled over the note, they couldn't make it out! Maybe my sweaty hands made the ink run, or perhaps, they just couldn't read that well, I never found out. Nevertheless, there was something on that bit of paper that made the leader of the town boys crazy mad and he started for me with huge hands outstretched. "I'll rip your little a..."
With a tremendous leap into a thorny hedge, a rough slide down a rocky hill, and the aid of a passing turnip truck. I managed to escape my once peaceful abode. Once again, there was no looking back. Now with a more mature understanding of life I see that the lesson is that even confusion can be a Blessing from on high.
"How is that possible, Exulted One, we don't understand?" "That is how it works, son, that's how it works! Bless you!!!
From the desk of the Exulted One
Charm of the belly crawling reptile Lessons for the Acolyte
Dear Acolyte, Bless you! Let us get to the lesson right away shall we. I am running a little late today, unfinished business.
I say, Acolytes, with not a little regret that I was at one time a naughty, naughty boy. I lied, I was sneaky, I took advantage of the gullible.
"Say that is not true, Exulted One. Not you, the bringer of light!!"
Yes tender Acolyte. I was a bright but naive boy , and was charmed by the wiles of the belly crawling reptile.
"A reptile, Exulted One?
Yes, Son, a snake and Bless You!
Spending as much time as I did, hiding in trees and shrubbery outside the School for Bad Girls, where I was living, I learned to catch and handle snakes with some degree of skill. I even caught and sold a few to the boys in the village. Several times I removed a snake or two from a basement or crawl space under a house, charging a modest fee.
At first, of course, I hesitated to spend much time in the village due to the fact that I was a school age boy living on his own and by his own wits. I was afraid that the authorities would take an interest in me, haul me in and put me in the School for Bad Boys until they figured out where I belonged. That was my greatest fear.
One day, a circus came to town and set up tents on the outskirts of the village, near the School for Bad Girls. Nearly penniless, I managed to sneak in under a poorly staked down flap of canvas and look around. The older village boys had warned me that the circus was always on the lookout for sneaky boys like me. If they caught you, they'd likely feed you to the tigers or worse. Still, I wanted in there, I was a very curious boy.
"Exulted One, they would never feed a child to a tiger!"
Yes, Son, Maybe not, but remember, I was a boy who, not long before, was eating undercooked rat in the leaky bilge of the Polar Cyst, A dark vessel of unknown flag! Trust does not come easily to a child tossed casually into a stormy sea by pirates and brigands. Down in the hold of that ship, if lucky, eating my rat, I would dream of a better life. I would dream my overturned bucket a fine table in an elegant restaurant. One Norway rat, please, rare, hold everything else. Sad and dreary, but that is how I made it through my days and nights, if you call day and night an unblinking five watt bulb.
To my good fortune, I encountered a fine, tall fellow with a large yellow basket,a Snake Charmer. Of course, he knew immediately that I was a boy without a ticket but seemed to care less. In fact, as he later related, He had, snuck into this very same circus as a boy, learning his craft from an elderly Charmer.
For three happy days, before the circus packed off their tents and animals, the Snake Charmer imparted a wealth of information of the care and handling of snakes. I learned how to grab them properly, how to hold them, and more than a little of their psychology.
"Psychology, Exulted One?"
Yes, Son, everything with a brain has a psychology, even an Acolyte!
As a parting gift, the Snake Charmer gave me my very own small basket and several turbans, cut down to fit the size of my head. He even gave me an exotic little snake which, although not venomous, had a nasty disposition and he had given up trying to train it. He though that, with more time on my hands, I could do something with that unruly creature. Fangy, I called it, even though it was a fangless snake. It was a nasty snake, however, and could give you a painful bite.
I loved the turban! With the turban, the village people just blindly assumed I was a native of some foreign land where people ran somewhat compact. It was perfect for a boy trying to avoid capture by the authorities and being send away to the Boy's Home.
The girls at the School for Bad Girls laughed at me and my little snake, Fangy, and the turban. Let em laugh, I thought, Ma would have simply pinned a fresh bottle of beer up against her face, making her already crazy eyes triple in size in the most alarming way and emit a terrifying screech like a rusty drawbridge. No one got the better of Ma!
The little snake never warmed up to me as I hoped it would. It was always crabby, even for a snake and had a fearsome bite. It would grab on your finger and hang on like a bulldog while you hopped up and down trying to shake it off. I tried everything to make it happy and like me but to no avail. I fed it good, I knew what kind of bug it liked and what kind it didn't. There was nothing warm and furry about that smake!
"Warm an furry, Exulted One?"
Bless You, Acolyte, just an expression. Though I was determined to make friends with that snake, it never happened. I started to get the feeling that it was up to no good. It started watching me with those beady eyes and it was creepy, like it was working on a plan. I tried praying for a sign from above to help me get on better terms with Fangy. I felt my little one boy church helped save me from the evil Captain of the Polar Cyst and perhaps it would intercede now. I was waiting for that sign from above.
One inexplicable talent Fangy had was it could always, always tell if there was another snake near by. It would turn facing the direction of the snake, wherever the snake happened to be and flick out its blue, forked tongue like it was licking an all day sucker. It never failed. It would flick the tongue toward a bush or a pile of rocks and there always was a snake in there. Remarkable, really. Fangy helped me catch a lot of snakes.
One day, I was out sitting in my little camp with Fangy near the tall iron fence next to the School for Bad Girls, wearing my turban. Fangy was sunning himself on top of his snake charmer basket. He wasn't going to run away, he knew I'd just catch him again. I was thinking hard about how I could get that darn snake to warm up to me. My whole snake charming future seemed to be tied up in that ornery critter. I guess Fangy just didn't find me so charming. His serpent eyes eyed me coldly, with a look of mockery and cold-blooded loathing. Still, this snake was my future and I would never give up on him.
Just then, Bad Girl 89065 showed up near the iron fence, pretending to snip some blades of grass, eyes darting about. Oh no, I thought, Bad Girl 63208R was up to something. 65 was 08R's little helper, spy, and messenger. This was not a good development on account of Bad Girl 08R being the toughest, meanest girl in the entire school.
What?, I whispered, my young voice cracking.
o8R wants a snake and she wants it right now! You gotta get her a snake!
Trouble, now there was serious trouble, I had hunted down and sold all the snakes in the territory, just about. There were no snakes to be had and 08R wants hers right now, this minute! If 08R didn't get her snake, she'd might denounce me to the authorities and they'd plunk me directly in the school for Bad Boys. Remember, I wasn't that big and nobody knew my real age, I'd become a lifer, in there for all eternity!
"Gimmy your snake", Bad Girl 89065 said, looking quite nervous herself. "She doesn't get her snake, we all die!" 065 wasn't fooling, beads of sweat were pooling on her forehead and there was a tremor in her voice. "Come on, give me the darn snake!"
I looked over to Fangy, Fangy was my only hope to become a world famous snake charmer. I couldn't give him up. Maybe I should just grab Fangy an run! Head for the tracks, jump on a train, anything! I would try a little deception to gain some time.
Just let me catch Fangy some bugs first, I told o65. He has to have his bugs, he'll starve! I looked toward Fangy, I would just grab everything and run like a scalded duck or I was chasing a beer truck as dear old Ma would like to say. Something odd though, Fangy was on alert!, his blue forked tongue was flicking like I had never seen it before.... There was a snake out there and it had to be really close for Fangy to alert like that!
Wait a minute!, there's a snake right over here, a big one, I whispered hoarsely. I lunged for the spot where Fangy was fixedly staring at, Fangy had never let me down. Right away I spotted a hole under the nearest bush and madly thrust my eager hand down it to grab the big snake I knew was down there. I had to get that snake!
What the heck! Something down there grabbed my thumb and bite me with so much force that, thrashing around, I kicked over Fangy's basket. It took a minute to get my hand out of that hole and plunge it into a nearby bucket of cold water I had in my camp. Jez, that hurt.
Fangy was on the move! Weirdly, he didn't try to escape, he slid in between the iron pickets on the fence and headed directly for Bad Girl 63208R!!! I freaked, if Fangy bite her, fire and brimstone would rain down upon me, her wicked girl mobsters would track me to the ends of the earth to wreak vengeance. Oh no, don't bite, don't bite, I prayed with desperation.
Again, what the heck, Fangy beelined directly to 08R like a fond puppy! 08R reached down, picked up Fangy putting Fangy close to her face. What! Then to my utter shock and disbelief, Fangy actually extended his forky tongue out further than it even seemed possible and licked Bad Girl 63208R right on her juicy, red lips. Fangy was in love!
"Exulted One, ah, we're kind of having a hard time belie.."
Kindly shush, Beloved Acolytes, and Bless you! It is nearly time that I must go.
"So, Exulted One, was there no sign from above, I mean, the lesson..?"
Son, how would you get a sign from above from the belly crawling reptile? No, no sign from above, it was a sign from below!, the hole, Acolyte!, the hole! Now I must run, Bless you all, time to end the lesson.
"But.. but, wait, Exulted One...."
Falling off the old turnip truck
Greeting Acolytes and Bless You! Your leader has prepared a savory lunch for you after you complete this session. Sharing a meal with the Acolytes is always my favorite way of getting to know you all a little better and reward you for you efforts and astute attention. Bless you!
As you know, I ran away from my home outside the fence at the School for Bad Girls. Pursued, as I was, by bad boys from the village, I was a very tired little boy by the time I found the highway out of there. I missed my little snake Fangy, but knew that the snake had made a new home and future with Bad Girl 63208R. There was little I could do about, they were a pair, those two! And, need I say, there was that sign from below, and not an evil sign, reptilian perhaps, and in the form of a vicious bite, but not evil per se.
There was little traffic on the road that lead away from the village, none to speak of, really. Once in a while, a car or truck would pass but I would always lose my nerve and hide behind a rock until it passed. This is no way to get out of town, I thought.
After some long while, a rickety and creaking old truck came tooling up the road, slowing on the slight incline of the local topography. It was moving along at barely a medium walking speed with an old man at the wheel. My chance!, I thought, and I ran up behind and jumped up on the back of the truck with my little traveling kit of water, a few things to wear, and a cracker or two. Now I was glad not to be burdened down with a snake charmer's basket with a nasty little snake in it, too many questions.
The old man driver seemed unaware of the new passenger hidden under the tarp in the back of his truck. The crackly radio was on and the old man plowed on ahead, driving the truck up the increasingly steep grade. Between the putt putt of the truck's engine and the crackly radio playing alternately old timey music interspersed with bits of news, I soon fell asleep amid boxes of turnips, garden tools, and miscellaneous junk.
I must have slept for a long time. What happened then was almost unbelievable! On the weak, weak signal coming from the radio, it seemed that the radio guy said something about a woman emerging unscathed from: "under a huge pile of Beer bottl...." then the signal faded back to unintelligible static. Ma!, I thought, and jumped up with so much energy that I fell completely off the back of the truck! As if on cue, the truck slowed on the, steep hill, pulling over to the dusty side of the road. I could hear the old man set the brake with a loud ratchety crack.
I didn't know if should I run or stay put. I had to ask the old man about the news on the radio! Ma may be alive, alive! Happy, hopefully thoughts filled my little head as the old man made his way back to where I was, sitting there in the dust at the side of the road.
The old man spoke first: "Fell off the truck, huh, young fella? They always fall off right about here on account of the road being so steep and all." He leaned in toward me to get a better look. " You look pretty stunned even for a boy who just fell off my turnip truck, young fella, what gives?" Then the old man grinned kindly and helped pull me up off the roadside, knocking dirt off me with his battered felt hat.
The Radio, the radio, what did it say about a woman crawling out from under some beer bottles! I almost shouted. The old man looked at me with concern and explained the he hadn't actually heard anything coming out of that radio for thirty five years. He was hard of hearing!
"I just leave the radio on because the turnips like it", the old man said. "Maybe you'll here something later on that thing. We're a bit far from the station out here, at least eighty five miles. Hope it's true and you Ma's OK. Worrying never helped nobody, young man, we'll get er figured out soon enough."
I was invited into the cab of the truck and permitted to fiddle with the radio dials all I wanted. Nothing! Nothing was coming in on that thing, only crackles and static, occasionally some polka tunes, that was it. The old man explained that we were headed up to the top of Turnip Hill and would be arriving shortly.
Acolytes!, Let us partake in our lunch now, the stomach is rumbling, we can finish the lesson later, more refreshed.
The Exulted One led the hungry Acolytes to the well appointed table, complete with white table cloth and decent china settings. Apparently, The Exulted One had prepared the meal entirely himself. He proudly pulled out chairs for the Acolytes. The Exulted One joked about how a bunch of Acolytes could bolt it down like a pack of wolves. "No prayer before dinner at the Church of the Blue Moon, Acolytes! How anyone would expect a decent prayer from a hungry Acolyte is beyond me! We only pray if and when we feel in the mood, so, eat up!"
The Acolytes seated themselves graciously at the table. There was a steaming platter of what looked like turnips, Some nice looking mashed potatoes and gravy, homemade biscuits and other delectable fare. The hungry Acolytes were pleased. After a moment, and allowing some of the Acolytes to pray or not as was their inclination, they was a stirring starting to grow at the Exulted One's end of the table. The Acolytes seated there were looking at each other with increasing alarm.
"Exulted One!!! Is this dish Rat? one of the bolder ones exclaimed. Are you feeding us rat!?"