Sunday, April 26, 2015

27: The List

Alan opened the letter, which contained The List...

Dear Mr. Faramond,


We hope you find your accommodations adequate. Once you are settled, please review the following list. 

These are the places and events we need pictured for our tourist brochures and guidebook. We have marked the enclosed map to aid you in finding the locations. We would like to see the first 25 pictures by December 11. 

Good luck,


THE LIST (all pictures in color, please)

1. Hazelhurst Ruins
2. The Hooksands Nature Reserve
3. Capetown
4. Hoodoo Beach
5. Express train (at a station...?)
6. Vanessa I. from Lizard Pt.
7. Etc. 
105. Roger's Dreamland

"Oh my," thought Alan. "Why didn't they just give this to me back at their office? Maybe they didn't want me to see it and then try to back out and go back home! 

"Why do I always say yes to people when I really should ask to think it over? Whywhywhywhy?"

Then he decided he'd better get into Hazel and buy groceries!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

26: Alan's Apartment

Alan's new lodgings
Adrian led the way through the gallery's back rooms and up a twisting staircase to a rather spacious apartment. "Is this the only way up here?" Alan asked. "I'm afraid so," said Adrian. As they walked into the apartment, Alan noticed a light on, and things on the floor: unopened letters and some underwear.

"Is someone still living here?"

"Oh, no. She moved out last month, and the guv'ment was supposed to come and clean it out for you, but I guess they didn't make it."

"So who was 'she'?"

"Ah, well, an interesting personage if I may say so. Her name was Mandrill and she worked for the Antiquities people as a protohistoric archaeologist, or so she said. She explained that 'protohistoric' meant that the Old People that once lived here had no written language, at least so far as they know. She was out at the Hazelhurst Ruins most of the time. We saw a lot of each other, maybe more than we should have, but then she left quite suddenly!"

"So were you two, um, 'together'?"

Adrian deftly scooped up the underwear off the floor. "Well, I thought so...and now I can't seem to find out anything about her, or where she went. She seems to have gone off the map, as it were."

"Sorry to hear that," Alan said. "I've had that same feeling about myself lately."

Adrian picked up the letters. "Well, let's is for Mandrill, but now this other one is addressed to you - from the Ministry of Trade. So I guess the guv'ment was here after all..."

Alan, mystified, looked at the letter handed to him, front and back, then put it in his back pocket.

Adrian was of course quite curious.

"Say," Adrian said, "Is there anything I can get for you? If you want to get some groceries in Hazel, I have a bicycle which you're welcome to use.  I'd invite you to supper but I'm a bit low on foodstuffs myself. The bike is parked out front if you want it...but I'll need it to get home later"

"Um, okay, Thanks."

When Adrian left, Alan looked through the kitchen cupboards (plenty of pots, pans and utensils). Then he examined the elderly fridge, which looked pretty clean inside (no food but there was a half-full bottle of Merlot). He glanced into the living room, and took in the old-style narrow French doors that opened onto a deck, and the view of Putney Bay. The room contained only a couch, a low table, one rocking chair and a dining table with two chairs toward the kitchen. The room and furnishings vaguely reminded him of that strange white room near the end of the 2001, A Space Odyssey movie.

He then wandered into the bedroom. He peered into the closet and opened the drawers in the spacious dresser built inside. He didn't find any more underwear. The bed was rumpled but clean-enough looking and there seemed to be plenty of towels and extra blankets and sheets. All he needed was food, and shaving cream. Osborne wandered in, hopped onto the bed, and then sniffed around the apartment while pointedly ignoring Alan.

Alan then walked out onto the deck and looked out at the waves blazing with late afternoon sunlight. To his left he spotted a nearby hill upon which must be the ruins Adrain was talking about - Hazelhurst or something like that. Alan had never been among ancient ruins before - there are not many in Indiana.

Then he remembered the letter in his pocket...

The ruins are a short walk from Alan's place.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

25: Alan and Adrian have Tea

One of Adrian's recent paintings of an imaginary shoreline with New Island in the background.

Adrian came in with a tray, set it down on a cluttered table next to Alan, and then sat down in the one other chair and poured.

"Sugar, milk?" asked Adrian.

"Oh, yes. Thanks."

They stirred their tea. Osborne was not disturbed. The faint sound of waves came in through a window in the back, and a soft breeze drifted through the gallery bringing in a hint of eucalyptus.

"Well. Here we are," said Adrian brightly. "I was wondering about you ever since I heard from Ms. Mullen at Tourism. She said you are from the USA...such a long way to come from, no? And how was your trip, may I ask?"

"Oh, um, long...but okay. I made all my flights, and then I caught the boat from Fremantle with no problem. I enjoyed the train ride here too."

Alan looked around at the art everywhere, then back at Adrian. "I, uh, was just wondering... After seeing your work, why didn't they ask you to illustrate their travel book? I mean, I'm grateful for the job, but it looks like your landscapes would look just fine there, and you must know this place well."

Adrian looked out the window for a moment, and then he replied, "Well, they did ask me a few months ago, but we couldn't agree on a price. I offered to let them use some of my older paintings for their book - I've done quite a few - but they insisted on depictions of very specific locations, and I just don't have the time to traipse all over this island!"

"Alan, commiserating, "Yes, I'm getting the feeling it's much bigger than I thought..."

"However, I must say I was surprised when they hired you to come all the way here for this...they paid your way, right?" And then I heard from a friend of mine at Guv'ment Hill that Ms. Mullen was very impressed by a drawing you did of her old house north of Putney. She was even a bit spooked by how accurately you captured it some 40 years ago, and she has wanted you here ever since."

Adrian paused. "Ahh, but I shouldn't pry..." and then he took a long sip of his tea.

"Oh, that's okay," said Alan. "Yes, they paid for my tickets and gave me the apartment, but I really have no idea of exactly what pictures these people want. You see, I was having these strange dreams back home, and then I made drawings from some of them, and I saw the one you're talking about. But I really don't know anything about this place, or even where I should go to draw the pictures! I feel I might have made a mistake!"

And then Alan abruptly stood up from his chair, his eyes wide and seeing nothing, as if he were about to have a fit!  Osborne bolted and scuttled out the front door. Alan finally let out a long sighing breath, shrugged, and then sat down again.  Adrian stared at him...

"My apologies, Adrian. Ah, everything seemed to be going just fine, and then I thought I would explode, I'm so unsure about what I'm doing here, and, and..." He slowly leaned forward, his face in his hands. Then he muttered, "... and I need art supplies."

"Oh, ah, well...first, are you okay?" Adrian asked, a bit concerned.

Alan nodded, "Yeah, I think so. I'm just confused, and tired...and this whole trip suddenly seems so unreal."

"Well, um, yes, I can imagine. I've heard about that disorienting event in Fremantle where travelers must step over the threshold to enter the Rudyard office. People who have just arrived can be rattled for quite some time. You'll be fine after a good night's sleep.

"And by the way, you'll find art supplies in Skegness, at the Dromedary Booksellers and Stationers. You'll enjoy the place.

Alan nodded as he sipped his tea, and seemed to have regained a sense of calm.

"But for now, let me show you your new home!"

24: Alan Meets his Downstairs Neighbor

This is the landscape south of Hazel, just down the road from Adrian's gallery and Alan's place.
Putney Bay is in the distance, with the sandy peninsula called The Hook, at right, on the horizon.
Adrian, the gallery's owner, did this drawing some years ago.
Alan looked around inside the gallery. A cat that had been sleeping on a chair looked up at him. There was not a sound. Alan impulsively shouted "Ahoy?" toward the back room, and someone soon called back with another "Ahoy." Finally, a fiftyish guy in shorts, sweatshirt, and sandals, and with grey hair that had a scruffy bedhead look, came out from the rear.  He stopped a moment to focus on Alan and his baggage.

"Hi, I'm Alan. I believe I'll be staying in the rooms upstairs...?" (Eye contact, get right to the point!)

"Ahh yes, well I'm Adrian Graham. Glad to meet you. So you must be the chap they told me about, the depictor fellow who will be working for the guv'ment, right? "

"Umm, yes, they asked me to come here and make pictures for a tourism guidebook..."

They shook hands, Alan immediately felt something strange and electric - a not unpleasant sensation, but very curious. He looked at Adrian, then away, and they let their hands fall. Both stood there while the cat sniffed at Alan's loafers.

"So, aah, are you thirsty? Hungry? Would you like to see your lodgings?"
"Well, actually, I wouldn't mind having a glass of water."
"Oh, let's have is four o'clock you know...allow me to make us a pot." Here, have a seat, and I hope you don't mind cat hair...Osborne is shedding."

As soon as Alan  sat down, Osborne, a sleek, all-black tabby, jumped onto his lap and continued to sniff at Alan, then curled and flopped down. Alan was pleased the cat accepted him. He stroked its flank, and looked around some more while he heard Adrian filling a kettle and rattling cups.

The gallery was quite full of paintings and drawings, framed or loose on tables; mostly landscapes of what Alan figured were local places. At least they didn't look like anywhere else he knew of.  The work looked pretty good, which caused to Alan to ask himself, "Why didn't they hire this guy for my job?

And this place, this island, is so big - much larger than I imagined it. Where will I even begin?"

Sunday, April 5, 2015

23: Alan's New Home

Alan finally arrives in Hazel
"End of the line!" the conductor announced as he walked the length of the train. Alan abruptly awakened - they had arrived in Roseville, where all passengers wishing to continue on to Putney had to transfer to the Victoria-Putney train, which was due in a few minutes. Alan grabbed his baggage and then lumbered off the train in a kind of daze - he had been quite asleep!

Waiting under the "Putney" sign, he watched the Putney Express train ease into the station right on time, and then climbed aboard, along with about twenty others. He was barely settled in his seat on that train before it stopped at Hazel's open platform.

No one else got off at Hazel. Alan stepped out onto the open platform and the train glided off, leaving a near-total silence. He stopped and looked around. He enjoyed the fresh breeze off the water, the faint sound of waves rolling toward the nearby shore, and the warmth of the afternoon sun. Hazel was not much of a town, and not much was going on, which felt comforting. The railway platform was surrounded by tidy plantings of plump pink and red geraniums. He felt good here.

Margaret had told him, "Your lodgings are above the art gallery next to the Land Office building just outside of Hazel. The owner of the gallery, Adrian, will show you up to your rooms."

He saw the buildings from the train as it passed, so he knew where to go.

Alan's apartment is upstairs. This will be his home for longer than he anticipates.
Hazel, a town of about 400, is in the distance.

Now, walking along the road, he could see the gallery sign ahead, and he realized that he was taking the last steps on a rather incredible journey! It seemed so long ago when he got on that South Shore train in Michigan City!

The gallery's front door was open, so he walked in.

22. Beastey Bay, and then Inland to Hazel

After stopping near Beastey, Alan's train began an overland course to Hazel.
After Irian, the train again traveled inland for a short spell, stopping at the neat (as in well-kept) little town of Contentment. Small stucco houses sat behind prim picket fences and tidy gardens with flowers, clumps of exotic succulents and tidy bushy trees. More than one garden had a strange-looking "gnome" that looked like an otter. No big trees to speak of. The narrow streets were also well-kept, with not a car, or even a pedestrian, in sight. Alan wondered who might live there.

Approaching Stonebill, the tracks again followed the water's edge, and the waves were much smaller than on the Skeleton Coast (he loved that name). Alan could see great white splashes in the distance, though, as breakers smacked into the rocks at Cape Fury.

The Stonebill stop was apparently the Beastey station as well. Several passengers got off here to board waiting pedicabs and a bus that said "Beastey." Alan was relieved that Jeremy was gone, and he could relax now that there were only a few people left in his car.

Under way again, Alan noticed fishing boats in Beastey Bay, and the town of Beastey off on a sandy point. As the train approached the Hills of Blackstairs, Alan watched salt marshes and scrubby bottomland merge into truck gardens and small farms. He noticed footpaths, busy with pedestrian and cycle traffic, leading off to several settlements, spread out to his left. Then it was all hills.

Alan went back to the dining car, which was actually a kind of snack bar with a short lunch counter. The varnished plywood and art-deco chrome trim looked original and quite classy, and all of it was well preserved. He sat on a stool and ordered an egg-salad sandwich, one of the "specials" on the small chalkboard, and a small glass of beer. Both were good! Two teenage girls were sitting next to him, and chatted something about what they'll need before walking to The Hook.

The Hook?  Alan pulled out his map and quickly found the hook-shaped peninsula to the north...Oh, so there it is - it looks like a hook!

Back in his seat, Alan began to read his novel as the rolling hills drifted by. At the Pendleton station, the two girls passed his seat, shouldering large backpacks as they got off. He was impressed that they were undertaking such a long hike on their own - they couldn't have been over 16!

After Pendleton, the unfenced grassy hills were lower, broader, and dotted with what looked like small subsistence farms: low houses and a few outbuildings surrounded by tiny fields of oats or maybe wheat. Hard to tell.  The sky was so open - no cell-phone towers, silos or power lines (except those by the tracks) to clutter the land!

He began to get sleepy, and drifted off thinking of Carla...

Beastey is only slightly larger in population today as it was upon its founding as Beasteyville in 1816.