Hey there! Sunday mornin’! Coffee, WFMU, and drawing time. Yass.
Realised this week I have been neglecting drawing in pencil. Which I have always loved. But having more and more easy access to drawing digitally and only drawing in ink in my daily book have edged out pencil drawing opportunities.
I am gonna ring fence some pencil time from now. She gets ticked at me when I neglect her.
On the nights when there was no rain the Tray Bearer would come.
The Elders would come to the edge of the clearing. Led by Manda, when she could make it.
Manda was regarded as the most insightful and honest of them all, but her health was failing her. As a result her visits became sporadic.
She told them often: “I‘ll not see the grave before I found out what it wants.”
For several generations, the tray bearer had appeared at the same clearing in the North woods. Always from the shadow of the Coppla tree. It had a large white head with staring orbs for eyes. Bearing a large empty tray of what appeared to be a dark metal. It wore white gloves.
A few attempts had been made to apprehend the bearer from the tree’s shadow. But it was discovered that anyone that got too close to the tree (or the Bearer) was overcome with a dizziness and giddiness that would send them wandering off, loudly exploding with laughter and strange rants.
It was not uncommon for new members to the Elders to be pranked with a direction to catch the bearer when it appeared. The wandering ranting would cause great amusement. Although in recent years, this had been frowned upon.
Many attempts to communicate had been made.
Many attempts at giving gifts had been made. Food, precious metals, and jewels.
Nothing garnered a reaction.
On a normal night the Bearer would appear and walk to the centre of the clearing and stand for a time (there was never any consistency with the recorded times), and then walk back to the shadow of the Coppla tree to vanish.
One night when it was raining the Tray Bearer appeared.
Manda’s niece, Yellow Girl, rushed to Manda’s house to tell her. Manda fought her body pain to get dressed and make the long walk up through the village to the North wood.
Yellow Girl made sure Manda was wrapped up well and supported her walk, even though her aunt used a stick.
A large lock of her long grey hair sat across her face as she smiled at her niece.
“This is very unusual Yellow Girl. The first time ever it has appeared in the rain.”
Yellow Girl smiled back: “I know. The Elders are all buzzing with excitement, they had to have you come. I was hoping to talk you out of it, and then I realised I know better!”
When they reached the clearing, Manda was aching and out of breath, her excited gaze explored and assessed the scene.
All around the clearing stood Elders, and their charges, holding torches. In the centre of the clearing stood the Tray Bearer, straight and unmoving.
Droplets of rain ran down it’s smooth head dripping into the empty tray.
Manda struggled to the edge of the clearing and motioned Yellow Girl to let her go. Reluctantly she did so.
Manda had seen the Bearer so many times, yet this sight in the rain was so compelling. She looked up. Above the clearing the sky was glinting with bright stars, yet she saw no clouds.
She looked back at the bearer, who appeared to meet her gaze. It’s bright red lips spread into a smile, and for the first time ever it spoke.
“We are so glad to see you. Will you come to me Manda?”
The voice was neither woman or man and seemed to echo all around the clearing and skip off through the trees.
Manda, without hesitation, began her laboured walk towards the Bearer.
Yellow Girl made to help (or possibly stop) her aunt.
Without looking back Manda raised her voice: “No Yellow Girl. Stay where you are. I must do this. I love you all.”
Yellow Girl stood still.
Manda’s walk became less laboured and as she neared the Bearer she began to walk upright.
Striding with confidence she threw her stick to the side.
When she reached the Bearer she stopped and looked up into the big round eyes.
“You have it.” The Bearer’s voice commanded.
Manda reached into her pocket and pulled out a large key made from dark metal.
The rain stopped.
Manda looked at the key as if she had never seen it or had any idea it was even in her pocket. She smiled a broad smile.
With a clank she placed the key on the tray.
The Bearer still grinning spoke once more.
“Good. Come now Manda.”
And with that the Bearer and Manda walked single file towards the Coppla tree and disappeared into the shadow.
Yellow Girl would go back to the clearing every night for ten years. Only to see nothing. No Manda, no Bearer, no tray.
After ten years she would go once a week, then once a month. Now as she grew into her own old age she would go whenever health permitted. Her grandchildren would accompany her.
Sat at the edge of the clearing she would tell the stories of the Tray Bearer and of Manda.
She would point to the, now withering, Coppla tree and tell them all: “That was where she disappeared all those years ago. The last thing she said was ‘I love you all’.”
She was on one of her usual daydream meanders from the house to town when something caught her eye.
Gingerly she approached the ditch, and there was the head. It was blue, completely bald, with two jet black circular eyes – it looked a lot like a picture she had seen of a gorilla.
“Hey.” Said the head.
“Hey yourself.” Countered Tibby. Doing her darndest not to look startled. Uncle Dunse always said ‘hey yourself’, she liked saying it too.
“What are you doing in the ditch?”
Although the black eyes were devoid of emotion a big toothy grin spread across the blue face.
“I am not entirely sure young lady. Memory is somewhat fuzzy. My name is Claude DeCapo, my friends call me Cappy.”
The smile remained, unwavering.
“Oh, my name? I am Letibba Collette Vanchez. EVERYONE calls me Tibby.”
“Well Tibby, it is my utter pleasure to make your acquaintance.”
“Me too Mr. DeCapo.”
“Got any smokes?”
“No, I certainly do not. I am nine.”
Claude CeCapo’s smile shortened a tad.
“I didn’t think so Tibby. So as you can see I am somewhat incapacitated, how would you be fixed to help me get to a phone so I can get me a body?”
“I hope you aren’t too heavy Mr DeCapo.”
What a sight they made together.
Tibby with her hazelnut skin (and pink hair bows) carrying the blue head of Claude DeCapo along the dirt road. She held him facing forward in front of her, with her arms either side of his head, hands under his chin.
Stumbling along, they cast the strangest of shadows in the morning sun.
“How you holding up there Tibby?!”
“I am OK Mr DeCapo, but I might need to put you down again soon.” Tibby puffed.
“You take your time child, I sure do appreciate your assistance. I hope I am not keeping you from some pressing business.”
Libby blew a curl up from off her eyes.
“Today, I wanted to buy me a new notebook from Mr Martin’s General Store, but my Aunt Maggie wouldn’t give me a silver penny.”
“She says that I go through too many notebooks and that she isn’t made out of money. I know she isn’t made out of money, I don’t know why she has to tell me that all the time.”
Libby stopped. She placed Mr DeCapo down on the road, brushed down her dungarees and wandered around in front of him.
“So I guess I was just gonna go stare at the notebooks and pencils.”
DeCapo had no eyebrows to speak of, but the skin above his pebble like eyes rose somewhat, and he declared:
“Well, when I gets me a body with a suit, and hopefully a wallet, I’ll reward you with 5 silver pennies girl. How does that sound?”
“That sounds just fine to me Mr DeCapo! I could get some new paints with that!” She beamed.
“Are we far from your uncle’s garage Tibby?”
“Not far now Mr DeCapo, just over this next hill.”
Uncle Dunse was working on the engine of a bright yellow sports car when Tibby and DeCapo came into his garage forecourt.
“What have we here?!” He boomed.
Dunse was a big broad man with the same hazelnut skin as Tibby. He had the most amazing handlebar moustache, a shiny bald head, and was usually covered in oil or grease.
He gently placed down the spanner he was using and rubbed his hands on his filthy overalls.
Dunse’s assistants, Mort and Jenny, took notice of the arrival and joined their boss.
Poor Tibby was on her last shaky legs.
“Uncle Dunse! Uncle Dunse!” She bellowed.
She wobbled up to her uncle and placed DeCapo down in front of the small group.
Slightly frazzled, she looked her uncle in the eye and said:
“Hey yourself.” He countered.
“Who do we have here Tibby?”
“Allow me to introduce myself Mr Dunse. I am Claude DeCapo, my friends call me Cappy. Your niece, who I may add is an absolute angel, was kind enough to bring me here in the hope of using a phone?”
Dunse reached inside his overalls and fetched a rolled cigarette from his tin. Never once averting his gaze from DeCapo. He lit it, took a long puff and exhaled.
A moment of silence.
“Dunse ain’t my surname Mr DeCapo. Mort, if you would be kind enough to take Mr DeCapo to the office phone and assist him with his call. We can talk more when he is done.”
Mort was an older man with leathery dark red skin and a shock of pure white hair sticking straight out of his head. He produced a rag from his overall pocket and gave his hands a good wipe. With a small chuckle he picked up DeCapo and makes to take him to the office.
Dunse stops Mort with a big hand on the arm. He looks at DeCapo.
“You want a smoke Mr DeCapo?”
“Sir, you are a life saver!” Declared DeCapo.
Dunse places the cigarette in DeCapo’s mouth and Mort continues to take the happily puffing head to the phone.
Jenny watches the proceedings, and a big grin reveals her front golden teeth. She runs her oily hands across her cropped hair and shakes her head laughing as she returns to cleaning sparkplugs.
Dunse and Tibby watch her momentarily before looking at each other.
“Well young lady? Lay it on me!”
The long shadows of the afternoon filled the garage forecourt.
Uncle Dunse and Tibby sat at a rickety table & bench set-up outside the garage office. On the table sat Claude DeCapo’s head. They were all drinking lemonade.
Dunse watched DeCapo take a long sip via a striped straw.
“Where does it go?” He asked.
DeCapo made a big gulp, and replied: “I have absolutely no idea!”
They all laughed.
“Well would ya’ look at that!” Mort shouted across the forecourt, pointing to the road that turns off the main road to the garage.
Strutting up the road was a headless body (legs and all), in a splendid mustard checked suit. A bright baby blue shirt and a red polka dot bow tie. Thin-limbed with leather driving gloves!
Claude DeCapo beamed with delight.
“Bless those chaps back at Control! As good as their word every time!”
The splendidly suited body headed straight for DeCapo. Dunse grabbed Tibby’s hand and took a few cautious steps back.
Without breaking stride, the body grabbed DeCapo’s head and spun it up in the air. It sat upright above the collar.
“Allez up!” Bellowed DeCapo.
He proceeded to do a little swanky shuffle, span around and clapped ‘his’ gloved hands.
“Excellent! Excellent! Just excellent!” He concluded.
Tibby strained to get a good look, but she could clearly see that DeCapo’s head was suspended an inch above the empty shirt collar. She could not stop grinning.
“Well, there’s sumthin’ ya’ don’t see every day!” Mort laughed. He and Jenny had joined the group, keeping their distance.
DeCapo looked around the gathered faces: “Well young lady, I believe we had an arrangement.”
He reached inside suit jacket and produced a brown leather wallet. He opened it and popped open the coin pouch on the inside. He emptied the contents into his other hand.
Five silver pennies.
He placed them in small stack on the table.
“As we agreed Tibby. You have done me the biggest of favours. This is a small token of my appreciation.”
He turns his gaze to Dunse and pulled a currency note from the allocated compartment in the wallet.
“And this sir, is for you. My recognition of the hospitality of this fine establishment.”
Dunse accepted the note and gave it a good look.
“Been a while since I seen a hundred Mr. DeCapo.” He stated.
“Worth every penny.” Grinned DeCapo.
Dunse turns to Jenny and Mort: “You two get cleaned up and get yer’ coats. We will be closing shortly. This here will buy us a cold beer or two down at Flannery’s. I’ll drop Tibby back home on the way.”
Jenny and Mort promptly set about finishing up.
The sun was low now and dusk loomed.
Dunce turned to DeCapo: “And you Cluade DeCapo? Where can I drop you?”
“There is no need sir. I am looking forward to a long stroll to Apenden Station, which I do believe is five miles south of here. I will trouble you no more.”
“You know these parts then?”
“I know most every part Mr. Dunce.”
“I do not doubt that for a second Mr. DeCapo. I can confidently state I have never met anyone quite like you.”
The two stared at each other in silence for a short spell, and abruptly DeCapo hunkered down with gloved hands on knees to address Tibby: “Letibba Collette Vanchez. I am forever in your debt. It was my pleasure to meet you and your fine uncle this day. I must be off now, but I sincerely hope we can talk again soon.”
Tibby, still grinning, looks into the pebble eyes of DeCapo: “Mr. DeCapo, the pleasure was all mine! Tomorrow, when Mr. Martin’s General Store opens, I will buy new notebooks and paints. I will write down everything that happened today and draw pictures. I sincerely hope you do not lose your body and end up in a ditch again.”
Claude Decapo guffawed! He stood up straight and reached inside his jacket once more. This time producing a silver cigarette case and matching lighter.
He pulled out a bright white cigarette (with no filter) and lit it up.
Orange light reflected of his black shiny eyes.
A plume of white smoke rose above his head as he took an obviously enjoyable puff.
With a small nod of his head, he boomed: “I bid you good evening fine people. May good fortune warm your face always.” He turned his gaze to Jenny and Mort and gave a courteous wave.
Jenny and Mort both vigorously waved back, grinning like loons.
DeCapo spun around on his heels and strutted down towards the main road.
Tibby and Dunse watched quietly as he disappeared around the bend.
Dunse slid the hundred note into his shirt pocket.
“I don’t know where we even begin to tell yer’ Auntie about this Tibby.”
Tibby just smiled and scooped up the silver coins from the table.