Stone, oak, leather, and mahogany gave the lodge a Victorian feel. Jim wasn’t sure if this was whimsy or the place was truly that ancient. Everything was well kept and tidy. Maybe it was the real deal. With enough care something a hundred years old could be kept new.
He looked at the calendar, ‘1986 …more like 1886.’
A bell chimed and the host indicated it was time to leave the smoking room.
The household consisted of Jonas, Elsa, Mrs. Luckadoo, two servants, a silent old man in a wheelchair, and a large hound.
Mrs. Luckadoo was a petite blonde from Nice. The two made a comical pair at the head of a table surrounded by highbacked chairs.
Jim sat beside Elsa. A fact that he found thrilling. Especially since every time he was passed a victual, he caught a glimpse of thigh protruding from an almost modest dotted dress. The only female contact he’d had was his aunt. So, despite being pleasant it was also somewhat unwelcome since it made conversation difficult.
Fortunately, it seemed that the greater part of conversing was meant to take place after dinner. Elsa and the help were the most loquacious. That is comparatively. They did not talk much but compared to the stoic silence of the other diners their occasional banter was downright giddy.
While he was by no means comfortable Jim felt grateful. Especially for the bathing and bandaging of his mutilated feet. An expertly executed service by Mrs. Bostridge the wife of the butler who’d been a nurse in WWII.
She had an easy manner and one of those pleasantly plain and open English faces. It was a welcome contrast to her husband’s hawk nose and arrogant air.
Due to Jim’s recent travails the aristocratic repast left him hungry. But he refrained from complaining. ‘Lost losers can’t be choosers.’
After the Tarte Tatin, a desert that Jim found only served to make him hungrier, the help gathered the plates and Elsa wheeled away the strange old man.
The host approached Jim’s chair and laid a massive hand on his shoulder.
“I take it a man of your size is still hungry.”
“Charlotte likes to cook but unfortunately her portions while exquisite are as tiny as she is.”
“It is not good to be piggish.” She retorted from her seat.
“It is if you’re a pig.” Jonas said patting his stomach.
Mrs. Luckadoo rolled her eyes and departed.
“Speaking of pigs, I have an excellent boar butchered and hanging in the smokehouse. I was going to save it till my brother arrived. But I suspect I’ll be able to outwit another one before the week is up…So, what say you and I roast it on the pit?”
“I say right on.”
First, they visited the smokehouse. It was amply stocked with game. Jonas unhooked the ribs, rear hams, and a backstrap wrapping each in some paper. Jim helped him place their hefty after dinner snack in a wheelbarrow and the pair departed for the garden.
“The meat is not yet cured. But it should still have some of that smoky savor. We’ll cook the rest here.” He said tapping the pile of stone and brick with his foot.
The sound of the owl and whippoorwill were interrupted by that chillingly pleasant chirping. Jim was glad for the garden walls.
“Seems they’ve followed you.”
Jim nearly spit out his cigarette. “They!?”
“So, you haven’t seen them?”
“The mine fairies.” Elsa’s answer almost caused Jim to topple over as she approached with a tray of beer.
As Jim recovered and the contents of her answer registered, he burst out laughing.
“You’re fucking with me…did you say fairies?”
Jim howled with laughter.
“I guess he really did not see zem.” She said without a hint of mirth as she placed the tray on a metal table.
“Yes, but I’m sure he has heard them.”
“Hmm…” Elsa said leaning back in the chair she’d just claimed and sipping a beer. She crossed her legs.
‘Jesus, that was intentional.’ Jim said staring.
The brunette smiled cynically, “Maybe naught. There are so many dingz that a make a man go deaf.”
Jim was too horny to be witty, so he helped himself to a beer and thought of Sister Beatrice, the old nun that had beat the shit out of him at St. Joseph’s. It worked. Even the briefest recollection of that stern scowl and garlic breath could nuke his libido from orbit.
“Nah,” he said as he regained his composure. “Old Hant might fall for that sorta thing…and I might not be the most educated guy…but fukin fairies…get wrecked.”
“Education largely consists of just enough information to make a man useful. Especially since we adopted the Prussian model.”
“Never mind that. It’s a bit beyond you. But that cheery sound you hear. It has everything to do with you.”
“You mean that fuckin’ chirping?”
“Yes.” Jonas said as he lit the spit he’d been preparing. “Sit, make yourself comfortable, this is going to take some time.”
Elsa drummed her fingers on the chair beside her. Jim plopped down awkwardly almost spilling the stein and very nearly choking on his cigarette. She laughed.
“Be nice.” Jonas said. “Your old habits aren’t proper. Besides, you don’t want to arouse the passions of a hermit.”
“Hey, I’m not a fuckin’ hermit. And it’s not like I haven’t had pussy before.”
Jonas chuckled. “Yes before…I take it you’ve been round Reed long enough to disobey. So, you should be good and bothered by now. God knows I would be. There’s nothing shameful about being a man. And nothing good about being a tease.”
Elsa stuck out her tongue.
Again, Jim almost didn’t catch the weird detail among the banter. “Disobey?”
“You’re a Cronin boy, aren’t you? I believe you told me as much.”
“Well…yea…on my mother’s side.”
“Your uncle and my father met during the war. They were both occultists.”
Jim laughed again. “No fukin way…my mom used to call the guy reverend. He makes Cotton Mather look like a heathen.”
“Occult simply means hidden. And your uncle became the keeper of secret things hereditarily. Just as I came into this land. Just as you will come into the ways.”
“Oh, Christ…you’re one of them.”
“You’re just like Dutch and Lizzy. With the ways and all that crazy hick bullshit.”
Jonas shook his head. “The world is not as plain as my brothers would have you believe.”
“Again, that is beyond you. But, let me ask you a question…”
“How do you suppose Von Braun got it off the ground?”
“The flying disk. The one near the camp that my father’s regiment liberated. The camp where your captured uncle was made an officer…”
Jim was beside himself with laughter.
“Ok…brother…shit…I don’t remember much from history class…but I think you just told me old Hant was a fuckin’ Nazi.”
“Conscription doesn’t make a man fascist any more than a Janissary is a Turk.”
“Man, this is some bogus shit…what the hell are you trying to tell me?”
“I’m trying to tell you that there are certain covenants that had best be honored. Covenants that are passed by blood. Things that can only be officiated by the offspring of a particular alchemical marriage. It’s why your uncle was snatched up by German intelligence. At the behest of Himmler himself.”
“I’m not drunk enough for this.” Jim said reaching for another beer.
“It’s going to get worse if you don’t listen. The time has not yet come for them to cross the threshold. Though they are eager. Though they ply the weak among us with gifts.”
Jim just sipped his beer and rolled his eyes. “I still have no fuckin’ idea what you’re trying to tell me.”
“I’m telling you that you’re a druid.”
Jim spit. “Uh-uh…no way…that’s that Wicca bloodletting shit that crazy bitch Heather was into.”
“This is far from childish pretense. You have priestly duties.”
“I got yer duty right here.” Jim said letting out a fart.
“In front of a lady…” Elsa said disdainfully.
“That’ right toots. HAH! Toots…”
Jonas shook his head.
“Anyhow, I thought it best to tell you plainly. To warn you. Since you were almost taken. They are cautious by necessity. The gulf is difficult to cross. But they are old and clever.”
Jim sighed. “Look, I might not be religious but I ain’t into that pagan shit either. Grew up Catholic and Irish enough to know what kinda fuckery the druids got upto. And I get it. Ya got yerselves some weird cult out here in bumfuk Kentucky. Probably some kinda cover for a drug operation. I bet she’s your honeypot…” Jim pointed to Elsa.
Jonas shook his head again.
“I’m trying to make all of this easier on you. The rites no longer include human sacrifice. That covenant has thankfully been renegotiated. Thanks in part to the efforts of your family.”
“Uh-huh.” Jim said facetiously.
“Why deed that funny man naught have a son. This boy is blot. Wee’ll be neck deep in zem at this rate.”
“He’s sterile I’m afraid. Result of the radiation from the disk.”
“We’re fucked.” Elsa cursed for the first time since Jim had arrived.
It stung his pride a bit.
“Now hold on…if I can help…but…umm…NAH…you’re both full of shit. I’m not smuggling moonshine god damn it.”
Jonas laughed. “It’s alright. You’ll either see or you won’t. I think that the fact that you lasted this long means you got a good chance of surviving.”
“Yes, but don’t worry about that for now. For now, let’s just enjoy the evening.”
It was Jim’s turn to shake his head.
“See…why couldn’t we have done that before the crazy story.”
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