I’d never seen such a beautiful day for a walk in the woods. A moderate breeze caused the trees to sway, as if they had something to dance to, and shake their leaves, as if rattling soft tambourines. What was the music that caused the trees to move so happily? It wasn’t the wind, for wind can uproot them and strip their clothes from their limbs. It wasn’t the birds, although the birds sang sweetly in their branches. It wasn’t even the sun, granted the sun possessed everything to which trees aspire. It was the mood of one fictional character, yours truly, who recently discovered he was in love, and believed that, thanks to her misfortune and distress, he actually had a chance with the Lisping Barista.
This pleasant mood was interrupted at intervals by the ominous rumbling of the Moodus Noises. It seemed like the rocks, deep underground and ignorant of the sun, the birds, the breeze, and one optimistic fictional character, were having a bad day. They grumbled as much as a thousand stomach aches ineffectually digesting a thousand shellfish dinners. They growled, as if to warn me away from the cave near Gillette’s Castle, where I predicted I would find the Lisping Barista.
I was bringing food and, she, having poured me many coffee concoctions, would recognize me as a familiar, if not friendly face. I would offer her a ride out of town, we’d catch up to her beloved Spellbinding Fish Fry, and she’d do to me as she tried to do to the Geeky Guy, furtively in the back of an empty bus. Then, she’d tell me all her stories, if only because I’d listen, and I’d have plenty material for a dozen sequels, keeping me alive, and my slave-driving author on the New York Times bestseller list for the rest of his life. That’s why I was having a good day. As for the clamorous Moodus rocks, I don’t know what their problem was.
Legend has it that the noises portend gloomy developments, the approach of danger, an enemy lurking, like a creepy south-central Connecticut soundtrack. I did my best to decode what they were warning. I didn’t want to be the first victim to fall in a slasher film. I didn’t know what my author had in mind for me, but I hoped that feeding him story ideas, wry observations, and developing compelling characters might have earned me the right to be the protagonist who gets the girl, and rides off in the sunset while the credits spin and the theme music from the Spellbinding Fish Fry affirms everything we’ve hoped about peace, love, and understanding.
There was one thing that the creepy Moody Noises might be foreshadowing. I was, after all, about to make my move, hit her up, propose a bid, run something up the flagpole, toss it against the wall and see what sticks. The Lisping Barista might not care about me, she might have long been skeezed out by my looks and too polite and too reliant on my tips to let it show. Tweedy professors may not be her type. By courting the Lisping Barista, I may be courting rejection, setting myself up for a fall.
The closer I got to the cave, the more my anxiety, and the Moodus Noises, seemed to tell me I was doing something stupid. By the time I found the entrance, my heart was pounding, my palms were sweating, and my knees threatened to buckle. At the same time, the Moodus Noises gathered up a crescendo that would have made Tchaikovsky proud. I almost turned away, rather than go through with my plan; but longing beckoned and I stepped into the cave.
My apprehension subsided somewhat when I saw that the cave was unoccupied. She had to be around here, somewhere. I couldn’t have been wrong about her coming here and finding a cave for shelter. But, then I thought, there’s more than one cave. The place abounds with caves. It’s Connecticut, there are rocks everywhere and, where three or more boulders are gathered and lean together, the space between them might be called a cave. She would have been unlikely to find this particular cave, the one that she and the Weather-Beaten Man in a Cowboy Hat had occupied, while she was stumbling around in the middle of the night. She would have settled on any place where she could hide. Therefore, I set about scouring the woods for more caves, any cave where she might be.
I spent the rest of the day that way, until it began to get dark. The Moodus Noises had ceased and so had my dread of finding her. It was replaced by a dread of not finding her and having my newly hatched excitement perish from lack of feeding. It was then that I came across the most impressive pile of rocks anywhere on the grounds of Gillette’s Castle. I had overlooked them because they were especially remote and, I thought, unlikely for her to find in the dark. Nestled under them was as comfortable a cave as you’d imagine there could be.
I made up my mind this would be the last place I checked, and my anxiety returned. With the café closed and the Lisping Barista gone, and the Weather-Beaten Man in a Cowboy Hat also gone, I didn’t know how I could continue to find stories. I was a dead duck if I didn’t locate her, a failed narrator, and would soon be like all those characters in all those novels people start, never finish, and are kept in a desk drawer somewhere, so forgotten it seems they never existed.
At the entrance, I was heartened to find that a fire had been built and still had some embers; but there was nobody residing within. This could have been the very cave where she spent the night, sleeping late, and waiting for the safety of darkness to enable her to be on the move again. She must have just left, and I happened to be looking in the wrong direction as she skulked by. I loved her so much that I hoped she was still hungry, thirsty, barefoot, and in despair. I would have a chance with her, if only I could find her and convince her of my good, if not pure, intentions.
At this point, I figured the Lisping Barista would try to catch up with the Spellbinding Fish Fry. The only means she had of getting there was hitchhiking, so I hoofed it to my car as fast as I could. I would intercept her on the road and we’d rapturously ride off to the tour.
I had left my car in the parking lot at Gillette’s Castle. The quickest way there was up a long staircase from a garden below, up to a portico above. I don’t know what made me look up when I reached the stairs, for I was in a mad rush; but, I did look up. There, as big as life, was the Lisping Barista, standing on the portico of Gillette’s Castle, looking out over the Connecticut River. My heart jumped, as if trying to leap straight to her before my legs could carry me. But, she wasn’t alone. The Leatherman, of all people, was there with her. He had his repulsive arm around her waist and his revolting leather coat over her shoulders, looking, for all the world, as if they were on a date.
The Moodus Noises started up again, this time matching my mood. She was out of my league, all right. She was a skanky faithless whore, to have taken up with the vagrant Leatherman when she could have taken up with me.