The Weirdo in the Willows (One of 2)

Weirdo in the Willows. A line of leafless trees in the winter. A bright yellow disc, the sun, punctuates the sky.

There’s a Weirdo in the Willows. He looks like a garden gnome but he’s a real person. He’s not ceramic. He’s not animated. The paint on his face is chipped, though. He’s short. He’s stocky. He’s tricky. The tip of his red hat droops. His shovel is rusty. His hands are rough, weathered, thick. He smells of good soil and broken dreams.

When he’s not sashaying along through the willows, sometimes weeping along with them as they do, sometimes weeping so much he cannot forage for mushrooms the way he likes to. It’s one of his hobbies. He makes potions, too. He makes them with the mushrooms and medicinal herbs he finds on his long, enchanted walks. He enjoys out-of-mind experiences just as much as out-of-body experiences.

The potions are strange potions and he cooks them up in a big black kettle that rests above a roaring fire in the low kitchen he has in his hut, his home, his hacienda, his hole, his stone bungalow where the flames of his potion fire paint the walls a warm orange, like marmalade on buttered bread, and that same fire keeps him snug like toast during those cold, lonely nights, snug like Alex DeLarge down in the candy-apple red Duke of New York as he plots some criminal scheme. But this wasn’t New York. It wasn’t even Old York. It was just plain old Middle of The Road York, out there on the edge of the forest where the willows mingle with the oaks and the animals and the waters and all the strange things of the night.

The Weirdo in the Willows likes to sit at the self-hewn wooden table with a mug of chemical fear set before him. It’s always exciting to him when he tests out a new, steaming elixir. His hands usually tremble as he brings the mug to his mouth for the first taste. He sips some in, it most often tastes funny. Sometimes he spits it out. But mostly he smacks at his earthy gnome lips and then releases an exaggerated “Hmmmmmmmm… I wonder what will happen to me now.”

Most of the time he just tips over right there at the table, falls asleep and has very potent dreams full of vivid colors and strange people in strange places he had never been to before. When he finally wakes up there might be a stream of new sunlight coming in one of the small windows, and it stirs with the leftover ashen mist that floats about in the air. He usually groans about stiffness and then moves himself over to the small bed on the other side of the stone hole, the bungalow, the hideaway, the fortress at the edge of the forest. He works himself in beneath a heavy red blanket, pops the hat off his head and tries to get a few hours of proper rest before going out into the frightening big world.

It was around noon when the Weirdo in the Willows woke up. He remembered it was a special day. He was going to the town beyond the great hedge for an afternoon of spirits and wanderings and starings and maybe even some peepings and tricks. He sat up on the edge of the bed and rubbed his thick, rough hands together in sinister delight. He giggled oddly and hopped down onto the floor.

He quickly busied himself with making hot cereal and a cup of wild mushroom whack tea to add a bit of sharpness to the day. It was so hot, and he sipped carefully between spoonfuls of the cereal. He chuckled all along the way. “Oh, it’s going to be quite the day,” he said aloud in a cheeping sing-song way. “A day of fun and madness and maybe even a spanking or two… Hee Hee! Oh my.”

Once finished with his breakfast and a proper cleaning up, he stood on a stool at a high window and looked out. The sky was gray and growling. The tops of the trees were lightly swaying so he knew it would be a walk full of blustery kisses on his robust cheeks. He happily sighed. “Oh, I do hope it rains or snows or both! Hee Hee!” And he hopped down, washed his face, and cleaned his odd teeth and bundled himself up for a day against the world and its weather. He grabbed his pack that hung near the door and went out into it.

The Weirdo in the Willows walked against the wind and the beginning spits of cold rain. Even though the world around him was gray, he began to see it all in bright colors that moved like rainbow syrup. It wasn’t long before he came upon a familiar clearing and there saw the town’s professor of psychology deep in thought beneath an umbrella.

“Professor Tongo?… What are you doing?” the Weirdo in the Willows asked.

The professor spoke without looking over at him. “Quiet now. I’m studying the brain of the Earth.”

“The Earth has a brain?”

The professor sighed in perturbance. “In all actuality, or theoretically, the Earth is a brain, kind sir… Now, if you don’t mind, I would like to carry on with my research in peace.”

“That’s all very interesting,” the Weirdo in the Willows said. “But would you take a moment to study my brain? There’s something quite whimsical about it.” And with that he removed his cap and there atop his head was the protrusion of a glass dome and inside the dome was snow and bright colors like the aurora borealis and plastic people and things. “Go on. Peek in there and you’ll forget all about your Earth brain theory.”

Somewhat intrigued, Professor Tongo carefully moved toward him, his narrow eyes puzzled, the lengthy and thin body slightly trembling. He stood tall over the Weirdo in the Willows, adjusted his glasses, and looked down into his volcanic cranium. “That’s right. Get a good look.”

The narrow eyes of the professor widened with everlasting sweet madness as he looked deep into the swirling scene of kaleidoscopic winter of liquid clowns and clouds and beyond in the realm of somewhere else where dreams are always bright and colorful and vivid like psychedelic funk and never let one down.

“It’s… It’s amazing. I’ve never experienced anything like it,” the stodgy professor reported. He suddenly stood tall again, the soft rain turned to pillowy sleet poetically dripping off the edges of his umbrella, his narrow slit of a mouth now agape and struggling to utter speech. “I want you to return to the university with me. I need to study you further.”

The Weirdo in the Willows replaced the cap atop his head and the vision machine in his brain automatically shut down. “No can do. I’ve got plans in town today. I have no time for your upper crust pretentiousness.”

“But you must!” Professor Tongo demanded.

“But I must not! I’m going to the pub for socializing and other feats of mischief… If you’ll excuse me now,” the Weirdo in the Willows said, and he jumped a little bit in the air and quickly moved his feet without gravity before dropping back down and heading off.

“No!!” the professor yelled out after him, and he scrambled forth toward the gnome-like little man and stood in his path. “This is far too important to ignore. This could be one of the greatest breakthroughs in psychological theory in eons. You must be studied. You owe it to society.”

The Weirdo in the Willows looked up at him. “My good friend. I owe society nothing!

“But you do.”

“I do not! What has society ever done for me except leave me banished and encapsulated in a shell of emotional torture without a hint of empathy or love. Society is full of ill-hearted beings with no other purpose than to make the world a horrible place for everyone else. Society has done nothing but kick me down, spit on me, and shun me, and now I am returning the favor! Good day.” 

The Weirdo in the Willows walked into The Whistling Fox and strolled up to the bar. The other patrons there quieted and watched him with distrustful eyes. When the barkeep saw him, he groaned and tried to duck away… But it was too late.

“Hey Sam!” the Weirdo in the Willows called out as he made his way to a stool and hopped skyward to sit upon it. “If you line ‘em up, I’ll knock ‘em back. I want to get obliterated! Hee Hee!”

Sam the barkeep rolled his eyes toward the small troublemaker. “You’re not gonna get all wicked and weird in here again are ya? Because if you do, I’m tossing your ass.” Sam moved closer and pointed a finger that looked like a crooked breakfast sausage. “Because of you, little fella, I got customers that swore they’ll never come back here. You’re eating into my livelihood because of your damn weirdness. I have a right mind to refuse you service… And I can do that.”

The Weirdo in the Willows looked around the warm pub of brown and cream, an orange fire crackling away in the stony wall on the far side. The faces that sat at small tables or just leaned were dirty and angry as they looked back at him. He threw his hands up in the air “What!?”

No one answered and he turned back around to the bar just as Sam started setting down a row of small glasses and filling them with amber liquid. He filled a frosted mug with ale and set that down as well. “You finish that, and you’re all done, and you go home. Got it?”

The Weirdo in the Willows hissed in reluctant agreement. “Fine. But believe you me, this is the last time I’m coming in here.”

Sam the barkeep chuckled. “Good.”

This is the first of two parts. Look for the second and final episode, coming soon to As always, thank you for reading and supporting independent content creators!

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