by Dan Bolles
To say that our young chronicler "plotted" is perhaps a misuse of the term. For plotting often denotes some ulterior or sinister motive. Rather, he simply took stock of his recent body of work, making note of where he had done well and where he could do better. He'd had a lot of help identifying the latter as, has been noted, the citizens of Burlingtonia and its outlying regions were quick to point them out, warranted or not. (There is an aeons olde saying that goes "thou art never as fair or as poor as anyone saith thou art." The young scribe did his best to keep that notion close to his thoughts during this time.)
As Olde Man Winter's long bony fingers gradually eased his stranglehold on the barony and the land once again began to breathe anew, the scribe often found himself strolling along the waterfront with his faithful friend, Lord Buckington. Their conversations were mostly one sided, for Buckington, though a most loyal and sweet companion, was a few bales short of a haystack — and, I'm afraid, prone to relieving himself at most inopportune times, and in public. Still, those daily constitutionals helped greatly to clear the scrollsmiths's thoughts and focus his mind. He resolved that if given the chance, he would approach Sir Thom, Son of Law directly and attempt to clear the air. All he needed now was an opportunity.
Twas the final night of the great Burlingtonia Carnivale of Jazz, a truly glorious and uproarious celebration of musicks. During those ten days and nights, public houses and taverns across the land overflowed with ale and spirits as revelers from all walks of life basked in the hypnotic sounds emanating from nearly every nook and cranny of the towne. Minstrels from all four corners of the earth — and one even from beyond, it is said — descended upon the realm to the delight of thousands.
It became known to the scribe that Sir Thom's merry band of activists and dictators would be making an appearance that very eve on a most bizarre stage, that of Radio Bean. Though beans were plentiful in those days, few citizens of Burlingtonia were aware of radios and fewer still of "radio beans" — it was assumed they were some foreign legume, not indigenous to the realm, which served to further cloak the haunt in mystery, as did the array of tricksters who frequented it. But questing to Radio Bean would prove a perilous adventure.
During The Carnivale of Jazz, the demands on a musick writer are great indeed, and his presence is requested at many a concert, often several at one time. Though Burlingtonia was a magical realm, even the most powerful conjurers (which he was not, by any means) were still limited by their physical bodies and could only exist in one place at a time — though, were he able to split his self into several selves, it surely would have helped stem the tide of aforementioned critiques.
This particular evening was one of the hottest recorded on scroll. Sky watchers had long been warning that world was warming, perhaps to dangerous degrees — sadly, this claim was refuted by a very small but very loud contingent of powerful fools, many of whom still believed that the world was flat, a ludicrous notion, even in those days.
The scribe began his journey at the Waterfront Pavillion a temporary castle erected on the shores of the Great Lake Champlaigne. There, he was ushered into a secret compartment where many of the Queendom's wealthy and elite gorged themselves on food and spirits — including the towne's Crown Prince, Robert Kyss. Though he felt out of place and a bit guilty to be quarantined from the towne peasants (of which he considered himself to be a member), he quite enjoyed the tribal sounds emanating from The Rubblebucket Orkestra. So, it seems, did the large crowd amassed in the castle keep, judging by their orgiastic rhythmic dances and riotous applause.
From there, he ventured into the heart of Burlingtonia to the palatial Flynn Theatre, the most ornate concert hall in the land for a performance by a legendary musickal warlock, Ornette Coleman. Mr. Coleman bewitched the hall with mysterious and melodious spells. As dazed patrons exited the hall, few could sensibly put their impressions into words, including our young scribe — who is, in fact, paid to do just that. Such was the power of Coleman's captivating magick.
His head still swimming woozily from the sonic spell, he attempted to traverse Burlingtonia's greatest throughfare, the Church Street Market. However, on this evening, the cobbled boulevard was throttled with thousands of debauched revelers, thrilling to the bizarre carnival of sights and sounds that had taken the normally serene avenue hostage.
At last, he was finally able to find his wits, aided in no small part by the straightforward strains of Led LO/CO, a bawdy band of costumed jesters who were entertaining an enormous crowd of drunken carousers near the northernmost entrance to the thoroughfare — and the road to Radio Bean. It was at this moment our scribe saw his opportunity. With so much activity and chaotic sound, the crowd would provide the perfect cover for him to escape and embark on the final leg of his quest. He would hide in plain sight.
Without a word to his companions or even a kiss for his lady — whom he considered to be the fairest maiden in all the land — our scrivener slipped into the shadows undetected and proceeded to make his way through the crowd. Fortunately, the scribe was slight of build and though he was jostled several times, managed to navigate the throng without incident. He may or may not have been aided by his trusty cap, which was emblazoned with a red "B" and he believed to have some magical powers of its own — none the least of which was to make him indistinguishable from those wearing similar headdresses when he wished to be left alone in public.
He crossed the threshold of Radio Bean and was immediately struck by the oppressive heat and smell of the place. As has been noted, it was an unusually warm night and some Radio Bean patrons, I'm afraid, have less than thorough hygienic practices, which can make for an odorous combination on occasion.
There, on the small stage stood Sir Thom, axe in hand. He was flanked by the legendary — at least in Burlingtonia — David of Kammelot, who once upon a time was a very famous potato farmer. Unfortunately, the great length of scribe's journey meant that arrived only in time to hear but two tunes. But what tunes they were! Witty and melodic, the band of minstrels had the capacity crowd — which, at tiny Radio Bean is a number much smaller than it appears, truth be told — rollicking and frolicking. The crowd — including the scribe — lustily applauded at the conclusion of each song. Though he witnessed but a brief snippet of the performance, the little he did see evoked fond memories of a happier time when as a boy he would stand enthralled at the altar of the late, great Club Toast watching his heroes — Sir Thom was but one of many — ply their musical trades.
Following the performance, the scribe waited patiently for a moment to approach Sir Thom. Though he had been absent from the land for several moons, Thom had a great many friends and admirers in Burlingtonia, all of whom wanting to wish him well. Finally, he saw the tunesmith slip away to a doorstep away from the crowd which had gathered on the street in front of the Bean, and sit down to light a stick of tobacco. Seeing a window of opportunity, the scribe excused himself from a rather boring conversation about himself — for whatever reason, folks often want to ask the scribe questions about his work when they encounter him in person — and ambled, somewhat nervously, to where Thom was seated.
"Hi, Thom," said the scribe.
"Dan! How are you?" replied the minstrel with a smile. He motioned the scribe to sit. The scribe did, happily.
I'll not recount for you the particulars of their palaver. Frankly what was said between them remains their business and none of ours. However, a fly on the wall would have overheard a conversation in which two men settled their differences amiably, with no small amount of regret on both sides. Ultimately, understanding was reached, both men realizing how the folly of their actions had affected the other and how silly the whole issue was to begin with and how simply and quickly it could have been resolved. At the end, they shook hands and parted ways, leaving each other to go on about the business of living. And so it is that we leave the hamlet of Burlingtonia — at least for this tale.
I'll not suggest that all lived happily ever after — for who ever really does? And if that conclusion strikes you as boring or anti-climactic, I can only say that I agree. It is. However, if more people would merely take the time to address their problems with one another directly, and with a modicum of respect and humility, we would likely all be a happier lot.