Holly and Ivy

© Nicholas 2003

Chapter Three – Ivan Bernard Peabody

The brain within its groove

Runs evenly and true;

But let a splinter swerve,

'T were easier for you

To put the water back

When floods have slit the hills,

And scooped a turnpike for themselves,

And blotted out the mills!

Emily Dickinson

I woke up somewhere in the night. My body stiff and sore, complaining louder than I had heard it complain before. I opened my eyes to see strong firelight. Oh shit! What the fuck was I doing! Sleeping on a God Damned hardwood floor! Crazy fucking bastard, without a doubt: certified, had the pills, on-the-floor-crazy.

I threw the cover off and struggled aching hips and knees to get my weary ass up and off to a decent bed.

Covers? Shit! Now I was positively loony! When the fuck had I gotten up and found some stupid cover?

I looked at my watch, God Damn! I had been asleep four hours! Geesh no wonder my whole frigging body hurt.

I grabbed the stupid flashlight and hobbled my aching hips outside to the car. "Frigging Bear!" I yelled just before I stepped down off the porch. Wouldn't hurt to shout, maybe scare the damned thing away.

I got into the car and just as I struggled to get the key in the God Damned ignition, I looked up at the house. Christ! Would you look at that! I have gone completely over the fucking top! Leave a God Damned light on in the window. Geesh Greatgrandmom, I remember you having me light that stupid candle when I was a kid. "Someone may need some help getting home." you said. When the fuck had I been so crazy that I found and lit that candle. God, I'm totally off my rocker! Maybe it'll burn that shitting place down and solve all my idiotic problems!

I drove back to the hotel, thank God the stupid bridge was going the other way.

I ran a bath again, my hips needed something to take the pain away. Another brandy too. Damn, need to make a fucking list of things to get tomorrow. Water. Crackers. Bread. Maybe some soup, yeah chili, make me warm. Fuck, sounding like I'm God Damn moving in! Brandy! Put that on the God Damn list you fool. Cookies. Milk. What the hell! I haven't had cookies and milk since grade school. Oh well, sounds good somehow. Hmmm, batteries, God Damn electric company.

Enough, take your fucking crazy pills you nutcase. Pee and repatch up. Get in the bath and soak the fucking hardwood away.

Shit that kid has deep green eyes. God he looks like he owns those woods. Wonder who painted such a powerful portrait. Maybe he knows where that kid is...

Crazy fucking bastard, dreaming country wonder boys and finding elves or fairies in the woods. Shit, I'm God Damned out of my mind....

Hmmmm, bath feels so good.....

Damn, woke the second time to Pruneville in the fucking bath! Should have just slipped down and drowned, teach my God Damned sorry ass a lesson. Fuck! Get up, dry off, stumble to the bed. Dream you stupid bastard. Dream of something nice. Beaches, sand, pretty boys in yellow speedos, Hey Mister - $20 dolla, You like my little brother? He virgin four times today!

Yeah dream, back to Executing in the fucking morning.

Shit! Oh my fucking God, the damn patches blinded me! No wait, fucking sunlight streaming through the fucking window. Crazy bastard didn't even pull the blinds! God it's bright out there. Shit, look at that, the God Damned river running right by the place. A little island, fir trees, looks like a frigging Currier and Ives! Oh God, I gotta get outta here before some jolly elf walks by sing Ho Ho Ho. Dad, I loved you and all, but singing you were never any good at! Pretty nice Santa though. You always made me believe.

Christ! Talking to the dead old man! Next thing I'll be telling Santa why he shouldn't forget me again this year. Geesh!

Okay Barry, get a grip. Here's a list, get out there, see some local color, buy some groceries, go figure out what to do with the albatross.

The check in lady is back behind her desk, smiling like she loves the Christmas music playing the background. Funny choice of music, hmmm, I think that's that old Joan Baez album, Noel. Geesh I remember getting high at a college concert. Must be almost 25 years ago.

"Uh, excuse me ma'am? Is that Joan Baez singing?" Geesh! Did I really ask?

"Oh yes Mr. Peabody. I love the old French carols that she sings. Have you slept alright? The morning birds not woken you?"

Birds? Shit! The God Damned sun! "Yes, just fine ma'am, where can I get some batteries and stuff here in town?"

"The best place is the Red Owl grocery just down the street. The gas station too, but the price is pretty high there. Oh and the best breakfast in the world is served at Dove's Nest Cafe."

"Thanks, does everything have a bird name here?"

She laughs and assures me they don't. I see the sign above her head. The Eagles Eyrie Hotel: The Falcons meet here on Tuesday, the Elks on Monday night, the Rotary at Wednesday noon. At least only one's a frigging bird.

"Of course you might see the eagles on the island from your room. They nest there in the spring! Oh listen, The Carol of the Birds!"

I mutter thanks as I get out of this bird brained place. Oh God, do I have a shred of sanity still left?

The Dove's Nest is pretty nice. Too chintz and lace for my tastes, but not some cheap diner either. The wreath on the door has a strange black ribbon bow. I step inside to warm and cinnamon and spice.

"Sorry for your loss, Mr. Peabody." I hear from somewhere in the back. Geesh I hate small towns! God Damn everybody knows everybody else's business. "I'll have tea ready in a second."

How the hell does she know I drink tea? Probably that damn Albert, told everybody I hit the brandy and didn't touch the coffee. Hope he didn't tell them I sleep naked in the fucking tub!

Oh my God, a plate of pancakes, two over easy eggs on top, perfect looking sausage links, real Darjeeling tea! The perfect breakfast! Served in perfect timing as I sit! Oh God! I knew it! Real 100% maple syrup too. Maybe heaven is found in small places...

Shit, I'm starved! God Damn, I didn't eat a God Damned thing all yesterday. Crazy fucking bastard!

"If I can be of help, please let me know," the voice says as she clears away the remains. "Miss Nellie was a great friend as well."

As well as what? I think as I fish a dollar out to leave on the table.

"Three fifty two with tax, sorry we just recently had to raise the prices a bit."

Raise them a bit? Geesh, that breakfast would have cost $19.95 in the city and not included real Darjeeling tea! Maybe I wasn't the only crazy one running round this place.

I muttered thanx and headed down towards the next bird brained place, the Red Owl Superette. Now this was more like civilization! Canned Christmas music, boxes of oranges and apples and lemons right inside the door. The giant stocking full of Chinese schlock that you could buy a raffle ticket for. The sign said it was for the High School Cardinal Marching Band. A bird of course, what the hell did I expect. I quickly passed from what this store passed off as its racetrack; that stupid first aisle where they make you walk around the twists and turns and fancy bakery goods, the fruit and produce, fancy juice, the deli counter, ending at the fish and meats and wine. They know just as well as the big boys in town where their profit margin lay. Not everyone here was nuts it seemed. Of course the wine rack held less than a dozen bottles, the fish was frozen shrimp and fish sticks and some "local" river bass. The meat counter seemed to be almost a real butcher shop. Cholesterol fears were not so sharp it seemed out here.

I wound around and found more types of bottled water than I ever new existed. I grabbed a few big jugs and a couple small bunches, almost like a six pack when I used to favor beer. Then onto bread and butter, might as well grab a package of bologna. Probably everything ruined in the fridge. Some mayo, catsup, mustard, hmmmm, nice a German whole and hearty kind. Damn! The fridge wouldn't work without electricity! Oh well, put it on the back porch. Shit no! Don't want to see that frigging bear again! Ah, hey pretty smart, put it back in the car! Chili, yes, still sounded good. Crackers, too. Hey, savvy marketing they were both side by side! Beans. Pork and beans. Oh wow! I hadn't had a can of beans in like forever! Hmmm, six kinds. Shit what the hell, one of each. Yeah, last of the bloody big spenders, they were each marked 24 ¢, could that possibly be right? Last aisle, frigging just like home, milk, yes, and eggs, then beer and chips, then ice cream. Yep sure enough, right before the checkout; candy. Poor harrassed and hassled moms didn't stand a chance. I grinned and added a handful of Butterfingers to the cart. Ahhh... batteries here too. Good, crazy old farts like me can't even remember what we wrote down on the list!

"We're so sorry for your loss Mr. Peabody," I jerked my head up to see my mother standing there. Well not really my mother, but the type. A woman of-a-certain-age they used to say, one who could be the mother of any of my contemporaries. Shit, was it tattooed on my forehead? I watched in awe as the twentieth century departed. She punched buttons on an old fashioned cash register and called out prices as she looked at every item. I think I shrunk back to being eleven when she smiled at me and rang "six at fifteen cents" and pushed the Butterfingers down the stainless counter.

Suddenly a grey haired guy came scuttling out of the office. "Here, let me have the boy help you with that Mr. Peabody." He looked around and the "boy", at least 20 years his senior, hobbled over to carry my box.

"Uh..." the grey haired guy seemed to stutter. "Uh, Mr Peabody? There is a little matter of Miss Nellie's final grocery order."

Yeah, trust someone in this town to worry over money. About damn time too I thought. "Just send the bill over to the lawyer's office. I'll get it straightened around first thing."

"Oh No! You misunderstand me! Oh no! Miss Nellie's bills were always paid quite promptly. No, she had a special order and the boy couldn't raise her at the door, so everything's still here. You might find it useful, should I have it delivered with these items? We can have them out anytime this afternoon?"

Geesh, paid up food, delivery service, candy bars still fifteen cents? Who was I to argue. "Yes that would be fine. Here, let me take some of the water and could he come round sometime near noon?"

The grey haired guy looked at the "boy", who nodded and handed me a six pack of the water. Sneaky old coot managed to get the Butterfingers into a separate bag and I found I had that in my hand too as I walked back down the street.

Shit! No cookies though! Damn they sounded good. I turned around and went back in and grey hair pratically ran me over to see what he could help me with. I told him I forgot the cookies. He laughed, almost a giggle, and said that there were Miss Nellie's favorite kind in her order, so I should be alright. Okay I thought and thanked him. Shit I hope they weren't those dreaded fig bar things. God how could old people eat that crap? Yeah, like I'm not fucking old now!

I didn't see a liquor store, guess I'll ask inside the hotel. The check in gal was absent, but Albert stood near the door. I almost jumped when he moved. Shit I thought he was a wooden indian or something. "I'd like to get some brandy for up at the house, is there a store near by? Oh, and you know, that painting in the room? The boy in the woods? A business associate has a couple of kids and that artist seems quite good, can you tell me is he local?" Shit, now where the fuck had that question come from? Just blithely rolling off the tip of my tongue. Damn I bet old Albert saw right through me. Knew a guy who liked 'em young. Shit! Now the rumor mill would really fly!

"Well Mr. Peabody, the liquor store's closed for Christmas. Just take the bottle in your room, I'll put another one in there this afternoon. Ya know? That artist was kind of a funny fellow! Came in for a few days to paint something over at the bank. Went out every morning to somewhere in the woods and brought back pictures of trees and flowers and stuff. Then he finished at the bank, but said he couldn't go. Finally came in crying one day to say he couldn't find him any more and would we take a picture for his bill? Damn good pictures too. We ended up with two. That one and one of a flower back here in the office. Don't know where he came from. Don't know where he went. Drove a beat up Illinois plated hippy kind of van though. Never seen a man cry so hard and never touch the brandy or any other bottle that I could see. Don't know what he couldn't find either, couldn't talk much sense through all that crying mess."

Shit! Pegged the kid and sick afraid of the law I bet! Oh God Damn, what's wrong with me. Lost him somewhere in the woods. "Couldn't find him any more.' Shit losing one like that would send any right minded man into his grave. Illinois, hippy van. I need to look at that other picture, and go over to the bank, need to see about a signature on them too.

"Ah, Thanks Albert. I'll get that bottle from the room. I appreciate your help." Christ, a liquor store closed for Christmas? I didn't think they closed for anything but a raid on underage IDs. Damn!

I grabbed the bottle and drove out to the albatross. Funny, in daylight it seemed almost like a glinting jewel. The windows flashing in the sun as the road twisted around from town. You could see the house from almost everywhere. I remember Mom said it was like a star plucked down from heaven. I bet it looked it all dolled up for Christmas's a hundred years ago.

No frigging bear this time in the drive. Good riddance I thought as I parked a little way from the house and walked up to the porch. The candle's out I see, didn't burn the damn place down though. Oh well, maybe better after all. Man, that fireplace makes a lot of heat! This place is nice and warm. Shit, what the fuck, the fires still burning like I just put new logs on it! Damn that must be some hard hardwood! Hey that's funny! Like the Hard Wood Floor! Oh my aching hips!

I carry the water into the kitchen and put it on the counter with the bag of Butterfingers. I shuck my coat and find a hall tree waiting exactly where it needs to be. I look around. I better check out the other rooms. See if that bear has been rooting around inside. I go from door to door on this floor. Dining room. Hmm, this one looks like some kind of sewing room. Oh, a back way into the kitchen. Pantry. Stairs. Hmmmm, I think a Butterfinger would taste mighty good right now. I grab one as I pass back into the entry hallway. Big stairs. Back to the sitting room, the fire, nice and warm. That chair looks might comfy too. No TV, maybe I'll just sit and think a while.

A knocking on the door wakes me. Damn, got to move this cover again. Shit! Where the fuck did this thing keep coming from!

Alright alright! Oh, the grocery boy! He walks his way directly to the kitchen. Then puts some stuff in cupboards, some stuff in the pantry, takes some stuff out on the back porch. Geesh! You'd think he lived here! What the Fuck?

"Okay, Mr. Peabody. Everything's put away except the bird feed, don't rightly know where Miss Nellie kept it. The old cold box on the back porch sure comes in handy in the winter. If the power goes out in a storm, nothing ever goes bad in winter time! Modern houses don't have it near as good! Anything else I can do for you? Seems like the furnace is stoked up nice. Got to keep that coal trickling in at least! Anything for me to take back to the church? Oh, yeah, here in the cupboard where they always are. Don't know where Miss Nellie gets these clothes, but some boy at the church always seems to need the things she sends. Well, see you next time you're in town."

I peeked in the pantry and saw where my chili and beans had gone. I checked out the cupboards and found staples and such, my crackers. I grabbed the bag still on the counter and added the four Butterfingers up there. Shit! Four! Why the wiley old coot! Stole a candy bar right out from under my nose. Serve him right if he choked on it. Wait a minute, coal furnace? Serve me right if I freeze to death! Shit, nobody here for two weeks and a coal furnace still running? Damn, maybe some fairies or elves keep this place going! Oh God! Daft as Bugs Bunny! No, the lawyer probably sent somebody out to get it going, knowing I was coming up. Yeah, that's it, I'm sure. Shit, I'll have to figure out what the fuck to do about it though. Damn. Albert! I bet he knows all about this kind of shit. Remember to ask him tonight when I go back to the hotel.

I looked around for the microwave to heat some chili. Shit what the fuck was I thinking! Nineteenth Century house? Spinster Aunt never left it? Microwave? One more bit of proof I was off my bloody rocker. Besides, no fucking electricity until after Christmas. Damn! Hey wait, I remember eating beans right out of the can in college! Yeah, I'll feast like a teenaged king!

Mmmmm, good damn beans too. Can't eat the whole can. Set it in the cold box for tomorrow. Shit, a great big turkey! Sweet potatoes too! Damn, Aunt Nellie, what the hell do I do with this?

Shit take a bottle of water and go back beside the fire. Nice and safe and warm there. Maybe read some of the poetry I saw there on the table. Yes, Emily Dickinson. Damn, haven't read poetry since high school.

I lost a world the other day.

Has anybody found?

You'll know it by the row of stars

Around its forehead bound.

A rich man might not notice it;

Yet to my frugal eye

Of more esteem than ducets.

Oh, find it, sir, for me!

Shit that old broad may have been onto something there. A world I've seemed to lose for sure; myself within it too.

That fire sure feels nice...


This story is a work of fiction, any resemblance of the characters to actual persons living or dead is purely coincidence. Emily Dickinson's poetry is real. It is in the public domain. Comments should be addressed to Nicholas6996@hotmail.com.