Gentle lemonade waves wash gently on the Sherbet Shore. A soft cinnamon breeze curls from the West while chocolate-chip starlights flicker in the East. Although unmoving, each horizon seems to bow to the other and smile.
The water is amazingly calm and barely whispers with every trickle of a wave. From the East, two bright beacons shine in the horizon, interrupting the gentle twinkling of lights. The SS Falkori, usually a dragon boat that slices through water like a well-intentioned guillotine, was nowhere near water. It, or more so he, for dragon boats have names, personalities and capricious tempers, had sprouted four large water balloons that now carried him it across the skies.
Behind the wheel, Captain Phish held a steady course dressed in his regal outfit while the young woman stood as she usually did, at the bow. Holding a purple umbrella in her left hand, she also held out a heart shaped compass in her right hand. The gentle air was soothing on her cheeks, while a distant something purred contentedly, as if the night itself was taking a nap from the day. Her dress was made of hundreds upon hundreds of black and purple feathers whose color shifted as light refracted on her, even if the moon had not shown yet.
“Miss Claudette, are you sure he’s going to show?” puffed the fish captain, “He is rather late.”
“Patience, my sweet captain,” she replied sweetly. “Don’t let your resolve flounder now. I’m sure he’s just lost somewhere in his stories... or so I hope. It would be sad if this delay were due to something as frustrating as the job floods and mundane slides.”
“Ahoy!!!” called a squeaky little voice from the crow’s nest. Claudette turned up to look at the second mate who also happened to be a three foot tall crab. “Miss, a distress flare shines from the East!”
The young woman gave a curt nod towards the captain who immediately rang a large bell pepper that hung to his right. “Chips!! Get the emergency burst ready!!”
“Aye-aye Capn’,” said the man-sized and unfried shoe-string potato. He quickly flipped over the rail and started running on the furrier parts of the floating dragon boat.
The captain puffed his cheeks and bellowed: “This is a dream people! We don’t know what will happen now, so batten yourselves down and kiss yer arse goodbye just in case!!!”
Claudette had been gritting her teeth all while the captain screamed: “It’s just us three Captain, no need to shout.”
“Yes, madam!!! UNDERSTOOD!!” he bellowed again, apparently unable to lower his volume in the excitement. He looked towards the hesitant potato and gave the signal. When Claudette looked at Chips, she suddenly realized the gravity of the situation. The large potato held one end of a 7-foot strip of vodka tape because they’d apparently run out of scotch. That’s when it came to her attention that the sweet, subtle purring was not the night itself, but the Falkori who had allowed itself to drift off into sleep, and off course no doubt. She had just folded her umbrella, and clutched onto the rail when she heard the rip from the direction of Chips and a roar as if a lion that sung opera had just sat on a crooked nail.
Chest-deep in a muddled mash of slimey paper, JD stood cross-armed as more clumps of paper mud fell from the sky. He clicked his tongue as a little goblin with green skin and a little brown nose cackled in delight as she floated in a cloud and kept tossing the clumps at him.
“Keep it up, Ematine, eventually all this will catch up to you.”
She cackled even more obnoxiously while blowing raspberries and continuing her air assault. It was truly great fun for her, that was until she happened to hear a massive fire siren coming from deep in the East horizon.
JD called to her: “Umm, Ema? This would be things catching up with you.”
Before the little cloud goblin could realize what was happening, she had been blindsided by the SS Falkori and knocked far away to the south horizon. JD smiled as he recognized the Falkori and the sweet young woman that stepped off the rail, opening her purple umbrella and floating down with the patience of a birthday balloon. JD pulled off his coat in the muddy paper waters and set it next to him. She landed with the slightest tap.
“I was wondering where you were,” she said, reaching out a helping hand to pull him up from the paper waters.
“Sorry, luv. I got swamped with work and you know how things are, apparently they want to test the capacity of one’s ability as well as one’s patience.”
“Don’t get me started.”
“No worries, he replied, “I won’t. Good to see you, luv.”
“Same here, I thought you were going to be a no-show.”
JD shook off pieces of paper, post-its, staples and excel sheets that still clung onto his clothing. “The only reason I wouldn’t make it would be an exterior reason. Did the compass work?”
Claudette pulled out the little heart shaped compass and handed it to him. “Not really, it was very hard to pinpoint.”
“Sorry about that, I mustn’t have had my heart in the right place. You know jobs tend to do that to you.”
From high above, the Captain called out below: “Is all well, Miss Claudette?”
“Yes, Captain. As we feared, it was the job thingy again.”
“AH blasted be, master Estrada! Good to see you well, although you should speak to Master Odstein to see if he speeds up his pro-cess so that you may leave that soul sapping courtyard.”
JD smiled and cupped his hands to his mouth. “Very kind of you to worry, good friend. Trust I’ll speak personally to Fäet to see what we can manage.”
The fish captain called again: “Is the Lady Jane all right?”
“Yes, Captain. She escaped the Mundane Caves a little earlier than me and she sends her regards.”
“Lovely!” called out the fish captain. “Will you be needing any assistance?”
Claudette looked at JD and shrugged as if to ask if they needed anything. JD called out again: “No need, Master Phish. We’ll just go by to the Parched Pumpkin for a quick drink.”
“Very good sir! If you need anything, use the flare again.”
“Aye-aye, Captain!” called out JD once more before turning back to Claudette and extending his arm. “Shall we?”
“Why, yes we shall.”
JD Then rolled up his sleeves, pulled out a deck of cards and began to shuffle them vigorously.
“What are those for?” asked Claudette.
JD finished shuffling and held the entire deck in one hand squeezing both ends so they could shoot out at any moment. “Well, more than play bridge, you can also cross one, n’est pas?” He then released the deck and a walking bridge stretched out until it reached the purple sands.
He led her by the arm and they crossed the bridge in a few moments, arriving to the beach. JD knelt and took a pinch of sand and reached to his tongue to taste. “Grape melon, not bad at all. Where’s the moon though?”
As he looked over the horizon, he pointed to the North behind the young woman: “The Hoon moon blooms full.” Claudette turned and saw that the moon was a huge watermelon with large blue eyeglasses on. “You’ll have to forgive the moon, it’s just that he’s blind.”
Claudette couldn’t help but focus on how well the blue sunglasses complimented the watermelon stripes on the cloudless night. She turned back to JD, “Where are we this time?”
He opened his suddenly dry coat and pulled out the Map. On it, she quickly found the Sherbet Shore drawn near the center of the map and some other areas identified. To the East of the Sherbet Shore, there were parts of the grid, there was a little area called Pie Crust reef, and past that the Sea of Champagne. Just above and to the left of the Sherbet Shore was a little dot labeled William Glasser’s house and as they looked at the map, they saw as a cute little pumpkin faded into view just beyond the house and beautiful letters being written slowly on the map that read The Parched Pumpkin.
“So I’m guessing it’s that way?”
“That’s correct, luv.”
“Anyways to avoid Glasser’s? He was in a bit of a mood last time and I thin we both have enough annoying people in our lives lately.”
“Sure thing,” said JD, “let’s take the side path.”
They walked away from Glasser’s house down a dark winding path that coiled into a small glade next to a forest. Looking around, it was rather dark so Claudette clutched to JD’s arm just a little tighter. She heard a buzzing sound and something flapped near her ear, causing her to give a jolt.
“Relax, luv. Nothing to fear.”
“But I can’t see anything.”
A little tinkling sounded as something bounced off JD’s head. This is the Idea Dell, nothing to worry about.
“An Idea Dell?” she asked perplexed.
In the dark, JD put both his arms on Claudette’s shoulders and he spoke directly to her in a soft soothing voice. “Where would you go if purple rain starting raining sideways?”
When Claudette answered with a huh, at least eight switched on light bulbs in the middle of the glade, showing that the winged creatures were really bulbs waiting to light up. “When you get an idea, they light up and lead the way. You were a bit confused, so ask me something.”
“Ummm... OK. What’s your favorite color?”
“Blue,” said JD and one light bulb shone. “You should try something more complicated than that. How about this, what are you itching to paint soon?”
This time at least four hundred light bulbs shone brightly and they both smiled as the glade lit up. “What are you writing on at the moment?” Another two hundred light bulbs lit up and as she stared in amazement all around at the flying ideas that lit up the way, she couldn’t help but think aloud. “I wonder how many places we’ll visit in the Sherbet Shore.”
At that moment, at least a thousand light bulbs shone, clearly showing the way they had to go. “Shall we?” asked JD.
Taking his arm again, they began to skip like little children, passing a little lily pond, a small brook, and a little hill. When they reached the top, they looked down and saw a huge pumpkin with bright shining lights and an intricate sign that read the Parched Pumpkin.
Walking down they saw that the crowd was still light and stepped into the pub. The atmosphere was lively and they were playing a reggae dub version of the Mos Eisley Cantina song from Star Wars. A couple of bugs sat in a corner booth and raised their glasses to both of them.
“Cheers,” they replied in tandem.
They walked a few steps before they both asked each other the same question: “Do you know those people?” This naturally led them to snort in laughter before reaching the bar. In front of them stood a very serious bartender, in classic garb, well groomed and immaculately shaven.
“And you would be?” asked JD.
“On break,” replied the bartender dryly.
Behind him came a large squid, dressed just as immaculately. “Don’t mind Lloyd, he’s still upset he got transferred from his hotel bar here. Maybe he misses them creepy twins. Who knows? What can I get you?”
“Well I’m in the mood for something curious. How about you Claudi?”
Claudette looked at the overstocked bar and was overwhelmed with the amount of choices. “What do you recommend?”
The squid looked her over and analyzed her. “I could try and guess but the reality is that Curiosity Cola Schnapps are two for Tuesday.”
“But it’s Saturday,” said Claudette although JD managed to hush her enough to order their drinks.
The squid looked temporarily confused before pulling up two glasses of dark brown liquid that fizzed and popped sending little light sparks fizzing. “Salud!” the bartender said.
“To what should we toast to?” asked Claudette.
“To the ones we love, that make our lives whole, to great ideas and to good conversation.”
She nodded in approval, clicked her glass against his and he reached up to taste the sweet cola when a loud alarm went off inside the entire bar.
JD Looked around all confused. “what the hell is...”
Before he could finish the sentence, he was awake, holding his arm up as if a glass were filling the empty space in his hand. He grit his teeth at having been denied knowing what the cola tastes although comforted by the site of his wife sleeping soundly. “I’m not sure if dreams have the best timing or the worst timing. Oh well.”