“Those characters! “Why can’t I do this?” “But if it were worded like this…” “How come there’s no romance?” “But I wanted to…” No! No vampires or werewolves or popular fiction stuff that’s glutting the market. No supernatural stuff except what’s ‘normal’ for any fictional character. So many things to fuss about. So many unresolved issues. Now the characters are starting to ask questions about their very existence. We can all hash this out.” said the author.
“Y’all didn’t even exist ‘til I got into pondering proper ID of wild edibles and other wild stuff” said the author.
Redtail piped up, “Redtail’s a weird name for a girl. How come you saddled me with that one?”
The author began, “Now don’t get all offended when I tell you it all started over a dead bird.”
“Oh no, I won’t,” said Redtail, “That’s really up to you, anyway.”
“I found a roadkilled red tailed hawk, but wasn’t sure about the ID. There were a couple points on which I wanted to resist calling it a red tail. I thought it was too small, and the wings were too pointy, and that the overall coloration was too pale, but those were all variations of a red tail –the wings being not as pointy as I originally thought.” explained the author.
George chimed in, “So why’d this young lady become Redtail? Yer sayin’ she’s really a dead bird?”
The author continued, “I thought it would be fun to have a prop for my wild edibles programs to help me stress proper identification of things, I wanted something that was blatantly not what it was labeled. The first thing that popped into my mind was a Scotsman who couldn’t be. I pictured a Barbie (maybe not that brand) in a kilt with a bagpipe, and I’d call her a Scotsman. I imagined kids saying, ‘That’s not a Scotsman!’ To which, I’d answer, ‘But there’s a plaid skirt, a bagpipe –what more do you want? It’s a Scotsman.’ I figured she needed a name, so I named her after my reluctantly-identified Redtail, since that’s what got me on the topic. And of course, my mind likes to wander, so it did. How might such a character appear? What’s her back-story, other than a mere dead bird. That’s where all you guys came from.”
Dave, Little Al’s son, said, “So you mean my dad’s really a dead bird and my story-dad’s just imaginary?”
“It’s not that simple,” said the author.
Sarah, the police dispatcher, said, “You really oughtta shorten ‘the author’ in some way. I’ll bet that’s already getting irritating to type out every time. How ‘bout ‘Mr. A’ or something?”
“I guess that’s better than my secret agent name,” said Mr. A. Mr. A continued, “Hey, you guys are getting me off track here.” Mr. A explained the meeting. “I called you together for an odd session of brainstorming. I wanted to illustrate the Redtail story, but didn’t want to take the time of drawing it myself or trying to get just the right stuff from another illustrator. What do you guys think?”
George said, “You mentioned 1/6 scale figures in something you wrote yesterday. –Wait a second, I wasn’t in that writing, so how’d I know that?”
Mr. A said, “Not right now. Let’s try a flashback here, or, well, time is sort of an odd thing when writing.”
“Yeah, tell me about it,“ fussed Redtail, “I, or the real me, was only born in December of ’16, so I’m really only about three months old, yet in the story, we’ve concluded I’m 23 years old. George is in his 60s, but you came up with him after me, so really, he’s younger than I am…”
“Just work with me here. We’re going to turn back time a bit. We can do that. We’re all, well, you guys, anyway, are just imaginary,” said Mr. A.
“Wow, so here we are, back in time, trying to get a grip on Mr. A’s wanting illustrations for the story he’s writing,” said Elder Bart Fera, owner of Fera Manufacturing.
“This is so cool!” said Linda-Jean, the town’s librarian. She continued, “I am talking with Elder Bart Fera, who founded a company that started over a hundred years before I was born.”
Elder Bart asked, “What company is that?”
Linda-Jean said, “Why, it’s the T.D.Fera Manufacturing Company. You should know that.”
Elder Bart questioned again, “T.D.Fera? Why T.D. when I’ve already got Fera Manufacturing? What’s the T.D. for anyway?”
Big Al and Gus said, in near-unison, “Thistle Dew! Everybody knows that.”
Al continued, “You guys make nearly everything that appears in our illustrations, OK, except that only two illustrations have happened so far, but for your T.D.Fera Manufacturing Company story –Wow, which preceded this one. Yeah, you’re right, time is screwy here. We also get stuff through Big River Mall, but it ultimately comes through T.D.Fera’s shipping department.”
Lena spoke, for the first time in any of the stories, “C’mon guys, us getting this straight in our minds doesn’t really matter for purposes of our existence. Besides, Mr. A’s making us all confused. Let’s just start creating illustrations. He mentioned a campfire scene where one of us wanted a picture to remember the event by. You know, that would be cool. I think I’d like one –dang, he did it to me, too. I guess I’m the one who asked for it.”
Frank, Lena’s husband, asked, “So what all would we need for this picture to happen?”
Lawrence Douglas, who went by his proper name, since he was taking charge, said, “Who all have we got here? All the main characters? We got Redtail, George, Gus, Frank, Lena, and a couple extras, so far. I don’t have a physical representation yet and neither does Sarah. Linda-Jean might, but the possibilities for that look way too young –no offense, Linda-Jean. Rick might have a rep, if he’ll accept being a Ken doll. We really need to chart this out on paper.”
Little Al, from the service station said, “Organization. I guess that’s why Larry’s the mayor.”
Lydia, the confident little girl in the homeschool group said, “George and Redtail will say what we need for the campfire because they like to go camping.”
George asked, “Well what’s the picture supposed to look like? Just a dark border with our faces lit up by a campfire?”
Redtail said, “Do we sit on logs or benches?”
Lydia piped up, “It’s a camp-ground, so it’s camp benches.”
Frank said, “I was gonna say logs for the same reason, but Lydia has spoken.” They all gave a laugh. Frank asked, “Mr. A, I know I’m not the only patrolman/law enforcement guy in town.
Who’s the other one?”
Mr. A said, “Not right now. That’ll come if it’s needed for the story. Pretend I’m not even here. No, wait, it just hit me while I was editing this. The police chief is Darrell Cord –don’t ask why. I just know of one with a similar name.”
“Can we just accept that most of us are older than we look?” asked Sarah. “Then you’d have a likeness for me.”
Lena broke in and said, “Hey, we gotta figure out a back story about a spin-off happening in a real-life home school group nearby. Or might that go better in the “Thistle Dew Fera story”?”
Mr. A said, “I just looked at the TDFera Story and for now, I’ll try to work the homeschooler thing in here. The two –this one and TDFera, might be merged one day. So now, the scene will go all wavy as we slip back in time… Now remember, I’m not here, OK?”
Linda-Jean, Lena, Sarah and Big Al comprised the Portal Safety Board. They’d been discussing for some time now, that the homeschool group had been using the Wilder Museum for a while and might likely stumble across the town’s secret. It wasn’t illegal or anything, but the folks in-the-know just didn’t want to have to explain. Too many would call it witchcraft or occult, but it was really merely imagination.
Sarah opened the meeting, since she owned the Museum building. “It’s come to my attention a home school group from the future, yeah, the future, has been dabbling in acquiring dinosaurs for our museum. I just don’t think we can do that without way too much explanation. We’ll get huge notice throughout the scientific world and Thistle Dew and Wilder will cease to be what we’ve grown to love. We really need to let the group, or a few members, in on what’s going on before they discover it and get themselves in trouble. Mr. A’s got a transcript of what’s happened, or about to happen, or whatever, depending on how this meeting fits into the whole time-thing.”
Linda-Jean, the Thistle Dew librarian, suggested the she make a portal that opened into a large building in which the homeschoolers could create a museum for their own use. “Why did Mr. A just narrate that instead of letting me say it? Anyway, we’ve got a portal that opens into an unused World War II aircraft hangar in England. That was quite cool, Mr. A. You simply read the transcript from that other author and we all were automatically familiarized with it.”
Lena said, “What kind of shape is that hangar? You know, the portals only work on old structures or parts thereof –Oh, “thereof” sounds so ‘official’. The only reason our Museum has any active portal at all is because the south wall of the building is still original.” Lena gasped, “If I remember right, that hangar is in pretty good shape, but, that’d be terrible if the kids went into some portal just to have a wall crumble behind them. We’ve gotta be sure of the condition if we were to let them use a portal like that.”
“I believe an introduction is due before we get too far,” suggested Big Al. “I’m Big Al, as opposed to Little Al or Normal Al, but that was decided at a future city planning meeting and is another story. (Wow, this time-transcendence when we’re in self-aware mode is cool –confusing, but still cool.) I’m on the Portal Safety Board because all the orders that go to other worlds go through me and the portal in the Thistle Dew Hardware store. Linda-Jean’s on the board because she’s the librarian and it’s the library through which the portals were discovered and even created. Oh, she’s got a responsibility-laden job. She can actually make a portal IF she does it just right. She only taught one other librarian she met in England how to make them. Lena’s on the Board because she works at T.D.Fera Manufacturing, the other-side company through which we get lots of our stuff. She uses the portals daily. And then there’s Sarah. She owns the Museum building and has a huge stake in portal operations as it pertains to the homeschool group.”
Sarah continued, “If we suspect anything resembling portal abuse, we’ll have to take swift action to insure the portals are closed for good, well, for anything Mr. A. doesn’t personally approve of anyway.”
“We really hope Mr. A. didn’t open a can of worms prematurely by soliciting input,” said Big Al.
Linda-Jean said, “There’s quite enough drama in simply having responsibility for these portals. We don’t want any more drama to actually happen in town than would be normal for a small town. We really want to stay like a Hooterville, Pixley, Green Acres and Petticoat Junction place.”
“So how do we approach the homeschool group? And why does the spell-checker keep underlining “homeschool” wanting two words or a hyphen when it looks and feels so right as one word –and you made me say what you were thinking again, Mr. A.” said Sarah (and Mr. A.)
Unbeknownst to the readers (OK, I guess it’ll soon be beknownst) some time has passed. That black void of nothingness the characters experience as Mr. A. puts down his pen for a while has cleared, but given them time to think and build up thoughts…
“Chill y’all!” said Mr. A. “I set my pen down last night and now when I pick it back up you all want to talk at once. Lots of you guys aren’t even at this meeting.”
“Sorry,” said Redtail and Pastor Tix in unison. Believe it or not, they wanted to mention vampires and zombies.
“Let’s regroup.” said Mr. A. “The Portal Safety Board (PSB), which is pretty secret in itself, has to approach the homeschoolers about keeping the portals safe and secret.”
Sarah began again, “We need to insure Thistle Dew-Wilder stays the laid back neighborly happy place at which it began in Mr. A’s head.”
“I’ll take notes,” said Linda-Jean.
Lena, the most mercenary and daring of the group, explained her findings on the portals. “None of the portals access any sci-fi/fantasy worlds. They only open into other places that exist in our world. There just aren’t any werewolves, vampires, fairies or space creatures or armies of goblins or witchcrafty-occulty stuff that plagues so many other fictional works out there. That’s in other worlds, which this ain’t. I’ve been in all the portals in existence. All a portal is, is a door. They open only into places which a few library people carefully create them to open into, and they know they don’t want any little storytime kids to wander into real danger.”
Big Al added, “The portal, itself, is important, but for its use, it’s also important to remember our museum is only a small town 1800s retail clothing and tailor shop. We’re far from some big 5-story marble-floored megalopolis behemoth or a museum like you always see in movies.”
Linda-Jean said, “I think we oughtta let the readers have a little background on portal-creation. Chrissy Ellmaker made the first known portal years ago when she worked at the Thistle Dew Library. That was in the 1800s when the library was still new. After her program, that doorway of hers got rolled up and tucked away in the library attic and stayed there ‘til it got found in the early 1970s –probably close to a hundred years after it was made. Chrissy didn’t know what she’d made. Somehow, and Mr. A hasn’t figured out how to put it into words yet, I learned how to make the portals. I taught one other librarian how to make them. I met her in the same town the hangar’s in. She has a portal in her library that opens into… Never mind. I won’t say where. Suffice it to say, she can visit Thistle Dew/Wilder when she wants to. (OK, Mr. A, She’ll be called Kate Dickson. –you gotta get all these place/name connections to the real world written down in your backstory.)”
Sarah said, “I think we need to have a simple document to present to the very first homeschool group to use the museum. Yeah, Al, this time-transcendence thing is neat!”
Rules for Portal Use, as Determined by the Portal Safety Board of Thistle Dew, Missouri
[overheard: “Why can’t we call it Wilder or Thistle Dew/Wilder?” “It’s just simpler this way. We’re registered as Thistle Dew.”]
1. Portals are NOT toys.
2. Portals are local tools for learning and for community logistics.
3. A portal is used only on the spot for which it was designed.
[“I’ve got two that…” “Never mind that. You’re the only one with access to those and you know how to use ‘em. And Lena’s got a special one, too.”]
4. The Portal Safety Board is the only approval authority for portal use.
5. Unauthorized use will be… Well, it won’t be good. Just imagine the repercussions with which the author could hit us.
[‘I don’t know if we need a whole lot more now. Let’s see how this works.”]
“Oh, here it comes again,” said Big Al, as the scene goes all wavy and time changes.
Lena said, “Hey, that’s some cool music coming from that radio.”
“I didn’t know we had a classic rock station nearby,” pondered Linda-Jean outloud.
Sarah saw a newspaper: “I think it’s 1978. Yeah, that’s when the Wilder History Club started at the Museum! I remember! They were eventually absorbed by a homeschool co-op early in the 21st century. That first club called themselves “The Relics” and the name stuck.”
Linda-Jean said, “Sarah, be careful you don’t meet yourself when you go in there, because…”
“Don’t be silly. Dr. Who always crossed his own timeline despite his warnings to others, and he came back for a next episode. Besides, I’m the only me there is,” said Sarah. “I’ll go into the Museum and see if Mike’s there –he was the first Relics president.”
To make the story shorter, or presentable for now, the document was delivered to the first Relics president, and passed down from president to president, co-op leader to co-op leader and respected by all.
“So that means the meeting’s over then? Good!” said Redtail. “I wanted to say there’s gonna be vampires in chapter 13 or 14 of the RTMac Story.” She gave a little giggle. “OK, it’s gonna rain anyway and lots of mosquitoes are gonna come out.”
Pastor Tix said, “There COULD be zombies in the story. They’re mentioned in Zechariah 14:12 and 13. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.”
Mr. A felt he needed to add: “I don’t think this part of the tale is over with. I’m having fun with it.”