Maybe True, Mostly Metaphor Pt XXIV

Close your eyes and imagine your younger self.

Open your eyes and look at the world around you.

How young? That age where you believed anything was possible.

Make sure you take it all in. Really look. Focus.

When you wanted to be an astronaut-veterinarian-singer moonlighting as mad scientist when you grew up (and don’t you pretend like you never believed something like that).

The colors. The happiness. The devastation. The delight. The depression. The hope. The destruction. The people. The good. The evil. The streets. The mountains. The nature. The art. The symbiosis. The abuse. The cleverness. The ingenuity. The selfishness. The closemindedness. The life.

Ok, you there yet? Good.

Is your mind soaring with wonder while your heart sinks with hurt? Good.

Now we’re seeing the same world, reader.

Now, open your eyes again because I need you to keep reading the rest of this little story.

Now, stop looking around like a weirdo because I need you to finish this little story.

Let me tell you what I see as I look around right now.

I’m in a beautiful, simple bar, far, far away from where you are. I’m leaning my back on the counter, taking a break from writing. I see the ocean outside the windows, vast and endless like a… Big. It’s big. No need to be overly poetic, it’s the end of the book and I have nothing left to prove.

Behind me is Moog. Technically, this is our bar, but really it’s his. His dream. He’s carefree, half singing, half humming to himself while making us some lunch. He’s bobbing his head up and down to a beat that only he hears while his hands dance with knives and ingredients. He’s living his dream. His parents would be proud.

To my right is an unmarked door leading to a back room. That’s Laurents’ office. He and Alice are hard at work, coordinating every day with the police. Laurents deals with the law enforcement (he called in some favors in order to set up the raid in Texas) and Alice shares what she knows while also trying to help the victims. They travel a lot, but it’s a party every time they come back. Sometimes they bring people back with them and they help Moog around the bar for a time.

Laurents and Alice aren’t the only ones who travel. Elise and I take to the road anytime she finds driving need to learn something new. China may have been her first time leaving home on her own, but now her mind takes us everywhere. And it seems like there’s always a new friend to meet at our destination.

Speaking of learning something new, I look to my left out the front door and there she is with Sondra, learning how to skateboard. Tearing holes in her pants. Pretty soon their clothes will be a matching game of patches and stitches.

The bar has an upstairs and that’s where Sondra maintains the library. According to the business plan it’s a bookstore, but Sondra keeps “loaning” out books to people who stop by. Either way, it’s a nice place to sit, read, and look out over the water. She and Elise are thick as thieves up there whenever we aren’t out and about in the world.

Moog has made this place our home, way out here at the ends of the earth. It’s not really the ends of the earth, but it feels like that sometimes. In a peaceful way.

Crazy story how we found this place, by the way (well, not as crazy as the story I just spent this whole book telling you, but you know what I mean):

So, Laurents, Elise, and I managed to sneak everyone away from the road during the raid in Texas. We knew exactly where Isaac would be and who he would be with thanks to the emails we’d been reading since our encounter in La Paz. That was enough for Laurents’ to call in some favors with friends in law enforcement.

Next thing you know, Laurents’ is decking Isaac in the face and tackling him to the ground (he’d been waiting forever to do that) while Elise and I grab Alice, Moog, and Sondra and we run out into the woods. Staying as quiet as possible, we trekked out to a small camp set up next to the Candlewind (Laurents set the canopy up as a low shelter) until things died down a little. This was the moment Elise chose to inform us that Big Bend is the only place in Texas with black bears year round.

Eager to not survive this long just to be eaten by bears, we set out into the air the first chance we got. This is also when we discovered the Candlewind‘s max capacity. The six of us were packed like sardines, but we were the happiest sardines in the whole wide ocean. I guess packed sardines are in a tin and not the ocean…eh, after twenty-four chapters I’m out of metaphors, reader. The point is, we were tired, beat up, shoulder to shoulder, arm in arm, crying face to crying face, and happy.

The first few days were magical as we caught each other up on what had happened, filling the gaps in each other’s stories, introducing new faces: Alice, meet Moog. Moog, meet Laurents. Laurents, meet Sondra. Sondra, meet Elise…

Finally, we settled down somewhere safe. A small field down the road from where I am right now.

No, I’m not telling you where, that would defeat the purpose. No one who knows our story knows where we are, and we want to keep it that way. Isaac’s men can’t find Alice out here. Nor can they find the people Laurents and Alice rescue.

We were finally safe.

(Also, there’s a persistent, gentle breeze that makes it perfect for hot air ballooning up and down the coast. If I told you where we were, the skies would be full of balloonists ruining my secret spot. Priorities.)

But, I still had an oval shaped hole in my heart. Remember, reader, none of this story is about Alice. Or Moog and Sondra. Or Elise and Laurents. Or about good and evil or travel or cities or trafficking or crime or adventure.

It’s about me finding my freaking childhood balloon.

So, here’s the actual climax of the actual story:

After we landed, we weren’t sure what to do next. To clear our heads and explore a little, Elise and I went for a walk. We found a quiet road, not far from the rocky ocean shore. As we rounded a bend, Elise saw a small sign poking out of the bushes. It said, “For Sale” with a little arrow pointing down a gravel path to a romantic little shack.

She saw that it had big, wide spaces in the walls where windows used to be.

She saw a gorgeous dark wood bar top that looked like it came straight from the wreckage of a centuries old ship.

She saw a dilapidated rooftop patio that, with a little elbow grease, would make for a perfect second floor bookstore.

Elise saw all of those things, but I didn’t.

My eyes were fixed on what was attached to the sign: a ragged, weathered, half-deflated-but-still-barely-defying-gravity, red balloon.

A balloon that had seen some stuff. A balloon that looked like it had traveled the world over and back again, trying to find its place.

Was it my balloon? Who can say but the hole in my heart that it filled, lifting its heaviness, just slightly.

There it was, leading me here.

The End.

Not quite the end, but pretty much. That’s it. That’s my story as I type out the last few words here at the bar counter. Moog almost has lunch ready. When the occasion calls for it, I sometimes tend bar and make drinks for everyone. Today feels like one of those days. So, I should get started.

Tomorrow, Laurents and Alice are leaving for their next trip, wherever they happen to be needed. Elise and Sondra will be in the next town over meeting with a publisher. They want to have some author come here to the bar and do a signing or something. The publisher said our upstairs is perfect for a photo shoot, bookshelves towering over the water like cliffs or something.

That leaves Moog and I. Who knows what trouble we’ll get into on our own tomorrow…

But, that’s a story for another time. I’ve demanded far more of your attention than I deserve, friend. Thanks for giving me this time with you. I knew you were something special from page one, I swear I knew it.

Your turn now. If you ever wander to the ends of the earth and find yourself on the sharing end of a tale, stop by–doesn’t matter if it’s true or mostly a metaphor. We’ll sit at the bar overlooking the water and you can answer me: what’s your story?

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