Of Eons and Stars Part 3: Hillbilly Goblins and Bourbon
As she approaches her car, reality callously sets in. Leaning against the trunk of her brown beater is her dad, leaning with that arrogant attitude of his, a belief that he belongs wherever he is. Next to him standing pertly and charmingly, of course, is Charles.
“How was the show?” her dad asks.
Angelica’s dad, the namesake she can’t evade. She loves and hates him at the same time. Hates him because he was rarely ever there, loves him because sometimes he was.
Her father’s known as Professor Johnathan Whateley to most of the world due to his ridiculously campy TV show. A show about paranormal artifacts and mysteries that it seems the entire population both panned and fanned at the same time. He was born rich. He’s a lot richer now.
To his friends and family, he is, “the Professor”, except to Angelica. To Angelica, he is, “Dad”.
He’s slight of frame and well into his 60s while looking midway into his 50s, with a slicked-back receding hairline and full well-pruned beard of grey, white and black.
As always, the Professor is accompanied by Charles. Charles is Angelica’s father’s constant companion.
Charles started his role as manservant, managing all of the Professor’s affairs, from scheduling and appearances to feeding and dressing. From there Charles graduated to closest friend and confidant of Nora, the Professor’s late wife, and Angelica’s mother. Still, he remained the equerry to the Professor. When Angelica was born, Charles took on the role of nanny. All the while retaining his previous roles without a hiccup. Upon Nora’s death, he was elevated to a compassionate shoulder to cry on for the Professor and surrogate mother to Angelica. Finally, in what can only be called his most unexpected role, he progressed from constant companion to consummated companion as Charles and the Professor were married.
With every new role, Charles would never let go of his duties as manservant, or any of the others along the way. It didn’t matter how many freedoms and liberations he was offered. Charles was duty and being of service made Charles happy.
Charles was a stout, tall, well-kept man. Well kept is an understatement, an immaculate man, lean and in shockingly good shape, without looking like a behemoth. The Professor was well Charles senior with a quarter of a century or more between them.
“The show was surprisingly good, ” Angelica responded. “I would not have sized you two up as Ivan Rocket fans… maybe Charles? but, most certainly not you, Dad. So which are you here for? to torture me, or to tell me that this freakshow is for real?”
“Both,” the Professor says, hugging Angelica while her arms hang flat at her sides. Not in contempt, just in a manner to which they are both accustomed.
“Whatever,” she says moving over to a full interactionary hug with Charles. “Ivan’s a total kook. A nice kook, but a kook.”
“Oh Honey,” Charles says, holding his hands on her shoulders and giving her a parental look up and down verifying that she is well. “We are here following up on a case down the road. We knew you’d be here and stopped by to see you.”
Angelica quickly remembers telling Charles a month earlier that this show was going to be her chance to get a byline in the paper. She wonders if he is a machine. How can he be so nice and so considerate?
“Are you well?” Charles asks.
“Oh yeah, I’m good,” she responds.
“Drinking and smoking and about to drive is good?” the Professor challenges.
“I had two beers and a joint like, an hour ago, Dad,” she answers. “We talked about this. No judging”. She expounds by wagging a finger at him.
Charles turns to the Professor. “Well she seems feisty enough,” Charles says to him with a smirk, quickly turning back to Angelica to give her a wink and then asks, “Do you have enough money?”
“Yes, Charles,” she says, eyes dropping.
“I just worry, Lovebug. That’s all,” the Professor says.
“I can’t tell if you’re joking?” she retaliates and hurriedly changes the subject. “What case?”.
“Some hillbilly down the street thinks he’s being stalked by space goblins.” He says.
“Weird things happen to hillbillies too, Dad,” she informs him.
“So it seems,” Charles deflects with a smile.
They continue back and forth. The Professor judging, Angelica quipping, with Charles deflecting, all combatants with the utmost skill. A dance they have danced for years. They banter until they part ways with another set of hugs. Charles and the Professor to entertain the paranoid notions of a bumpkin and Angelica to her hotel room to write.
The Professor and Charles drive through the narrow backroads of Kingsport. The trees are black silhouettes curling over the illuminated patchwork of dirt and pavement glowing in the night.
The Professor slouches in the back seat while Charles drives. Staring out the window he thinks to himself, “Why are we here?”
“Because we got a call from a man that talked about goblins and we thought we’d check it out?” Charles responds.
“Did I say that out loud?” the Professor realizes.
“Yes, you old coot,” Charles smiles at the Professor in the rearview mirror.
The Professor corrects his slouch and fixes his shirt. “I seem to remember that you took the call and said we were going, Charles. I wanted to watch TV.”
“Idle hands,” Charles responds, “Old men who do nothing die before their time and I’m not ready to lose you just yet”.
“Yeah, it’s not like Angelica will let you wait on her hand and foot. You’d lose your mind with no one to dote upon. It’s like Zeus fucked a mother hen and you popped out of the egg,” the Professor says.
“Oh, John, no getting grumpy. It’s so stereotypical,” Charles quips.
Charles slows down as the lights beam on a driveway and silver mailbox with their target address on it. Their black 1961 Lincoln Continental creeks like a pirate ship as it switches from fifty-percent dirt to one-hundred-percent with some hefty rocks to boot. Their heads whip back and forth a bit until Charles compensates for the road by reducing his speed to 5 miles an hour.
“Jesus Christ,” the Professor says. “Where the hell are we?”
“The home of one Charles Ray Connor James-Randal” Charles answers and the Professor’s eyes widen. “He said we can just call him Buddy,” Charles assures him.
“Oh, thank God,” the Professor says.
The drive is long and narrow lined with wire and wood fencing stuck in dried grass and even dryer earth. Down the way, they start to see the lights of a house.
Barks cut through the roar of the old car’s engine as it is greeted by a diverse pack of dogs. Old and young, manged and slightly less-manged, large and small.
The Professor looks down out his window with disdain and thinks to himself, “My God, if the races and the genders of the world got along this well wouldn’t we all be in a better place?” He makes eye contact with one with a pair of milky eyes, more skin than hair and a repetitive bark that sounds like a broken transistor amplifying a botched tracheotomy and thinks, “Maybe not”.
As the massive black car approaches the house the porch light comes on and a black mass opens the door and steps out on the porch.
They stop the car and roll down the windows.
“Don’t mind the dogs,” Buddy yells to them. “They sound a ruckus, but they won’t bite ya’.”
Charles and the Professor park the car and approach the porch. They all make common pleasantries.
“Okay then, Mr. Buddy. Please tell us again what you told me on the phone,” Charles requests.
“Just Buddy is fine,” Buddy says.
“Buddy it is,” Charles replies.
Buddy starts his story.
“There have been stories in my family ‘bout this place going all the way back. I lived here my whole life, my grandparents lived here too, but for me, it really only started about 2 months ago.” He starts.
“It was late one night and I was grabbing the evenings final beer and headed to bed and that’s when the dogs started making a commotion. I happened to be in the kitchen, so a quick look out the window caught a trash can falling over and a figure running off into the fields. I’m thinking to myself that it’s them homeless that the libs keep tryna save, which is fine, to each his own as long as they ain’t digging through my trash. So, I grab up my gun and head out onto the porch in just skivvies and a tee-shirt,” Buddy says.
“I’m sure the gun and ‘final beer’ made you feel better?” the Professor says pertly.
Charles gives him a look.
Buddy continues, “I know yer joking, but sure as hell it did. You don’t live out hear and think its normal that a person would be digging around in your trash.”
The professor backs down a bit.
“Please continue Mr. James-Randal,” Charles asks politely.
Buddy corrects him, and continues, “Buddy is fine. So, I find nothing and that’s it for about a week. I hear rustlin’ that week, but nothing that makes me take too much notice. Then, the followin’ week I hear the dogs a hollerin’ again, ‘course, I go outside, but by then, there’s nothing. I decided that the next night I’ll lie in wait. Just when I’m nodding off the rustlin’ comes again. I peer out the window and see children digging through my trash.”
“Children?” Charles asks.
“Or so I thought,” Buddy proceeds. “One looked right at me and had the solid black eyes of a shark. At that point, I turn my torch on and shine the light right at ‘em and…” Buddy pauses and then directs his talking at the Professor. “I can tell you think I’m some dummy. And if things were different I’d send you packing,” he turns his attention back to Charles, “But to you sir, they were goblins.”
Charles stares at him and repeats, “Goblins?”
Buddy answers, “I know it sounds crazy. I’m aware that goblins and fairies are make-believe, so I’m gonna run with aliens or something like that.”
“And so what happened then?” Charles asks, urging him on.
“I chased ‘em through the woods pissing myself, not really, but maybe I dunno what came over me. I chased ‘em to about two acres out into the wood ‘till we were about in Billington’s Wood and I lost em around the old mine. I think they come from the mine.” Buddy finishes.
“And has anything happened since?” Charles asks.
Buddy’s large frame slouches a bit while answering, “Nothing I was willing to do anything about. Since then I seen lights in the sky and hear knocking at night some days a week. I’m talking to you for help or leaving. But this is all my family ever had. I don’t want to leave it but I’m desperate.”
“Alright,” Charles stammers a bit, “Buddy, we will have a look”.
“Thank you, sirs,” Buddy accepts with a nod.
Charles and the Professor sit on the hood of the Grand Continental at the end of a dirt road overlooking Buddy’s farm.
The professor reaches in his pocket and pulls out an impressively large flask.
Charles looks at him and says, “Brandy?”
“Jim Beam,” the Professor says.
“Oh Thank God”, Charles sighs as he grabs the flask and takes an impressive pull from it.
“So what do you think of the case?” Charles inquires.
“Bullshit,” the Professor responds imprudently.
Charles raises an eyebrow and asks, “Do you think he’s lying?”
“No, I guess not. It’s just…. Space goblins? We can’t prove normal aliens now we’re gonna prove space goblins?” the Professor exclaims, throwing his hands up and then taking another swill of the bourbon.
“Good point,” Charles agrees. “I know you’d rather watch TV, but what other options do we have for spending an evening overlooking a farm and the stars?”
“Cheers to that,” the Professor says, taking another smaller sip and leans into Charles for comfort and stability, both figuratively and literally.