Changes, Part 15

Continued from previous weeks…

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Ritchie:  “Umm, Umm, Ummm!”

Gary and Mona look from Ritchie’s grin to what he’s grinning at.

Gary:  “The bleached blonde that makes me ashamed of my own race.”

Mona:  “The one who only wanted to try her new album on Ritchie’s stereo when she thought you…”  She mimics Ritchie while looking at Gary, “…’White Boy’…were Ritchie?”

Gary nods.

Ritchie’s still grinning at the bleached blonde with teased, bouffant hair who’s bounding down The Strip toward him…with a big, silly grin on her face.  In a short, tight, silver metallic dress.  As she gets closer, a huge clump of teased hair breaks loose from a “hairdo” otherwise cemented into place by shiny hairspray and flops into her face, obscuring her vision.  She reacts by almost choking on her giggles and grabbing the much drabber girl next to her.  “Wow, Donna!”

Donna fidgets with her long, stringy brown hair.  “You’re really stoned out of your mind this time, Betty Sue.”

Ritchie is mesmerized.  “Betty Sue…”  He caresses his own silver shirt.

Gary smirks.  “The forbidden fruit…”

Betty Sue:  “And lovin’ it, Donna!  I love being high!”  She trips into the street, giggling hysterically.  “All these lights are boss!”

Donna almost trips over her ratty bell bottoms as she struggles to drag a resisting Betty Sue back to the safety of the sidewalk.  “Those are headlights, nitwit!”

Betty Sue breaks loose from Donna to spin around with her arms over her head, which makes her already short silver dress a whole lot shorter.  She crashes into Ritchie and starts giggling hysterically again.  “I just love being high!”

Mona’s looking up and down Sunset Strip.  Then she turns to Gary.  “This Betty Sue’s a nark magnet if I ever saw one.  Better throw that pot Ritchie gave you in that garbage can behind you.”

Gary starts to do so, but Ritchie snatches the pot out of his hand.

Ritchie:  “What you doin’, White Boy?  This is mah chance!”

Betty Sue grabs Ritchie to keep from falling, then runs her hand over his silver shirt but talks to Donna.  “Way that dealer was dressed was boss!”

Donna:  “Not sure his giving you the last of that ‘better than acid’ shit he had was ‘boss’…”

Gary grabs Donna.  “That dealer!  Where is he?”

Donna jerks free and snatches Betty Sue away from Ritchie.  “Narks!”  Dragging Better Sue after her, Donna starts running away from Gary, Ritchie, and Mona.

Mona puts a hand on Ritchie’s shoulder.  “Thought you were going to check out a liquor store down on Pico with the wino.  After what happened to us do you really want to…”

Ritchie:  “I know, Mona.  I know.”  He looks down at the sidewalk, but then looks up to see Donna dragging Betty Sue away from him against her will.  He shakes Mona’s hand off.  “But this is mah chance!  That blonde is beautiful!  And high as a kite.  One whiff of this fine New York pot and she’s gonna’ trot after me all the back to the beach and mah ‘boss’ stereo with KLH speakers.”  He runs after Betty Sue.

Mona slumps her shoulders and turns back to Gary.  “Poor Ritchie.”

Gary:  “A victim of the times.”

Betty Sue has managed to get Donna to stop a short distance away.  Betty Sue spreads her arms wide and throws her head back to look at the sky.  “Boss!”  She starts to giggle again, then stops suddenly.  “I understand everything, all of it.”

Ritchie catches up.  “Do you understand what this is?”

Donna starts to snatch Betty Sue away again, but stops when she sees the pot Ritchie’s holding out.

Ritchie stands tall.  “This here is super fine, gen-u-ine, Panamanian Red!”

Donna:  “Hey…  No stems.  No seeds.  Who processed this shit?  A tobacco company?”

Betty Sue sounds breathless.  “Wow!  This stuff looks ‘better than acid,’ too!”  But she’s distracted by the headlights again, trips into the street, and jumps aside just in time as a car zips by.  “Cars…  I don’t like cars.”

Donna sidles up to Ritchie, still eyeing the pot.  “Hey, I like that silver shirt.”

Betty Sue staggers about behind them, still in the street.  “But maybe they’ll get rid of cars someday…”

Donna runs her fingers over Ritchie’s shirt.  When a car honks behind them, she reaches back to yank Betty Sue out of the street.  “Hey…  Betty Sue here in her silver dress and you in your silver shirt…”  Donna trails off as she shoves Ritchie and Betty Sue together, standing back to admire them as Ritchie rather sweetly wraps his arm around Betty Sue.

Betty Sue glares after the car that honked at her.  Her escaped clump of teased hair obscures her vision so she can’t really see Ritchie’s face.  She snuggles up to his shirt and smiles.

Even Gary smiles as he and Mona catch up.  “‘It had to be a blonde.’  Mickey Spillane would love this.”

Betty Sue looks up and repeats Gary’s last words, “…love this.”

Donna stands back a bit farther and mimics taking a picture of Betty Sue and Ritchie.  “All that silver metallic clothing.  You don’t look like you were born in the ’40s.  You look like two people who were born in the 25th Century!”

Betty Sue:  “…two people who were born in the 25th Century!”

Gary screams, “No!  Don’t say that!”

Mona:  “Born in the 20th…”

A crackle like lightning fades away.

Mona:  “Too late.”

Donna stares at the empty sidewalk in front of her.  “Betty Sue!”  She looks all around, finally turning to Gary and Mona.  “Those two just…”

Mona and Gary finish Donna’s sentence together.  “Disappeared.”

Donna starts shaking.  “Maybe I should go home to my parents.  Go back to school.  Buy some hair rollers…saddle shoes.”  She darts off through a crowd of late-night revelers.

Mona and Gary stand in silence.  Slowly they draw closer and wrap their arms around each other, still staring at the empty sidewalk where Ritchie and Betty Sue were.

Mona:  “Do you think they’ll make it back?”

Gary:  “Maybe they won’t want to.”

Mona:  “Maybe…”

Gary:  “Maybe what?”

Mona:  “Maybe…just maybe…none of this really happened?”

A random late night reveler, dressed like a court jester from long ago, leaps into the empty space where Ritchie and Betty Sue were.  The jester starts juggling three sparkly balls, winking at Gary and Mona.  Then he pockets the balls, bows low with a flourish, does an about face and bows again, flipping his tunic up to show off the top of his diamond-patterned leggings before leaping away to perform for others.

Gary:  “How will we ever know for sure if any of this was real?”

Mona:  “There’s only one way.”

Gary:  “How?”

Mona:  “The Reverend.”

Gary:  “What reverend?”

Mona:  “The one that died saving Ritchie’s life.  If this really happened, and they don’t come back, that Reverend should still be alive now.”

Gary:  “Right!  Because Ritchie hasn’t been born yet!  Where was that Reverend again?”

Mona:  “Up north.  The town was Ukiah.  His church was called Peoples Temple.”

Gary:  “Yeah, yeah, now I remember the wino going on about it when we were in the forest.  And that Ritchie gave you the full name for ‘Reverend Jim’ the night he first told you about that car accident.”

Mona:  “Yup.  That’s the one.”

Gary:  “People’s Temple…”

Mona:  “Sounded like some kind of sick cult, liable to do something stupid.”

Gary:  “Hope they haven’t followed through on their dream to move to Guyana yet, so we can ask them if their Reverend’s still alive.”

Mona:  “But we’ve got his name…”

Gary:  “True, but do we really want to go through the phone book, including the Guyana phone book, to track down anyone with a name as common as Jim Jones?”

THE END

Ink Splatters 3

Changes, Part 14

Continued from previous weeks…

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A blonde, driving a shiny Corvette convertible, pauses to look Ritchie over as if he were a cockroach.

Gary rolls his eyes.

Mona glares at her, hard.

Ritchie does his best to look oblivious.

The blonde flips a not-quite-empty coffee cup at Ritchie before continuing down Sunset Strip.

Mona:  “Probably a comment on the coffee.”

Gary:  “All that bleach must have seeped into her brain, or she’d know better than to get take-out outside of New York.”

Ritchie’s still looking after the ‘Vette that’s disappearing down The Strip amidst blinding reflections from the streetlights.

Mona puts a hand on Ritchie’s shoulder.  “So…  You said you have something for Gary?”

Ritchie swats at some of the blonde’s coffee that hit his sleeve.  “Not so loud, Mona.”

Gary whispers, “What is it?”

Ritchie palms him something.  “In your pocket, man.  Quick.  Strip’s crawling with narks tonight.”

Gary rolls his eyes.  “That might explain why we can’t find our ‘better than acid’ dope dealer!”  Then he touches what he just put in his pocket and looks confused.

Ritchie whispers, “That’s the rest of the pot you brought me from New York.”

Gary hunches his shoulders and flips his palms up, questioning.

Ritchie studies his own boots.  “It’s yours.  I don’t want my money back or nuthin’.”

Gary looks even more confused.

Ritchie shrugs it off, again trying to look oblivious.  “Me and the wino are going to check out a liquor store down on Pico.”

Mona and Gary exchange a knowing look.

Gary puts a hand on Ritchie’s shoulder.  “Your way of keeping things simple…”

Ritchie shakes Gary’s hand off.  “Watch it, White Boy.”

Mona:  “Ritchie, there’s more to it than reverting to a legal drug.  You’ve got to help us!  We’re trying to find that clothes-horse dealer who sold Gary that ‘better than acid’ so what happened to us can’t happen to others!”

But now Ritchie’s truly oblivious to Gary and Mona.  He’s spotted the bleached blonde that only wanted to play her new record album on his “boss” stereo when she thought Ritchie was white.

To be continued next week…

Ink Splatters 3

Changes, Part 13

Continued from previous weeks…

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A week later Mona and Gary are on Sunset Strip at night, standing in front of The Fifth Estate.  Amidst the glitz of its much-newer-and-better-maintained neighboring nightclubs, The Fifth Estate doesn’t even look like a nightclub.  It just looks like an oddly low, rambling Victorian house in much need of paint.

The sidewalks all along The Strip are overflowing with late-night revelers.  People glitter, strutting about in costumes so outrageous that even circus performers would be left in the dust.  Some are dressed in bright new pastels.  Others, especially those going in and out of The Fifth Estate, are dressed in the duller, tattered clothes of hardcore hippies.  All are in bell bottoms.

The street is almost at a standstill as only the most exotic and expensive cars cruise slowly down The Strip, so compulsively polished that the light bouncing off them in every direction from the streetlights is blinding.  The occupants of the cars call out to the revelers on the sidewalks, rewarding the most outrageously dressed with the most attention.

Mona stares into the hypnotic glare of slowly passing headlights, then turns to Gary.  “I’ve been up and down my half of The Strip, and I haven’t found anyone who’s seen or heard of our clothes-horse dope dealer.  Any luck with your half?”

Gary sighs.  “Nope.  You’d think somebody dressed like that would be noticed…even on Sunset Strip.”

Mona:  “Maybe the problem isn’t that he hasn’t been noticed.  Maybe nobody’s telling cuz they figure we’re narks.”

Gary looks down at their tattered hippie attire.  “Would even undercover cops dress like this?”

Mona grabs his arm.  “We’ve got to find him!  Beg him not to sell anymore of that ‘better than acid’ stuff we took!”

Gary shrugs her off.  “We may as well hitchhike back to Ritchie’s house on the beach.  This is useless.”

Mona puts a hand on his shoulder.  “Aw.  This is only the second night we’ve looked!”

Gary smirks.  “Everybody’s too stoned…and too California…to remember anything.”

Mona:  “Gary!”

Gary:  “Okay.  Okay.  I’m sorry.  But the last person I spoke to had dropped so many pills it took him a full minute to correctly identify the noise disrupting the cosmos as me asking him a question.”

Mona:  “I know the type…”  She straightens.  “But I’m going to keep looking, Gary!  What are you gonna do?”

Gary:  “Hope that dealer took some of his own ‘better than acid’ before going to see Space Odyssey and is on Jupiter by now.  Devote the rest of the summer to lying around the beach and soaking up the benefits of not thinking too much.”

Ritchie emerges from the crowd.

Mona:  “Ritchie!  What are you doing here?”

Ritchie puts his hand on Gary’s other shoulder.  “Got something for you, White Boy!”

To be continued next week…

Ink Splatters 3

Changes, Part 12

Continued from previous weeks…

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Cars whiz by on the highway.  Waves pound the beach.  Seagulls cry.

Ritchie catches up with the two blondes in string bikinis.  He puts his arms around them and sings, “Baby, everything is all right.  Uptight, clean out of sight.”  They shrug him off and start running in the surf.  Ritchie chases them.

The wino shakes his head.  “Blondes will be the death of you, Ritchie!”  Then he rushes up the stairs into Ritchie’s house.

Mona staggers and is barely able to talk.  “Infinity…”

That wipes the smile off Gary’s face.  “No, Mona.  Reality.  Just one.  This reality.  You saved us; you got us back.  But do not think about my intellectual bullshit again, at least until you’re no longer stoned on that ‘better than acid.’  If ever.  I’ve learned something:  Life is far better if it’s kept simple!”

Mona:  “Simple…”

Gary:  “That’s right, Mona.  Simple.  Let’s go help the wino raid Ritchie’s fridge.”

To be continued next week…

Ink Splatters 3

Changes, Part 11

Continued from previous weeks…

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There are more footsteps in the forest, getting closer and closer.  Branches are snapping like twigs.

Everyone, except Mona, steps back.

Wino:  “I shouldn’t have screamed!”

Ritchie:  “No shit!”

Gary:  “Whatever that thing is, it’s huge.”

Mona smiles faintly.  “Huge…”

Gary grabs Mona’s arm and pulls her back with the others.

Puzzled, Mona struggles to regain her balance.  Then she smiles up at the sun, drawing a circle around it with her finger and laughing.

The rustling in the forest becomes visible, though its source is still hidden by the trees.  It’s heading straight toward them.

Wino:  “I think it’s…hungry.”

Mona:  “Hungry…”

The wino grabs Ritchie.  “But none of this is real, Ritchie!  You know that!  You have to believe that.  I believe that!  Why your house is right over…”  He trails off, staring at the beeline of bent tree branches coming at them.

Gary grabs Mona, turning them both away from whatever’s closing on them.  “Hey, baby…”  He’s struggling to sound casual.  “I want to apologize for all that infinity nonsense I was talking about before.”

Mona:  “Infinity…”

Gary:  “You know how I can be.”  He snorts.  “New York intellectual!  My old lady used to debate existentialism with whoever my ‘father’ was at the time.  That was before she lost the sandal shop and started shooting smack.”

The wino and Ritchie are both trying to climb up the same tree.

Gary kisses the tip of Mona’s nose.  “Don’t look.  No matter what.  Close your eyes.”

Mona does.

Gary:  “You didn’t really think I could think us somewhere else did you?  You didn’t really think we were in a forest, did you?  Just remember us on the porch of Ritchie’s house.”

Mona smiles.

The forest warbles, shutters.  There’s a crackle like lightning.

The surf crashes on the beach.

Ritchie, who’d gotten a lot higher in the tree than the wino, falls heavily onto the sand because all the trees have disappeared.  But he smiles broadly as two blondes in string bikinis walk past his house.

To be continued next week…

Ink Splatters 3

Changes, Part 10

Continued from previous weeks…

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Ritchie continues to laugh.  “All that damn fool hysteria, and we’re just hallucinating.”

The wino jumps up, eyeing Ritchie like he’s the dinner the wino just caught in a trap.  “That’s right, Ritchie!  Who ever heard of trees on a beach?”  The wino takes solid hold of a tree to steady himself in his excitement.  Then he catches himself, looks at Ritchie, and quickly let’s go of the tree.

Ritchie’s looking the other way, at the smog.  “No trees on a damn beach, fool!”

Wino:  “That’s right!  But that smog’s real, and what’s always underneath smog, Ritchie?”

Ritchie:  “Cars?”

Wino:  “That’s it, Ritchie.  And what’s always underneath cars?”

Ritchie:  “Freeways.”

Gary, still rubbing his jaw after Ritchie’s previous punch, stops to look from the wino to Ritchie and back at the wino.

Mona repeats, “Freeways.”

Wino:  “And houses.”  The wino stalks Ritchie like a cat.  “What do the houses over there look like, Ritchie?”

The wino and Gary eye Ritchie expectantly.

Mona weaves a bit, before repeating “houses.”

Ritchie:  “Mah house is the last one on the right…”

The wino and Gary are hanging on every word.

Gary:  “Can you see it, Ritchie?”

Mona:  “See…”

Suddenly Ritchie stops looking at the smog and turns to look into Mona’s eyes.  Gary and the wino exchange a look and throw their hands up.

The wino screams.  “Concentrate on your house, Ritchie!  Concentrate!”

Ritchie:  “Mona, are you okay?”

Finally Gary looks at Mona, too.  “Her pupils are huge!  Infinite…”

Mona:  “Infinite…”

There’s the sound of heavy footfalls in the forest again, rushing closer.

To be continued next week…

Ink Splatters 3

Changes, Part 9

Continued from previous weeks…

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Gary:  “I repeat:  The sky is orange.”

Mona is concentrating, staring at the blue sky while she repeats “orange” like a mantra.

Ritchie glares at Gary.  “White Boy?  How can you say the sky is orange when it’s so obviously…”

The wino cuts Ritchie off by clapping a hand over his mouth.  “Don’t you remember Peter Pan when Tinker Bell was dying?  Orange.  Orange.  Orange.  Orange.”

Gary joins the wino and Mona, chanting “orange.”

The wino, still chanting, waves a cautionary finger at Ritchie before slowly removing his hand from Ritchie’s mouth.

Ritchie smirks, starts swaying from side to side, and chants, “Hare, Hare Krishna, Krishna Rama…”

Mona swats Ritchie hard.

Ritchie:  “Orange.  Orange.  Orange.  Orange.”

Mona turns to reward Ritchie with a warm smile while they all continue to chant “orange.”

Ritchie frowns.  “Mona, your eyes…”

Mona swats him again.

Ritchie:  “Orange.  Orange.  Orange.  Orange.”

They all chant “orange” for a very long time.

Finally Ritchie silences Gary with a right uppercut.

Mona swats Ritchie, but weakly.

Ritchie studies Mona’s eyes, frowning again.

Gary rubs his jaw.  “All right.  All right.  Point well taken.”  He sighs heavily.  “It’s not working.”

They all contemplate the blue sky.

Finally the wino gathers himself together, appearing to be fairly sober.  “You tried, Gary.  You tried hard.  Now it’s my turn.”

Mona:  “I feel funny.”

Wino:  “All of you look at that forest.”

They do.

Wino:  “Now I ask you:  Is that forest really there?”

Gary stops rubbing his jaw to rub the bark of a nearby tree instead before nodding yes.

Ritchie:  “Looks pretty solid to me, man.”

Wino:  “Aw, come on, Ritchie, that’s a lot of crap.  See that brown cloud of smog hanging over the forest?  Where’d it come from?”

Ritchie:  “Didn’t I hear you say something about…”

The wino cuts him off.  “You mean when I was drunk?  When I’m drunk I say all kinds of things.”

Ritchie:  “But Gary said he’d…”

The wino cuts him off again.  “Gary said?”  The wino scoffs, rolls his eyes, and tries to talk like Ritchie.  “You believe everything that cat has to say?  Thought I heard differently, but maybe that’s just surface tough. Like maybe deep down inside you think Gary blows real cool, makes out with all the blonde chicks…”  The wino trails off, looking at Ritchie intently.

Ritchie’s face hardens with rage.

The wino looks pleased.

Ritchie glares at Gary, then struts about in front of the wino.  “This here lame white boy? Only reason Mona here with Gary is because I didn’t try for her first.  Nuthin’ he has to say makes any sense.”

Wino:  “That’s it!  You’re not going to believe that white boy when he tells you you’re not even in 1968 any more, are you?”

Ritchie does a double-take on the wino.  “You white!”

The wino talks quickly.  “I don’t count.  I’m over 30.”  Then the wino looks at Ritchie carefully, emphasizing his next words by drawing them out.  “But do you really think a dumb white boy like Gary could just think L.A. away?”

Ritchie frowns.  “You’re a wino.  I was smoking the pot Gary brought me from New York.  Mona took the same shit Gary took.  At first I figured hers must not have been any good, but look at her eyes now.”  Ritchie’s pacing around, obviously thinking hard.  Then he freezes, smiles broadly, and starts to sing:  “Baby, everything is all right.  Uptight, clean out of sight.”  He stops singing and laughs.  “We’re just hallucinating!”

To be continued next week…

Ink Splatters 3

Changes, Part 8

Continued from previous weeks…

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Everyone relaxes for a moment as they listen to the heavy footsteps recede farther into the forest.

Mona:  “Did you at least make whatever that was go away, Gary?”

Gary:  “No, not even that.  Again, I can’t do any of this taking-something-different-out-of-infinity stuff now that I’m not high anymore.  But maybe, just maybe, if we all believe in it together…kind of like believing Tinker Bell can fly.”

Ritchie:  “Again, Gary, tell us what to do!”

Even the wino draws closer to Gary.

Gary:  “First you’ve all got to understand…”

The wino’s hands shake violently as he reaches for his bottle.  Mona spreads her hands out, palms up, looking a question.  Ritchie throws his hands up, rolling his eyes skyward.

Gary:  “Look at the sky…all of you.”

They do.

Gary:  “What color is it?”

The wino, looking confused, scratches his head.  Mona, looking helpful, and Ritchie, looking murderous, both say, “Blue.”

Gary:  “Who says?”

They all look confused.

Gary:  “Suffice it to say there’s a nice factual explanation.  Now tell me what you see hanging over this forest.”

An innocent, hopeful smile blooms on all three faces as they look in wonder and speak as one:  “Smog!”

The wino, suddenly sober, starts to laugh.

Gary:  “Nice factual explanation for that, too.  Smog is caused by cars…except they haven’t been invented yet.”

Steady now, the wino stops laughing, frowns and holds up a finger.  “I remember reading once how the smog in L.A. is actually from natural sources…”

Gary claps a hand over the wino’s mouth, grabs the bottle he didn’t get to drink from before, and then pours wine into the wino’s mouth so fast that he almost chokes.

The wino frowns for a moment, but then blinks, sways a bit, and rejoins Mona and Ritchie in looking hopeful.

Gary:  “Reality is in the eye of the beholder.  How else could we see both a forest from prehistory and the smog from our own time?  It’s only because we’ve all somehow agreed that both are here.”

They all look confused again.

Gary:  “Go back to why the sky is blue.  The only reason we think the sky is blue is because our mommies told us the sky is blue, and their mommies told them the sky is blue.”

Mona perks up.  “And if we ever colored the sky a different color with our crayons, someone eventually corrected us.”

Gary:  “Now, all of you, listen to me very carefully:  The sky is orange.”

To be continued next week…

Ink Splatters 3

 

Changes, Part 7

Continued from previous weeks…

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Ritchie glares at Gary.  “White Boy?  ‘New York intellectual’?  Genius who just took us into prehistory?  Now that you’re no longer high on that ‘better than acid’ you can’t get us back to 1968?  You so damn useless you’ve even got Mona kicking tree trunks when what we’d really like to kick is you!”

Mona hugs the tree she just kicked, looks sheepishly at the uninterrupted forest surrounding them, and starts to cry.

The wino stumbles to Mona’s side, struggles to regain his balance, and clumsily strokes her back.  Then he turns to Gary.  “Tell us what we all have to understand to get back, Gary.”

Ritchie smirks and throws his hands up.

Gary glares at Ritchie.  “You got any better ideas?”

Ritchie starts to speak but then stops, several times.  Then, like Mona, he looks at the forest.

There’s a moment of silence.  Then, deep in the forest, there’s the sound of heavy footfalls.

Wino:  “Gary, how about…the smaller monster?”

Mona:  “No, forget monsters, Gary!  The butterfly!  The butterfly like you did before!”

Gary:  “I didn’t do this!  I don’t even know what’s out there.  I can’t do any of this taking-something-different-out-of-infinity shit now that I’m no longer high.  Unless…  Maybe…”

There are more footfalls, getting much closer now.  Branches are snapping like twigs.

Everyone steps back.

Ritchie’s looking back and forth between the approaching footsteps and Gary.

The footsteps suddenly change direction and recede into the distance.

Ritchie grabs Gary.  “Tell us what we all have to understand to get back!”

To be continued next week…

Ink Splatters 3

Changes, Part 6

Continued from previous weeks…

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Ritchie shakes the wino off.  “You one fay idiot!”  Ritchie storms off, kicking tree trunks again.

Gary and Mona are still seated between the trees.  He’s buried his face in his knees; she’s still staring at the ground vacantly.

Ritchie storms back, gives Gary and Mona a look of disgust, and shoves the wino’s chest.  “We stuck out here in prehistory, and you gots to be goin’ on ’bout that white Reverend?  He died saving my life so long ago that’s almost prehistory.”

The wino struggles to steady himself from Ritchie’s shove.  “That car accident?  It was terrible.”

Ritchie:  “What all that wine has done to your brains is terrible!”  He kneels next to Mona.  “How we gonna get outta’ here, Mona?”

Mona fights back a sob.  “Gary’s not high anymore.  We can’t.”

Ritchie leans over to smack Gary’s back.  “You one useless white boy!”

Gary, jolted forward, lifts his head.  “Maybe…”

Ritchie and Mona each grab one of Gary’s arms and ask in unison:  “Maybe?”

Gary:  “If all of us together…”

Ritchie and Mona:  “What?”

Gary:  “But you’ve all got to understand.”

Ritchie rolls his eyes.

Mona:  “Understand what?”

Gary:  “See that tree over there?”

Mona:  “Yeah?”

Ritchie smirks.  “Which one?”

Gary:  “Do you want to know why there’s a tree over there?”

Ritchie:  “No.”

Mona:  “Yes.”

Gary:  “Because we’ve closed our minds to all the other things that could be there instead of that tree.”

Ritchie groans and kicks the tree.

Mona:  “I don’t understand.”

Gary:  “When I was high, first I saw all the things I knew of that could possibly occupy the space occupied by our beach in 1968.”

Ritchie:  “Cut the jive, New York intellectual!  Just get us back to 1968!”

Gary springs to his feet, glaring at Ritchie.  “Whaddaya want me to do?  Hail a cab?”  Anger gone, Gary continues to Mona, who’s also on her feet now.  “Then I started seeing all the things I didn’t know of that could possibly occupy that space instead of our beach.”

Ritchie’s voice drips sarcasm.  “You so smart you can see shit that doesn’t exist, and you don’t know about?”

Gary shrugs.  “I don’t know quite how I did it, but I was seeing everything.  There were objects, shapes, colors I could never imagine or describe.  Everything that could possibly exist.  In other words, I was seeing…infinity.”

Ritchie’s voice is even more sarcastic.  “And seeing…infinity…will get us back to our beach in 1968?”

Mona:  “Patience, Ritchie!  Gary got us here; he’s our only hope for getting back.  Go on, Gary.  Tell us more.”

Gary:  “Reality equals infinity minus one.  Or…really…reality is the one you choose to take away from infinity.  All you have to do to change reality is accept the whole infinity of things that could possibly occupy the same space and pick a different one.”

All the rest of them groan.  Even the wino.  Mona kicks a tree.

To be continued next week…

Ink Splatters 3