“And Raven he made him a
Working model of the World
In the HO gauge
With double track all the way,
And he held it in his mouth
Like the sun.”
Double Waters: The Song-Stories of the Squilimuk People
William Dean Petersunn (University of Puget Sound Press
Tacoma, WA. 1977)
Karen Mae Petersunn got up on tiptoes to look down at him. All around her she could hear people buzzing with talk.
“It’s like Chief Smoattle is talking through this guy, did you notice?” whispered someone.
“That guy is Shirley Ann Honeyacre’s ex-husband, Mitch Honeyacre’s brother,” whispered another.
“It’s the Chief, swear to God,” said someone else. “I downloaded all the podcasts.”
“It’s Chief Smoattle, only now he’s speaking through this guy.”
“Maybe he got Chief Smoattle in the divorce,” sniggered someone.
Chester heard this. As bad as things were, still, the last thing he wanted to be associated with was the god-damned Chief Smoattle. He thought quickly.
Those moments directly after they hauled Chester out of Karen Mae’s beautiful giant boletus mushroom were held to be extremely interesting by almost everyone who was in the immediate vicinity, and indeed for thousands upon thousands of others because during those important minutes the Amusement Now! cameras began rolling, cell phone movies were being made and Youtube and its attendant world were quickly notified about Chester. He said many things which later were to take on something of an amazing life of their own.
“I’ve had a vision,” he announced groggily.
Jim Rook cradled Chester’s head, kneeling next to him.
“Honeyacre,” he said, “what have you seen?
“I’ve had a vision,” said Chester. “It must be grown, like a seed. Witches have got us. We are bewitched. Celebrity is love. Humans killed all the giant beavers!”
“We’re jealous scum. Look at the edges! God is demographically neutral. We live where the confusing waters of Ambition and Self-doubt crash onto the shores of Doubt and Ambiguity. We’ve lost our tails by keeping them between our legs! It’s in the pipeline!” he shouted. The crowd of faces above him looked extremely expectant. He could dimly see lenses pointed at him.
“Giant beavers!” he shouted, as if that explained something.
“He has seen the Giant Beavers!” said Jim Rook with sudden authority, nodding sagely and angling his face – and Chester’s – toward the snout of the Amusement Now! camera. “My little buddy here has seen the Giant Beavers. It’s an Indian – I mean a Native American – thing.” The crowd buzzed with this news. Giant beavers were certainly unexpected and Native Americans were always interesting, even prophetic.
“What did the Giant Beavers say to you, Honeyacre?” queried Rook loudly.
“Uh … well, ‘the future is not balled up inside the present,’ for instance. That was interesting.”
“That is interesting, Honeyacre.”
“Yes, it is. And … oh, I remember. The future,” and he said this with some authority, “the future is yours – ours, I suppose – to make up. Isn’t that great?”
“That is great, Honeyacre. Will we survive the End?”
“The End, Honeyacre. You know.”
“The End is coming,” said Chester with some inspiration, just trying to please, he thought, distancing himself from the Chief while yet encompassing him. “The Giant Beavers say it’s at least a possibility.”
The crowd was enthralled.
“They also said that jealousy is a lousy emotion,” he said hopefully.
“Uh, huh,” said Jim Rook, with no interest. “What about the Native Peoples rising up to reclaim this land which is rightfully ours?” He stared at Chester straight in the eyes. Chester could see the deep madness in the eyes again. He decided to go along with whatever Jim Rook wanted.
“Oh, yes,” he said. “Of course. That’s true. You got that right. It’s … in the pipeline,” he said, somewhat weakly.
Chester was not technically unconscious during all this, although he was to remember little later of what he had actually said. On the Amusement Now! story that was broadcast that very evening – not the full weekend piece on Mitchell, but a shorter version rushed into the daily evening version of the show – he would be seen raving, panting and gesticulating, held down, medicated. During some of it his eyes were closed and his face seemed peaceful. He lay in the tender lap of Jim Rook, who was famous to the TV audience, because he’d made a commercial years ago for Jackalope Beer that was very popular and funny and sports fans like to remember those kinds of commercials with pleasure, like the ones in which OJ ran through airports or Joe Namath complained about his knees or Magic and Bird pretended to dislike each other. On that broadcast, the Amusement Now! hosts began to refer to him as the “Giant Beaver Man,” only briefly noting that he was the brother of Mitchell Honeyacre. The Youtube clips all named him the Giant Beaver Man as well.
“WE’VE BEEN BEWITCHED!” Chester suddenly shouted. He twisted violently and flung up an arm that caught Rook in the nose. The nose seemed to explode. Bright blood showered down Rook’s lips and chin and flowed onto Chester. Much of the TV footage that was shown was dramatically full of this blood and it lent a kind of Catholic air to the proceedings. Interspersed with this exciting footage were interviews with Sir Malcolm and Thomas Trust Davies that shed little light on anything. What caught on, over the whole world, was the news that we – whoever that was – had been bewitched. With the strange events that were to explode later that night, the bewitchment seemed to make more and more sense. Later, it could be easily seen, everything started with Chester Honeyacre and his sudden fame. The Giant Beaver Man was suddenly, instantly known. A storm of information swept around and away from him, as if he were a speedboat spewing wake behind him that grew and grew bigger and did not diminish, whose waves would sweep over land and push the air and the water and the information around into forms not quite ever known before.
When the bright lights were turned off and Rook’s nose seen to and Mitchell’s decision made and the crowd somewhat dispersed, Chester found himself lying on a couch in a dressing room looking up at the woman whom he vaguely remembered was from up home named – that’s right, she was the Petersunn kid he remembered from high school – the brain, Karen Mae was her name, the mushroom babe. That’s who the woman was on the plane and in the limo and again in Mitchell’s building. Her name was Karen Mae. She was from Beaverteeth. He smiled up at her.
“Karen Mae Petersunn, as I live and breathe,” he said.
“Hello, Chester Honeyacre. Are you all right? Are you in fact living and breathing?”
“I’ve had a vision, Karen Mae.”
“So you’ve said. There’s doctors coming, so you just lie there.” She remembered that this Chester Honeyacre was also the person she had read about, and laughed merrily about, in the series of ironically wry pieces that the New York Times ran about the “Plant Brain Divorce,” as it had come to be known. When she thought about it, and she thought about it now, he had been probably a senior when she was a freshman at Beaverteeth Union High School, home of the Fighting Beavers. He had been considered a hearthrob, she distinctly remembered. He had been blonde and tall with big shoulders, a football hero in a metal-fleck blue Impala convertible. He was still sort of cute, she thought, in a balding and injured and middle-aged kind of way. She was glad that he was no longer saying anything about giant beavers, partly because she didn’t enjoy the ravings of madmen and partly because – like any intelligent person from Beaverteeth – she had mixed feelings about beavers in general.
The two doctors whom Val had summoned examined and repaired and drugged Chester somewhat brusquely, as if he were not their entire concern. Chester’s story was that he was OK, thank you. He’d climbed up into the grid of movie lights and lost his grip because he had an injured hand. Perhaps he’d fainted, yes, and then he’d fallen into the giant fake mushroom and had nearly killed the most famous old actor in the British Empire and he’d caused a ruckus, yes, and yes, he’d had a couple of hallucinations lately, as well as more than a few drinks, but basically he was alright and recovering, you know, from a bad divorce and a bruised hand. And now his leg hurt like hell. He told them that he’d just spend the night in Hollywood and then limp back home. The two doctors did look vaguely interested when he mentioned that he’d had a vision. They asked him to describe his hallucinations and because they seemed to be such nice guys he told them several things that had happened to him on the forest floor in the company of Annie Bob, whom he now knew to be sadly deceased.
“Entoptic forms,” said one doctor. “That’s what those dots and lines you see are called.” Chester would have liked to talk to them more, but at that moment Charlie Christianstein poked his head in to see if everything was alright and almost immediately everyone’s priorities changed. Charlie was the most important person in Hollywood, so it was said. Chester liked Charlie and always had, from that time long ago when Charlie had been merely Mitchell’s agent, and here he was, the great man himself, to see to Chester’s welfare.
“Hey, Chet,” crooned Charlie. “Great to see you, man. Are you ok? You being taken care of alright, here?”
“I’m doing fine, Charlie. How the hell are you?”
“I’m fine, too, Chet. Just fine.” They patted each other, old friends.
Charlie, when Chester first met him, had been a bright kid from Harvard with more gorgeous and intelligent female friends than anyone Chester had met before or since. Charlie, in those long ago days, always had good cocaine on a regular basis and a sharp ability to distinguish between his own tendency to overuse it and its considerable usefulness in the business at large. Charlie Christianstein as well had early on come to adopt an attitude of de-mystification about the motion picture business, as if readying himself for his destined rise within it. He had an exact knowledge of when to give up the cocaine and when to call in the favors. He had timing, as they say in Hollywood. Chester had found, not only in dealing with his own brother, but as a way of deglamorizing show business (and parades) in general, that Charlie Christianstein had hit on something. It helped you keep your balance – when you had business to do with them – to think of actors as product, as commodities to be bought and sold. The same held true for stories, for photography, for dancing, for music, for props, for sets, for writing, for floats, for marching bands, for clowns, for hopes and dreams, for all things and doings of the imaginary, things that are seductive and not real.
“So. What’s the product?” Charlie Christianstein would say about all this, thought Chester to himself. “What are we selling here?”
“So, guys,” said Charlie to the two doctors. “What’s the product? What are we selling here?”
“He’s fine,” said both doctors at once. “He’ll be fine.”
Mitchell walked in. He and Charlie Christianstein stared at each other. They were both small men. Mitchell bent over his brother. Rosie Everlasting hugged and kissed Charlie. Jim Rook stayed close to Rosie. The two kids came in and out. Charlie told Jim Rook that he had meant a lot to him.
Where was that big, beautiful redhead? thought Chester. He looked at Rosie again and it was true, he no longer loved her. He winked at Jim Rook, but Jim didn’t wink back. Chester’s hand had been expertly wrapped in gauze by Dr. Stern and Dr. Rose had bandaged and put a kind of soft cast on his hurt leg. These bandagings gave him great pleasure. Everything was so white and clean. They had given him pain pills that were coming on very quickly and Chester had started to enjoy himself.
“So. Hey. Your brother seems to be just fine. Amazing really. He must have fallen forty feet,” said Dr. Rose.
“The mushroom saved him. It was literally a miracle. It was the end of Sack O’Shit II and it was the beginning of something huge and only my big brother knows about it. He …” Mitchell was lost for words.
“He is the Giant Beaver Man,” said Jim Rook, somewhat proudly and paternally.
“Yes, yes! He is. He’s the Giant Beaver Man!!” said Mitchell happily.
“So, Chet, Big Beaver Dude,” said Charlie Christianstein. “I want to see your big fat ass at my party tonight. I want to hear more about this beaver deal. I find the whole subject just fascinating. I have a pretty great interest in the spiritual world. I hope you’re not going to try to sue us over this fall you took that was entirely your fault.”
“You got that right,” Chester said. He liked saying that.
“So. That’s great. Mitchell, no problems, eh? Life as usual, eh? We move on to “The Drifter,” yeah?”
“I don’t know. I think we should get the hell out of here like tomorrow,” mused Mitchell. “I’ve arranged already for the camping trip. We probably won’t be able to depend on normal lodgings or travel. Rosie, you better come with us because the kids have to be saved from whatever is going to happen that Chester knows about.”
“Do I?” asked Chester. “Don’t I?”
“The End.” This from Rook. “That’s what you know about.”
“You go,” said Charlie Christianstein kindly. “You don’t need to stay here and work on that Drifter script you owe me which is six months overdue. Don’t worry about it. Have a great time” He abruptly left the room in what seemed to Chester to be a snit. He giggled to himself in what he hoped was a furtive manner. Snit, there was a word. Whatever drug this was was just fine with him, he thought.
“We’re getting out of here, Chester, “said Mitchell. ”But first we’ve got to go to this party, because Charlie Christianstein has fucked with me FOR THE LAST TIME!”
The reason that Chester felt full of resolve and was so clearheaded since his amazing fall had nothing to do with the painkillers he had been given. It was because something had truly happened to him. It was something physical, it was not imaginary. He had acquired an amulet of sorts and with it, he was sure that he had found a way of avoiding these unexpected trips into the Adjacent and Additional World. When he had come to, buried deep inside the wiring and foam and cables of the big mushroom, with an old man on top of him and a young girl beneath, he had thought – with his very first conscious thought – to reach down into one crumpled pocket and find in it, sure enough, a rock. It was the rock he had expected to find; in fact, it felt quite the same as the rock the dog in the Adjacent and Additional World had given him and that was all he knew because he had not been able to get it out of his pocket to look at it. He was O.K, his leg hurt, the old man was fine, the girl was fine, but still, he had this amazing thing in his pocket, this rock. Just the feel of it began to convince him that what he had been experiencing over the last two days was controllable in some sense. Evidently, physical objects other than just himself could pass between the two worlds. Evidently, not only Jim Rook but also this rock could do it. This filled him with resolve. He was over the worst, he thought, although this would not turn out to be absolutely true.
Valerie told Mitchell briefly and – it seemed to him – angrily that she had booked The Studio’s jet for his use to get to Seattle.
“Don’t you listen to me? We’re going out into the world, I told you that. I need to be on the ground. Are you fucking deaf, Val?”
“Mitchell, I don’t have to take this shit from you.”
“Yes, you do.” They stared at each other. “Listen. Tell Boney to let me use his van, you know the one?”
“Yes, you do. Get it done. My key grip, you remember Boneyard, right, Ches? He’s still around, Val, I just saw him and a case of beer heading for the grip truck. He’s got this huge van all fitted out, Ches. We’ll take it for the trip up north. Val, tell him we’ll put it on a rider to our insurance. Val, tell him I’ll rent it from him. I mean, the fucking company will.”
“He won’t let you do that. He’d give it to you if you ask him.”
“God damn it, I’ll buy it from him. And tell the prop guys to supply us with, you know, camping stuff because no matter what happens, at least we’re going to go camping and have some kind of normal fun, right Ches? Like real people. Like the old days.”
“It’s a new day, kid.”
“ISN’T THAT GREAT?!”
Valerie seemed about to explode. “Now, Mitchell? Seriously? Can’t this wait?”
“No! Nothing can wait anymore, Val. Don’t you get it? Something big is going to happen. There’s more going on here than we know. Look at Chester. Whatever it is, Chester knows about it, DON’T YOU, CHESTER?”
Chester felt that he should say yes and so he did.
“The end is pretty much near,” he said to Val conversationally, as if he knew what he was talking about.
Privately, Chester had begun to think that the Adjacent and Additional World was nothing more than the inside of his Other Head. But for that to be true, it would mean that the Other Head existed somewhere inside itself. He was mad, he thought. He sipped champagne that Karen Mae Petersunn brought him in a thin plastic glass. The champagne was meant to celebrate the end of the shooting of “The Drifter” and he drank it down and she smiled kindly at him and went off to get him another glass.
Perhaps Jim Rook had slipped some acid in the vodka they had drunk in the car, he thought, but he had taken acid once or twice in his younger years and this wasn’t really anything like it. It didn’t drop away so quickly and then come and go like this. And, as well, he did not feel the horrible fear that characterized acid at some point or another for every user. He felt as natural in one world as he did in the other. Mushrooms? he thought. Had he fallen to the forest floor that day with Annie Bob and had some surreptitious mushroom insinuated itself between his lips or into his pores and infected him with this vision? That was the more probable theory, he thought, although Jim Rook’s fascination with drugs still made him suspicious. But then, the biggest question would have to be Jim Rook’s appearance in the Adjacent and Additional World, holding his own Other Head. At one stage, when Rook poked his regular head into the room, he had tried to talk to him about what he had seen, but Rook – who was hugely cheerful and intent upon the seduction of Rosie Everlasting – had not seemed to understand. Chester was somewhat relieved, to be sure, although he had most certainly seen Rook in the Adjacent and Additional World. It made him realize that whatever was happening to him, it was very necessary for him to hide it. He must not get too loose. He resolved to try to shut up, since now he had an amulet. He did not have to fear slipping into the Adjacent and Additional World any more. Power and control had returned to him and he would place them in the service of his parade. He again reached into his pocket and found the rock. It was somewhat oblong and had very smooth and comforting rounded parts to it as well as some sharp and jagged edges. He closed his hand around it and held on for dear life.
He was alone. He drank down the champagne. He couldn’t find his cellphone in any pocket. There was a phone in the dressing room and he rembered the secret code to get an outside line and called Beaverteeth. Willi was just leaving the office.
“Listen, tell Lorene and the new Mr. Lorene not to give up and that Bunky will ride down Honeyacre street yet. Tell everyone that. The Mushroom Parade.”
There was a decent-sized pause on the other end of the line. “That sounds good, Chester. Did you just make that up? What a good idea. A Mushroom Parade in Beaverteeth. ”
“Mushrooms are all over right now.”
“There’s a couple of good angles in there, all right. We’re going to have a big selling job to do here. People are pretty upset. And now that I’m your associate I’m taking a lot of the heat, Chester.”
“The Mushroom Parade. And here’s the hook, Willi, it’s a parade that doesn’t know where its going. Like a spore, or a train of spores, lined up and not knowing where they’re going.”
“A parade that wanders? A parade with no route? That’s great, Chester. It’s stupid.” He ignored her considerable sarcasm.
“I’m glad you’re my associate, Willi. Start talking it up. I’ve got my brother coming up there, and I’ve got them all, movie stars and everything come to think of it.”
“You’re a genius, Chester. Oh, there’s a warrant out for your arrest. I forgot to tell you.”
“It’s a parade that might wind up anywhere, see? Who’s Lorene’s new boyfriend.”
“Some old fat guy from over in Midden. Big white beard, looks like Santy Claus.” He was actually relieved to hear about Lorene’s change of heart. It made him want to rush to see Karen Mae Petersunn right then and there. He peered out the door through the champagne-drinking revelers and he saw Rosie Everlasting sticking her tongue in Jim Rook’s mouth in a darkened corner of the huge soundstage and he knew he was right not to love her. He closed the door and told Willi to just call the newspaper, invoke the Honeyacre name and give them the incredible news, that the famous Rosie Everlasting and Jim Rook and Mitchell Honeyacre would head the Beaverteeth Mushroom Wandering Parade and tell people he was in Hollywood arranging network TV coverage or something and to just shut up and do, for once, what she was told.
“The wandering part will never happen, Chester. The police guys are going to hate it.”
“Is the warrant about me hitting some guy?”
“I thought they said it was about credit card fraud, but I could be wrong. Jim Peterson came over this morning and said you better come right in to the police station and see him the minute you get home. Tomorrow, right? Who did you hit? Are you crazy? The parade is done for, Chester. Believe me, it’s too late now.”
He got off the phone before she could say much of anything else; most of which, he guessed, would be quite a lot more than he wanted to hear. Karen Mae Petersunn came in again.
“Chester? Here’s more champagne. You probably shouldn’t have it. Where are the doctors?”
“Gone.” He stared at her in a pleasant way for a moment. “God, Karen Mae Petersunn. I don’t suppose you know that I was in love with you in high school.” He touched his glass to hers.
“Really, how interesting.” She looked at him carefully. “One never knows about that sort of thing. You were one of those football and skiiing people and you drove that crazy car and – well, you were always very sweet to me.”
“That’s because I was in love with you. Honest.”
“You were supposed to be in love with Shirley Anne Peterson, as I recall.”
“I had a great capacity for love. It’s diminished considerably.”
“I know,” she sighed. “I’m a regular grouchy old maid myself nowadays.”
“You’re certainly – I mean, you look really good.”
“For my age, you mean.”
“Of course I mean that, what did you think I meant? Is there a greater compliment?”
He was smiling kindly at her and she felt warmed by his stupid remarks and friendly presence. He kept one hand in a pocket and his other hand was heavily bandaged. He seemed to be quite placid and cheerful, however.
“What are you doing in Hollywood, Karen Mae Petersunn? God, this seems strange to me, meeting you here.”
“It seems strange to me, too. I’m supposed to be helping them on the mushroom stuff in this stupid movie. Or I was, it’s over now. Are you sure you’re ok?”
“How’s your father?”
“Dead. Last night.”
“I am not kidding, although I suppose you only get one real good opportunity to kid about your father’s actual death and now I’ve passed up the chance to do it.”
He smiled at her. She was smart, this one.
“Old Man Petersunn dead. He was old, of course.”
“Oh, yes. He was the same as ever, you know.”
“I was in the model train club when I was a kid.”
“Oh, well, then of course, you knew him. He’s dead now. Last night.”
“You said that.”
She started to cry then, finally. She cried, standing, her hands clutching her shoulders, sobbing quietly to herself. He put his arm around her. She was tall enough that he could lean into her, which he needed to do because of his bad leg. When he thought suddenly about Annie Bob being dead, he started to cry too. And then the two of them just cried and cried and after awhile she unclutched her arms from herself and put her arms around Chester and laid her head down on his big shoulder and she cried some more and so did he. Annie Bob had always been very good to him.
“Why are you crying, Chester?”
“The old lady died.”
“The old Bob woman, Skeleton Annie? I was the one who found her. I know, isn’t it amazing and coincidental? I’ve got all her dogs at my place.”
“Your place out on Mystery Island? You found her?”
They both wiped tears from their faces, not embarrassed in the least. Each of them thought privately that this was odd behavior, but comforting somehow.
“You know, I didn’t mention to anyone that you’d been there just before she … you know.”
“You saw me out there? In the woods? Isn’t that something.” He thought for a moment about how that was something. “You know, I’d heard you were around, but I never see you in B-teeth and I’m not out at the Island much.”
“I’m hardly ever there myself. I’ve been over in Montana a lot the last two years.”
“Digging in the ground.”
They wiped the remaining tears from their faces and took deep breaths and patted each other. He noticed that although she didn’t look anything like the woman in his vision, the woman who wanted to play him for his rock, she reminded him of that woman. He reached quickly in his pocket. The rock was still there.
“Are you alright?” She had a scientific look about her.
“Fine, no problem,” he said. “Gee, Karen Mae. It’s just great to see you.”
Karen Mae saw before her a large, still very attractive man with ripped clothes, a crazy gleam in his eye, a wet face, not much hair anymore, his hand in his pocket in an odd manner and sporting friends who looked – in the case of Jim Rook – dangerous and – in the case of Rosie Everlasting – phony, but beautiful. She had learned enough about Mitchell Honeyacre’s life over the past several well-paid months to know of Chester’s existence back up in Beaverteeth, but she never dreamed that the older brother, the football hero, the corny New Age weirdo whom she’d read about in the papers would turn out to be this odd guy who, while they talked, made her feel as if they were leaning back against a lowered car at the Frisko Freeze over in Tacoma waiting for burgers, each wondering if the other had a date for the prom.
“Man, this is great!” said Chester. “Are you going to go to this party later on that they were talking about?”
“No,” she said. “I mean, yes.”
“Good. Do you have a date?” he said and smiled.
“No,” she said. “I’ll be your date. You’ll have to bear the brunt of criticism which will be scathing. I have nothing to wear.”
“It’s Hollywood. You’re naked. What’s the problem? You’ll still be overdressed. I will be complimented as to how, you know, natural you look.”
She laughed. He was funny and not spiritual or religious at all, for all that he was the Giant Beaver Man.
“That is the way it actually is here, isn’t it? At first I thought it was a joke,” she said seriously, “but I’ve noticed that it actually isn’t.”