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    Wednesday, April 23, 2008

    Wizard Part VI



    Part VI

    I was a little too overwhelmed to dig too deep. There were no obvious messages left here other than it was now mine. I’d have to check the rental status and fix things so I never worried about missing a payment and having the whole thing be auctioned off. I’m sure there were people who knew about the place. They may not have known where it was, but I was sure they knew it existed. You can’t do what my Uncle did without raising a few red flags.

    It was starting to heat up as I stepped back outside. Behind me, the door quietly trundled down on its own. I placed the lock back on and mumbled under my breath to scramble the runes and walked to the rental car. I was pretty sure the old man hadn't been standing across the way when I'd driven up, but now I couldn’t be so sure. He was so still, I might have mistaken him for a discarded coat rack.

    I paused a moment and he came out from the shadows. He was somewhere between 40 and 60 and wore a tattered jean jacket and sported a haircut and beard from the late 70s. As he approached, he held up his hands to let me know that at least for now there wasn't going to be any trouble. I turned fully to him and crooked my head so he knew I was ready to talk.

    Are you the...cough.

    He spit a couple of bugs onto the concrete where they scurried from the light. He looked embarrassed and tried to compose himself. I held up my hand telling him not to speak again then mumbled under my breath.

    It started to grow in him almost immediately and he doubled over. I'd seen it before, but not this bad. He was infested, the poor bastard. It took a few minutes for the purge to end, and even when it was over he spit a few maggots onto me while talking.

    You're the nephew right?

    How'd you know?

    He said you would come, plus that's his locker.

    What do you want?

    He told me if you ever came here without him, I should make sure you got something.

    He reached into his pockets and pulled out a set of keys. He threw them over and I caught 'em. I remembered the key ring. I'd gotten it for him when he'd taken me to the fair. He'd dropped twenty dollars on Skee ball and I'd chose the key ring with my tickets. It was a silver skull with emerald eyes. Most likely it was aluminum and glass, but we didn't talk about that.

    I didn't recognize the keys at first, but then I went flush.

    No way. It's still around?

    OK, so the outburst was a bit childish and the closest I'd come in the last two day to being human. But if it was what I thought it was, it changed everything.

    The man smiled and pointed to the end of the isle, where a rectangular brown tarp sat. It looked like someone had covered two trash bins with an old canvas tent. I hesitated a moment then began to walk. With each step I picked up my stride.

    I'd only seen it once, but the memory of it had resonated throughout the rest of my life. It was like a soft focus photograph in a porn magazine glimpsed when you had no idea what you were looking at. You never knew about how it would affect you until later, when you remembered seeing it, but couldn't describe what it was exactly you had seen.

    I stopped in front of the tarp. My heart was racing. I could hear the old man coming up behind. He'd started accumulating bugs in his throat again.

    I grabbed the corner and pulled, no magic needed, and the tarp fell away. What lay beneath was pristine. It looked the same as the first time I'd seen it. The old man behind me coughed in genuine surprise and I heard him fight swallowing what he eventually spit onto the concrete. I heard it scuttle away.

    Before me stood my Uncle's 1977 Dodge Ram 200 van. It glittered like new in the sun. It had a spoiler on the back top ridge and the rims shone silver in the sun. The mural on its side looked new. He'd actually taken my advice. I was only nine and it was blank the last time I'd seen it, but now it told me how much he'd cared for me. Why he'd never shown me I don't know, but now looking at the mural on the side of the van I didn't care.

    It looked like Ralph McQuarrie himself had painted it; a frozen image from a time long since past. And though I'm sure it didn’t happen, I saw Princess lea wink at me from the left hand corner of the image. If I hadn't have laughed, I probably would have cried. When I turned around to thank the old man he was gone.

    The rental car company sent two agents and met me at the lot. I paid my outstanding bill in cash and watched them take the piece of molded plastic I'd driven for the last two days. If I was going to see Pirate Jane, I sure as hell was going in style.

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