OCTOBER 13, 2019
ANNUAL DRAWING OF STRAWS
So anyway. The winds and the evening temps announce the change in Seasons. They are holding the annual costume Ball in the Lagunitas schoolhouse, and plans for the Marin Poodleshoot and BBQ are in full swing.
The days grow short. The early morning drive to work begins in darkness until the reddish aurora glows behind the silhouette of the coastal range beyond the bridge undulating over the narrows like a great beast. Pumpkins appear overnight on doorsteps. Tiny monsters breed in the shadows of doorways to erupt suddenly into the streets. The pogonip has appeared upon the hills in the early morning, creeping over the ridges in Tolkein images of apocalypse.
We have shifted from unusual heat to a pattern of cool nights and variable days of sunshine where some parts of the Bay Area still enjoy 80 degrees. Not even Donald Trump can affect this annual pattern and we have reports of a snow storm about to hit the Sierras.
Instead of the Old Same Place Bar, meetings are being held in the Fairfax Same Old Place Bar there off of Center Street next to The Scoop ice cream parlor.
There we have native Cynthia slinging the drinks and pouring the tap, with owners Colum and Aisling supporting the nightly pour.
There at the rail, Snarky Beans holds forth on his personal Conspiracy Theory.
Snarky Beans has this idea that there is a conspiracy to hide alien artifacts at Area 49. He was contacted by Island-Life to explain what evidence did he have for the existence of aliens, largely because we all would really like to know all about aliens among us, which supposedly would explain so much like the Economy, Global Climate Change, Mysterious Lights in the Sky, and donald trump.
"First of all, why Area 49? And where is this location?"
"Ha! You are so gullible. Clearly there is an Area 51, which we all know about, because it was always intended as a distraction. If there is Area 51 then there also is Area 50, Area 49, Area 48, Area 32 and on up to the primodorial Area Number 1, just as there was always Prisoner Number 6, Number 5, Number 4 and so on back in the Sixties television series.
I have discovered the probable location of secret Area 49 which is so secret nobody knows about it save for certain agencies embedded within the Deep State. There we have certain proof of Alien contact.
Okay, so where is this Area 49?
It is Top Secret and I cannot tell you directly, but I suspect it is located in Sunol.
Because people are very close-mouth around there. They have a biker bar at the crossroads and the folks in there are pretty cagey. At first I thought it was Alameda Island, largely because of the Navy Base there, but that location has always been far too stridently self-involved to be very important. I would place that location as Area 89.
So what kind of evidence could be at Area 49 that is so important?
It seems that during an hasty escape from Sunol a door came down suddenly severing the toes of one particular, unfortunate Alien. The toes have been recovered by our Airspace Research Division.
Why were the Aliens in Sunol in the first place? Sunol is not exactly a significant location by itself.
Aliens always appear in areas where they will not cause serious remark among intelligent people. The location appears chosen because they could conduct talks with the Secret Agents of the Deep State without disturbance. The toes are kept in cryogenic storage at the secret facility in Sunol I feel bad for the feller who lost his toes. Maybe they have a way to regenerate them. I hope so.
I would hope that we have some kind of friendly response should that Alien come back to recover his property.
You just have to trust the Government to do what is right.
That is what really worries me about all of this.
It is two weeks to the Dias de los Muertos and once again the Editor held the annual Drawing of Straws to see who will cross over to the Other side on that fateful night when the veil between the worlds is thinnest.
Rachel got onto the bus to the ferry that took her to the landing where she took another bus out from there through San Rafael with its increasing urban problems, through San Anselmo with its increasing European cars, through Fairfax with its steady insistance upon zero growth and increasing party, and thence over the White's Hill and down into the San Geronimo Valley with its traditions and crochits that have not changed much over the past 100 years. Thence Rachel a-lites at the busstop in Silvan Acres, a place that has forgotten Time.
She made her way to the new Island-life offices where the meeting had been arranged for the Annual Drawing of Straws.
That Rachel is appointed as the Straw-bearer is a matter of Tradition. That the Drawing of Straws occurs in mid-October had been a matter of Tradition these past 20 years. That the end result is always the same, is also a matter of Tradition, but nevertheless, Rachel must make this long journey, leaving behind dear Henry the cat to be cared for by apartment hallmate Carol so as to preserve Tradition.
In the new Island-life offices that were created in the space of a former barn by the labor of Pahrump, Denby, Mancini, and others, the surviving staff gather for the annual ritual.
Rachel walked up the wood steps and into the offices where the Staff was all gathered.
As in the 20 past years, Rachel walked around with the hat filled with straws and each member of the staff drew so as to determine who shall be the one to cross over to The Other Side, their charge being to inquire about the possible future.
This year was especially important, given the market volatility, the violent, ill-nature of the current Occupant of the Oval Office, and the upcoming Presidential elections.
As Rachel walked down the aisles, each staffer drew a straw with great hesitation, sweat beading out on the brow, nervously clutching the straw until it was revealed to be longer yet than any other to that person's great relief. Even Festus was made to draw -- nothing is uglier than an anxious, sweating hamster -- but it had to be done for the sake of Tradition.
Finally it came around to the reluctant Denby, who, as Tradition dictated each year, drew the shortest straw.
"Why must it be me each year," Denby lamented.
"Because you are Chosen," Marlene said. "It's just it is not always to advantage to be Chosen. Okay everybody, tea and coffee and cakes on the verandah!"
"Why don't you go for once?" Denby said to the Editor.
The Editor removed the cigar from his mouth and considered it a moment. "Because I have been to Hell already. It was called Khe Sanh."
And so they all filed out, clapping Denby on the back congratulating him on his good fortune while muttering under breath as they exited the door, "Thank god it is not me, poor sod!"
Finally Denby was left alone with the Editor.
"So how is this going to work? The Island is miles away." Denby said.
The Editor snipped the end and kindled a new cigar. "A conveyance has been prepared that will take you to the Portal, same as last year."
"The infernal train," Denby said.
"Call it what you want. Come out back for the Recitation."
The Editor arose and beckoned Denby to follow him out the back while there was laughter and candlelight happening out front on the verandah.
The two of them stepped into the glade there and figures appeared out of the darkness. Denby thought at first they were coyotes or deer, but they were in fact the Wiccan coven of San Geronimo Valley, led by Constance Washburn and Missy Moonbeam.
"I do not know what is going to happen next," said the Editor. "I wish I did."
The coven circled the two men and began to chant and sing as they threw their arms upwards into the star-studded sky confounded by the glare of a full moon.
Of Oedipus the Chorus doth say
The coven, having completed their incantation, filed out of the glade.
"Marin is really wierd," Denby said.
"I know," said the Editor. "But if it did not exist, someone would have to invent it somewhere else. A place where magical possiblity and all the opposites of everything I have seen in Da Nang province are engendered. It is a place that convinced me, after many decades, that people are more than just meat. That is part of one reason you must go to the Other Side each year."
The sound of the train horn keened from Oaktown across the estuary and wended its way through the redwoods of Marin's well-matriculated hills and slid over the sleeping bulk of Princess Tamalpais following the old, forgotten railbeds that once led along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard to the coast, stirring the coyotes who began to howl their evensong which carried forth on the winds over Fairfax and White's Hill, ululating through Silvan Acres and the mist-shrouded niches of the San Geronimo Valley, coursing with faint gray shapes along the ridge-tops through the drifts of fog to an unknown destination.