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Copyright © 2019 by Neal Warner & Greg Piper

Cover illustration by Neal Warner

Ripped Open – Intro Soundtrack
This is a work of fiction, loosely based on the short story, Rip Van Winkle by Washington Irving. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events and incidents either are the product of the authors’ imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written permission of the publisher, except where permitted by law. For information address: Unsigned Records Multimedia info@unsigned- records.com

     Our story begins in a small village set at the base of the Catskill mountains in what will someday be the state of New York in the year 1775. The center of this village, at least after the sun has set, is the town tavern. It is a cheerful and lively establishment owned by a Mister Nicholas Vedder. Nicholas’ son, Davy, works as the bartender with hopes of one day owning a small drinking establishment of his own. He is an industrious and hard-working lad and although generally kind natured, he can’t help but feel a tinge of resentment towards another of the village’s young men, the irrepressible Rip Van Winkle. Rip is also an employee of the tavern but his job seems more like play than work, at least to Davy, who watches as several of the tavern’s pretty, young barmaids gather around a table listening intently to Rip as he sets up his equipment for the night’s entertainment.

     You see, Rip is a minstrel, a troubadour and storyteller renown for his tall tales, enchanting songs and way with the ladies. One lady in particular, the barmaid Sally, is the object of Davy’s desire but she seemingly only has eyes for Rip, thus, the principal cause for Davy’s resentment. At the other end of the bar Davy’s father Nicholas, stands smoking his pipe as he listens to several men seated at a table engaged in a heated discussion.

     “I’m as loyal to King George as any man here but why should I have to pay a tax to the crown to support an army I don’t even want here?” questions one of the men leaning over the table trying to be discreet, although the beer has made them believe their conversation is more private than it actually is.

     “Aye! We who were born and raised on this soil have a right to the lands west of the Alleghenies,” insists his equally inebriated companion.

     The third man seems a bit more sedated by the drink than the others.

     “Not if the King made a treaty with the Indians promising those lands on the other side of the mountains would belong to them,” he reasons.

     “So we have to pay for an army sent to stop us from taking what we want? I’m not going to pay for that!” the first man says, his voice raised even louder.

     Concerned that the mood in his otherwise friendly establishment may take a turn for the worse, Nicholas Vedder turns to his son, “Davy, my boy, go tell Rip his break’s over. We need some music to soothe the savage beasts,” he says as he nods to the gentlemen at the table.

     Davy relishes the opportunity to tear Rip away from the girls. “Yes, father,” he says then steps out from behind the bar and walks up behind Rip who is about to reach the crescendo of the yarn he has been spinning for the benefit of the women leaning on his every word.

     “And then this creature, tall as a house and covered with hair…” says Rip.

     “Like a bear?” asks one of the barmaids, her eyes wide as gold doubloons.

     “Like a bear, but not a bear,” says Rip, leaning towards her. “Like a man, but not a man,” he continues, “steps out of the deep forest with feet the size of…” he says as he leans back and spreads his hands apart illustrating the size of the creature he’s describing as Davy interrupts.

     “Ah, Van Winkle, Father says you’re to get back to work,” demands Davy.

     “Work?” chortles Rip, incredulously, “Why, I’ve never worked a day in my life!”

     “I know,” deadpans Davy, who then walks away, returning to the bar.

     “I’ll continue my story in song, lovely ladies,” says Rip as he picks up his guitar and positions himself on a stool situated in a pool of lantern light.

     Davy turns to the barmaids still seated in front of Rip, “You three get back to work too,” he says before turning toward Sally standing nearby staring dreamily at Rip.

     “You too, Sally… if you please,” he says in a much more hushed tone.

     Sally and the other barmaids get back to waiting tables while keeping their attention glued to Rip. Davy looks longingly at Sally as Rip sings his song and yearns for the sparkle in her eyes to someday be there because of him and not the scruffy reprobate getting inebriated on sips of ale taken in-between songs. Davy eventually notices that much of Rip’s songs’ lyrics are actually thinly veiled requests to the audience to send him up free drinks, so he decides to cut him off and confiscates his beer mug sitting on the stool next to him, much to Rip’s chagrin.

Ripped

     Rip ends his set while still remaining balanced on his stool, barely, as everyone applauds. The girls scream a little in barely contained hysteria as Rip drunkenly carries his guitar toward the door while the tavern crew starts to clean up. Sally runs after him with a leg of lamb bone on a tray.

     “Rip!” calls Sally as she hands him the bone. “Here’s a bone for Wolf.”

     “Thanks, Sally. Wolf will remember you in his dreams,” says Rip as he exits the tavern, taking a big bite of meat off the bone before throwing it to Wolf, his dog, who has been patiently waiting outside of the tavern.

     Sally sighs and whispers to herself, “And I will remember you in mine,” as Rip and Wolf walk off down the road in the moonlight.

     “Isn’t this the life, Wolf? What could be better, hunting all day, just taking your meals from the land then singing and drinking all night surrounded by beautiful women? It’s a bachelor’s life for us, eh boy?” asks Rip of Wolf who happily struggles to carry the leg bone. Wolf runs up to Rip’s rather dilapidated cottage with an overgrown yard and a broken fence. Rip opens the front door and he and Wolf enter into a typical bachelor’s pigsty.

     “Then again,” he adds as an afterthought, “a lady’s touch might be nice around here.”

     Wolf growls in disagreement.

     The golden light of late afternoon streams through the wavy glass panes of the tavern’s windows as Sally and the three other waitresses serve the handful of early evening customers while Davy wipes down the bar. The front door opens and in walks Rip with his guitar and his customary grin.

     “Good morning, Ladies,” Rip cheerfully announces his arrival.

     The waitresses all turn to smile at Rip but only Sally replies.

     “Good day, Rip.”

     “Good morning, Sally.”

     “Oh… I like the sound of that,” sighs Sally imagining a morning after having spent the night together.

     Rip carries his guitar and leather bag to the small stage and sets down his gear when suddenly the tavern door is kicked open and a large, angry man enters, dragging his teenage daughter by her arm.

     “Which one of you is Van Winkle? Come on, speak up you miserable cur!” demands the irate father.

     Davy quickly steps out from behind the bar and blocks his entering any further. “May I help you, sir?”

     “Are you the proprietor of this establishment?” asks the man, sizing up Davy.

     “My father is the owner but when he’s not here I am in charge,” responds Davy.

     “I believe you have an employee here by the name of Van Winkle?” says the man.

     Rip sees the man’s daughter and turns his face away.

     “Is there a problem, sir?” asks Davy.

     “Von Dutch is the name,” responds the angry man. “My daughter here has been moon-eyed and crying over this “Van Winkle” ever since she came in here last week. I don’t know what went on between them but I demand satisfaction!”

     Sally’s eyes grow wide and then narrow in annoyance as she steps up to the man.

     “And what sort of “satisfaction” would you demand from my fiancé?” she defiantly inquires.

     Von Dutch raises his brow in surprise. “Your fiancé?”

     “Yes,” says Sally as she walks across the room to grab Rip by the arm. “This is Rip Van Winkle and we’re engaged to be married,” she says as she drags him over to Von Dutch. Von Dutch’s daughter suddenly breaks out in hysterics and runs crying from the tavern. Von Dutch watches his distraught daughter slam the tavern door behind her then turns to confront Rip.

     “What?! You two are engaged?! Why, pray tell, did you announce your feelings and intent to my daughter?!” he demands.

     Rip smiles sheepishly and then turns on whatever charm he can muster through his fear. “I am a troubadour, my Lord, employed here as a singer of love songs. I may have directed my song toward your daughter but it was merely in an effort to entertain and engage, certainly not to mislead or deceive.”

     “I may attest to that,” interjects Sally as she links her arm through Rip’s and squeezes closer to him. “Especially since I work here as well and keep an especially diligent eye upon my betrothed.” She looks lovingly, yet suspiciously, up at Rip who smiles an extremely guilty smile.

     Von Dutch also looks suspiciously at Rip but for different reasons.

     “And when is your wedding to take place?” he asks.

     “A week from tomorrow, as a matter of fact. Isn’t that right, Dear?” says Sally as she pulls Rip tighter into her grip.

     Rip nods, reluctantly, in agreement.

     “Next Saturday. Wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

     Sally turns to address Von Dutch, “I assure you, Sir, this is all just an unfortunate misunderstanding.”

     Von Dutch leans back, narrows his brows, sets one hand onto his hip and strokes his beard plaintively with the other. Finally, at some length, he says, “Well, she is just a young thing with no real experience in these matters. I suppose she could have let her imagination get the better of her. Good luck with your nuptials. Good day now.” He slowly turns, still a bit unsure of what just happened and follows after his love-struck young daughter, calling out for her once outside of the tavern, “Lucinda! Lucinda!”

     Rip looks relieved, while Sally appears absolutely giddy.

     “I have so much to do! I have to get my dress, and retain the church and the priest and arrange for the food…” Sally says to no one in particular as she throws her apron behind the bar and runs excitedly out of the tavern.

     Davy, in a bit of shock himself, turns to Rip after watching Sally rush off and says to him, “Poor girl. She must have let her imagination run away with her that time I saw you two out behind the barn.” Davy smiles and returns to wiping down the bar top. “But I really think it’s Sally’s imagination that’s your real problem now.”

     “Oh, Sally was just trying to help me out of a tight situation, that’s all,” says Rip with a relieved smile.

     “I don’t know,” says Davy not looking up from his cleaning, “I heard you agree to the engagement.”

     Several bar patrons, having witnessed the exchange, grunt in agreement.

     “We all heard you agree,” smiles Davy, teasing Rip a bit.

     Rip loses his smile as he ponders the implications. “No. She won’t hold me to that. How drunk do you think I’d have to be to go through with that?”

     Davy pours an extra large beer and hands it out to Rip. “Here you go. Drink up!”

     It was a lovely Sunday morning except for the dark clouds hovering directly over the altar of the village church where Rip Van Winkle, the village’s most committed bachelor, stands in his best, or at least, least ratty attire, next to a radiant Sally, standing in her wedding dress. However, Sally’s joyous demeanor is offset not only by her groom’s dour and hung-over continence, but also by the mood of Davy, seated in the church pew between his parents and barely visible as he slumps down with arms folded and scowling, in turns both angry and heartbrokenly sad. A row back from the Vedder family are seated the three barmaids from the tavern, all dressed in black and crying as if at a funeral, rather than a wedding.

     The Minister raises his voice for all the congregation to hear as he approaches the end of the ceremony, “…and now I pronounce you husband and wife, Mister and Misses Van Winkle.”

     The whimpering from the sobbing barmaids erupts into a full-fledged wail, “Waaahhh!”

     “Waaahhh!” cried the children, Rip Jr., a toddler, and his baby sister Judith, nestled in Sally’s arms, as Rip steps past her to exit the house while carrying his musket. The last few years of marriage hadn’t quite been what either of them expected. Well, maybe Rip’s expectations were not very high since he never wanted to get married in the first place, but Sally believed that once married and settled his night-owl, man-about-town days would be behind him. He’d become the very picture of wedded domesticity. But Rip found he just didn’t have the energy for it even if his heart was in the right place. Lack of sleep, lack of meaningful employment and therefore lack of money and hence, lack of enough to eat, kept the usually ragged Rip Van Winkle but a shell of his former self. Sally had insisted spending nights serenading women in a drinking establishment just was not acceptable behavior. Even his faithful dog, Wolf, seems in a perpetual slump with his head and ears down and his tail between his legs as he follows Rip out the cottage door.

     “If you can’t get a real job that will put some bread on our table at least go shoot something for dinner. And take that lazy dog of yours with you. I swear, I don’t know which of you two is lazier,” shouts Sally over the screams of the children.

     “Don’t listen to her, Boy. You’re not lazy,” Rip says to Wolf once the two of them are beyond earshot of the cottage and headed into the woods. “I’d like to see her chase rabbits. In fact, I’m not lazy either. It took years of hard work to learn to play guitar and all those songs I know. Remind me, why did I get married in the first place?”

     Wolf looks up, wags his tail and barks happily at Rip.

     Rips smiles down at Wolf. “Oh, that’s right. I remember. I was too happy before. Can’t have that now, can we, Boy? Now let’s find us some supper for our kinfolk. Maybe a nice rabbit or…”

     Rip and Wolf continue deep into the forest as Rip looks down to see a track in the mud by a small stream.

     “…a bear? That’s too big for even a bear track. It doesn’t look like a bear made it anyhow. It looks like a man made it. A barefoot man. Why would someone be walking around this deep in the woods without his boots on? Maybe it’s an Indian track.”

     Rip steps out to put his foot next to the track to measure the size of the foot.

     “That’s the biggest Indian I’ve ever seen!” says Rip in astonishment. He then turns his head to look into the mountains. “Or that beast the Indians say live up high in these mountains. I’ve told that story many times back in town, but I didn’t think I was telling the truth. What do ya know? I’m not an entertainer, I’m an educator!”

     Wolf suddenly picks up a scent and runs deeper into the woods.

     “What is it, Boy?” Rip calls after him. “Are you onto the scent?” Rip sniffs the air then grimaces. “Phew! I’ve got the scent too!”

     Rip looks a little apprehensive and calls back the dog. “Let’s not bite off more than we can chew, Boy. Or into something that can chew us!”

     Rip and Wolf move back onto the trail following it even deeper into the forest. Off in the distance, they hear a sound like thunder.

     “Hear that, Wolf? Sounds like thunderheads in the mountains. We may not be able to stay out here as long as we’d like. Maybe we’d better leave that giant man-beast for another day.”

     Suddenly the branches of the trees directly in front of them start to rustle. Wolf stops in his tracks and begins to growl as Rip nervously raises his musket to aim at whatever is coming through the foliage. But as the trees part, Rip looks down from where he was aiming his gun to see a small man carrying a keg stepping through the brush right towards him and Wolf. The little man stops, as surprised to see Rip and Wolf as they are relieved to see him.

     “Oh, wow, don’t shoot, man!” shouts the little man.

     Rip lowers his weapon and looks down at Wolf. “Well, I wonder who that is? I don’t recollect ever seeing that fellow around here before. I wonder what he’s got there?”

     The little man quickly hurries past Rip and Wolf, who turn to follow him.

     “Ahoy there, friend!” shouts Rip stepping to keep up.

     “Oh, hey, man,” says the little man, obviously in a hurry to get to where he’s headed.

     “What are you doing out here? I don’t think I’ve ever seen you before,” questions Rip, his curiosity peaked more by the keg the man is carrying than the small stranger himself.

     “That’s cause I’m not from around here, man,” answers the little fellow.

     “Where are you from?” asks Rip.

     “Far out, man. Far, far out,” is his answer.

     “How long did it take you to get here?” continues Rip.

     “Not long, man.”

     Rip looks confused. “We were tracking something large, real large but I suppose that wasn’t you.”

     The little man turns his head slightly to glance back at Rip. “Big guy, really long hair? Someone you might even call a freak?”

     “I suppose,” answers Rip. “I’ve never actually seen him. Just heard the Indians tell stories about him. I never believed the stories until I just came upon his tracks.”

     “Yeah. Big feet, right? Smells funny too, right?” confirms the little man.

     “I didn’t put the smell with the tracks but now that you mention it, yeah. Pretty foul odor back there indeed.”

     The little man laughs to himself as he continues through the forest. “Good luck, man. You’ll never find him.”

     “You know who he is?” asks Rip.

     “The Indians call him Sasquatch. There are a few families of them up in those mountains. You’ll never find them.”

     “Why not?”

     “They don’t want to be found. There are still Indian tribes up there that you English don’t know about.”

     “Why are they hiding up there? Why don’t they want to be found?”

     “Well, for one thing, you’re hunting them with a gun,” answers the little man.

     “Good point,” concedes Rip. “But something that big is bound to be found, sooner or later.”

     “I don’t know about that. And besides, as bad as they smell to you, those Sasquatch can smell you coming from two miles away. You shouldn’t be hunting them anyway. Least not for food. That’s just plain wrong.”

     “You sure seem to know a lot about these hills for someone not from around here,” says Rip.

     “Oh, I get around but I don’t want to be found either.”

     “Well, I found you.”

     “It must be your lucky day, Mister…?”

     “Van Winkle’s the name. Rip Van Winkle.”

     “Van Winkle? You Dutch? Ever been to Amsterdam? Cool place, Amsterdam,” says the little man struggling to balance the keg on his shoulder.

     “No. Dutch descent but New England born and bred. A loyal subject of good King George,” says Rip, proudly.

     “Glad to meet you Rip. Cool name, Rip. I’m Herbie,” says the little man.

     “Where are you taking the cask, Herbie?”

     Herbie looks deeper into the woods and up a dried creek bed. “My friends and I are having a little party up ahead in the holler.”

     The sound of thunder grows louder.

     “Let me give you a hand,” offers Rip. “You and your friends might want to think about heading to town before the storm reaches here.”

     “Thanks, man,” says Herbie. “But I think we are the storm.”

     Herbie hands the cask over to Rip and they continue into the woods until they reach a hollow in which three other little men are playing a game of Nine Pins, an early version of bowling. It then becomes clear that the thunder was the sound of the ball striking the pins. The little men are surprised and concerned to see Rip and Wolf accompanying their friend.

     Herbie calls to his friends, “Hey guys, this is Rip.”

     “What did you bring him for?” asks a fellow about the same height as Herbie but stouter and with a large bulbous nose.

     “He helped bring the brew, man,” answers Herbie.

     The second little man’s eyes light up in a smile, “Hey, Rip. Welcome!”

     “What are all of you doing way out here?” asks Rip, puzzled as he sets down the keg while the little men set up the bowling pins again.

     “This is the boys’ night out bowling night, man,” responds Herbie.

     “But why way out here in the forest?” asks Rip.

Herbie smiles, “So the little lady can’t find me.”

     “Amen to that, friend. I know just how you feel. So, where is your village?” asks Rips.

     The little men all look at each other trying to decide if they can trust their new friend. Finally one of them asks the other three, “Should we tell him?”

     “Why not?” asks another of the bowlers. “No one is going to believe him anyway.”

     “No, we can’t tell him. Besides, he won’t believe us himself,” says the third man, a round, plump little fellow with a reddish complexion.

     “Yeah, why make all his friends think he’s a nut job. That’s not nice,” says the one with the large nose.

     Herbie smiles and gestures toward Rip, “It’s probably too late for that anyway. When we bumped into each other he was in the woods hunting Big Foot.”

     The three little men all chuckle. The fatter one laughs, “Ha, really? Then he’s probably already the town doofus!”

     “Yeah, let’s mess with his head,” says another and with that, a couple of the little men arrange the bowling pins in a circle as the others start pouring wine from the keg into little wooden cups, one of which is handed to Rip.

     “Oh, I don’t know. I kinda promised I wouldn’t…” says Rip, halfheartedly.

     “Well, we’re not allowed to say to you where we’re from…” says Herbie.

     “But we can sing to you where we’re from,” another continues.

     “And our singing sounds a lot better if you’ve had a drink, man,” Herbie says.

     Rip smiles, knowingly, “I know exactly what you mean. I’m a bit of a singer myself.”

     The little men all hold up their cups in a toast and shout out in unison, “To the land across all time and space, that exists behind your face!”

     Then they all drink, as does Rip. As soon as the mugs are emptied the little men start singing a song while dancing merrily around the circle of bowling pins.

     “We be the wee! Wee folk be we”! they joyously proclaim in song.

We Be The Wee

     Much to his delight, Rip finds their wine extremely potent, or maybe his resistance has fallen so low since marriage and fatherhood has severely limited his alcohol intake as of late. Helping himself to mug after mug of ale as the little men sing and dance he barely can comprehend what their song is all about. As near as he can make out, it’s a story of a mystical land, the land of fairies, well known to the Irish immigrants and those still versed in the folklore of the Old Country. And according to their song, it’s where they are from, in fact, they are claiming to be fairies, which is almost believable considering their diminutive stature.

     “Oh, that’s what they were talking about,” thought Rip, “when they said I wouldn’t believe them. They’re just having a little sport with me. Funny little guys!”

     Rip has been drinking during the song and looks a might groggy as the little men stop their singing and dancing and turn towards him.

     “Understand now, Rip?” asks Herbie as he refills his mug.

     “What?” says Rip. “Oh yeah. Great tune. Very catchy. Did I mention I’m a bit of a singer myself? Play a little guitar too.”

     Suddenly an ominous voice bellows through the forest and echos off the mountain. It is the voice of Sally Van Winkle who has entered the woods searching for her now missing husband, “Rip Van Winkle!”

     Wolf immediate cowers as Rip sobers up fast.

     “What was that, man?” asks Herbie as he and the other little men scramble in a panic.

     “That’s my little lady,” says Rip, somewhat embarrassed.

     Another of the little men gathers up their belongings. “Doesn’t sound so little to me!” he says as he and the others throw the now empty keg of wine and the mugs onto the ground in the center of the circle of bowling pins.

     “Van Winkle! Where are you?” booms Sally as she comes closer. Wolf starts to bark and runs off into the woods in the opposite direction of Sally’s approaching voice.

     “Time to book passage out of this burg, boys!” says one of the little men.

     “Party’s over, man!” says another as the little men start dancing faster and faster around the pins singing their song double time, “We be the wee! Wee folk be we! We be the wee! Wee folk be we!”

     As they dance the dirt in the center of the circle starts to cave in like a whirlpool. The keg and mugs all follow and sink into the opening ground. Then, while still dancing and singing, the little men jump, one by one, into the center and drop down into the ground and disappear.

     “VAN WINKLE!!!!” shouts Sally, about to break through the foliage and into the encampment.

     Rip is in shocked disbelief at what he’s just witnessed but the idea of having to face his enraged wife, alone and intoxicated in the woods, causes him to panic.

     “What?! Hey, don’t leave me here! Wait for me!” he shouts as he holds his nose and jumps into the circle as if doing a “cannonball” into a swimming hole and also vanishes. The bowling pins then magically shrink down to form a circle of white stones just as Sally enters the hollow followed by Wolf with his tail between his legs.

     It looked reminiscent of the wheel room of a Mississippi paddle-wheeler from perhaps a hundred years in the future. A circular wheelhouse of an old ship with wood planked floors and a circular wall sloping up to a low rounded ceiling, the wooden planked walls lined with portholes. A large ship’s wheel sits at one end of the room and the dirt and tree roots as seen from underground are visible through the portholes. Lying in a heap in the center of this room the four little men are squashed under the much larger Rip, all having magically dropped into the room from above. The hole in the ceiling dissipates away as does the dirt debris.

     “Owe! Hey, man!” yells Herbie, pinned to the cabin floor by Rip.

     “Get off! cries another as a third squeezes out from under Rip and scurries to take command of the large ornate ship’s wheel.

     “Sorry,” says Rip and he stands up and starts to brush himself off, even though the dust and dirt have already vanished.

     As the “Captain” turns the ship’s wheel the walls of the room begin to spin and the dirt and tree roots visible outside the windows begin to grow as if the craft is shrinking. Soon insects appear as giant creatures, then one-celled animals become huge and finally the molecules of the soil appears as large as boulders until finally, all is black outside the windows. Soon stars appear in the blackness of space and then an Earth-like planet appears in the distance. The ship approaches this planet and in only a matter of a few minutes, it lands on the planet’s surface. All then prepare to disembark to the land of Fairies.

     The craft containing Rip and the bowling team’s exterior appears shaped like the classic flying saucer but made out of wood and decorated with ornate brass ornaments. It is situated on the floor of a forest of redwood trees so large that the ship seems toy sized, mere inches long. But once the gangplank lowers, allowing the passengers to disembark, it becomes apparent that in this world, they are, in fact, the size of insects. As Rip follows his new friends down the ramp to the ground, he’s shocked to learn that he has now been reduced to their size. Back home he towered over the four little men. Now, not only is he exactly the same size, but his physical attributes have also metamorphosized to more closely resemble the others. It is only now that he fully realizes their song was not in jest, they really are fairies and he has been abducted to the land of the fairies.

     “What was in that brew? I’m half the man I was!” exclaims Rip.

     “You crashed our party so now you have to fit in,” explains Herbie, now able to look Rip straight in the eye.

     “At this size, I can fit in a shoebox,” declares Rip, judging his height from the surrounding trees.

     “How do you know you’re not the same size you were and all of us grew larger?” asks one of the now average sized men.

     “Because that toadstool over there is the size of a bar stool?” says Rip, pointing to a mushroom with another fairy seated on it.

     “Good observation, man,” chuckles one of the four.

     “Now where did we park?” asks another one, looking around.

     “Let’s take my ride, man,” offers Herbie as he waves his hand in the air to summon a gigantic black beetle which runs over to the group, lowers its body to the ground, and spreads opens its wings.

     “Alright!” exclaims one of the fairies. “You’re still drivin’ the bug?” he inquires of Herbie.

     “Sure, man. It gets great mileage,” responds Herbie as they all take turns climbing up on the beetle’s back to sit on its wings with parts of its shell folded over them like a canopy.

     As Rip climbs up onto the beetle to take his seat he says to the others, “Hey, this is the land of the Fairies, isn’t it? I’ve heard the Irish tell of the Fairies.”

     “The Irish?! Aren’t you a little old to believe in the Irish?” laughs the man with the reddish complexion.

     With all the passengers fully secured under its wings, the beetle starts to run through town and up a very large and steep hill. At the top of the hill, they have a panoramic view of the city which is an organically created version of the distant future, in Rip’s terms, city of San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. The townhouses are tall, colorful, and carved out tree stumps or fallen logs. Their bar stools and chairs are mushrooms and large insects and small mammals are their transportation. The beetle then starts down the hill, gaining speed. All the Fairies start to squeal with delight except Rip, who screams in fear as the beetle runs up and down hills and even does a loop-the-loop like a roller coaster.

     “Wheee!!!!” cry all the little men in delight.

     “Ahhhh! I don’t want to die!” cries Rip in sheer terror.

     But just when certain death seemed imminent, the beetle suddenly comes to an abrupt stop right where they boarded it.

     “Yeah! Whoo-wee!” they all shout as they begin to disembark the beetle.

     “What was that?” insists Rip, relieved but annoyed at what he considered undeserved torture.

     “That was fun!” laughs Herbie.

     “We’re right back where we started! What was the point?” asks Rip, exasperated.

     “To have fun! Did you dig that?” answers Herbie.

     “I’m going to have to dig my heart out of my stomach, if that’s what you mean!” responds Rip, feeling nauseous.

     “Oh, you’re just hungry. Let’s get you something to eat,” says Herbie, looking around.

     “Wherever we’re going, let’s walk there,” says Rip, no longer trusting Fairyland transportation.

     “We’re already there,” says Herbie, smiling.

     “Where?” asks Rip, confused.

     Herbie points to a small snack shop right ahead of them that Rip hadn’t noticed before. “There!”

     “Was that there when we left?” asks Rip, more confused than ever.

     “No,” says Herbie. “Why should it have been?”

     “Why wouldn’t it have been?” replies Rip.

     “Because you weren’t hungry then,” answers Herbie.

     “You mean I wasn’t sick to my stomach then,” moans Rip, rubbing his belly.

     “That’s just because it’s empty. Let’s get you some food,” says Herbie as he and Rip step up to the take-out window.

     “Two Tofu burgers, please,” requests Herbie of the clerk behind the window.

     The clerk takes the order and hands Herbie two burgers. Herbie and Rip take the burgers and start to walk away. Rip looks inquisitively at his burger, never having seen one before.

     “What is this?”

     “It’s a Tofu burger,” says Herbie who shoves the burger into his mouth as they slowly stroll down the road.

     “Don’t we need to pay for these?” asks Rip as he looks back down the road at the snack shop.

     “Nope,” says Herbie with his mouth full. “Why not?” asks Rip.

     “We want for nothing here,” says Herbie.

     “How do you get what you want?”

     “We want nothing.”

     “You never want anything?”

     “Well, we might want things but we never need anything.”

     “You never get hungry?”

     Herbie contemplates the question then explains, “Only when eating might be fun, but we never need to eat. Food, shelter, and clothing are all like music to us. Just like you can hear a tune in your head whenever you want, we can get other things just by imagining them.”

     “What?” asks Rip, even more confused but intrigued.

     Herbie explains in more detail, “Some people can imagine things better than other people. Some can imagine food really well, and we call those folks cooks. Some can imagine clothes better and we call them tailors. So if I’m really good at imagining food or clothes and you want me to imagine you a nice meal or a new suit then I’ll do that in exchange for you imagining something for me.”

     “Are you really good at imagining food?” asks Rip.

     “Nope,” says Herbie.

     “Are you good at imagining clothes?”

     “Are you kidding? Look at me.”

     “What are you good at then?”

     Herbie smiles, “I’m good for a good time.”

     “Really? You mean like that ride in your bug?” says Rip, sarcastically.

     “Right on, man!” laughs Herbie. “How do you like your Tofu burger?”

     “It’s… interesting. I’ve never tasted anything like it,” says Rip.

     As they walk from the snack shop they pass a field surrounded by a corral. Suddenly, several giant earthworms break through the ground inside the corral. The heads of the worms stretch up six or seven feet into the air. Rip is shocked at the sight.

     “What in the name of King George is that?” he yells in revulsion and fear.

     “That’s a Tofu, man,” says Herbie nonchalantly while continuing to eat his burger.

     Rip immediately bends over retching and spits out his mouthful of burger. Herbie ignores him and glances down the road to see a bandstand with a fairy version of a rock band on it about to play to a gathering crowd in the park.

     “Hey, Rip,” Herbie calls back to Rip. “How would you feel about a tasty jam?”

     “It depends. What do you make your jam out of?” asks Rip, suspiciously.

     “No man, it’s a concert in the park. Didn’t you say you play guitar? How ’bout sittin’ in?”

     “Sitting in what? Jam?!”

     Herbie leads Rip to the bandstand and calls out to the band members about to perform.

     “Hey, man. My friend Rip here is a guitar player. How about lettin’ him do a number with you guys?” he says to the long-haired keyboard player.

     “Is he any good?” asks the musician, eyeing Rip.

     “His name is Rip, man,” answers Herbie.

     “Okay, Rip. Come on up,” invites the keyboardist.

     Rip climbs onstage and another band member hands him the Fairyland version of an electric guitar. Rip takes the guitar, with which he’s quite familiar, as he’s handed a guitar cord, which he’s never seen before.

     “Here, plug it in, man,” says the keyboardist, gesturing to the guitar amplifier.

     “You mean plug it up? Is it leaking?” asks Rip, confused.

     Another member of the band takes the cord and plugs it into the amplifier. Rip strums the guitar and a loud sound comes out.

     “Ouch!” cries Rip in surprise. “Why is that so loud?” he asks the keyboardist. “How is that so loud?” he mutters under his breath.

     The keyboard player smiles defiantly and tells him, “It’s so King George can hear it without his ear trumpet, man.”

     The band’s drummer counts out the beat, “And one and two and three and four…”

Land Of Make Believe

     The band starts playing what will one day be known as a Sixties-style psychedelic riff as the lead guitar player plays a fuzz-toned blues rock intro. Rip listens intently to learn the basic structure of the song, a song in a style he’s never heard before but which, oddly enough, speaks to him. The keyboard player sings the first verse and chorus to the song before tossing it over to Rip who finds himself playing a blues-rock solo, unlike anything he’s ever played before. But it does seem to fit the song. This new, unknown guitar playing is something the growing crowd has never heard before either and they all turn toward the stage. Rip then sings a verse and chorus himself, vamping on his own feelings about arriving in this new and very strange land before going into a solo that surprises even himself. He’s never heard this kind of music before, and it inspires him. He, in turn, seems to inspire the girls in the audience who suddenly take notice of him and swarm to the foot of the stage, shrieking uncontrollably. A little elf in the back of the audience takes notice of the girls’ reactions and watches Rip attentively.

     Rip ends the song with another solo and the girls go wild. A big busted fairy girl pushes past the throng of female admirers and presses up to the foot of the stage handing a pen out to Rip. She then pulls open her blouse exposing her ample cleavage wanting Rip to sign her breast.

     “Can I have your autograph, please?” asks the fan.

     “Sure,” smiles Rip, delighted. Rip then grabs a flier among those laying around on the stage and lays it over the girl’s bust using her breasts as a table as he signs the flier while the other girls scream for his attention. The elf who was watching him from the audience approaches.

     “Good show, good show,” compliments the elf. “You’re not from around here are you?”

     Rip gives the flier to the excited fan and turns his attention to the elf as Herbie steps up to the foot of the stage.

     “How could you tell?” asks Rip, concerned he’s standing out too much as a foreigner.

     “No matter how good anyone here gets at what they do, they eventually start to do it all the same. But you, my friend, you’re different. You’ve got something these people don’t have,” says the elf.

     Herbie steps up to the two of them, irritated. “What do you mean, these people?”

     The elf ignores Herbie and continues his pitch to Rip.

     “I know what I’m talking about. I’m not from around here either, originally. The name’s Elfin, Danny Elfin. Listen, with my help you can go far in this place. How about you and I make a deal?”

     “What kind of a deal?” asks Rip, intrigued.

     Danny Elfin straightens himself up in order to appear more businesslike.

     “Well, first of all, no more playing your music for free. If these schmoes want to dance, they gotta pay the piper.”

     Herbie gets excited in worried concern and calls to Rip, “Don’t listen to him, Rip. Music should be free!”

     Elfin ignores Herbie while still addressing his concerns, “Maybe these people can get anything they want with no effort, but you and me, we know what it is to work hard, don’t we?”

     Rip ponders the idea as Elfin continues, “It took you years to learn to play and sing like that, didn’t it? Sure, you could have everything you want for free here but look where that gets you, everything ends up sounding the same. No pain, no gain my friend. Am I right?”

     “Gee, where I come from, I was always thought to be the lazy one,” muses Rip.

     “But here is where all the hard work you’ve done, that no one ever appreciated before, is your ticket to the BIG TIME. So, do we have a deal?” asks Danny Elfin.

     Herbie, now in a panic, screams out, “Don’t do it, Rip! Music’s in the air, it’s a gift! You can’t expect people to do anything for it, just enjoy it!”

     Finally Danny Elfin has had enough of Herbie and fires back, “Oh, they’ll do something for it. They’ll do plenty for it. You gave them a taste and now they want more, much more. How are you going to satisfy the demand if you have to spend your time doing things that your adoring fans will be more than happy to do for you?”

     The elf grabs another flier from the stage and sets it onto the cleavage of the fairy girl next to him who has been admiring her autograph from Rip.

     “Just sign on the dotted line,” tempts Danny Elfin.

     Rip leans down and signs the paper.

     “When do we start?” asks Rip.

     The elf smiles as he folds up the paper and puts it into his pocket.

     “Start? It’s already happened,” says Danny Elfin.

     Rip looks up to see that the crowd is now huge. Then he looks down at himself to see that he’s dressed much flashier than a moment before. He then turns around to see that his band is much larger as they wave to the crowd while they leave the stage. The concert he has just finished is not the same one he played in the park just a moment ago, and the elf agent is now in a three-piece suit and smoking a cigar.

     “Wow,” says an astonished Rip, “time sure flies here.”

     “Yeah, it seems like only yesterday…” says Danny Elfin, casually, as he dusts the cigar ash from his suit sleeve.

     “It seems like only ten seconds ago,” says Rip.

     “Come on, man, the limo’s waiting,” says Danny Elfin as he leads a dazed and confused Rip Van Winkle off the stage to a backstage holding area. A long, black, sleek centipede runs up behind the stage and stops so Rip and his new agent can climb on top. The centipede then drives off through the throng of adoring fans screaming for Rip.

     “Fairies sure do love their music, don’t they?” observes Rip, watching his screaming fans along the limo’s route.

     “Ugh, I’m really not comfortable with that term,” complains Danny Elfin.

     “What term?” asks Rip.

     “Fairies,” answers Danny Elfin.

     “Elves, then?” asks Rip.

     “No. Elves are different,” says Danny Elfin.

     “There are different types of people here?” inquires Rip.

     “Sure,” says Danny, “There are elves and ogres, trolls and leprechauns, Menehune and gnomes, metalheads and punks, mods and rockers….”

     “Well, what would you call my fans if you don’t like fairies?” asks Rip.

     “I’d call them hippies,” says Danny, matter of factly.

     “So are you a hippie?” asks Rip.

     “No. But I’ll tell you one thing, I sure ain’t no fairy!” says Danny Elfin defensively, then continues proudly, “I’m a star-maker.”

     Rip looks up to the night sky.

     “You make the stars?” he asks innocently.

     “Stars are what we call special people who shine down here on the ground. What you do is special indeed,” explains Danny Elfin.

     “But if everyone here can create whatever they want just by imagining it, can’t they just imagine my music and make it without me?” asks a worried Rip.

     Danny Elfin explains, “Once they hear it they can. But it’s a funny thing about songs, you can buy a dozen eggs or a dozen doughnuts, and they’re all the same but buy a dozen songs and they’re all different. Once people hear one or two and develop a taste, they need you to create more. The ones that are coming they can’t imagine, and if they want more, then they’re going to have to pay.”

     Just then the centipede limo turns onto a dark street and slows to a stop in front of a pile of burning junk blocking their path. Suddenly a gang of waiting punk rock elves step out from the shadows and move menacingly toward the limo.

     “Oh, oh! Punkers! They hate hippies!” exclaims Danny Elfin.

     The gang of punks all break into a run and then leap onto the limo and start bashing it with clubs and chains. The centipede fights them off, grabbing one in its jaws and hurling it aside. Finally, it runs up over the flaming pile of debris, shaking off the last of its attackers.

     “That was a close one,” says a relieved Danny Elfin looking back. “I wonder what my insurance co-pay is?”

     “How could they tell I was a hippie?” asks Rip, “They couldn’t see us in here, could they?”

     “Don’t take it personal. Punks hate limos too. They represent success and some folks pretend to hate the things they can’t have,” says Danny, turning back to relax into his seat.

     As the centipede limousine continues down the dark city street a large black widow spider with a policeman gnome riding on its back runs up behind the limo. The spider’s red hourglass design on its rear flashes and a siren sounds.

     Rip looks back to see the spider and says, “What’s that?”

     “Oh great! It’s a cop. We’re being pulled over,” says Danny Elfin, annoyed once more.

     “What’s a cop?” asks Rip.

     “A constable. A lawman. By the way, they don’t like hippies either,” answers Danny.

     “Maybe I shouldn’t be a hippie,” says Rip, thoughtfully.

     “No, no! If hippies love your music then, by all means, be a hippie!” insists Danny.

     The policeman climbs off the spider’s back and steps up to the limo. The centipede lifts a scale from its back to expose Danny Elfin and Rip.

     “So what have we got here? A couple of freaks in a stolen limo,” inquires the police officer.

     “It’s not stolen, Officer. I own it,” insists Danny Elfin.

     “You own a beat up stretch dung beetle?” inquires the police officer, suspiciously.

     The centipede turns its head to give the policeman a dirty look.

     “We just had a run in with a gang of punks back by that burning pile of rubble in the street. You couldn’t miss it,” says Danny, irritated.

     “Oh, a smart mouth, eh?” says the policeman, “I don’t like your attitude, Mister. I don’t see how a couple of hippies like you two could afford even something worth attacking.”

     “I’ll have you know, Sir, that I am a loyal subject of the Crown,” announces Rip, proudly.

     “That does it. Get out of the vehicle! NOW!” yells the cop.

     Danny and Rip sheepishly exit the centipede limo. The Policeman then starts to put Rip and Danny in handcuffs.

     “Where are you taking us?” asks a frightened Rip Van Winkle.

     “You’re going to the hoosegow,” answers the policeman.

     “The what?” asks Rip.

     “The slammer,” says the policeman.

     “I’m sorry?” says Rip, confused.

     “The clink,” says the cop.

     “Come again?” asks Rip.

     Danny turns to Rip and asks, “Where do you think he’s taking us?”

     “Jail?” answers Rip.

     “Bingo, Ringo!” says Danny Elfin as the Policeman puts them into his patrol spider cruiser for the trip downtown.

     As the patrol car drives through town with Danny and Rip in the back, handcuffed, Rip turns to Danny, “If no one here has needs, why is there a need for a police force?”

     “Because people get bored and bored people like to cause trouble. It tends to alleviate boredom,” answers Danny.

     “I was always taught that money is the root of all evil,” ponders Rip, thoughtfully.

     Danny Elfin laughs. “They just tell you that so you won’t feel bad about not having any. That way they can keep it all for themselves.”

     “Who are they?” asks Rip curiously.

     Danny’s expression turns serious as they approach the entrance to the dungeons of the Royal Palace of the King of the Land of the Fairies.

     “I think you’re about to find out,” he murmurs softly to Rip.

     Rip had spent some time in the village’s drunk tank back home, but this Fairyland dungeon under the grounds of the Royal Family’s magnificent but foreboding castle was in a completely different league. As rich and successful as Rip and Danny Elfin had felt just hours earlier meant nothing now when confronted with the real power of the realm and the uncertain fate that surely awaited them both. Being handcuffed and seated on a bench in the dungeon’s holding cell makes one rethink one’s priorities. A long-haired, tattooed, heavy metal fan is handcuffed and seated next to them, also awaiting arraignment.

     “Why are you here?” Rip asks the metalhead.

     “The boneheads think I worship the Devil,” says the metal fan quietly, without looking up.

     “Really? You’re a devil worshiper?” inquires Rip.

     The man turns his head to snap angrily at Rip, “No, man. I’m a Metalhead!”

     “Why do they think you worship the Devil?” asks Danny Elfin.

     “It’s because we like the same music,” the long-haired young man answers.

     “Want to know why we’re here?” asks Rip trying to be friendly.

     “It’s because you’re hippies, right?” answers the metalhead as a palace guard enters the holding cell.

     “Come on you troublemakers, time to face your fate,” says the guard who then leads the metalhead, Rip and Danny through large wooden doors into a big hall filled with people. There is a platform at one end and on the platform sit the King of the Fairies and his queen.

     The royal bailiff calls out the announcements, “Your Royal Highness, King George the Most, the King of all the Fairies, Ruler of the Riff and Protector of the Faith, presented to you for your judgment are today’s prisoners of the Realm.”

     The guard pulls the metalhead, Rip and Danny by their chains to the center of the room and before the King and Queen.

     “And what do we have here?” asks the King, staring intently at the ragged trio.

     The Bailiff reads the charges as the guard drags the heavy metal fan forward, “The accused is charged with worship of the Devil.”

     “There can be but one ruler in this land! Tell me, to whom do you pledge your allegiance? Who is your true ruler?” inquires the King of the long- hair.

     “METAL RULES!” shouts out the Metal fan, defiantly.

     The King is outraged, stands up and commands, “OFF WITH HIS HAIR!”

     “No! No!” cries the metalhead as the guards drag the struggling fan from the room while a large burly man wearing the executioner’s costume follows, snipping his pair of scissors in the air, menacingly.

     The King of the Fairies sits back down upon his throne next to the Queen and gestures for the guardsmen to bring Rip and Danny up with the chains still on their wrists. Again the bailiff reads the charges.

     “Danny Elfin and Rip Van Winkle, accused of belligerent attitudes and of using obscure references,” reads the Bailiff off the scroll of charges. A murmur goes through the crowd.

     “Rip Van Winkle? Thee Rip Van Winkle?” asks the Queen.

     Danny Elfin slowly and meekly steps forward to speak, “Yes, Mum. The musician’s musician, the poet’s poet and the king of rock and roll.”

     The King suddenly rises from his throne, again enraged.

     “YOU DARE TO DECLARE YOURSELF KING?” screams the King as Danny lunges backward and gestures to Rip.

     “Oh, no, Sire! Him, he’s Rip Van Winkle, not me!” insists Danny Elfin, throwing Rip under the proverbial horse cart.

     “What’s rock and roll?” whispers Rip under his breath to Danny.

     The King sits back and looks quizzically at the two while stroking his beard.

     “You two fairies just seem like dirty hippies as far as I can see,” he finally comments, after some length.

     “I ain’t no fairy!” shouts Danny, showing a flash of temper before sulking back and adding softly, “Your Highness…”

     Rip smiles and slowly steps forward trying to explain, “This is just a big misunderstanding your Highness. I was just coming from a concert and…”

     “Wait!” interrupts the Queen, suddenly, “You are Rip Van Winkle the famous musician?” She then smiles, delighted, “Why, our daughter, the princess, adores your music.”

     The King turns to look at the Queen, “She does?”

     “She most certainly does! This man is no derelict, no dirty hippie, my dear. He is a national treasure!” reassures the Queen.

     The King looks doubtfully at Rip, “He is?”

     “He is?” whispers Rip, under his breath.

     “He most certainly is,” announces Danny Elfin, confidently, as he steps forward again.

     The King then rises from his throne and loudly addresses the assembled congregation, “Then it is my decision that he must be set free at once!”

     “On one condition,” interrupts the Queen. “On one condition!” shouts out the King.

     “That he signs an autograph!” continues the Queen.

     “That he signs an autograph!” parrots the King.

     “For the Princess,” adds the Queen.

     “Summon the Princess, immediately,” commands the King as the Queen excitedly steps down from the throne platform and walks toward Rip while a guard releases his handcuffs and hands him a quill.

     As the Queen steps toward Rip, she reaches out for a piece of parchment from a guardsman. Rip steps toward the Queen and reaches out to sign her ample cleavage busting out from her gown as he has been requested to do by groupies in the past. Fortunately for him, the Queen turns toward him with the paper just in time to save him from embarrassing them both.

     “Oh yes, of course,” blushes Rip.

     Rip autographs the parchment while a guard releases Danny Elfin from his bonds. He then hands the autograph back to the Queen who studies it with giddy pleasure as a guard escorts the teenage Princess into the courtroom. She has the appearance of a goth rocker and snaps her chewing gum with an especially bored expression. The King takes the paper from the Queen who looks surprised and disappointed as he hands it out to the Princess. The Princess does not take the paper but glances at it briefly before turning her head away in disinterest.

     “Whatevs…” she yawns.

     The Queen quickly snatches the paper back from the King and returns to her throne.

     “And now,” announces the King, “you must perform for us!”

     The King gestures to his royal musicians to come forward to back up Rip while a guardsman hands him a lute. Rip plays a song while the King, Queen and the Royal Court dance a minuet. None of the dancing guests or the royal couple are aware that Rip’s song is pretty critical of the opulence and conspicuous consumption Rip has thus far witnessed on his rise to high society. But being a celebrity entertainer does have its perks and Rip is toasted as the new toast of the town. As the song ends, everyone stops dancing and the crowd applauds except for the princess who quickly walks out of the ballroom, saying to Rip as she passes, “You suck!”

Richandfamous

     “Can’t please everybody. As long as the check clears,” laughs Danny Elfin who overheard the princess and saw the crestfallen look on Rip’s face.

     The Queen approaches Rip and also having heard her daughter’s critique tells Rip, “I command that you forgive my daughter. Children can be so impetuous.”

     “I understand, your Majesty,” says Rip, “I have a daughter and a son myself.”

     “Are they also irritable and annoying?” asks the Queen.

     “They can be, when they’re hungry or pooping,” says Rip.

     “Where in the Kingdom is your home?” inquires the Queen.

     “Ah… across town. Way across,” says Rip.

     “He’s on tour, your Majesty,” interjects Danny Elfin, “We’ve been traveling throughout the realm, performing for your Highness’s subjects.”

     The King steps forward to join them.

     “By the looks of you I would never have guessed you were a subject of some note, Mister Van Winkle,” says the King.

     “It’s the new look, dear,” says the Queen, defending Rip.

     “He is a musician of the people, my Lord,” adds Danny Elfin.

     The King shakes his head in frustration, “I just don’t understand, half my subjects complain of not having enough to look decent and now there are subjects who look like beggars on purpose!”

     The Queen gently takes the King by the arm, “Now dear, don’t aggravate yourself.”

     “It just wreaks havoc on property values. Dirty hippies!” says the King as the queen leads him away. Rip and Danny look at each other.

     “Let’s get out of here before they decide to give you a shave and a haircut,” recommends Danny, “I’ll go get the tip jar.”

     The Queen and King slowly walk up a long stairway towards the upper bedchamber when the Queen hears a commotion outside a window. They look down to see a crowd of hippie protesters carrying “Free Rip Van Winkle” signs.

     “Free Rip Van Winkle! Free Rip Van Winkle NOW!” shout out the crowd in unison.

     “Oh my! That Van Winkle character certainly is popular,” says the King, impressed.

     “And that popularity is making him powerful!” observes the Queen.

     “Maybe I was too lenient with him?” asks the King while turning to the Queen who begins to show some concern.

     “Perhaps he may be persuaded to throw his popularity behind you?” suggests the Queen.

     “What? Those dirty hippies supporting me? No thank you!” says the King, indignantly.

     “Well then, he could cause trouble for you down the road,” says the Queen.

     “No, my dear,” laughs the King, “He’ll be no trouble at all. I’ll just have him executed.”

     “Executed?” exclaimed the Queen, “He already has his supporters causing a scene.”

     “Alright, assassinated, then,” says the King, exasperated.

     “That would be more prudent, dear,” says the Queen, approvingly.

     “You know best, Mother,” the King says to the Queen as she again takes his arm as they continue up the stairs.

     The Royal Palace was not nearly as foreboding in the morning hour light as it seemed to be with the dudgeon as its first impression. Rip and Danny Elfin felt like kings themselves as they left the castle to cheering fans and entered the waiting limopede. As they slowly cruised beyond the compound’s front gates, a paperboy waves the morning edition high above his head.

     “Read all about it!” shouts the paperboy, “Rip Van Winkle plays Royal Command Performance. The Aristocracy rattle their jewelry!”

     Rip is delighted, but Danny Elfin seems lost in thought.

     “The King’s really got it made. No matter how rich and famous you become, you’ll still be a subject of the Crown. That’s the gig to get,” he says to no one in particular as Rip looks out the window to see Herbie hitchhiking on the road ahead.

     “Hey, there’s Herbie. Let’s see if he wants a ride,” says Rip.

     The centipede slows down and pulls over to pick up Herbie who hops in back with Rip and Danny.

     “Hey Rip, nice limopede, man!” he says, duly impressed.

     “Herbie, you won’t believe where we just came from,” says Rip, excitedly.

     “The King, man. I know, I heard it on the radio,” Herbie tells him.

     “What’s the radio?” asks Rip.

     “It’s this thing, man,” says Herbie who reaches toward the back of the driver’s seat and turns on the built-in radio. One of Rip’s songs is playing.

Envisioned

     “What? Is that me?” says Rip, surprised. “How can I be playing here in the car while I’m just sitting here?”

     “It’s the DJ, the guy’s sending his memory of your singing through the air and we pick it up on the radio,” explains Herbie. “There are other stations with other people sending their thoughts out. You change to their station by turning this dial here.”

     Rip reaches out and turns the dial. Another station comes on playing another of Rip’s songs but it doesn’t sound quite right.

     Herbie explains, “This guy doesn’t quite have you down. He’s probably remembering what you sound like from hearing someone else do you.”

     Rip turns the dial again and another station comes on playing another Rip song, only this one sounds even worse and the lyrics are wrong.

     “Ugh,” Herbie grimaces, “the Punk Rock station!”

     Danny Elfin points at the radio, “This is the music those punks listen to that attacked the car.”

     “No wonder they’re so violent,” says Rip.

     “See? This is what happens when you don’t have control of your own music,” says Danny, getting irritated. “You can’t let anyone who wants to copy your music and mess with it like this get away with it!”

     “No, it’s cool, man,” says Herbie, disagreeing. “People should be able to take what you give them and add their own thing. That’s how it evolves.”

     Danny Elfin is not about to argue the point and simply says, “Oh yeah? You guys need to meet ‘E’. He’ll set you straight.”

     “Wow! You know Big E?” asks Herbie, impressed.

     “I do now,” says Danny.

     “Who’s Big E?” asks Rip.

     “E is huge, man! He was the biggest star ever!” explains Herbie, excitedly.

     “Until he supernovaed,” continues Danny. “Here’s his mansion now. These days he never leaves and hasn’t done anything new in years.”

     The centipede limo pulls through the gates of the Graceland style mansion. Rip, Danny and Herbie enter the mansion and walk into a large room where E sits on pillows. He is a cross between Elvis, Jabba The Hut and Buddha. His gold lame jumpsuit is bulging at the seams and is unbuttoned down to his navel exposing his gigantic belly. Danny Elfin approaches E and rubs his tummy in a sign of greeting.

     “Greetings E,” says Danny.

     “How ya’ll doin’?” responds E in what will become known in the future as a heavy Southern accent.

     “Fine E, just fine. I’d like you to meet Rip Van Winkle. He’s on his way to becoming the new you,” says Danny introducing Rip, who steps forward in awe.

     “How you do? Please to meet ya,” says E in his friendly manner.

     “Nice to meet you, too,” says Rip.

     “What can I do for you?” asks E.

     Danny Elfin gestures toward Rip, “He’d like to know how you came up with your incredible string of hits.” He then whispers to Rip, “He doesn’t just do music either.”

     “Well, I’ll tell you my secret,” yawns E as he seems to roll off his pillow onto the floor. “I don’t really come up with anything on my own.”

     “You don’t?” asks Rip.

     “Naw,” says E, waving his hand in the air. “I just take a cruise through time and see what’s out there. Then I just take the good parts and mix them together. It’s my own style. That way I come up with original pornograph records, motion flickers and CB shows.”

     “You just take what you see and hear through history and steal it?” asks Rip, incredulously.

     “No son, I sample it. Ever hear Stairway To Gilligan’s Island? That was me,” responds E.

     “Why don’t you do any more?” asks Rip.

     E’s mood turns introspective as he says sadly, “Ahh, man, the stuff that’s out there now… you don’t wanna see it, man. Believe me, you just don’t wanna know.”

     “But what about the music? Don’t you still care about music?” asks Rip.

     E’s massive face brightens up as he tells Rip, “I’ve got other interests now. Big interests, real big.”

     “Like what?” asks Rip.

     E lifts his left hand and extends his little finger with a pinky ring on it. He begins to sing and doesn’t move at all except for rising his little finger up and down and in and out in time to the beat. His belly wiggles like Jello. His song is all about his passion for food which has become a symbol for wealth and success. But having too much has left Big E isolated and alone, even unable to continue doing what brought him his massive success and massive weight. Rip, Danny and Herbie applaud as E ends his song.

Hot Dog

     “Well,” says Danny, “I think you’ve shown all of us here just how you’ve become the big, big star you are today.”

     “Yes, Mr. E, you’ve really given me something to think about, sir. Thank you,” says Rip.

     “Thank you very much,” says E as he tries to roll himself back up onto his pillows.

     Rip, Danny and Herbie leave the mansion and return to their limo. Once inside the limo they drive out the gates and onto the city street.

     “That guy’s had it all, seen it all…” says Danny Elfin, admiringly.

     “And eaten most of it,” interrupts Herbie. “I couldn’t understand a thing he said.”

     “Why is he called ‘E’?” asks Rip.

     “Are you kidding?” laughs Herbie. “Look at him, he’s Enormous!”

     “Someday,” Danny says to Rip, “you’ll be as big as E.”

     “I think you’ll need a bigger car, man,” observes Herbie.

     “You’ll have bigger everything. Look,” says Danny as he points out the window of the limo which is passing a series of billboards that feature Rip advertising various products from running shoes to underwear. Herbie looks at the billboards with disgust, and when he turns back to see Rip, he’s wearing a white jumpsuit and shades.

     “You’ve changed, man!” shouts Herbie in disgust, “You’ve sold out! You’ve changed! Let me out! let me out of the car!”

     The centipede pulls over and Herbie jumps out.

     “Come on, Herbie, I haven’t changed. Really, I haven’t. Get back in,” pleads Rip while Herbie starts walking down the road, sticking his thumb out to hitch a ride.

     “Forget that guy, Rip. Go on, let’s go,” says Danny ordering the centipede to drive off, leaving Herbie in its dust.

     The centipede runs through the town that now has a serious ghetto with homeless people living in the street.

     “What happened here?” says Rip, shocked by the sight of poverty he’s never witnessed before.

     “Nothing,” answers Danny Elfin nonchalantly. “Just some people don’t know how to allocate their resources properly.”

     The people in the street see Rip riding by and run out to greet him as he passes.

     “Rip! Rip! I know all your songs!” shouts a man dressed in rags.

     “Rip! I need more of your music! Please! Give me a new song!” yells a woman apparently living out of a cardboard box on the street.

     A man emerges from a pup tent set up under a freeway overpass and runs toward the limo, “Rip, I gave you everything I have! Please, I need more music!”

     Rip is now extremely concerned and turns toward Danny, “What are they talking about?”

     “Those are just some of your fans, that’s all. They’re the ones who do stuff for you so you’re free to create your music. No biggie,” says Danny dismissively.

     “But why are they so shabby and sick looking?” asks Rip.

     “It takes a certain amount of energy to keep oneself in shape and I suppose they’re just too busy,” explains Danny.

     “Too busy doing things for me?” asks Rip, appalled.

     “They only do it because they want to,” says Danny, soothingly.

     Suddenly a homeless woman runs up and bangs at the limo’s window while it sits at a stoplight, “Rip! I need more music, please!” she pleads.

     The limo pulls away as Rip watches her fade into the background.

     “It sounds like they need to. I don’t understand, why do they need to spend so much on my music when there are so many of them and my needs are so few?” he asks Danny.

     Danny Elfin smiles at Rip’s naiveté.

     “It’s not just about you anymore, my boy. You’ve got a lot of mouths to feed now. Speaking of which, here we are!”

     The centipede pulls up to a giant, shiny, triangular pyramid-shaped office building with a large sign that reads “ELFIN MUSIC” above the entrance. Rip and Danny climb off the centipede and enter the Steam Punk designed interior of the building.

     Rip looks about in awe at the bronze, chrome and marble lobby of the Elfin Music offices on their way to the elevator to take them up to Danny Elfin’s executive offices on the twenty-third floor.

     “By the way, I need you to record a campaign song for me,” Danny casually says as they enter the elevator.

     “What is that?” asks Rip.

     “It’s a song I can use for my new campaign,” answers Danny.

     “I mean, what do you mean, record?” asks Rip.

     “Write, I need you to write and sing a campaign song for me. I’m going to run for President,” announces Danny Elfin, proudly.

     “What’s a President?” asks Rip.

     Danny explains, “It’s like a king, only you don’t inherit the position, the people have to ask you to be their leader. A king is an out of date concept. I’m going to be the President then I can make the fans pay even more for our music. I can tax it!”

     “Like King George taxes the tea people like to drink so much,” says Rip trying to find a context he can understand.

     “Right! It doesn’t pay to tax things no one cares about,” explains Danny as they exit the elevator and stroll down the hallway toward the office.

     Suddenly a harried assistant runs down the hallway as Danny and Rip approach Danny’s spacious office and calls out to Danny with some urgency,

     “Mister Elfin, Mister Elfin!”

     “What is it, Margo?” asks Danny as they enter the office with gold record plaques lining the wood-paneled walls. Danny takes his seat behind his large mahogany desk. The assistant runs up to him and hands him a flier. The flier reads RIPPED OFF – Live In Concert.

     “What’s this?” asks Danny reading the flier.

     “It’s a new tribute band called Ripped Off,” explains the assistant. “They play all of Rip’s songs. They sound just like him and they even dress like him.”

     “So what?” asks Danny.

     “So they do it for free!” says the assistant.

     Danny’s eyes grow wide in anger, “What? That’s outrageous! They can’t do that! It’s bad enough every other song played on the radio these days sounds like Rip!”

     “Although I seem to sound different on every station,” mutters Rip under his breath.

     Danny shoves the flier in Rip’s face.

     “See? This is why I need to be President! Pretty soon your fans will be doing things for these sound-a-likes and copycats and then where will I be… I mean, where will you be?”

I’m On A Quest

     For the next few minutes, Rip sits stunned in disbelief as his manager and friend rants and rails against the perceived failings of the King of the Fairies and his administration. But worse, far worse, than Danny Elfin’s attitudes towards the politics of Fairyland is his all-encompassing desire to denigrate and ultimately enslave, at least financially, the very citizens of Fairyland. The people who were Rip’s own supporters and fans. The people responsible for not only his, but also Danny Elfin’s considerable wealth and social standing. Rip sits listening, appalled, until he can sit still no longer.

     “Oh, no. This isn’t good. Herbie was right!” says Rip to himself under his breath as he turns and runs for the door just as Elfin’s assistant enters.

     “Hey, where are you going?” asks Danny suddenly, snapping out of his mad trance.

     “I have to use the bathroom!” shouts back Rip as he scurries down the hall heading for the elevator.

     Danny pauses for a moment before calling after him, “No you don’t. Nobody here does!”

     The elevator doors open and Rip enters the main lobby heading for the exit when he sees a small room marked Cloakroom. He reaches over the dutch doors and grabs an actual black cloak. He drapes the cloak over his shoulders and pulls the hood over his head as he hurries out of the office building and out onto the street at night.

     “This isn’t good, this isn’t good! This is bad, this is so bad! What am I going to do? I need help. I need to find Herbie!” stammers Rip as he blindly rushes down the street in disguise.

     From the shadows step three men dressed in black and wearing dark sunglasses as they watch Rip hurry past. One of the men talks into a walkie talkie.

     “Target spotted, your Highness. He just left his record company on foot. He is traveling incognito. We can make it look like a simple mugging. Ten-four,” whispers the man into the walkie talkie.

     The men in black follow Rip down the dark, empty streets. Just as the three of them rush to step up behind the unsuspecting Rip with daggers in their hands, a gang of punks emerge from an alley in front of them.

     “What’s this, then?” says one of the punks wielding a straight-razor, “Straights out walking on our streets?”

     Rip freezes in his tracks, staring straight ahead as the punks approach him, pulling out their knives and clubs. To his surprise, they walk right past him before breaking into a charge toward the men in black standing behind him.

     “Anarchy!” screams another of the punks.

     The punks then viciously attack the men in black who enter into a gang fight with them as Rip continues walking straight ahead, never looking back.

     He turns down the first street he can and suddenly hears the sound of old-time Fairyland music coming from a tavern. By the front door is a placard that reads Tonight – Classic Orc. Rip enters the tavern where a girl sits on a bar stool on a stage singing Fairyland “oldies”. In a corner, Herbie and his friends from bowling night sit around a table, drinking. Rip sits down in the empty seat next to Herbie as Herbie looks up at him in surprise.

Classic Orc

     “Well, look who it is,” says one of the bowling team members.

     “Come to ruin the last of any real music left in the realm?” says another of the elves.

     Rip ignores their taunts and turns to Herbie, “Herbie, you were right. You were right all along. Danny Elfin is going to run for president and he’s using my music to help him do it!”

     “What’s a president run?” asks another of the drinking party.

     “A little over four dollars, I think,” answers another one.

     Rip explains, “A president is like a king only he rules by the consent of the people.”

     “So, who cares, man?” says Herbie, coolly.

     “If he becomes president,” explains Rip with some urgency, “he can impose a tax on music, all music. Any music he doesn’t like he can tax into oblivion! If you think your choices in music are slim now…”

     Rip suddenly becomes quiet as a waitress approaches. As the waitress brings another round of drinks to the table, she recognizes Rip.

     “Well, well,” says the waitress, “so we have a celebrity in our midst, do we? Like a drink, Honey? On the house.”

     “Yeah, he’ll have an apple cider… and hold the spit!” Herbie tells the waitress who smirks, takes the hint and walks off.

     “We have to stop him!” continues Rip.

     “How can you stop him?” one of the elves asks.

     “Especially if he’s going to use your music to sway the crowd to his side?” adds another as the waitress returns and sets a mug down in front of Rip.

     The waitress has overheard the conversation and interjects, “If someone is using your music to get votes, why don’t you run against him? Then your endorsement will be worthless.”

     She then walks away.

Rip turns to Herbie, “Can I do that?”

     “You know he can’t do that,” another elf says to Herbie.

     “Why not?” asks Rip.

     “Because you’re not a true fairy,” Herbie tells him.

     One of the elves butts in, “Only a natural fairy can ever work in Fairyland. You’ve been working here without a Green Card.”

     “Yeah, you’re what’s called an illegal alien,” explains another.

     “If you weren’t brought here for an official purpose, then if anyone found out, you’d be sent back immediately,” continues a third.

     “What’s an “official purpose”?” asks Rip.

     “You know,” one of the elves answers, “medical experiments…”

     “Never mind that.” interrupts Herbie, “The point is you’d never pass the background check if you tried to run for office.”

     “But I look just like a Fairy, no one knows I’m not a real fairy, what’s the difference?” asks Rip.

     “Well, for one thing,” says Herbie, “you don’t know how to travel between realms. That’s something real fairies know how to do.”

     “So if someone isn’t a real fairy and you took him back where he came from he could never return here?” questions Rip, thinking.

     “Yep,” says Herbie.

     “That’s it!” says Rip, excitedly, “I don’t think Danny Elfin is a real fairy.”

     “Why do you say that?” asks one of the elves.

     “For one thing, there was something he said to me when we first met,” says Rip, “and also because he thinks way too much like some of the folks back home. He doesn’t have your enlightened attitudes.”

     “There’s only one way to find out,” says Herbie.

     “How’s that?” asks Rip.

     “Get him on board the ship. Once he’s there he’ll revert to his true form,” answers one of the elves, finishing his mug of grog.

     Herbie turns to the elf, “If he’s not a true fairy there’s no way he’ll get on board a ship. He won’t even go near a fairy circle.”

     “I think he might. If he doesn’t recognize it as a fairy circle,” suggests Rip.

     “If you think you can trick him into a fairy circle we can send him back to wherever he came,” says Herbie. “More or less.”

     “But you might give yourself away by doing that,” one of the elves says.

     “Then we’d have to send you back too,” says another.

     “I should go back. I’ve already caused too much damage here,” says Rip, despondently. “I wanted to make music to bring people happiness, not to make some people rich and others slaves.”

     “In that case, we can send Elfin home with you,” says Herbie.

     “Oh, no you don’t!” insists Rip, “Don’t stick me with that guy. Take him somewhere else.”

     “Ah, we can’t really drop anyone off anywhere in particular,” says one of the elves, sheepishly.

     “Yeah, our ship only goes between two ports, here and where we found you on Bowling Night,” explains another.

     “We can only go to the same place but at different times,” says Herbie.

     “Fine. So drop him off before my village even existed,” insists Rip.

     “Ooh, that can be tricky because he could do something to change the time-line and maybe even prevent your village from ever being built,” says an elf.

     “Or you from ever being born,” continues another.

     “I swear, you guys have the weirdest sense of time around here,” says Rip, leaning back in his chair.

     Herbie shrugs his shoulders and says, “It’s always the same time.”

     “How is that possible?” asks Rip, leaning forward again.

     Herbie explains, “You see, imagine where you’re from is a song, a series of notes. There are spaces between the individual notes but you don’t notice them. You only hear the notes of your tune.”

     “Where we’re from is also like a song but the notes of our tune fall in the spaces between the notes of your tune,” continues another elf.

     “They’re both played together, at the same time but you only hear one tune and we only hear the other,” says yet another.

     The bowling team all turn to listen to the fairy girl on stage singing a slow, pretty melody. One of the elves starts to sing along with her. Then a second joins in, singing the notes in between the notes of the first elf and the girl. Finally, a third elf adds a melody on top of the first two thus illustrating their concept of time. The bowling team members then end their song along with the girl and the small audience applauds the girl.

     Rip turns back to his drinking companions and asks, “Can you send Danny Elfin to a time far enough in the future from my time that he can’t affect me? I kind of suspect he may be from the future. He has some strange ideas.”

     “Sure,” says Herbie. “We can do that. If you can get him into a fairy circle.”

     “Leave it to me,” says Rip, “I’ve been told my music has a strong effect on people.”

     All of the bowling team then join Rip in raising their glasses in a toast to their master plan.

     Out on the city street in front of the Elfin Music building the next afternoon, people are excitedly running as others hand out fliers. Inside the Elfin Music building in his twenty-third-floor office, Danny Elfin is looking down from his window at the crowd of people running through the streets heading toward the city park as his assistant enters.

     “Mister Elfin, it’s been announced that Rip Van Winkle is performing a free concert in the park!” she says, holding another flier.

     “What?” screams Danny, breaking into another of his dramatic rages. “He’s playing a FREE show? If I told him once, I’ve told him a thousand times NO FREE MUSIC! Get my chopper ready!”

     In a large clearing deep in the middle of the central park, shaded by the surrounding giant redwood trees and filled right up to the trunks of the trees by the music-loving citizens of Fairyland is a crowd dancing to the sound of the Rip Van Winkle Band. Rip with his guitar and the members of the bowling team as his back up band are standing in the center of the clearing. Surrounded by gold posts holding up a red velvet rope to keep back the crowd, which completely surrounds them, they play in the round. Just beyond the crowd, a black limopede pulls up and the three hit men dressed all in black, wearing dark sunglasses and carrying attache cases, step out. Each man walks off in a different direction as Rip continues his set, unaware that during the course of his song each of the men in black has positioned themselves behind some cover, out of sight of the crowd. They each open their attache case and remove the parts of a musket which they assemble. They then attach a high powered sniper scope to the musket and carefully take aim at Rip as he sings.

     Suddenly, a giant dragonfly swoops down among the Redwoods, carrying Danny Elfin. An area of the crowd parts to allow the dragonfly to land and Danny jumps off and approaches the velvet rope. The wind from the wings of the dragonfly blows debris into the faces of the assassins who lower their weapons, momentarily, while Danny Elfin runs up to the edge of the red velvet rope and yells at Rip.

     “What are you doing? Are you insane? I said NO FREEBIES! EVER!” screams Danny Elfin over both the sound of Rip’s band and his dragonfly transport.

     Rip can’t hear what Danny is shouting, but as the band ends its song, Rip addresses the cheering crowd.

     “Thank you, thank you very much! Thank you all for coming!” he calls out to the crowd. “You know it’s been a long time since I’ve done a fundraiser but this is for a cause I really, really believe in! Today we’re all here to kick off the campaign for President of my good friend, Mister Danny Elfin!”

     The crowd cheers while Danny Elfin looks surprised and then delighted.

     “Really? For me? Gee, I don’t know…” says Danny in mock modesty.

     “Let’s get him up here to say a few words, shall we, folks? Come on, let him through,” Rip urges the crowd.

     The crowd parts so Danny can get past the velvet rope and up toward Rip at the center of the circle. The assassins aim their weapons at Rip until Danny steps up to his microphone and blocks their shots.

     “Thank you, thank you so much,” shouts out Danny, “I just want to say how much this all means to me and I want to thank you all for coming out to show your support for my campaign. And if elected I promise…”

     Rip suddenly leans in to shout into Danny’s microphone, “Ladies and Gentlemen, let’s dance!”

     The band starts playing again as Danny looks around wondering why he has suddenly lost control of the crowd as the crowd starts to dance in a circle around the red velvet rope.

     The crowd begins to chant, “We be the wee, wee folk be we! We be the wee, wee folk be we! We be the wee, wee folk be we!”

     A mist forms on the ground within the circle and then the soil starts to collapse under the feet of Rip, Danny Elfin and the band.

     “What?” says Danny, confused momentarily, but then realizes what’s happening and shouts out, “No, no!” as he, Rip and the band fall into the vortex of swirling dirt under their feet and disappear into the ground.

     The men in black look up from their weapons, confused.

     Inside of the Fairyland ship’s wooden planked floored and circular walled wheelhouse lay the bowling team in a heap. They appear the same as they did only moments ago but laying on top of them, squashing them to the floor, is Rip and Danny Elfin, both now much larger than they had been previously and looking considerably different. Rip looks like he did when he first met the four little men back home in the forest and Danny Elfin, also roughly the same size as Rip and much larger than the elves, now has the appearance of what would be recognizable to future generations as a 1970s Disco dancer in his leisure suit, platform shoes and pompadour hairdo.

     “Ugh! Get off me!” shouts one of the elves as they all struggle to free themselves from under Rip and Danny Elfin’s crushing weight.

     “Hey Rip, you were right!” says Herbie, noticing the change in Danny Elfin.

     Danny leaps up, enraged, and hits his head on the ship’s low ceiling. “What are you doing?! Are you crazy?! We have a contract! I’ll sue you! I’ll sue you!” he screams at Rip.

     As the elf Captain turns the ship’s wheel the walls of the room begin to spin and the dirt and tree roots visible outside the windows begin to grow as if the craft is shrinking. Soon insects appear as giant creatures, one-celled animals become huge, the molecules of the soil appear as large as boulders until finally, all is black outside the windows. Soon stars appear in the blackness of space and then the Earth appears in the distance.

     “Get ready, Rip,” says the Captain, “We’re about to send you home, more or less.”

     “More or less?” asks Rip, worried.

     “We remember where, but we’re a little foggy about exactly when,” explains Herbie.

     “We were partying pretty heavy back then,” says one of the bowling team.

     It is morning as Rip awakens on the forest floor. His clothes are in tatters and his beard is long and gray.

     “Oh, What happened? Did I stay out here all night? Sally’s going to kill me!” he says to himself as he slowly gets up and brushes the dust and pine needles off his clothes. He then looks down at his graying beard.

     “What did I do? Did ashes from the fire get in my beard last night?” he asks himself as he tries to brush the gray from his whiskers. “And when did it get this long? Now, where is my trusty musket?”

     Rip reaches down for his musket laying on the forest floor but the barrel breaks off from the stock.

     “I mean my rusty musket,” he says as the wooden stock breaks off in his hands. “Termites. I better get home. Where’s Wolf gone to? Here Wolf! Here Boy!” he shouts into the woods looking for his long lost dog. “Wow, what a crazy dream!”

     Rip walks through the woods trying to think of a plausible excuse for having been out all night he can give to his wife when he eventually enters into a town he’s never seen before. Children stare at him and laugh and they follow him as he walks down the street.

     “Oh no! Where is the tavern?” he thinks as he looks around at this unfamiliar setting.

     Seeing a man walking down the street, Rip approaches him and says, “Excuse me, sir…”

     “I’ve no money for drunken derelicts! Begone with you, I say!” shouts the man so others in the town will take notice of Rip.

     “No sir, you misunderstand. I am not a drunken derelict but a loyal subject of good King George,” explains Rip.

     “Good King George? Don’t you mean President George?” questions the stranger.

     “President George? You know what a president is?” asks Rip, surprised.

     “George Washington, the president of these here United States of America!” exclaims the man.

     “Wow,” says Rip to himself, “you really don’t want to tax things people really like.” He then asks the man, “Sir, I just want to know where Nicholas Vedder’s tavern has gone?”

     “Yes, looking for a tavern. Just as I thought,” says the man as an older man walking by overhears the conversation.

     “You say you’re looking for the old tavern of Nicholas Vedder?” inquires the older gentleman.

     “Yes, sir. It used to be right here as I recall,” says Rip.

     “No, it’s been gone a good long time, but the Vedders’ have the hotel and I believe they serve food and drink there. It’s run by David Vedder, I do believe,” says the older man.

     “Davy? Nicholas’ son?” asks Rip, relieved to hear a familiar name.

     “Oh yes. He’s done very well for himself, he has. He owns not only the hotel but a chain of pubs. Quite successful,” comments the first man.

     “Do you know the Vedders? I’ve never seen you around and I know everyone in this town yet you do look very familiar.” comments the older man.

     “Does no one know Rip Van Winkle?” bemoans an exasperated Rip.

     “Yes, of course. Rip Van Winkle. Why, he’s right over there,” says the younger man, pointing across the street.

     Rip turns to see a young man standing in front of the hotel who looks amazingly like he, himself, did many years before. He excitedly runs toward the man. The other men and the children follow him, intrigued.

     “Junior! Junior!” shouts Rip in glee.

     Rip Van Winkle Jr. looks at Rip but does not recognize him.

     “No one has called me that in many a year. Do I know you, old man?” asks the young man.

     At that moment a young woman with several small children walks out of a shop and approaches the younger Rip. She looks closely at Rip Sr. having heard him call her brother, Junior.

     “Do you not remember me, son?” continues Rip.

     The girl’s eyes grow wide as Rip Jr. squints with suspicion.

     “Do you not remember me? Father?” she asks Rip.

     Rip and his son both look in surprise at the young woman then both exclaim in surprise, “Father?!”

     Rip Jr. looks back at his father as Rip asks her, “Judith? Is that you? Is that my little girl?”

     “Father! You’ve come back!” cries Judith, jubilantly, and then runs to hug Rip.

     As they embrace, an older, fatter, Sally Van Winkle steps out of the hotel and sees Rip with her children.

     “Oh, no, no, no, no! You are not back from the dead!” Sally shrieks.

     “Hello, dear,” says Rip, recognizing his wife, “I’m not dead.”

     “Well, actually you are,” corrects his son.

     “Mother had you declared legally dead a few years after you left,” explains Judith.

     Rip turns to Sally and asks, “Why did you do that?”

     “So I could marry someone who could support me and your children, that’s why!” answers the former Mrs. Van Winkle.

     “And who might that have been?” asks Rip just as an older, heavier, Davy Vedder, the former tavern bartender, steps out from the hotel.

     “That would be me,” announces Davy. “Well, as I live and breath, is that old Rip Van Winkle, the minstrel and lady’s man?”

     “Davy? Davy Vedder, the barkeep at the old tavern?” asks Rip in surprise.

     “David Vedder, the owner and proprietor of this grand hotel and of a half dozen other establishments of fine food and dining, I’ll have you know,” states Sally Vedder, proudly.

     “Well, good for you Davy, and congratulations Sally. I guess I didn’t have to worry about you all this time after all,” says Rip, then adding under his breath, “Not like I did anyway. Tell me Mister and Misses Vedder,” he continues, “by any chance might there be some sort of work that a traveling troubadour could do in exchange for room and board?”

     “Father, I won’t hear of it!” says Judith. “You’re much too old to work! You will come live with me!”

     “Oh, Bob will love that,” says Junior.

     “Shall he come live with you, then?” she asks her brother.

     Rip Jr. looks down at his feet.

     “I thought not,” continues Judith. “Then it’s done, Father, you will come live with me and my husband and get to know your grandchildren. Come with me.”

     Judith and her children start to lead Rip down the street.

     “Tell me, Daughter,” asks Rip, “where is Wolf?”

     “Wolf?” asks Judith.

     “My dog,” answers Rip.

     “Oh Father, that old dog died ten years ago,” says Judith.

     A look of sadness replaces Rip’s grin and he mutters to himself, “Oh, and it was such a perfect day!”

     The town’s people are gathered for a Fourth of July picnic in the town square, and sitting on the stage at the center is Rip surrounded by the town’s children who have been listening intently to his stories.

     “So you see, children,” continues Rip to his enraptured audience, “the land of the fairies is not only real, but it’s here, all around us, all of the time. And if you listen real hard and look very closely, you can see them too. But first, you need to believe in them.”

     “Why do we have to believe in them? If they’re real then they’re real whether we believe in them or not,” states a little boy who has been asking Rip questions non-stop all afternoon.

     “Because,” Rip explains, “if you don’t believe in them you’re never going to take the time and do the work it takes to see them. It’s not easy, and if you don’t believe, you won’t really try, will you?”

     “But whatever happened to Danny Elfin?” asks the little boy’s sister.

     Rip thinks for a moment and then answers, “I don’t know. I suppose they dropped him off sometime a long time from now. Sometime closer to his own time. Although those fairies aren’t very good when it comes to keeping time.”

     The children all laugh.

     On a busy city street at the foot of the Catskill Mountains, in the distant future when cars can fly, Danny Elfin suddenly materializes out of thin air. Only a moment earlier, he had been trapped inside the Fairyland ship transporting him from the Rip Van Winkle concert in the park and his life as a rich and powerful entertainment industry exec.

     “I’ll sue you! I’ll sue you!” he still screams, now to no one in particular, as the busy city goes on with its day, paying him no mind at all. Suddenly, he stops his ranting and notices that he is in a futuristic city with flying cars in the sky above him.

     “Oh, oh…,” says Danny, who now realizes the elves have missed dropping him off in his own time by perhaps a few hundred years. Then Danny starts aging very quickly and in a matter of just a few seconds, he is reduced to a skeleton. His skeleton then crumbles into a pile of dust on the street that is tossed up into the air as a flying car whizzes past.

Let’s Make This Our Song

THE END

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