Joe Avery Meets a Marathon Sleeper by Charles C Cole

Joe Avery Meets a Marathon Sleeper
Charles C Cole

Early morning, so early the sentinel rooster on the roof (the penthouse tenant had an extensive chicken coop!) was still snoozing. My intermittently shy, half-rosebush receptionist, Calendula, had been invited by former clients out of town for a seasonal Wiccan holiday honoring Mother Nature.

Though I was out of my league, preferring my exotic encounters on a safe and balanced 1:1 basis, Calendula had included me so that she’d have someone she knew. One of the hosts had jokingly introduced me to the other guests, group by group by group, as Calendula’s “human familiar.” It always got a big laugh, though it also got old.

The closer we got to the midnight ceremony, the more I missed the hum and neon of the city. While concrete and steel are pretty indestructible, the “raw outdoors” is beautiful, quiet, pristine, fragile. During a guided meditational alignment, I stepped on a dried twig on the ground with a loud SNAP and felt like a bull in a China shop, like I’d somehow ruined the reverential atmosphere, like my stain of civilization was a blight in the wilderness.

Before my brutish presence could scare off gentle Mother Nature, I left Calendula to her new friends and drove away. That’s when I found the homeless man sleeping in our building’s entranceway. He was skinny, wearing tattered clothes, with a shaggy beard and wildly unkempt hair, as if Robinson Crusoe had been tossed out of a passing taxi for lack of minimal hygiene. He was curled up in an uncomfortable ball, and his eyes were wide open.

Sir,” I asked, “will you let me get you a blanket from inside?”

You that detective fella?”

Yes, sir, but it’ll be hours before we open.”

Then why you here?”

Restless,” I answered.

Me, too.”

You got a name?”

Rip Van Winkle,” he responded. A human client at last! The hairs went up on the back of my neck.

Let’s go up to my office.”

You sure? Don’t mind waiting. You can’t tell, but I’m a pretty amazing sleeper. I sleep the way marathon runners run.”

Let’s get you something to drink. Maybe a fresh shirt, though it’ll be loose on you.”

I opened the window to my consultation chambers while Rip used the bathroom, washing his face and chest with a damp, soapy towel. I could vividly smell smoke and realized I’d been standing close to a bonfire and probably had my own distinct aroma.

Rip returned, handing me the much-abused towel, which I instinctively tossed into the trashcan under my desk. Rip noticed but just shrugged as if to say, “Don’t blame me.”

Coffee?”

No, thanks.”

What can I do for you?”

I want my old life back.”

Don’t we all?” I joked.

Can you help me?”

Let’s review: you got lost in the woods and stumbled upon some notoriously feral apparitions. You, nonetheless, joined their party and drank their brew and woke up years later.”

When you work hard, sometimes you’ve gotta play hard.”

Sounds like buyer’s remorse,” I teased.

Even when you don’t know what you’re buying?” He was agitated. “Should have figured you’d take their side.”

I’m sincerely sorry for the time you’ve lost,” I offered.

Then find me that devil Hendrik Hudson!”

In my experience, exotics don’t mean us harm.”

They’re wild and mischievous and don’t think about consequences. Their lives are so much longer than ours that sleeping for two decades could be viewed as a power nap. Humans, on the other hand, know exactly what they’re doing: they’re trying to use untamed magic to enhance their mundane circumstances, knowing there’s a cost and deliberately closing their eyes to their own culpability.

Detective, respectfully, is it possible you’ve spent too much time with ‘the other team,’ that maybe you’ve been bewitched by the very clients you consider pure-of-heart underdogs?”

I tried to avoid the bait. “Rip, what’s a victory look like for you?”

Undo the events of that night.”

Or?”

I give Captain Hudson a piece of my mind.”

Or?”

We find someone who can give Hudson a dose of his own medicine.”

At what further cost?” I asked. He ignored the question. “Fine. Come back tomorrow.”

You that good?”

Come back tomorrow.” I refused to give him a satisfactory answer.

When the rest of the world woke up and went to work, I called my ex-wife at the library. A certain magic mirror was in her safekeeping: I needed the whereabouts of an old client.

After the office had closed for the day, I locked myself inside and waited – not long. There was a knock. “Open sesame,” called the sarcastic genie. I jumped up and let him in. The shirtless genie ducked low as he stepped inside. He was even bigger than I remembered him.

Hello and welcome back,” I said.

Hear you’re looking for me. I knew you couldn’t resist the wishes. Nobody can. But I’m a bit surprised and disappointed.”

I just want one wish, and it’s not for me.” I explained.

I can’t use magic to undo someone else’s magic,” he said.

This guy hates folklore people. I don’t trust him. I want to appeal to his better nature by giving him something he wants.”

Nobody’s ever given a wish away for someone else to use.”

I told you: I like my life.”

Nobody ever likes their life.”

I dismissed him with a wave of my hand. “Meet me back here tomorrow.”

The next afternoon, I found Rip standing in front of my open office window, looking down on the street. “Maybe I should just jump. Make the world a better place.”

I’ve got another idea,” I said. With a blinding blue flash, Hendrik Hudson appeared in my office. He’d been warned, but he wasn’t happy to see Rip. “Rip, you’ve got five minutes to give Captain Hudson a piece of your mind. Then he’s going back to where he came from and you, my friend, are moving on. No cursing. No violence. No magic. Go!”

Joe Avery Meets a Marathon Sleeper by Charles C Cole 1

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