Chapter ThreeSubmitted by Tom Sorrell at 2013-08-06 05:10:48 EDT
Rating: 2.0 on 3 ratings (3 reviews) (Review this item) (V)
Lesley was in the Jetstream headed over the north Atlantic like Superman. Flight was simple in his unconscious mind. He came in low, swooping over the home of a woman named Eglentine, who was on the ground fighting Nazis with a broom, a bed knob, three children and a fraud of a man who'd turned himself into a white rabbit in the name of love.
He continued south, flying quickly over the country he longed to visit in waking life. He passed a place called The Cavern in Liverpool, where kids were twisting and shouting in the streets, then an old stadium, where a blurry mass of red sang “You’ll never walk alone” at the top of their lungs. He passed over Stonehenge where druids chanted in Celtics.
"Ainge, Johnson, McHale and Bird. Parrish, Walton, David Third..."
He flew on, past the stone and wooden remains of Alfred's fyrds and crossed tiny streams snaking over the land. He paused over a group of 38 sheep and heard the echo of a kick drum reverberating through a cavernous stairway in a rural home next to it. From inside the walls a man wailed about a levee breaking and a guitar screamed for mercy.
He headed to London, where he buzzed the Tower of London, swooped through the changing of the guard and knocked the hat off a beefeater's head. One of the Royal Guard laughed so hard he cried. Lesley circled the roundabout, passing Big Ben and Parliament six times before someone shouted, “Help! Help! London is drowning and I live by the river!!"
He landed at Stratford upon Avon and enlisted a collared-man named Will to help fix the leak in the wall that threatened so many. The two of them used chewing gum, sawdust and page after page from Will's writing desk and the leak was fixed. Lesley waved goodbye to the cheering townsfolk and rocketed back into the stratosphere like Iron Man, where he passed a young Robert Downey Junior and Icarus. He conjured two pairs of water wings out of very thin air and handed them over with a knowing nod, then continued deeper into the world he was creating.
He ended up in West Sussex, where he was pulled into the creaking white sails of an old stone windmill standing alone on a hill, surrounded by a wooden fence and large fields of brown, dead wheat. The sails creaked and groaned as they spit him out onto a path leading from the door of the mill to a gate, then down a hill into a spiraling tunnel of trees.
He stood on the path and looked around, then took a few steps while staring at the canopy of color. Red, green, and orange leaves surrounded him and crunched satisfyingly when trampled underfoot. The dirt path ran through the middle of a thick forest, down the hill into a little town torn from the pages of book.
Two men are in the tunnel with Lesley, walking towards the mill in comfortable silence. He doesn't recognize either of them...
...so Lesley twitches his nose, turns into a fly like Jeff Goldblum and buzzes around their heads saying "Must go faster! Must go faster!"
They can’t hear him though, because he’s a fly.
Like Jeff Golblum.
Somewhere Stirling Archer is reaching for his pistol.
“Wait,” I’m sure you’re wondering. “What is going on? Who is this crazy fool?”
I’m a narrator. I was brought in by the author to explain to You who these men are while Lesley experiences things on his own. I provide the details.
For a reference, see the novel The Princess Bride. The amazing William Goldman uses a literary device known as an “unreliable narrator,” which is also referred to, occasionally, as “lying one’s ass off,” He does it well.
That’s not what’s happening here, of course.
What I mean is, everything I tell you is like the catchphrase from Dragnet:.
”Just the facts”
Buuum bum-bum bum.
Or it’s not. One of those is probably right.
Anyway, back to the tree tunnel. On the path are two men and Lesley the fly.
The first man is Errol Flynn, a Tinseltown icon. Flynn was a "man’s man" who once challenged John Huston to a fistfight "just because." He was and always will be the King of Swashbucklers.
Flynn was Robin Hood before Russel Crowe or Cary Elwes or (God help you) Kevin Costner tried to be. He was Captain Blood and Captain Kidd. He was The Sea Hawk. He was a hero who played the part well. Walt Junior didn’t want to be called Flynn for no reason.
Off screen Errol was different, but isn't everyone when they're not in public? Errol liked to drink. He liked to have sex. He liked to do many other things human beings do behind closed doors but don't talk about. Being in the public eye, however, the mistakes he made caused his star to lose its luster and resulted in his demonization by the press.
It's 1959 in Lesley's dream, and mistakes are all Errol thinks about. At this point, according to “The They,” Flynn is a monster. After years of hearing how awful he is he's started to believe the press. His drinking has increased. His body is falling apart. He’s 50, but looks 68. His nose is red and fleshy on his puffy face. His famous smile is long gone.
On the path beside him is Bob Anderson, who is 37 and on his way to becoming the most well-known swordmaster in the movie industry. Bob will eventually work on films such as Star Wars, Highlander, The Lord of the Rings and The Princess Bride, but in ‘59 he’s best known for what happened on the set of the first movie he ever worked on.
It was called The Master of Ballantrae. Bob and Errol were fencing on set when Errol was cut by Bob’s blade. Something strange happened that day, but only Bob and Errol know what and they’re not telling. Errol famously said that “some fans” had walked into his eye-line and he'd lost focus. Right.
It was what happened next, however, that really matters. Bob was dubbed “The Man Who Cut Errol Flynn,” giving him immediate notoriety in The Industry and opening more doors for his career. A cool nickname and notoriety, however, can only take you so far. You need great talent and an overwhelming passion for your work to succeed. Bob had both. Everyone who worked with him knew it, including Errol.
After Bob cut him, the two developed a deep respect for one another. Flynn supposedly told the director he didn’t want to “kill” anyone on screen but Bob, and they became close friends in the years after the incident.
That’s all for me. Back to the dream. Lesley the fly is buzzing around the tree tunnel, watching Errol and Bob. He sees a million Errols look stop and look around in wonder.
“This path is amazing," Errol says. "It looks like a vortex to another realm.”
Bob nods, but says nothing. Flynn looks over, sadly.
“Apologies for missing your birthday,” he says. “It’s been insane the last few months.”
Bob nods and smiles. “Think nothing of it, old man."
Errol smirks. “I’ll show you who the old man is, old man!”
He puts up his fists, but his movements are slow. Old. Tired. Bob notices and frowns, slightly. Errol sees the creases in his friend’s face and drops his knuckles with a wry grin. They hear cawing in the trees. Several crows fly away as they pass. Errol watches them through the spaces between the leaves and shoulders slump, slightly. He turns to Bob.
“I can’t stay long,” he says.
Bob nods. They walk in silence for a few moments. Errol sighs, then speaks, almost in a whisper.
“I’m a monster, Bob.”
Bob scoffs. “Says who?”
Bob shakes his head, annoyed. “What the hell do 'They' know?”
“Quite a bit, apparently. I’ve made so many mistakes.”
“We’ve all made mistakes. We all continue to make them. You’re human.”
Errol shakes his head and stares at the ground. “No. They’re right. I’m a monster.”
Bob frowns. They reach the end of the tree tunnel and see the gate to the mill. Etched on the wood are the words “Halnaker Windmill.” They stare at it for a moment and listen to the sails in the cool evening. Bob smiles at the mill, then turns to Errol.
“You asked me once if I had a dream,” he says, as he swats at Lesley, who buzzes past his ear and flies over Errol's shoulder.
Errol smiles at the memory and nods. Bob nods once, towards the mill.
“This is it. I want to retire here with Pearl someday. Because of you, that’s possible. You’ve helped people. You helped me, at least.”
“Bah,” Errol scoffs. “You’d have made it even if you hadn’t almost cut my leg off.”
“And whose fault was that?” Bob replies.
Errol smiles. “Yes, but you stood up to me. Had you not we wouldn’t be here. God only knows where we'd be.”
Bob nods, knowingly. There’s a moment of silence as the two of them watch the sun dip lower in the sky. Errol looks at Bob out the corner of his eye.
“I’ve been meaning to tell you this, but I’ve never gotten around to it. Pearl is a lovely woman. You’re very lucky to have her.”
Bob grins, like a boy with a crush. “I know.”
Errol pats him on the back and nods. Bob turns. “You’re not a monster, Errol. You’re my friend and a good man, no matter what any of those fools might say. Forget about them.”
Flynn looks at the ground and nods, sadly. Bob looks up at the mill. Errol pulls out a pack of Lucky Strike cigarettes and lights one. The men stand and watch, silently, as the sun continues to disappear. Finally Errol speaks.
“There’s something I’ve been meaning to give you. I figure it’ll cover the emotional damage you may have incurred due to my absence on the remembrance of the day of your birth.”
Bob laughs. Errol smiles, then looks around and lowers his voice.
“It’s a sword," he says.
Bob shakes his head. “How did I know?"
Flynn shrugs and grins. Bob looks back towards the town.
"That's the package in your vehicle, I presume."
Errol nods. Bob smiles. "Thanks, old boy.”
Errol shakes his head. “Don't thank me. It isn’t an ordinary sword. It's The Sword, understand? It was given to me long ago, back in Australia, by an infamous pirate. There’s something very special inside the steel. You'll be responsible for keeping it safe.”
Bob looks at him strangely and raises an eyebrow. "Shall I keep it secret as well, Gandalf?"
Errol smiles, but nods seriously. His eyes twinkle as the wind picks up. The sails of the mill began to spin faster and pull Lesley the fly back into them. He's whirled around and launched out of the sails into the night air like Peter Pan, where he turns back into a boy and glides back across the pond.
When he gets to where he thinks North Carolina might be, Lesley imagines C.C. sleeping peacefully in a lonely bed, while Beethoven's Bagatelle in A Minor serenades her softly through a radio near her lovely head, then he smiles and sighs and continues towards home.