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Tangled Tale of a Walk in the Woods

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Wooden Spoon1_SmlBy Kevin Callahan

I went for a walk in the woods.

A visitor to this location, I found myself with a day to explore. I was informed there was a vast expanse of woods close by, complete with walking trails, so I set off on my lone adventure. The path into the woods was wide and well trodden. At the entrance to the park was a large poster that mapped the trails, with smaller printed maps for hikers like me. After a few minutes studying the map to determine a good way in and out, I set off at a nice pace. I had energy snack food, and two bottles of water, the weather was just about perfect. What a glorious day for a stroll.

As I walked, I took in the flora and fauna, keeping an eye out for the unusual, animal or mineral. A short way into my journey I spied an old tree limb lying perpendicular to the trail. I stooped to retrieve the branch. It was a nice length for a walking stick, knobby on one end it resembled a sorcerer’s staff. Curiously it seemed very old and well worn, out of place. I liked the heft of the stick, so my new companion and I set off together, down the path.

As a made my way deeper into the forest I passed several branching trails. I’m not sure at what point it happened, but gradually it seemed like my new staff was taking me, not the other way. I came abreast of a bushy nearly invisible path. Not wanting to be in an unfamiliar place off the map I made to continue, but the stick had other ideas. It felt as if I were being pulled back. The staff became heavier in my hand, but when I tried to drop it, I could not let go. What is this I wondered? Not understanding why, I decided to follow the untrodden pathway. My new friend settled lightly and softly in my hand.

Within a short distance the path again became well worn and visible. I stopped for a water break and a consult with my map. Hmmn, no reference point could I find. Turning back, I discovered that the path behind was no longer discernible. What? I turned, again, and trekked the only way open to me.

I rounded a slight curve and topped a rise, when I paused for a rest I spied a cottage. An ancient looking house sitting right in the middle of the path. Oddly out of place, the dwelling looked like a drawing in a Medieval story book, thatched roof, strange round windows, and a massive wooden door. Having no other recourse, I stepped up and rapped soundly on the door with my staff. The door swung ajar, seemingly of its own accord. From inside a disembodied voice bade me enter. Not sure what to expect, I gingerly stepped across the threshold.

The tiny cottage, which outside seemed to barely block the path, once inside was a vast great-room. I looked around and could not take it all in, ancient wooden furniture, tables covered in, well, things. I saw stuffed animals of all descriptions, vessels and objects of every kind. Tables were strewn with papers filled with writing in a language I could not read. There were pens and Chinese brushes with jars of inks of many colors. Standing next to a table was a little man. He was old to be sure, bald on top with a fringe of snowy white hair, full white beard, white eyebrows like two large caterpillars. He was dressed in what might have been white pajamas, the cloth covered in strange symbols. He spoke, Welcome, my name is Marvin, Marvin T. MacClain. You can call me Marv or Mac as you prefer. And you are?

I, I, I’m John, John Morgan. Where am I?

Well John you are in MY forest. I don’t get many visitors here. Mac smiled, and I swear his eyes twinkled. Clapping his hands in a childlike manner Mac exclaimed, you brought my friend back, just put him over there. He indicated a container along the wall, which held several other odd looking walking sticks. I did as instructed. When I placed the staff in the bucket I was sure I heard a sigh of contentment. I turned back to my host.

I began, Uh Mac, if you don’t mind me asking, I don’t know where I am, how I got here, or what I am doing here? I waited for a response.

Chuckling to himself, Marvin at first seemed to ignore me, then he said, my friends over there sometimes go out on their own and bring back those they feel might like a visit with me. Apparently you are one of those people. I was preparing to eat. Why don’t you sit and we’ll have a meal while we talk?

Having no other recourse and realizing I really was hungry, I sat. As we ate and talked, I looked around me. How long have you been here, I asked? Mac, smiled, Oh, a very long time. Perhaps you are wondering at a strange little house in the middle of a forested park? The easy answer is, no one knows it is here, unless I want them to.

But, but, I stammered, how is that even possible? Mac smiled an enigmatic smile and drank from his cup.

I remarked on his large collection of wooden spoons. They were myriad, there were short warty looking ones, large elegantly curved ones, long thin spoons with various sized bowls, like measuring instruments. Ah, my tools? Yes, each of those spoons have a purpose. Measuring the exact amount needed for my recipes. They are made of woods from an ancient forest long since gone from this world. My father and his father and many others before used these spoons.

Um, uh, I continued, used you say? For cooking?

In a way, Mac said, they are used for making potions. You see John I am a necromancer.

Stunned, I paused to collect my thoughts. You mean like a magician? Spells and incantations? That sort of thing?

Exactly that sort of thing John. You see my grandfather was the one the world knows as Merlin in the court of King Arthur. Merlin’s knowledge was passed down to my father, and he to me.

No, no, no, Merlin lived centuries ago, I stuttered.

Oh, indeed he did.

Mac you seem rather kindly, but, really aren’t these practices called the Black Arts, I asked?

This time Mac laughed out loud. Virtually every story told about my grandfather is wrong. Also, about those of us of his caste. We have powers yes, but we try not to interfere with the world as such. At any rate, I suspect you think I am just a crazy old crank you stumbled upon during your walk. Isn’t that correct John?

Well to tell the truth, I don’t know what to think. But this is your life and you seem to be doing no harm, I hardly think I need to judge. My problem is I am lost, and need to find my way back.

Mac once again gave me that grandfatherly look, oh pish posh, I’ll have you back on your path in no time. But first won’t you join me in a nice cup of tea? Then I’ll send you on your way.

Well, I really should be… Okay one cup, then please put me on my path.

Clapping his hands, Mac bustled over to his stove and placed a large kettle on the fire. He selected a container marked TEA in block letters, looking thoughtfully at his spoons, he selected a small thin one and scooped a portion into the tea pot. The kettle seemed to go on the boil unusually fast. Soon we we chatting over a cup of strong black tea, unlike any I had ever tasted.

Mac smiled a knowing smile. You know John you are not here by accident don’t you? He went on, Morgan, that’s not your original family name. It was not a question, but a statement.

Why no, our original name was Morgana. I stopped dead in my tracks, realizing what that might mean.

Mac went on, yes you see John, Morgan le Fay, Morgana was my grandmother. Yes, that Morgana, but she was no evil witch, that is just something people invented to spice up the stories. Grandma Morgana and Grandfather Merlin married and produced my father. Morgana had a brother, he was not involved in the Dark arts, as you call them. He would have been your grandfather many times removed. You see John, you and I are cousins.

I tried to answer, but found my mouth would not work properly. It seemed to me to be getting dimmer inside the cottage. That is the last I remember of Marvin T. MacClain, AKA, Marvin The Magician.

Sir? SIR! Do you want another cup of coffee? Or should I bring the check?

Suddenly I came out of the fog of sleep. Wha, what? Oh, no, no more coffee. I looked around at my surroundings and found myself sitting at a lunch counter in a small diner. The edge of the forest could be seen across the parking lot.

Are you okay sir? The waitress handed me my check.

Why yes, yes I am. I was just lost in thought. I reached into my pocket for money and felt something like a pencil. I withdrew a small, ancient carved spoon. With it came a piece of parchment. On it was written: when in need, prepare a cup of tea, using this spoon. You will have a good life.

This is the story of my walk in the woods. I know it’s a wondrous tale to believe, but if you are ever down my way, stop in and I’ll make you a nice cup of tea. Trust me, you’ll feel better.

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