QUICKBEAM'S OUT ON A LIMB:
The Final Word
I wanted to talk directly to John Ronald Reuel Tolkien. True, he is dead. But why should that stop me?
I decided that it was within my power to do so. Well, better to say it was within the power of a psychic. Or a clairvoyant. Or a clairaudient. Maybe if I cleaned off that inch of dust from the good old Ouija Board up in the attic I could get it warmed up. Maybe I should just call up John Edward.
Bingo! I would get tickets for his show: "Crossing Over with John Edward" and then sit quietly in the audience, waiting for him to pick me. I could color my hair bright green again; certainly that would help catch Johns eye. Im sure he would move over to my side of "The Gallery" and say something about the energy surrounding me.
"Something is coming through you, there, with the long leafy branches and punk rock hair is there someone who has passed with an "R" name? Ron or maybe a Ronald?"
I was so enthused about the possibility that I immediately called their 800 number. I wanted tickets for the very next taping. But they wouldnt even talk to me when they heard my voice on the phone. It got worse when I admitted to living on the West Coast. The production assistant tried to explain: they had a certain "feel" to the show that they wanted to keep uniform. Unless I lived in Jersey City, was working on my engine out on the front lawn, wore a dirty tank-top and sounded like a Tony Soprano throwback, they were just not interested. No seat for me in The Gallery. Fuggedaboudit! I wasnt quite the "target audience" the show was courting.
Well, excuse me.... I didnt know being articulate and well-dressed would interfere with my ability to speak with spirits. I better look elsewhere.
Just then, a commercial came on the tube for Miss Cleo and her psychic telephone network. She was dressed in lots of scarves, necklaces and that big head-wrapping thing that suggests the girl on the Sun Maid Raisins box. A huge light bulb appeared over my head when she started chirping, "That be right, Dahlings! CALL ME NOW for your free readin!!" Could it be even remotely possible that, with a spot of luck, I would actually speak to Miss Cleo herself? I thought she was still in jail.
I picked up the phone yet again and carefully dialed. After wandering through a maze of touch-tone prompts (and entering in my VISA number) I heard someone pick up the receiver. It was a bright, happy voice that sounded almost Jamaican. Almost. This chirping Caribbean bird was none other than Miss Cleo! "Greetings! First, before we begin, what you must tell me first, my dahling, is your birth date and your name."
"Uh.... is this the real Miss Cleo?"
"Ya bet your pants, little muffin! Now go on with ya. Whats your birth date?"
"January. The 27th of January. Do you need the year?"
"No, no, my little Aquarian friend. Thats plenty fine to go on. Now, first I must warn ya the cards are tellin me terrible things.... TERRIBLE things! Shes cheatin on ya behind your back, she is!"
"Oh no. I dont want to hear any bad news, Miss Cleo. I just want to talk to a writer. Hes been gone for some time...."
She abruptly stepped on my sentence. "Dont go interruptin me, ya cheeky little muffin! Im tellin ya that girl is no good for ya. Leave her now, before she goes and breaks ya heart! Ha-ha! Ya didnt know that I knew about her, did ya? I can see her clear as day."
"Look, there is no girl. I just want to contact the ghost of Professor "
"Youre not seein the cards I see here in front a me! Ya got to stop makin those booty calls at 2 a.m. in the mornin or ya never gonna get her out of ya hair, boy!" And so the Cleo-wannabe went on and on. Evidently, there was a remarkable soap opera churning up my private life; and I knew zip about it. But I was way past my three "free" minutes anyway. Staying on the line longer, at five bucks a minute, was getting me no closer to my goal. Telling her to go sell the snake-oil somewhere else, I hung up.
The day was getting late, my list of options running out. Yet still there was an opportunity for me; a person I once heard of long ago that might be of help, though she was only spoken of in whispers, when windows were closed and shuttered. Seeking her was decidedly risky. But I could not let this go. Tolkien was the only one who could answer my question. I would do anything to speak to his ghost, even if I had to journey to the ends of the earth. Well, journey to Mexico at least. I drove down through San Diego and past, following traffic through Checkpoint Charlie. Soon I was south of the border, among the crowded ramshackle streets, littered with debris and boozy tourists. I sought the infamous, dark underbelly of Tijuana. There I would find Pescada Woman, better known to the locals as "Priestess of the Sea."
Turning a dark and dirty corner (all corners in T.J. are dark and dirty) I went down a cramped alley on the west end. A small shop window appeared on my right. It was a peculiar little window filled with red doilies and a ceramic statue of Mary placed on top of a rock fountain. A soft, feminine voice beckoned me.
Moving slowly through a curtain of plastic beads, I found myself transported to Voodoo Land. Jasmine incense whirled about my nose and blood red candles flickered everywhere. Upon a large table I saw chicken heads and a plate of overripe bananas with nails driven through them. Fish skulls adorned the walls Then I noticed the Betty Boop memorabilia strewn throughout the room. Lots and lots of Betty Boop: there were toys, book ends, plates, thimbles, you name it.
Pescada Woman was lounging on the sofa. She had a shaved head, striking features accented by heavy make-up, and several dangerous curves. Her dress must have been painted onto her body. She stood and took me by the hands, saying, "Welcome, pescadito." I was suddenly distracted by her large earrings golden fish that flickered in the candlelight.
I sat down and explained: "Im here to contact a spirit.... a particular person that I must speak with."
She looked at me with deep, brown, bedroom eyes and purred, "I know. Show me what you have brought."
"What do you mean?"
"If you wish to contact a spirit you first must have something that belonged to him. Something he once possessed. A key, a photograph, a book maybe."
I pulled out my battered old paperback of The Fellowship of the Ring. I never leave my house without it. Showing it to her, I said, "This was not really his, per se.... but he wrote it. Will that help?"
Nodding, she took the book and placed it gingerly on a small coffee table. "Let me take a moment and listen to the voices from beyond. I must concentrate." She closed her eyes, mascara and lashes twitching for several long minutes. Suddenly she threw back her head, kicked her legs out and shrieked at the top of her lungs. "YEESSS!! Yes, yes! He is among us now! He is here in this room." After she peeled me off the ceiling, she looked me square in the eye with a gaze I did not much like.
"What do you want to ask him?" Pescada Woman offered.
This was the crux! At long last, here was the singular moment I had struggled for! Now I could ask J.R.R. Tolkien the one thing that must be answered. It was the burning question of all questions; and neither the Firmament of Heaven nor the eternal span of Time would keep me from solving this mystery. I cleared my throat and asked: "So did the Balrog really have wings or not?"
Silence. No floating cloud of protoplasm, no strange echoes or suddenly slamming cabinets. There was nothing.
The Priestess of the Sea moved closer to me on the sofa. "He hears you, pescadito, and he has an answer for you. But first you must pay me." She slowly moved her hand along my leg. "There are three simple things you must do, then all will be revealed!"
"Name the terms," I smiled, trying to ignore the sweat running down my forehead.
"Go down to the pier and bring me a small hook left behind by the fisherman. Second, find a giant ficus tree and bury a penny at its roots. And third," she leaned over to the table and picked up a package wrapped in brown paper, "You must take this back across the border to my friend Jonny, who is waiting at this very moment," she said, winking.
I suddenly smelled a foul fish. Picking up my book and bolting for the exit, I spat, "No thanks sister! Im not spending the next twenty years behind bars re-living Brad Davis in Midnight Express!" Her pleasant demeanor changed to sharp disgust as I ran, and all down the alley I could hear her screaming obscenities in two different languages.
Maybe this whole thing had been a terrible mistake. All that effort for naught. How many quacks did I have to suffer before realizing I would never get to speak to him? These charlatans, these "southpaw psychics," were just looking for any yahoo stupid enough to fall into their trap. Alas, Tolkien really was gone, beyond the circles of the world. Some secrets he took with him.
I drove home feeling uneasy and very dirty (and kind of spooked), desiring nothing more than a hot shower. A magnificent, cleansing shower would do me a world of good! I would scrub away the distress of the day.
Later, when I finally did emerge from that refreshing shower, I was in a world of steam. The closed bathroom was filled with moisture the mirrors entirely steamed up. Then something caught my eye. Something was in the mirror that had not been there before. Imagine my shock when I saw writing clearly formed on the glass. It was as if a ghostly hand had manifest, drawing out thin, spidery words. The language was Elvish, indeed.
"I cannot read the steamy letters!" I gasped. But I was quick enough with my digital camera before it evaporated. I took a picture and called up my fellow Staff writer Ostadan, for I needed his knowledge of Lore & Letters. Frightened and plenty excited, I told him the story. "You wouldnt believe it unless I showed you! Please, Ostadan, what are these words?" I begged. Talking for quite some time, we went through many books and journals until we reached a decent translation of the first two words:
But that last scrawl.... ah, that last term.... Its meaning was decisively clear. At last I understood the intent of the ghostly hand, why it sought me out, delivering a message from beyond. My question was answered at last. Now fans everywhere would know that Tolkien had give us his
Much too hasty,
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