Lysander and the Whiskey

Lysander and the Whiskey

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Lysander and the Whiskey

Once upon a time, in a thick enchanting evergreen forest, lived a young man. He was tall but scrawny and his skin was a deep chestnut from spending his life with nature. His hair was assumed brown, but it was soaked in so much filth that it could be a red or even a blonde color. It was summertime and the lad was relaxing on a hammock he built with willow tree branches.

His mouth spread open slowly and his chest rose as he breathed in a deep, lazy yawn. He stretched his thin arms high above him, and smiled as he felt his muscles tense. He fisted his hands and rubbed them over his eyes to help unglue his lids stuck shut. His eyes received handfuls of dirt and the boy blinked wildly to cleanse them out.

“Lysander!” the voice boomed, waking the lad from his peaceful trance, and sending him tumbling off his hammock. “A chariot comes near! Get goin’, ya rascal!” Lysander was dragged up off the ground by his ear. He looked up to see another scraggly boy, with flaming red hair. Lysander hurried to follow the red-haired boy, keeping sight of his freckle splattered back as he rushed to lead the way through the brush. They ran for the main road that passed through their forest.

Sure enough, there was a fancy chariot pulling up alongside them. Lysander and his friend jumped in front of it and shouted, “Yield!” The chariot slowed and an old man peered his shriveled-up face out the side.

“Gentleman, this is private property,” Lysander heaved his chest high as though he were a proud aristocrat, “The land belongs to my master, Sir Humphrenfrank. I am not to let you through.”

“Oh, crock. I been round these parts an’ I never heard of any Humphrenfrankster. I’d be damned if I was wrong in saying you’re a prankster.”

“Be warned, you oughtn’t show disrespect on land that ain’t yours, sir,” The red-haired boy answered.

“Aw, come off it boys. I gotta get my way through so cut it out with the ploys.”

“In honesty sir, I suppose I can do you a favor. I can let you through if you would pay some small tolls, eight shillings of gold, sir.”

“Eight shillings! I’m not that meek! Boys make an honest five at the blacksmith’s for a week!”

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“Sir, it is a small price to pay. It is obviously an important journey for you. We don’t have to let you through,” The red-haired boy tried.

Lysander grabbed the ends of his air, “Now you’re rhyming, too! I’ll go crazy, do stop!”

“Keep calm, I need this money for the hat shop,” the red-haired child winked.

“Ya know I heard of these road-side villains. Sleepin’ their dirty selves on the side of traffic and wakin’ up to rip off the head of an old man.”

“Then be grateful your head has been spared, sir,” Lysander grinned. His grin was broad and boyish; something about it just made the old miser want to smile, too.

“Alright, youngins, ten shillings it is.” He reached into his pocket for some coins, spinning them across the air to the boys. The coins each flipped several times. Lysander and the red-haired boy were amused as they tried to count the flips: one… two… three… four… five… six… seven… eight… nine… ten. “Ten flips for ten shilling,” the old man smirked. Lysander and the red-haired boy caught the coins and dived out of the way as the chariot passed by.

“What a score!” the red-haired boy’s feet were dancing as he felt the five shillings in his hand, “I can’t believe he forgot we only asked for eight!” Lysander smiled, “I don’t think he forgot. Ah’m purty sure he knew all the time.” And he walked off through the forest.

Which way was the way to town? Lysander dreamed of what he was going to buy. He heard they had some mighty fine boomerangs for only three shillings. But Lysander would soon be too old for silly games like that. He wasn’t sure of his age, but he figured he’d be up to eighteen years pretty soon. Maybe he ought to save his money for a fancy suit, so he could go into town and get a real job. Lysander laughed aloud at that, imaging himself getting a suit-and-tie job. Lysander was a woodsman and would always be a woodsman. How about some soap? Lysander ran his fingers through his greasy hair. Maybe Lysander could impress a pretty girl. It was high time he found himself a female companion. A nice little wife to wash his face and soothe his lips.
Lysander wandered alone through the forest for a long time, dreaming about how much fun he was going to have in town. The red-haired boy and he had not been successful in their “private property” scheme for weeks. And five whole shillings to himself? He felt like a rich man. But, where was town anyway? Suddenly Lysander found himself in an unfamiliar part of the forest. A strange bright green stood a few hundred feet away. What plant was that, he wondered? It glowed with an almost eerie iridescence. Lysander hurried closer. It was a wall of green vine, built straight and unnaturally. What man lives here and knows the art of growing such a vine? Lysander walked around the wall. It continued in a straight line. He reached an opening in the wall, a tall entrance.
“Hello!” Lysander called in, but he heard no reply. He peered inside but the vines overgrew the pathways. I ought to go home for a sharp knife so I can explore this dilapidated place, Lysander thought. Living in the forest, Lysander practically had a compass built in his head. He could simply sense the direction for home. And so he began.
No more than a hundred paces, Lysander noticed a shaggy lean-to. A huge, strong oak supported it, but the lean-to itself seemed like a rather weak structure. Like it could fall down any minute. Lysander peered forward and stepped towards the shack,
“Hello?” he knocked against the side. An old, feeble man stumbled out of the shambles.
“Yea?” “My name is Lysander, how do you do?” “Take a look at me old hut and me old body. Do I look as though I do dandy?” the agitated man answered.
“Sorry to bother you, old man, but—”
“I’m feelin’ like a trashy rat among his bed of death.”

“Yes, indeed. That is not too dandy. But, you see, I was journeying and do you know anything about those green vine walls over there?” Lysander pointed to the direction of the vines.

“Oh yes, I know everything about ‘em. I live just a few paces from all the action, you know. Lean forward son, you wouldn’t think such an interesting story could be told from an old man like me.

“Nearby in town a curious magician called Dorsteinn lives. Years ago he went a little crazy when he drank a mixture of pepper and helium. Dorsteinn’s daughter turned sixteen this year and the magician, like any father, wanted to assure his daughter a brave husband, who was willing to make sacrifices for her. Dorsteinn’s tipsy mind could only think to create a challenging maze and put his daughter at the end.”

“How exciting!” Lysander’s eyes sparkled for adventure. “I will be the first to challenge the maze!”
“A few have tried; they came out saying it was not worth the energy.”

“It must be a difficult course.”

“Or an undeserving maiden at the finish,” the old man mumbled.
“What’s that, sir?”
“A difficult course indeed,” he smiled with a hint of frisk in the corner of his lips. “My brave young man, my knowledge has inspired you to embark on quite a journey. Do you think you can do this on your own?”
“Well, is there anything you can give me? A knife, perhaps?”
“I will give you supernatural aid! But what can you give me?”
“I have five shillings,” Lysander took the coins from his pocket. The old man seized them and crawled into his shack.

“Here, youngin,” the man reappeared, “a never-emptying bottle of whiskey.”
“A bottle of whiskey!” Lysander laughed, “You jest.”
“Have you ever tried whiskey before?” a defense-tone arose in the man’s voice.
“No, only a bit of beer.”
“Then do not underestimate its power! I tell you, this whiskey will astonish you with its….” He paused and then whispered, “magic.”
“Magic for a drunkard, mayhap!”
“Son! I am the only guidance you have for your journey! Drink the damned whiskey!”

The boy nodded, took the bottle and left the crazy, old man to his shack. Lysander paused a few feet away to taste the whiskey. He brought the bottle to his lips and tilted it upwards. A piercing shot of whiskey attacked his mouth like a sharpened knife, scraping his tongue and burning his throat.

“Ahh!” the young boy cried, “Blast that nasty old man!” But, Lysander remembered the old man’s words, ‘I am your only guidance you have for your journey.’ The old man probably had more bologna in him than the sausage itself. He probably created the absurd story while under the influence of his moonshine. Drunken bastard. But what if the old man was telling the truth? Maybe, just maybe there was a beautiful girl waiting for Lysander to carry her off in his arms and call him her hero. I want to believe it, Lysander decided. And with that he brought the whiskey to his lips once more.

“Yow!” he shouted, and then breathed in deeply, “That is some strong liquor.” He stood still a moment, his eyes bulging out of his head and his chest heaving up and down. When Lysander caught his breath he whispered, “But what a great aftertaste.” Lysander smiled a slaphappy grin and pressed on towards the great maze.

The maze was huge, the size of ten stables stacked beside each other. The walls were unnaturally bright, like the color of a young caterpillar. Lysander quickly found the opening; it was large enough for a herd of African elephants to walk through. As he stepped through, the massive, intimidating walls shadowed over him.

Inside, the maze’s walls took two directions, left and right. Lysander took another sip of his “magical” moonshine. His head spun round and he took the left. The grassy vines thrashed down from the walls, attacking Lysander’s face with its furious fingers. They clawed at his cheeks, digging into his skin like a hungry dog digs the earth in search for buried animal flesh. Lysander yowled in pain and darted through the twisty corridor, thrusting the vines out of his way with his bare fingers and arms.

At last the creepers settled down and slid off his ripped skin. Lysander halted for a breath, gasping at the sharp pains he felt as the windy air harassed his open wounds. He wiped his dirty hair off his face and looked up to see where he was. He was facing a barren wall of stone. A dead end. Lysander lifted up his bottle of whiskey, still full in his hand, poured some liquid down his throat and made a run back for the start of the maze.

You must be right with going right, Lysander reasoned. He began down the opposite end. The vines were still and mercifully did not attack his sore flesh. Lysander continued walking. It was almost a peaceful walk, skipping among the brilliant colors of the vines and the scattered dandelions at his feet. He began to enjoy himself perhaps a bit too much, because he hadn’t even noticed the sand when he felt his feet sink into the earth. His ankles slid under the wet sand and his calves immediately following. Lysander tried to walk, but could do nothing as his knees slipped below. He felt dizzy as the sand spun his body towards the center of its pit, his waist approaching the very edge. Lysander looked around him in a state of panic.

A vine! He had to get a vine. Lysander stretched his arms high above him and felt a leaf brush his fingertips. He was sinking in farther. He threw his other arm to its maximum height and seized the edge of a vine. His palms grasped the vine for all they had, piercing the vine’s sharp brambles into his skin. But Lysander did not even wince; he pulled himself up out of the sand like a true hero.

Lysander retraced his steps backwards and found another corridor. I will have to be more aware, he thought. For each step Lysander took, he pre-surveyed the patch of earth before him. Several minutes passed by and everything was okay. Lysander was able to avoid a few holes in the earth, holes so deep that their ends could not be seen. Lysander proceeded down another corridor and another turn and another corridor and another turn. Just as he felt a sense of disinterest, he saw before him sixteen silver serpents.
“Sssssso you want the princessssss,” the first snake slivered towards him.
“You’ve come to the right addressssss,” the next continued.
“But before you meet her caressssss…”
“You must show us some finesssssse.”
“Pass us for your successssss.”
“Then you can have your maiden in her wedding dressssss.”

Lysander pressed his foot over the first serpent’s head, crushing it’s skull like road kill. He sprung off its body to the center of the serpents. One serpent slivered around his ankle and nearly caught it. But Lysander whacked it on the head with his bottle of moonshine. Two serpents dove at his head at once, and Lysander felt his body shake off balance. But he jumped up quickly, landing on their sensitive tails. They winced in pain.

“You serpents are no match for a hero like this,” Lysander laughed, pointing to himself.
“Be careful with that parti prissssss…”
“You’ve yet to taste a serpent’s kisssss!”
The thirteen active serpents lowered their jaws, each revealing two razor sharp pointers and a tongue a crimson red. They whipped their tongues out and created a chorus of “Kissssssssss!” Their tongues were thin and forked at the tips. They drew their tongues back into their mouth and then out again accompanied with blazing fire. Lysander jumped to avoid the spurts of fire thrown at him every which way. A fireball zoomed within a whisker from his eye and he fell to the ground, dizzy. He wanted to run back to his home of hammocks and con artistry. Lysander felt the cold scaly body across his forehead. Frightened, he grasped it with his hand and held it high in the air above his head. Lysander, with his other hand, lifted his whiskey bottle ready to strike the serpent over the head. The other serpents froze in their attacks.
“Let him go… he isssss our most highly esssteemed sssserpent.”
“We’ll ssssssacrifice and let you passssst, dear gent.”
“It is done,” Lysander replied, dropped the serpent and hurried to the next corridor. As he rounded the corner, Lysander could see the outline of the girl! Her golden blond hair shone like a radiant light at the end of the tunnel. Lysander, tired and sore, scraped and beaten, scrambled to meet her. I’m almost there, he thought, to having the beautiful princess in my arms, to tasting her sugary sweet lips! Just a little farther. Lysander dragged his feet along the ground, closer and closer, bit by bit, watching the fuzzy image of the maiden draw nearer.

Lysander awoke to the feeling of his hair being brushed gently with human fingertips. He slowly opened his heavy eyelids and focused on the figure before him. Her hair was a soft blond, and fell in tangled knots to her bosom. She wore a torn pink dress, covered in layers of the earth. Her nose was not a pretty little pug nose of a princess, but longer and more protruding. Though she was sixteen, her face was covered in freckles and her lips were chapped and dull. Her eyelids were thin and her lashes weak in color.

“Young man, you’ve finally made my rescue.”
“How long have you waited, maiden?” Lysander was careful not to say princess, because by the look of her, she was no princess. Serpents can be deceiving.
“Oh, I’ve waited weeks.”

“Weeks.” Lysander answered, disappointed. Not a very long time. Perhaps he should have waited a month or two for a more glorious victory. Lysander rolled over and felt a pang of disgusting vermin intrude his mouth. He lowered his tongue and let it spill out. The girl frowned and moved away, but did not squeal or screech as a princess would. Definitely not a princess.
“You were drunk yesterday,” the girl responded nonchalantly.
“Oh boy, do I feel it.” He sounded immature and he realized it afterwards. He was supposed to be some great hero that fought fiery serpents and fierce vines. But she was supposed to be a pretty little princess, clean and squeamish.
“Won’t you liberate me from these chains and carry me out of this dreadful place?” the girl played a little with the fantasy game she knew Lysander itched for.
“But, are all the obstacles gone?”
“The snakes, the overgrowth, the holes, the sand piles?”
“Yes, ma’am. Not things for a lady to see.”
“Ha, lady, am I? I’m but a girl. But I got personality… I got interesting things to say… and where do you live? Say, why don’t we run away together and build our home in this very forest. I have so tired of city life.”

“Maiden, I live in this forest already. I would like for you to come stay with me on my natural hammocks and live on my dishonest pay, but I would not feel worthy.”
“My father is a rich man; he built this preposterous obstacle course. I have tired of jewels and such. Take me away.”

“My dear girl, I can do just that. He lifted her up and carried her through the maze. All the obstacles were magically frozen once defeated, so Lysander examined them with interest.

“These garden snakes! What are they doing here! I fought great serpents with fire bursting from their open jaws!” Lysander shook his head as he walked by a couple of limp foot-long poisonous snakes.

“These piles of sand are messy, but I struggled my way through the fastest quick sand anyone has ever encountered!”
“And these vines! They were…alive! They shove their fingernails deep into my body!” Lysander sighed at a mere overgrowth of peaceful forest vines blocking the last corridor. “My scars…” Lysander scrutinized his filthy skin, but found no deep open wounds, only angry scrapes and scratches.

“You don’t need to play big, strong hero. My father’s been an egotistical lunatic for years. I just want somebody normal and in touch with the earth.”
“You are right, that is exactly who I am. I only wanted a wife to wash my face and let me touch her skin. But…something about this maze…I felt tough, I felt brave…I was a hero and I fought great obstacles.” The girl shook her head and led Lysander into town where her father lived.

The door was a brilliant sickly green, the color the walls of the maze at been. It was nauseating. Lysander knocked, but there was no answer. The girl insisted he keep knocking. He knocked fifteen more times.
“Well, salutations! If it isn’t a suitor for my young Takako!”
“Takako?” Lysander asked.
“You haven’t even exchanged names yet, how in the blibity are you expecting to exchange vows!” The magician stepped forward. He appeared middle-aged, and had intense purple hair, messy and covering half of his face. His eyes were unseen. He wore a ridiculous hexagon-shaped hat and looked like a walking disaster with a ratty pink gown hanging down to the floor.

“Sir, I have not met you before. You must be Takako’s father. I am Lysander, and upon completing your difficult maze challenge, I ask for your daughter’s hand in marriage,” Lysander spoke like the aristocrat he loved to imitate.
“Blah, blah, monstrahfagah! It was not all that difficult, I just needed to put my daughter somewhere while I took a Bahamas vacation.”
“Bahamah, sir?”
“Oh, never mind. Yes, I am Dorsteinn and you completed my maze. In any case, you look like a dogwood’s root just pulled up out of the ground. You can’t have Takako.”
“I spent all my energy on your ridiculous life-risking maze and you’re not going to let me take Takako away?”
“Life risking? A few garden snakes and bramble overgrowth?”
“But, sir, I…” Lysander looked down at his feet to try to think of the words to explain. He saw in his hand his “magical” moonshine. That was it! The moonshine. Ah, that blasted old man from the shack. The moonshine had changed Lysander’s entire perception of the maze.

“…I was only jesting. Sir, I have this terrific bottle of whiskey… it’s absolutely marvelous. Do try a sip.”

The curious magician reached out his hand and pulled the bottle to his lips, “Yowzer! You rotten boy!” his eyes grew wild with red fire. Then the magician lifted the bottle again and gulped several times. Soon he was drunk like a mad man. “Sure you can have my daughter Takako, hahaharrrr, and introduce her to some whips and chains, why don’t you my good chummy.”

And so the whiskey, in winning Takako’s father over, proved to be the best supernatural aid a young man could have. Lysander took Takako’s hand and led her back to the forest where he lived. She was fascinated with the clear-water streams, the wildflowers, and the baby foxes. Takako loved to relax in the hammock, to listen to Lysander and the red-haired boy’s wild stories of trickery, and to wash Lysander’s face and hair. She discovered that underneath all Lysander’s filth, he had pure golden blonde hair. And Lysander discovered that underneath Takako’s shell, she had a pure golden heart. They lived together happily ever after.
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