"gift shop" my first words as i stumble out of the crack.
Lyoto at first looked straight up at the roofless ceiling of the church of stone and light, waited some more, looked up some more, and then came down with the smile of a prospector who had struck gold: "yeeheeheehheee," he circled his arms in circles, "you did it, boy! i know where that is!"
"now who's making noise," i noted.
"over here, boy, we mustn't dillydally, i've been holding it in for so long it hurts."
the old man grabbed my arm forcefully and raced to a heretofore-unseen corridor at the very edge of the left point of the open-air cathedral. there of course were three trials we had to pass.
as i entered the test at the entrance of the stoned throughway, i was not stoned, but my foot certainly did hurt.
what could this be? i thought.
then, out of a slit in the atmosphere, Livia came to me. through this line that seemingly separated this world from the next, Livia tapped my shoulder and whispered in my ear that i was experiencing symbolic pain, my foot as the symbol of all of the miles i have traveled to no avail catching up with me, this journey that i have been on which has as yet yielded no fruit. my foot really did hurt, it wasn't an inner thing, but Livia's blows of wind in my ear still felt nice.
Lyoto: are you ready for the first test, boy?
me: i didn't know there would be tests, but whatever.
we approach a deadend. an iron door seals the way. then *poof* appears Jendo with his three riddle cards in one hand and a torch in the other, and he offers us torches with his third.
me: no, i'm fine.
Lyoto: i could use a torch, it's dark in here.
Jendo: what is the only bird that can't fly?
Lyoto: turtles. i like turtles.
me: you nit!
Lyoto: told ya. turtles can't fly. they're not birds. respect your elders.
Jendo: if a train leaves the station at 8AM...
Lyoto:...let me stop you right there! let's cut to the chase. the answer is: at least the trains ran on time.
Jendo: correct again.
i decided to sit this one out and observe.
Jendo: what is something that is born with four legs, lives most of its life on two legs, and needs three legs as it prepares to die? and the answer isn't man...OH FUCK! fuck me! i told myself to NOT do the exact thing i just did there! you know when you imagine with your brain not to do something, all it does is activate your brain TO do that something because you already play out the scenario in your mind so it's locked into your brain's images and aching to get out. well, whatever, i guess you can pass, i sorta forfeited it right there...
me: what's the second trial?
Lyoto: Indiana Jones.
me: what do you mean?
Lyoto: Indiana Jones.
and right on cue, a giant boulder came rumbling into view trying to squash us. we had to run as fast as we could. i didn't remember running that fast since i won my 3rd-grade marathon. i carried the old man on my back the whole way, he was starting to feel wet. we managed to escape into a side hatch as the boulder exploded at another deadend wall and burst into tiny pieces of meatball.
me: it was a giant meatball?
me: well, excuse me while i feed. i'm hongry.
as i took bite after bite from the ground to my mouth, i noticed the old man undo his trousers, pull out his penis, and start stroking.
me: what the fuck! come on, man, not while i'm eating.
Lyoto: i'm not masturbating, i'm just stretching it out. we need to get to this damn gift shop now!
the third test was in a secret room below the elevation of where the meatball exploded. we had to get into a moving coal cart, send us in this car along the rusty tracks, which was quite the roller-coaster ride, 'til we crashed unexpectedly at a huge metal nub that was our stop. after we recovered, i had enough sense in my head to read an ominous sign posted above the bronze door at the foot of the tracks:
HERE YOU WILL MEET YOUR GREATEST ENEMY.
we opened the door, which wasn't locked, just ajar, no need for keys, and went into the darkness. a scratch provided a glimpse of light. a man had struck a match against his shoe bottom and lit up a cigarette, he was sitting on a big rock in the middle of the room. he snapped his fingers and all of the torches lining the center of the circular room lit up like magic. it was Dagan!
Dagan: sit down, old man!
Lyoto: YOU are my greatest enemy? haha, i think not. how does it feel to get your ass kicked, literally?
Dagan: this is what i'm here to talk to you about.
i sat this one out, too.
Dagan: as you can tell, i'm still alive after you kicked me out into the sky. i was about to burn up in the atmosphere, but a divine hand poofed me into this room and told me to wait until i could get my revenge. revenge isn't going to be a fight, that would just be stooping to your level. no, being high up in the sky like that, you see the world in a different perspective, you see how small you people are on the ground there, like ants. i have become an enlightened being...
Lyoto: fuck you!
Dagan: no, fuck YOU, FUCK YOU! i'm better than you, i'm closer to the gods in the sky now than you puny humans. what you did to me wasn't cool. it left me battered and bruised. you messed up my perfect hair. can you at least admit that?
Dagan: ADMIT IT!
Lyoto: okay (sheepishly).
hmmm, that was a strange turnaround. perhaps Lyoto's current condition was making him more humble.
Lyoto: so, then, what is my greatest enemy?
Dagan: humility, you old bitch.
Lyoto: can we go now? is, is this over?
Dagan: i can poof you right into the gift shop from here if you want.
me: uh, yes, please.
Dagan: you old bitch.
Dagan sent us into the church's gift shop. there for sale on hooks were a wide assortment of glittering keys: renaissance, door, skeleton, gold, silver, treehouse, the ones you put outside in the flower pot by the front door that you always forget about and which invite unknown company. the seller of this fine establishment was one Arky, a boy who looked like a boy but had the mind of a monk.
Arky seemed to push his foot on something which opened a secret compartment or something, it was all out of our view behind his counter, even though it was a glass counter. he pulled something up from the ground. it was a silver key that had a large wooden block attached to it.
Arky: you have earned this. you are worthy. here is the Key of Unloading.
Lyoto scrambled. he tore the key from Arky's grasp and scurried along to the gift-shop bathroom. it was all a moot point because this bathroom didn't need a key to be opened, the lock had jammed from rust and was removed, there was just a big ol' hole there where the lock once rested.
i decided to plumb the depths of Arky's cool consciousness.
me: so, UNloading?
Arky: you were told the name was slightly not right. Lyoto really needed to go to the bathroom. poor soul's been keeping it in the whole time. he suffers from incontinence. he had an accident here two weeks ago, soaking the entire carpet. since then, he was banned from this place until you came along and changed everything. now that he has the bathroom key, he can go in peace whenever he wants and we don't have to continually buy new carpet.
me: was all of this worth it? (i said out loud)
"incontinence isn't funny," Lyoto scolded me as he finished and blended into the conversation, "i'm an old man, you forget that."
before i had a chance to laugh or to emote anything, i did realize that i had forgotten Lyoto was old, he always came off as spry and energetic.
bell rung, it was the chimes signaling a customer had pushed the gift-shop-entrance door.
it was Dad. Dad took one look at Lyoto with Lyoto's hand around my shoulder and Dad turned around and left.
Lyoto: one more thing, son.
Lyoto: do you want to be my son?
and with that, i had to sit down on the fluffy red gift-shop sofa and depressurize. i had to think. i thought. then i smiled.
Lyoto: was it worth it? think about it. this whole time, this entire three-week, three-part trip, you were distracted, you weren't thinking about how shitty your life is, how nonexistent your sex life is.
he was right. he was the old wise one after all, the one who had lived longer and knew things i couldn't yet. i sat up on the sofa and pointed to my head, then my heart, then my crotch.
Lyoto: dude, don't do that here. have some respect, you're in a church.
in the background, Dagan and the two sisters could be heard tuning their instruments in preparation for the next Mass. they were a band in full force, playing
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