lives a witch in them thar woods. but it's not what you think. a witch for the modern world.
Taki Kettleflower is a reporter for the most egregious newspaper in all of Obec Woods, The Kettle Flower. it was named after her, cos she was the only one doing work. she was the last hard-nosed reporter left, the only one who dared---deigned---to go after the truth in this post-truth world which had fallen on its arches. unlike her coworkers---who would while away the days in their little offices fanning themselves with empty printer paper and moaning at how slow their gold pocketwatches were turning---Taki went after stories and personalities like a bull in a japan shop. they and everyone else in business had resigned to the conclusion that the world was forever fucked, that you could present a complete and utter lie as truth and not only would humans tend to support the liar---so distrustful they were of the press---the more outlandish the lie, somehow the more believable it seemed to the public.
Taki: of course this isn't about truth or the news. it's simply human nature. if you tell people not to do something, they will do it to their death. it's completely counterintuitive and detrimental but it's fun. we're little wascally rebellious rodents like that.
remember, this is the time where "literally" means "figuratively". everybody in her news division---which is supposed to be serious not the comics room---conceded that the truth had been the first casualty long ago, in a war that was never declared but seemed to be going on forever. Taki's compatriots spent their business hours fiddling with their own Wikipedia pages---which you aren't supposed to do, not allowed---crafting jokes from the day's headlines---hoping for that one golden meme to viral on 4Chan---or discussing said headlines on their youtube channel like somehow THEIR take on the events of our time will be more earthshattering. but Taki had a different bent, she saw thing differently. she would never let herself forget where she came from, how her father died---in that industrial accident that was only in one panel of the manga---that honor to her was more important than her life, she would carry on alone, she loved being alone, she could think of thoughts not infected by the mass media---or worse, the alternative media.
soon it became painfully obvious that Taki would be working from home from now on. she really despised her coworkers' nerves. and why not? this special house of hers was the scene of some of her and the early 21st century's greatest journalistic feats and accomplishments. Taki loved being surrounded by nature so she fashioned her home out of the bark of The Great Oak. her kitchen tabletops were the Tree's knots, her linoleum was made of beewax, and her only overhead lights were fireflies.
Taki: call me crazy, it makes good print. but i take the Disney Hayao Miyazaki films seriously, to heart, they aren't just movies to me. nature will eventually win, nature is like China. i figure all this nature will counterbalance all the hate i sew in and spew out daily.
she swims on her linoleum floors each day before her breakfast: one morning peach. she sits on her huge wicker peacock chair three sizes too big for her small but spunky frame and sips her elderberry tea. a stripper string of parrots lowers down to greet her, tickle her one-line cheek with their feathers, as she gazes at the circular mirrow mirror on the opposite yellow-wallpapered wall which looks back at the series of infinity mirrors in back of her, incrementally capturing the rays of the sun till the sun disappears, fun mirrors which do serious business, going on forever till reaching the point, like the ones in Enter the Dragon, her one all-encompassing window out to the world, a mathematical, geometric window.
this room, known as the Hotbox to everyone else, where she comforts her subjects---confronts her suspects---loosens them up with some Swedish fish candy from her candydish by her chair, glass candydish in the shape of Marilyn Monroe's tit. that always does the trick, man or woman. and then all the heavy green vines close in on the interview-subject and curl around their body forming their chair, making them feel nice and secure, if not warm and a little constricted.
in this very room, this spot, she got Michael Jordan to open up and laugh for the first time, admitting he made the whole thing up. she got Cher to admit she didn't actually believe in any afterlife, but she still thought she'd see Bono again cos Bono was that stubborn. back then the drones weren't what they are now and had a hard time transmitting back from the dense forest. she got Arnold Palmer to confess on the day of the OJ murders. she even got Les Moonves to crack:
Les Moonves: no.
Taki: Moonves, do you know who i am? my last name means Moon in Japanese.
Les Moonves: i did it.
in this same room is where she calls up her son on the telephone. Takahashi, he attends Exodus College. she rings around her bony finger on the rotary dial:
Taki: Taka, honeypot?
Takahashi: i lil busy, mom!
Taki: is that any way to address an award-winning journa?
Takahashi: sorry, babe, your trinkets mean nothing to me, only your love. you called RIGHT as i was working on a particularly-dark panel of my graphic novel that needs a lot of inking.
Taki: son, look, art is fun, but it doesn't pay the bills. did the Cosby thing fall through?
Takahashi: no it's still on. someday. when the lawyers clear and clean it up. art is the only thing in this world which cannot be corrupted. look at the courtroom sketches by Art Lien, President Bump is having a hard time on twitter discounting those. hard to manipulate or otherwise rearrange drawings.
Taki: now see, i am so proud of you for that, i look forward to your Cosby Column! i KNEW you were brilliant after all! let's both eat an acorn at the same time. mmmmmm, chewy. that's what you should be focusing on.
Takahashi: i took an alternative class...
Taki: OH NO! HASHI!!!...................................no, son, video-game journalism is not journalism...
Comic Con has come to Exodus College! landed there more likely and accurately. most are gleeful, others, like a particular machine who lives in a haunted house on the edge of campus we all know, is fretting bullets. he needs peace and quiet and recluse to carry out his work, not an unnatural influx of nerds.
Laertus is setting up his presentation. in Hall H with a sizeable crowd who doesn't know what's going on or who the speakers are, fidgeting with their ridiculous costumes, drunk off makeshift tiramisu made by pouring con coffee into crumbled-up cookies in a styrofoam cup.
Dirg: RAGE, YOU DAMNED NERDS!!! same to you. i've never seen you mad, Laertus, i'd hate to see you when you finally flip. what are you doing here? shouldn't you be at class?
Laertus: i think for us, this IS class now. help me with the humidifier slash overhead projector.
Dirg: can't, sis, i'm a man.
Laertus: HEY, man, we're friends but not if you continue freelancing hate. that be scurrilous slur/scandalous......i won't take it this year! i ain't skird! i need some one person on my side. be my aide.
Dirg: relax, man, post-PC world, remember? go outside and smell the whatever.
the professor, who looks awfully like James Gunn with his hair shaved off, points Dirg's shoulder back with a brush from his long pool cue.
professor: Mr. uh Dirg...screenname?...sigh...sir, it's your turn for your presentation. i won't hear any more of your lame pathetic ancient excuses! you've slacked off long enough in your life. lax is NOT short for LAX!!!
Dirg tries to set up the screen slash smoke machine but fails miserably. he's only able to recover the first few minutes of the assignment, which are the only minutes he did, a supercut of Gabriel Byrne as The Mechanic from Smilla's Sense of Snow repeating
Smilla Smilla Smilla Smilla Smilla Smilla
for 5 hours.
Dirg: now THERE's a man!
the two are escorted out, under an official complaint filed from Laertus. and under the plastic gun of one Gunn, James Gunn.
Laertus: hey, if you want to mortgage your future away for a frat house, that's on you. i'm getting a dorm room this year, outside campus. which you are free to crash, i get lonely nights when the gunshots start. i swear i've held this image of Smilla's Sense of Snow in my mind ever since i first heard about it. i honestly thought it was some Finnish foreign-language film about a long-lost folk tale of a doll that comes to life and must navigate the harsh winters of Scandinavia. ritual subtitles, everyone speaking funny, and the butler turns out to be the father. not what we got, we got a brilliant crime drama from a spunky socialite and some Doctor Who monsters buried in ice.
Dirg: i saw a VHS video-preview on tape for the movie Brassed Off. i thought it was gonna be about a philharmonic in New York City or something, metal woodwinds and a kettledrum. i saw that one babe in what i thought was a fluffy red concert dress and red heels. there would be a hot sex scene in the orchestra pit. they would gather in the interiors of carved mansions when they weren't practicing to play.
Laertus: yeah, i had no idea about the miners' strike storyline or the scab angle or group man showers and stuff. or how unions are impossible. this was back when trailers were good and misleading. very strange film: there's so much coarse language and rancid innuendo, but there's no actual sex shown. but of course the mob violence just outside a family lawn in front of young impressionable kid eyes always seems to squeeze through with a slicked palm. the guy's dressed up in clown cosplay and everyone's taking things too serious. like some mini-Godfather. don't take away the tv! i never saw the priesthood in the same way again. brought back memories.
Dirg: realism. what a shame, the bird in that has legs like pub lawndarts! and an arse that just won't quit....shaking like a tomato can in a swirling Essex laundromat washing machine when she walks down that Skins brick street...like the tail of a peacock, the birdiest of birds! i love how in Britain, women are called "pets".
Laertus: i don't like coffee either...that had to have been Ben Kenobi's very first film. it was marketed in some States as simply a romcom between the lass and the jedi.
Dirg: makes sense. nobody in, say, India would care about getting down 'n dirty in dirt painted on the sky of a dreary England grey day, too busy making glamorous Bollywood choreography in many colors. hard-earned wages democratically-won and animal baths in bathtubs are for the boreds. wanna join me for coffee? the next café's indoors just blocks from here. coffee is the only thing you can drink in college.
Laertus: sure. Frappuccino isn't technically coffee, it's flavored filtered marsh-water made in a lab in Florida.
the two walk past infront of Mark Zuckerberg's overhead-projection on screen, creating two large looming nerd shadows, masking the numbers.
Mark: ...and that's why i deleted facebook. i mean my facebook. SECURITY!!! get these fuckers off the stage! ban those bozos for life!...as i was sayin', jus, justice, yeah, i mean the thing is, it's impossible to control. for the next half-election and full election and half-erection and beyond and the foreseeable future and unforeseen consequences. we've merely created a platform that is impossible to corral. it's quite impossible to do.
The Queen of England: right? exactly! same with us!
Mark: your facebook-numbers problem and Russian problem?
The Queen: no, our country!
on a Viking Crusie ship somewhere out in the sea where many tragedies go missing, Doryce is kvetching again.
Doryce: i thought i'd met a real Viking. oh well, it's slower but planes are too unreliable these days.
Gladyce: blessings forever. how can a final report say that there is no explanation? then it isn't a final report is it? Mother will care for them for eternity. less and less peope are believing in magic these days, magic doesn't have the nascent hold it had in folk of past ages who lived mostly in forests.
Doryce: forest folk, my kind of fuckers. walnut-eaters. who communicate by whispering in woods. i would like to learn to fly, dear.
Gladyce: deary do not avert your gaze to the honking birds presently flying our pointy heads overhead. they are precious animals, more precious than ye or me or we, they deserve to live more, that's what i'm learning the more i live. i will protect those ostriches with my life, they shall not know fear or hurt under my tenure. i was born to be a protector. when you are cold i will wrap you in my cold crone arms and you will know the magic of a witch's warmth. on a broom is safest, protected by magic. avoid small and medium-sized airports. how soon people forget.
Gladyce rolls out a faded daguerreotype from her bosom peak and unspools it. it's of her as a young woman beside a green hill smiling into the light for the first time.
Doryce: wow, you were quite the babe back then! i'll save this as a memento when you're...
Gladyce: let's talk not of dreadful things, lover, let's enjoy the moment of ourselves right now. that is such a long way off.
they embrace. Doryce licks the photograph.
Doryce: i'm sorry, my love, i'm just scared. of everything and everyone in this world. i cover it with sarcasm and soot.
Gladyce: used the silver and salt in that mine to process this photo. one of the first ever made.
Doryce: you should have quickly taken off your pants and shown your butt. it would have been the first feminist statement in a photograph. of course the press would paint it as the first porn.
Gladyce: the same salt and silver in those pepper shakers on your tray just there.
Doryce: *deshading her sunglasses* hey, can a bitch get some wine up in this bitch with the broth! there's only so much fizzy Cawston elderberry soda a girl can drink without dissolving the lining of her birth canal!
at Melbourne's sprawling estate, a plantation hides the first non-bark brown seen in Obec Woods in some time, a tuft of lawn grass held up by two Roman ivory pillars and a pink two-storey house spraypainted all the colors with cucumber-shaped balloons. Melbourne is entertaining guests quietly on his outside Southern patio without a porch like he usually does on mellow Wednesday afternoons, in wire chairs and a big white circle with holes to breathe, on a circle of recently-mowed plants by hard workers recently browned by the sun, muscles developed, to the music of the mower, set to the natural rhythms of the forest, everything in its sundial place, the stone sundial by the human naked chessboard. the gardeners with denim shirts off and gray pants pulled above their heads as bandana headbands. everyone sipping the latest pleasant spirit in long glass glasses. discussing the day's events cos there's nothing really else to talk about.
Melbourne is an unassuming fellow, he with the tropical shirt always open and unbuttoned, always revealing at least one nipple on his hairless chest, a face of skinny circle, sunken and always with that crewcut like he's always ready to go to war, with dark eyes like Nero's but kind eyes. more an expression of placidity than smile on his lips. gray shorts which always are rolled up to his ankles, his two hairs on his ankles cropping out of purple socks and purple Docs shoes. eyecolor like the river...
Melbourne: the battlefield of love. please, ladies and gentlemen, change behind my crystal corsair. i want everyone to feel relaxed, comfortable, and free to express any opinion they want.
Ashley Parker: from the online paper. why do you call your plantation Strong Mentality? does this have something to do with Fuerza?
Melbourne: S&M. just kidding. *chuckling blithely* please, don't call it a plantation. estate? okay i'll go with estate.
everyone chuckles blithely.
Melbourne: Tara Strong, my favorite voice actress. plantation mentality, i'm subsuming that term before it gets out and gets twisted by the enemy of the people who seek love. want more love, less hate. we brothers have to stick together. in real harmony. there is only one answer to our chains: love.
Jonathan Lemire: can i? now?
Ashley Parker: okay, NOW you're cool.
Jonathan Lemire: you are amazing, Ashley. even with your sunken eyes you look hot. have you been on vacation?
Ashley: a reporter never goes on vacation. because the vacation is the story.
Melbourne: i'm technically on a break. between paths. but i helped out with the lawncare and yardwork and mowing this afternoon. cos i love those guys so much. i did the hard yards with them and got them to smile. i did more than open the gate. i gave them each a hug and they ended with giving me a group pat on the back. Serena, hello! are you disappointed?
Serena Williams: Meghan Markle and i are no longer friends, she says it's gonna take her full focus to reconcile with her father, she has no more time. she was bitter cos she said she gave me a show and i didn't really return the favor. and i kept some of the wedding party favors. kinda ruined the mood, spoiled the party atmosphere, poured water on the storybook ending, coronation fever was still sparking the air. but i got my kid and i'm alive, so i always win. don't take that drubbing with too much salt and silver. my kid is with Meghan now, she really wanted to play with her as she decides if she has cold feet with this whole thing.
President Bump: *to Serena* who are you?
Melbourne: sir! where did you come from?
Bump: coming from buying the groceries.
Melbourne flashes the red dotted flowing see-through light of a grocery-store price-scanner.
Bump: *coiling* whoa whoa whoa! yous be careful with that! what is that?
Melbourne: keep it, sir. hand it to your men, i use it to chase away the rodents that get in my garden.
Cliff Drysdale tries to crash the party, he hops over the fence but Melbourne is there at the estate gate to let him in. Cliff is surprised as he was willing to show his forged ATP card to one of the gardeners, but instead cuts the card in half with a lying-around garden tool of pincing pliers. Cliff is now ashamed. he shows his glove and touches Melbourne's cheek with his gloved hand, Melbourne takes off the glove and kisses Cliff's palm. Cliff cries away.
Melbourne: no need for an escort, Cliff knows he was wrong. i love Cliff as a brother, he is my brother, i kiss him on both cheeks. but he can't keep pretending to be Kevin Anderson, it's not fair to Kevin. one day there will be a 5th-set tiebreaker at all the Slams and Cliff and i will look back on this incident and laugh.
Bump: i hate marathons, too boring, not good for ratings. i currently have no place to go. the bathroom pipes at The Open were atrocious. i was practicing with my best friend Kim for the tournament.
Melbourne: Carnoustie looks like my lawn in summer. i love seeing my lawn brown during summer.
Bump: so Kim shoots a hole-in-one and that's that, i need to go back to Q school, yous know? and then a balloonist with a hose of water hits me in my head hair like some Civil Rights hydrant cannon. what was all that about?
Melbourne: hoses save lives. they're from the Garden.
Bump: that Manafort trial, amirite? i mean why doesn't he plead? Paul told me he can make more money on the inside than he can in Ukraine. the world we live in. he won't flip, right? not after all this time. i sent him my KFC pancakes to his jail cell this morning, hey i went without breakfast this morning that was a sacrifice. as a little sign. he can use the file as a knife.
Melbourne: *hands behind his head on the chair tilting on one leg* i've been known to flip the best of 'em. and men. but i can't seem to flip this house, no one wants all the work. and lawdy this manse needs a good flipping.
Bosanquet sips her horseradish vodka.
Bump: good, right, honey? i'm proud of you. it tastes good. real horseradish. straight from Butina's bosom herself. yeah, that's what she used to get answers. made from real horses, well Vlad's was, mine was sipped through a McDonald's straw this morning. definitely made up for not having a real breakfast today.
Melbourne: anyone for a liquid lunch? *stroking his hairless chin* Butina, Butina...i knew a Butina when i worked in the field, she had three nipples...on one breast. she got all the bad boys i remembered. very exotic.
James Gunn: why would anyone have a Twitter? no seriously. and if you're gonna twitter, why keep around five-year-old ancient tweets? they serve no purpose other than to remind you you can never escape your past no matter what kind of a good person you are now.
Bump: yes, with yous, patna, can you delete only part of your twitter? like just keep this year's tweets, that's it? get rid of the rest?
President of Finland: everyone's leaving. all our Viking Cruise ships are being moored. in other Scandinavia. or set on fire. nobody wants to come anymore. we had the reputation of SOLVING crises between countries, not STARTING them with a soceer ball. the doves were all ready in their cages to be let out to fly in the frigid sky. temps were tamped. we are the SUMMIT, the highest point of human experience! now we will go back to being what we've always long suspected: we're nothing more than a giant iceberg. we were once quoted in the media as being the most depressed people on the planet. but we had challenged the curve and were looking up, people were getting happier and more educated, and we became the happiest, friendliest Finns in the most-recent poll and The Simpsons. but it looks like we're going back downhill.
Taki is on the phone again. this time to her boss.
Taki: yes, boss, got it, i understand your instructions. the assignment is good as dead. i mean done. possible illegal you say? hiding out here in Obec? sounds like a real sicko serial killer. yeah i saw the clippings online, after i clipped them out myself from my own newspaper article. a supposed collector of ancient Grecian and Roman statues of goddesses? ivory with their arms chopped off. huh, the drones work this time. collector, huh? nice racket if you can make the least racket. hidden in plain site. the black market will be the least of this dude's worries, he has to contend with his black soul. prolly gets all juicy excited amd soy-fed inspired by those demented monuments, testaments to his testes, he likes 'em motionless. i'll nab him with the sheer power of my presence. i ain't paranoid, i have a pussy! yes, i only take orders from you cos you're a ladyboss. i think. you have a very deep voice. chain-smoker? this is my scoop, sergeant, save tomorrow morning's broadsheet for me! but first, allow me to endeavor and entertain you with my morning routine. witness me exercising my spirit. you won't see me reveal my secret, i run on pure instinct.
after her peach and rolling around in her fur, she slips off her cotton robe and splashes into the Long Hope River which perfectly crosses her path and her green getaway's path. the house's wood is bathed by the running stream, the stones in the center of the river add silver and salt. Taki is so giddy with bubbling potential energy and dreamy this morning she forgot to dream the night before. she closes her eyes letting the current carry her wherever today. she can feel each drop on the back of her spine. she is lost in a daydream of discovery, a dam of defense, a jurypool of justice.
some time passes in the oasis. how much is a tree. her body feels that it's taking a path heretofore unknown to its back, forked left when she thought it could only fork right. but she is oblivious. her consciousness lost to another world
her naked body its own open raft. quickly descending an incline and into the foamy mouth of a slippery and quite-high waterfall that empties out literally on a fast ground landing of spray in the middle of Melbourne's garden.
Taki's body gets embarrassed before her mind does. though she is red-as-a-heart-attack on her face---Japanese folk don't usually get THIS red---only in manga---her reporter's mind quickly rattles through her lists, her possible headlines, her Helvetica, picking the winner of the wordsalad raffle in her head:
Taki: hiding in plain site/plain plantation/plantation plan...........................how rude! how rageful and full of spite your waterfall is, no way this waters your garden, it's too hard. it spits like you do to their female faces!