Let me tell you something, I still get the creepy crawlies whenever I think about that half owl half man whooting long and hard into the night. I could see his Adam’s apple bobbing and weaving up and down his long, crusted neck. His blue eyes rolled to the back of his head, yet his arms and legs stood perfectly still. If I had to pick one word to describe the seconds I had to endure during this time frame, I would easily choose, “off-putting.”
Okay, that’s technically like a word and half. But currently I’m on a bus to Des Moines, Iowa to defend my Mr. Canada championship against James Earl Jones. Don’t worry, it’s a long story and we have plenty of time to get there. As for right now, you were looking to hear what happened next…..
I’m not going to lie to you; I didn’t sleep a wink that night. First of all, a jagged rock covered with spiders is not the type of bed you buy for a six year old. Every single time I started to drift off I would either shift my back into one of its pointy edges, or, much to my horror – a spider would climb into my mouth. Of course the true horror was when I realized I had eaten at least four of them during the approximately two and a half minutes I was asleep. How do I know I ate at least four spiders? My good half owl half man friend clued me in.
“Hey do you know you are eating spiders?”
If you remember the sound Lucy made whenever she realized she was making out with Snoopy and not some debonair stranger, you can accurately portray my own reaction in your mind. I asked him why he didn’t prevent me from eating them.
“I have greater interests on my mind than the human necessary for my victory in battle eating spiders!”
I was flattered so I pressed him no more on the subject. However there was one thing I had yet to find out and I figured if I was going into war with the thing I might as well find out his name.
“My name is filled with consonants and sounds only owls can make. To try and say my name would possibly make your eyes bleed and blow out one of your hamstrings. Therefore I cannot tell you.”
I stared at him open mouthed. Nothing in my life was easy, including apparently saying this creature’s name. But I pressed him. After all, what would happen if I needed him in battle and couldn’t get his attention?
He paused for a second and rubbed his filthy chin. Even after thirty straight seconds of rubbing not one flicker of dust was removed from his person. It was as if the dirt had replaced his skin and became a part of him. Finally he spoke.
“After much deliberation, you may call me Alan Thicke.”
Alan’s eyes diverted off to the East as the first slivers of light raced off into the sky. It was time.
“Listen to me close, famous little boy. I want you to walk three hundred yards northwest until you come across a pink orchid plant. Upon reaching the destination, bend down and start digging by your left foot. You will come across a bronze key that has no business being in a corn field. Take that key and shout out the phrase, “Malta Bon Wuman”. At that point my armies will know you possess the way into the fortress. We will then rendezvous with you two miles due west of the pink orchid plant. You can ride one of my trusted battle owls and he will protect you throughout the battle.”
Here’s the problem. I’m almost seven years old. My attention span is perhaps ten full seconds on whoever is speaking and then it’s a random free for all. At the moment he said three hundred yards, I saw a butterfly over Alan’s right shoulder. Its colors were a mixture of blue, purple and green and I decided right then and there I would call it Mary. As I watched Mary dance in the background, it appeared to Alan that I was hanging on his every word. To further the charade, when he finished the butterfly did a loopty-loop, which I followed by bobbing my head up and down – leading Alan to believe I not only heard his entire speech but understood it as well.
“Onward boy! Go find that pink orchid!”
Alan furrowed his disgusting brow as he watched me walk due south instead of the northwest direction he had spoken of. When he called me out on it, I played it off by saying I was merely stretching. After I went west I played it off as trying to gain an accurate foothold in the ground. Finally I stumbled upon northwest and was on my way.
Again, remember I had not paid attention at all to what Alan had said. All I was aware of now was I was walking in the right direction and I had to find a pink orchid. Six year old boys barely know what color, “pink” is – forget about knowing any botany skills. Orchids were as big a mystery to me as the floating thumb trick an uncle does to tease his nephew. Still, I continued my walk.
Forty five minutes later I stopped to take a breath. Little did I know I had passed the pink orchid thirty five minutes earlier. My stomach was growling and the temperature inside this forest or ravine or wherever the hell I was, was beginning to heat up. It was then I heard a low whisper.
I turned around several times but didn’t see anyone.
“Hey you! PSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSST”
This time I spun around several more times and added a, “who, me?” to the routine. But I still couldn’t lock my eyes on the person.
“Is your name Tom Starita? Answer by saying AYE or NAY.”
These were sounds foreign to my mind and I had no idea what they meant. The mysterious stranger took my silence for stupidity as well.
“AYE means yes, NAY means no.”
For the first time in my life I was able to say AYE.
“Then you are in grave danger. There is a creature here in this forest who means to do you harm. Come with me and escape this wretched fate you have fallen into!”
I would like to say I learned from my mother never to talk to strangers, or go with them when they beckon you to come. Of course I can’t because my mother sold me to the Beatniks – Gloria & Solomon to be used as furniture. Instead, I would like to think common sense kept me at bay. I asked him who he was and why he cared so much about me.
“My name is Fred and you are the key to the entire shebang. The Princess needs you. Is there anything more a boy like you could possibly need to know?
Fred had found my weak spot, one I had forgotten all about. I was still swooning from my tonguing down the Princess, despite the mess of problems that had followed. Neither killing a polar bear, possibly coming out of an old woman’s vagina, or dealing with the half owl, half man Alan Thicke could make me forget her. Immediately my back straightened and I asked what needed to be done.
“Come with me back to the castle. There you will protected by the Princess’ personal guards. Alan Thicke means to kill everyone, but since we are a peaceful peoples, all we need you to do is banish him away.”
My head twitched at the dichotomy of his statement. Fred wanted to take me back for protection, but I had to banish Alan Thicke. I asked him to reconcile those statements. Of course I didn’t use such an impressive array of vocabulary. I just said,
“Tell me young Tom Starita? Do you know how to handle a guitar? Specifically, can you play the solo from Ted Nugent’s Stranglehold?”
And for the second time in my life, I said,