Sometimes a man says, “Aye” without meaning to. Your mind is saying,
“Oh no no no. Absolutely not. I have no idea how to play a guitar or what a “Nugent” is. These are all impossibilities and although I sympathize with your situation, I cannot extend a helping hand. I am now off for my morning constitutional, good day sir.”
But I didn’t express such a loquacious statement. I had answered in the affirmative, and now events were once again threatening to spiral out of control. Fred was walking with a hint of scoliosis and was doing his best to rush back to the castle. The grounds upon which we walked were not in a hospitable mood and several times Fred tripped over the random tree root or skidded on the morning dew. I would offer my assistance but he waved it off, telling me instead to focus on the almost impossible five minute guitar solo found in “Strangehold.” Would my fragile young fingers be able to withstand the constant assault? For the third time in my life, mainly because I was falling in love with the word, I answered,
We walked for miles, or perhaps it was minutes – to a six year old time is as foreign as Demark is to an American. In any event, as the sun began to grow somewhat in intensity, I heard Fred let out a low guttural grunt and saw him point with his mutant left hand. Seeing the abomination hanging from his wrist caused my mouth to drop open like a trap door. Once again, being six had been more of a hindrance than a help. My memory had let me down, I had met Fred once before. He was the one who carried me in to face Phil the polar bear and his freakish left hand was the receipt to the memory. I stopped in my tracks and stood there in a panic. Am I doing the right thing here? Should I be trusting in the man with the deformed left hand, or should I put all my faith in a half man, half owl thing named Alan Thicke? My options were the equivalent of having the shit sandwich or the shit soup. Either way my face would be full of it.
Fred walked a couple of feet more before stopping, realizing I was not directly behind him anymore. Without turning around he said quietly, and without fanfare,
“You are the one. You tongued down the Princess. You killed Phil the polar bear when no one else could. And now it is your destiny to save the Royal Family from destruction at the hands of Alan Thicke and his mutant owl army. To turn your back on us now would be murdering us. There is no other way, there is no other option. Your hands must play “Stranglehold.” Otherwise, we are all doomed.”
The castle door was fifty feet away, on the opposite side of a moat. I didn’t need to answer Fred’s speech with words, just my actions. So I followed him up to the edge of the moat, and I continued to follow him across the drawbridge and into the castle. The immediate area was empty, no people or animals, not even a tumbleweed. Fred saw my concern and told me everyone was underground. If I failed, the lair below the surface would buy them enough time to save some lives. Fred’s monster left hand extended its disgustingly long index finger and pointed up to a spot high on the castle wall. There I would find the guitar, and there I would play said guitar and save everyone in the kingdom. There was no more time to waste now – the guitar needed to be tuned and I needed to sit there and be ready. With an awkward smile, Fred brought me in close with his normal right arm and wished me luck. I didn’t know the appropriate response so I nodded and watched as Fred walked to the far north end corner, lift up a mat and climb into the underground.
I was now alone.
Climbing up the ladder to the spot, I thought of Alan Thicke and how I was betraying him. This thing had placed all its trust in me, and now here I was working for the other side. I could smell the guilt waif from my pores, and despite my earnest attempts, could not stop the tears from forming and then raining down my ruddy cheeks. I was a bad boy no matter what. Someone would be getting hurt today no matter what I did or did not do. As I reached the top I could see the metallic blue Les Paul staring back at me. Ahh yes, there was still the matter of playing a guitar well enough to save an entire kingdom. The word panic doesn’t do my mindset justice here. Not even sheer terror could aptly describe the predicament I was in. A black hole of despair opened up inside my stomach and threatened to consume my entire being. If one letter could best paint the word picture here, it would be the letter F.
I was F’ed.
While I stood there, staring at the guitar and thinking of the letter F, I heard a rumbling in the distance. The surrounding forest shook, and the clouds above broke apart as seemingly thousands of dark brown wings flapped. They were here, in a few seconds I would hear Alan Thicke’s voice and he would know I betrayed him. I would see the dirt and grime on his face and would be aware for the first time in my life of the feeling of intense hatred. There was a small wooden stool a couple of feet to my left, and I placed my left foot on top, while gripping the guitar in my right hand. I had no idea what I was doing, but at the very least perhaps I could swing the guitar like a club and stave off the owls which would be swooping down from above. It was then I heard Thicke’s owl voice,
“BETRAYYYYYYYYYAL! YOU HAVE BETRAYED YOUR OWL BREATHREN! YOU, TOM STARITA, HAVE SIGNED YOUR DEATH WARRANT. YOU HAVE PICKED THE WRONG SIDE IN THIS FIGHT BOY, AND NOW I PROMISE YOU, YOUR DEATH WILL NOT BE A SWIFT ONE. WE WILL FEED ON YOU DURING THE DAY, AND KEEP YOU ALIVE AT NIGHT, SO YOU CAN THINK OF THE HORROR OF BEING SLOWLY EATEN THE FOLLOWING DAY. THE PAIN WILL BE UNBEARABLE, THE AGONY…”
Alan was still screaming at the top of his lungs at me, but my attention was diverted by how pretty the guitar looked when the sun reflected on it. The screaming had dimmed to a low roar and I concentrated on the hole underneath the strings. There were words written faintly inside and I squinted my eyes to get a better look. After a couple of seconds I was able to make out what was there,
With a flicker of remembrance of Mr. Beard and that day in the apartment, the word left my thin, chapped lips. It was less than a whisper, but all that was needed. Suddenly I could see two eyes in the hole of the guitar. They were seemingly thousands of miles away, but that was impossible. The hole couldn’t be more than a foot deep. As the seconds passed the eyes grew more and more defined and now I could see two small hands coming towards me as well, gripping either side of the hole. Finally, a being began to crawl out of the hole – but all I could see of it was a long, flowing beard.
“YOUR LEGS WILL BE CRACKED LIKE LOBSTER CLAWS AND WE WILL NEST IN YOUR SCROTUM WHILE…wait what are you doing up there?”
Alan Thicke had been screaming at me the entire time but now, despite being hundreds of feet below me had sensed there was something else up there with me.
“WHAT BLACK MAGIC ARE YOU COMMITING RIGHT NOW? WHAT DO YOU THINK…… NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!”
Alan Thicke’s eyes bulged as he stood there, staring up at Ted Nugent. Time had ceased to exist, and nothing in nature moved an inch, except for the flowing beard of Nugent. Then, with a dramatic flourish, Ted grabbed the guitar and began to play “Strangehold.” The screams of pain will be something that will forever haunt my dreams. The giant owls began falling from the skies and crashing into the surrounding forest. Creatures began to spontaneously burst in flames, and blood poured from the ears of whatever being had been unfortunate to not have escaped. As the pace quickened and the song rumbled into the crescendo, there was nothing left but Alan Thicke. Tears poured from his face and it sounded like he was praying for death. My six year old conscience couldn’t take the sight and I grabbed Nugent’s hand before he could deliver the final death chords. My mouth opened and words poured forth, although I’m still not sure where they came from, or from whose authority they were delivered upon,
“You are freed from your miserable existence. You will go to America and change history there by singing a theme song of young black boys and a white old man living together. Then you will show America how to love, courtesy of an irresistible young scamp named Mike Seaver. There will also be a talk show but the less said of that the better. Go in peace Alan Thicke, and never set foot in Denmark ever again!”
Lightning struck and I could see the dirt and grime on his face form into a dark tan. His dirty hair congealed together, forming a professional quaff. His left eye winked at me, perhaps out of gratitude, perhaps out of defiance and then he was gone. I fell to the floor with a gasp, looked up and saw Ted Nugent floating away on a cloud made out of hair. I can still hear his departing words,
“You have done well little one. But the biggest challenge comes from within. Be ready, for soon you will be defeated.”
And then I passed out.