Tandem to the fenced-off property entrance, cardinals chittered and pranced alongside the palisades. Ty’s blurred vision confused them for splotches of blood, but his hearing manifested their singing as a choir welcoming him a bit further into the unknown. His continued crawl of faith led to this moment, and somehow the most unlikely of Edenites truly journeyed toward their way home. Before pulling himself up and steeping onto the fallen gate, Tyhannon peered over yonder in disbelief at the majestic falls appearing on the opposite end of his journey. “No way, I’d come that far” he thought. It was the only clear recollection he could muster as the dizzying intensified. From nowhere, dried leaves created a swirling pattern that crossed through him and brought an overwhelming sense of comfort.
Whirling echoes swarmed in Ty’s eardrums and the more forward he trudged, the more intense the reverberation pulsated his brain. Now arriving at the property’s door entrance, his ear ringing turned into a dizzying spell as he struggled upward onto a dry-rotting porch post on all fours. He fell off the side railing and onto the shaded leaves, which were still brimming with morning dew. Ty forced himself back up the two steps to get his weak body off the damp ground and pushed his way in through the splintered makeshift door. The bottom of the blighted wood chipped, a rusty lock disintegrated, and the door creaked open. The dampness of a leaf-covered ground gave way to a dusty floor that served as a pillow as he rested his eyes. With vision blurred, he saw a dark man in overalls coming toward him but passed out from exhaustion before he could get a word out.
He awoke face up to an elder woman pouring cold water over his head and tapping his face hard enough to count as a slap. The woman turned her head to the men and yelled to no one in particular, “Will y’all shut that dang door already! Y’all lettin’ all that cold air in here.”
Ty shot up from his position on the floor rug and said, “Who, who are y’all?”
Another man in the middle rocking chair broke the silence. “Welcome to the shindig, young man! We call ourselves The Dreamweavers. You probably heard of us a time or two.”
An awkward silence ensued as Ty blinked a few times and looked right and left trying to wrap his mind around this cast of folks he had never met.
“Or maybe not. Here, we’ll play you a lil’ something familiar.”
“Hold on, am I dead?”
“Heck if I know, I ain’t on of them ouija boards. I’m here. You’re here. We’re talkin’, so I’m gonna assume, no!”
A bunch of raspy laughing and knee slapping ensued.
Jed requested. “Can we play our song now?”
Ty nodded yes trying to assess his whereabouts.
The fiddling banjo strumming and wailing filled the silent air with a melodic bluegrass foreign to Ty’s ears. He couldn’t put his finger on why, but he liked it. One of the elder men, put his bass alongside the log wall and arose from his rocking chair extending his hand for a shake. The name’s Ephraim, but my friends call me Effy. How’s ‘bout you, son?
“Me? I’m Ty, Tyhannon. You can call me Ty though.”
That’s a nice grip you got there, son. You that Briggs boy ain’t cha?
“Yeah, yes sir I am.”
“Stuff of legends what chu been through so far. We rootin’ for ya, son. Best believe that!” Effy said patting Tyhannon’s right shoulder.
“Good folks. Your maw and paw. You might not know they history, but they’s instrumental in bringin’ this town together. I’ll have to tell you about it sometime. You see, this used to be one of the sun down towns. People like us wasn’t allowed in after dark. Too many sins went down in the dark which led to the exodus, but the power ah they words changed all that for us,” Effy informed.
From the middle rocker, Daniel injected, “Damned, worthless bastards. Divide and conquer. Old and the night is young, my young friend. We’re all put on this Earth as human beings. Some are just always itchin’ to mess up our allotted time in some shape, form, or fashion. Miserable summa bitches. To hell with ‘em I say.”
Hezzy chimed in, “Effy, we needs you on the bass for this next one. From root to flower, our society doesn’t value this enough. The joy of good music, food, and company. Let’s hit it, fellers!” Another high-energy melody ensued with the bass binding it all together.
Mamaw, invited Ty over with a wave to sit down. “Help ya’self!” she insisted. “Got some buckwheat cakes, fried eggs and ramps with bacon, and my famous hot buns and honey butter. We eatin’ high on the hog today, ain’t we boys!?”
“Yes, ma’am!” they shouted in unison.
Mamaw handed Ty a mason jar. “Here, take ya a swig of this. It’ll tickle yer innards a lil’ bit, but it’s good for the soul.”
Tyhannon assessed her tiny, but mighty frame as she lugged that cast iron stew pot around without her boy’s help. She looked just about as trustworthy as any granny, but the pink contents of that jar were questionable.
Ty took one more stare into the jar, sniffed it, then tipped his head back and gulped the last swig. Quietness filled the room, and all eyes awaited Tyhannon’s reaction. It took a few moments to hit, then Ty gasped in and outward.
“Jed, you see that? Boy, damn near spit out fire” Mamaw said laughing hysterically.
Effy’s wife, Adeena turned around from stoking the fire. “Quit messin’ with that poor chile!”
Mamaw assured, “Oh, we just havin’ a little fun and givin’ him a proper welcome! He’ll fit in just fine ‘round here.”
“What was that?” Ty interrupted still coughing and gasping for a clean breath.
Adeena chuckled, shook her head and went back to whatever she was making on her loom.
Raspy guffaws, puff clouds of tobacco pipe smoke, and banjo strumming continued as Ty’s virgin lungs recovered from the hot needle-like sting and hypnotic vision.
Mamaw informed, “We call it Dragon’s Piss. It’s our own concoction. Got some of that sweet heat, I think they call it nowadays. Some watermelon juice, cayenne and ‘shrooms in a signature moonshine from the Prohibition Era. Healthy and clean ya out real good! Ward them bad spirits off and all. Also, it’ll ward off anything that might spook ol’ Nordeen in your presence. She might try to kill ya out there! ”
Still in coughing spurts, Ty asked, “Who’s Nordeen, and why do y’all think I have bad spirits? I think my chest is on fire!”
“Well, son, we’re all fighting battles. Few, if any, know ‘bout Ol’ Nordeen’s though. Sumtin, got in her crawl and never came back out! Don’t want none of that drama in her wheelhouse. Know what I mean?”
“No. Who’s Nordeen?”
“Oh, that ol’ broad calls herself the Birther of the Forest and Guardian of the Natural Elements or some’ crazy,” Jed chimed in.
Heart in mouth, Ty pressed on, “What does that even mean? She can’t be real.”
Effy advised, “Reality is in the eye of the beholder. Bless your heart, son. You shoulda figured that out by now. You see, you was given, no, gifted, a free spirit. In the beginning, we’re all given the choice of free spirit, but the gift is discovering and acting upon it. You see what I’m gettin’ at, son?”
Ty replied, “There’s so much to unwrap, but I’m afraid I’ll come unraveled.”
“Boy, is you an enigma or a Christmas gift?” Jed inquired.
Adeena said, “Ignore that fool! Honey, go back in the woods, and I guarantee your soul will return to its rightful place.”
Jed chimed in again, “And watch out for the lurch out there. That’s one big summa bitch! If he gets ‘hold of you, all hell’s gon’ break loose.” and slapped his knee with a raspy laugh only amusing himself.
Effy continued, “You’ll enter the period of rain and fog for a natural baptism. Once you’re swashed you’ll know by the feeling of purity. There are no sins on the bluest mountains. Look up and follow the ends of a rainbow the likes you’ve never seen before.”
Jed teasingly said, “Whatcha gon tell him next, ? A happy-go-lucky leprechain gon’ give him a pot of gold and show him the gateway to heaven.”
Mamaw chastised, “For goodness sake, quit being a shit kicker ‘for I break out the paddle and whip yer hindparts!”
Jed retorted, “I am what I am, Maw. Cain’t never could beat it outta me!”
Lord knows, I would if I could. My hair’s a grayin’ foolin’ with your shenanigans, Mamaw ended.
Effy interrupted, “Well, we’ve told you 6 ways from Sunday just about everything you need to know. You’re a bright young man. You’re gonna be tested. You’ve got some real honest to God battles to fight ahead of you. I know it doesn’t make sense now, but trust in yourself. We’re all rooin’ for ya! Go on! It’s your time.”
Adeena shouted in glory, “We’ll by God’s graces, it’s finally finished and turned out just right. This is a gift to guide your journey, honey.”
Ty gazed in awe at the royal blue, canary yellow and grayish brown hexagon shape throughout the wool poncho that was handed to him. He was mesmerized by the hospitality, the gesture, and surrealism of the moment, but mustered a heartfelt, “Thank you!”
Mamaw gruffly interrupted the moment with anticipation of her own, “Well, go ‘head and put it on!”
“It’s missing something,” said Effy. He took of his brown felt hat with the blue jay feather and placed it atop Tyhannon’s crown. The passing of this torch was a ripe fit for the right moment. The men embraced in a hug and pulled Adeena and everyone else in.
Hezzy offered, “You want summa this here water ‘fore ya go?”
Ty considered it for a moment then watched him spit tobacco juice into a galvanized bucket. “Ya know, I’m alright, but I appreciate the offer.
Effy gave Ty a knowing smile and placed an affirming squeeze on Ty’s shoulder. “You gotta get goin’ son. Time’s a waistin’. Any more questions?”
“Okay...okay, no think I got it now. Y’all be good.”
Jed opined, “Well, that ain’t no fun!”
After the bonafide third-time’s-a-charm-West Virginia goodbye, Ty lowered his head with a nod and tip of his new hat before opening the creaky door. And the banjos and fiddle continued their farewell ballad without a hitch as he closed the door behind him.
Tyhannon stepped off the front porch, stopped, then turned back to ask one more question. He reopened the door but there was nothing but blighted curtains, rickety rocking chairs, and un-sanded floorboards. He felt the poncho and pinched the brim of his new hat to reassure himself of the events before turning back toward the forest.