Chapter V Elsewhere : Fyra Oyer

“I’m not sure I’d eat that if I were you,” he said, his furry mustache giving each word a particular lisp at the end.
Over-Sized Hat glanced at the plate of food sitting before him, then up at Chase Augustine coyly.
“But you just gave this to me,” he said. “What is it?”
“Oh yah, I sure done did,” Chase replied. “That doesn’t mean I’m recommendin’ ya eat it though.”
“How’s about that?”
“Well, ‘ol Sookie made it, of course, and she’s a mighty good cook most of the time. I mean, ain’t had anybody run out and water the dirt with their insides, if you know what I’m sayin’. And it smells good, mmm-mm, sure does. Makes me want to steal it back from ya and ‘et it all up meeself. Ain’t nobody ever accused Sookie Trass of servin’ up no mess, and those biscuits, boy-oh-boy! Annie made dem, and you ain’t gonna get better than Anne-Marie’s rolls. Only problem is, I didn’t cook it, not a lick of it, so I can’t do that.”
“I don’t get it,” Hat said.
“I’ll tell you something that’s always done me right,” Chase continued. “Spent a lot of my time taking advice from other people, working from their ideas, doing their jobs, and eatin’ their food. For most of those years, I was a trough-filler and outhouse-emptier for any spare change I could get. Everything I did was ‘yessir’ this and ‘right away, sir’ that, because I was told that’s what you need to do. Sometimes I’d take what I made and invest in somebody else’s foolhardy ideas to make us rich, but then I’d only end up losin’ it all on cockamamy quests I didn’t come up with. You know where that led me?”
“Scoopin’ double the outhouses?” Hat replied.
“Exactly. Then I thought, well, maybe I should find love, marry myself into somethin’ to find direction, and saved up to take this pretty lass I’d seen around town out to dinner. Way out of my league, her name was Lizzie Hale, and she was a right-fine beauty. Unfortunately, I didn’t know she was one of the boss’s daughters, and when he found out? He weren’t too glad to hear his delicate flower was goin’ out with the manure-scooper, and suddenly I was shovelin’ triple the stinkholes. After that, I said it be the last time- I ain’t gonna be the one with the dirty overalls on, chasing after notions or partners or anything else I had no sense messin’ with. Nope, I was gonna follow only my own path, and began investing in myself. Weren’t gonna empty filth-cabinets for another minute longer than it took to earn enough to start workin’ for me alone. I wasn’t gonna go after any flowers unless they were in my garden, and I weren’t gonna eat no food I didn’t cook.”
Hat paused a moment, looking back down at the plate. He wasn’t sure what it all was- a mound of creamy, yellow sludge, a slab of something thick and grayish, and a hard-looking globe of crusty bread. He’d had worse.
“Tryin’ to tell me you need an outhouse scooper?” he asked.
“No, you gotta listen! I’m sayin’ that life didn’t start going right for me until I was makin’ my own grub for myself. Saved up enough for this here establishment, made a real name I could be proud of, and everything else came along with it. I’d had nothing, which was my everything, which was no life and definitely no kind of identity. Now here you sit eatin’ my food, and you never know where I got it. Me, I know where it came from because I’ve got all the things I ever wanted and give what I choose to give of it back. Now those all-things are my everything.”
Hat took a large scoop of the yellow stuff and shoveled it into his mouth.
“Seems like this came from a cob somewhere,” Hat mumbled.
“Bahh!” Chase said, wiping the small table next to them. “I’m just tryin’ to learn you something, boy. You’re almost grown now- time to become who you gonna be and make a name for yourself!”
“Pretty deep for a meal of cream corn and a steak,” Hat said.
“Ain't no better time for speaking of deep things while you're still in the shallow end,” he replied. “No need when you’re already over your head.”
With that, Chase gave him a big grin, told him to enjoy his meal, and went back to work. At the time, he wasn't sure what in tarnation he was yammerin' on about, but the notion grew on him after awhile. He hadn’t even been ‘Oversized Hat’ then, but it had shaped everything he'd eventually become, whether subconsciously or with some element of purpose. The conversation ran through his head the moment he touched that fissure, playing out the entire scenario again as if reliving it, and at its conclusion, he found himself elsewhere, bathed in light.
Blinking and shaking his head (and feeling the presence of his lofty hat still adorning it), he was floating just below a tremendous sea of softly-tinged, flickering violet. His mind raced, and the advice of Chase swirled around countless other questions as he drifted, as if wherever he was (or whatever he was within) were interviewing him and influencing his thoughts.
Who was he? the voice asked. What kind of figure had he become?
Hat looked down at his hands, examining them. With each movement of his fingertips, a note sounded out, muted but still audible. He thrust his arm forward as if splashing through the rays of brilliance, and a string of chords echoed out in unison, almost melodic in nature. The more he moved, the more in tune the sounds became, as if swimming in a melody, awash in a ballad of his own making.
Who was Over-Sized Hat, and was there another name he had at one time? the voice continued.
He thought about those things a moment, and the answers seemed just beyond his recollection. He remembered his life, trying to achieve the ideas addressed at that meal, and he’d accomplished a great many aspects of them. He’d succeeded by wandering, always on a journey, but to what in the end? Why had he chosen to do what he did for a living, continually seeking out the noises of the empty plains, hearing the songs of those desolate hills as they called him back?
And then, he knew.
This is where it all comes from, those sounds I can hear that others cannot. The wind has its own melody, the land, and the sky, and now I’ve found my own.
As if in reaction to his thoughts, the light around him began to sharpen in focus slightly. There were edges to where he was, walls that swirled like clouds, and within them were images he didn’t recognize. On just the other side, there was something alive- creatures of all shapes and sizes, some with physical features like his, and others not. He felt as if they were all similar despite their varying appearances, all swimming in the same tide and storm of personalities, all ideas of life waiting to come forward, break out, or free themselves, and destined to remain afloat until it happened. It was as if they were like he’d been, wandering while hearing the beckoning of something else, listening to songs others couldn’t.
I am Over-Sized Hat, he thought. I’m the guide through the desert, through the uncharted lands, and I can do it with my eyes shut if need be. I am the storyteller, the one that tromps forward and knows who he is because I made myself me. I am the seeker of the ballad in the void, but then here… I am the ballad you seek!
He floated closer to one of the figures in the hazy swirl as if suddenly drawn to it automatically. The sea of shining purple above him came even more into view, gleaming brighter and sharpened, flickering as if the sky were an inferno made of shimmering lavender.
There are flames, but it does not burn, he noted, staring at it as he drifted just below its surface. It’s a fire, over… what?
The figure to the side of him was within view, an animal almost reptilian, green and yellow, young and also wandering within its own thoughts. Still looking at the cauldron of flames above, he instinctively reached out his hand to the approaching being.
It is a fire over… a fire over… he thought, his mind racing, the light around him pulsating as if reaching an apex. I am Over-Sized Hat…
The thing was nearly within reach, if he could just stretch a little further…
A clawed finger stretched out towards him at the same time, as if suddenly recognizing his presence.
His hand grasped the dragon’s outstretched paw, and drew them both together.
Whoopie-Ti Yi-Yo, he thought, smiling.
And then, they both were gone.