Monday, January 25, 2010

Chapter Sixty-Seven

“I’m afraid I cannot go with you, Pinocchio,” says the Lion.

He stands with his fleshless companions on the diamond-white shores of Neverland. With the blue sea before them and the green jungle behind, the Lion thinks it could be a beautiful island... were it not for the plague.

The four of them - Lion, puppet, Candelabra and Clock - focus on the grand and miraculous pirate ship anchored in the bay.

“Are you sure?” asks Pinocchio.

“Yes, unfortunately. I can see them scurrying around - no, don’t strain your eyes, dear child, we’re too far away - and I would be more hindrance than help in this situation.”

“But,” says Pinocchio, “I don’t want to leave you.”

“And I don’t wish to leave you,” purrs the Lion, and he is surprised to realize he isn’t lying. “But your duty is to find your father, not defend me from the dead.”

He surprises himself even more by hoping that the woodcarver is alive and on the ship, as unlikely as that may be. The dead men prowling the deck would not miss such a target.

“You’re right,” says Pinocchio, and he looks between his three friends and the pirate ship. “He’s my father. I should go alone.”

“Oh, no, no, no,” says the Candelabra, and it hops forward on the sand. “If your father can help the master, I will help you. That’s what we are here for, no?”

“And I’ll stay here,” says the Clock, his eyes warily following the figures onboard the Jolly Roger. “To remain with the Lion,” he adds quickly. “And,” he adds again, “I’m quite sure he’s not there anyway, but in a cave.”

“Well...” says Pinocchio, “we’ll be quick.”

“I’ll be right here,” says the Lion.

And it’s strange. Pinocchio hesitates for a moment, but then he hugs the Lion’s dark mane, and the Lion rubs his scarred face against the puppet’s frame. Surely just to mark his scent.

But it is strange. They somehow know that they won’t see each other again. And in Pinocchio’s short life, he’s lost so many people so suddenly - his father, his conscience, the Little Pig - that he cannot leave the Lion without a proper farewell.

“Be good,” he says. “Be careful.”

“I will and I am,” says the Lion, and he watches them walk into the ocean, Pinocchio clutching the Candelabra in his trusting hands.