Sunday, January 10, 2010

Chapter Sixty-Three

For several days now, the Clock and the Candelabra have argued over where mermaids might be found, and the Lion has long since learned to simply block out their petulant voices.

He instead entertains pleasant memories of eating the Man, or of his brother’s death. Happier times.

Pinocchio frequently interjects with images from the Enchanted Mirror, but the visions of Gepetto only add to the debate.

“My dear child, I must insist,” insists the Candelabra, “that your father is on a boat somewhere. Look at his location! Water everywhere, no open sky. Trust me, Master Pinocchio, we won’t find him on land.”

“Oh, for heaven’s sake,” counters the Clock. “They are mermen, you fiery fool! And look at all the others coming at him: fish, fish of all kinds! Would they flop up onto some boat, even dead as they are? No, I assure you, Monsieur Gepetto is under the ocean... perhaps in a cave of some sort.”

“If that’s the case,” the Candelabra retorts, “and I’m sure it isn’t, how are we to find him? Tie weights to ourselves and search the Seven Seas?”

“The Lion will come up with something,” Pinocchio adds. “Right?”

“As always,” the Lion responds absently. “I’m thinking about it right now.” And he remembers the taste of the Man’s blood.

He’s come to realize that he is no longer leading little pride anymore. In fact, he hasn’t for some time. With his thoughts elsewhere - yet with his ears and nose always poised to catch the approach of the dead - Pinocchio has taken to leading their quartet through the forest.

It annoys the Lion greatly that the puppet would take on such responsibility - especially since the boy doesn’t know anything about anything - but he concedes it’s better than him having to fake it for a while.

His reveries are broken by the joyous shout of Pinocchio. “This is it!” he calls, after pushing aside a thicket. “I think,” he adds.

They stand in front of another Doorway, graceful and magical and somehow fitting, though it stands in the middle of nowhere and should be as obtrusive as, say, a lion wandering with a puppet and two pieces of furniture.

“This is what, exactly?” the Lion asks lightly.

“Well,” concedes Pinocchio, “this might be it.”

In a way, the Lion privately admits the boy is right - any Doorway out of this horrible land is a suitable destination, regardless of where his father might dwell.

The Candelabra studies the words carved over the frame, but for once it remains quiet.

The Lion allows the silence to grow until the boy has felt suitably embarrassed, and then asks quietly, “Can anyone read it?"

He quickly answers his own question. “No, I’d forgotten. You never bothered to learn, Pinocchio, disobedient as you were. I never had the opportunity. And what about you?” the Lion’s yellow eyes roll down to the Candelabra. “What’s your excuse?”

The Candelabra stiffens its brass back and glares at the Lion. “My master could barely read. Why should I have the advantage over him?”

“It says,” ticks the Clock in a rather definitive tone, “Neverland.” He smiles a smug little smile and adds, “I ran the master’s affairs. Being literate was a necessity.”

“Neverland?” Pinocchio’s eyes widen and he jumps up to hug the Lion’s mane. “This is it! This is it!” he says, though the Lion figures he’d say that no matter what was written on the door.

The Clock and the Candelabra look at each other.

“My friend,” said the Candelabra, “it appears as though I am right. Our dear woodcarver is no doubt aboard one of the pirate ships that surround Neverland.”

“Or, more likely,” snaps the Clock, “he has found refuge in a cave alongside a beach.”

As usual, the Lion ignores them. His eyes fade as he loses himself in thought. The tales of Neverland have spread far and wide, even to the Wildlands - though the animals tend to call it the Dreamtime. And if even half the tales are true, then this is a land of Men - pirates and Indians and mermaids - and of children. Helpless, hearty children... And he remembers the taste of the Man's blood.

The Lion smiles. “Yes, Neverland. I’m sure we’ll find what we are looking for there.” And with a single stride through the Doorway, he retakes his position as head of the pride.