I had just returned from some kind of an RPG convention where we’d been camping and doing LARP outdoors when it was nice and playing tabletop games indoors when it wasn’t. The Convention was way down Stateside somewhere but not Indianapolis. Like, we’re talking Louisiana or Georgia or something. I had managed to leave one of my bags on one of the buses, and not the bus that took us from the gaming venue to the airport. I had all my travel documents and wallet but the bag with books and gifts in was languishing *somewhere*. So I asked to return to the campsite before we left.
I found some gear left behind in one of the larger tents; actually I found inside the large tent a smaller tent and inside that tent (ANOTHER TENT! Like a matryoshka of camping huts! No. But that’s something I should dream in the future because that’s awesome. “It is the tent within the tent within the tent, my childe – it is the omen come true!”) some discarded clothes and sleeping gear, some comics, and a diary of sorts belonging to someone I haven’t seen or talked to in over 20 years. Inside the diary there was a strange calligraphy style fountain pen with oddly fluid ink.
I uncapped the pen and opened the journal to a blank page (of which there weren’t many left). The journal was mostly notes about characters he’d played; the most recent being a grifter with strange mental powers and a penchant for voyeurism. I began writing. The flat-nibbed pen wrote smoothly, like a hot knife through butter, and the strange ink sunk into the paper immediately, almost on contact. The ink flowed consistently in a striking midnight violet colour. As it dried, it changed colour to deep royal blue, then indigo, emerald green, Tyrian purple, burgundy, vermillion, rose, and finally settled somewhere between a ballet slipper pink and a kind of orangey coral. But it didn’t do so uniformly; some ink pooled in the whorls of ascenders or descenders and stayed firmly in the red. In heavy downstrokes there were lines of peacock and Prussian blue. Tittles and jots were more often that deep violet, but the commas; oh, the commas. The most magnificent maroon and scarlet.
At last, or rather of a sudden, I was home. Home in the strictest sense of the word, back in my childhood home up north. His Nibs was there, as was a lady who must have been some kind of appraiser. We were stood in the kitchen making noises about having to leave because we were both due back at work. I looked through the big picture window in the kitchen out into the back yard. Someone had built a shitty fire pit half under a shittier fence and had a fire going with nobody around.
I said “what kind of idiot builds a fire pit under a fence?”. Then I noticed the shitty fire pit and the worse fence were built where our garden used to be. The idiot had torn out the snow fence Da had back there and had driven wooden stakes into the ground halfway up to the house. Oh, also, on closer inspection (by looking slightly to the west), the shop was gone. Not even the concrete pad remained. The ground was torn up where the shop’s foundation once stood.
“Where the fuck is the shop, Elmer Fudd?” I hollered, and bolted through the back door. In the way of dreams, as I ran through the yard, a yokel walked up the hill toward me, stopping me in my tracks.
“Excuse me,” I said, “are these your stakes in our yard?”
He looked past me, just over my left shoulder. His eyes were half closed and as he began speaking I saw his teeth were stained with nicotine. “They sure are,” he said.
“Well you can’t just put them wherever you want; both the city plan and our surveyor’s certificate show that this is my father’s property, and it extends back to where the alley would be.”
“Is that so?” He asked. I mean. He wasn’t really asking. He said ‘is that so’ in the way people say it when they really mean ‘it’s so cute you think that’.
“Would you like me to fetch it and show you?” I asked.
“No,” he said, “I don’t need to see no piece of paper.”
“Did you tear down the shop that was there?”
“I did do that,” he said. “Ain’t nobody should treat caymanaymans like that.”
“I say the way them caymanaymans was treated, that’s likely criminal,” he said.
“I’m having a very hard time hearing you,” I said. “Could you please repeat that?”
“Anyway,” he said. “I took care of it. I reckon there won’t be any cost to you.”
“Uh,” I said.
“You’re lucky this time. Mighta been another man mighta called it in. Got someone out here. Someone in authority.”
“So, all the stuff that was in the shop,” I said, “what happened to that?”
The man raised a thin eyebrow and swivelled his head to look north, presumably toward his house. “Wasn’t much there,” he said.
“Well that’s complete bullshit,” I said. “That shop was literally filled to the rafters.”
“You mean that porcelain?”
Now. Friend. There is so much stuff in that shop. Sheets of drywall. Plywood. Lumber. Photography equipment (an enlarger frame and bracket), an antique oak table and chairs, a piano, PVC pipe, camping gear…but the one thing that is not in that shop, and never has been, is porcelain.
“Yes,” I said. “Where is the porcelain? And all of the other stuff like my great grandparents’ table and the lumber?”
“We got that porcelain at the house. That table though was mostly just a pile of sticks.”
I stared at him until he looked me in the eye. “You’re a liar,” I said.
His eyes widened. His face was drawn, almost gaunt. He had greying stubble in his cheeks and his grey eyes were rheumy and cruel. “What’d you call me, lady?” He said.
“I said you’re a liar. You’re a liar and a thief.”
“Oh, what, you want that old junk?” He asked, his thin line of a mouth curled up at one side.
“That’s irrelevant,” I said. “It wasn’t yours to take.”
“I ain’t took nothing,” he said. “I got all your shit in the house. You want to see?”
“Yeah I want to see.”
He pointed north, where there used to be trees separating our yard from our neighbours’, and I saw what wasn’t quite a path as much as it was a trail of footprints down the hill. I followed them, with the yokel behind me repeating that only a real monster could “do that” to “them caymanaymans”. I saw something moving on the hill beneath where I was about to step, and I paused. What looked like a black scorpion skittered into a recessed footprint. I recoiled.
“You got a problem, lady?” The yokel asked, a teasing note in his voice.
“There’s a-“ I started, when a larger, very definitely black scorpion scuttled in front of me and raised its tail and claws. I squawked and booted it out of the way.
“You fuckin idiot!” The yokel howled as he pushed past me, running with his arms outstretched under the arc of the scorpion’s path.
“What the fuck is a caymanayman?” I shouted after him.
He caught the arachnid and cradled it like a newborn kitten. “You’re a monster,” he said, his rheumy eyes flashing in anger.
“You’re a thief,” I said, stepping out of the trail and surveying the area for more scorpions. “And an inveterate mumbler.”
He took me to his house where I met his sister, and sure enough, there was everything from the shop, laid out exactly as it had been, except in this yokel’s living room. I told them they could keep the piano and building material but I wanted back the table and chairs. And they had to get their shit off my father’s property.
The sister was embarrassed. “I told him this would happen, you know,” she said to me. “I told him you’d notice the stakes and the fire pit and the missing shop. But would he listen?”
Their house was small and cramped and full of junk, but she’d carved out a lovely space for herself, all curved corners and arched doors and a small circular spa tub. I told them if they put it to rights I would forget the whole thing, and that’s when I woke up.
I never did find out what caymanaymans are.