New Hope

New Cheese

 

The Do’s Series: Segment 23

 

© Grandpa Jim

 

 

“Is there no hope?” LoveJoy KickStart sinks deeper into Truss’s favorite chair, the chair where SchirmerSchutzen HirschTruss, Crown Prince Lohengrin of the Region of Schwangau, sat as a child at attention on the frayed edge of the stuffed lounger. The same room in Schwangau Castle where the Prince pinched himself to listen intently to his mentor and dear friend, Minnesinger HitBolt, whose odd green hat kept slipping from the teacher’s head and interrupting the lesson to the laughing amusement of the young Truss.

At the writing desk, the Minnesinger sets his quill down and raises a hand to steady the green cap slipping from his head.

In a tight tan sandsuit, DawnRunner StarBreak, the SandRunner maiden, moves closer, behind the chair where LoveJoy KickStart, the FarWay girl, sits and stares. DawnRunner lowers her book, places a hand on LoveJoy’s shoulder and squeezes.

At the open window, TidBit McIntyre, the TruthSeeker StealthMouse, stops his pacing. He looks off to the blue waters of the Schwansee and the village of Hohenschwangau rising toward them into the green forest. Abruptly, he turns and faces into the room.

“Glue Days and New Bread has fallen.” LoveJoy’s tone is flat and empty.

HitBolt’s head droops. “That is the facetime report I have.” The Minnesinger sighs. “From DeepDelve HuffSpot, DwarfMaster of TopHouse. SandRunners raced to him with the news.” HItBolt touches the writing quill. “The Fair has fallen. I wish it were not so.”

“And Truss is gone.” LoveJoy’s eyes hold a vacant longing. “We do not know if he lives or not.” She forces a sad smile. “Is there hope?” she asks plaintively.

Music echoes from the adjacent room.

Minnesinger HitBolt swivels in his chair and stands. “Why would the band be playing at this time?”

LoveJoy pushes out of the soft chair and takes DawnRunner’s hand. The two friends follow HitBolt and TidBit to the high double doors that frame the entrance to the parlor.

TidBit steps forward and with a quick thrust throws open the doors.

The music rushes over them.

 

“Sunday, Monday, Happy Days,

Tuesday, Wednesday, Happy Days,

Thursday, Friday, Happy Days,

The weekend comes, my cycle hums

Ready to race to you.”

 

With a tight smile, Arthur Fonzarelli nods and taps the two small bongo drums he holds in the crick of his arm. Richie Cunningham walks the fingers of one hand down the keyboard. Potsie Weber strums guitar like a-ringin’ a bell and lookin’ like he should. Ralph Hector Malph leans back and blows a long note on the saxophone.

The Fonz raps a quick double beat of the bongos. On cue, the Happy Days band breaks into another cut from their favorite song.

 

“Goodbye gray sky, hello blue,

there’s nothing can hold me when I hold you.

feels so right you can’t be wrong,

rockin’ and rollin’ all week long.”

 

“I thought I put the pasta away.” LoveJoy leans toward HitBolt and wrinkles her forehead. “I know I did.”

“You did,” The Minnesinger whispers over his shoulder. “I watched as you closed the case.”

“Then, how?” LoveJoy puzzles.

“And how did they get so big?” HitBolt narrows his eyes and searches the room.

The music crashes to a stop as the final lines explode at the surprised onlookers.

 

“These Happy Days are yours and mine (oh Happy Days)

These Happy Days are yours and mine (oh Happy Days)

These Happy Days are yours and mine, Happy Days.”

 

The Fonz tosses his head back and with relaxed satisfaction precisely enunciates his signature finish, “Ay.”

The audience claps, smiles and glances at each other, wondering what just happened and how the macaroni band became so large, so life-sized.

As the applause slackens, Fonzie nods acknowledgment and points to Richie and the other band members. “So. . . .” The Fonz extends the word for effect. “So, how do you like the new us?” With a finger, he taps the top of his head. “Nice, heh?”

“Arthur,” the Minnesinger begins. “I have known you perhaps longer than anyone else here, and you know I appreciate you in so very many ways. Yes, I am surprised at your new size. And . . . I am pleased. How did you manage to enlarge the band?”

“And, boy,” Richie exclaims. “Did we ever need enlarging, Mr. Mimesayer, Sir? Like I was telling you. . . .”

The Fonz hits Richie on the arm. “Minnesinger, dolt, not Mimesayer.”

“Sorry.” Richie rubs his arm.

“It’s alright, Richie.” HItBolt’s voice is calming. “Now, what was it you were you going to tell me?”

“Well, as I mentioned to you before.” Richie lifts his chin and collects his thought. “You know, when we talked at that pizza party with the White Rabbit and the Mad Hatter. I told you those dwarf children were murder. I mean once they tried to boil us in water. We were in our pasta form, but still, Geez Louise, they must have known it was us. So, just in case we end up back at that gig again, with the dwarves and their kids, this is something we can do for ourselves, to protect ourselves.”

“For ourselves?” Minnesinger HitBolt repeats the words as a question.

“Exactly. You got it. It’s something we can do on our own to add a little size. That would come in handy. We could teach those kids a lesson or two. If you know what I mean?”

While Richie talks, HitBolt walks to the tapestry draped over the far wall of the room.

With the last word from the talkative keyboard player, the Minnesinger reaches out and pulls back the end of the elaborately embroidered hunting scene.

Standing still as a stone statue, the tall caped figure grasps his shepherd’s staff in one long bony hand. The other hand covers a side pocket of the cape. At being discovered, the unusual-looking person squinches his long thin nose and narrows his dark beady eyes. Exasperation is plain on the angular face.

“I thought those pointy shoes might be yours, MirrorPuddle. What brings a Waptilian Raik here from the Circle Hills?”

MirrorPuddle steps out from behind the hunt scene and surveys the company. Focusing his attention on HitBolt, the Raik speaks softly. “You will need all the help you can get, Merlin.”

“Minnesinger HitBolt,” HitBolt cautions in a low voice.

MirrorPuddle shifts his eyes back and forth at the others. “I was just showing Marco,” the Raik begins.

“Arthur Fonzarelli.” The Minnesinger interrupts. “You can call him Fonzie or The Fonz.”

“I was just showing this Fonzie a new trick.”

“After first applying some Parmesan cheese to their pasta forms to reconstitute them. Some Parmesan – I will point out – that you were supposed to have delivered in its entirety when you transported the macaroni band to us.”

“Yes, yes. I kept some back. I had to. For the experiment. To see if they would grow. It was important to use the Parmesan first so that the band members would be in their small human forms for the second part of the experiment. I knew you would understand and be sympathetic, because of our loss.”

“What loss is that, tall rider of the night winds?”

“The Glueys. You remember. Few of the Glueys are left to sit with the Raiks on the night of full Waptilian. Few are left to help with our work, our experiments.”

HItBolt pauses some seconds and then nods. “The small ones, your helpers. They worked for the emptymen during the losttimes, in the betweendays after the Melt and before the Do Days of the New and Free Peoples. I do remember. The little ones were enslaved and not treated well. With sorrow, I know this, MirrorPuddle. With sorrow, I remember.”

“This must not happen again . . . Minnesinger HitBolt. It must not happen that men do not treat others as equals.”

“I agree, tall Raik. This must not happen.”

“We will fight the Dark Man with you.” MirrorPuddle glances at the Fonz and his life-sized band. “I have helped with this experiment to make Arthur and his friends taller. The Waptilian Raiks will help in other ways. We do this for the Glueys . . . and for ourselves.”

“The New and Free Peoples will welcome the Waptilian Raiks to fight as equals at our sides. We will stand against Sir Richard and those he has tricked and enslaved.”

MIrrorPuddle pulls himself erect to his full height, his pupils widen and the hard angles of his face soften. “I thank you for your trust, ancient sage. The Waptilian Raiks will be there when your need is great.” The tall figure slips a hand into the cape pocket, extracts a drawn leather bag and hands it to HitBolt.

“And what is this?” the Minnesinger smiles.

“Pecorino. Grated for best effect.”

“A new cheese!” HitBolt exclaims.

“Not just any cheese, LongThoughts. This is Pecorino Toscano from the now territory of oncewas Lunigiana. From ewe’s milk and with special words, it is made and aged. For the enhancing effect, the cheese must be finished in the month of marzolino. Even then, it can only work with the Parmesan produced and harvested in the month of maggengo. Only then, can the special Pecorino enlarge that which the special Parmesan, your Parmesan, has transformed.

“My longstudied Waptilian, I am impressed. You have made a science of these cheeses, their production and their use.”

“Not just us.” MirrorPuddle catches LoveJoy’s eye and bows. “The FarWay girl knows some of this from her dealings with the Vila nurse and their gifts.” The Raik turns toward the Fonz. “And I think the one you nowname Arthur has himself memory of these and other nowfound newnamed things. For our part, we have long studied the ways of this natural world and bartered hard with the men who change it to their own.” An icy shiver shakes the tall form of the NightRider from the Circle Hills. “For me, I miss the Glueys. We treasure the few who survive to sit with us in our circle on the night of the full Waptilian.”

“Thank you, Mirror Puddle. For your trust and for the new cheese.” The Minnesinger lifts the small bag. “Of this Pecorino, if I may ask, is there more?”

The whiz and snort of a Waptilian laugh startles the entranced crowd. “All you will need is already delivered.” MirrorPuddle points to where the band stands. “The one called Richie has cleverly hidden a large supply in his notespounder noisemaker.”

Richie rests a hand on the back of the keyboard. “The cheese is in here,” he says loudly, his big trademark grin forming on his face. “I’m ready for an army of dwarf kids.”

“Or an army of others,” HItBolt says under his breath and unheard by the others. The Minnesinger raises his voice. “From Richie’s words and your descriptions, MirrorPuddle, is it true the Pecorino can be applied by the band in their small forms to reach their full natural sizes.”

“It can be so used and it should be so used.”

“And, is there enough in hiding to transform the band . . . and more, if needed?”

“Many more . . . if needed. Yes, there is.” A knowing look passes between the Raik and Minnesinger.

HItBolt lifts a finger to his chin. “To return the transformed and enlarged persons to their original pasta macaroni forms, is the Reggiano cheese still sufficient for that task?”

“It is.” The Raik’s voice is certain. “The Reggiano can be applied with no ill effects. This has been tested.”

“Excellent. You have been very thorough.” The Minnesinger honors MirrorPuddle with a bow and continues. “This new cheese of yours is well found, very well found indeed, and you are well met, very well met indeed. The Waptilian Raiks make a welcome addition to our company and to that of our allies.”

HitBolt spreads his arms and makes eye contact with each person in the room. “Friends and band, we have a new weapon. May this new cheese offer us all a new hope.”

The Minnesinger extends his right hand out to the Waptilian nightrider, palm open, fingers spread wide. “We extend formal greetmeet to our newfound truefriend, MirrorPuddle, and we do accept the strongsupport of the Waptilian Raiks in this our common effort and joint struggle.”

The Minnesinger tilts his head to LoveJoy. “There is hope.”

“We have each other,” DawnRunner whispers to LoveJoy and glances over at TidBit.

The Mouse leans toward the two girls. His lips form the words they both can read: There is always hope.

At the memory of those same words shared beneath TopHouse at the dock of Drums Deep Pool, LoveJoy addresses the company. “And we have our friends. With us here.” She smiles at the lanky Waptilian. “And . . . elsewhere.” The FarWay girl wipes a tear from the corner of her eye. “May the graces grant one day we may all be together.”

A kindly look crosses the weathered face of Prince Lohengrin’s mentor.

Silence holds the room and occupants in its embrace.

After some moments, Minnesinger HitBolt takes a deep breath and announces loudly: “Now, let us together make our way to the dining hall for a happy repast served for you from the well-spoken and well-lardered kitchens of Schwangau Castle.”

“And to that,” TidBit McIntyre intones, “I say Amen and Pass the Sausages, Schnitzel, Sauerkraut and Spoetzel. And do save room for the SweetTreats. They are superb.”

In answer to which, DawnRunner StarBreak bends and kisses the top of the head of her TruthSeeker StealthMouse.

At the sight of which, the rest of the company breaks into a full and hearty truelaugh.

There is hope. LoveJoy breathes in the thought and follows the band out the parlor doors. There is always hope.