“Waaahhh!” cried the children, Rip Jr., a toddler, and his baby sister Judith, nestled in Sally's arms, as Rip steps past her to exit the house while carrying his musket. The last few years of marriage hadn’t quite been what either of them expected. Well, maybe Rip’s expectations were not very high since he never wanted to get married in the first place, but Sally believed that once married and settled his night-owl, man-about-town days would be behind him. He’d become the very picture of wedded domesticity. But Rip found he just didn’t have the energy for it even if his heart was in the right place. Lack of sleep, lack of meaningful employment and therefore lack of money and hence, lack of enough to eat, kept the usually ragged Rip Van Winkle but a shell of his former self. Sally had insisted spending nights serenading women in a drinking establishment just was not acceptable behavior. Even his faithful dog, Wolf, seems in a perpetual slump with his head and ears down and his tail between his legs as he follows Rip out the cottage door.
“If you can't get a real job that will put some bread on our table at least go shoot something for dinner. And take that lazy dog of yours with you. I swear, I don't know which of you two is lazier,” shouts Sally over the screams of the children.
“Don't listen to her, Boy. You're not lazy,” Rip says to Wolf once the two of them are beyond earshot of the cottage and headed into the woods. “I'd like to see her chase rabbits. In fact, I'm not lazy either. It took years of hard work to learn to play guitar and all those songs I know. Remind me, why did I get married in the first place?”
Wolf looks up, wags his tail and barks happily at Rip.
Rips smiles down at Wolf. “Oh, that's right. I remember. I was too happy before. Can't have that now, can we, Boy? Now let's find us some supper for our kinfolk. Maybe a nice rabbit or...”
Rip and Wolf continue deep into the forest as Rip looks down to see a track in the mud by a small stream.
“...a bear? That's too big for even a bear track. It doesn't look like a bear made it anyhow. It looks like a man made it. A barefoot man. Why would someone be walking around this deep in the woods without his boots on? Maybe it's an Indian track.”
Rip steps out to put his foot next to the track to measure the size of the foot.
“That's the biggest Indian I've ever seen!” says Rip in astonishment. He then turns his head to look into the mountains. “Or that beast the Indians say live up high in these mountains. I've told that story many times back in town, but I didn't think I
was telling the truth. What do ya know? I'm not an entertainer, I'm an educator!”
Wolf suddenly picks up a scent and runs deeper into the woods.
“What is it, Boy?” Rip calls after him. “Are you onto the scent?” Rip sniffs the air then grimaces. “Phew! I've got the scent too!”
Rip looks a little apprehensive and calls back the dog. “Let's not bite off more than we can chew, Boy. Or into something that can chew us!”
Rip and Wolf move back onto the trail following it even deeper into the forest. Off in the distance, they hear a sound like thunder.
“Hear that, Wolf? Sounds like thunderheads in the mountains. We may not be able to stay out here as long as we'd like. Maybe we'd better leave that giant man-beast for another day.”
Suddenly the branches of the trees directly in front of them start to rustle. Wolf stops in his tracks and begins to growl as Rip nervously raises his musket to aim at whatever is coming through the foliage. But as the trees part, Rip looks down from where he was aiming his gun to see a small man carrying a keg stepping through the brush right towards him and Wolf. The little man stops, as surprised to see Rip and Wolf as they are relieved to see him.
“Oh, wow, don't shoot, man!” shouts the little man.
Rip lowers his weapon and looks down at Wolf. “Well, I wonder who that is? I don't recollect
ever seeing that fellow around here before. I wonder what he's got there?”
The little man quickly hurries past Rip and Wolf, who turn to follow him.
“Ahoy there, friend!” shouts Rip stepping to keep up.
“Oh, hey, man,” says the little man, obviously in a hurry to get to where he’s headed.
“What are you doing out here? I don't think I've ever seen you before,” questions Rip, his curiosity peaked more by the keg the man is carrying than the small stranger himself.
“That's cause I'm not from around here, man,” answers the little fellow.
“Where are you from?” asks Rip.
“Far out, man. Far, far out,” is his answer.
“How long did it take you to get here?” continues Rip.
“Not long, man.”
Rip looks confused. “We were tracking something large, real large but I suppose that wasn't you.”
The little man turns his head slightly to glance back at Rip. “Big guy, really long hair? Someone you might even call a freak?”
“I suppose,” answers Rip. “I've never actually seen him. Just heard the Indians tell stories about him. I never believed the stories until I just came upon his tracks.”
“Yeah. Big feet, right? Smells funny too, right?” confirms the little man.
“I didn't put the smell with the tracks but now that you mention it, yeah. Pretty foul odor back there indeed.”
The little man laughs to himself as he continues through the forest. “Good luck, man. You'll never find him.”
“You know who he is?” asks Rip.
“The Indians call him Sasquatch. There are a few families of them up in those mountains. You'll never find them.”
“They don't want to be found. There are still Indian tribes up there that you English don't know about.”
“Why are they hiding up there? Why don't they want to be found?”
“Well, for one thing, you're hunting them with a gun,” answers the little man.
“Good point,” concedes Rip. “But something that big is bound to be found, sooner or later.”
“I don't know about that. And besides, as bad as they smell to you, those Sasquatch can smell you coming from two miles away. You shouldn't be hunting them anyway. Least not for food. That's just plain wrong.”
“You sure seem to know a lot about these hills for someone not from around here,” says Rip.
“Oh, I get around but I don't want to be found either.”
“Well, I found you.”
“It must be your lucky day, Mister...?” “Van Winkle's the name. Rip Van Winkle.”
“Van Winkle? You Dutch? Ever been to Amsterdam? Cool place, Amsterdam,” says the little man struggling to balance the keg on his shoulder.
“No. Dutch descent but New England born and bred. A loyal subject of good King George,” says Rip, proudly.
“Glad to meet you Rip. Cool name, Rip. I'm Herbie,” says the little man.
“Where are you taking the cask, Herbie?”
Herbie looks deeper into the woods and up a dried creek bed. “My friends and I are having a little party up ahead in the holler.”
The sound of thunder grows louder.
“Let me give you a hand,” offers Rip. “You and your friends might want to think about heading to town before the storm reaches here.”
“Thanks, man,” says Herbie. “But I think we are the storm.”
Herbie hands the cask over to Rip and they continue into the woods until they reach a hollow in which three other little men are playing a game of Nine Pins, an early version of bowling. It then becomes clear that the thunder was the sound of the ball striking the pins. The little men are surprised
and concerned to see Rip and Wolf accompanying their friend.
Herbie calls to his friends, “Hey guys, this is Rip.”
“What did you bring him for?” asks a fellow about the same height as Herbie but stouter and with a large bulbous nose.
“He helped bring the brew, man,” answers Herbie.
The second little man’s eyes light up in a smile, “Hey, Rip. Welcome!”
“What are all of you doing way out here?” asks Rip, puzzled as he sets down the keg while the little men set up the bowling pins again.
“This is the boys' night out bowling night, man,” responds Herbie.
“But why way out here in the forest?” asks Rip.
Herbie smiles, “So the little lady can't find me.”
“Amen to that, friend. I know just how you feel. So, where is your village?” asks Rips.
The little men all look at each other trying to decide if they can trust their new friend. Finally one of them asks the other three, “Should we tell him?”
“Why not?” asks another of the bowlers. “No one is going to believe him anyway.”
“No, we can't tell him. Besides, he won't believe us himself,” says the third man, a round, plump little fellow with a reddish complexion.
“Yeah, why make all his friends think he's a nut job. That's not nice,” says the one with the large nose.
Herbie smiles and gestures toward Rip, “It's probably too late for that anyway. When we bumped into each other he was in the woods hunting Big Foot.”
The three little men all chuckle. The fatter one laughs, “Ha, really? Then he's probably already the town doofus!”
“Yeah, let's mess with his head,” says another and with that, a couple of the little men arrange the bowling pins in a circle as the others start pouring wine from the keg into little wooden cups, one of which is handed to Rip.
“Oh, I don't know. I kinda promised I wouldn't...” says Rip, halfheartedly.
“Well, we're not allowed to say to you where we're from...” says Herbie.
“But we can sing to you where we're from,” another continues.
“And our singing sounds a lot better if you've had a drink, man,” Herbie says.
Rip smiles, knowingly, “I know exactly what you mean. I'm a bit of a singer myself.”
The little men all hold up their cups in a toast and shout out in unison, “To the land across all time and space, that exists behind your face!”
Then they all drink, as does Rip. As soon as the mugs are emptied the little men start singing a
song while dancing merrily around the circle of bowling pins.
“We be the wee! Wee folk be we”! they joyously proclaim in song.
Much to his delight, Rip finds their wine extremely potent, or maybe his resistance has fallen so low since marriage and fatherhood has severely limited his alcohol intake as of late. Helping himself to mug after mug of ale as the little men sing and dance he barely can comprehend what their song is all about. As near as he can make out, it’s a story of a mystical land, the land of fairies, well known to the Irish immigrants and those still versed in the folklore of the Old Country. And according to their song, it’s where they are from, in fact, they are claiming to be fairies, which is almost believable considering their diminutive stature.
“Oh, that’s what they were talking about,” thought Rip, “when they said I wouldn’t believe them. They’re just having a little sport with me. Funny little guys!”
Rip has been drinking during the song and looks a might groggy as the little men stop their singing and dancing and turn towards him.
“Understand now, Rip?” asks Herbie as he refills his mug.
“What?” says Rip. “Oh yeah. Great tune. Very catchy. Did I mention I'm a bit of a singer myself? Play a little guitar too.”
Suddenly an ominous voice bellows through the forest and echos off the mountain. It is the voice
of Sally Van Winkle who has entered the woods searching for her now missing husband, “Rip Van Winkle!”
Wolf immediate cowers as Rip sobers up fast.
“What was that, man?” asks Herbie as he and the other little men scramble in a panic.
“That's my little lady,” says Rip, somewhat embarrassed.
Another of the little men gathers up their belongings. “Doesn't sound so little to me!” he says as he and the others throw the now empty keg of wine and the mugs onto the ground in the center of the circle of bowling pins.
“Van Winkle! Where are you?” booms Sally as she comes closer. Wolf starts to bark and runs off into the woods in the opposite direction of Sally’s approaching voice.
“Time to book passage out of this burg, boys!” says one of the little men.
“Party's over, man!” says another as the little men start dancing faster and faster around the pins singing their song double time, “We be the wee! Wee folk be we! We be the wee! Wee folk be we!”
As they dance the dirt in the center of the circle starts to cave in like a whirlpool. The keg and mugs all follow and sink into the opening ground. Then, while still dancing and singing, the little men jump, one by one, into the center and drop down into the ground and disappear.
“VAN WINKLE!!!!” shouts Sally, about to break through the foliage and into the encampment.
Rip is in shocked disbelief at what he’s just witnessed but the idea of having to face his enraged wife, alone and intoxicated in the woods, causes him to panic.
“What?! Hey, don't leave me here! Wait for me!” he shouts as he holds his nose and jumps into the circle as if doing a "cannonball" into a swimming hole and also vanishes. The bowling pins then magically shrink down to form a circle of white stones just as Sally enters the hollow followed by Wolf with his tail between his legs.
It looked reminiscent of the wheel room of a Mississippi paddle-wheeler from perhaps a hundred years in the future. A circular wheelhouse of an old ship with wood planked floors and a circular wall sloping up to a low rounded ceiling, the wooden planked walls lined with portholes. A large ship's wheel sits at one end of the room and the dirt and tree roots as seen from underground are visible through the portholes. Lying in a heap in the center of this room the four little men are squashed under the much larger Rip, all having magically dropped into the room from above. The hole in the ceiling dissipates away as does the dirt debris.
“Owe! Hey, man!” yells Herbie, pinned to the cabin floor by Rip.
“Get off! cries another as a third squeezes out from under Rip and scurries to take command of the large ornate ship’s wheel.
“Sorry,” says Rip and he stands up and starts to brush himself off, even though the dust and dirt have already vanished.
As the “Captain” turns the ship’s wheel the walls of the room begin to spin and the dirt and tree roots visible outside the windows begin to grow as if the craft is shrinking. Soon insects appear as giant creatures, then one-celled animals become huge and finally the molecules of the soil appears as large as boulders until finally, all is black outside the windows. Soon stars appear in the blackness of space and then an Earth-like planet appears in the distance. The ship approaches this planet and in only a matter of a few minutes, it lands on the planet’s surface. All then prepare to disembark to the land of Fairies.
***Bonus*** Accompanying book RIPPED included with physical CD-RP purchase @ https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/thetooners17
THE TOONERS are a multimedia rock and roll band from Los
Angeles who not only produce their own original music but also illustrate their songs and award winning (Chicago International Film Festival) fully animated music videos....more