Two Young Stags

Where Magic Goes To Drink

I do believe in an everyday sort of magic — the inexplicable connectedness we sometimes experience with places, people, works of art and the like; the eerie appropriateness of moments of synchronicity; the whispered voice, the hidden presence, when we think we’re alone. 

Charles de Lint

The place was almost empty now. Thunder had been booming for the last hour, with the occasional flash of lightning illuminating the darkened patio beyond the plate-glass window. The Sunday Blues crowd had dispersed an hour before, and the long stretches of polished oak reflected back the lonely female bartender, and two old men in ball caps.

With her long dark auburn hair trailing down her back, she reached up to pour another pint. Big blues, with long, dark eyelashes sparkled towards the two regulars, perched at the corner of the bar.

“You two want the chaser too?”

“Dear Lord no, Jodee, just the pints”.

It had been a wonderful afternoon, and Maxwell Grant had wowed the crowd, as per usual. Stan and Jerry being the sole surviving witness’ to the magic Grant had conjured.

So when she walked in, jet black short cropped curls dripping with rain, masking her face, framed in the doorway, head hung, shaking off what she could, three sets of eyes turned. Her beige slicker dripping, and her Welly’s glistening. As she finally raised her dark eyes, and briefly, so very briefly, Jodee swore she saw something behind her head…wings? Was that wings, she whispered to herself.

And then it was gone, and the stranger gave herself one last shake, removed her dripping coat, and settled on a stool down at the other end of the long bar, well away from where Stan and Jerry sat.

“Pint of Two Cocks, please”, with just a slip of an English accent accentuating cocks.

As Jodee turned towards the keg arm, grabbing a glass from the tray, “there aren’t many like this British Brew. Jon just brought it in last month”.

“I spent my fieldwork in England, at Wessex, and all the Archaeologists drank it. So I was right pleased when I came across this gem last week. David not in tonight?”

Stan and Jerry, head back and forth in unison, look on as Jodee smiles and says… “No. David works the weekends, and Monday, Tuesday afternoons…I handle the rest. Jodee Sutherland at your service”…as she reaches across the oak expanse to shake the newcomer’s wet hand, with the other she sets the pint down before this dark-eyed woman…“$6.50…or you can run a tab. David mentioned your crew was working on the old Danforth Farm, back in the woods there. He said they found a possible Native burial ground. You’re from the Ministry then I take it?”

The dark-eyed woman, shifting with unease replies, “Yes… Natalie MacEnchroe. Thank you, I need a bit of liquid libation, been a rough day. Sorry, I can’t discuss particulars. Course, no one is supposed to even know about the place, to begin with. Suppose hard to ignore when a troop of strangers in welly’s with clipboards show up in their Range Rovers. Rural life, where everyone knows everyone else’s business.”

Jodee smiles, then glances towards the corner of the bar, noticing Stan and Jerry with their heads together again, whispering something to one another she can’t quite catch…” yes…rural nosey neighbours abound in these der parts. Jerry and Stan here’s parents farmed the concession back from the Danforth farm, they were just mentioning tonight you guys were poking around in their woods. Their family’s been around for, what, centuries?”.

Jerry nods, and Stan smiles, dark eyes going back and forth between the two women, but then quickly resuming their whispered conversation.

Jodee turns away, eyes glancing in the mirror behind the bar, reflecting the dark woman’s countenance, as she again glances out the window. As Jodee turns away, in the corner of her eye, wings…she remembers…Last night, just as I was closing the church up. Those misty wings. Same mess of dark, jet black curls, though atop that old guy that showed up at the soup kitchen last year. Something in it reminded me of…crows? Very strange. He came out of nowhere it seemed, and no one knows where he lives. Uncle Jack even searched for his hidey-hole last year but found nothing.

“So, Natalie, you have relatives in the area? The Ministry bunch I thought all left on Wednesday?”

“No, no, city girl, through and through. Grew up in Metro actually. I decided to stay on. My final thesis for my Masters was on Native Animism and its reflection of the natural world. I wanted to do some personal research up at the University, for a piece of writing for…well…for myself, I suppose at the moment. They have some papers from a dig 20 years ago they did over where the new subdivision sits I want to check out”.

Jodee looks over, waving at Stan and Jerry as they in unison rise and make their way towards the door, “See ya on the flip side gentlemen“, Stan and Jerry nod in unison.

Turning back to Natalie, “Well, this area is a chock full of artifacts. The rez out past the city has a private collection. You might want to speak to the Elder Council, see if they will let you view what they have”.

Really? Wow, yes, thank you. Working for the Gov, we rarely get insights into these private collections. But this is just a personal thing with me. I am attracted to the powerful images, and this whole area is like the promised land for archaeologists.”

Jodee nods to herself ……I wonder if she knows who she really is? Uncle Jack would love her spirit. When she smiles, her eyes glow, and she has quite the spark within her.“Well then, I’ll talk to my Uncle Jack, he sits on the Elder Council. My Grandmother was Native, Uncle Jacks Mom, my Mom’s brother. Can’t make any guarantees, though. Shit. Shouldn’t have said anything, actually. They’re very private you know, and nervous about you Ministry sorts, sorry, nothing personal.”

Natalie smiles and brushing a black curl from her eyes, looking down into her lap “No, no worries. I completely understand. But it would be brill to see what they have. Makes me tingle at the thought. It is a passion of mine. Ever since I was a child, I’ve had this fascination with totems and all things Native. I had a teacher in school who was Cherokee, grew up in the south actually. He had the most wonderful stories. Would sit us all down on Friday afternoons, and tell all these stories his Grandma taught him. The child I was then was in need of some enchantment and Mr. Dan changed my world with his tales.”

That dark look in her eye, Jodee thought, I know that look. I wonder…?

“I know how that can be, had my own “Mr. Dan” I suppose, in the person of my Uncle Jack I mentioned. He saved me from a childhood that was otherwise one horror after another. Thank god for family, and God curse them, too, I suppose, eh?”

Natalie’s eyes glisten, and she looks away out the window as lightning flashed again, and a huge BOOM rocked the bar. “The storm is upon us I fear. Mr. Dan would say this is the spirits washing the earth of our intrusion into the sacred. He wouldn’t have approved of me disturbing the resting place of the dead, regardless of their antiquity. I just wish Nathan had been listening.” Natalie, with a look of sadness, gazes out the window, a wistful expression mists across her face, and then is just as quickly gone.

“My twin, Nathan, never seemed to like Mr. Dan’s stories, always said they were bogus hoogy moogy bullshit. Funny how different two siblings can be. Sorry, damn” wiping her eyes with the sleeve of her black & blue cable knit sweater, “Nathan ran away from home when we were 15. Haven’t seen him since”.

A bartender and stranger, leaning into each other. Sharing tales only they can tell. Of horrors of a childhood lost, and betrayal of the highest order. The threads of the one, entangling with the other, and thus two children of the secret meet.

{fade to black}

A lone vulture, sitting atop the telephone pole in front of that old watering hole, watches as two dark figures, walking side by side, disappeared. If anyone else had had eyes to see, they would have watched as two young stags bounded off through the woods.

More from Tales Of The Village

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