Friday, September 15, 2006

Penhill, Sneaveweedle and Ms. Jones

"Moonfloat Rivershine Glastonbury Jones," mused Penhill. "I am going to wildly guess that your parents are not teetotalers."

Moonfloat laughed warmly and scrunched up her face as if trying to display to a child that she was thinking.

"It is a bit of an odd name, innit?" she said. "To name a child after a music festival. But that's where I was conceived, wasn't I? In a tent at the Glastonbury Music Festival, as Judie Tzuke sang 'Stay With Me Till Dawn.'"

"Hmm," Sneaveweedle moaned. "I don't believe I've ever heard that one. How does it go?"

"You know, 'And I'll show you a sunset, if you'll stay with me till daaaaawwwwn,'" Moonfloat sang.

"Hmm, it does set a certain mood."

"Yeah. Judie Tzuke is a totally overlooked talent. Voice of an angel, she has. An appreciation of Judie Tzuke is one of the things my parents were able to pass on to me before they passed on."

"Oh, dear," Sneaveweedle sighed. "Both your parents are dead?"

"No. They moved. They live in Bridgend now," Moonfloat said.

The dirty rattling train slowed to move through a track maintenance area. Outside, several workers in hardhats and neon green Network Rail jackets stood around chatting and pointing at the ground and doing a whole lot of other things that involved not fixing the tracks.

"And the explanation of Moonfloat? And Rivershine?" asked Penhill.

"Oh, you know, that's a good question," Moonfloat sang, her Welsh accent running the words together. "I never thought to ask, did I? I suppose it will remain a mystery now. Oh, hello! Hold on!"

Moonfloat jumped across Sneaveweedle in a flurry of hemp clothing and clinking bracelets, and pounded her fist against the window. The train had stopped by now. Two workers outside looked up from their tea to see what the commotion was about and Moonfloat waved frantically at them.

"Hello Mum! Hello Dad!" she shouted through the small opening at the top of the window.

"Oh, hello, darlin'" shouted the male in a thick, gravelled Welsh Valleys accent.

"Hello, my flower!" the female worker sang, in an equally thick accent. "Where you goin', then?"

"I'm going to Ireland, aren't I?" Moonfloat sang back excitedly.

"Lovely," Moonfloat's mother shouted. "Goin' by ferry are you?"

"Yeah!"

"You'll love it. Your father and I went by ferry a few years ago. Who are your friends here?" the mother asked, pointing at Sneaveweedle and Penhill.

"I don't know. I've only just met them," Moonfloat said. "Oh, but this one -- holding his face in his hands right now -- he wanted to know about my name. Where's it come from?"

"Well, love, we were in our tent at the Glastonbury Music Festival..." the father started.

"The other bit, I mean."

"Jones?"

"No, no. The Moonfloat Rivershine bit. Where's that come from, then?"

"Oh. Well," the father said, shaking his head, "it's from lyrics to a song I wrote."

"We sent the song to Judie Tzuke, we did, but never heard back from her, did we?" the mother said.

"Voice of an angel, that Judie Tzuke has," said the father.

"She does, doesn't she?" agreed Moonfloat.

"Personally," the mother said in a loud conspiratorial whisper, "I think your father forgot to put a stamp on the envelope when he sent the song to her."

"I did not."

"I think you did."

The train lurched forward, causing Moonfloat to fall into Sneaveweedle's lap. He let out a quiet squeak and tried to sit on his hands as Moonfloat righted herself.

"Looks like your train is off now, love," the father shouted.

"Yeah, I guess so. It was lovely to see you," Moonfloat said.

"Oh yes, goodbye, my flower," the mother shouted, waving.

"Goodbye."

"Ta."

"Ta ra."

"All the best."

"Cheers."

"Take care."

"Bye now."

"Ta."

Moonfloat fell back in her seat across from Penhill and sighed.

"Oh, that was really lovely, that was," she said. "I haven't seen my parents in five years. I thought they were long lost. Oh, my. I wonder if it means something. Just think about it. Here you are, asking about my name and I'm thinking about me parents and there they are with the answer to your question. That's amazing, innit? It must mean something."

"A fascinating coincidence, I'll grant you that," Penhill said. "But its only meaning, my dear girl, is that you and your parents need to learn how to operate a telephone."

"But that's how the universe communicates -- through coincidences and signs. It's like the universe is sending you a text message, trying to let you know something." Moonfloat said. "Almost everything that happens has a meaning, a purpose, don't it? But it's not just coincidences. Sometimes I get these feelings. I just get this strong sensation."

"Hmm," Sneaveweedle moaned. "What do these feelings tell you?"

"All kinds of things, don't they? Like, there was this one time, I'm standing there and I'm about to cross the street and I just got this strong feeling and I stopped," Moonfloat said, her eyes wide and staring as if she was back at the moment. "It was a pedestrian crossing and the light was green, but I knew I had to stop. I froze and I stuck out my hand and there was this woman next to me and I said: 'Stop!' And right then, this great huge lorry came screaming past us. The wind off it knocked us both down, it came so close."

"Oh my," Sneaveweedle gasped. "And what do these feelings, erm, feel like? How do you know when you're feeling a feeling?"

"It's like something just plays over and over in my head, doesn't it?" Moonfloat said. "For instance, all day, I been seeing that woman's face -- the one I stopped from being hit by a lorry. I can see her face but it's like it's a painting of her face, innit? And there are only parts of her face there. What it looks like is one of those barns you see in films about people who live in rural America, and someone has painted her face onto that barn. But it's been years since they did it now, and it's being worn away by weather and age."

"Hmm," whined Sneaveweedle. "What does it mean?"

"That's the thing. I can't control these feelings. So sometimes I know what they mean and sometimes I don't. It's a bit like when you've got a song stuck in your head, innit?" Moonfloat said. "And sometimes you know all the words and sometimes you only know the chorus."

"Are you asserting," Penhill sniffed, "that if I find myself sitting here humming Sir Edward Elgar's 'The Smoking Cantata,' it has some sort of deeper universal context?"

"Could be. I've never heard that song. But just because something is small doesn't mean it's insignificant, does it? Think about all the things out there and all the ways people can go and all the things that can happen. The ways that people do go, and what does happen, has meaning, doesn't it? Like, I'm here on this train sitting across from you."

"Oh moan," said Sneaveweedle, who was feeling a little spooked by all of this. "Our being on this train has a meaning?"

"Yeah. I mean, here we are at this exact point in your lives and this exact point in my life. You could be all sorts of other places. Why aren't you in, I don't know, China?" Moonfloat asked.

"Because my Chinese is rusty and kung pao chicken gives me gas," Penhill boomed. "I say, that man with the snacks trolley needs to go back to training. Where in blazes is he? I would very much like a cup of tea. Sneaveweedle, go and find the meaning behind his absence."

Sneaveweedle moaned, struggled to his feet against the movement of the train, fell down awkwardly, got up, stumbled down the aisle and fell through the door to the next carriage. Penhill raised a bushy eyebrow as he watched Sneaveweedle go, then closed his eyes and rubbed his temples for a moment. When he opened his eyes, he spotted that Moonfloat was again staring at the ring on his right hand.

"Don't you want to know what it means?" she asked, smiling.

"I told you, it means my friends are ill-informed when it comes to choosing gifts," Penhill sniffed.

"No. I've been studying the Celtic stones and crystals. That's why I'm on my way to Ireland, innit? I'm attending a conference on the use and understanding of them. The ancient Celts understood things about the universe that most of us miss in modern times, didn't they? They were very wise."

"My dear, you are speaking about one of the many subjects upon which I am an expert," Penhill boomed. "I am senior lecturer of ancient Celtic history at Charlesfield. I will inform you, then, that after many years of careful study at the very highest levels, I can state unequivocally that the ancient Celts were idiots. They couldn't even master the engineering complexity of a chimney. They lived short, miserable lives of eating poorly, stabbing one another and breathing in smoke. I find it difficult to believe then, that these oxygen-deprived peoples should understand any more about the bigger picture than your average monkey -- less, possibly, because a monkey would not subject itself to a mud hut filled with smoke."

"You're a professor of ancient Celtic history?" Moonfloat asked, almost in awe.

"At Charlesfield."

"Then you know what the Celtic Heart Stone means, don't you?"

"Yes."

"And what it says about you, is it true?"

"You're the clairvoyant, Ms. Jones."

==============================

The above is a piece for Flickr Fiction, based on this photo by user tangent. Also playing along this week are: Elisa, Littlegoat, Sarah and TadMack.
This is the fifth episode of the Penhill and Sneaveweedle adventure. You can read previous episodes here.
I would love to see any comments -- good or bad -- you might have about the story, and I would love to know where you think it should go. Since the story is being written week to week, your input helps determine what happens.

8 comments:

TadMack said...

I had to look up Judie Tzuke... was in mild horror to see that she exists. Could not bring myself to download a song to see if she had the voice of an angel... I just ...can't... bring myself...

Great characterizations! You're very good at describing types of people, and you've got MRGJ down to a science, as well as Penhill's reaction to her wispy logic. I have a horrible feeling that she's going to pop up again, or else try and invite herself along on their journey. I mean, "Stay With Me 'Til Dawn!?" I picture Sneaveweedle having the time of his life asking her endless pointless questions just to keep her talking and talking and talking and ... Penhill having two people to smack with that stick of his.

I picture this as an epic: Joyce's Ulysses (on crack)or Waiting for Godot, complete with text messages from the Universe. There's a sense of the absurd in this piece but disturbingly, taken as a whole, it also verges on something deep. Which is worrying, as you're just writing it week to week based on the pictures. It must mean something...!

Sounds like the good people at Network Rail share the genepool with CalTrans. Both seem to work equally as hard.

littlegoat said...

I wonder about her father's lyrics (where her name came from). Drunken juxtaposition of Moonshine Riverfloat? I'm sure the song is just...er, lovely.

You made me want to smack Moonfloat upside the head, so you musta done something right. (;

The bit about the meaning of the absence of the snack trolley guy: classic.

I can't get enough of Penhill.

Crystal said...

smiling avatar please.

elimare said...

'Have you met Miss Jones?'

I know the name Judie Tzuke but i don't think i've heard any of her stuff. THEY STILL HAVEN'T LEFT THE STATION! Brilliant.

Chris Cope said...

well, actually, they have left the station -- I mentioned that in the last episode. In this they make it to Bridgend.

Donal said...

Julie Tzuke review with songs
http://www.catontheprowl.co.uk/live_reviews/judy_tzuke.htm

Keep it up Chris. I think at this point you should go with the whole Godot/Beckett aspect but keep ramping up the insanity. They never go anywhere, never arrive anywhere, endlessly on their way to Ireland with an ever more bizarre array of characters, accreting plot threads that never get tied off and characters that never get explained.

Elimare said...

That is an awful, awful review. Painful to read, I can only imagine the reviewer as some sort of demented Dan Brown fan channelling a little bit of Gavin Lambe Murphy.

IF TRIPE LIKE THIS IS PUBLISHED THEN WHY AM I NOT PUBLISHED eh? (oh yeah, lack of being able to finish might be one reason.)

Donal said...

It's only the internet. I'm sure they never killed a tree to print it.