Thursday, May 31

The Adventures of William Neil Phaleenkanos (excerpt 2)

(part 1 was posted just last week. go back and look, if you need to.)


For the next two days it rains a slithery, incessant rain. During the downpour all the villages are quiet and there is no fruit out for the boy to take. Willy has some money stuffed into the deep back pocket of his trousers, and he uses a bit of it to buy a hunk of cheese and some bread. This food does not last long, so, leaving Confetti picking at the mushrooms growing around the roots of a tree, Willy makes his way over the back wall of a house bigger than any he has ever seen.

The rain slows. Willy’s fingers have just closed around the base of a carrot top when a female voice asks him, “What are you doing?”

As he hesitantly rises, the carrot top breaks off in his hand.

“You’re ruining the carrots,” the voice accuses him. “Who are you?”

Willy looks, at last, at the girl. She is slim, dark-haired, and barefoot. He swallows and tells her his name. “Willy?” she repeats. “What are you doing in our garden, Willy?”

Confetti’s soft bleat suddenly fills the silence. The goat walks up to the girl and tears a few blades of grass from the ground near her feet.

“Is that your goat?”

“Not really,” Willy answers. The boy eyes the goat suspiciously and chews thoughtfully on the edge of his fingernail.

“Not really?” The girl looks from the goat to the boy and back again.

“Well, his name is Confetti.”

The girl hms to herself and runs her hand over the mottled brown fur of the goat’s nose, smoothing one pretty finger along his horn. “You’re stealing our carrots, aren’t you?”

Willy thinks about scaling the garden wall. The girl is stroking Confetti’s head. Willy doesn’t need that goat. If she likes it so much, she can keep the pest.

“Are you just going to stand there?”

Willy continues to stand there. He watches the girl’s small hands, her freckled arms, the close frills of her sleeves, and the smile on her face. It is a pink and playful smile.

Confetti bleats and twitches his tail. Willy does not move. The girl waits, watching him, taking in his messy hair and unshaven face, his wrinkled clothes and worn sandals. Willy wonders how old she is.

“Papa,” she calls, turning her head. “Papa, come out, there’s…” She looks around again to find Willy has backed through four rows of carrots. Confetti clops over to the boy and tugs the limp carrot top from his fingers. The girl skips up the her papa at the door. Willy glances at the goat. Confetti looks blankly back at him.

“Hey, kid!” the girl’s papa has seen him. As Willy hoists himself up and over the stone wall, he hears the girl soothing her papa’s rage. It is too late for Willy to regret telling her his name. He shoulders is rucksack and walks quickly between the trees and undergrowth, hoping that nobody will follow. There are three carrots, and handful of green beans, and a potato in his pocket.


Confetti has not reappeared next morning. Willy notices this but wastes no worry on the goat. He climbs a tree and looks for the river, anticipating being able to find, somewhere along its winding length, a fisherman or two from whom he might steal lunch, or at the very least a line and a few hooks.

His tree is not high enough, or perhaps he has wandered too far from the river, because Willy cannot see it in any direction. The boy sits in the tree, his face drawn serious and pensive. Some minutes blow away in the wind before Willy retreats to the ground to take the telescope from the bottom of the rucksack. He turns it over in his filthy hands before making room for it in his pocket by transferring the leftover carrot and potato to his rucksack. The tree is easier to climb the second time. At the top Willy stands still, trying to unearth the horizon from its hiding place behind the edge of the sky. His hand grips the telescope in his pocket and he tries to imagine his father.


Confetti calmly nibbles the leaves of a beanstalk while the girl and her papa watch, whispering. The goat twitches his tail and bleats. The girl goes up to him, pats his head, and asks her papa if they might keep him.

“I don’t think so,” he tells her. Confetti is looking at them both with shining eyes and a mouthful of leaves. The girl takes her hand from the wet fur of the goat's head and steps back. Her eyes meet the goat’s and she shivers. “Come inside,” her papa says.

Confetti is now alone in the garden. There are no tops left to the carrots and no leaves left to the beanstalks when the goat stamps his hooves and walks past the woodpile into thin air. The girl and her papa never see that goat again.


Willy’s mother has never mentioned his father’s name. The telescope tells Willy it must have been the same as his own name, but nothing more. In this tree far from home, Willy puts the telescope to his eye and searches among the trees for a hint of glittering river water. Behind him rise the mountains he has never noticed. Confetti walks out of nowhere up to the base of the tree and silently eats Willy’s last carrot.

When the boy turns around, the sight of the snowy purple crags of those mountains will make Willy smile. His telescope will pick out a cascading ribbon of silver and his eyes will sparkle. When in twelve days he reaches the edge of the jungle, where the foothills come down to meet the canopy, his goat will not be far behind.


(the end)

No comments: