...Enrique the Sheep. You're Welcome!
You know what I find weird?
Ok, let me stop right there.
That statement is so open ended, I could have asked “You know what I like in green?” It could be houses, vegetables, or skin tight body armor for all you know. Seriously, there is so much I find weird, I may have to employ a spectrum. It starts in casual weirdness like how you can test certain batteries with your tongue, how most orange beverages taste so much like each other yet they are all identifiable and none of them tastes like an orange, or how ghosts still know who they are when they lack the neurons to store that data. The continuity continues to the commonly weird, such as ADAM units, limited artificial intelligence that can still still be trained to be classist, or how certain quantum powers work without affecting the wielder like the fire generators who never seemed to get burned. They are just the day to day weirdness and you kind of get used to it. Then you get to Uncommon weirdness like streetlights that deactivate when you pass by them on a regular basis, strange books that fall off shelves when you pass, and dogs that call you by your first name. Occasionally, you have strange weather shifts and chills for no good reason. Before the end of the list there is the Bizarre, coincidences that don’t match up, like humanoid aliens, people who know angelic script and have since early childhood, or meeting a lover from twenty years ago while showing your wife the comic shop you used to love as a kid when none of you live in that city anymore. I would also put things like most metas here but when you live in so many of the major bergs, it gets more and more common.
Nope, except for the Insider. Chest doors that open up to reveal a void dimention filled with hungry tentalcles and facial tattoos that make him look not unlike a badger. He’s just too much.
Lastly, there is the Something Has To Be Going On. Worlds open up, gods are visible, temporal hiccups that result in history becoming fluid, anything having to do with Watchface or his sister, or the universe shows it’s plan in the form of a translucent humanoid etched with the star pattern of a galaxy while it learns the place for humanity in the greater story of itself.
(Edit: I have been told by a source, who goes by the name “ImAnonymousAndAim2KeepItThatWay” I kid you not, says that last one actually happened. He suggests looking deeper into the lineup of the Flight of Champions. According to his sources, the supposed “Green Man,” “Earth’s Elemental,” or “Pagan Priest Pinnacle,” or whatever I mentioned before literally dropped an entity like that, an “infant galaxy that was hidden away on this planet to learn how to arrange life when she comes of age” on their doorstep. This happened two days before the last Dragonesti attempted invasion. She is, it would seem, bonding with several members for guidance and goes by the name Galactica. For the record any two of those things that I just wrote about would be classified Uncommon Weirdness and above. Take that strange changing pictures, Insider, and histories that make no sense.)
(Edit-Edit:I wrote that last edit, read it out loud, read it to my wife to make sure it all came together, then had to ask myself, “How the hell am I still sane?” Once I have a definitive answer, I will let you know, Dear Readers. Now on with the story,)
This isn’t anything cosmic, but you know what I find weird, the opportunities that happen when you least expect it. In this case, there is a small mountain town that Kay and I have visited several times. It’s supposedly the entrance to the Great Society of Mu where the race of reptilian Lemurians gather to decide the fate of humanity, if you by into that sort of thing. I don’t judge. It’s supposed to be one of the retreats of several great mystics who don’t like to make the papers, other than Mr. Mystic and Athame. The town below the cloud covered peak deals in crystals, pagan statues, all organic living, and at least 113 “Original” crystal skulls which speak words of magic to various psychics. They also just opened a hemp shop to cater to the one more section of their fanbase. Mostly we visit for the mountain air, the general mystic vibe of the place, and the second greatest diner we have ever eaten at, the Barbarian Bear Diner. Otherwise it’s kind of boring.
Standing outside the diner’s entrance, a chainsaw sculpture meant to depict and honor the two major industries of the town, logging and bear spotting, greets visitors with a ferocious roar and a double headed battle ax in hand. I’m told by the autobiography that wrapps every menu that the owner was also a Robert E Howard fan. Thus the Barbarian Bear Diner. By the time we got there, someone had crocheted a grey and white horned helmet and strapped it to the head of the statue.
However, the weekend we moved, a long awaited film opened up. Knowing we would never be able to get an opening weekend ticket in Bridgeton or any of the local environs for miles around, I found the local theater in this mountain town. Lo and behold, there it played. On our first stop past the mountains of Oregon, we stayed the night there and made it to the theater with seconds to spare.
Laughing and over analyzing the epic, a favorite hobby of my wife and I, we got a seat at Barbarian Bear and order several cups of coffee. The food was amazing and fattening as ever. The Blood My Enemies omelet is more than either of us should handle alone, but it's so good. Bloated and still chatting, we barely noticed the oncoming roar until it was shaking the windows. Normally, we thought it was some biker coming in for a short stack until we turned our heads to glare at the noise erupting through our peace.
The famous black lacquered bike pulled up driven by the Ba-Ba-bounty hunter himself: the man who has tracked The Menagerie, taken on Archer, and literally dragged Duke Diesel to jail by the collar for the right price.
Enrique the Sheep.
For those not in the know, and it’s quite possible you may never had heard the the Wooly Warrior, Enrique was once a man, by all records, named Enrique Hernandez. After that, records are spotty. According to some, there is a bounty hunting licence in several states with that name on it. According to others, there is “indisputable proof” that he was a former military man, with people claiming that they fought next to him in every major incursion from Vietnam, to Syria, to Terraq, as everything from a Navy SEAL, an Army Ranger, Special Forces, to Parasquad and EAGLE. Oh, and there are several sources that say he used to be known as Annette. Be careful what you read on the internet. No one knows for certain other than the leather clad walking yarn ball-waiting-to-happen himself.
Why is that you ask? Shouldn’t records be easily found? What about facial recognition?
That last one I can answer. It seems that Enrique suffered through the Unicorn Blight and survived. However the energies which gave powers and abilities to others left him fluffy. I can only image what it's like to walk up to a mirror and seeing a strange face staring back at you that isn’t even human but, well, sheepish. He also grew an impressive set of horns that curled around his pointed ears. I guess that’s why he never wears a helmet when he drives his motorcycle that looks like Harley Davidson might design after a bender and testosterone injections. Though he does wear an impressive set of goggles made to offset his unusual eyes and snout.
We watched, I more stunned than my wife as decaf coffee dribbled down my chin, Enrique dismounting his hell-beast of a bike and set the kick stand. He got off, hung his goggles around his neck then braced himself. I guess he ran through a rainstorm as he shook himself, like a dog coming out of a bath. It was oddly hypnotic. Water splashed on the windows as he dried himself, clattering like a rainstorm for a second or two. He stood again, readjusted his wrist bracers, and squeezed the last of the water from his arm. He took a breath, calming himself, as all his visible wool went from managed to poof chaos in seconds.
“God F’ing Dammit!” he screamed loud enough that the cooks in the kitchen turned down their tejano music to look at him. Note, that wasn’t a censor. He actually said it. Grumbling he took out a wool comb from his saddle bag and went to work straightening what he could.
“That’s a ten TPI wool comb, special made.” Kay said across the table. Trust my wife, the knitter and spinner, to focus intently on his wool processing gear rather than oddity that swore under his breath right in front of us. “Those are Modroninan Makers. Like, only six exist in that gage. I know women who would give their first born, and their eye teeth just to see them this close up.” She pointed at the open saddle bag. “And those are Bee Knit pins! Platinum plated from the looks of them….”
At this point I hit my limit. I’m sorry, Love, but I only caught this much as the litany of near mythical knitting objects and wool care devices continued. On the same note I’m sorry I didn’t write down the list of new swear words and hyphenated curses, he chewed past clenched teeth that didn’t look capable of speech.
After a minute or two, he put his hair care back in the saddlebag and pulled a stogie from his breast pocket. Leaving it unlit, he strode towards the front door in steel toed boots. He reached the handle before he went to fluffy again. Again, I wish I could post what he said. Suffice to say they could probably hear him over in Mu.
He pulled the door open and strode in. I noticed the only person not paying attention to him was one guy at the counter in a green hoodie, who sat staring into his coffee cup. I wondered if he was the reason that Enrique was here. This then led me to wonder if getting under the table would be a safe place to be for K and I should a gunfight break out. Weirder things have happened. But no, the Sheep strode over to the counter himself, nodded to the hooded stranger and took a seat. Waving his cloven fingers, he ordered the Tri-tip salad, and “a gallon of coffee.” He then slapped a fifty on the bar and told the waitress that it was hers if the coffee mug was never empty and the dish could be prepared in ten minutes. She nodded, her mouth still agape but smiling. At least she was professional. She set an entire pot down in front of him and started a fresh one while calling out his order. I wish I could tell you what is like to watch him throw back his beverage, but I’m still trying to figure the physics of it.
In seconds, his salad was prepared and he threw himself into it. It was about then that K kicked me in the shins. I turned back to her as she tried to make very deliberate conversation that had nothing to do with mutant in the room. She mouthed the words, “Don’t stare.” I nodded back and kept up my end of the conversation after the satisfied grunts and crunchings from the counter no more than ten feet away. No, seriously, I could have reached out and touched it, if I thought he would let me keep the finger. Instead, keeping to caution, I returned to my empty coffee mug and sipped at it. I kept the talk civil and light hearted as the Mutton Chop Mercenary finished his meal and walked out.
“Do you know who that was?” I asked as the massive bike rolled away, roaring into the night.
“Eric the Sheep?” Kay said.
“Enrique the Sheep.” Our waitress corrected as she poured another round of black bliss. She didn’t even look bothered. “He comes in every couple of weeks. The new help always looked shocked. Good tipper.”
“I bet!” I said, wondering how they would split the bill between the crew.
We paid our own tab, thanked them again for “Dinner and a show,” (to which Kay slapped my shoulder) and made our way to the motel we were staying at. As we pulled into the parking lot, lo and behold, his bike was standing in a full car spot.
“How’s that for you?” I asked, starting to giggle at the coincidence.
“It’s not that large of a town.” She assured me. “It’s not like he’s going to the resort.” This town was small enough to have only two motels and three resorts catering to the high end who like to ski or hike.
We slept more or less well. It’s nothing really of note but we packed our bags, deposited our key, and had breakfast at the Barbarian Bear again. I’m sorry but it’s one of the reasons we stopped each time. Their breakfasts are amazing. So sue me.
Afterwards we gassed up at the fillup station, one of four in town. Our next stop wouldn’t be for miles so it seemed like the thing to do. I filled up the car and went inside to pay as Kay stayed in the car. As I gave the man behind the counter a twenty, who should roll up next to pump #7.
I was starting to wonder if he was following us, when I noticed the tied up man-lizard duck taped to his back rest. It oozed something from various orifices as it sat there, breathing raggedly, its long forked tongue dangling from its cracked, reptilian lips.
Well, I thought to myself, that answers a few things. Nothing I could prove, but still… I took out my phone and caught several pictures. I’m fairly certain Kay did the same from her vantage point. I got shots of the Sheep, the lizard, and several of my shoes and two of my forehead and glasses. It’s a new phone, ok?
I tossed the cashier a $20 bill. It bounced off his right pant leg as he stared at the scene before us as well. I guess he was new there. Enrique entered and clomped up to the counter. He ordered a fill up, several pounds of beef jerky, and a Power Blast Blue Slush. I did my best to look at the roll of lottery tickets, badly acting like I was somehow unsure of my luck with scratch-offs. I even hummed something to myself that I can’t recall exactly but I think was a version of Black Hole Sun, my nonchalant stance turning more and more chalant unintentionally.
I took a large breath to sigh as if still undecided. He took it the wrong way.
He whipped out a .45 and aimed it at my head without even looking at me. “Say two words, Fanboy!” He shouted.
Before he could get to ‘I double dog dare you,’ I blurted out, half shrieking, “Two words, Fanboy!”
He turned his head to stare at me, one eyebrow lifting, his pistol still ready to headshot me. Then he burst out of giggles. I waited for his gun arm to fall before I started to laugh.
“Man!” He said slapping my shoulder. It hurt. “That’s the best laugh I’ve had all week. Thanks, man.”
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to bother you.” I said, “I was just kind of star struck.”
“No,” He said “Star Struck is a Paramerican and has a much better rack than I do.”
He wasn’t wrong, but I said nothing.
“What’s your name?” He asked as he holstered his gun.
I introduced myself and told him I was a writer and a blogger.
“Wait,” he said, smiling. “That hero blog? The one that has the thing for Dr. Quantum? That used to talk about the Questers in Bridgeton and that crap with Candy Man?”
“Yeah!” I said, suddenly swelling with pride. “You know of it?”
“You bet I do!” He laughed.
Then he headbutted me in the chest. I’m not certain how I ended up in the chip display covered in artificial barbecue flavoring and cool ranch wedges. All I knew is that my lungs protested their treatment and would go on strike if I thought I could be so arrogant again. In the meantime, they were negotiating with my breath to see if they could come to some form of agreement and get back to work. My breath substituted air with salty snack particles.
Someone had my arm, pulling me to my feet as the roar of the bike driving off reverberated in my chest. “Hey, you ok?” The man asked. He was wearing a green hoodie with the familiar O of University of Oregon.
I felt around and nothing moved thankfully. Just heavily bruised. “I think so.” I said. “I’m gonna be sore in the morning, though.”
He put his hand on my chest, steadying me. “Oh, you are going to be fine. I doubt you will feel this by lunch.” He patted my shoulders reassuringly before dusting the combined dust of a thousand salty snack foods from my clothes. “People I know have had chest issues like this and been fine.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.” I smiled and thanked him. Funny though, his hoodie kept being just in the wrong place, like his eyes avoid whatever contact they could. I still thanked him for his kindness.
“Don’t thank me.” He laughed and pointed to the counter. “I think someone paid for your gas.” On the counter a small yellow card lay. The cashier said he had left it for me as he paid for my gas. I picked up and read:
“You have been headbutted by Enrique the Sheep! You’re Welcome.”
Scrawled in a quick hand on the back. “Thanks, Fanboy, now screw off!”
“Well, that was weird.” the clerk muttered returning my twenty.
“Yeah, it was…” I said as I made my way back to the car, not liking the idea of the seat belt hitting my sternum.
“Weirder things have happened.” The Hoodie said again as be bought several packs of beef jerky and a carbonated mineral water to the counter. “Best just to let it go.”
We all nodded and I went back to the car. I as I turned around, to tell Kay of the strange encounter and why i was nervous about my chest, I pointed back to the people inside. Then I caught it. The hoodie pulled his green hood back for a second, welcoming the feeling of sunlight on his face while he popped open his water. I have no idea how to put it other than to say, as i did to Kay, “Is it me, or does that guy’s tattoos kind of make him look like a badger.”
We drove on.
So that was the first leg of the trip! Next our stop would take us to Little Big City and eventually to the bright lights of Las Salvas.
But that’s another entry.