Posts Tagged ‘Frank’

Bumper Cars with a Legend

To begin, I must apologize for such a lengthy absence. I have been pursuing means to boost my resume and to finish the dissertation early (which results in a pretty penny saved). In all honesty, little of note has transpired in recent months that has merited attention… until about seven weeks ago.

Cousin Frank, the legend himself, ventured across the Atlantic to spend a week with our family. In terms of Franktitude, this visit was relatively uneventful (i.e. no near-death experiences on a 600-foot cliff or falling off a bicycle in the path of an 18-wheeler). One gloriously bright day, we clambered out from behind our red door and the oppressive weight of grey that had sealed us indoors for months, determined to give Nottingham the benefit of experiencing Frank and vice versa. The best (and perhaps only) attraction within reasonable distance of our home is a massive property called Wollaton Park. The locale has acres upon acres of open lawns, free-roaming deer, a lake, a historic hall, and, on certain weekends and school holidays, a carnival.

Frank and I found ourselves near the top of a hill gazing down into the valley at painfully gaudy fabrics constructed into tents and awnings, seizure-inducing, flashing lights, poorly-crafted prizes that virtually deteriorate when (or if) the gamemaster begrudgingly puts one into your hands, and a fleet of ice cream trucks. Abandoning my wife and our friend, Laura, to watch the child, we found ourselves quickly at the base of the hill, wandering between the various stalls with increasingly disappointed looks on our faces. As we turned back towards our companions, we began to search desperately for any activity that might contribute towards financially, nearly placing our heavy coins into the grubby hands of the giant slide minder. Yet reason won the day and we turned away from the sackcloth and pink and yellow lengths of metal. It seemed, however, that fate had spun us too far. For we were not facing our family uphill, but rather a mauve-colored arena, full of miniature cars and spewing exhaust from the generator that apparently powered it. Bumper cars.

The only known photo of the legend from his time in Nottingham. No longer in grainy, unclear black and white- he exists!

Cousin Frank and I casually made our way over to the enclosure, not wanting to appear desperate. We asked the gentleman (though there was nothing gentle about him) the rate for hiring his restricted automobiles. When he responded £3 per person, I began to turn toward my family again, but was stopped by a hand that firmly grasped my shoulder from below. Frank was already dropping £6 into the hand of the salesman, one coin at a time, and saying to me, “Let’s enjoy ourselves. This one is on me.” I should have known from the way that the coins fell in slow motion, as though he was paying our fee to Charon, that there was something sinister afoot. But I thought to myself instead, “Free bumper cars!

This electrical car mechanic assigned us to our respective vehicles, while two other pairs of people joined us and shared cars with each other. I looped the “seatbelt,” which amounted to little more than a sharp-edged, loose-fitting noose, over my neck and waited for the buzz of electricity to signal Frank’s demise. As our cars began to glide across the flat surface of the track, we all ignored the “one-way” sign posted on the eastern pillar and began driving erratically, hoping for maximum speed to proceed a collision.

I noted that not all seemed right as Frank paid the ride owner and cackled maniacally. It turned out that after I reached maximum speed and cousin Frank sat helpless against the edge or a few other cars, the vehicle I had received opted to slow down dramatically and suddenly send me in the opposite direction. No amount of steering or stomping on the accelerator would remedy the situation. The vehicle tended to right itself only after Frank collided into me with cataclysmic force and shrieked with delight as an egregious inferno blazed in his eyes. In several crashes, the seatbelt “saved” me by nearly severing my head and drawing the blood to the surface of my skin in a neat little line that ran along my neck and down my chest.  It appeared as though Frank had mollified the carnival gods and rode on the wave of their favor. He had cleverly guided us toward this activity, feigning disinterest in the revelry and acting as though the bumper cars were something “we may as well do” because we had walked “so far.” Frank had an axe to grind, as it turned out. For he was suffused with rage that I had told so many stories in which he was the subject of hilarity.

But, you see, when Cousin Frank went with us to a playground in Nottingham, he got stuck on a merry go round (or “roundabout”). After observing me pushing Langston and wife in a large swing together on which they were able to lay down, Frank desired to partake in the relaxing activity. Behind us, he found a dish-shaped merry go round composed of stacked metal rings and climbed inside.

A fairly close representation of the cone that ensnared Frank.

Proving to be decidedly less comfortable than he imagined, Frank attempted to climb out, but found the effort near impossible. Hearing the groans of struggle close at hand, I turned to watch him and capitalized on my opportunity.

I ran to the merry go round and, as he reached out a hand believing I had come to his aid, I grasped the top metal ring and began to spin the contraption as quickly as possible. Initially, Frank responded to my energetic whirling with, “No thanks. We’re not doing that.” Within seconds, as the cone approached maximum speed, his pitch modulated significantly and he shifted from the declarative to the imperative. In shrill, girlish tones, he shrieked, “Help! Bethany, save me! Save me, Bethany!” Wife responded by laughing near to the point retching and Langston lay their on his back, enjoying the swing and ignoring his relative.

We watched Frank as he attempted to climb out of the cone, but centrifugal force consistently threw him from side to side. Eventually, the device slowed to a stop and Frank managed to toss a leg over the edge of the rim, using gravity to drag his body out of the dangerous playground equipment. He staggered at an angle across a large swathe of grass before collapsing to the ground and giving the fluid in his ears time to settle.

As I sat in my bumper car, speeding aimlessly backwards and gazing at Frank as he repeatedly crashed into my side and foamed at the mouth, I realized that this vendetta had nothing to do with what I had done in the past, but with what I had recounted to others. For example, while Frank stayed in our house, he frequently enjoyed showers- as you do. I neglected to mention, however, that if one happens to turn on a faucet (tap- or whatever you Brits call it) while another is showering, the shower instantly goes cold to prevent from burning the showerer/showeree.

One evening, therefore, while Frank rinsed off, I set my nine-month-old on the floor, strolled over to the kitchen sink, and turned on the water ever so briefly. After hearing the change in water pressure upstairs, I laughed to myself and shut the water off, but was surprised to hear a giggle from elsewhere in the room and close to the floor. Langston stared up with a wide, toothless smile as though he was saying, “That’s right, Dad. Do it again. We shall freeze him out of the shower and there will be much laughter.” Not wanting to disappoint my son, I flicked the water on and off seven or so more times. Yet, I never told Frank of this shower-related phenomenon.

In the middle of our bumper car excursion, I suddenly realized that there are no carnival gods, and though my vehicle clearly suffered a curse in some capacity, I struck out at Cousin Frank. The first blow nearly ended the relationship between his arm and shoulder socket. Fortunately for us, the bumper car regulator let us drive for nearly 20 minutes before he made us stop. Frank and I drove like maniacs, attacking each other and the pathetic couples in the other two cars- who cares if they were children?

Though many an awesome t-bone was frustrated by my reversing vehicle, I saw to it that Frank left with minor whiplash and he reminded me how delicately my head sits upon my shoulders. As the electricity fizzled out, we stepped from our cars out into the sunset-stained lawn, laughed at the weeping children, and set our minds on ale.

Two Tales of a Cousin Nearly Lost: Part One

Jakob Freyr Hartmann- Heimdall

These stories, though at their time this author thought they would end as eulogies, have become legends- shaped by time, whispered by the shadows, and striking fear in the hearts of all evil creatures across the empire. It is said, if one listens carefully, they can even hear the trees and grass murmur to one another the epic of Heimdall.

Our story begins in the year 2005 of our Lord with the young cousin of our hero swimming the Rhine through the territory of the Saxons in the land of Germania. Having swum for two days straight, this young warrior, Andreas “the Tall” of Donald, reached the ocean and procured a ship for the remainder of his journey. He battled with the monsters of the deep for one week before coming to rest on the shores of Britannia, the outer limits of the Roman Empire. In haste, Andreas made his way to the city of Oxenaforda. Rushing through the cobbled streets, he came to a small inn with a lone light in the upper story window. Rushing up the flight of stairs, Andreas found himself at an aged oak door, which he promptly kicked in with the might of his sinewy shanks.

Sitting on a small stool and reading by the light of the candle, Andreas found his legendary cousin: Jakob Freyr Hartmann, known to most in the world as Heimdall. He is regarded as both a warrior and a scholar, thereby striking fear into the deepest of depths of his enemies’ souls. Heimdall waited for the flickering candle to still after the gust of wind caused by his enormous relative so that he could finish his book. Then, setting it aside and brushing the splinters out of his hair, he let out a deep, bellowing laugh. “Ha ha ha! Jimmy is pleased to see you cousin” (he had long been convinced that an angel named Jimmy accompanied him throughout his life, whispering words of wisdom into his ear and protecting him during battles). “Likewise,” replied Andreas, “Please, tell Jimmy I said hello.” After a moment or two of what seemed to be a heated discussion with Jimmy, Heimdall turned his attention back to his relative. “Jimmy knows why you’re here, dear cousin,” he remarked in his booming voice. “Then,” Andreas responded, “Should I explain or shall we simply take our leave?” Heimdall stroked his beard for several minutes between his thumb and forefinger, and then said, “Proceed- for the sake of the story and so that we can be sure Jimmy is correct.”

Andreas then relayed his plan for a journey to Eire, where stories had arisen of evil running amok throughout the land: giants abusing the peasants and a sinister, dark magik at work in the island. Heimdall listened intently, still stroking his beard, sighing on occasion as if to say his (and Jimmy’s) suspicions were confirmed.

Andreas observed his cousin as he spoke. He was a stout, strong man of many battles and books. He was not called Heimdall by mere coincidence. No, like the god of Norse legend, he was the “whitest of the warriors”- a trait shared with him by Andreas- with skin color that bordered on translucence. Years later, he would become the patron saint of albinos. His similarities with the Heimdall did not cease here, however. For like his namesake, he had an acute awareness of his surroundings at all times, such that he was unable to sleep undisturbed, thus heightening his perception and enabling him to foresee any coming-battle years in advance. It was said that our Heimdall would announce with the actual deity that Ragnarok was upon us. These are tales, however, that history cannot confirm.

When the son of Donald finished his account, Heimdall rose from his seat and walked to the corner of his room. Whispering something about sausages, he quickly snatched up his sword, turned to his cousin, and said, “We mustn’t tarry another moment. To the Green Isle we shall go!” With that, Heimdall took the candle and set the building alight, for little reason other than dramatic effect. Nearly one hundred people perished in that fire as Heimdall rushed off laughing.

They came to the shore where Andreas had moored his ship, only to discover that a remaining monster had devoured it out of spite. Looking somewhat distraught, Andreas paced for a minute until a thought that should have come to him long ago dawned. Whistling loudly through the inner-ear tube of one of the sea monsters, the cousins soon found themselves engulfed in a nearly unbearable light. Andreas had summoned the Phoenix. It came to rest in front of the two warriors and revealed his immense size. The Phoenix nodded to Andreas as a signal of their historic friendship, then he turned to Heimdall and stared. “Did you start that fire, Hartmann?”

Heimdall paused for a moment before replying, “Um… yes.”

“Nice,” said the Phoenix. “Well, good sirs, how can I be of assistance?”

Andreas knelt and responded, “Oh great Pheonix, we require transport to Eire, but, alas, my ship is lost…” Andreas stopped when he felt a tug on his cloak and turned to see his cousin shaking his head profusely. “I canna do flying,” muttered the brave warrior. “But we haven’t any other means of transportation. The ship is gone. No one will lend us a ship, especially after you burned down a building on them. It is our only option.”

Heimdall stomped away in a huff, perhaps conversing with Jimmy, only to return moments later. “Okay,” Heimdall said, “but only if we take a ship back and not a word of the flight is shared with others.” Andreas agreed, but had no idea of the manner of agreement into which he had entered.

The two climbed on the back of the Phoenix, who flew quickly to the nearest coast of the neighboring isle. Heimdall spent the majority of the flight keeping Jimmy calm, while Andreas watched in amazement. Eventually, they came to rest at the city of Dubh Linn. The Phoenix bid them farewell, and then turned to Andreas, saying, “You owe me big time,” before flying off into the starry sky.

Everything seemed fine with Jimmy again and the night was young, so the warrior pair ventured into the city to find accommodation for the evening before they were to head out in search of a fight.

They found an inn close at hand. The owner showed them the accommodations available and those with whom they would have to share a room. Three wenches had taken the beds on the other walls, including two sisters from the Frankish kingdom and a young woman from the Holy See. After a brief introduction, though they needed none, Andreas and Heimdall deposited a few belongings with the innkeeper, and left to scour the city for evil. Instead they came to a brewery, enjoyed a strong mead, and then returned happily to their lodgings for the evening.

As it would happen, the inn had closed for the evening and most lights had been extinguished. The cousins quietly entered their room and crawled into their respective beds. Heimdall, the ever-alert, bid everyone goodnight and crammed pieces of beeswax into his ears.

Andreas remained awake, however, for something did not sit well with him. The room was somehow different. Then he noticed that there was one more occupant than before: a man of great stature in the bed beneath the woman from Rome. It seemed that a giant, one of the Jötunn, had decided to bed at the same inn for the evening. His body was so large that the mattress could not contain his extremities, and his legs projected for several feet beyond the bed’s end.

Generally, the Jötunn are known for their wickedness and short-tempers, but this one appeared to desire little more than sleep. Convinced that there was little reason for alarm, Andreas laid back in his bed, sword in hand, always ready for battle.

Before he could even shut his eyes, though, an enormous roar sounded through the room. Andreas was already on his feet, sword in hand, shouting, “You shall die this night, Jötunn!!!” But the warrior met no foe. He stood in the centre of the room, barely clad peering into the dark. Again the noise bellowed forth, followed shortly thereafter by the laughs of several maidens. As his eyes adjusted to the blackness of the night, he realized that the Jötunn did not desire a battle, but had entered into the deepest of slumbers, during which his lungs, like enormous bellows, attempted to suck all of the air out of the room. This sleeping giant was snoring. Andreas let out a hearty laugh, “Ha ha, good wenches. I apologize for my partial nudity.” Quickly he leapt back into his bed, which was positioned over the sleeping Heimdall.

Unfortunately, the snoring prevented the rest of any of the three maidens and Andreas. Yet the noise was so amusing they could not help but laugh. The Roman woman even attempted to silence the giant by striking him with her pillow, but she nearly lost the object and herself over the edge of the bed. As the group chuckled about the incident, Andreas heard stirring in the bed below him.

“Mm…hmm… wha… what is that?” scratched a voice. “What!… Oh my gosh… Are you serious?!? Does anybody hear that?!?… Grrrragghhhh!!! You have got to be kidding me!” It seemed that Heimdall had been disturbed from his sleep, in keeping with the name that he bears. The others laughed at his outbursts, as the beeswax prevented him from hearing himself. “Someone has to do something about this!” said Heimdall as he threw off his sheets. A seasoned warrior, he did not take the time to cautiously walk over, but leapt from his bed nearly to that of the slumbering monster. Andreas reached out his hand and attempted to warn him, but even were there no beeswax, Heimdall’s rage would still have deafened him.

Heimdall attempted to rouse the giant. “Hey, buddy… hey! Wake up. You’re snoring…” No response. In his restrained fury, the warrior began to pat the giant vigourously upon the foot. “Hey, buddy… hey! You’re snoring… no one can slee… d’you speak English?… Look nobody, we can’t sleep. Roll over,” he said with wild gesticulations. It seemed that he had caught the giant off guard, or in the midst of a very deep sleep, for he simply mumbled and returned to his rest.

The Encounter

Somewhat triumphantly, Jakob Hartmann marched back to his bed speaking words of affirmation to himself. The rest of the group continued to laugh. Before his head hit the pillow however… “SNOCCCGGGGGKKKHHHHHHPP!!!” The same noise came from the direction of the giant.

“Oh my gosh!!!” roared from under Andreas’ bed. Heimdall tried to wait in the hopes that the snores would dissipate, but his raging temper got the best of him. Again, he found himself smacking the bottom of this giant’s foot. “Buddy, hey… hey, buddy… you’re snoring… yeah, snoring… no one can sleep. Roll over… roll over,” he said again making circles with his hands. Everyone, excluding Heimdall, of course, continued to laugh. Angrily, he stomped back to his bed hoping that this would be their final interaction. The next minute, however, proved his desires were for naught. This pesky Jötunn continued his snoring as though uninterrupted.

At this point, Andreas could feel the heat of Jakob’s rage from the bed below. Heimdall began to speak in a manner unutterable by the average man- in booming depths, screeching heights, and all range of scratches and howls. For a moment, Andreas thought he could even hear Jimmy. No attempt to assuage the hero would have succeeded. The group continued to laugh while Heimdall flew to the feet of the giant. He began to slap them with such speed that his hand became a blur. “Hey, buddy! You’re snoring… Roll over!!! You speak English?!? English?!?… Roll over! Roll over!” Amazingly, the giant seemed to comprehend him this time and rolled over. The group tried to gasp in amazement, but were too near to the verge of vomiting from laughter that they could offer little more than a hiccup.

Victorious, Heimdall marched to his bed, exhaled a sigh of accomplishment, and shut his eyes.

His victory was short-lived, for “SNOCCCGGGGGKKKHHHHHHPP!!!” filled the air yet again. The others burst into laughter, but Heimdall, deaf to all, shouted, “I don’t know what to tell you guys. He rolled over. We’re just going to have to put up with it.” Begrudgingly, he pulled up is sheets and rolled away from the sound. The others continued laughing to the point of exhaustion and they all eventually faded into sleep.

The next morning, as the light began to peer through the window, Andreas was stirred by the sound of heavy feet. He looked below to see Heimdall peeking from his sheets at this giant of a man gathering his belongings and taking his leave of the room. It seemed that he had no memory of the various pedal-assaults he suffered the evening before.

Later, as Andreas and Heimdall gathered in the dining hall for a meal, the younger observed how enormous that giant had been and commended his cousin for such bravery. Jakob Freyr responded, “In all honesty, I did not grasp the immensity of this man until I placed my hand on the sole of his foot. In the midst of all that patting, I was wondering, would you have come to my aide, should I have been in need?” To which Andreas replied, “Strange, all the time you were yelling at that giant I was wondering how I would explain to your mother that you died at an inn in Dubh Linn!” The two burst into such great laughter that it sent all of the patrons running in fear.

Thus ends the first tale of a cousin nearly lost…