Storytime – A Walk in the Park

It soon became apparent that ‘life in the big city’ was not for everyone.  Many of the faces I saw on the streets were those of automatons, almost without expression except for vacant eyes and ingrained sadness.  Perhaps I’d change over time, but for now, it was a thrilling change from Louisville, Kentucky.  New York was indeed a melting pot, with every imaginable shade of skin and hair, every fashion of clothing and the sounds of a thousand languages.  I loved it, and loved being out in that mix.
I lived close enough to my job at Gray’s Papaya that I could walk to work.  Part of that walk included crossing Central Park, but that was ok.  I had my Mace, and I tried to stay constantly aware of my surroundings. Also, I was a good sprinter, so that could prove to be a valuable thing.
After work the other day I crossed Central Park West, right in front of the Dakota (you know, that’s where John Lennon lived), and I entered the park, heading home. I was tired after a long day of serving Famous Hot Dogs, trying to understand the dialects of a great variety of customers, and really wasn’t paying close enough attention to where I was going.  Soon, I found myself on an unfamiliar path, which led to a large grassy field. It was odd, though, that there were no people out there, no Frisbees, no chasing dogs, just a quiet spot in the middle of a bustling metropolis.
I stood there soaking up the silence, but then decided to retrace my steps to get back toward home.  I turned, about to embark on the path, but, strangely, the path had disappeared.  There was only forest, just trees and underbrush. Dizzy for a moment, I sat down abruptly on a rock outcrop.
It was then that the bowman walked up to me and said, “Do ye seek Robin Hood of the Glen? I can fairly guide thee, if it be your desire.” I stared, speechless, for at least a full minute.  He cocked his head at me, perhaps equally puzzled.
He spoke again, “Did ye not hear? What do ye seek? Be ye lost?”
I stammered, “This all seems so bizarre. One minute I’m in the middle of New York City, now I seem to be in Sherwood Forest. Surely there must be a Renaissance Fair going on, or something like that.  It wouldn’t explain the missing path or the empty field, but it’d be a start, I suppose.  Are you with a Fair?”
He screwed up his face as he thought.  Then he said, “I have not heard of this New York, I only know of the walled city of York far to the north.  Is that your goal?  I can only guide you out of the forest, but beyond that you’ll have to seek further help.”
I remained sitting, afraid to trust my legs at this point. I asked, “So, am I indeed in Sherwood?”
“Aye,” he said, “you are.  How is it that you don’t know where you are?”  He was now examining my strange mode of dress, probably agog at my colorful Nike shoes.
I scratched my head as I mumbled, “I can’t begin to explain it to you, since I don’t understand it myself. I am completely at a loss.”
“You may call me Will, “ he offered, “and what is your name?”
I decided not to explain that I was named after a character in Star Wars, but only said, “And I am called Han.”
Will studied me some more, then offered, “I wonder if you might be one of the Odd Wanderers I’ve heard of.  May I escort you to Nottingham Castle, where you may find others of your clan?”
My heart leapt, “Yes, yes, yes! Please take me there.  Should I find other garments before we go?”
Will nodded in assent, then said, “Yes, I was thinking the same thing.  I shall offer you some of my extra things, since we are of a like size.”
I won’t bore you with all the details of everything I saw and every strange thing I experienced on that journey, but suffice it to say that after the space of about three days I stood before the Sheriff of Nottingham.
The Sheriff stroked his beard and squinted his eyes as he questioned me, and started to become agitated when I could not supply satisfactory answers to his questions.
He roared, “Do you think me a fool, stranger? You speak in a way unknown to me, and unknown to my advisors.  Why should I trust you or help you?  I think perhaps it will be the gibbet for you.  Throw him in the dungeon with the others!”
Several of his helpers, whatever they were called, practically dragged me down the long stone stairway that led to the dungeon level.  They pried open a rusty cell door and literally threw me inside.  Clouds of rust came off the ancient door as they slammed it and drove home the bolt.
There were two other unfortunates there, but they would not be good company, since they had expired some time ago.  Their dried bodies lay against the far wall, fortunately not a source of foul odors any more.
For lack of anything else to do, I went over to take a closer look.  They were both men, and one of them appeared to be wearing a 3-piece suit from the thirties, with wide lapels, and wide pin stripes.  The other fellow wore Levi’s, a Grateful Dead t-shirt, and cowboy boots.  I wondered how long they had been here, and how long I’d be here, waiting for starvation or for the hangman.
I slept fitfully that night in the cold, uncomfortable cell.  There was no cot or bed, no blankets, only scurrying rodents and creeping roaches.  I shivered as I assumed the fetal position in a corner, to pass the long night. How many long nights lay ahead?
It has been forty long years since that day in the park, and they have kept me alive in this dungeon, dribbling out water and thin gruel to me.  Periodically the Sheriff comes to peer through the bars, but he never speaks.
I am placing this epistle back in its place between the rocks.  I have lost hope of rescue, now I can only long for death.  I pity you who finds this, for you are likely a prisoner, as I was.

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