Jackalope children are given lessons in lucid dreaming from kindergarten to adulthood. As adults, they follow their own inclinations when the creation of their extravagant dream worlds. Jack Loki journeys on adventurous dream-quests through surreal landscapes, meeting with exotic creatures and fascinating characters. He built his dream house in a fantastic community that looks like something out of a Hayao Miyazaki film, or in his darker moods, out of a Zdzislaw Beksiński painting. Yost was a little envious of Jack Loki’s dream-life. Yost’s dreams were mostly small domestic dramas full of everyday anxieties.
Today’s Geranium Lake Properties comic is a rare example of Yost using one of his own dreams for a depiction of Jack Loki’s dream-life. Yost had an odd dream in which he was in a large auditorium with an ornate roof of black-stained wood carved with many winged animals, mostly bats, crows and moths, with mythical creatures like griffins, harpies and dragons. The auditorium was crowded with people and Yost was greeting them, one by one. Among the strangers were some people he knew, friends and acquaintances, and some other people he thought he had met but could not remember their names. Luckily he did not have to remember anyone’s name. He was greeting each person with a strange phrase or word that, when he awoke, he scribbled out as “nunchis’tiplatochel”. Upon further reflection, as Yost went over and over the memory of his dream, he changed the spelling to “nunchis’tiplatoshel”, but still felt that he did not have it quite right. It seemed to him that in his dream he had spoken the word/phrase with a certain pronunciation, but everyone that he greeted said the word back to him with a different pronunciation. He could not decide who was speaking it correctly. For months, first thing upon waking, he would say the word with either one pronunciation or the other, hoping that one day it would sound perfect. It became a mild obsession, and eventually he developed a compulsion to say the phrase to complete strangers, with the vague idea that this odd collection of sounds would be familiar to someone. The embarrassment when people looked at him with alarm or bafflement was a small but miserable agony for Yost, and yet he could not always stop himself.
Then one day, the answer was given to him.
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Excerpt from The Boy in the Yellow Leatherette Portmanteau by Gralie Bohe:
Seth Devishale lived in Puerto de Luna, New Mexico, only nine miles from Santa Rosa. They decided, at Seth’s suggestion, to meet at the Route 66 Auto Museum in Santa Rosa, and afterwards they could eat lunch at the Route 66 Restaurant. Seth had no good recommendations for the restaurant, he had never stopped there for a meal, although he had often passed it. He could confirm for Yost that its ambience was classic American diner, and he thought they had an old jukebox, although he was not sure. Whether it worked or not, he could not say. Yost’s favorite aesthetic included classic cars, diners and jukeboxes, so he was happily looking forward to his stop at Santa Rosa.
Yost did not dare hope that the diner was furnished with a Wurlitzer, and when he walked in, he realized the baroque splendor of a Wurlitzer would have been completely out of place in the restaurant’s black, white, red and chrome decor. The restaurant was absolutely retro-Fifties. The jukebox was a respectable specimen from United, the UPB-100 model from 1959. It was plain, clean, well-maintained, with a coral red front panel. A perfect choice for its setting, a jewel. And it still worked! It was playing Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” as Yost and Seth walked in. No song could have been more auspicious, and Yost, who was in a good mood after the visit to the Auto Museum – and was fizzing in anticipation of his trip to the Charles M. Schulz Museum that afternoon – felt himself relax into a lavish congeniality.
His mood was only enhanced when he asked for a plain burger and their waitress told him that was how the burgers were usually served, or with cheese upon request. Customers added their own condiments. When Yost mentioned that the only cheese he liked on his burger was mozzarella, the waitress made a scribble on her pad as if mozzarella was a common request. Also not a problem was the butter, horseradish, Miracle Whip (not mayonnaise!) and brown mustard (a bottle of Gulden’s Stone Ground Dijon mustard arrived at the table) that made up Yost’s preferred smear for his hamburger bun. The burger was well-done, which was only to be expected from a restaurant burger. Yost’s perfect burger would have been charred on the surface with a bit of raw meat in the center. However, the burger was not overdone, not salty, and had a touch of peppery mesquite flavor Yost could appreciate. When “Crazy” finished, the next song was another Patsy Cline record, “She’s Got You’, followed by “Walkin’ After Midnight”. Conversation with Seth was casual and interesting enough, without the tension of fascination. Yost was in heaven.
Yost had just finished his second enthusiastic bite of his burger when a woman walked into the diner. She had pixie-short hair, dark brown, and was wearing round John Lennon glasses. She was dressed in an ivory pantsuit and floral blouse. Business casual, a teacher or librarian on her lunch break. She appeared to be in her thirties, or perhaps a youngish forty. She hesitated, then looked with purpose around the diner. A chill shivered through Yost’s clement mood when he noticed her stare had stopped on him. A small smile appeared on her face, as if the sight of him pleased her. Yost instantly looked down at his plate, perturbed and vaguely resentful.
Seth stopped speaking in mid-sentence and stood up. “She made it, after all. Wonderful!” he exclaimed as he slipped out of their booth. Yost yanked his gaze from his plate and watched Seth as he quickly approached the woman, greeting her with a hug and a fleeting kiss on her cheek. Yost’s sense of resentment grew. Seth had said nothing about a third person joining them for lunch, and Yost was not fond of surprises. He especially disliked the arrivals of unexpected people. He generally had no problems with strangers – what made him anxious was being introduced to them when he was ignorant of what other people expected from him.
Seth escorted the woman to their table. Hank Williams began singing “Long Gone Lonesome Blues”, which should have charmed Yost, but now only irritated him. Seth was cheerfully introducing the woman as his “unofficial aunt”.
“…Maudie-Ethel. Maudie-Ethel Ferrishoon to be precise, or formal, or something,” finished Seth, with blithe effusiveness.
The smiling woman offered her hand. Yost was a little surprised to find that he had stood up at some point. Her hand looked harmless. Yost grasped it, and she gently squeezed his hand, somehow retaining her hold without a sense of leverage.
“Nunchis’tiplatoshel,” she said, with a flawless pronunciation of the hard “k” sound for the “ch”, and the last syllable sounding somewhere between “shawl” and “shoal”. All of Yost’s minor misgivings coalesced into a single intense disturbance, as if a large temple bell had been struck once within him. For a moment, Yost froze in the grip of its reverberations.
“Dear Auntie, I think you broke him,” Seth’s irrepressible voice snapped Yost out of his paralysis. “Nunchis’tiplatoshel,” Yost gasped out. His enunciation was a helpless mess.
Seth’s unofficial aunt squeezed his hand again, this time in encouragement. “Nunchis’tiplatochel,” she corrected, each “ch” pronounced like the “ch” in cheese, and the “el” rhyming with “bell”. Yost gaped at her, with a radiant illumination dawning within himself.
“That’s the response!” he exclaimed. “The initial greeting is pronounced one way, and then the response is pronounced the other way! They are both correct!”
“Yes indeed they are,” the aunt was beaming at him. “Your pronunciation is not bad. It is certainly better than this one’s first hilarious attempts,” she said, giving Seth a brisk shove with her shoulder. “I think ‘lunch meat tapioca’ was my favorite.”
Seth sighed theatrically. “They never let me forget that one. I am quite resigned to being teased for that forever.”
His aunt patted his arm kindly. “We do give you points for creative absurdity.”
That is how Yost met Maudie-Ethel Ferrishoon, Querent and Auditor of the Pragmatic Party of Ishengolta. This was in 1985, barely two months after Maudie-Ethel had won her first campaign to become a member of the Quivira Aquariban Assembly. The success of her campaign had been largely carried by the popularity of the slogan, “More badgers! Less shopping malls!” Her campaign was not one that would have been endorsed by any political party in the known world, but Seth’s unofficial aunt was not a native of the known world. She had been born in a small town called Daridatura, on an island in the Kalifa archipelago. Across all the Kalifarian islands, Yost was famous, and Geranium Lake Properties appeared in Kalifa’s eleven daily newspapers. Newspapers which are still printed today, on 100% recycled paper, still doing vital business for Kalifarian citizens.
– – –
This is a more-or-less fanciful map of the Kalifa archipelago:
And that auditorium in Yost’s dream? When Yost described the roof to Maudie-Ethel, she said it sounded exactly like the roof of the old Ti Polos Auditorium where the Assembly met, except the Ti Polos roof had been painted white and red, and every wing had been heavily gilded. The Assembly was the governing body of Kalifa, and they had been meeting in the old auditorium since 1825. The auditorium burned down in 1979, and a few salvaged animals were all that was left of the ornamental roof. Their white, red and gold colors were gone; they were stained black with smoke, a sooty color that could not be cleaned away.
Thank you to Sylvia Van Nooten for providing Maudie-Ethel’s campaign slogan, and “lunch meat tapioca”. Seth Devishale rewards her with all the kudos he received for creative absurdity.