by Fielding Goodfellow
Oliver Redding wasn’t much of a businessman, but he had inherited the family business when the old man died, and the stress was killing him. I suppose that’s why a portal must have opened up and dropped him into the pink, plastic Muskoka chair beside me as I wiled away the blistering hot afternoon at Sugar Beach. I really have no other explanation as to where he came from, I mean one minute the chair was empty and the next, well there he was. He seemed a little odd, but certainly no worse for free falling a mile or so through the universe. He couldn’t stop talking about the ducks though, I mean he resented that they could both fly and swim, while he could do neither. He thought it would be nice to be able to do one or the other.
One morning Oliver discovered that while he had been climbing the ladder to the top quite matter of factly, it had become harder and harder to breathe, I mean the air was unbearably heavy with the stench of corruption and deceit. He was tired of pretending that he enjoyed the view that always seemed to trigger his vertigo, and he wondered what it was going to take for him to truly feel happy. So, he simply let go and found himself on Sugar Beach. “Well, that’s odd.” he said. I suppose it must have seemed that way to him, but I’d seen it before. It wasn’t so long ago that I was the one drifting through the cosmos, sifting through what had been and what was yet to come, in search of something, although I really didn’t know what the hell I was looking for. I found myself in the strangest of places, so far out there that I wasn’t sure if I would ever make it back. I swear that if I didn’t jump through the haze of sound and color when I did, I’d still be floating around out there with my head up my ass. And in all that time that I was free falling I never, not once felt any real happiness.
“Don’t worry about it.” I said. “It happens all the time.”
“Really?” Oliver Redding asked. It actually didn’t happen all of the time, I mean it was a pretty rare occurrence, but it did happen more often that you’d expect. All of that kind of searching pretty much ends the same way, I mean there’s the desperate plunge of about a mile or so and then well, there you are at Sugar Beach. If you sit there long enough, I’m pretty sure that you’d get to see it.
“More than you know.” I said. “And it always ends the same.”
“It’s not that I haven’t tried” Oliver said, “I keep looking, but I just can’t seem to find anything that makes me feel happy.”
“I think that’s the trouble.” I said “Its not out there. But I’m probably not the best person to ask. I’m no expert and I’m not sure I know anything about being happy, I mean I’m a writer, and my entire life is really nothing more than the fictionalized accounts of the movies that keep screening in my head. Some of my characters though, seem pretty fucking happy.”
“What makes them so happy?” he asked.
“Usually drugs or alcohol.” I said. “But sometimes they get the gift of knowing themselves, and when they live their lives true to who they are, happiness just seems knock on their door rather loudly and completely unannounced.”
Oliver seemed overjoyed at the prospect of finally getting his hands on what he had so desperately wanted. It was a shame to have to knock him on his ass, but its never easy really, I mean the hardest thing to do is to peel back the layers of who you’ve become and stand face to face with who you really are. Most of us wander around our entire lives with our brains and bellies stuffed with all of the shit we carry around forever, assuming that we’re happy until we find ourselves leaving a psychiatrist’s office with a prescription for Prozac or Xanax in our hands. I suppose that’s what makes it so damn valuable, I mean being happy is really not as easy as it seems. Sometimes though, if the gods have had a good afternoon on the back nine at The Mother of Our Holy Emptiness Golf and Magic Club, anything is possible.
“So, I just sit and wait for it to come?” he asked.
“Well there’s a bit more to it than that.” I said. “Forget about what you know. You’ve got to empty your mind. Go to the park and watch the men feed the squirrels, or head to the beach and listen to the waves brush up against the shore as they roll over your feet. Become part of the universe, and once you’ve done that it will come. Don’t wait for it though, I mean it never comes when you’re expecting it. You’ll figure it out when you get back.”
“I’m not sure that I want to go back.”
“I don’t think you have a choice.” I said. “No one else seemed to.” I guess I should have seen that coming. He was pretty comfortable in that pink, Muskoka chair on Sugar Beach, I mean there was really nothing going on. It was just talk, about anything, but mostly it was just talk about nothing at all.
By the time Oliver Redding had to go, I think he understood. I hope so, I mean he wasn’t a bad guy, he was just lost and confused. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that the trip back along that mile of space and time was far more difficult than the trip here. The way I see it, its pretty tough to go back to what you were, once you know who you are.