[Foreword by the author: This story appeared on this very blog about a week ago. Maybe it was more like five days ago. If you've read it, I have an unopened can of Mexican Beans just for you. If you haven't, please roll the dice one more time. The clue to understanding where to go next lies at the end of this post. Good luck. And remember: There are plenty of chocolate eggs for everybody. Change that last thought to Mexican Beans. - Andy Kaufman]
Woody was scaling to dizzying heights atop the barn's fragile roof as quickly as his plump legs would allow. Being wary of the excess baggage that the portly stature a specimen his age and height was burdened with, the journey from grass to brass cock pointing nonchalantly to where wind was originating had taken several minutes longer than his previous personal best.
The barn, of hexagonal shape if one were to ignore the wooden floor, was decrepit and weathered from years of unfavourable exchanges with the harsh climate of the Australian outback. Neglect by its owner had also contributed to the barn's poor state of physical health. Loose planks, exposed beams and protruding nails had endowed it with appeal for anyone capable of risking their life in pursuit of a futile dream. Woody was one of few who was passionate about such matters, having been raised as an eager young pup committed to climbing to the position of roost. He was mad keen to announce to the Harrelson family the imminent arrival of anyone unencumbered by the family's surname.
While Mother Time had stripped Woody of agility, she had left his sight intact.
Woody had scaled the barn more often than he could remember, greeting the challenge each occasion with the simplicity of an out-of-body experience. His method of controlling fear centred on entirely avoiding association with risk itself. It was unconventional, to say the least, but ignorance had insignificant impact where this matter was concerned. For Woody, it was a winning formula, much like mother's milk.
He recalled with jolting precision the time that exuberance had gotten the better of him. It was during the autumn of '91, when Woody fell several metres during another attempt at bettering his personal best. The memory had all but faded into a blurred ink blot on a sheet of paper, except when he was within sight of the Harrelsons' barn. His scarred gums had remained committed to the reality of the incident and his mouth's secretions each time he had taken the challenge since was another timeless reminder of the time it all went horribly awry.
Woody's remaining parts were devoid of similar memories. As far as the majority of his physical self was concerned, he and gravity were best of friends.
The anomalously slow ascent on this occasion had given Woody time to ponder what he would do when he finally reached the highest point; the brass cock weather vane was off limits to anything larger than a migrating duck, which Woody understood he was.
Being inexplicably short of breath as he finally reached his goal, the eastern section of the barn; inadvertently built with an elevated gradient of 8%, was an ideal moment for Woody to compose himself.
'You... are... fine,' he panted into the breeze rushing through his nostrils. His truncated ears got a good flapping. 'Just... take... your... time,' he continued, 'and... all... will... be... as... good... as... gold.'
Woody's head then experienced a sudden and uncontrollable shaking sensation. He surmised that reaching the top had triggered an intense reaction which he was previously unaware of. Perhaps it was like the effects of eating cheese after 8 pm. Perhaps it was like tyre marks on a wet road as seen in the rearview mirror.
The temporary commotion ended almost as quickly as it had begun. Only wads of phlegm flying into distant directions, some which returned safely to the top of Woody's beleaguered head, suggested that he had suffered a minor set-back.
Woody stood erect in the direction of the breeze, elevated his head and barked with every syllable of energy his deflated body could summon.
It wasn't the bark of an Alpha Male in peak physical condition during the prime of his life, as was the intention. It most definitely wasn't the free public announcement to all manner of life in the expansive valley below that he was Woody; again on top of the barn, in charge of the situation and demanding respect which had taken years to groom.
The sound from within Woody's exhausted frame was hollow and lifeless. Perhaps degenerative diseases of old age, recent bouts of malnutrition brought on by poorly chosen scraps of food and a lifestyle lacking adequate exercise could have been causes.
Perhaps it wasn't Woody's fault at all. Perhaps his owner was to blame for the majority of Woody's symptoms.
The cold, hard truth, which Woody would never admit, was that he had become a fat, lazy bastard.
Woody had taken a shine to sleeping out in the sun for entire days at a time. He had also become addicted to crawling on his bloated guts, 25 metres underneath the length of the house, to where pipes from the moonshine distillery inside had been bleeding profusely, often staying for hours to sample from the potent streams of instant gratification.
Suddenly, as Woody continued to watch the car scurrying closer, the feeling of failure transcended through Woody's body, beginning slightly above his neck and gravitating towards his toes. He thought about the empty, castrated sound his bark had transmitted into the valley. He thought about the uncontrollable shaking of his legs, which displayed no evidence of stopping. He thought about Daisy's trim and available rump that he had last seen only hours ago, before he had drunk another heroic dose of moonshine from the burst pipe beneath the house.
'Was that really me?' Woody thought. 'Was that pissy, paltry, pitiful bark really mine?'
His eyes gyrated in opposition to his torso. He decided that redemption was the best means of clearing his name of wrong doing and getting the Harrelsons' attention before the unknown car with unknown occupants arrived.
The sounds Woody made this time could have curdled milk. The pitch was direful. The volume was appalling. His hearing, arguably the only feature, apart from his significantly capable sight not to have diminished with time, became bearer of shattering news. Woody had lost his street credibility.
He knew the impact would be severe, even catastrophic, if he couldn't find a way around the dilemma. He knew he could be traded for a younger version of himself or coerced into the car, driven to the middle of the desert and thrown out the window, with a fading memory of his former life and the shrinking tail view of a Ford utility.
Woody ignored caution and decided to act with pure adrenalin instinct as his ably assisted conspirator.
Is that a link I see before me? I'm ready for my free can of unopened Mexican Beans, Andy.
Who would've given the guy credit for shoving two options right near each other? Genius! Andy, you're a butthole. Get me the hell outta here. You stink.
Technorati tags: Andy Kaufman, fiction, short story, Woody, aging, Australian, overseas, Part I, moonshine, drunkard, to be continued