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Timber Masterson

It was not until I descended southwards to the catacomb of cobwebs, dusty board games and sport uniforms of my youth, that I came across my new friend, Jerry the Minotaur.

I found Jerry burrowing around in my basement one excruciatingly frigid below zero February evening. I was startled, alright even a little unnerved. I mean, hell, when one goes down to the basement to hunt for something, a really tall, hairy, naked stooping minotaur is sort of the last thing you expect to find.

It had been a while since I'd had a conversation with something other than a human being; my last interaction that of a baseball toss accompanied by talk of life, love and tricks on how to shop in malls without frightening humans.

I welcomed him into my human fold

He explained how he came in, to get out of the cold. He'd arrived in my town to make a fresh start (sent into exile by his wife, not to return), he confided in me, and told of how disappointed he'd become when all other minotaur-type folk were just nasty and when requests for crashing on couches came up, and how he then came across my inviting home, how he'd made my dungeon of piled up comic books and half finished grade nine science projects, and thousands of stored up cans of ChefBoyardee Beef Ravioli; a threadbare but opulent Minotaur headquarters. Also, he'd needed an address where the government welfare office could send his check

I remember affectionately, the night I discovered him, me in my moth-eaten- cowboy-and-dinosaur-flannel pajamas, flashlight in one hand, Courvosier highball in the other, drawn to into the subterranean level by gurgling and eerie chomping noises. His fangs biting down on meaty and cheap cold canned pasta, all he could manage to say with that full mouth was, "Don't shoot! My name is Jerry. I'm a Minotaur. Do you have anything to drink?"

His 8 foot tall frame was, at first, threatening, but seeing him cower behind the streaming candlelight that illuminated his horns, (now twisted inward), made his demeanor not unlike that of the Cowardly Lion: there was nothing to be afraid of.

This odd fellow (who's political allegiances, at this point, unknown) had just lost his way, wandered off his labyrinth, had forced the cellar door and been camping out until he could figure out just what to do with himself.

There was no 1 - 8 0 0 - M-I-N-O-T-A-U-R distress line for Jerry to rely on, in desperate times such as these.

He said he felt, "tres cozy comfy dans la basement" and that mine spoke to him.

I told him he could drop the French act, as there was no need to impress. But, I must say, I appreciated the conversation. I'd been pretty much a shut in the last few months, what with almost all my concentration given to building, in the attic, my Hand Puppet Petting Zoo, constructing an espresso machine made entirely from Popsicle Pete creamsicle sticks, Elmer's Glue and parts from an antiquated Underwood Typewriter, while compiling a close to Guinness level collection of all varieties of Chef Boyardee known to man.

My projects consumed me.

But, I took Jerry in, probably to escape my near-pulverizing self-absorption and ballistic isolation.

Good old Jerry was different. He was not altogether unfashionable, but I have to admit, finding suitable form fitting duds for monsters at the local mall can be just plain draining. Minotaurs' feet are much more like hoofs. This gets to be a real challenge for The Foot Locker salespeople who are used to offering up the standard fare, "My, those will look super out on the field, I'll just wrap 'em up for you", now face a whole new set of concerns: "So, what kind of cushioning does a hoof need; "Just how many toes am I working with here?

We were quite a pair; out on our nightly strolls, him whimpering away while squeezing my arm, holding on for dear life, his fear of humans at an astonishing level, coupled with his narcolepsy and Tourret's Syndrome, plus his ADD and disturbing bouts of seasonal depression ringing in at an all time high, meant I had my hands full.

Much of each day was soon dedicated to visiting various doctors in town, filling out applications for my new friend, who'd never learned how to read, write or play instruments, his gargantuan amount of hair disenabling him to position a bow accurately or pucker properly on any wind instrument; this, I sensed was one of the many reasons for Jerry's depression.

I thought if I could only introduce him around, maybe set him up with understanding lady minotaurs in the neighborhood, but alas, none were to be found.

I began to lose sleep, awakened all too often in the dead of night by Jerry's rearranging of kitchen utensils. On more than one occasion, I found my enormous shaggy bachelor buddy setting a romantic table for two. I didn't have the heart to awaken him from his somnambulant Hallmark moment.

What could I offer a minotaur, really. I had enough trouble looking after myself. It became apparent that I must send Jerry away.

He drew my frail body close and hugged me, whispered to me, words tender, yet undecipherable.

I wiped his spittle from my shoulder, gave him a wink and offered an expression that I'd hoped he would take with him, "You're a fabulous original monster, don't let anyone make you feel small out there in this strange maze of a world. I'll say a prayer for you. Watch out for Labyrinths and sketchy telemarketers, keep that oversized head up, you'll be okay kid.".

As he shuffled away with the backpack I'd stuffed affectionately with multiple cans of Mini Ravioli, fresh socks, a hotplate, a hockey helmet, as well as crude directions to the center of the earth, scribbled on a cocktail napkin, a tremulous sadness welled up in me, one that reminded me all too painfully of the separations I had felt over the years with my own kind.

I took a bath, my nightly medications, moisturized generously, turned up my electric blanket and tucked myself into bed.

Something awakened me later that night, rustling sounds coming from the basement. Was it Jerry, already retreating from the harsh, dissatisfying, unfulfilling world? Should I get my rifle from underneath the bed? I hoped it wasn't a burglar. "Please God, don't let this be a burglar", I said aloud. I slipped into my velvet maroon robe and corduroy slippers then descended slowly downstairs.

I flicked on the light and there rummaging through my boyhood trophies, baby clothes while nibbling on full scale Lego jungle gym set was a Cyclops. He gave off a stench not unlike cheap mall-bought perfume coupled with that musty aroma of past its prime sour cream tucked in the back corner of an almost empty refrigerator. He smiled at me, a molarless grin, and spoke with some hesitation. "I heard you helped, um, people, who were, well, 'in need'. I've fallen on tough times. My name is Carl."

"Why, I wondered, "had my home become some sort of rehab retreat for creatures on their last legs, those seeking redemption, recovery and a warm bed for the night?"

What was it about me that drew such beings here? Was there some secret symbol that guided them to my door? Had my address popped up on some list on Monster Witness Protection Relocation Program?

Feeling apart from pretty much everything, at arms length, distanced from my fellow man for a good part of my life, I felt the sensitive side, the warmest part of my heart, which still beat, reaching out to Carl.

But this, was going to be a lot of work.

I put on some hot chocolate, buttered some toast and tucked Carl into a Maytag box beside the furnace that I'd made cozy with a down-filled duvet, flannel pillow case and then went back upstairs.

I made a note in my diary, to - beginning tomorrow - workout, cut down on my medications and avoid my basement completely.


Timber Masterson's website is here.

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