THE VOICE OF A CATERWAULER
“(to a caterpillar) ‘Well, perhaps you haven’t found it so yet’ said Alice; ‘but when you have turned into a chrysalis – you know – and then after that into a butterfly, I should think you’ll find it a little queer, won’t you?”
L. Carroll “Advice from a Caterpillar”
The Voice of a Caterwauler
Alex had a lot of leisure time now. His weekly income from the auto industry gave him time to do the things he always wanted to. One of his desires was to own his own automobile so that he could visit the countryside.
He drove for miles and enjoyed every month of it. Some of the roads were unique. One was along an old canal bed. Another went up and down like a roller-coaster (but, of course, not as steep). His favorite was a helical shaped road that went around and around as well as up. Alex enjoyed the feeling of de ja vue each time he made a left hand turn (which was continuously).
But none of his trips would be as memorable as the one he was on now. It was a two lane macadam road that followed a beautiful mountain stream. Alex saw an interesting dirt road to his right. A rickety bridge allowed him to cross the stream. The steep mountains closed in on each side as he followed his hood ornament.
Suddenly the mountains parted and Alex found himself at the edge of a large flat area. It must have been five hundred acres in size and as flat as a postage stamp. The whole plain was covered in grass. It was not normal grass; it was blue. Not the blue of oceans, nor turquoise blue, or the blue color of melancholy. It was not the blue of azure, nor sapphire, nor peacock blue nor the blue of despair. It was the blue of amethyst.
It had the same quality of an amethyst gem; translucent. Alex departed his car and studied the grass. When he stood up it looked like a dark hue of blue. When he lay down and looked across the top of the grass it looked like the amethyst of an apothecary jar. In either case it was a mesmerizing experience.
Alex removed his shoes and socks to enjoy the softness of this blue grass. He walked around the amethyst plain for quite some time before he noticed a stream along one side. He ventured down the bank and into the water. The stones on the bottom were all the same size; about the size of an egg. Yet they were rather flat and pleasant to walk on. The stones appeared to have spent quite a bit of time in a giant lapidary tumbler; they were polished. Alex reached down and picked one up. It was onyx black with ivory colored large spots here and there. The spots were not clearly demarcated as on a polka-dot dress. They were more like the penumbratic spots on a brook trout.
“PUT ME DOWN” cried a voice from seemingly nowhere.
Alex looked around but there was no one there.
“Put me down before I die” cried out the voice again.
Alex scanned the blue grass but saw no one.
“Please, I beg you, put me back in the water or I will expire” came the voice for the third time.
Alex perceived that the voice might be coming from the stone. He carefully lowered his hand until the stone was under water. Nothing happened. No voice, no movement, no sign of life. After a minute or so Alex decided that he must have had a day dream in this strange place of amethyst grass and shiny stones with soft ivory spots. He lifted his hand out of the water so that he could once more inspect the strange stone.
“Thanks for putting me back under water” said the stone.
Alex without thinking responded “Why sure! Sorry about not listening the first time.”
“Put me back in so I can take a breath” pleaded the stone.
Alex did as he was asked and then lifted the stone up again. “Are you a real stone or a turtle or a fish?” he asked.
“A stone” said the stone. “Now put me back.”
And so it went for the remainder of the next hour. Alex dipping the stone in and out of the water while trying to complete a conversation. Finally the stone told Alex “Walk downstream and you will find a waterfall.”
Alex followed the stone’s instructions while holding him under water. When he reached the waterfall he lifted the stone up again to ask for farther instructions.
The stone said “Hold me under the waterfall. That way I can get enough water to breath and enough air to talk.”
Alex followed instructions and soon realized why he had heard gurgling sounds at all the waterfalls he had ever visited. It was the sound of stones talking to each other. He wished that he had paid more attention to stones long before this.
“I can now complete what I wished I could have told someone years ago” said the stone. “It is a long story so feel free to ask questions; if you must.
The stone continued:
“Eons ago in this flat amethyst plain,
Music existed whether in sun or rain,
It echoed on the mountains ag’ane and ag’ane,
While the red summer hawk was carnivorously preyin’.
People came from a’near and afar,
Some by bus, but mostly by car,
Two people brought elixir in a stone jar,
A wanna-be king and a Tennesee tzar.
So the blue-grass music played day and night,
While the clouds rolled by, dark or bright,
Eventually the moon played fiddle (out of sight),
And the night owl prowled in quiet stealthy flight.
The stream rolled by, oblivious of the noise,
Created by those grown-up country girls and boys,
With their banjos, harmonicas, and musical toys,
The audience had elixir and hookahs (their make believe joys).
Summer hawk and night owl with eyes e’spyin’,
Swooping talons exposed, in unison flyin’,
Picked up the singers and musicians (all cryin’),
Each and every one thought they were dyin’,
The winged ones deposited them in mountain stream,
And the caterwauling ebbed to a gurgling scream,
I was involved in that nightmarish dream,
For I was a caterwauler, or so it would seem.
Over the eons minerals invaded our bones,
And turned us into penumbrious stones,
Our caterwaulings are now gurgling moans,
The screeching songs melted into melodious tones.”
The stone then became quiet except for intermittent sobbing. Although Alex had previously intended to ask questions he avoided hearing any more of the story. He carefully placed the stone on the bottom of the stream and fled.
Alex never heard the voice of the caterwauler again.