An Incident at Noon Hour with a Chimney Sweep
"Hello, hello," shouted the voice from a far away corner of the forest, deep within the cinema green. "Hello, Hello."
"I'm over here," shouted Peter sensing that the little man was unsure of his whereabouts. He was still a little astonished having been so awakened from his apparent solitude.
A few moments later there appeared a wizened little man half supporting himself with a silver cane. He looked at Peter closely with the eyes of someone pondering a curiosity. Peter wondered why he had walked into such a medieval like vision. Some story read to him in childhood. Material as velvet as the evening sunset. Top hat to catch the falling stars. Eyes like wishing wells, pails to catch their fire.
"I saw it earlier yes I did," he said in a frail, rather high pitched voice.
"Saw what?" asked Peter.
"You mean to say that you didn't see it? You didn't see a puff of grey smoke rise in the distance?"
"No, I did not," said Peter. "I must have been looking in the other direction."
"Ahh but did you or did you not see the midnight sky turn to purple?"
"No, I did not," said Peter somewhat apologetically. He was beginning to feel that he had angered the little man.
"Hmm, very strange," he exclaimed with a bewildered look on his face. "Very strange indeed. And what may I ask are you doing so deep within these woods? Very few come down these paths. Very few indeed."
"Then you live around here?"
"One and one is never two. Take that and put it in your shoe."
"I'm sorry," said Peter. "I didn't mean to offend."
"Well then, what did you say brought you to this particular pocket of the universe?"
"I'm traveling," he paused. "To the circus."
"Hmmm. Circus you say?"
"Would you like to come with me for a little while?" asked the little man.
"Well you see, I'm in a bit of a hurry."
"Welly well. Lad's in a hurry. There's time. Indeed there is time."
"So you know of the circus?"
"I know the way to the other side but from there..."
"Yes," said Peter, "from there?"
"All is a myth. Now will you come with me or will you not?"
"Yes, but where shall we go?"
"To my place the place for me. To drink some bread and eat some tea."
They went along the path. Winding its complex way through the forest, Peter soon lost his way. He could never hope to retrace his steps now. Just then, rather suddenly, the little man stopped and turned to Peter.
"You are going to the circus? You did say that did you not?"
"Yes," said Peter, "I did say that."
"Good, good. I must be careful."
"Why is that?"
"Don't you know? They're out to get me. It's they that put me here. I cannot live with them."
"Who are they?" asked Peter.
"Shhh! They might be listening."
"Who are they?" whispered Peter again. "And why would they be listening?"
"I heard them earlier. I say I did."
"Well then, tell me what they were talking about."
"I can't be sure but I think they were talking about you. Shhh! Follow me."
They continued along the winding path. Eventually they came upon a clearing and Peter got the impression that they were now very close to his place. The little man stopped and took a quick look in every direction. Assured that they were in fact alone, he moved a clump of leafy branches to reveal a trap door. He opened it and they went inside.
The staircase spiralled down some ten feet before reaching its stony conclusion. Every step had been given a different colour and it struck Peter like walking down a rainbow. At the bottom he found himself in an oddly shaped room full of antiques and curious. All the walls had been painted in spectacular, multicolored designs. Centering the room was a very large and elaborate stereo system. The walls were lined with audio discs and books of which there seemed to be an endless supply. The room lay drenched in sunlight that shone in from a sky-light that had been meticulously carved from the ceiling.
"Do you like my place?" he asked.
"Yes, very much."
"It's taken me years to build. It's a bit of an obsession I must confess."
He removed his top hat and hung it on an intricately designed stand. A totem pole of madman stacked. He sat down on a pillow of mushrooms and lit a cigarette.
"Let me introduce myself," he said. "My name is Nuts. Mr. Gone Nuts."
"And my name is Peter," he smiled. "Peter Pan."
"So what will you have with your tea, Mr. Pan?," asked the little man as he ascended from his pillow.
"Sugar and cream," said Peter, "if you get what I mean."
Mr. Nuts went to the kitchen and returned, a few moments later, carrying a silver tray with the tea. He set it before Peter and reached to turn the stereo on.
"What would you like here?"
"That depends," said Peter, "on what you have."
"I have," he said with an air of pride, "the music of freaks. It's taken me years to collect them but collect them I have. From the beginning to the present, I have them all."
"Hmmm," said Peter somewhat in awe, "I guess you should choose then."
"Good, good. I have just the disc for such a sunny day. A piece from the 16th century. It was recorded on a side street in London."
He located the disc from the massive collection and, after setting a number of controls, the music came on. Minstrel like and full of mad piping. It reminded Peter of a forest at night.
"That's very nice. But how did you ever get it?"
"I find them in amongst the trees."
"Eh? How's that?
"At dawn," he whispered, "I look for them and they are there."
"But that's not possible," claimed Peter.
"Remember where you are. We're not that foolish are we?"
"Yes, I remember. You too get what you want."
"Lad's clever. By the way, how's the tea?"
"Very good. The world becomes softer and softer."
"Well," he said as he leaned forward to light a candle, "an inside sun."
"Inside the sun," corrected Peter, his eyelids getting heavier and heavier. "So now we meet in a dream."
"Yes, You're beginning to understand."
"A madman's world."
"I wouldn't have it any other way. I cannot live in that. Not in my present state of mind. You do understand don't you?"
"Yes, I do. I had to leave them too."
"Now I live in my staircase world. A civilization smeared in green."
"Finished driving the fire engine red?"
"I like to climb ladders now. I'll always be ahead."
"Aren't you lonely?"
"Well yes but I'm not ready yet."
"Ready? Ready for what?"
"To go where you are going."
"Yes, the circus."
"But why have you not gone?"
"Because I have not yet solved the riddle. The riddle to set me free."
"The riddle of the horizon?"
"Yes," he said. "I've seen the door but it will not open for me."
"Will you take me there?"
"Yes, that's my part in the dream."
"Will you drive the fire engine red?"
"No, that I can not. They might get me in the waking world."
"But the circus!," said Peter, "the circus!"
"That is for you," said the little man. "I have only my imagination."
"What else does one need?"
"If I knew that then I'd be there but alas, I do not."
"So you live in the forest?"
"Yes. Away from them."
"Are all hermits lonely?"
"I do not like that word. At least I'm free of them."
"And you're a player in the game."
"Yes," he said. "I too live in the world of dreams."