“It feels like we've been rowing for hours,” complained Pip. Clifton shot back at her with a few points about the nature of time, but Pip was unamused. The argument engrossed the pair so much that neither noticed the dinghy had sank and they were standing waist deep in water.
“Pointing a torch at a pendulum, does not make time travel at the speed of light,” concluded Clifton as he paddled obliviously.
“Clifton,” said Pip, “where’s our boat?”
Rusted scraps of metal floated around them. "Ah, crap-it." said Clifton.
“Are you putting up a fence in the water?” said an elderly, high pitched voice.
Clifton threw away the fence pale. In a tree branch jutting out over the river sat a plump, old man in a dark brown robe.
“I am Brother Milkwood.”
“You must be over three hundred years old?” said Pip, madly pushing the buttons of an adding machine.
“Yes, I suppose so,” said Brother Milkwood.
“How have you managed to live for three centuries?” Clifton skeptically asked.
“The love of God,” said Brother Milkwood, cheerily. “Plus, every day I have an ounce of tobacco and a pint of opium.”
“I am a student of inverse canoeing,” said Clifton.
“How do you find it?” asked Brother Milkwood.
Brother Milkwood laughed and downed a pint of opium. “It sold a lot of paddles,” he admitted.
“We are in need of a boat,” said Clifton.
“I have one for you, my son.”
“We can’t pay you,” said Pip, mashing the adding machine violently.
“When I became a monk, I took a vow of poverty. The boat is a gift.”
Clifton studied Brother Milkwood’s robes. They were pure silk with a golden trim. A large, ornate crucifix hung from his neck and he wore several ruby rings.
“Vow of poverty?” said Clifton.
“These jewels and fineries are not for me. When representing the church, one must adequately display the glory of God. My vow of poverty is of a personal nature and very dear to me, as is my vow of chastity and my vow of silence.”
“You’re talking now,” said Clifton.
“I’m on a tea break.”
“U-huh. Where’s your tea?”
“In West Africa; I own a small plantation in Nigeria.”
“How does that fit with your vow of poverty?”
“Oh very well, my workers are quite impoverished.”
Pip broke the adding machine.
“Can we have the boat now?” asked Clifton.
“Why, of course!”
Brother Milkwood tugged on a vine and a bathtub slid from the tree and splashed into the water. Clifton and Pip climbed in.
“Farewell!” cried Brother Milkwood, tossing them each a paddle. “Forget your inverse canoe training!”
Clifton and Pip paddled into the distance. “I hope they bring me back some jewels,” Brother Milkwood whispered to himself.
From under his robe, Brother Milkwood pulled a small grandfather clock and a flashlight. He pointed the torch at the pendulum. “Now, to ensure my immortality. Thank you, science!” he said.
Clifton and Pip powered downstream. They plunged through a thick cloud of smoke.
“It’s gun smoke,” coughed Clifton.
Pip savoured the aroma. “It’s so pleasant,” she said. “I wonder if there are air fresheners with that scent?”
They broke through the cloud and immediately stopped paddling. Surrounded by mud and muck stood the Military Academy. The building had been ravaged by time, weather and Brother Milkwood breaking his vow of chastity. The windows were broken, most of the roofing was missing and rats nested throughout the building. Cannons and statues of Academy alumni lay overturned, covered in moss. It was one of the most run down, dilapidated buildings Clifton had ever seen, but was still in better condition than his old high school.
“Lucky bastards,” Clifton muttered to himself.
Clifton and Pip climbed out of the bathtub and trudged to the front courtyard of the school. Clifton leaned down and wiped the grime from a plaque on the largest of the statues. It bore the name Xavier Brandon, founder of Brandon College.
TO BE CONTINUED…
The plot thickens... Dah-dum-dah! Next installment of Clifton and Pip’s folkloric adventures will be on Jan 17th, after a week break.
If anyone has any thoughts on the story, or rowing tips, comment away!