I stare at Ben and wait for him to say something. When he doesn’t, and instead calmly downs the last of the coffee from the paper cup, I can’t help myself from blowing up a bit.
“What the actual fuck?” I scream, scaring a few birds off their branches and into the air. “What the fuck is happening? Why are there centaurs in my backyard?”
“They’re not technically centaurs. Although I think they may have originated from—”
“I don’t care where they’re from, why are they here?”
My throat feels too tight and I pull at the collar of my plaid shirt, popping a button off in my rush to get air. Macie moves uncertainly beside me, sensing my anxiety, and I close my eyes and focus on calming myself down.
“You’re not taking this as well as I’d hoped,” Ben says flatly.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I normally take the discovery of mythical beasts—”
“Don’t let them hear you call them that.”
“—better than this. Guess it’s an off day.”
I shoot him a look, but he doesn’t seem to care. He walks slowly towards the surrendered sack of potatoes, picks up his end and gestures to me to do likewise. Macie leads the way back to the farm. I can’t entirely blame her; I’m excited to put some distance between myself and those…
“What the hell are they called again?” I ask, opening my eyes.
“I’m never gonna remember that.”
Ben shrugs and continues to walk back towards the house in silence. I run an unsteady hand through my hair, trying to organize my thoughts before I start bothering Ben. Realizing that’ll be impossible, I launch into a melee of questions.
“How long have you known that they were living there? How long have they been there? Where did the commune go? What the hell was that light in the sky? What—”
“One thing at a time,” Ben says slowly. “I’ve known they were living there for a few decades, I suppose.”
“Stumbled into their settlement back in the ‘70s with a girl from just across the Quebec border. Two of us were looking for somewhere quiet to fool around. Found ‘em instead. Promised not to tell anyone about ‘em and they promised not to kick my ass for being buck naked in the middle of a town meeting.”
A noise escapes my mouth, somewhere between a laugh and me gagging at the idea of Ben’s ass, but he acts like he doesn’t hear it and keeps on talking.
“As for how long they’ve been there, in that exact spot, I’m not too sure. I know they’ve been here in Ontario for centuries, all across Canada as a matter of fact, but I think they’ve been living near you since before your daddy started farming.”
“So there was never a commune?”
“Well, never one with people in it, no.”
“And that green light?”
“That I’m not entirely sure about,” he tells me as he pushes past the last of the dense foliage, boots leaving prints in the soft dirt of my now-raided farm. “I have an idea, but we’ll know for sure once we get into town. Need me another coffee, and you’re coming with.”
The ride into town takes just over half an hour. Ben drives his blue, banged up Ford down the long strips of gravel road that are framed by either crops or dairy farms. Most of the families in Louisburg have been here for generations, being born in a small town and never feeling the need to venture outside of it. Most of the small houses had undergone multiple renovations over the course of their lives, and as such most of them looked like multiple houses stitched together awkwardly. Even the town’s elementary and high school looked like a patchwork of different designs and materials, although the Town Hall had been knocked down and rebuilt with a modern flair that looked out of place in the quaint city.
Growing up I’d always wanted to live in a big city and chase adventure. I’d wanted to explore the world to experience new things, and damn near had after high school, but the farm had meant too much to dad for me to leave him. And once he and ma’ were gone I couldn’t bear to part with it. But thinking back on the four-legged men I’d found in the forest, the ideas of “adventure” and “new” were very much the opposite of what I wanted right now.
Ben eventually turns onto the main street into the heart of Louisburg, poignantly named Main Street, and heads towards the small Tim Hortons not far from the local Beer Store. He pulls into one of the parking spots— his Ford and a near-death gold Cavalier the only cars in the lot— and turns off the engine. I yawn, tired from an early morning despite all the excitement, and try my best to stretch my back before hopping out of the truck. I follow him into the building, stomach grumbling.
“Morning Fred,” Ben calls to the teen at the register.
The boy looks miserable. He attempts a smile at Ben, flashing him a row of crooked teeth lined with braces, and fixes his brown visor which matches the rest of his ill fitting uniform. His skin is covered in a thin sheen of sweat and his face invaded by particularly aggressive looking acne.
“Hey Ben and,” he looks at me with a raised eyebrow, “sir.”
I stand at the counter staring at the overhead menu.
“I’ll take one sausage egg McMuffin on an all dressed bagel with ketchup, a hashbrown, and a large double double,” I say after a moment of deliberation.
He punches my order into his register and I pass him a ten dollar bill, telling him to keep the change. He mutters a small thanks and throws the coins into a small tin on the counter.
“Double double for you too, Ben? Or you gettin’ something to eat?” the kid asks him.
“Just a large coffee, you know that,” he says with a smile, handing Fred cash before he can say the total. Not that Fred would need to, Ben has the total memorized by now.
The kid goes about slicing the bagel and throwing it in the toaster while he gets the two coffees. He seems jittery, hands shaking, and I’m about to ask him if everything’s okay before Ben starts talking.
“Wouldn’t know anything about the green light that shot over the city, would you?”
“There was a green light?” he asks a little too quickly, voice cracking.
“Yeah, earlier this morning.”
Ben stares at him, and Fred desperately tries to ignore him.
“Not cool, Fred. We talked about this,” Ben tells him gruffly.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he insists.
He looks a little sweatier now, not to mention wildly uncomfortable, and I desperately hope he doesn’t drip anything onto my food. He places the coffees onto the counter, the caffeine sloshing around in the cups and leaking a little, before making my breakfast sandwich.
“Stop lying to me, Fred. What the hell did you do?”
“Ben, he’s a kid. What the hell could he possibly have to do with—”
“I blew up a frog.”
I stop talking and stare at the teen as he pushes my food towards me on a tray.
“What?” Ben asks.
“I was trying to get rid of my acne. I sort of thought that, you know, I could like, give my acne to the frog. Kind of like how you can do an enchantment to give your warts to a toad, you know? Anyways, one frog firework later, it’s now ten times worse and I’m out ten bucks.”
“You bet ten bucks you could give a frog acne?” Ben asks, trying his best not to laugh.
“No, I spent ten bucks on the fucking frog ‘cause I wasn’t fast enough to catch my own.”
I blink a few times, trying to process the words and figure out what to say. Eventually I settle on a simple, “sorry for your loss,” and take my food to the nearest table.
“Fred, we talked about you practicing magic inside the city,” Ben says, trying to sound stern but failing miserably.
“I know, I know. Whatever, I’ll try again at home later,” he mumbles.
“How many frogs you got on hand, Fred?”
“I don’t know. Like five, maybe six?”
Ben nods solemnly and walks over to my table and sits across from me..
“Please tell me he was joking,” I say through a mouthful of McMuffin.
“I doubt it. Bet you ten to one we see green lights flying overhead for the rest of the day,” Ben jokes.
I dip the edge of my hashbrown into some of the ketchup that’s fallen onto the wrapper and take a bite. It’s delicious, but I’m too distracted to enjoy it. I take a swig of my coffee, the hot liquid scalding my tongue, and I let out a small hiss of pain. Across from me Ben takes a sip, unaffected by the heat.
“—exist and the kid who works at Timmy Ho’s is a… sorcerer?”
“An ancient wizard.”
“An ancient wizard?”
“An ancient wizard,” Ben confirms.
“He’s like eighteen years old.”
“He’s only sixteen, but technically he’s got the powers of a millennia-old wizard riding shotgun.”
“Why would you tell me this? After the centaurs—”
“—stole my shit, and the terrible morning I’ve had, why would you tell me a wizard made my coffee? What the hell, Ben?”
The old man laughs and takes another sip of his drink.
“You asked me about the light, and now you know,” he says flatly. “Besides, a wizard didn’t make your coffee, Fred did. Technically.”
I roll my eyes and grab a napkin off the tray. I wipe my hands on it, ball it up, and toss it onto the table as I get to my feet. I can feel a migraine beginning to pulse under my temple, and I’ve never wanted to re-do a day more in my entire life. I leave the restaurant, Fred waving a small goodbye to me from behind the counter, and I can hear Ben trailing me back to his truck. He unlocks the doors and I climb in, eager to go home.
The drive back is a silent one, not because I’m angry but because I just need a second to digest it all. I watch as herds of cattle morph into rows of forest, and then to fields of wheat or corn. Eventually I feel the familiar bumps and turns that tell me we’re on the road to my farm, and I let out a small sigh of relief.
As we pull up the driveway I notice a large figure standing in front of my house. At first I think it’s a moose, but then my heart sinks as I realize it’s one of the piaffhomme from earlier this morning; the blonde girl with the large green eyes.
She smiles at me and waves.
I slump forward in my seat, my head resting against the dashboard, and groan.
Photo Credit: Flickr