The Writer's Cramp 6/26/20 W/C 769
|The Red Umbrella
There it was. The lake we’d been hiking to for three hours. We loved this hike. Subtle elevation changes. Small streams, no big splashes or shoe changes required. Wooded then sunny then wooded. No bugs, no bears, no people. Just a wonderful way to spend a morning.
“Finally. ” I slipped off the pack and fell to the ground. A good stretch and off with the boots. “Race you to the lake!”
Bill yelled after me. “No fair Lily! You cheat!” He was still unlacing and peeling off socks.
Wading up to my knees in the ice cold water felt so good. I spied it first. Big and red in a field of green grass.
Bill splashed in behind me, threw water at my head. “What are you looking at?”
I pointed North, toward Avalanche Peak. “That. What is that doing there?”
We both stood for a moment pondering the incongruity of a beach umbrella in a meadow under a mountain.
“Beats me. Somebody sunbathing?” Bill splashed more water my way.
“Stop it. I’m getting out. Let’s go investigate.”
We both donned boots and socks and wandered over to the umbrella, checking for unknown people along the way.
The red beach umbrella was upside down, in the middle of a meadow. Nothing was near it. There were no footprints. No animal or human signs of any kind. Almost as if it had blown in or had been dropped from the sky. Nothing was inside the umbrella either, no papers, no writing, no label.
A small gust of wind winding down from the peak turned the umbrella over. We jumped back a few feet.
“Freaky, now it looks like radar installation.” Bill reached out to touch the umbrella.
I grabbed his hand. “Don’t touch it. What if someone somewhere is watching us? And this is rigged to explode or something? Let’s leave it alone.”
“You’ve never heard of the power of a magic umbrella?” A mysterious voice from behind us made me jump at least a foot. “I can heal you. Do you have fatigue, dry mouth, warts, hypertension, jaundice, hypoglycemia, cracked hair, skin failure, diarrhea, hypotension, crunchy boogers, night sweats, fungal infections, constipation, diabetes, leaky brain syndrome, gouty teeth, tennis elbow, yellow fever, unstoppable humming, sucking chest wounds, arthritis, green eyes, hirsutism, insomnia, athlete’s foot, general protection faults, hardened arteries, razor burn, appendicitis, gum in hair, tendonitis, hay fever, sunburn, tremors, palsy, amputations, photophobia, ambidexterity, blackwater fever, hickeys, kidney failure, dandruff, back spasms, myopia, depression, shortness of breath, rabies, small pox, mania, mitosis, scabies, pneumonia, happiness, edema, malaise, flesh-eating bacteria,Tourette’s syndrome, itching, gall stones, myocardial infarctions, ulcers, rampaging hormones, yawning, cannibalism, cramps, dwarfism, or numerous other disorders?”
This strange person had appeared from nowhere to recite a litany of maladies, like an incantation. Bill and I stood with mouths open.
“I can see you aren’t convinced yet. This seemingly innocent Red Umbrella could be the answer to all Earth’s problems. I have been sent here by emissaries of the great society of the Planet Xandar to tell the people of Earth about the healing powers of the Red Umbrella. Perhaps you can tell me how I can best reach the important people of your world. I need to tell them about this marvelous healing machine.” The small strange man in ragged clothes seemed convinced the red umbrella was the magic Earth needed to solve all its problems.
I looked at Bill. Bill looked at me. That glance spoke volumes with no words.
“Tell you what, little man,” I started.
“Call me Wanderer.”
“Yeah, Wanderer. You can take your Red Umbrella and go up that path, see it?” I pointed to the trail that led to the top of Avalanche Peak. “You take that path and follow it til it ends. Then you stand on the top of that mountain and wait for the big plane to pick you up. Got it?”
Wanderer listened, picked up the umbrella and walked down the path toward the peak. He turned around about halfway, waved, then continued on.
Bill and I watched as he marched out of sight, the red umbrella over top of him.
We laughed, then headed back down the trail toward home.
But you know the joke was on us. A few weeks later the World Health Organization reported a new cure for every ailment known to man. It has something to do with red mushrooms and its name is the Umbrella Cure. We’ll never know if it is related to the Wanderer, or the Planet Xandar. But the ambassador who spoke on TV sure did look like him.