The semester had come to a close, with its customary slam, and all shifts were completed at the salmon factory. The whole summer lay before me like the unholy union of verdant glory and some filthy reeking, laying thing.

Earlier in the week I had received a telegram from my uncle. He is the eldest brother in my mother’s family, and as such, prefers to be called Charles the Elder. A transcript of the haunting missive follows:


  Nephew,

 

                   Here.    Stop.

 

                                        Francisco   

While the shock of the familiarity afforded in this letter was considerable (My uncle is not by nature an affectionate man), I was forced to consider the offer.

Gathering my tattoos about me, I packed for the trip into the mountains, after which I would, most probably, visit my uncle. But as each implement of travel crossed my fingers, the still, small voice of my uncle whispered to me. Actually, the voice I heard was not borne of his exact words, as much as the message they conveyed. “I played the piece not as the composer wrote it, but as he intended it.” When the telegram states, Here, I am clearly being instructed to travel to the nearest confectionary and purchase every manner of holiday treat my sadly limited resources will allow. My uncles love of cidery sweets is well documented.

He spent nearly six years in the courduroy league, fleeing a burglary charge in Naples. According to some rather sketchy notes obtained from the policia in the area, my uncle allegedly broke into the home of a local viola instructor, in an attempt to inspect the gentleman’s audioanimatronic chocolate and almond diorama of “Hannibal Crossing the Alps.” My uncle is not the sort of man who would invade a private residence to ogle sweetmeats, but sources close to the instructor claim this exhibit was particularly lavish, having its own coconut avalanche which could be activated by the weight of the viewer’s gaze. Upon assignment to a non-combat unit, my uncle blinded himself in order to speed the process of residency, en francais, only to be healed almost immediately (three days) through the laying on of hands by a street prophet. The prophet was as surprised as anyone.

The ‘.’ Following ‘here’ is an almost unconscious homage to the increased traffic of white tiger’s blood an as aphrodisiac balm in the Enurian City-States. The telegram office employees could not have stated this accidentally. Such subtleties are not lost on me. My uncle expects the best, and he may have found it. His brief, almost transparent, term as the chair of research at the Institute of Unconventional Romantic Therapies (the Eros group, as they appear on the exchange) is something that only his favorite nephew would remember. He would have known this, so I cannot pretend to be completely surprised by the conspiratorial nature of his correspondence.

Another encryption of note is the use of the word ‘stop,’ near the end of the telegram. This may be interpreted in one of two, equally filial, manners:

  1. an explicit instruction to do exactly the opposite—virtually a command to continue in my quest toward enlightenment and subsequent completion of the final remnants of middle school homework I failed to submit for perusal by the bureau of Illicit Affairs.
  2. An anagrammatic mangling of “Buttered Hot Toddy, with Applejack Chaser.” The old rogue always harbored an odd fascination with role of alcohol and gambling in the westward colonization of the ProtoAppalachians. His love of fireside ciders is eclipsed only by his almost feral hatred of natural fibers, specifically canvas (excluding, of course, tent flaps and mattress ticking).