Cat and I are moving within Corvallis, Oregon from one place to another place. We have a moving truck full of all this stuff we are trying to get rid of, knick knacks, ceramic pottery, dishes, etc. We head over to my friend Jason H.’s apartment to see if there is anything he might want before we get rid of it. Jason is not there, but his roommate Matthew T. is. We take him down to the moving truck and he picks through some stuff. He is looking for a butter dish, but a very specific butter dish, which we do not have. After a while, he decides he doesn’t want anything else.
Matthew needs to leave so he can get to work on time, but hands me a note with Jason’s work address on it.
I want to see Jason for a couple reasons, I miss the little guy, and I have a laptop that is broken and he has connections to people who can fix computers.
I leave Cat with the moving truck and grab a taxi to go to the outskirts of a big nameless city where Jason is working.
The light is taking on a twilight quality and rain is just beginning to fall from a bruised, overcast sky. I arrive at the run down warehouse that matches the address on the note. Following the chicken scratched directions, I make it past the security gate and the keypad for entry.
The warehouse, from the outside, seems to be made up of either discarded pieces of chewing gum, or small clumps of greenish yellow play-doh. I dare not touch it, and the smell makes me uncomfortable. The inside of the building, thankfully, looks a little bit nicer. The inner walls that are not covered in drywall do still have that sickly green/yellow color, but the surface is smooth and even.
The front door opens into a wide corridor that is lined on either side with desks and tables set against the walls. People sit at these desks on bar stools, poking at milled industrial machine parts and computers.
Jason greets me warmly. He is wearing welding goggles with clear lenses for no obvious reason. He asks for my laptop, which I mention is acting weird, “maybe a virus thing.” He will take it to a specialist who works down the hall, but in the meantime…
“Would you like to see something funny, and a bit weird?” He says with a glimmer in his eye.
Jason takes me to my own stool, set up in front of an old CRT tube television that is plugged into an ancient beta-max video player.
He presses PLAY and disappears with my laptop.
Onscreen is a low rent mix of stop-motion animation and live actors. I come in halfway through the story but it is something about a Dog that is smarter than his owners. Dog tries to stop being a dog, but the owners will not let him. At the same time, the owners are transforming into dogs, and Dog is becoming something else, not human, but bipedal – with smaller, flatter teeth. It is a very odd video, more sad than funny. There is something familiar about the story. Was this something Jason and I wrote together?
The cables plugging the beta max into the television set are frayed, and every so often there is a flash of an electrical short; sparks fly and the lights within the building flicker, the screen goes static for a moment and then the show resumes. It makes me nervous, as does the smell of ozone and burning plastic.
No one else in the immediate vicinity seems to notice.
Jason comes back with the laptop, or rather an empty laptop case which he places, softly on the desk before me.
“Sorry pal. Your machine had rabies, we had to put it down.”
He opens a nearby drawer and pulls out another pair of welding goggles.
“We sent the body straight to biohazard waste disposal, I am sure you understand.” he places a consoling hand on my shoulder. “It’s for the best.” A laugh forms in his eyes, “Porn?”
There is another flash and spark and light flicker. He chuckles and shakes his head. He puts on the second pair of welding goggles. These he mounts on his forehead, like two nubby little horns.
“Doing anything now?” He asks.
Jason laughs, “Cheer up bucko, I want to introduce you to dwarf league.”
“Yeah. Come on, it’ll be fun. We do it here after hours. Let’s get you into costume.”
Jason leads me to a maintenance closet within the depths of the building . He unlocks it and turns on the overhead light. The inside is full of costumes and props. I pick out some overalls that appear to be made of leather, fur and gold upholstery tacks, along with some oversized leather boots with more gold tacks, and a large Warhammer with gold accents. Jason fits me with a fake beard and mustache and deems me “ready to go.”
Jason gets into costume as well, which turns out to be a complex process that involves shaving his scalp and then reusing the shorn hair into a braided beard (“It’s more authentic this way” he says at my expression.)
We climb up ladders into the rafters of the building. The fluorescent light banks are suspended by thick chains made of gold, which I had not noticed while I was at ground level.
In the rafters with us are roughly two dozen other “dwarves”, who are chatting amicably among themselves. They are puffing on pipes, tearing into giant turkey legs, drinking from flagons of mead, waiting for some signal to begin.
Jason snaps his fingers, the fluorescent lights flicker, and everyone jumps from the rafters onto the fluorescent light bank backs. From nowhere music comes up and everyone begins to sing The Gold Song.
Sadly I do not remember most of the lyrics (just a segment of the chorus), but it was a jaunty little ditty – tonally a mix between Shirley Bassey’s “Goldfinger” and Adele’s theme from “Skyfall”. The chorus went like this:
Jump Jump straight up and down
Swing your hammer at the ground
GOLD gold GOLD gold
There was choreography to go with the singing (which was rather tuneful, given the circumstances). Predictably “jump straight up and down” signaled everyone jumping straight up and down. “Swing the hammer” meant everyone swing what they had on hand, some used imaginary hammers, others mead flagons, Jason had a battle axe and I had my Warhammer.
At this point I am fully committed. I am jumping as high as I can and coming down with as much force as possible onto the back of the fluorescent bank of lights – and swinging my hammer as hard as possible. Sparks are flying, and I notice the dwarves around me are starting to get frightened looks in their eyes and are backing away from me and my crazily rocking fluorescent light bank. I stop.
The music stops.
“Dude.” Jason says quietly. He puts his fingers lightly, once again, on my shoulder. “It’s just for fun. It’s not real.”
He points to the wall, and on cue, a projected image of my hammer is placed there; complete with notes as to the construction of the various components of my prop, and there is no gold. Just paint, wood, wax and foam.
“There is no real gold in your costume either. Those are not gold tacks, it is just plastic with brass paint”
I look closely at the tacks on my costume and see that he is telling the truth.
I am devastated and depressed at this news.
There is a little bit of uneasy laughter around us from the other dwarves. It’s okay. I look around at the faces, see sympathy. Everything is going to be okay.
“What do we do now?” I ask
“Now comes the bowling.”
We all climb the ladders downstairs and I see the long corridor has been converted into a bowling alley, with pins set up by the entrance.
I awake at the first sound of bowling ball striking pins. Our upstairs neighbor is clomping around in his heavy shoes again, twelve feet above my head.
Dedication: To Guillermo Del Toro and Peter Jackson, for reasons.