Chapter One: The Disruption
The Adventures of Mister Rishley is a copyrighted work by Kate Hackett and not available for reprint or reuse anywhere. It is also a work in progress and not a finished, polished novel; this has been released exclusively to Patreon supporters. If you wish to learn more, please visit patreon.com/katehackett
Mister William Rishley was of no interesting birth, a good name, perhaps, due simply to time, but little else. Until recently, he had led a solitary life in a home deep inside a wood, feigning an apathetic distance from the town just a mile away. He fancied himself a writer (though he was admittedly a rather poor one and several of his poems waxed and waned on the topic of the fruitless, deadened path he carved from his lonely house to the pond outside it) and made no effort to tidy his appearance on any day; he wore his ink stains and mopish brown hair like some badge of honor while waving his hands and arms about dramatically as he spoke to his chairs. To Mister William Rishley, the admittance of anyone into his three-roomed world would be nothing short un-authorial, a mortal sin to the Gods of Poets. And so, he lived in his cottage in the woods, shouting story ideas at chairs, banging pots when he had a literary breakthrough, and calling to his dead path in archaic and unnecessary terms. That is, as I said, until recently.
It was an unfortunate turn of events that not even Mister William Rishley’s perhaps-good-name could alter that found this same said Rishely no longer living in his cottage or near his path. The day in question was a simply lovely day, not a cloud in the sky, and Rishley had fixed his morning’s helping of both tea and coffee (for, you see, as a serious writer, Rishely could never figure which he should drink, tea or coffee, and so he was forced to have both), which rested on a tray filled with a box of tobacco and thin papers. He carried these accessories to his broken, battered garden where he sat upon a broken, battered chair and stared into his murky, ashen pond while thinking of what life, if any, may lie beneath its surface – and immediately, Rishley’s mind sped into the space it filled whenever he thought he had a brilliant idea for a work of literary art. Alternating sips of coffee and tea, Rishley continued to sit, ponder, and brood until a mosquito landed on his arm, piercing the fair skin just under his rolled-up white sleeve. Rishley moved his hand quickly, preparing to slap the insect, but suddenly thought better of it and paused, hovering over the blood-sucking vermin.
“Aha,” Rishley whispered, smile creeping onto his face and green eyes shimmering. “Aha! ‘Upon the marbled flesh, I wait… lapsing… lapsing into a dignatory state! A tumbled muss of hair and bone, but I care not – I’m not alone!” Rishley leapt from his chair, creating quite a racket, and laughed brilliantly at his own genius, proud of his creative prowess.
The mosquito however had quite flown away and when Rishley looked back at his arm for further inspiration, he was met with a small red welt that had started to tingle. Just as Rishley began to reach for his sleeve to pull it over the offensive red tone to a perfectly pale arm, the house emitted a noise it had never given before:
There was a knock.
Now, knocks can be startling when one thinks one is alone, but imagine, for a moment, how shocked Mister William Rishley must have been upon hearing this rapping. Alone not for a mere afternoon, but for twelve and a half years, Rishley never bothered making friends or finding young women to bring home, as men his age certainly did (and do). In fact, the last time Rishley spoke to anyone without uttering the words “tea”, “tobacco”, or “coffee” was at least four years ago – and that was simply to instruct a child to get out of his way, for the last time, *********. A knock was not highly recognizable to Rishley, not at all.
So it is understandable that it took our fair Mister Rishley a good minute to figure out what had happened at the front of his house. His overactive imagination had, at first, leapt to the conclusion that there was a bike of bees banging on the door, hellbent on avenging the honey Rishley had stolen earlier that year. Then, Rishley thought that the door was, perhaps, simply falling off. This seemed a more viable option and, setting his coffee down and ruffling his hair to make sure it was properly mussed, Rishley went inside to investigate via opening the door.
Needless to say, said door did not fall off, and it had a rather interesting someone on the other side. Dressed entirely in gray, from bowler hat to wing-tipped shoes, stood a man of short, stocky stature with three papers clutched firmly in his hand. Rishley so towered over this fellow, he had to look straight up (and that pudgy neck was quite difficult to tilt at such an angle) to see our poet.
“M-m-mister Ris-ris-rishley?” the man said, having the unhappy malady of a rather prominent stutter.
Rishley stared a moment, not sure how to react; to invite the man in would certainly break his poetic mystique, but not to invite the man (who knew his name!) inside would be equally ruffling. Rishley had never been presented with this particular predicament before and had no idea how to respond. So. He didn’t.
Rishley merely turned on his heel and stalked back to his coffee, his tea, and his unrolled cigarettes, taking in hand the paper and beginning to craft said smoking device. The pudgy fellow, confused, dipped his gray head into the doorway and called for Rishley again. When no answer came from the cigarette-rolling fellow on the porch, the stocky gray man stepped into the doorway, then the living room, and cautiously wandered toward Rishely.
“M-m-mister Rishl-rishley,” he stammered, holding out those three leaves of paper with dark black typewriter ink marring their perfect white, “You ha-ha-have to read-d-d these.”
Rishley licked the paper of his cigarette and held it in front of him, studying it briefly, then put it in his mouth and gallantly reached out for these papers he had to read. Rishley still did not speak, taking the documents into his deceased garden and stalking about for a moment before scanning over them, flamboyantly twirling and sitting near an old oak tree that had one brown leaf still clinging to it. The little rotund fellow ran outside to follow Rishley, standing over him like an oblong boulder. Rishley turned his head up, squinting as the sun pierced his eyes, and handed the three papers back to the little gray man with nary a word.
“I am M-mister Gro-gro-grotton. Y-you must v-v-vacate th-this ho-hou-house, M-mister Rishley,” Grotton, as was the gray fellow’s name, explained, feeling that Rishley did not, perhaps, understand the contents of the returned documents.
Rishley gave Grotton a rather haughty little look and leaned back on his hands, pressing the dirt into his palms. He lifted his brown brows one at a time and Rishley put his weight on one hand, unrolled a white cotton sleeve, and repeated the gesture with the other arm. Then, slowly, Rishley stood, brushed the dirt from his black wool pants, and gave a nod to Grotton. He sensed that there was only so far silence could take him in this matter and was forced to actively engage Grotton in communication, despite his revulsion for both man and chatter.
“My good man,” Rishley began slowly, taking his time chewing over his words and measuring them to craft the most dramatic equation possible, “You seem to suggest that my home is not my home, that my land not my land, and that I have, in fact, been told to remove my very person – my being – from this plot. Now, sir, I ask of you: what would you do if you you had been presented with three rather dryly composed pieces of paper that stated in no uncertain terms that you were no longer living in this particular location?”
At that moment, another strange, and exceedingly loud, noise permeated through the house and into the garden, capturing Rishley’s attention and prompting Grotton to attempt a rather fuddled explanation of what could have possibly caused a sound of that volume in the middle of nowhere. Rishley, now entirely out of his element, wracked his brain for something – anything – poetic to do or say and settled on walking quickly back to his broken lawn chair and taking his coffee (now quite cold) in hand, drinking it in large, thirsty gulps. Grotton followed, tripping over brambles and briers.
“M-m-mister Rishley! You have-haven’t the time, s-sir, to sit and sip t-t-tea! You m-must b-b-be gone so the n-new inhabitants can t-t-t-take their p-p-place!”
Twigs snapped, more strange and loud sounds came from just outside the door, and wagon wheels squeaked to a stop while horns honked and feet hopped down from a three-foot height. Shouts, cries of unloading and the dispensing of tasks, and another very loud sound (all the more painful to the ear by the close proximity) made Rishley wince. But never once did he turn in his chair to peer out his front window; he remained quite turned to his dying garden.
Then, as something seemed to roar from just behind his front door, Rishley, coffee cup firmly in hand, stood and walked over to Grotton. He leaned over so his clean-shaven face was nearly pressed against the pudgy fellow’s pink skin, and said, “Coffee,” before turning into the house, heaving the mug against the wall (and leaving a rather pretty lattice pattern of brown) and throwing the door open.
The colors were ridiculous; the bright greens, rich blues, vibrant reds, and all that sparkling – it hurt Rishley’s eyes, which had grown lovingly accustomed to the absence and presence of color (as well as the occasional brown). And the colors seemed to never stop! As far as Rishley’s green eyes could see there were cages and wagons of gilded yellow, rainbows of fabrics and glittering diamonds (or maybe just mirrors). The sensory overload was so much, Rishley hardly noticed when all of these twinkling things began to move. There were people aboard these wagons, unloading boxes and cavorting brightly. Toward the back, there was some long gray something that lifted and then disappeared into a bag. That roar came again from another wagon then the gray thing made that horrible sound that Rishley had heard first. He stood dumbstruck, completely at a loss: what would Dumas do? Verlaine? Pushkin? What would they do if the circus appeared at their homes?
While Rishley futilely canvassed his mind for what various authors might or might not do, a man in a black tuxedo came out of the grandest wagon and looked to his left and right then, with an authoritative walk, went right to the front door. Grotton, who had hitherto been hidden by Rishley’s horrified frame, peeked out and shoved his way toward the tuxedoed man, nervously gripping the papers.
“H-he read-d-d them, M-mister G-Garridan, b-but-t…” Garridan waved Grotton off, sparing the man (and us) any further stuttering utterances.
Garridan, in his self-assured, showman’s way, dipped right in front of Rishley and smiled brightly, mimicking that glistening glimmer of the caravan, “Mister Rishley, then, I presume! Delighted to make your acquaintance! May I present to you the famed, the wonderful, guaranteed-to-tickle-your-senses: Monsieur Garridan’s Cirque Voyant! Indeed, indeed – but you must wonder: what is this fantastical scene doing in my humble home? Well, you see, we have decided to settle down. To put down roots. Make honest men of ourselves! Oh, yes, the circus life is a gifted life, a merry life, but there need be something more, don’t you think?”
Rishley, still dazed by the overabundance of color (and now verbiage), gave a slight incline of his head before holding a hand up, “Wait – I fear I must stop you,” he said slowly, unsure of himself. “You cannot simply take my home…”
“Certainly not!” Garridan agreed loudly, looking behind him. As if on cue, his performing comrades all laughed. “No, no, we have bought this home and this forest! Why, here is the deed!” And, lo, Garridan produced from up his sleeve a remarkably formal piece of paper with the word DEED gaudily stamped on it in large, swirling letters. He quickly pulled it back when Rishley reached out to take it, only permitting our tragic poet to gloss over the words – certainly not to touch the precious paper.
It was, unfortunately for Rishley (and how fortunate for us!), quite legal and binding. You see, Rishley had been living on land that was Rishley land for centuries. Unfortunately, it was not Rishley land in his century, having been lost by his great-grandfather (or grand-uncle, the two were often confused) in a rather poorly made bet regarding a cow, a pond, and a heavy rock. However, the wager was put down under a time of rather heavy inebriation, as such bets often are, and nothing ever really came of it. So it was with great surprise that Rishley discovered the deed was not only not his, but had also been handed to this circus by someone unbeknownst to him. He turned around to look at his empty home and then back at Garridan.
“Give me five minutes,” Rishley said, ducking inside to pack his coffee, his tea, and his tobacco.