BEING THE FIRST STORYLINE IN THE NEW
"EPIS REKINDLED" AND THE ALMOST SORT OF
CONTINUATION OF CROSSING AUSTRALIA...BUT NOT QUITE.
BY JO ANZALONE
CHAPTER ONE: A New Platform
"Leave off, ye clot-heided whoreson!"
Bridgid was startled enough both by the accent and the sentiments, that the bag she was hoisting onto the high rack slipped, clouting her on the head.
"Aaaah!" she exclaimed as the bag continued downward, smacking the top of her foot.
"Can I be helpin' ye at all, Miss?" the accent came again, this time accompanied by a concerned face, shadowed in the noon light by a brimmed hat. A hand reached out, almost touching her golden hair. "Does it pain ye much?"
"I...I'm fine," she gasped, her pain levels overcome by curiosity as to whom he had addressed
his first statement. Well, that and the
fact that she found it hard to believe there was actually going to be
an attempt to write Scottish in an epi, especially after Lachlan Macquarie's
had been so utterly ignored. (See: Sons of the Fathers)
When the man staggered slightly, shaking a small dog off his ankle, she had her answer. "Friendly, isn't he?" she smiled, shading her eyes with her hand.
"Aye, that he is," the man agreed. When the dog only came for the leg again with renewed
vigor, he bent, took hold of it by the scruff of its neck and dropped it over a low fence just to
the side of the platform. "De'il tak' ye, ye wee
he growled, dusting his hands before turning back to the woman.
With her hand shading her face from the southwestern Australian sun, she was able to get a better look at him. He was...startlingly...familiar. "Wh....," she started to say when interrupted by a sharp explosion of male breath from behind.
It came from the lips of Himself. She turned quickly, instantly taking in the widening of his seagreen eyes and the dropping of his jaw. Obviously Himself knew the stranger but was quite surprised to see him.
"Himsel'!" the man beamed. "Well, and I'm pleased ta see ye, man!"
Himself stepped quickly backwards, almost toppling Max, who'd come up right behind him
and was also studying the stranger. Managing to keep his feet, Himself looked warily from Skinner to Broch and back again...several times. It had only been recently that he had been forced to deal with the fact that Max had filmed A Good Year in Provence...without him.
He still was not sure exactly how this had been managed
the very real presence of Skinner was proof that it had, indeed, been
(See: Mirrors of the Soul)
Now here he was, on a small Indian Pacific platform in the middle of the Nullarbor in southern Australia, standing between not only Skinner but BROCH???
He frowned at Max, who was obviously interested, too interested, in his reaction to the sighting of the new man. "Who's he?" Max smiled, cocking one eyebrow.
Bridgid perked up her ears, stepping a bit closer to hear what Himself might say.
Himself narrowed his eyes, gazing intently at the Scotsman. "You can't be here," he stated flatly.
"Said the very words to me," Max supplied, clapping Himself on one shoulder.
"I shouldna wonder," Broch laughed. Then he smiled widely at Himself. "Dinna fash yoursel', Himsel'," he said more gently. "There's nothin' ta be done about it."
"Nothing to be....," Himself repeated, sounding rather dazed. "Nothing to be DONE? You can't BE here! You simply can NOT be here!"
"As ye see," Broch replied, holding out both arms, "am I no on this platform standin' in front
Himself took two steps forward, slowly reaching out a hand until it encountered the solidity of Broch's chest. He jerked it back as though burned. "No," he stated again, "you can't be here. You're only in my mind."
"I'm verra real, Himsel'," Broch smiled. "And ye're goin' to deal wi' that, like it or nay."
"OK, Himself," Max said. "You're going to have to explain this fellow."
Himself sighed heavily, lowering his eyes. "Screenplay," he muttered.
"What?" Max pushed.
"Screenplay, I said!" Himself spat, looking again between the two men. "He's in my screenplay."
"I didn't know you were writing a screenplay," Bridgid interjected, really interested.
"No one did," Himself sighed. "It's been my secret project for the last 5 years."
"Wow!" Max exclaimed. "Five years! Is it finished?"
"No," Himself continued, "but I work on it all the time...privately." He gazed at Broch.
"He's become very...real...to me."
"And there ye hae it!" Broch laughed. "Ye'd nay idea just how real, did ye now?"
Max chuckled. "Obviously real enough that he's able to be here. I'd call that pretty damn real."
Himself, Max, and Bridgid all stared at Broch. He was, of course, Himself's exact height, only just a little slimmer in the waist and under the chin. He had a neatly-trimmed beard and his chestnut hair waved down around his ears under the tan Australian hat. He was dressed all in khaki, pockets everywhere, especially in the sleeveless vest, and he stood, legs slightly spread, balanced upon tall, laced brown boots.
Himself scrubbed his hand roughly across his chin and mouth. The coming of Skinner had
been hard enough for him to accept, but this...this was well nigh
impossible to deal with. "Why...," he asked softly, "why are you here?"
"I canna say for sure, Himsel'," Broch replied seriously, "only that I hae some sense that it was...time."
"Oh, Broch!" It was Joimus, stepping off the train to see what was going on. "I thought that
was you I saw out the window."
"You thought...?" Himself rumbled hoarsely. "HOW in hell could you think it was Broch?"
Maximus came up beside her. "She knows these things, Himself. Surely you have learned that by now."
Himself glared fiercely at the woman clad, as usual, in creamy yellow. "You could have... shared...the information, you know," he growled.
"You know Broch?" Bridgid asked curiously.
"Well," Joimus continued, "if I didn't, I don't think he'd actually be here."
Maximus shrugged. "It does seem to work that way, Himself. You know it does."
Joimus stepped up to Broch, taking him by one arm. "I was beginning to get concerned you'd never show up. It's been since January, you know. Seven months."
"Aye, I ken it's been a while," he smiled at her fondly. "But I wasna able to come until today."
"Well, I'm just glad you're here now," she replied, leading him toward the General.
"Maximus, I'd like you to meet Broch McCullough." She pronounced the och of Broch with
a back-throated Scottish sound. "He's
from Balloch, just out of Inverness."
"My honor," Maximus said, dipping his head slightly.
Himself had been silent during all this. "Just a damn minute here," he interrupted.
"He's a bit upset," Max supplied.
"I am NOT upset!" Himself roared.
"Are, too," Max laughed.
"I am NOT!"
"They do that a lot," Joimus said in an aside to Broch. "He's still trying to accept the fact that Max made the movie without him."
"Wi'out him?" Broch asked wonderingly.
"It's...complicated," Joimus nodded. "But during the filming in Provence, Himself was being held prisoner by former Prime Minister Harold Holt in a cavern under Woolloomooloo Cove. In fact," she continued brightly, "it's why we are all here on this very platform in the midst
of this vast and entirely desolate plain. We
on our way back to Sydney from the absolutely never-written finding of the
tingle tree with the spring that contained the antidote to Holt's evil plot
several of Himself's characters mere statues of their former selves."
"Mmphm," Broch replied in that Scottish thing Scots do in order to say as much of nothing
Terry appeared, hanging off the train steps in a manner entirely deliberately written to be reminiscent of Aubrey and a certain scene from M&C, saying wryly, "And I can eat again!"
Broch wondered why that would make him so happy and Joimus explained, very, very reasonably, that the K&R agent had only been a statue from the waist down and, therefore, though he COULD eat, there was nothing to be done about what came next and so he was
forced to abstain.
"HE was forced to abstain?" annsmac said a bit loudly from behind him. "Good Lord in Heaven! I thought I'd never last until his equipment was ungranitized."
"His equipment?" Broch asked.
"It's an epi thing," Joimus smiled. "And it's all annsmac's own doing. SHE came up with concept...and on a train, too," she added, thinking back to the Orient Express.
Then Joimus seemed to realize that Bridgid must have been on the platform since the very inception of the new storyline but that she and Broch had never actually been properly introduced. "Bridgid," Joimus said, taking her hand and pulling her toward the Scot, "This
is Broch. He's joining our cast and I was, um, wondering if you might help him find a seat in
the passenger car."
"Ah, lassie," Broch smiled at Bridgid, "ye'll forgive me?"
"Forgive? For what?"
"I shouldna hae left ye just standin' there after the bag fell on ye like that."
"Oh, it's all right," she smiled. "I understand." She looked at Himself, who obviously still
did not understand what the heck was going on.
The small groupling boarded the train. As Joimus made her way down the aisle behind the General, she noticed a man seated alone, a harnessed German Shepherd close by his feet in
the aisle. She smiled to herself. And Himself thought he had a problem with Broch, did he?
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