The Arthurian Code
"My bum is sore" groaned the soon to be ten year old sat half on grandma and half on sister, "when are we gonna get there?" His american accent accentuated by the damp cornish countryside we sped through.
"Soon" sighed Sis, sounding as though she was regretting booking Big’s surprise overnight. From her studio in London it had seemed such a good idea, a night in a castle with views of Tintagel, mythical birthplace of king Arthur. What child wouldn't love that?
But English miles are long and a 2 hour drive can feel like an eternity, especially crammed in a car with grandma, dad, mum and the two boys, Big and Little. Sis reminded herself that she missed her nephews terribly most of the year and to be patient, mum just tried not to let the car sickness win, dad had to pee, the boys just kept asking when they would arrive and grandma? Well no one really knew what went on in grandmas head.
Finally after much debate about the direction of the sea, the family Intrepid arrived in the village of Tintagel, full of souvenir shops and pubs, the oldest post office in britain and sitting on the edge of town alone on the the headlands, Camelot Castle.
Thrilled to at last stretch their legs and feel the wind on their skin they clambered out of the not-quite-made-for 6 seater Peugeot station wagon, Little and Big racing each other to the door of the magnificently situated castle. Dad overtook the boys at the door and afraid he might wet himself bolted through the opening nearly kicking a large bald man who was kneeling in the path seemingly posing for a picture.
“Oh,i’m so sorry” gasped dad, already bracing himself for the “stupid Yank” muttered under breath or the look of resigned resentment that he had grown used to in his younger years spent in England.
“Quite all right friend, can I help you find something?”
Dad did a double take. Did I not just about kick your teeth in flying blindly through the doorway?
“um, well we have a reservation for tonight but i could really use the...”
“loo? down that hall and to your right’
“Thanks, uh, boys c’mon.”
“But we don’t have to pee” Big argued.
“i do” Little added.
“He's fine here” the strange bald man dressed in white offered.
Dad was in no place to discuss it and grabbing littles hand he ran down the hall to the restroom.
When Little and dad returned they found Big engrossed in something the man was saying and shaking his head while he studied an immense painting on the wall.
Startled at the sound of his family, Big began filling little in a mile a minute.
“There are 11 butterflies in the painting can you see them? I can only find 4! It's so cool right dad? He’s famous, look, he’s in the newspaper.” holding up a newspaper called the light box that did indeed have a front page feature on the very same painter. “he was photographing some new pieces for a magazine story when you almost crushed him dad. Good thing you didn’t cuz these things are valuable.”
“Oh yes" dad said trying not to let his immediate distaste of the new age fairy art show. “well that’s a good thing.” And turning to the spoken of gentleman added “again i’m sorry. We are early so we thought we’d take a walk but see you in a bit”
“We’ll look forward to it’ he said as he glided across the great room to engage a japanese couple who were discussing another painting in the series, this one with bunnies.
Back outside the wind was howling, blowing so hard that little was in danger of being lifted off but he charged on with arm outstretched, a skinny jeaned quixote attacking a haystack-less coastline, chasing mum, sis and grandma who were visible in the distance starting down a path that looked to be leading to the cliffs and turbulent sea below.
The going was a muddy mess and within minutes Little's entire backside was dirty and wet. Undeterred and unfortunately none the wiser, Little falls three more times before the path leveled and connected with the coastal path. (Coastal footpaths in the UK and Cornwall in particular are an amazing resource. breathtaking sights and country solitude and all you need is your feet)
The family hike was epic. The path wove the coastline , raw and wild, and yet always with a clearly marked trail. Mom walked slowly behind, waiting patiently for grandma to navigate the wet stones and large puddles of mud. Dad and Sis stormed ahead like the hunter gatherers that they were, deep in conversation on politics, film, fashion and Family Guy.”
“Do you let the kids watch it?” Sis asked “I think it's the funniest thing I’ve ever seen.”
“See dad, even Auntie says it’s ok. He won’t let us see anything!” Big complained to Sis.
“Where did you come from?” dad said surprised. He hadn’t heard his eldest approach and was glad he hadn’t been saying anything inappropriate. “Where’s Little? Is he with you.”
“He’s with mom, don’t change the subject dad.”
Dad slowed and putting Big in a headlock, did his best to defend his position on cartoon censorship.
“I’ve told you this Big but let's see if Sis understands. It’s not so much the off color stuff that I fear him seeing; it’s the cynicism. I don’t know, it just seems that before you can really laugh at love, or sex or loneliness or impotence you should have to experience them first. Well, maybe not impotence but you get the idea?”
“Whats impotence dad?”
“Whoa!” Sis interrupted “May you never need to know little man.”
“My brothers Little, I’m Big” argued the affable boy.
“You’re still little to me and don’t call me Auntie, ok? Sis is fine” She answered refocusing on Dad “must be hard though, we know plenty of kids that do watch it.”
Big gave up on the conversation and turned back to the other group, his dad and aunt motoring on without noticing his absence.
‘It’s really hard especially when South Park went after Isaac Hayes and it went into that whole Darth Vader thing. Had to really monitor youtube for a while.”
“What Darth Vader thing?” Sis asked “I must have missed that.”
“I guess they went after Scientology and Isaac Hayes, who is apparently a Scientologist, took offense and quit the show so they killed him off and he came back as some Darth Vader Frankenstien” thing. But it coincided with all the lego star wars Youtubes so i caught the kids several times deep into an episode trying to figure out the references to child molestation and who knows what else”
“I’m still digesting the idea of Isaac Hayes the cultist. I heard about Beck, but Isaac?”
“Apparently so. It’s all the same to me” admitted dad. “i’m so ignorant of religion, I believe as much in Arthur and Merlin as I do anything else.”
“Well, then we’re in the right place.” Sis stoically stated. “Forever onward!”
Dinner was taken in a large dining room that would have been fine, even vaguely Arthurian were it not for the sheer volume of fairy dust paintings.
“You vant vine?” the chiseled jawed waiter asked.
“You sound like the Terminator” Little blurted out.
“Sorry” mom quickly inserted ”Yes, please. The Pinot Noir”
“I’ll be back” the waiter chuckled.
“This place rocks!” Little exclaimed.
“ Wasn’t the guy who showed us to our room eastern european as well?” dad asked.
“Yes, well you see, these days in Britain we”ve people from everywhere.” grandma piped up.
“Yeah, but Tintagel? Really?”
Sis and grandma joined the rest of the family in their large bare room, having the most seating and large windows facing the sea. Outside wind was now positively roaring and all cozied up with wine and chocolate to catch up on each others lives. Big and Little jumped on the beds until they realized that there were no springs in them and thus no bounce. Little was asleep in minutes but Big stayed up, deep in reading the Light-box cover to cover.
Dad looked through the photos he’d taken during the day, nodding off occasionally, just waking in time to catch his wine and camera before they fell to the floor. “funny” he thought, “something's funny about this place” he said out loud. Everyone stopped talking and looked up. Everyone except for Big whose smile spread wide.
“Yes it is dad. this newspaper isn't a newspaper at all. i just read the whole thing and its all about here, the castle, the paintings the ....Light-box”
“It’s a room here in the castle that supposedly you get filled with inspirational power. It’s with this power that the butterfly picture was created. They are the same , the painter is the light-box keeper.”
A chill ran down dad's back.
“Sis, does your Iphone work in here?”
“I get a little, if we’re patient. I”m already searching who owns this place. Here it is, John Mappin and Ted Stourton.”
“OH Mappin is it? Grandma muttered shaking herself awake. “big jewelry family Mappin is.”
“Whats the name of the painter, Big?”
“Ted Stourton. Says he’s one of the most successful painters in the world!”
“Exactly, it says.” Dad seemed on to something. “The paper is published by Ted Stourton. But the waiters and the bellhops were definitely eastern european, which seems odd out here on the cornish coast”
“Not if Mrs Mappin is a young beautiful eastern european. Maybe she has an arrangement.”
Mom giggles and added “maybe Ted and John have an arrangement.”
“That’s it, I think. The pictures downstairs, did you see them? Look they’re here in the camera. John Travolta, Tom Cruise. What do they have in common?”
“They’re both gay?” Sis offered.
“Oh my god” said mom and sis simultaneously nearly throwing the entire universe into a harmonious frenzy from the sameness in their speech.
“I think you’re right” sis continued, “John and Ted are lovers, the kaz babe is a trophy wife who feasts on her man slaves in return for keeping up the facade. The triad apparently seek more power and fame and this thirst has led them to scientology. Dedicating the castle a safe haven for other sect members embedded them in the modern folklore of Scientology. They bought their way in”
“Ssshhh. I hear footsteps.”
All were silent as the footsteps in the hall approached, passed and faded in the distance.
“I think the scientology part is a little bit of stretch personally” mom piped in. “I mean just from Tom Cruise and John Travolta?”
“and Jenna fuckin Elfman and Nicolas Cage” dad argued
“Nicolas Cage is a scientologist?” mom asked dubiously.
“I don’t know but I wouldn't be the least surprised. He’s way dodgy.”
“Yeah but Rumble Fish” Sis added “and Raising Arizona and...”
“Adaptation” said mom
“Yeah I know, he could have been the new Jimmy Stewart to Clooneys Carey Grant but look at that hairpiece. He’s a victim of his own bad taste.” Dad brought the conversation back around “I think we can agree that if we find a picture of Isaac Hayes in a castle on the North Cornish Coast then we are definitely in a scientologist stronghold.
Grandma choked on her wine, spitting it across the white sheets of littles bed.
“Are you ok mum” asked Sis, rising to her feet to help clean up.
“The fireplace......” grandma whispered.
“What's that?” they all asked, the energy in the room taut with suspense.
“The fireplace” grandma said more forcefully as if suddenly empowered by the message she had to convey. “downstairs, the fireplace downstairs”
“What about the fireplace downstairs” dad almost shouted at her .
“Isaac Hayes. There's a picture of Isaac Hayes.”
The room erupted in nervous laughter and then immediately silenced at the sound of more footsteps in the hall.
After a long restless night and a hurried breakfast the family quickly said their goodbyes and fled the cultish compound, visions of straw dogs, eyes wide shut and stepford wives dancing in their heads. Dad insisted on stopping at the first pub he saw to calm his nerves and after 2 quick whiskeys he imparted the entire story to the sympathetic barkeep. Sometime between the 4th and 5th whiskey, the bartender made a call and within minutes there was a knock at the door. 4 cloaked men with Eastern European accents led the family down the path towards Camelot. And that's the last I, the barkeep, or anyone else ever heard of them. We in Tintagel learned long ago not to question the doings of The Castle. Besides, I’m a big Nicolas Cage fan.
other "friends of Camelot"