Some say it takes seven or eight years before an action becomes a habit. Some say it only takes three weeks. For Elmore Fidlow, he didn’t really care how long it took, because for as long as he could remember he was following this habit. He knew it was a good one because he liked it and he kept on doing it no matter what anybody else thought of him doing it. Now that you think about it that’s probably the definition of a habit.
Most as learned of Elmore’s habit liked to congratulate him on it seeing as how they were quite amazed at his proclivity for this habit. It was quite a spectacle when he engaged in his habit and sometimes when no one was looking he performed for himself. What is this astonishing habit? Elmore sang songs. Most often he found himself in a tremolo tenor singing John Denver songs. He especially enjoyed “Rocky Mountain High” and on this day, he surprised even himself:
“When he first came to the mountains
His life was far away
On the road and hangin’ by a song…
…But the string’s already broken
and he doesn’t really care
It keeps changin’ fast
and it don’t last for long…”
He continued singing and as he did so he began to think about the words he was singing and then to feel them.
“My life IS far away” he thought. “Not that I really know what my life is anymore. But at least I have my singing and the songs of John Denver to keep me happy.” As he had this thought he glanced up above the lake surrounding him and he saw a shooting star heading toward the earth.
“…And the Colorado Rocky Mountain High
I’ve seen it rainin’ fire in the sky
You can talk to God and listen to the casual reply…”
The song took him away inside himself. He glanced down and realized that not only could he sing marvelously well, he sensed he had a problem. No one else would notice it because from their point of view it was quite normal and natural. But once they heard him sing…then…They’d freak out!
He was green.
Not green with envy or green like you’d be if you ate a bad cumquat or the green you would be if you took a long sea voyage. He was that all over green. The kind you can’t escape. His legs were green, his hands were green, and his face was green. A Kelly green which was quite handsome on his features.
“Shoot!” He thought. “I am a FROG!”
He wondered how it happened. He set his mighty frog muscles to thinking on this puzzle and then it occurred to him. It took him quite a spell before he realized it, because after all he was a frog and they can only think on one particular puzzle at a time you know. He recollected that Luma had something to do with it though he wasn’t too sure. Luma hung out with his friend Rolf and he wasn’t anywhere around right now either. He set his frog thinker to working and he began to recall the chain of events…
Princess Luma Dega stood approximately 5’-6” in height and tipped the scales at 180 lb. Because of her position in the castle she adopted an imperious attitude. Raven black hair cascaded around her face and it was always silky and smooth. She spoke with a cultured accent from her home country though she never let on as to her origins. Her imperiousness caused men who didn’t know her to whisper “There goes Thelma Thunderthighs” but never within her range of hearing.
She often dressed conservatively to blend in with her environment and had an air of class which lifted her above the general population. Men thought that she had a habit of luring them to her closer and closer…and closer until before they were even aware of what had happened, her spiderlike behavior had ensnared them in her web of deceit and they were hopelessly and tragically lost. Elmayr set his eyes on this astounding creature and that is when the trouble began.
Elmayr Feidlagh held the job of an actor. He didn’t consider himself a professional actor, he felt more than he was a “Professional Re-enactment Specialist” and specialized in the portrayals of Scottish Highlanders. He wasn’t too happy with his latest performance on the Heath but he developed a mighty hunger which began to work its way outward from his belly. If he didn’t do anything about it, it would leap out and take someone by surprise. He made his way to the “Bear and Grizzled Stag” a public house he frequented. The bear and Grizzled Stag Pub was a traditional Scottish pub with sawdust on the floor and carved wood tables. The pub could seat about forty-five “normal” folk getting out for a bit and enjoying some traditional Scottish fare. Actors portraying the Scottish lairds and Highlanders were another story because of their armor and all their gear they habitually carried with them from swords and shields and halberds. Only twenty-five of these hefty characters on a good day made it into the interior of the Bear and Grizzled Stag.
In the days before the time when dawn was common highlanders walked the earth. Elmayr Feidlagh chose this time period to re-enact because it suited his temperament and his personality. Though not born to it, inwardly Elmayr fancied himself a noble Highlander righting the wrongs of the countryside and banishing all who dared stand in his way. Broad of Chest and hairy as a bear, he could often be quiet as a field mouse and just as timid. He harbored a secret desire which he shared with no one save his closest friends. Rolf Gallus was one of these he trusted with his secret. In his quiet time he would pull out a John Denver CD and listen to it. He especially like the way John Denver painted pictures with his music and how it was so like Elmayr’s life. Something about the music stirred his soul and if one listened closely enough one may hear the strains of “Take Me Home Country Roads” or “Back Home Again” muffled through his munching and gnawing.
Today he wore traditional Scottish Garb. A kilt and his sporran which was embossed with the crest of his house. He tucked into the bear meat on his plate and was surprised by the taste of berries on his tongue.
“Must have been a vegetarian bear!” He groused.
“Dingblasted meat tastes like Berries!” He tore into another hank of bear and was working his way around the gristle when a hand clamped on his shoulder and shoved him forward nearly decorating his beard with beans.
“You old Bear! How’s the hair on yer chest?!” a voice yelled.
“Rolf! Why you old hairless biped!! My hair’s getting grey just like the rest of me. How about your bum leg? I see it can’t hold up to all the weight you’re puttin’ on!”
The two friends embraced in what is traditionally known as a bear hug and lasted only three and a half seconds because any longer than that and people would start to ask questions.
“Bear meat again? Don’t you get tired of that?”
“You know how it is Rolf. You find something you like and stick to it. How about you? Still eating the polypropylene dogs? Blasted things taste like inner tubes to me!”
“Every chance I get and with Ketchup, Mustard and Relish!”
Rolf Gallus was bearded like his friend. He had a little more hair on top and not that baby-fine hair which was rapidly disappearing on Elmayr’s pate. He ordered a green salad with carrots, cucumbers and tomatoes and a side of Ranch dressing. When it came he began to dress the salad and looked longingly at the beans and mashed potatoes on Elmayr’s plate. Elmayr noticed and began to spoon some onto Rolf’s plate and Rolf held up his hand.
“Consarnit! I can’t. My doctor said I had to cut back on that stuff.”
“A little ain’t gon’ kill ye. Have some.”
“All right. If you insist.” Rolf took a bite of the honeyed beans and mashed potatoes. His smile told his friend that he enjoyed the extra helping.
“What brings a gruff old buzzard like you out here on a day like this?” Elmayr asked his friend.
“Do I need a reason?”
“Yeah. Probably. You don’t come out this way unless you got a reason.”
“Okay. You’re right. I do have a reason and you may not like it.”
“What is it?” Elmayr mumbled over a mouthful of bear meat and a swig of mead. (He had to stay in character you know!)
“You remember Cyndi? The one who said you had baby-fine hair?”
“Nuh-uh! That wasn’t Cyndi. That was Luma.”
“Yes. You’re right. It was. Anyway she’s in town looking for actors. “Specifically HIGHLANDER type actors!” He pushed his finger into Elmayr’s chest and fell back into his chair with a satisfied look on his face. A gentle smirk betrayed what Elmayr thought.
“You told here I was available?”
“No. I wanted to talk to you first. But I thought it would be perfect for you! You eat Bear Mush and….”
“Bear Meat you scoundrel!”
“Bear Meat then. But you could be acting in a high-class quality production. Luma Dega Films!” In the world of acting, Luma Dega held the gold standard of quality when it came to films. Their films had more Oscar nominations and Best Picture winners than any in recent history. Elmayr didn’t say much, but he thought that he might be able to work some John Denver into the film somehow. He really liked John Denver.
Several years went by and Elmayr became very popular in the film industry. He was hired on in bit parts to start and soon, people enjoyed his characterizations so much that he began to be called for major parts. It was during one of these parts that Luma called him into her office.
“You’ve been doing awfully well for Luma Dega Films Mr. Fidlow. Wonderfully well in fact. I’d like to consider you for another part after you’re done with this production.” She mentioned to him. She leaned back in her chair steepling her fingers and looking at him with a penetrating gaze which unnerved him.
“Well you know rehearsals are taking up quite a bit of my time right now and I am not certain I could begin on this before the end of this picture. ‘Freedom’s Ridge’ is proving to be quite time consuming. I don’t know when I can break away. What type of part did you have in mind?” He asked. He wasn’t quite sure what she was after and he wasn’t sure he wanted to disappoint her. In his experience, it didn’t do well to disappoint a woman.
“It’s a part very much like what you’re doing now. Playing the Highlander and reconstructing historical events. It’s slightly different in that you wouldn’t have only a speaking role. I think you have a very nice voice and…No matter. We don’t have to discuss particulars now. Think about it and tell me what you think.”
“I think I would have to know the basics of the role and the plot summary of what you have in mind and then maybe I can make a decision based on that. I might now have an answer straight away but give me a few days and I could probably let you know one way or the other.”
“It starts in the Highlands of Scotland on a loch. On a lily pad…”
The summary intrigued him. He pondered the implications and felt a thrill at certain aspects of his character. He believed he could perform the role and make money at it as well. Besides, it would give him an opportunity to perform songs he loved by one of his favorite performers. John Denver lived in his soul and lived in his heart and he had no desire to depart from that. Perhaps he could sing “Rocky Mountain High” or “Take Me Home Country Roads.”
“Your idea intrigues me. I will think about it.”
“Take your time. But let me know as soon as you can after ‘Freedom’s Ridge’ wraps. There are some special preparations which you much undergo before you accept the role.
“I understand. Thank you for your confidence in me.”
“You’re welcome Elmayr. You are very welcome.” She smiled an icy smile at him as he left. He looked at her and felt a cold shudder inside. He wondered if he should accept this peculiar invitation to a very unique role. He wasn’t quite sure how he felt about it.
Rolf was more straightforward. “I think you should check in with your heart brother. How does THAT feel?” He asked his friend of thirty-three years.
“What do you mean?” Elmayr asked.
“I mean, how does your heart feel?”
“No you stupid lump of coal! When you think of this opportunity and what it means to you professionally and personally, how does your heart feel?”
“Kind of dead inside. Like, you know you want to do something but something is telling you not to do it. I don’t know what to think.” He explained.
“Sounds to me like that’s your intuition kickin’ in ye know?”
“Maybe…I don’t know!” Frustration was oozing out of Elmayr’s pores as he spoke with his friend. No matter what he thought or said he wasn’t able to string two words together to even begin explaining why he wanted to do it, and yet, the financial reasons were numerous. He would be famous and he would be able to escape the clutches of the ogres at Northame. But something about this just didn’t sit well in his gut and he knew it, but Luma was so all fired beautiful…
They sat for awhile together and Rolf looked at his friend. He knew his friend was seriously contemplating this job and that it would get him out of his house. He decided to chuck the games and be straight with him.
“Look Elmayr. You and I gae way back. I would never steer you wrong. Ye know that at least.” Rolf stated.
“I guess so.”
“If you want to do this, even though your gut is screamin’ at ye te stay put and keep on with your other films, well then, I won’t stand in yer way. But I will say, if you have even the slightest bare whisper of a doubt about doing this and you want to back out, now is the time to say so.” He leaned back in his chair and looked at his longtime friend. A gaze so penetrating it began to make Elmayr fidgety.
“Lookin’ at me like that! Stop it!”
“Does it make you nervous?”
“A little. Why do you ask?”
“Just checking in with you. You gonna do this?” Rolf asked. “I’m with you no matter what, but let me know now in case something happens and I need to help you out.”
“Yeah. I am gonna do it.”
“All right then. Go tell her.”
Luma Dega reclined in her swivel chair in her office and stared at Elmayr Feidlagh. He looked at his hands as if somehow they would give him an answer to his perplexing thoughts. She kept looking at him and she smiled. The smile of the north wind which came down into your soul and chilled you to a frosty twelve degrees Fahrenheit. Sun could be shining outside and it would be balmy and warm, but this smile she gave Elmayr chilled him to the bone.
“I’ll do it. But I need to make arrangements at my house and tell my landlord I’ll be gone for awhile. Stop my mail and all that.”
“Excellent!” she smiled at him. “Take all the time you need. WE won’t begin until you’re finished with ‘Freedom’s Ridge’. How long till you wrap on that film?” Luma knew the answer, but she was testing him.
“We wrap in a month on the third of the month.”
“Ah yes. That’s right. The third. How could I forget?” Come back in a month and we’ll begin preparations for the role. You will have to eat quite a lot to get ready but you can begin that in about a month. Come see me then.”
Shadows climbed above the arbor of his home and sunlight dappled his cheeks. The lyrics of John Denver’s “Sunbeams on my shoulder” No. That wasn’t it. “Sunshine on my Shoulders” streamed into his mind and he began in the middle of the song:
“…If I had a tale that I could tell you
I’d tell a tale sure to make you smile
If I had a wish that I could wish for you
I’d make a wish for Sunshine all the while…”
He felt that it was necessary to feel the sunshine so he went outside to warm himself in the quiet sunshine and to feel the joy of the song spread through his entire being. “Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy…” he sang to himself. He decided to follow through with the new role and inside himself he held onto the songs of his favorite musician, but a chill wind blew threw his soul and it started from he knew not where.
They would walk in Sunshine and moonlight. They would sometimes hold hands and look into each other’s eyes as they walked. There was never any one particular destination in mind as they walked. He wanted to share the places of his past and the pieces of his memory with her, but she ignored him. He felt the action of being ignored as if someone had punched him in the chest. He didn’t pay attention to it, because he was an actor and they were trained to play many parts. He made attempts at explaining that the park where they now found themselves was different from when he was a child and she ignored him here too. No attempts at discussing anything with her were successful and he felt frustrated, empty and…alone inside.
Days marched on, incessantly and interminably. The month passed and Luma called him into her office once the production in which he was involved finally wrapped.
“You are an interesting one Elmayr. She said. But from here on out, you shall be addressed as ‘Elmore Fidlow.’ ”
“Elmore? I am not sure I like that name. It IS close to mine own but, my name has history. Elmore sounds like a cartoon.”
“What’s that Elmore? Did you say something?” She ignore his comment as for the previous month she had ignored him personally. She had her own agenda and he was not party to it.
“No. No I guess I didn’t.” Dejectedly he gazed down at the floor and noticed his feet. Nice shoes he thought. McCan’s. Very nice and sturdy and comfortable too. He didn’t realize this would be the last time he was to gaze upon the brown cordovan leather footwear.
“Every day at precisely 3:17 p.m. you must take this capsule. It will help prepare you for the role you will play.” She handed him a green gelatin capsule. The liquid inside was so green it was almost translucent. “You will take this capsule at that time every day until I tell you it is time to stop. Do you understand Elmore?”
“Yes. I understand.” He replied.
“Good. Very Good.” Icicles gathered on his testicles and he sensed that something was wrong, but he couldn’t quite determine exactly the cause of his fear. She smiled at him. He returned the smile halfheartedly, but he wasn’t sure that she noticed. He left the office and began his walk down the corridor. His favorite musician began to speak to him. “There’s a storm across the valley, clouds are rollin’ in. The afternoon is heavy on your shoulders…” John? He thought. You don’t know how right you are. He continued to sing the song to himself as he made his way back home and Take me Home Country Roads popped into his consciousness. Strange that no matter what was happening in his life, John Denver always seemed to find a way to comfort him.
“Rocky Mountain High”. Words and Music by John Denver 1972
 “Sunshine on My Shoulders” by John Denver 1971
 Back Home Again by John Denver 1974