Good morning. It is I Gigi the parti poodle here once again on my usual Thursday to introduce chapter twelve of my story Corn Maze. My, but this has been a most eventful week. My novelist, the Maltese, and I all took a trip to the lake. We stayed at a marvelous little cottage on the water. It is a quiet and peaceful place where I can gather my thoughts and be creative. I got more work done than I thought I would. Though I did get a wild hare and charged at the Maltese to clear my mind and think better. My novelist did not take kindly to my outburst and relegated me to the corner where I was told to think about my actions. We took a lovely drive and looked at the landscape. I stole my novelist’s neck pillow and claimed it as my own. I cannot resist microbeads. They are soft and comfortable and conform perfectly to my slender form. My novelist even treated us to new dog snacks which I must say were a welcome adventure to my palate. They made my tastebuds zing. And I had the good fortune of meeting a Jerusalem Cricket and not getting bitten. But alas, all excursions must come to an end but not without reward. And I pass that reward on to you, dear reader. Here then is chapter twelve of Corn Maze. By the way, here is a picture of me at the cottage:
Gigi the parti poodle
The crowd was huge. So huge in fact that people were selling tickets outside the makeshift gates for three times face value. Farley couldn’t believe how lucrative this had become. And he was thrilled. Thrilled like he’d been in high school when he and the rest of the football team took the field. The cheerleaders shaking their pompoms, the stands loaded with fans, everyone raring to see the big game. There was nothing like winning in front of witnesses.
Meanwhile, over at Farley’s corn maze entrance stood Harley. This just might be the worst day of his life he thought. Embarrassment and fear tangled inside of him. He felt certain everyone knew why he was here and what this bet was about. He felt Mallory’s cold smile sear his back. She wanted him to lose, and he knew it. In his heart he knew he shouldn’t have asked her to marry him. In his heart he knew Farley was right. He and Valerie had unfinished business.
Malory stood at the front of the crowd waiting for the race to begin. She wished she were standing in front of Harley’s corn maze cheering Farley on. She knew it would look bad rooting for Valerie’s fiancé instead of her own. But she had to be here to keep up appearances. And keep up appearances she would. Though deep in her heart she knew she was cheering for Farley and waiting for him to win.
Valerie stood in the front row at Harley’s corn maze. She knew Farley was going to cheat. He’d probably cheated already. Somehow, someway he’d figured out the fastest path through Harley’s maze. She didn’t know how or all the particulars, but she knew he knew. The question was what happened to her when he won.
A triangle rang out over the loudspeakers.
“Alright, everyone!” Roy announced. He wore a white suit, matching cowboy hat and sterling silver turquoise bolo. “Welcome, welcome! My, don’t we have a fine turnout here today! I think this might be the biggest turnout I’ve ever seen at a corn maze event!” Roy stood on a large wooden platform on a trailer attached to the back of a semi-truck. Colorful green and white fabric decorations covered the front and off to the left-hand side stood large speakers and a state-of-the-art sound system. “As you can see, we’ve got a couple of gorgeous corn mazes here all cut and ready to go. They sure look pretty, don’t they? Don’t y’all think they look pretty?”
The crowd cheered.
Roy turned to the kid near the speakers. The kid was a local country boy dressed in a t-shirt and cargo shorts. “You’re going to need to get Floyd,” Roy told the kid.
“Floyd?” the kid asked.
“Okay. I’ll get Floyd.”
The kid typed something on his laptop keyboard.
“Alright folks! Let’s get this race on the road! Farley! Harley! I want you to take your marks there at the front of your corn mazes. Judges, are they on their marks?”
The judge stationed at the entry point of Harley’s maze with Farley called back to the man on the truck who said into his phone, “Yes!” his response booming out over the speakers.
“Henry,” the man said to the judge stationed at the entry point of Farley’s maze by Harley, “is Harley on his mark?”
Henry called back to the man on the truck near him. “Yes!” the man said into his phone which also boomed out over the speakers.
“Well then, folks! It’s time to start this race. Whichever contestant gets through the other’s maze first wins the competition.” Roy covered his microphone and leaned down to the kid manning the speaker system and said, “Kid, did you get ahold of Floyd?”
“Yep,” the kid said. “Floyd’s ready.”
“Fantastic!” Then he said into the speaker. “Judges! Raise your pistols in the air! Farley and Harley,” get ready to run! On your marks…get set…Go!”
The moment he said, “Go!” the kid blasted “Run Like Hell” by Pink Floyd over the loudspeakers. The crowd went crazy cheering and yelling for their favorite competitor.
Harley’s hands sweat and his heart raced as he burst into the crackling stalks. The first urge he had was to get in deep enough so the crowd couldn’t see him. But he knew drones were flying overhead plastering him up on huge screens for the crowd. He pressed forwards, the loud rustling of the corn blaring in his ears.
Farley’s first urge when he entered the maze was to wave at the drones which he did. He heard the crowd cheer and he grinned. Yeah, he thought, old Harley can have an earful of that.
Harley heard the noise and figured Farley had riled up the crowd. But he let it slide. He had started to find his stride and picked up the pace. He was certain from studying Farley’s corn maze designs from years past at the library where all winning mazes were required to publish their blueprints, they all had similar patterns to them. And even though this was the most complex one Farley had ever designed; those same patterns were weaved into it. The question was could he figure out the patterns fast enough. There seemed to be a left, left, left, right scheme in each design. Almost like a trademark.
Farley had spent the past month studying the photos taken from Bud’s Piper. He knew Harley’s maze like the back of his hand now. He didn’t even need a map. The path was easy and clear. Well…not easy. Harley’s maze was surprisingly impressive. At least when he first glanced at it. Now it was child’s play. Like watching a movie over and over till nothing came as a surprise. He turned right, right, right, left. He paused here and there just to make it look good to the drones. Just to make it look like he was working. He could almost taste Mallory’s lips already. This was going to be fun.
Harley careened right racing through the stalks. His swift move led him to a wall of corn, and he stopped short. Then he whipped around, hurried backwards, and careened left and found the same thing. A horrid feeling of dread shot through him. He’d reached a dead end, and everyone was watching it via the drone hovering above his head. He stopped and listened to his breathing. How far would he have to go back to get out?
Mallory watched the big screen TV and saw Farley moving smoothly through her fiancé’s maze. Not perfectly mind you but smoothly…and expertly. His confidence intrigued her, and she could not wait until their date.
A crestfallen Valerie watched Harley on the big screen. It was like seeing a confused mouse trapped in a science experiment bumping into walls. Come on, Harley she thought. Come on…
Farley knew he’d made it to the center of Harley’s maze. The calm in the middle of the storm. There was a left curving pattern up ahead then a sharp right, an arrowhead to the right, a right forward to the left and then on to the final few turns before the exit. Piece of cake.
Harley banked a left corner backwards and found himself returning to the fork in Farley’s corn maze. Left, he thought. This time go left. He bent sinister and found himself back on track. He veered left, a sharp right, left again and then left again. Yes, he thought. That makes sense. Why hadn’t he seen that pattern before? Classic Farley.
On the big screen Mallory saw Harley catching up with Farley taking her by surprise. One minute Harley’s lost and now he’s gaining ground. This made her anxious. Maybe she shouldn’t have gone to Farley’s house last night. Maybe she’d underestimated Harley.
Valerie saw the same thing and her heart leapt. Maybe Harley would make good on his word after all. Maybe this time he really would win.
Farley knew he was approaching the end of the tunnel. He moved like a roadrunner through Harley’s maze now. He’d given his competitor enough time to keep from embarrassing himself. Now, it was time to move through the stalks like a low flying hawk closing in on its prey. Right, right, right, left, right, right, left. In his head the rhythm jingled in his ears.
Harley hit his stride whooshing through the stalks calling on the paths he’d learned in his head from studying Farley’s mazes at the library. Left, left, left, right, left, left, right.
Mallory bounced on the balls of her feet as she watched Farley gain speed. “Go!” she cried. “Go, go, go!”
Valerie wrang her hands as she watched the big screens. The two men were in the final stretch. Farley was almost at the exit of Harley’s maze, but Harley was gaining speed. “Faster,” she whispered. “Go faster…”
The rustling of the stalks filled the crowd’s ears as the two men closed in on the exits. The cheers were deafening. Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh!
“And their closing in on the finish!” Roy screamed over the sound system. “Here they come folks! Here they come!”
Farley could taste his escape like it was a fresh baked cherry pie. He turned a right corner and there it was! The light at the end of the tunnel. He kicked into gear and…
Harley took another left, another left, another right, and then…there it was! There it…!
The howling crowd raised their noise up ten more decibels as the winner came bursting through the stalks.
“There he is!” Roy yelled. “There’s our winner!”
The crowd charged towards the winner who threw his arms into the air and bounded around.
Valerie’s mouth dropped in disbelief astonished at what she was witnessing. This couldn’t be happening. This could not be happening.
Mallory dropped her jaw and screamed louder than she’d ever screamed before.
Trapped inside the stalks the loser fell to his knees, the smell of dirt filling his nostrils. Right at the end he’d taken the wrong turn and run into a wall of corn. He bowed his head and hid his face as he listened to the cheers from the crowd outside as the drone buzzed around above him. He’d won he thought. Once again Farley had won.
You can check out my books Chicane and the five installments in my Musicology book series Musicology: Volume One, Baby!, Musicology: Volume Two, Kid!, Musicology: Volume Three, Twist!, Musicology: Volume Four, Sweetie! and Musicology: The Epiquad on Amazon in Kindle and Paperback editions. You can also check out Musicology’s web site at www.musicologyrocks.com and vote for who you think will win Musicology!!!
STREAM OF THE WEEK: LICORICE PIZZA (2021)-Amazon Prime
I recommend this week’s movie with a touch of caution as it is not for all audiences. Not because it is explicit which it is not, but because it is a bit on the unusual side as far as its storytelling structure goes. This is the film debut for both it’s stars Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman (son of the late Philip Seymore Hoffman who acted in many of Anderson’s films), and they have fantastic chemistry here. Paul Thomas Anderson said he came up with the idea when he saw a middle school boy nagging a school photographer. He took the concept and spun the genesis with autobiographical stories told to him by his friend Gary Goetzman whose life entailed many of the events that occur in the film.
Set in the early 1970’s in the San Fernando Valley Alanna Kane (Alana Haim), a young woman in her early mid-twenties finds herself bored and working as a school photographer’s assistant. While doing a gig at a high school she is hit on by Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman), a sophomore who takes an instant shine to her. Gary, who is quite the hustler, convinces Alanna to join him for dinner. She agrees but because the age difference between them makes it clear that this is a friendship only situation. However, their friendship begins to blossom, and they find themselves involved in many escapades together like her chaperoning him so he can take an airplane to do a press tour for a play he was in with a famous actress (based on Lucille Ball), buying a waterbed store, dealing with aging Hollywood stars Jack Holden based on William Holden (Sean Penn) and Rex Blau based on director Mark Robson (Tom Waits) and crazed film director Jon Peters based on Jon Peters (Bradley Cooper).
The film remains entertaining but is more of a slice of life story than a plot so if plot is what you’re looking for here you aren’t really going to find it. It is more of an exploration of two young people who are not really suited for each other finding out they suit each other remarkably well as they live their lives in a somewhat sleazy somewhat magical California.