Finally getting off the boat, Mitch and Phil were glad to once again be on solid ground. While Phil stretched as if to wake himself up from their relatively boring boat ride, Mitch noticed two figures off in the distance along the shoreline. As he looked harder, he realized that they were a couple of girls that appeared to be fishing on the beach. By this point in the journey, Phil had begun to get pretty good at reading Mitch’s childlike mind.
“Mitch, do not go near those girls,” Phil said in his best elementary teacher voice, “We don’t know them and they might want to kill us.”
“I’m just going to ask them for directions,” Mitch responded as if Phil’s concerns were nonsensical, “And if they happen to have a popsicle, then I’ll gladly take one.” Always eager at the chance of getting a popsicle – even a fictitious one he imagined out of thin air – Mitch had some extra pep in his step as he bounced towards the unknown girls down the beach. Phil thought of screaming at his childish partner for a second before deciding against it. His fear of encountering the two female fishermen was trumped by the thought of being left alone in a land that was foreign to him. So, he too bounced towards the female fishermen and their possible popsicles – albeit begrudgingly. As they got closer, however, they began to notice a couple of peculiarities: first was the realization that one of the two girls was actually just a long-haired guy, and second they noticed there was an 1800’s style prairie schooner parked alongside them with two horses in front. The latter of these replaced Phil’s fear with confusion all while dashing Mitch’s hopes for a popsicle. Hiding amidst some palm trees behind the Oregon Trail veterans, Mitch and Phil crept even closer. What came into view next, they almost couldn’t believe as they saw an abundance of sandwich bags scattered all around the two mysterious figures. Crazier still was the fact that the wagon was filled with them as well.
“Sandwich bags?” Phil whispered to Mitch with a look of befuzzlement on his face. “Why do they need so many sandwich bags?” Mitch could only shrug in response considering he was thinking the very question which Phil had asked. Despite all their findings as they sneaked towards these unknown weirdos, Mitch and Phil hadn’t felt threatened by their presence. This led them to continue inching closer still, and in doing so they began to realize why they weren’t afraid. They were now close enough to touch the wagon while remaining largely out of view of the unaware anglers by being on the opposite side of it. It was here, being within earshot, that they could fully grasp it – these two were impressively, almost perfectly, nonchalant. And just then it was illustrated as the long-haired male pulled in a fish that must’ve been “this big.” Truly every fisherman’s dream, and yet he seemed almost bored by his own excitement.
“That’s a big fish,” he told the girl who was equally indifferent to how impressed she was. “This could probably feed us for a long time.”
“I love sushi,” she responded with a monotone voice that somehow showed just how elated she was at the prospect of dinner. Mitch and Phil’s jaws both dropped as they shared glances of surprise. They started to appreciate what they had just stumbled upon: walking contradictions. As interesting as they were, Mitch and Phil began to bolt in the opposite direction as they saw the two turn around to bring their prize fish to the wagon. However, they had been seen. While running back into the forest an apple slice whizzed right by Mitch’s head. Stopping and turning in one frantic motion, Mitch and Phil gazed upon the impossible. The two anglers seemed to be angry, confused, and apathetic all in one facial expression.
“Who are you two? And what do you want?” asked the girl who was clearly the leader of the two…or was she? They still couldn’t figure out a single detail about either one.
“Umm, hi,” Phil responded timidly, “We are lost is what we are…so we’re just leaving. Congrats on the fish, by the way.” Each word was accompanied by another step backwards and a head nod in agreement from his short sidekick.
“It’s true, that fish could feed a family of four, but in the meantime, we need to retrieve my Tiger Card from Queen Brit…sooo,” Mitch’s voice trailed off as they continued to take steps backwards in an attempt to get away.
“You don’t want to do that,” the long-haired guy said while holding the fish. Was his tone mad? Angry? Threatening? Perhaps he was sad to see them go, but all Mitch and Phil knew for certain was that they had no idea.
“..well why not?” Phil asked as if the man holding the fish was being genuine and informative, but all the while readying himself for the worst.
“There are bandits in the area, and they’re very dangerous,” the girl said sarcastically, or with complete sincerity and care. Whichever the case may have been, she was certain not to raise her voice or give any non-verbal indicators as to how she truly felt. “If you’re trying to get to Queen Brit’s castle, we can help you until we reach the mountains. Our wagon can’t handle the terrain. Plus, it would give us a chance to get back at Queen Brit, she’s pretty evil.”
“Yeah, and stealing just isn’t cool,” the guy said as he put down the fish in order to extend his hand for a handshake. “I’m Jason, and this is my wife, Kelly O’Ericsbrother.” Still without any understanding of whether they were for real or not, Mitch decided to throw caution to the wind and take him up on his handshake offer. This was largely due to the idea that there may be a fish dinner in it if he played ball with their new friends.
“Nice to meet you both,” Mitch said with an ever increasing smile as he surveyed the giant fish that lay at Jason’s feet. “And this is my sidekick, Joseph Crème Brûlée, but he goes by ‘Phil.’ So, what exactly did you mean when you were talking about bandits?” Phil found himself speechless in his indecision on what he should be responding to: the fact that they had appeared to have made allies who were married while appearing to be his age, that there were apparently bandits nearby, or how his new identity involved him being Joseph, Mitch’s sidekick.
“Dangerous bandits,” began Kelly continuing their tradition of turn-taking with regards to speaking. “They were always a nuisance, but when Queen Brit awoke their business model took off. They’ve since torn apart this land, and we’re one of just two remaining villages this side of the mountain.” Mitch and JCB, the artist formerly known as Phil, both still found themselves in amazement at how she could sound so broken up about what she said while sounding equally uncaring. They seemed to know for certain that she was truly upset by what had been done, but only because it made sense that she should be and not because she actually showed those emotions.
“That story sure is a tear jerker, Kelly,” Jason tried to lighten the mood, or maybe to share in Kelly’s misery for all anyone knew. At this point, Phil was convinced that they never knew which emotions they were attempting to use in any moment and instead chose no emotion as a substitute. But only being 90% of a Psychology major, his opinion wasn’t one to be trusted. “But the positive is that if you can stop Queen Brit while retrieving your Tiger Card then things might take a turn for the better around here,” Jason said with great optimism…maybe.
“Get us past these alleged bandits and we’ll make sure that happens,” Phil said with great optimism, undoubtedly.
“And get you past the bandits we shall, but first we must feast,” Kelly shouted excitedly despite not raising her voice or making any hand gestures of any kind. So, they all headed back to the horse-drawn wagon and Jason and Kelly set sail for their local village. Trying their best to sit amongst the numerous sandwich bags, Phil finally decided to ask the big question on both of their minds.
“So, what’s up with all these sandwich bags?” Phil asked with all the subtlety of a jackhammer at six in the morning.
“They’re our most effective weapons against the bandits,” Jason answered emotionless as ever. “The apple slices are useful when there’s only a few, but if we’re in a pickle, those sandwich bags will be lifesavers.”
“Apple slices? Like the one that you flung right by my head? Those are weapons?” Mitch inquired.
“Of course,” Kelly mocked Mitch’s lack of understanding, or maybe was attempting to just properly inform him. “If I wanted you dead, that would’ve done the trick. As is, we just wanted to get your attention to figure out what you guys were up to.” Kelly’s tone was still the same, but the words regardless of tone had a powerful air about them. And what they told Mitch and Phil was to stop asking stupid questions to the two emotionless bandit fighters lest even more intense awkward silences should materialize. They both remained perfectly content to sit in silence until the village was reached.