I introduce you to an evergreen tree and explain what happened to all those bananas last fall...Welcome, weary travelers, to The Inn Between. Join Gabriela Jones, a botany lover, in her job keeping a vaguely magical inn near the rural town of Shearwater.
New episodes monthly on the first quarter moon. Written and read by Bailey Loveless
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Special thanks to local poet and woodcrafter, Chris Kleinfelter for letting me read his poem “Unseen Legends” for our guestbook segment. Chris has been writing the last 30 years, since he returned to college at age 40, which brought out his love for writing. After winning a poetry award in Thoughts Beyond Insanity, the campus literary journal, he has been writing ever since. His work has been featured in Harrisburg Review, The Villager, Tidepools Magazine, Sixfold Poetry Summer 2020, and Corona Global Lockdown as well as the Olympic Peninsula Writers Association 2022 anthology. You can find more of his work on his poetry blog poetinplace.com
Read guestbook submission guidelines here
LAND ACKNOWLEDGMENT: This podcast is inspired by and recorded on the Indigenous lands of the Coast Salish people of the Pacific Northwest. We celebrate and honor these ancestral lands and their stewards--past, present, and future.
THEME MUSIC: Yonder Dale / Tiny Surprises / courtesy of www.epidemicsound.com
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Welcome, weary travelers, I’m Gabriela Jones, the new innkeeper of The Inn Between, where the trees are green, the rooms are cozy, and the locals are amazing. Whether you’re listening for the first time or have been here before, come on in and prop up your feet—metaphorically speaking of course—and pour yourself a cup of coffee.
It’s been too long, dear listeners. Having lived in Florida prior to moving up the Northwest, I was a little unprepared for how dark and gloomy the wintertime can be, which is honestly the best explanation for my absence these long months. Everything slows down in the winter, and I guess innkeepers are no exception. The garden was resting and so was I, and battling illness, stiff joints, and very particular lack of vitamin D. In truth, I feel a little beat up. But not as beat up as that car that was crushed over Thanksgiving Weekend. Which leads me to suppose I should tell you about one particularly strange incident from last fall before my winter’s rest. After all, if I recall correctly, last time we spoke I had just been delivered a few giant boxes of bananas, on the orders of my employer, Mr. Leake, who you will recall I have never met or spoken to other than by means of email and letter. The bananas were brought up to the Inn by his request along with the regular supplies I receive from Nancy, the woman who runs the General Store down in the town of Shearwater.
Now in order to tell that story, I first need to introduce you to an unusual species of tree: Araucaria araucana, colloquially known as the Monkey Puzzle tree. While native to Chile and Argentina, it became quite popular in the Pacific Northwest. About a century ago it was brought here and it’s able to thrive in a similar cool, maritime climate. And like many of the local specimens, the Monkey Puzzle tree is a beautiful evergreen conifer capable of growing well over 100 feet tall. It’s an ancient and unusual tree with spiny, alien-like branches and scaly-like bark—a true reptilian relic from the Jurassic Era. But while the Monkey Puzzle Tree has outlived the dinosaurs, unfortunately, it is also now endangered.
So you could say I was taken aback when I spied one of these trees across the lawn on the day before Thanksgiving. I had no clue how it had come to be there. It should come as no surprise that as an aspiring botanist, I’ve been cataloging all the flora and fauna from the moment I arrived at the Inn. Though the Monkey Puzzle tree was admittedly tucked back away’s behind five of the Douglas firs on the north side of the yard, I was certain I would have noticed its presence long before now. That being said, what else could I do but admire it now and then get along with all the work to be done that day?
However, sometime later that night, I thought I heard strange noises coming from the forest, creaking and knocking as if someone was beating like a drum on the hollow of a tree. In the morning, I went out the back to feed the goats. To my surprise, it seemed to me that the Monkey Puzzle Tree had somehow taken a giant leap. Now that might seem extremely strange, but honestly I didn’t have much time to think about it, and you long-time listeners know, a tree doing unusual things now in then is not a wholly uncommon occurrence around here. Rooms needed to be cleaned, people needed to be checked in, and holiday cider needed to be made.
But all through the night, once again I heard those sounds again, louder and more clear this time. At one point came a haunting sound of grunts and squeaking metal. And then everything was silent.
Or at least it was until the morning when I was awoken to the sound of shouting and violent cursing. This, dear listeners, was when the crushed car was found.
The car belonged to a well-to-do man from Seattle coming to visit a distant relative for the holidays. The car was of course of the very expensive, electric variety, and it had been folded nearly in half, the front of the hood practically kissing the bumper, like a crumpled wad of paper.
“This is outrageous! Do you know how much this car costs?” he kept screaming. Or picture something along those lines but with more expletives inserted in.
After yelling about it for the better part of an hour, the man got on the phone with his insurance company and I desperately tried calling the only towing service in the area. This was completely fruitless though as it was Thanksgiving and the phone line just kept ringing and ringing. Even the towing man deserves a holiday off. The car owner looked as though he might rip all his hair out, however, so I desperately called Nancy. To my relief, she said she’d be right up. Her truck pulled into the drive twenty minutes later, and one look at the car sent Nancy cackling.
“Well they don’t make things like they used to, do they, lass?” she said, stepping out of the truck with a twinkle in her eye.
“I beg your pardon!” said the car owner.
“No pardon needed, just help a poor old woman get this hunk of junk hitched up,” she said. Now Nancy, despite her age has the impressive muscular arms of a massive polar bear, clearly visible as she rolled up the sleeves of her flannel shirt. But the man could hardly object to this elderly woman and grandmother of 26 children—which she promptly began to describe as they pulled out a set of chains from the truck bed.
When they had finished securing what was left of the car, Nancy offered to take the man wherever he needed to be for Thanksgiving.
“Just get me to the nearest bus station. I’m getting out of this place,” he grumbled before heading back inside, mumbling about getting his things.
“Charming, fellow, eh lass,” said Nancy. Then taking my arm, she led me over to the yard by the parking lot. “I don’t suppose you saw this already?”
In fact, I had not seen it. It being what looked to be a giant footprint just on the other side of where the car had been crushed. The print made quite the crater in the muddy grass, big enough for me to lay down and take a nap in.
“Now this doesn’t belong to a Sasquatch—I should know, I’ve seen one twice. But it does have a big foot,” said Nancy. “A big, big foot. Watch where you step, lass, or you might get stepped on.”
And with that, she drove away towing the man and his car along with her. In the exhaust fumes of her truck, I stared at the giant footprint on the ground wondering what kind of person it may belong to. I reasoned it must have been somewhat friendly, otherwise wouldn’t I have heard our friendly neighborhood guardian Dog barking? But I hadn’t heard Dog. All I had was the creaking and groaning and sound drums. Of I looked up and saw that the Monkey Puzzle Tree had moved once again. It stood not far off on the other side of the drive, and I was quite certain it was staring at me, following me as I walked back into the house.
I sat in the downstairs living room for the rest of the day, where I could look out the window and observe the tree. I watched the three and it watched me. Together we observed the rest of the guests leave for their Thanksgiving dinner plans until it was just the two of us. I think I thought it was waiting for everyone to go and then it would spring to life. But to my chagrin, the tree just sat there, glowing green and orange in the sunset then becoming just another shadow in the night. At this point I felt silly and was about to give up my vigilance when came the sound of knocking wood. And in the moonlight, I saw the Monkey Puzzle Tree begin to dance to life.
But before we get to that, I’d like to read you an entry in the guestbook that seems wholly appropriate to the situation. It reads, quote:
There are shadows in the forest
in the shape of early men.
If you saw them, what then?
They might pass through the trees
like leaves on the breeze
not needing to see who goes there
finding visions in the air,
listening for what is not chorused:
searching for what civilization
does not need to know.
The tree in the yard began to tremble and shiver, like a caccoon before it hatches. Somewhere from deep inside the trunk came a dark, throaty sound—as primal as the whistle of the wind but as meditative as a monk at prayer. The tree bloomed in response, growing taller and fuller, each spiny leaf compressing into furry scales, and the top of the tree broadening into a dark green muzzle till before me was a giant beyond description. He had the hulking stance of a gorilla, the size of a house, and the face of a kind person, covered in reptilian like scales. I should have been terrified, but despite the giant’s shape and size, there was something distinctly gentle in the way its eyes turned up to gaze at the moon.
Without much thought, I opened the door as I would for any other guest that turned up and asked, “Hi. I’m Gabriela Jones. Can I help you?”
The giant crouched low to meet my gaze, his nostrils blowing warm air in my face. So close beside one another, it was then that I realized the deep, rumbling sound was coming from an area that I could reasonably assume was its stomach.
“Oh, you’re hungry,” I said.
And it was then I remembered all the boxes of bannanas sitting in the kitchen.
The giant sat down and I brought them out one by one. When I had finished delivering them all, I sat on the steps and watched him eat. With its huge hands, it still picked up each banana one by one, opening each tiny yellow fruit with incredible dexterity and delicateness. After some time, the stomach must have settled because the dark rumble sound faded away, replaced by almost a purr like rythm and a hollow knock. I didn’t know what that sound could possibly meant but it seemed happy. The giant offered a banana to me, and I took it gratefully. He was so genteel, I’m quite certain the smashing of the car must have been a dreadful accident. Anyway, we stayed there for sometime, splitting the bananas between the two of us like polite dinner guests. When we were finished, the creature extended a finger as if to shake my hand, and then like a shadow, he slipped into the trees towards the mountains in the south and disappeared amongst the other leafy, forest giants.
I’m sure it was the best Thanksgiving dinner I’ve ever had.
I still am just wondering how Mr. Leake knew to get all those bananas.
Anyway, other than that, it’s been a lonely winter. Like a bear, I’ve stayed holed up here with no souls to care for since Christmas. But like the pink buds forming on the maple trees, I find myself waking with gentle anticipation and a hunger for life as if I too might wake up one morning and just burst open. I just need to be a little more patient. April 1st is almost here, and with April comes new guests and new adventures.
Till next time listeners,
Be kind, notice the trees, and don’t forget to water your plants,
Hey it’s Bailey Loveless, and welcome back to season 2 of Gabriela and the Inn Between! Thank you so much for tuning in to episode 18 and kicking off this new season. By way of announcement, this second season I’m doing a few things differently. Both Gabriela and I are going to be very busy and making space for other things in our lives. So instead of bi-weekly, this season’s episodes will be dropping monthly on the first quarter moon of each month from now through December.
If you enjoyed the show, as always please consider tipping your innkeeper over at Ko-Fi, link in the show notes below. Not only does your contribution go directly toward Gabriela’s student loans, but it costs less than your favorite latte, gets you to access to bonus content, and keeps the show advertisement free.
Special thanks to local poet and woodcrafter, Chris Kleinfelter for letting me read his poem “Unseen Legends” for our guestbook segment. Chris has been writing the last 30 years, since he returned to college at age 40, which brought out his love for writing. After winning a poetry award in Thoughts Beyond Insanity, the campus literary journal, he has been writing ever since. His work has been featured in Harrisburg Review, The Villager, Tidepools Magazine, Sixfold Poetry Summer 2020, and Corona Global Lockdown as well as the Olympic Peninsula Writers Association 2022 anthology. You can find more of his work on his poetry blog poetinplace.com. When he is not squeezing words into poems, he spends his time woodworking. Thanks for working with me Chris!
To submit short prose or poetry to be featured in the Guestbook segment, please send us an email or visit our website for more information, links also in the show notes.
And once again, new episodes of Gabriela and the Inn Between will release monthly on the quarter moon phase, with the next episode on April 27. In between time though, keep warm and keep well. See you next time, folks