SHOW NOTES & TRANSCRIPT
It was only a chair. or so you would think, as any rational person would--
Welcome, weary travelers, to The Inn Between. Join Gabriela Jones, a recent botany undergrad, in her new job as Innkeeper near the rural town of Shearwater.
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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, my name is Gabriela Jones, the new innkeeper of The Inn Between, where the trees are green, the rooms are cozy, and the guests are only a little bit strange. Whether you’re listening for the first time or been here before, come on in and prop up your feet-metaphorically speaking of course—and pour yourself a cup of coffee.
If you’ll indulge me a moment listeners, I’d like to venture into the imagination for a moment and paint a picture for you. Please take a moment and close your eyes. Imagine a room with a view, be it snow-capped mountains or evergreen trees or blue skies and the navy sea in the distance. Imagine easy morning light drifting over an antique dresser as you lie in a bed of soft, worn-in linen sheets, listening to songbirds, the smell of freshly brewed coffee coming up the stairs provided by your friendly neighborhood innkeeper. This moment is quaint and cozy, but there’s a day of adventure ahead of you. Maybe it will be in the forest, maybe it will be in your dreams, maybe it will be in this very room. Because this is a morning at the Inn Between. And what I’m learning in my short time here is that every day is a little different from the rest and anything can happen.
Now imagine you are quite intimate with this particular room, not because you’ve slept here but because you’ve cleaned it many times. You know the nooks and crannies quite well, where the dust gathers and what spots need extra cleaning. You walk in because it’s time for housekeeping and there’s no “do not disturb” sign on the door. And someway, somehow there’s something new inside, seemingly out of thin air.
It began this last Friday. Friday the thirteenth to be exact. In hindsight, maybe I should have been on guard for some kind of mischief. But this is how it happened, that I stumbled across the most troublesome object I’ve ever encountered in the entirety of my short life.
I came downstairs in the morning to find the self-check-in registrar absolutely covered in muddy paw prints. Dog of course was immediately the main suspect and then sure enough, I opened the door to find him waiting, wagging his bushy tail and covered in dirt.
“How did you get inside?” I asked him with a scowl.
He threw back his head and bayed loudly in response. Then he looked around my legs suspiciously, as if looking for a way to come back in.
“I don’t think so,” I continued. “I don’t know how you did this, but you’re not supposed to be in here.”
He whined at me then, suddenly looking extremely upset. With a chuff, he turned and sulked away.
“Don’t do it again,” I called after him before cleaning up the mess as fast as I could. As it was the start of the weekend, I had several guests coming and more on their way, so I set to work with housekeeping and sprucing everything up as quickly as possible. That was when I entered The Planets Room and discovered the chair.
I was of course confused as to how the chair came to be there. I’ve definitely met some unique individuals but never encountered any sort of person that travels with a lounge chair. It was covered in a shaggy white, wooly material that was soft and scratchy to the touch. Upon inspection, I found a tag on the bottom that read, “Crafted from Genuine Werehair.” I wonder if that’s some kind of mohair as I took a seat in the chair. The chair was a bit wobbly but comfortable and otherwise sturdy. With five more rooms to clean, I reasoned that it would be alright to at least leave it there over the weekend. After all, it was just a chair.
Or so you would think, as any rational person would.
A lovely young couple on their honeymoon set to stay over the weekend checked in that afternoon. They couldn’t stop looking at each other or kissing as I handed over their key to the Planets Room, and I thought I might be in for an interesting, and possibly disturbing weekend. But I heard tears in the night, and the next morning, the groom came down saying they wished to check out.
“Is everything alright?” I asked.
“Yes, it’s just not going to work out,” he said darkly. The young wife’s eyes were red and her face looked blanched as they went out to their car, so I assumed this was the result of some lover’s quarrel.
I readily handed over the key of the now empty room to a weekend backpacker who came in inquiring after a vacancy for the night.
On the morning of the eclipse, he also wouldn’t meet my eyes as he returned the key to me.
Clearing his throat, he said, “Where did you get that chair?”
“What chair?” I said, having nearly forgotten about it. “Oh, the white one you mean?”
He nodded. “I think something’s wrong with it,” he said then walked out in a daze.
I honestly wondered if maybe he had broken it or something, but I went upstairs and everything looked intact. I wondered what his problem was as I tidied up the place and went on with the rest of my day, eager to get everything ready for the eclipse. Because I had something all special planned out for the occasion.
As a botanist, the heavens are mostly a mystery to me. Literally and perhaps figuratively, I am as down to the earth as can be, but I am still positively in love with the moon. Maybe it’s because I don’t understand it all, and I don’t need to. What’s more, I have been feeling confident as I’ve gotten a hold of this new job, and I wanted to go above and beyond for such a wonderous occasion, the chance to share something extraordinary with folks who might not have experienced this before. After all, isn’t that part of why we travel, to begin with? In search of curious and new things?
With our wonderful visibility of the nighttime skies out here at the inn, I had planned the whole night for this lunar event. With breakfast, I invited each guest to spend their evening out on the porch to watch the eclipse then spent my whole afternoon preparing themed dishes: Danish lemon moon cake with fresh lemon zest and a fluffy yellow center, warm vanilla moon milk turned pale blue with butterfly pea flowers. I proudly displayed it all out on a small table with a string of moon phase paper cutouts.
So around eight o clock, guests began to make their way down to the porch: the blonde business executive in the Mermaid Room, the two men vacationing in the Lion Room, the young family from California in the Fern Room. One by one, they came down, sipping from teacups as they lounged on lawn chairs or chatting as they ate slices of cake.
I was so proud. I’d done a good job and everything was just perfect.
But just before the moon came over the horizon, it all turned into total pandemonium.
“Why is that dog so loud?” said the little five-year-old on her mother’s lap, covering her ears.
“He’s just singing,” said the crunchy Californian mom.
“But seriously? Why is it so loud?” said the techie-looking dad.
We had all stopped to stare at Dog, who was practically screaming at us at the bottom of the porch. With a roar, he barreled towards the back door, his great big paws swiping at the handle as if trying to get it open
I was apologizing profusely as I reached for Dog, trying to calm him down. But as I grabbed his collar, I realized, the howling was not coming from Dog, but inside the house. Dog must have known that I knew because he suddenly stopped and sat down, looking at me with what can only be described as an “I-told-you-so” expression.
“Stay,” I said and he obediently waited as I slipped inside. The whole house echoed with angry howls coming from upstairs. My heart was pounding and the noise grew louder and louder. The solid wood door of the Planets Room was creaking and shuddering as something heaved against it on the other side, and I thought that the door might crack in half.
Perhaps I should have called the emergency number or animal control. But I was so worried about the door breaking that I creaked open.
A giant, shaggy, white creature with coarse fur and a large snout came bursting out, tearing down the hall past me, leaving scratch marks and mud trails all down the hall. The Planets Room had nearly been torn apart, the dresser knocked over, the linens strewed and shredded. But the chair —the mysterious white wooly chair—was gone.
I ran downstairs after the creature. The back door was hanging from its hinge, and there was shouting coming from the porch. The creature went flying past, bounding off the deck and into the yard with Dog at its heels. They became two large shapes wrestling in the grass.
“Oh my gosh, is that a bear?” said one man.
“No, it’s a wolf!” said his partner.
“Watch out!” said the techie dad.
“Get the kids out of here,” said the crunchy Californian mom.
“What kind of establishment is this?” said the business lady.
“Sorry, sorry,” I was saying, “Everyone, stay calm, please stay calm.”
No one was listening. And with the moon darkening under the power of the eclipse, no one could really see what was going on either. Everyone scurried like mice, going everywhere but nowhere all at once. The table with my moon cake crashed to the floor, the teacups falling apart into bits.
“Do not worry,” came a quiet, calming voice as a pale light swept across our faces.
As soon as my eyes adjusted to the sudden bright light, I found myself looking into a soft, round face. A woman with wild dark hair approached from the side of the house, but she did not walk so much as float.
“Oh my gosh, your face!” said the California mom. “You are just positively glowing! I’m sorry, I just like have to ask what on earth you’re using in your skincare routine?”
The woman’s skin was indeed aglow, like headlights cutting through the night. She smiled and said, “It’s all-natural.”
“Wow, seriously amazing,” said the Californian, taking her kids by the hand and returning inside.
“There’s no reason to be afraid,” the strange woman continued. “They’re just playing.”
Remembering what was going on, we all turned and looked towards the lawn. Down in the grass, Dog and the giant creature rolled in a mock wrestle then tore the moss up with their paws as they happily ran around the yard.
“What sweet dogs,” cooed the illuminated newcomer.
“Is it a dog?” said the techie dad.
“Of course,” said the woman.
“But it was a chair,” I stammered.
The woman shrugged. “Stranger things have happened.”
“I still think it’s a bear,” said the taller of the two men.
The business executive in the mermaid room, stalked away, muttering something about keeping better control of one’s pets.
“I know you, don’t I?” I asked the moon-skinned woman.
“You’ve seen me many times and never before,” she said gently. I felt myself glow, not like her, this woman with her luminous skin, but somewhere deeper, somewhere on the inside.
“Will you be needing a room this evening?” I asked her.
“I’m just passing through,” she said. Then nodding to the mess on the porch, she offered to help me clean up. While I told her it was no trouble at all, she insisted, and together we picked up the broken pieces and swept the crushed moon cake into the trash. I asked if she would like a piece of cheese, and she shook her head sheepishly but asked if I might have any spare cake left still. I told her that I did happen to have a few pieces leftover in the kitchen, and after I retrieved them, we sat on the porch. The dogs eventually tired and came to lay beside us. The great, giant white beast sat dutifully beside the strange woman, his head resting in her lap, and we all watched the eclipse in contended silence.
As midnight approached, the woman squeezed my arm gently. “I’m afraid it’s time to go again, but it was so good to meet you,” she said.
“You too,” I said.
The woman thoughtfully looked down at her fingers curled into the long, shaggy fur of the giant dog. “Such a beautiful animal. What are you going to do with him?” she said. “He can’t go back to where he came from.”
“I don’t suppose you could take him. He seems to like you,” I said. This was an understatement. The huge thing looked at her with dopey eyes and seemed prepared to follow her anywhere. Not that I blamed him because a part of me felt the same way.
“Oh, I don’t know. I’ve never had a pet before,” she said, but her face glowed, both with delight and with some very interesting genetics. “But I would have enough space for him in the house, at any time of the year, and it would be nice to have someone to talk to,” she said with a grin.
“I think you belong together,” I said.
She thanked me and stood.
“See you around?” I asked.
“See you around,” she said. Then with the werehair white dog on her heels, the woman walked towards the trees. As the moonlight reappeared, they were gone, but my heart was happy. Everything had gone so wrong, but everything had gone so right. All was dark, and all was bright.
The odd thing though, is that the next morning, I had almost forgotten about the whole thing. But then I received a note in the post box from Mr. Leake. It read:
“Greywatch sends his sincerest apologies about the chair. Thanks for your patience and hospitality.
I keep staring at this note over and over again, hopelessly trying to solve two questions. How did he know about the chair? And who is Greywatch?
Till next time listeners,
Be kind, go stargazing sometime soon, and don’t forget to water your plants,
Hey, it’s Bailey Loveless, writer and reader of Gabriela & The Inn Between. Thanks for tuning in to this week’s episode. If you enjoyed the show, please consider supporting via Ko-Fi, link in the show notes below. It costs less than your favorite latte, and your contribution keeps the show self-sustaining and advertisement free. 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, link also in the show notes. New episodes of Gabriela and the Inn Between release twice a month during the quarter moon phase. You can tell we’re fond of our moons around here. I look forward to seeing you on the next episode. In between time, keep warm and keep well. See you next time, folks.