KNIGHTS OF FANTASIA
By John Thomas Tuft
Randy is the first to arrive for the meeting of the Knights of Fantasia. He struts down Jefferson Boulevard dressed in his Harry Potter at Hogwarts best: a long black cape that sweeps the ground behind his heels, trimmed in gold and burgundy paisley around the entire edge of the dramatic garment. Randy knows that he draws looks as he passes by, and secretly gloats that these strangers know nothing of his extraordinary powers. He sweeps into the diner with an urgent flaring of the cape, making it swirl out around him as he turns to face the room. “Is my table ready?” he asks with his best Dumbledore voice. “Do not pity the dead. Pity the living, and above all, those who live without love.” Then he adds, to his puzzled audience, “Do not fear. Snape will set me free.” He does a slow turn, sees the eyerolls and shaking of heads and gathers the cloak tight around his slender frame. They don’t know it, he assures himself, but they are in the presence of greatness. Real and imagined, as all greatness truly is, after all.
Next to arrive is Kimberly. Kimberly is the custodian for the local parish down the street. Her family is glad that she found employment of some sort with her “being on the spectrum and all,” as they speak of her struggle to find her place. As each generation seems to successively compete for their own diagnostic tiks, and fret over how to define their traumas as uniquely life-shaping, Kimberly’s approach is “tell me what you want done and I’ll do it.” For her, the Knights of Fantasia means that she belongs somewhere. She has her people. She enters the diner in her jeans and peasant blouse, rubber gloves jammed into the back pocket. She pulls out a bottle of spray from somewhere, mists the table-top and chairs, then proceeds to wipe them down. Cleanliness is next to godliness, after all.
Guy makes his entrance, dressed in an old lime green leisure suit, white shirt, and bolo string tie. He has to keep hitching up the pants over his beer belly. Guy likes to carry a big, fat wallet in his back pocket, jammed full of pictures and paper money. In the other back pocket is the greasy comb that he frequently takes out to run through his thinning dark hair. Guy is proud of the fact that he has successfully resisted the beard craze. He wants to look good on camera. For the ladies. His mission in life. As a Knight of Fantasia, his self-assigned role is to cruise the online live porn sites, like PornHub. When he finds someone to save, he joins her live feed and texts encouragement. Even Bible verses, especially the ones in red ink, from Jesus’ own mouth. Guy just recently realized that there’s much more to porn though. All types for all tastes and pleasures. It’s a big world and Guy wants his place in it to not go unnoticed. At the very least, he’s going to need a bigger wallet. Maybe the other Knights can give him advice. That’s what friends are for, after all.
Marianne comes in as quietly as she can manage. In a time gone by, Marianne was an “indigent admit” to the Blue Ridge Psychiatric Facility. She has become institutionalized. At different times, the staff has considered discharging her out into the world. But they don’t know if the world is ready for Marianne. She wants the safety and surety of the big facility, no group home for her. Nobody is quite sure even what her admitting diagnosis was any longer. Finally, a program was devised where she gets a daily pass outside, but she can return to the Blue Ridge every evening for a safe place to sleep and get food in her belly. Marianne tells them she has to stay so that she can finish the epic poem she’s writing on the walls of her room. The Knights of Fantasia are her touchpoint with outside reality. “The oceans are filled with the tears of God,” begins her poem, begun with her own blood in her cutting phase. “Avoiding the fresh water of the lakes of our fears and the rivers of our sorrows…” The Knights are her encouragement, after all.
Daniel the Puppet King is the last to arrive, the Silver Knight of Fantasia. “I am the Paraclete of this Paradise,” he proclaims, striding into the diner in his furry outfit, complete with a swishing tail and pawprint mittens, and taking his seat at the head of the table. The other Knights take their places. Daniel leaves the mask of Daniel Striped Tiger in place over his face as he goes around the table giving each Knight a chance to talk. Randy, Kimberly, Guy and Marianne all give updates on their trying their best to be Knights of Fantasia. After each one finishes, Daniel the Puppet King goes to them, takes a tube of bright red lipstick from his pocket, cups their chins in his hand, and, “I give you the seal of the Holy Kiss,” he solemnly intones as he draws a red X on their foreheads. He knows that they all need this kind of love. Who among us does not… After all.