Chapter Three: A Descent to Neverland with Three Authorial Ghosts

As with the other rides, Walt’s cartoon graphics festooned the entrance, and as with the previous two rides, the moment the little tracked pirate ships entered the dark ride, it became something else entirely. The four tiny plastic ships they sat in dissolved and each rider found himself suspended on a canvas seat while the overhead fiberglass sails blossomed into individual paraglider sails. Instead of floating magically over nighttime Edwardian London, they each swung pendulum-like beneath their black sails over a seemingly bottomless darkness. Stars twinkled around them. With Lute in the lead of the line of the four paragliders, they began to spiral down.

To Lute’s left, the outside of their clockwise spiral, jetted a stream of sparkles. “It’s Tinker Bell!”

She was followed by the downward flights of Peter Pan, Wendy, John, and Michael. Seeing the familiar fairy and kids lifted Lute’s spirits. Being in a twilight amusement park with no children running around seemed more than a bit creepy to him. Lute looked behind him as best he could and shouted to Mr. Barrie, “Are we going to follow them?”

“Er, no, I think not,” said Mr. Barrie. “Would you care to visit the tribal village?”

“Tiger Lilly and the Indians?”

“No, not their tribe: In the future, some will protest my boyish stereotyping of native Americans. So, for this dark ride I replaced them with a tribe related to my heritage, the Iceni.”

“Ah, Jamie, shouldn’t that be a tribe of Picts?” shouted Mr. Grahame. Mr. Carroll was greatly amused.

Picts or Iceni made no difference to Lute who knew nothing of either tribe. “What about Tiger Lilly?”

“The poor little dear had to be also retired. Maybe, after we land you’ll have a chance to meet her replacement, a Celtic queen by the name of Boudica.”

Still they spiraled down, their corkscrew path aiming at a point undeterminable in the inky darkness below their feet. Faintly at first and then plainly, in the black night sky around them, an image appeared, floating constantly in front of them. It looked to be a projected visual from the Peter Pan cartoon, the ending scene in which Mrs. Darling laments her missing children. Slowly the pastel colored grieving mother faded into a black and white image of a sad eyed woman dressed wholly in black. On the woman’s sides and in the background, floated images of two witches that even in their deformity looked eerily familiar to Lute. Mr. Barrie glided alongside Lute.

“There were no witches in my Peter Pan stories. Are you projecting into my dark ride?”

Lute stared at the deformed faces until he recognized the witches as his older sisters. Surprised and a bit mystified he said, “I don’t mean to. Really, I don’t know how they got there.”

Mr. Barrie steered his paraglider close to the other two men. “Did you see that? The floating image of my mother? And then, those, those witches.”

“Jaime, when did you add witches to your mix of boyish pretend?” asked Mr. Grahame.

“I never did. Lute must be projecting his characters into my setting.” Mr. Barrie pointed straight down. “Land ho! That’s my Neverland directly below.”

Lute looked between his dangling feet and could make out a dark mass of land rising out of a star reflecting ebony sea. After staring hard at the approaching land, a lagoon could be seen, and down the coast, a bay with a three-masted ship lying at anchor. Much faster than a normal night becoming day, the light of dawn flooded the landscape. Now they were able to see creeks and clearings. In one of the clearings could be seen several rough structures and campfires. Mr. Barrie, with an outstretched arm and finger, indicated to Lute a clearing nearby to the village. “Land there.”

Lute’s feet touched the earth first, a gentle landing without a misstep. Behind him his paraglider sail fluttered to the ground. Each of the three men in the descending line behind him landed as gently.

“We’ll just walk into the village and have a look around. You’ll see how the Celtic men and women lived, oh, so long ago. Wait, here comes someone to welcome us.”

Emerging from the thick grove of trees separating them from the village appeared a figure cloaked in a full length white robe. The cowl of her hood hung so far over her face, her eyes could not be seen only her long gray hair and the delicate lines of her mouth; around her neck hung a large and elaborately fashioned gold torc. Mr. Grahame leaned down to whisper in Lute’s ear, “That is none other than Queen Boudica and those are her druid priests.”

Closely following behind the queen, her druids lined up to her left. On her right, and hanging back in the dimly lit shadows, two figures came forward just enough for Lute to begin to recognize their black costumes. Each of them raised an arm and pointed at him.

“It’s my sisters!” yelled Lute.

“Where?” asked Mr. Barrie. “I don’t see any witches.”

“They disappeared,” said Lute.

Queen Boudica and her druids stood silently just a few yards away from the authors and Lute. Their quiet stance made them seem threatening as well as mysterious. Mr. Barrie stepped forward and bowed. The queen pushed back the cowl of her white robe. As Mr. Barrie’s head rose to level, his eyes opened wide in shock. “Mother!”

“Seize him!” shouted the woman.

Her druid priests, surrounded Mr. Barrie and wrapped their arms around him. While the three other riders of the Peter Pan dark ride watched, the druids wound a rope around Mr. Barrie’s torso and then used one end of it to lead him away. Before leaving the speechless three, Queen Boudica said to them, “Find David and bring him to the place of sacrifice.”

“Who’s David?” asked Lute.

“She is referring to Peter Pan,” said Mr. Carroll. “Many readers mistakenly assume that Jaime based his Peter Pan character on Peter Llwelyn – a bit of a long story that, with only a kennel of truth in it. In fact, it’s David, his older brother who died age thirteen, who is the boy that never grew up.”

“All psychological analysis aside, we should go find Peter Pan,” said Mr. Grahame, “before Jaime gets hurt.”

“Ghosts can get hurt?” asked Lute.

“Not in a physical way or manner,” replied Mr. Grahame. “But our feelings can be hurt, oh, so very painfully. Be that as it may, we must hurry and ferret out the magical Peter.”

“There’s Wendy’s little house,” said Mr. Carroll pointing to the portion of it showing between the trees.

“That was fast,” said Lute.

“Jaime wrote that Neverland exists in a very compact state,” said Mr. Grahame. “We could throw a pebble in any direction and strike the pirate ship, the mermaid lagoon, or anything in his depiction of Peter’s imagination.”

They walked the short distance through the wooded area and arrived at the little house as described in the play and novel. Both men scanned the treetops and the sky above. Lute looked around at the trees and counted seven doors each in its own tree. He also noticed smoke coming out of an impossibly large mushroom. After peering through a curtained window in the little house, he knocked on the front door. A boy wearing glasses and a top hat opened the door. “Please, don’t knock. We don’t want to be disturbed. Wendy is almost ready to tell us a bedtime story.”

“Forgive our interruption,” said Mr. Carroll who had come up behind Lute. “But it is imperative that we speak to your captain.”

“Peter!” shouted the boy. “At the door there is someone who wishes to see you.”

“Tell them to go away,” said a voice from far inside the house. After Peter said that, eight boys crowded past the boy at the door and came outside, evidently to see who the visitors were. It reminded Lute of the clown car at the circus, and he wondered if the little house had an extensive basement.

“It’s very important,” said Mr. Grahame, “Queen Boudica has taken Jaime, our fellow author, captive – you know, J.M. Barrie, the man who wrote the story in which you exist.”

“Well,” said Peter’s voice, now much closer to the door, “If he wrote the story, then he can write himself out of it.”

“That would seem logical,” said Mr. Carroll. “However, he is as much a prisoner of his own story as you are.”

Followed by Wendy, Peter came outside, “I don’t understand.”

“Queen Boudica…” began Mr. Grahame.

“Who’s she?” asked Peter.

“She’s Tiger Lilly’s replacement, though I suppose the character should be younger than the historic Queen Boudica, a princess maybe.” Mr. Grahame said this and looked to Mr. Carroll for approval.

“Who’s Tiger Lilly?” asked Peter beginning to look irritated.

“She was in the old version of the story. You cunningly saved the pretty maiden from Marooner’s Rock where Captain Hook had left her to drown.” Mr. Grahame looked hopeful after saying this.

“I suppose I did,” said Peter sounded a bit happier after being described as cunning. “But who’s Captain Hook?”

Both men looked down the thirteen-year-old boy whose expression showed puzzlement mixed with boredom and irritation. Mr. Carroll stroked his chin and then quietly said to Mr. Grahame, “Jaime thought he’d fixed the paradox of a boy, who, though living eternally child sized never grew in wisdom and experience, by giving the character severe long-term memory loss.”

“Maybe he thought he solved that paradox, but he merely substituted that flaw in the story with a flawed boy who unlike normal children cannot build upon old experiences. In a way, he created Peter as a mental defect – not a very attractive characteristic,” said Mr. Grahame.

“Not attractive at all,” said Mr. Carroll. “That just illustrates that authors should never explain the basis of their fantasy worlds – not in logical terms at any rate. Though, perhaps it can be done with…”

Feeling a bit alarmed by the two men’s lack of attention to the urgency of the situation Lute stopped listening to them and blurted, “Peter! You can be the hero! Help us save Mr. Barrie.”

“I’ll do it!” shouted Peter while the boys and Wendy clapped their hands. “Where is your friend being held captive?”

Mr. Grahame looked thoughtful for a second and then said, “Well, the queen had druids seize Jamie, so I suppose they would take him to some sort of Stonehenge arrangement of standing stones.”

“Look!” shouted Lute while pointing. “There they go!”

Indeed, Queen Boudica led a file of her druids who had the rope wrapped Mr. Barrie in tow. They had passed to the outside of the tiny clearing where the little house stood and were now marching away.

“They’re headed to Mermaid Lagoon,” said Peter.

“Thankfully he can at least remember locations on this island, ones that he, himself, brought into existence by the power of his pretend,” muttered Mr. Grahame to Mr. Carroll.

“Wendy, you stay here and tell the boys another story.” Peter said this, leapt into the air, and flew away.

Mr. Carroll smiled at Wendy and said, “You might entertain the boys with a poem I wrote. It’s called, The Walrus and the Carpenter.”

“I don’t think so,” replied Wendy. “I never much cared for it.”

As the group followed in the direction of the queen and the druids, Mr. Carroll said quietly to Mr. Grahame and Lute, “Unpleasant little girl, probably illiterate.”

By the time the two authors and Lute reached the lagoon, the scene had been set as imagined by Mr. Barrie. The tied-up imagineering ghost sat on the barren Marooner’s Rock awaiting rescue… or death by the rising tide which evidently in Neverland came in fast and high. The queen, who was either Boudica the Celt or Mr. Barrie’s mother, Margaret, stood on a rocky promontory overlooking the lagoon. Upon the still water, Druids, each with a flaming torch, floated on coracles or bird’s nests – it was hard to tell which in the semi-darkness of the dawn light. Marooner’s Rock rose above the water just a short distance from the shore that the two authors and Lute stood on. Between them and the place of marooning a very small green rock lay, just big enough to serve as a stepping stone.

“Here I am to save the day!” Lute didn’t have time to turn around to verify that the voice belonged to Peter Pan because the flying boy had swooped down and picked Lute up by one hand. Peter lifted him a little into the air and before depositing Lute next to Mr. Barrie bounced the boy’s feet off the stepping stone which caused the green stone to raise its eyes and snout out of the water. Clamped by its toothy jaws, the crocodile held what looked to be a silver hand-sized hook.

Mr. Carroll stared at the grinning crocodile for a moment and then wagged his finger at the great beast. “Bad crocodile; Walt’s going to be very unhappy with you when he finds out you killed off a favorite character of his.”

“Look!” shouted Lute from the rock. “Peter is flying away!”

“He’s sure to return. Meanwhile,” shouted Mr. Grahame to Lute, “you can busy yourself with freeing Jamie from his bondage.”

“Jaime!” shouted Mr. Carroll, “you are the imagineer who designed this ride. Why are you imagining your mother holding you hostage?”

“I suppose it was because I always felt invisible in the shadow of her memory of David. I never could replace David in Mother’s heart. Maybe if I bring him back to her, she will finally see me as my own person.”

Mr. Grahame said quietly to Mr. Carroll, “It’s a poor writer who has his characters in dialogue plainly state the plot or explain the theme.”

“In two books I was spared that temptation,” replied Mr. Carroll. “My Alice books have no plots.”

Mr. Grahame nodded his agreement, and then mused loud enough for those on the rock to hear, “In the play and novel, Peter Pan would fight Captain Hook and, of course, save the day. But here, we have the odd situation of a character, Peter, partially originated from Jamie’s memory of his brother, set to fight the character stand-in for Jamie’s mother. One wonders how such a situation could resolve itself.”

“The question intrigues us all, Kenneth,” replied Mr. Carroll.

“Mr. Barrie should’ve stuck with the pirates,” shouted Lute.

“Yes, that situation would’ve been as normal and straightforward as little boys pretending to kill sociopathic pirates, but this plot setup is for David (as Peter) to physically contest his mother, is it not?” said Mr. Graham.

“That’s just sick,” shouted Lute. “Look! Here comes Peter again!”

“He’s flying straight at his mother – I mean Queen Boudica,” said Mr. Carroll.

Up on the rocky ledge, the queen held open her arms and Peter flew into them, hugging her as she tightly hugged him.

“Mother,” said the boy.

“David,” said the queen.

“Mother, I don’t want to grow up.”

“You don’t have to. You’ll always be my darling boy.”

Holding hands they walked away from the edge of the cliff and disappeared from view. The druids, floating in their coracles like leaves on a motionless pond, looked at one another, seemingly puzzled as to what to do next.

“Evidently, Jamie forgot to write in paddles or exit lines for his druids,” said Mr. Grahame.

From out of the darkness of a sea cave dozens of swimmers stroked into their view. The swimmers surrounded each little craft. They raised their arms out of the water and put their pretty hands on each crafts gunwale.”

“Oh yeah, the mermaids,” said Lute. “They ought’ta help those guys.”

The mermaids pulled hard on the gunwales causing them to tip over. All the druids splashed into the water with frightened cries as unseen hands pulled on the druids’ legs and arms.

“Those mermaids are trying to drown the druids!” shouted Lute.

“We should try to save them,” said Mr. Carroll.

“You should try to save Lute and yours truly. The flood tide is washing over our toes and that crocodile is circling our diminished rock,” said Mr. Barrie.

“Look!” shouted Lute.

Mr. Barrie looked down at Lute. “You keep exclaiming that stage direction. Are you in any way, imagineering into my dark ride?”

But Lute kept his arm rigidly pointing, unable to take his eyes off the sight of two figures walking across the surface of the water. Now the three authors watched as the two figures, clad in black clothes suggestive of something a witch would wear, came close enough for the three authors and Lute to clearly see their faces, and very pretty faces they were.

“It’s my sisters.”

The girl-witches raised their arms in some sort of magical gesture and the mermaids let go of their victims. The druids, some of them helped with magical levitations by the pretty witches, climbed back into their coracles. The two witches then walked across the water to the two very impressed authors on shore. Behind them they towed a rowboat. They motioned for the two to climb in which they did. Mr. Carroll and Mr. Grahame each took up an oar and rowed to the rock where Lute climbed into the bow. After Mr. Barrie settled onto the stern thwart, they rowed toward the opening in the lagoon that led to the sea. The witches, smiling brightly, waved goodbye to the four.

Standing unsteadily in the bow, Lute shouted “Thank you a whole bunch. I really mean it.”

The others in the boat also called out their thanks and waved goodbye. They rowed on in silence, leaving the dark mass of land behind them and dawn’s first light barely illuminating the glassy sea ahead of them.

“A bit outré, don’t you think, Jamie,” asked Mr. Grahame, “having a mother figure make an appearance in your dark ride?”

“Not in the least: In my original story there was always the theme of Wendy playing at being mother to the lost boys who so wanted one.”

“Yes, that is true,” replied Mr. Grahame. “Wendy is an awfully good creation. It’s a shame when Walt decried the lack of warmth in Peter Pan (and in, Alice, too, Charles) he didn’t light upon the notion of elevating Wendy into the lead role.”

“At least, Walt removed ubiquitous death from your story,” said Mr. Carroll. “In your, or your Peter’s, Neverland there’s much too much killing.”

“That,” protested Mr. Barrie, “is what little boys pretend at. I merely copied their predilection for adventure which they play out as heroic life or death struggles against potentially lethal – though never successfully so – opponents.”

Ahead of them the pirate ship floated placidly tethered by a slack anchor chain. In the lighted stern cabin they could see two figures moving about. The glassy sea reflected the light emanating from the cabin. On the ship’s deck, not a soul could be seen. Mr. Carroll and Mr. Grahame skillfully brought the rowboat alongside the ship and held onto it as first Mr. Barrie climbed aboard and then Lute. After securing the boat’s painter, the two oarsmen also climbed aboard. Cautiously the four walked aft and to the door leading to the captain’s door.

“Should we knock and announce ourselves?” asked Mr. Carroll in a whisper.

Mr. Barrie put himself in front of Mr. Carroll and pushed the door wide open. “Aha, you pirates, we are here to seize your ship!”

The others followed him inside the cabin. They looked around but found no one.

“It’s a ghost ship,” said Mr. Carroll.

“All too obvious, Charles,” said Mr. Grahame, “all too, too, obvious.”

“So, the ship is ours to sail home in?” asked Lute.

“Oh laddie, we might have a problem with that,” said Mr. Barrie. “For you see, in all the versions of my story, Tinker Bell’s pixie dust played a significant role in accomplishing any kind of homecoming. She’s still essential to the storyline.”

“She’s over there,” said Lute. “Someone’s locked her up inside that glass thing.”

“Lute’s right,” said Mr. Grahame. “She sleeps within the lantern. Charles, tap on the glass and ask her for some assistance.”

“I don’t speak fairy.” Even so, Mr. Carroll tapped on the glass of the candle lantern and softly said, “Wake up minute fairy creature, rise and shine.”

Tinker Bell’s glow increased but still the men and the boy could not see a winged humanoid figure.

“She’s much smaller than the cartoon version,” said Mr. Grahame, “though I remember from seeing the play, she was always depicted by a tiny spot of light. The audience never really gained a sense of what she actually looked like.”

“It was Walt who enlarged her into a sailor’s pinup,’ said Mr. Barrie. “Anyway, Peter always spoke plain English to her and she understood him well enough.” Mr. Barrie put his mouth close to the lantern. “Tink, can you hear me? If so, please help us exit this dark ride. Blink your glow once for no and twice for yes.”

The glow from within the lantern diminished, intensified, and then diminished again. Lute and the three authors broke out into smiles. Mr. Grahame shouted out, “Three cheers for the wee fairy!”

Lute, who had heard of the three cheers thing, didn’t actually know how to do it, so he just followed along as the men shouted, “huzzah!” three times. After they finished, they waited a few seconds in unsure silence.

“Maybe we should let her out,” said Lute.

“Right,” said Mr. Barrie who opened one of the lantern’s glass panels. The tiny point of light fluttered out of the lantern, across the cabin, and out the window. The men looked at each other, and then followed Lute out the door. They gathered at the port rail of the ship and watched the tiny point of light flicker and flutter its way to the island.

Lute turned away, crossed his arms and angrily said, “Can’t trust girls no matter what size they are.”

Just then, they felt a faint wind on their cheeks. Looking to the windward, they could see ripples texturing the sea surface.

“All hands to the halyards!” shouted Mr. Grahame. But before they could haul away at the halyards, the mainsail dropped and guided by invisible hands the sheets pulled in and secured themselves. Slowly the ship gained way and so Lute followed the men forward to the anchor capstan. Mr. Grahame leaned over the bow. “The anchor chain is up and down. Haul away.”

But they didn’t have to, because the anchor chain simply disappeared. Other sails unfurled and set themselves. The wind increased and the boat began to heel over.

“Can I steer?” asked Lute.

“It’s a ghost ship. It goes where its spirit moves it,” explained Mr. Grahame.

By now the wind had become vocal, in other words, it shrieked. The heel of the ship made it hard to walk fore or aft. They huddled by the windward rail and held on as the ship tore through the water. Seawater flooded aboard the lee deck of the ship and washed about before draining through a scupper. Lute, excited and exhilarated by this wild ride, felt sure he was headed homeward.

Dead ahead, a wall of green water taller the ship’s foremast, started to turn into raging white foam at its top. The ship aimed downward as it raced into a wave trough making the approaching wall of green death seem even taller.

“It’s going to crush us!” shouted Mr. Barrie.

“Actually, the ship is more likely to broach in the face of that giant breaking wave thus causing the ship to roll over and turn turtle, so to speak. Of course, we’re certain to experience the pain of drowning.” said Mr. Grahame.

“I suppose we can thank your Cornwall sailing experience for that heartening bit of clarification,” said Mr. Carroll.

Time and events moved in slow motion as the previous lengthy conversation would seem to indicate. At the bottom of the trough, green water crashed over the bow and when all the spray and foam cleared and the bow rose again, ahead lay nothing but the monstrous green wall. The bow of the ship disappeared into the wave wall and they all screamed as the rest of ship followed. But instead of being sixty feet underwater, they looked around to see a very calm harbor (though quite damp from the thick fog, to be sure) and the ship peacefully secured to the dock. On the wharf a door stood alone and without a wall. Above it a lighted red sign read, “Exit”.

“Well, that was exciting,” said Mr. Carroll. “All ashore that’s going ashore, I believe is the appropriate expression.”

They walked down the gangplank, each glad to be on solid ground again. Before exiting Mr. Barrie’s dark ride, an old salt, seated on a barrel and mending a fishnet, said to Lute, “The scuttlebutt says you got some ugly sisters and witches they be.”

Lute met the old salt’s stare. “My sisters are not ugly witches!”

The old salt winked at him and said, “Be sure and confess that to The Old Man and, blimey… by the blessed Saint Francis de Sale, don’t forget the lesson you learned here and soon you’ll be casting your anchor in your home waters.”

The three authors and Lute exited the ride and once again, stood under twilight skies and in front of the colorful entrance to Peter Pan’s Flight. With a hopeful look of expectation, Lute waited for the three authors to say some final thoughts before he surely would return to the land of the living and to normal daylight. They smiled at him and said nothing so Lute said, “Well, I guess this is goodbye. It’s been neat having adventures and stuff with you guys, but I really got to get going.”

“Of course,” said Mr. Grahame. “You must be off. But, as the cliché character informed you, you must first confess to ‘The Old Man’.”

“Hold on,” said Mr. Barrie, “was he referring to God or to Walt Disney?”

“Hmm.” Mr. Grahame stroked his chin. “Walt still inhabits the world of the living, so passing on messages directly from our realm to his realm is an impossibility. Therefore, logic dictates the old salt was referring to the Heavenly Father.”

“I’m astounded by you fellows,” said Mr. Carroll. “Without a doubt, the old salt was referring to the Good Lord. Lute simply needs to confess his sins of resentment and anger, and pray for forgiveness.”

“Deal! I’ll do it as soon as I get home, or maybe in church next Sunday. I promise you guys and God I won’t write stupid stories calling my sisters witches. Promise.”

“Excellent, my boy,” said Mr. Carroll. “But, remember, the old salt compounded his advice. Now, tell us the lesson you learned.”



“Well, I learned that I shouldn’t write stories about my sisters being ugly witches.”

“Hmm, that’s a very good lesson to have learned,” said Mr. Barrie. “Unfortunately, that’s not the relevant one for our storyline.”

“It’s not?” Lute scrunched up his face in puzzlement. “Well, was it about the rides?”

“Yes,” said Mr. Grahame encouragingly, “Keep developing that train of thought.”

“It was about the rides and you writer guys. And about how if you’re going to create a ride or a cartoon, you really shouldn’t do it to stories whose writers put a lot of creepy emotional stuff in them.”

“Not elegantly expressed, but adequate in its essence,” said Mr. Grahame.

“And also,” said Mr. Carroll, “Never have a character in Oz speak the moral of the story.”

Mr. Barrie gave Mr. Carroll a sour look, as if he had wandered too far afield.

“Seriously, Charles, I’m sure Mr. Baum had his reasons,” said Mr. Grahame. “Hold on, I accuse the man falsely. That bit was added by the screenplay writers and it seemed to work well enough in the film.”

“Gentlemen, let us return to the essential matter at hand,” said Mr. Barrie. “Lute, know this above all things authorial: Never hack away at a classic children’s story exposing the complex substratum because every writer who ever wrote a work of genius – in children’s literature – infused his work with a considerable amount of personal and psychological baggage.”

“Really, Jamie,” said Mr. Carroll. “Do you actually expect the boy to remember all that? Why not sum it up as follows? The moral is: To entertain children, keep the storyline simple, superficial, and silly.”

“Got it,” said Lute. “Can I go back to the Casa de Fritos, now?”

The three men nodded their acquiescence and then Mr. Carroll asked, “On a personal note, Lute. After you return to the realm of the living and after you reach your majority, do you think you’ll write a story, or perhaps imagineer a ride?”

“Heck, yeah. I kind of missed seeing the pirates in Neverland so I thought it would be neat to have a ride with just pirates only I wouldn’t write the pirate story at first, I’d just describe the settings and characters. And after everybody loved my ride, then maybe I’ll do a book or a movie about it.”

“Goodbye, Lute,” said the three authors in unison.

Lute started to say so long, but instead yelled, “Ow!” He looked around. To one side his older sisters looked alarmed and concerned with his eldest covering her mouth with one hand and the second eldest putting a hand on his shoulder.

“Hey, kid,” said the man hefting his large movie camera between the crowded tables. “Watch it, will ya. This is a very expensive piece of equipment.”

“No! You watch it, mister!” shouted his eldest sister. “You shouldn’t be carrying your stupid camera over my brother’s head.”

“Yeah!” shouted his second eldest sister. “You’re the one who needs to be more careful!”

Lute felt a little dazed, maybe from the blow to his head, or maybe from too much to dream. He smiled a lopsided smile at his two sisters and murmured, “My sisters are not ugly witches.”

His sisters scrunched up their faces with puzzlement and a little distaste. His eldest said, “Mom, Dad, I think we need to take the little goof to a shrink. He’s talking weird.”