Hellecchino, which means “little devil,” is the pre-popular, peasant name of (Harlequin) of Commedia dell’arte fame (most people will probably know this via Moliere). He came into existence because I saw the need for a new kind of hero, for our modern heroes, resurrected versions of old heroes, is just as violent and destructive and obsessed with his rightness as the villains. And, in the end, he never vanquishes the enemy; the enemy keeps coming back–or more enemies arrive to wreak havoc. I felt the enemy, the bad guy needed to be made to be ridiculous; and the good guy needed to be more non-violent. And, intellectually, a trickster is far more powerful than a big, brawny, masculine hero. Hellecchino follows directly in line with prior tricksters. I am sorry a female did not become involved; but a disabled guy did. Even more than women, the disabled are counted out of society. Hellecchino has affected my writing in general and, also, my life: I’ve watched myself lead “villains” on–and enjoyed it tremendously.
Out-take from a Hellecchino story
set in Chokepointe Piste in the
East Coahila Brazos River Basin
Nobody knows how it happened, but the next morning found Hellecchino perched atop the hitching post before the house of Hacienda loco plátano. In the dawn’s early light, Hellecchino was proudly beheld in all his pink-and-magenta-and-purple majesty by an incredulous Gyorgy Yabu.
“What the hell,” Yabu muttered from behind his big plate glass window and stepped out on the porch. He took a sip of his hot coffee from his extra big clown cup as if he owned the world and Hellecchino was a speck of dust. “What the hell you doin’ on my ranch?”
“Well,” drawled Hellecchino, “I come to talk to a man who done got some enlightenment. Ain’t never met one before.”
“Well, here I am.”
“You don’t look no diff’rent.”
“Diff’rent from what?”
“From anybody else.”
“Looks is deceivin’.”
“I must say. . .tell me about your journey.”
“Up Merengue Montaña?”
“You go anywhere else?”
“Nope. Nowhere else to go for enlightenment these days.” Hellecchino waited. Yabu shifted his teddy bear slippers on the porch. “It was a jolly good time. But Merengue Montaña was larger and higher than I expected.”
“It should be. It’s the most famous mountain in the world. Was there anything interesting at the top?”
“What a silly question.” Yabu sipped his coffee. “Nothing special, ya know. After we entered the state of Roswell we stayed over night at the foot of the mountain. There was a crowd of pilgrims, of course, and in the course of conversation, we younger men thought it would be fun to put a paper bag over Merengue Montaña. The older folks thought it was impossible and laughed at us. We said he could. So. . .” Yabu shifted his teddy beat slippers about, “we brought out bamboo spoons and, each holding one in his mouth, two in his hands and two more in his toes, we began to make paste. In no time, we made it as high as the mountain. Next, we collected all the paper from the provinces of White Sands and Truth or Consequences. I figured we were going to make a huge bag but my fellow journeymen began to paste paper on the mountain sides and, in no time, we were at the top of Merengue Montaña. It was all clothed in a paper bag. Ain’t that a unheard-of thang?”
“Nah! That ain’t so unusual. Last year when I went over to Wasatch-Cache province, the young’uns brewed tea in the Great Salt Lake and then drank it all up. The entire lake.”
“You cain’t trick me! How could anybody drink up an entire lake?”
“Listen. They said, let’s make tea in the lake and they gathered up all the tea leaves, irrespective of quality, from the five neighboring provinces. In no time there was a pile of tea leaves as high as Dante’s View. Well, they put it all into the lake using their mulberry brooms with handles one hundred feet long and began to sir it up. When they was done, they blew off the froth and drank it up just like that. In fact, they drank the whole lake dry but the froth they blew off still remains and it’s known as Plain o’ Froth.”
“What a yarn! The Plain o’ Froth appears in the tale of Paul Bunyan.”
“But you don’t know the new Plain o’ Froth right beside it, which appeared last year.”
“If you think it’s a lie, you just go and look for yourself.”
“Wa-all. . .I ain’t about t’ argue with ya, but. . .” Yabu sipped his coffee and shuffled his slippers, “just you listen to this! A few years ago when I went over into the western part of the country, I saw a bull lay down in the Mojave Desert and feed on the Sandwich Islands. Imagine that!–feeding himself across mountains, rivers and the sea. Some big fucking beast, eh?’
‘That’s not so wonderful. Why, when I went over to the Black Hills, I saw a drum nine miles in circumference.”
Yabu nodded his head. Smiled out the side of his mouth. “That’s ridiculous, of course. You may be able to make a ring out’n wood slats but you’re not gonna find a hide nine miles large, that’s fer shur.”
“What th’hell do you know? I’m telling the truth. I can verify it was the hide of that bull you saw laying down in the Mojave.”
“Great Scott! You don’t say.” Hellecchino nodded his head. “Well, I’ll be. How come you know all these stories? You’re so clever.”
“Oh, tall tales come easy, though I never tell outsiders my secret.”
“The secret to successfully makin’ a fool outa people.”
“Shore which I knew it!”
“Well, you got your enlightenment, I got mine.”
“Aw, c’mon. We’re brothers in arms.”
“Oh, alright. But ya gotta promise not to tell anyone.”
“Cross my heart and hope to die.” Yabu did it, spilling the remaining coffee out of his cup.
“There’s a special seed for stories anybody’d believe no matter how outrageous and unfounded. It’s called. . .” here Hellecchino leaned in conspiratorially, “Geoffrey Crayon’s Wives of old Burghers Seed.” Yabu nodded his head and waited. Then he leaned in. “Would you like to have one?” asked Hellecchino.
“Just you wait here a few minutes, I’ll go off and get one.”
Hellecchino jumped down off the hitching post and sauntered down the trail out of the ranch. When he was out of sight, he picked up a round pebble, unlike any other round pebble beside the road, and spoke to it in all earnestness. “Pebble. . .can you believe this shit? He wants a seed of lies and I’m going to give him you. What do you think of this?” The pebble said nothing. “There certainly are some fools in this world, eh what?” Then he loped back to the Hacienda loco plátano hitching post and held up the pebble. “There it is. A Geoffrey Crayon’s Wives of old Burghers Seed. There’s more out there.”
“Buried it just outside your entrance gate, I been told.” He held the little pebble up to his ear. “You hafta dig it up or it ain’t worth nothin’.”
“Hot damn! You jest wait a sec, I’ll git my shovel an’ we’ll go on down t’th’gate and start diggin’.”
“We, white man? If’n you want the secret to tall story tellin’, you gotta dig it up yourself. I can’t help you.”
“What the hell! Fer a prize like that, I’d walk acrosst Kansas.” And with that, Yabu ran round back of the house, hunted around in the tool shed and came back with a flat edge spade. “Let’s go!”
Hellecchino shook his head sadly–this man obviously hadn’t ever been on the business end of a shovel. The ground out here was hard and a pointy-ended shovel was what was needed. But, who the hell was Hellecchino to tell a man what to do?
When they got to the gate, Yabu turned to Hellecchino. “Where is it at?”
“Right there, as I recall,” said Hellecchino, pointing to the right post foot.
Yabu began digging. Or, rather, he jammed the shovel down onto the hard, hard earth and watched it jump right back up at him. He scowled and slammed the spade down on the ground again.
“Maybe you might try puttin’ the corner of the shovel into the ground. Gettin’ yourself a little hole.”
Yabu did this and, lo and behold, he began to dig himself a hole. But after an hour or so, he stopped digging. He wiped the sweat from his high brow. He leaned on the handle of the shovel.
“You shore it’s here?”
“Dig a little deeper.”
“Hell! I cain’t dig no deeper!”
“You don’t see it down there?”
Yabu bent over and looked in his hole. “No. I cain’t find nothin’.”
“Ah. Well. Perhaps it was over to this post.” Hellecchino turned around, stopping every once in awhile to consider. “Yes. That’s it. I was standin’ the other way round. It’s here. I remember now.”
Yabu dug into the dry, dry earth, Hellecchino reminding him to put the corner of his square spade into the ground first. After awhile, though, Yabu stopped digging and looked into his little hole.
“I don’t see nothin’.”
“You ain’t dug deep enough yet.”
“The hell you say!”
“Well, if you want the Geoffrey Crayon’s Wives of old Burghers Seed, you’ll keep digging, even if you dig all the way to China.”
“You think the Chinese got it?”
“Well, I’ll be damned!”
“You come get me when you found the Geoffrey Crayon’s Wives of old Burghers Seed. I got business in town.”
“Alright. I’ll do that.”
And Hellecchino went jauntily on down the road to Chokepointe Piste just a-whistlin’ Dixie to a shovel counterpoint.