Leverett Butts - Musings of a Bored English Teacher

Occasional web log from Southern writer Leverett Butts.

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Location: Temple, Georgia, United States

English Professor in Georgia. Writer of Southern lit

Monday, January 03, 2005

There's a Starman Waiting in the Sky
Part three

Saturday dawned like any other except, of course that I found myself in a very large and soft double size bed in a posh vacation resort instead of my king size bed in a modest house in Temple.

Though we had set our clocks for seven, Jim and I still found ourselves unable to rise before ten. We had once again missed the morning sessions, truly a shame since one of our GSU fellows, Sekoni, presented a paper on Shakespeare's treatment of women (in his plays one would assume) at the 8:00 Women's Caucus panel.

We, obviously, missed it.

We still had time, though, to say good-bye to the GSU students who were returning to Atlanta rather than face a day-long drive on Sunday and work the very next day. There we began discussing the omnipresent star. As it turns out, our colleagues, too had been fascinated by the astral aura that permeated the town and the veil of secrecy which surrounded it.

"I asked one of the bellboys about it last night," Koji informed us. "He looked at me like I was from Mars and said, 'What star?'"

"He did not." Jim's jaw dropped, "'What star?'"

"'What star,'" Koji confirmed, "'The star on top of your mountain,' I said, and you know what he replies?'" She did not wait for an answer. "He looks at me just as innocent as you please and asks, 'What mountain?'"

"Un-fucking-believable." I shook my head and took a swallow of coffee before telling them about Angelique's note and the upturned star at the end of the overpass.

"I've never seen anythinglike this in my life." Koji exclaimed. "What do you think's going on?"

"The Knights Templar," I said. "Freemasons, The Illuminati."

"Leverett and I are going to do some investigating into it today," Jim said. "We'll give you a call later and tell you what we find out."

With a couple of hours to kill before the first comic books panel, we decided to begin our investigation as soon as the others had left. Like any good English major, we wanted to begin our quest in a library, but we didn't know where the Roanoke public library was, if it in fact existed at all. Thus we settled on the next best thing: the local bookstore.

We found Kevin Smith behind the counter, well a reasonable facsimile thereof anyway. The clerk was in his late twenties or early thirties, slightly overweight, wearing his brown hair slightly long and sporting an almost unkempt beard. The resemblance to the director of Dogma and Clerks continued in his attire. He wore tennis shoes, faded baggy jeans, an oversized hockey jersey, and wire spectacles.

He was anythting but silent on the subject of the star.

"Hey, man," I asked him as I walked into the store, "what's the deal with the big star?"

"We're all part of a pagan cult," he responded without missing a beat and lifting both hands over his head with index and pinky fingers raised.

Jim and I stared blankly at him, then turned to each other.

"What'd I tell you?" I asked him barely concealing a note of smugness.

Kevin smiled. "I'm just kidding," he said, than after a pause, "for the most part. I'll tell you what I've heard, though. Wait over there a second." A real customer had called him away momentarily.

"Man," I said as Jim and I stepped to a more private section of the store, "this guy seems like he's really got something to get off his chest." As he helped an aged bibliophile locate the tome of his choice, our erstwhile informant kept glancing back and giving us a "just a minute" hand gesture.

"I was just kidding about the whole cult thing," Kevin said when he returned to us, "but I have heard some disturbing rumors about that damned thing." He jerked his head in the general direction of the star.

"Really?" we leaned in closer as Kevin steadily lowered his voice to a near-whisper.

"There's talk of portals and energy currents." He said. "ley lines. Lemme tell you, I'm an atheist; I make no bones about it. I believe that we're here and when we die we're worm food,nothing more. That being said, I've never seen anything I would call occult or unexplainable until I moved to this state. Dude, the Shenandoah Valley is fucked up.

"I know these two guys, who don't know each other, completely unrelated, you know? Well, they both told me the same story. On two separate occasions, these guys were alone on top of the mountain when they saw this fireball just kinda floating down the road leading from the star to the town. Neither one of them has any idea what it was. I've seen it, too, but I don't have any better idea about it than they do."

Jim and I simply stared at him. I think my mouth had dropped a little.

"It's pretty fucked up, man. You know the movie The Mothman Prophesies?"

We did.

"It happened around here someplace West Virginia I think, but the same general region. It's the Shenandoah valley, dude. You just don't wanna know."

We had a lot more questions, but Kevin had to excuse himself and see about the aged bibliophile. We decided to take our investigation further. As we left the bookstore, we turned to wave our good-byes to Kevin and were met with a disconcerting stare from the aged bibliophile.

We couldn't help but notice the gaping gash in his forehead.

"That's a creepy shaving accident," I murmurred to Jim. He had nothing to add except to grab me by the arm and rush me out the door.
We next decided to try one of the locally owned and operated clothing stores. There were two middle-aged ladies inside. One was black; one was white, but they both looked like gypsies.

"Excuse me ladies," I said, entering the boutique (Jim remained outside to finish his cigarette), "I have kind of a touristy question for you."

The two gypsy women stared at me blankly, but I remained undeterred.

"What's up with the star on the mountain?"

The white gypsy sucked in her breath rapidly, kind of like Bela Lugosi shying away from the sun. The black gypsy simply gave me a harder stare.

"Ain't nothing wrong with that star, boy," she seethed. "What you got against it?"

"I assure you," I backed away from her involuntarily, "I have nothing against it per se. It's just not every day you see a giant star mounted on a mountain in the middle of town."

"It is here."

"I was just wondering what it signified, you know, what it means."

"Don't mean nothing, boy. It signifies that this is the Star City."

This was new. "And what does that mean?" I asked, "Star City."

The gypsy woman shook her head and rolled her eyes. "It means we got a star on the mountain. Boy, why don't you just move on and quit wasting my time with stupid questions?"

I apologised for taking up so much of her time, and turned to go, but as I walked out the door the white gypsy spoke for the first time.

"Young man," she said, and I turned around. "If you're so curious about the star," she had this creepy grin on her face that seemed to stretch literally from ear to ear, "why not go up to Mill Mountain and see it for yourself? Perhaps then you'll understand the star and appreciate it, no?"

"How do I get there?" I asked.

"Signs," she said then she fell back into the shadows of the stockroom.

"Signs?" I asked, looking at the black gypsy. "Like portents and omens or something?"

"Boy you ain't got the good sense God gave a ginger root." She pointed out the shop window, "Signs!"

The street sign outside had a star and an arrow printed on it. As I've said, the damn things were everywhere.
The next store we entered appeared to be a kind of new-age hippie place. Inside we met two women who appeared to be channeling Stevie Nicks and Janis Joplin.

"Peace and Tranquility," chanted Janis, giving us an exaggerated bow as we entered the beaded curtain that served as the front door to their haberdashery, "Come on in and feel the vibe."

"Buy some clothes," Ms. Nicks said from behind the counter.

"Let me know how we can free your spirit and ease your mind." Janis seemed unaffected by her co-worker's brusqueness.

I turned to Jim. "This one's all you," I muttered allowing him to begin the intrerrogation.

"We were just wondering," Jim said taking a step toward the former lead of Big Brother and the Holding Company while Ms. Fleetwood Mac eyed us both from the other end of the room, "if you could tell us anyhting about the star up there." Jim pointed his thumb over his shoulder in the general direction of the mountain.

"Ooooh, isn't it the grooviest?" Janis purred, "I mean it's just so up there, you know? Like it's truly and really stellar, man."

"It's our feeble attempt to piss off Texas," Rhiannon interjected.

"No, no, no," Bobby McGee's ex waved her nads in a dismissing gesture. "It's really cool, you know? I mean they light it up every time somebody dies, man. I mean how sweet is that? If anybody, like, passes on to nirvana here, we, like, honor them with a star, you know what I mean?"

"It lights up," Jim spoke slowly, making sure he understood completely, "every time somebody dies here."

"Yeah, man. Isn't it cool?"

"It's been lit up every night since we've been here."

"What can I say, dude, cycle life, you know?"

"If you two aren't going to buy anything," Stevie began tapping a measuring tape on the counter irritatingly, "we really need to get back to our inventory."

Jim and I apologized for disturbing their work and turned to go.

"If you're so interested in our star, you know," Ms. Nicks said as we left, why don't you go out there tonight?"
By this time, it was getting on towards 2:00 and time for the comic book panel Jim and I wanted to see (which was held, interestingly enough, in the Mill Mountain Conference Room).

As we enterred the Hotel Roanoke Conference Center, though, I spied one more person I wanted to interview about the Mystery of the Mill Mountain Star. I found it more than a coincidence that in a replica of King's Hotel Overlook, one of the maintenance guys not only bore more than a passing resemblance to Scatman Carothers, but his name tag declared him to be "Richard H."

"We're going to be late for the panel," Jim warned, "It starts ijn a bout two minutes."

"Dude, we gotta talk to him," I grabbed Jim's lapels and lowered my voice to a near whisper, "He's got the shine, man."

Well, Jim couldn't argue this logic so we decided to be late for Superman.

"That star's been up on that mountain since the beginning," Richard informed us.

"The beginning of what?" I asked.

"The city. Since the city began. I believe they put it up just after the war."

"The Revolutionary War?"

"No, man, the Korean War. They put it up and lit it up red every time one of our boys was reported killed in action."

"But you just said it was put up when the city started."
"It was."

"And it was put up during the Korean War?"


I began to feel a slight pressure building up inside my head, just behind my temple and above my left eye.

"So did they just elctrify it during the Korean War or something?"

"What you talking about, electrify?" Richard looked at me as if I had just grown an third eye. 'No, I said they put it up during the Korean War."

"But how could they have put it up if it was already there?"

"Speak sense, boy. They couldn't have done that. I said they put it up during the Korean War, and I meant they put it up during the Korean War."

"But they put it up when the city began, too?"

"Ain't that what I said?"

"Did they take it down or something?"

Richard sighed deeply and shook his head at my apparent idiocy. "Now why would they go and do that after spending so much money putting it up there. Do you have any idea how much that thing cost?"

"No, sir."

"A lot. I mean they had to fetch it from up in the sky and haul it down, cool it off, and stick it up on the mountain. Why they want to do all that stuff over again?"

"Did it fall down?"

"I didn't say it did, did I?"

The pressure behind my temple and over my eye was slowly encroaching on my toes now.

"So it was first put up put up when the city began, and it was first put up during the Korean War to commemorate the dead soldiers?"

"I reckon. It's what I said isn't it?"

"Excuse me," I moved away from him slowly, "I'm late for a panel. Thank you for your time."

"Any time, son. Any time." Richard started to move away, too, thought better of it, then turned back to me.

"You know," he said thoughtfully, "a young fella like you who's that interested in the star might think about going up there tonight. Yes, indeed." With that, Richard H., custodian of The Overlook, turned and disappeared behind a movable wall.

You know," Jim said after he had gone. "It may not be a bad idea at all."
To Be Continued . . .