I was born the love child of the Wizard of Oz and the Wicked Witch of the West around 1870. Don’t know my exact birth date. Do know I have my mother’s complexion. I spent my youth either in Oz, my mother’s castle, or visiting cousins in Nebraska and Kansas. At a young age the flying monkeys taught me how to hustle at pool, poker, and other games. Tired of all the drama that comes with growing up in celebrity households, around the age of 14, I left to find my place in these worlds.
Eleven years later, on a Mississippi steam boat, a game of cards turned ugly. While swimming to shore I got shot in the keister. While pulling the lead out I had an epiphany. I was going to be a grifter that left each community I visited a better place. To do that I thought I would need a formal education.
Not soon after I crossed paths with a Reverend Joseph Parker in Wichita. He had just established a college for students without much money. A history degree seemed mundane. I decided to pursue a major in Séance Communications with a minor in Zeitgeist Studies.
I studied abroad in the spring of 1898. In Greece, with the help of some gypsies, I managed to communicate with the Goddess Bia. We hit it off. She crossed the portal. We did spring in Athens, summer in Rome, and autumn in Cairo on the Nile. She role played Marc Antony, and me Cleopatra. That year I learned almost as much from her as from the flying monkeys.
The next year we went our separate ways. I tell myself she couldn’t handle my big city style and country boy charm. Besides, I just wanted to party like it was 1899. Truth be told I was out of money. She said, “You are no gentleman, and never will be.” I said, “A rich man is nothing but a poor man with money.” She stormed away.
Confused, I went to Paris, and then elsewhere. I studied further abroad, and another broad. Never got a degree, but I did receive a fizzing great education. I think Mata Hari was my favorite instructor. Later I decided I was going to be a gentleman wander, like Sir Lancelot, the Cowboy Shane, or who ‘You Moderns’ refer to as Wolverine. Except for me I was going to do it without all the brooding. One thing the Netherworld has over the Earthly Middle Kingdom is there are no brooding adolescents and no brooding adolescent music. “Oh, woe is me. No one understands me because I’m going through hormonal changes.” Who needs that flim-flam and fiddle faddle?
After that a lot happened in my life; crossed the portal many times. Then during the Flu Pandemic of 1918 I lost several individuals that were close to me. Until now that is the last time I visited the Earthly Middle Kingdom.
Distraught, I wandered the Netherworld and Oz searching for purpose. Then in 1935 I met up with Lady E Krebs. She is best known in the Earthly Middle Kingdom as the Mother of Modern Halloween. Our connection is that my cousins are the ones who destroyed her flower garden, and from that Trick-or-Treat was invented.
Lady E Krebs has the biggest heart of anyone I’ve ever met. She loves children. But there aren’t many children in the Netherworld. So she started helping misfits and vagabonds. Eventually they travelled from town to town, throwing festivals. Small at first, but they grew and grew. Lady E’s biggest strength is instilling a sense of duty and supplying a mission without all the motivational hype and marketing hugger-mugger.
Every festival has a theme: Mysterious Ladies and Gallant Soldiers; Midnight Séance of the Seven Escape Artists and Twelve Angry Females; Fast Cars and Slow You Know (pause) Cooking, and my favorite, High Plains Drifters and Wandering Souls. There would be speakers, workshops, scientific demonstrations, artisans, craftsmen, dancers, street performers, plays, competitions, speed dating, political debates, Tarot readings, and often a good fist fight. Food is always excellent, and we always end the evening as friends with song and dance. I ended up working for Lady E as part roadie, part promoter.
Turns out the Greek Gods and Goddesses don’t care much for Lady E. They want to be the center of attention. So they, Bia in particular, started making life difficult: charging fees, imposing taxes, creating complicated permits, licenses, and inventing more and more paperwork. I used my skills as a grifter to help navigate this changing landscape.
I’ve always prided myself as the greatest grifter of the Netherworld because I excel at turning lose-lose situations into win-win situations. With age you learn money is just pieces of paper, wealth creation is making the world a better place, and morality is doing what’s best for the community. That said, the big question is “What community are we talking about?” I got blindsided because I made the grifter’s mistake of not looking at the situation through Bia’s eyes.
Unfortunately, Bia knows my weaknesses: females and rum. She set me up at the Carnival of Unexplained Happenings and Double Meanings. I don’t remember much that night. Something about if I could beat Bia in a dance off then she would leave Lady E alone. I woke up covered in filth in Rochester, NY. There was a note. “Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkle Emmannuel Ambroise Diggs the Second, you are not allowed through the portal until you accomplish a list of 10 undisclosed menial tasks. Love, Marc Antony.” She’s such a Bia.
I’ve accepted that a man does not control his own fate. The women in his life do that for him. I’m not going to brood. I’m going to adopt a Steam Disco attitude and enjoy my time here. My connections are working on uncovering these undisclosed menial tasks. I already know a few: find someone who can beat Bia in a dance off, turn the modern male beast into a gentleman, assist lesser known musicians with their careers, and help couples find true love. My life is about to get interesting.