Douglarius the Great (a silly Middle School tale)
This one deserves an introduction. Over a period of months, I had written two of my boys and three nieces and nephews stories. They loved them. My oldest came to me one day. He was in eighth grade at the time, and asked where his story was. This surprise me. I assumed he was tool for such things. So I crafted something together based on stuff I knew he liked, and below are the results. It is silly and derivative and full of inside jokes, but he loved. The only change I would have made was to insert the battle cry “Leroy Jenkins”. That would have made him smile. Enjoy!
Doug flipped a page in his textbook, reading ahead of the lectures, and swore he spotted a man in one of his school uniforms on a medieval tapestry. He looked up. Most of the surrounding classmates doodled, snoozed, or stared out the window wishing class to end. The teacher had given them study time for everyone to review material for the quiz tomorrow.
“Doug, please come here”, Mrs. Green said.
Doug stood up from his desk, and walked to the front of the class.
“Doug, I have a packet of papers that I need taken to the office. Do you mind taking it down there now?”
“No ma’am. I can do it.”
Now was a chance for him to get his blood moving and clear his head. Sometimes it paid to be the teacher’s pet.
The others glared at him. He grabbed the large manila envelope and headed straight for the door. He left the classroom walking into their common area, stood there and stretched, then walked toward the hallway.
The setup here was a little strange. The hallway connecting the commons made a hard right turn, and people forever bumped into each other. A circular curved mirror hung on the wall, so you saw the arrivals and departures. In spite of the safety feature, it was a hard skill to master. Weekly collisions led to spilled paperwork and embarrassing tumbles with other students.
Since class was still in session Doug was safe. He turned the corner without looking, and plunged downward.
This was no tumble or classroom collision, but a free-fall. Right before the fall, he remembered stepping into what looked like a shimmering pool of liquid mercury. His momentum kept him from stopping and he fell before he caught himself.
An insight about himself struck him hard. He had always thought he was afraid of heights, but no, it was falling that scared him, and right now he panicked with fright. He gritted his teeth and waited to hit something.
It didn’t hurt. It wasn’t a soft landing, but like jumping out of a bunk bed on to the ground. An unlikely landscape of green grass, rolling hills, a forest ahead, and a blue sky above surrounded him. This was strange, but before he gathered his wits about him, and rushing loud noise came charging at him.
Before him, over the ridge, stood an army, and a commander of some sort approached him. Based on the man’s dress, he guessed a Roman officer, but that was impossible. Then again falling through the school floor in a shimmering pool was just as crazy.
“Greetings in the name of Caesar and the Roman empire!”
What had happened to him? Here’s a 14 year old boy standing on a potential battlefield, who minutes ago sat in history class. Doug looked at the general dressed in battle attire, like the pictures in the school books, and was scared. He squeaked: “Greetings.”
Doug stood, bewildered by the change of scenery from tiled floor school hallway to ancient battlefield, but the Roman looked at him with as much confusion. Here was a boy as big as most of his soldiers wearing a 21st century school uniform — khakis and golf shirt. Instead of sandals or cloth boots, he wore puffy white shoes. The strangeness of this boy prompted a challenge for information from the Roman.
“What is your name?”
He began: “Doug”, then improvised, “Douglarius…um, Douglarius the Great.” At the word “great” he raised his hands in the air like he had won a game of dodge ball. The general panicked and pulled a blade, stabbing at Doug. Doug dodged.
“I am a friend”, he yelled, “and can help.” Doug didn’t know what he meant by help, but it sounded good, and might keep him from getting killed. He looked down in his hand, and realized he still clutched to the manila envelope from his teacher bound for the office. At that moment, that chore looked like it would never get done. He stuffed the envelope in the waistband of his pants and followed the general toward a tent.
The general being an astute man asked about this tiny package.
Doug said, “It’s nothing but trouble.”
“Trouble? Will it provide us victory?”
Events spun in a bad direction, and Doug shrugged realizing he might not get back to school and worse might not survive if he can’t keep his mouth shut. Inside the tent, the general began suiting Doug with armor, and gave him a small dagger the length of his forearm. They looked at maps, and Doug was instructed on how the Romans moved against a barbarian horde that had been making raids at the edges of the empire. Doug guessed they were in Northern Italy or Greece, but for all he knew they were in Britain or Gaul or some other strange place. Asking too many questions at this moment might show ignorance, and bring another round of questioning, and he needed these guys to be friendly. He might have fancier shoes, but couldn’t imagine out-running Caesar’s army.
The general pushed him out of the tent and onto a horse where they rode to the lip of a ridge. They jumped off their horses, and kept to the edge so they could peer into a barbarian camp below. Within minutes the army would follow behind, and they would descend upon this group of wooly men in furs, beards, braids, and axes. They looked like something out of a Viking movie. Doug hoped the army didn’t include Thor.
Below the ridge, avoiding the barbarian’s line of sight, he mounted his horse. The general turned Doug and his horse to face the Roman army. After he bellowed his pre battle pep rally speech, he looked at Doug. Doug took this as an invitation to speak to the troops.
“Soldiers of Rome, I am Douglarius the Great. I am a man of battle with puffy white shoes. Today we will lead you battle to defeat these stinky wooly-haired bearded barbarians. If we lose, they will invade Rome, and your children grow up looking like these wooly-haired beasts. Do you want that?”
“NO!” the army shouted.
Doug pumped his fist in the air and said, “Well, let’s fight.”
Before the general stopped him, Doug charged over the hill, with the troops in tow behind him. Charging was the plan but no doubt the general wanted to lead. Halfway down the hill, Doug began wondering about the wisdom of this action. He feared getting killed, and it started as a small schoolboy errand.
His horse reached the bottom, surprising a handful of barbarians, but not before they picked up their axes and clubs and started swinging. His horse went down, and so did he. He laid there stunned, but the sound and chaos and blood flying around him, startled him to attention. He jumped to his feet and an ugly barbarian charged him. The general saw the action and knocked the man down before he reached Doug.
Doug thanked the general then began running deeper into battle, but tripped on axe. On his back, he looked to the bearded face of the enemy grinning over his body. With axe overhead, Doug knew it was soon to come down on his body splitting him in two. As the axe moved, he rolled, and things became bright with white light. Any minute he expected a voice saying, “Come in to the light.”
He checked his body and it was intact, and realized he was falling again. Hoping he would fall back into school, he landed in a courtyard of what looked like a dirty fortress town.
Liquid splashed right next to his head, and it stunk. He saw a woman tossing out the contents of last night’s bed pan into the street. He stood up before any other mishaps landed on him. This had to be a medieval village. The streetscape appeared like something out of King Arthur or Lord of the Rings. Houses circled the town square, and he city gates stood strong and closed in front of him. Parapets rose along the corners of the town and he noticed a handful of guards standing watch on top of them.
Someone grabbed his arm, and it looked to be an armed soldier. Before Doug thought or spoke, they drug him into a long hall where a man sat upon a wooden thrown. He almost started laughing because this man and many of the others looked an awful like those barbarians he fought with the Romans.
The king barked at him, “Who are you?”
“Douglarius, sir.” The name worked at his last stop, sounded majestic, and hopefully a little intimidating.
Doug looked at himself and noticed he was back in school uniform. The armor must have disappeared in the portal. Panicked he touched his back, and the manila teacher’s packet was still secure in his waistband.
The king spoke: “Why are you in my fortress?”
This was a harder question and he had to rack his brain.
“Why would we need your help?”
“I have special knowledge that can help fend off advancing armies.” Doug hoped they felt threatened enough, and there were advancing armies for these answers to keep him alive.
“Yes”, said the king, “enemies are advancing upon us. Our scouts tell us that one such band of warriors are within a day’s march, and may be here before nightfall. If you saw guards upon our towers and walls, they watch for the threat.”
Again, Doug spoke before thinking. Probably out of panic, and partly because silence always bothered him.
“You lordship, I can give you weapons that should give you an advantage against your enemies.”
Doug guessed that gunpowder was not being used and any with explosive fire would create fear in the hearts of their enemies.
“I am listening strange man with puffy white shoes”, said the king.
Doug smirked, and thought of dancing a jig, but maintained some dignity and respect, and said: “Do you have cross-bows or catapults on your walls and towers?”
“Do you have a supply of wine-skins or leather water containers?”
“Do you have oil or pitch?”
“Your lordship, I need as much of these supplies that be spared brought to the castle walls for a demonstration.”
A guard grabbed Doug by the arm, and lead to a door behind the throne. A cold dark stairwell waited for him, and guards prodding him at spear point up the stairs. He hoped his idea would work.
Last summer he and some friends had created huge water balloon launchers by tying elastic tubing to two trees. By pulling back on those tubes, they launched these water weapons nearly 100 yards. He thought rubber tubing was nowhere to be found in this medieval village, but a cross bow or a catapult might function the same way. The wine-skins would be his water balloons. Rather than filling them with water, he planned on loading them with any flammable liquid he found, stuffing the opening with a rag or cork or thread as a fuse. Once launched, he hoped these “fire bags” would function like a 20th Century Molotov cocktail.
At the top of the wall, he waited for the supplies. One of the guards started poking his shoes with the end of his staff. The guard poked; the shoes would give, and then pop back to their normal shape. Every time the guards would laugh. They played Pillsbury Dough-boy with Doug’s sneakers. Doug rolled his eyes, and hoped the king and the supplies soon arrived.
The supplies rolled out of the tower at the end of the wall, and the king stepped out from behind the cart.
“Let us see your magic, young man.”
Doug grabbed wine-skins, filled it with oil, asked for a rag and stuffed it into the hole. They had both bows and a catapult, so Doug made two to demonstrate in each implement. The men set the bags into the contraptions. First Doug pulled back the bow, making sure the back was secure enough acting the thick string. Extra padding was added to keep the string from slipping around the bag rather than launching it. Once secure, he borrowed a torch and lit the rag.
“Behold, the fire bag,” Doug said.
Everyone panicked and he pulled the bow trigger. The bag cleared the tower, and flew at least 50 yards from the castle wall. When it hit the ground, it exploded. It was no Hollywood explosion, but enough to impress the men who potentially could end his life. The king smiled.
Doug grabbed the second bag, and placed it in the cup of the catapult. He lit and launched. This bag flew further, at least 150 yards. It had similar results and cheers erupted from his small audience.
Suddenly, a young boy came running down the wall screaming like a stuck pig. One of the guards grabbed him.
The boy froze.
“Are they here?” the guard asked.
“Yes, on the north side of the fortress. It is a large army.”
The king looked at Doug, and said, “Douglarius Puffy Feet, let us see if your magic will work.”
A guard poked his shoes and laughed.
Doug along with all the guards took the bags and oil around the wall to the north side of the fortress. The king made sure several catapults lined that side of the wall. The plan was to wait until the enemy line marched within 100 yards of the castle before they launched the fire bags.
They filled at least 20 bags, and set five catapults in place. The enemy line slowed, but moved closer. At the front of the line infantry men held their shields. Doug laughed knowing shields provided little shelter against exploding oil. One more step and they would launch. The enemy crept forward then shifted like sports fans doing the wave at a football game. The wave made room for the archers who had been hiding behind the infantry. This scared him, because the archers nocked their arrows and readied the bows to shoot.
Doug screamed, “Fire & Launch!”
It was too soon, but dramatic. Fire exploded their front line and took out many of the archers, but not before they let the first volley of arrows fly. Doug fell to the walkway behind the wall holding his head. An arrow to his right stuck in the front of his shoe, but thankfully it missed his toes. He turned his head toward a whistle on his left. An arrow whizzed so close by his leg, he felt the feathers on the fletching, inches from taking an arrow to the knee. In spite of his fear the thought made his chuckle.
Bags were loaded, lit, and launched again. The enemy line crumbled, and some retreated. The retreat was a movement, opening the way for a giant catapult.
Doug yelled, “Put some bags in a cross bow and aim at the catapult. It needs taken out.”
Soldiers obeyed, but not before the catapult launched a bevy of small boulders. Dough looked up and a large rock headed right for him. He dove toward the shelter of the parapet, and fell.
Again he saw the light, but didn’t assume death this time, and hoped to be heading back to school.
He landed with a splash. A snort followed the splash, so he looked up. A horse’s muzzle hung above his head with a look of irritation because he appeared to be bathing in its water trough. Doug pulled himself up out of the trough, thankful his shoes stayed dry. He shook off the water and scanned the surroundings.
He stood on Main Street in a Wild West town. He touched his back hoping the manila envelope rested there, even if a little soggy. Tired from his long trip, Doug stumbled into the nearest watering hole.
As he pushed open those swinging saloon doors, the whole place turned around. Some grungy codger in a dirty hat and a cigar squeezed between his lips, grumbled: “Who is this wet behind the ears stranger with the puffy shoes?”
The puffy white shoes, they are not time travel fashion sensitive.
Doug, seasoned by his previous adventures, and brimming with a little too much confidence said, “Douglarius…Douglarius the Kentucky Kid.” Then without hesitation he walked right up to the bar, and looked the bow-tied bartender in the eyes.
“What’ll it be?” the bartender said.
“Mint julep…hold the bourbon, extra mint. Nice bow-tie. Bow-ties are cool.”
Doug heard laughter behind him. He turned his head. The stinky old grouch who challenged him when he entered the saloon hovered there like an hyena waiting to do something daring and stupid.
“Hey kid, I don’t like the way you look with those stupid shoes. And I don’t like what you’re drinking.”
Doug grabbed his glass and gulped it down. He wiped his mouth and said, “What’s your problem? Let me guess someone stole your sweat roll.”
The man’s face reddened and he nearly swallowed his cigar. Doug heard a collective sigh from the rest of the patrons, and couple hurried out the doors, hoping to avoid a fight.
“Well I guess this bar ain’t big enough for the both of us.”
Doug stomped on the man’s foot, intending a distraction so he could run, but his shoes had little effect on the thick leather boots. He looked at the bartender for help, and the bartender shrugged, picked up a glass, and began wiping it down.
The old cowboy picked up Doug, slammed him on the bar, and proceeded to slide him right out the bar window. He slid in slow-motion and Doug saw everyone in the bar with mouths open as he flew into the window. Sounds of shattered glass echoed through his ears, and he fell once more into the light.
As he fell, he prayed he landed back at school. He didn’t need any more adventures. He landed on cold hard tile. It was the hallway at school right outside the principal’s office.
He jumped up and hurried the envelope to the office before anymore strangeness happened. Dr. Johnson, the principal, had walked into the reception area as if expecting Doug’s visit. Doug handed him the crumpled envelope and turned back down the hall toward class.
“Son, come here” said the principal.
Doug walked back.
“Tuck in your shirt, and comb your hair before you get back to class, you look a mess.”
Doug turned and hurried away. Before he hit his classroom hallway, he ducked into the bathroom to straighten up. A disheveled almost haggard looking teenager stared at him from the mirror. He tucked in his shirt, splashed water on his face, and combed his hair down, then left for his room.
The door to History class opened, and the teacher said, “Thank you, Doug. That was quick.”
He hurried to his desk and slumped down in exhaustion. His eyes hit the pictures on his book, and he noticed that medieval tapestry he studied before he had been called out of class. He noticed a man holding a flaming bag on top off a castle, and noticed his white shoe wear through the gaps in the castle wall.