mily Moon was only ten when she decided, looking at her mother, who was seated indian-style on the carpet of their apartment, arguing fiercely with a man, who had overly developed sideburns and to whom she referred as her “Dungeon Master,” that it was surely nature, and not nurture, that determined her philosophy of life and personality traits. “The trolls were not under that bridge when Amethyst and Xenar started to cross for the gauntlet!” shouted her mother. Emily Moon eyed her with scientific curiosity when the woman peeled a large, plastic, smoked-filled cylinder from her face and croaked, “Hey, check it out. This is my kid.” As the years passed, Emily Moon maintained her theories about visitors from another planet landing on earth on the day she entered the world. She had yet to determine, though, whether it was herself or that-which-is-called-mom that had been dropped from the spinning disc. This was a question that truly plagued the little girl. As she contemplated this question, and other more complex philosophical questions about the origin of the universe, the Dungeon Master leaned over to her and asked, “Do you role-play?” Emily Moon barely heard him over the stereo blasting Jethro Tull’s “Aqualung.”

*                *                *

Ten years later, after legally changing her name from Emily Moon to Jane Doe, some evidence emerged that appeared to convict that-which-is-called-mom of her alien status.
      The transformation from Emily Moon to Jane Doe included a complete makeover in wardrobe and attitude. Now, Jane Doe (name taken from her favorite L.A. punk band, X) donned a vibrantly colored mohawk, 18 hole, military-style Doc Marten boots, ripped black tights, a Circle Jerks tour t-shirt, hunched shoulders and a menacing look, complimented by her charcoal rimmed eyes, that seemed to say, “Motherfucker, I’ve been waiting my whole life to brain you.” She looked tired for her twenty years, and incredibly bored with the universe spinning and thriving around her. Junior college had not been conducive to her new lifestyle. She spent most of her days sitting on a street corner, begging change from passers-by, smoking and huffing paint. That-which-is-called-mother, though, had news.
      One fine day, that-which-is-called-mother stood before her and announced that she would exchange nuptial vows with her elfin, cyclist lover at the local Renaissance fair. Jane Doe absorbed the information without much shock, letting her cigarette dangle from her black-lipsticked mouth. She had become accustomed to her mother’s marriages. They were like the seasons in the Southern California town that they lived in: passing without so much as a change in the decorations of the storefronts, and lasting only long enough to illicit irritation from the inhabitants. What was so damning about this new arrangement was the fact that they, mutually, had chosen the Renaissance fair as the site of the union. This was a clear sign of that-which-is-called-mother’s alien roots. The tiny man, wearing Lycra bicycle shorts and a fanny-pack, was trying to hold her mother’s hand, but could only wrap his baby digits around one of the woman’s fingers. They were in love, they said together, in unison. Jane Doe knew that, if this was what love meant, she would never take part in it. Especially if there were bicycle shorts involved in the process. Perhaps, she considered, a cheap screw with an anonymous mosher wearing nothing but a dog chain around his neck and some army boots. But not love and bicycle shorts. No, never that. That-which-is-called-mother had apparently turned this elf’s life around. When she found him, he was working as the assistant manager at Thrifty Jr. (not Thrifty, but Thrifty Jr.) in the Electronics Department and had tried to sell her a clock radio. Jane Doe was mildly surprised to learn that Thrifty Jr. even had an Electronics Department. He was thirty years old, at the time, and his coworkers were all, at least, ten to fifteen years younger than the elf, including the store manager. His ridiculously small stature helped to camouflage his age among the pimpled teenagers employed at Thrifty Jr. Needless to say, that-which-is-called-mother bought the clock radio, and soon after the purchase, they sat on the curb outside of the Thrifty Jr. and shared a single cone of pistachio ice-cream, while she organized a scheme to transplant the elf into a military outfit that would straighten out his life. Apparently, the elf had been living out of his car while working at Thrifty Jr. This new life-path had caused the demise of the elf’s carefully crafted mullet, but he seemed optimistic about the crew cut that he now donned.
      The Renaissance fair was not a location where anything was reborn except for a few Dead Heads and Trekkies, who were initiated into the stinking, fetid, drunken event by some other Dungeons & Dragons fans. These people, like that-which-is-called-mother and her groom, found an environment where lonely computer programmers and obese women with overflowing bosoms could come together and try out badly executed British accents while drinking ale out of goblets and munching on turkey legs, without napkins or forks. For them, this was heaven. These were the people who camped out overnight in front of the movie-theater in order to get the best seats for the first showing of Lord of the Rings. Every year, that-which-is-called-mother would drag Jane and a group of her dweebie friends to the Renaissance fair. It was a tradition for them, somewhat similar to the way other families celebrate birthdays and Christmas. Over the years, Jane Doe learned that no one parties like nerds do.
      The Renaissance fair lasts for several weeks in the summertime and is punctuated by a homage to the traditional pagan dance around the Maypole, which, Jane Doe knew, had very little to do with Shakespeare’s England. The dance starts with a procession of various participants, some fair workers, others just fair guests, who are all completely inebriated and banging on drums, or variously honking into piccolos and kazoos. As the procession moves through the fair, people join onto the band of whooping, honking, banging, drunk nerds. By the time the group approaches the Maypole, it has become a massive horde of half-naked bodies, writhing limbs, a dust cloud and a cacophony of out-of-sync musical noises. It’s really like something out of a Bosch painting. Upon reaching the Maypole, an onlooker begins to spray the horde down with a garden hose. This turns into a giant mud pit, in which, the horde promptly jumps and begins to gyrate and touch one another. Most parents are thrown into a sudden panic the moment the drums begin to beat at the other end of the fair. Mothers violently jerk the arms of their little boys and girls the moment that the procession rounds the corner. Entire families, grandmothers and aunts and cousins and babies, flee in droves before the moment that the first incidental pagan hits the mud.
      Jane Doe thought, while watching an emaciated youth in pantaloons attempt to seduce a 300lb vendor of Green Man masks, that if there were a heaven, it would be somewhere very, very, very far from the Renaissance fair. She was glad that there were no mirrors in the Wedding Garden for her to actually see the costume that-which-is-called-mother had chosen for her to wear as the Maid of Honor. A garland of dried flowers had been proposed as a hair decoration, but Jane Doe had said to her that-which-is-called-mother, “I’ll be a fucking Protestant taxpayer before I comb out my mohawk for that thing.” The flowered garland issue was dropped, but a concession had been made in regard to the dress of the body. At 9a.m., it was already 90degrees in San Bernardino and her bodice and layers of skirts were creating a sweat slick between her butt cheeks and thighs. The Doc Martens beneath her layers of skirts only made matters worse. She sat on a hay bale watching rogue knights practice their jousting maneuvers. An occasional din of aluminum swords hitting faux chain mail rang out. She was about to make some fashionable tears in her wedding costume when, to her horror, she saw the elf approaching her hiding place.
      “Hey, there!” he cheerfully piped in his falsetto voice, “whatcha doin’ over here all by yourself?”
      “Composing a sonnet. It’s the air here, I think. Something about sweat and hay in the morning inspires poetry.”
      “Well, I don’t want to disturb you but I thought we could have a little chat.” The word “little” seemed unavoidable in a chat with the elf. He lifted one leg up to lean on the hay bale and found the bundle a little too tall for leaning.
      “What the hell. Shoot.” Jane Doe’s enthusiasm was difficult to contain.
      This was not the first time that one of her mother’s suitors had sought her out for a “chat”. There was the balding bisexual who had decided four years into the marriage that, in fact, he wasn’t bisexual at all, just homosexual. And the sewage plant manager who moonlighted as a pot dealer. Prudently, that-which-is-called-mother had decided that it would be difficult to maintain a marriage while one spouse was residing in a Tijuana jail for drug trafficking. Each “chat” basically consisted of the same theme. They knew it was difficult for Jane Doe. They wanted to reassure her that they wanted to be friends and that they could never replace her long gone father. They loved that-which-is-called-mother and wanted everyone to be a family. Jane wondered what it was about a brooding young woman with a mohawk that made people seek her out for inclusion. What the suitors consistently failed to realize was that Jane Doe scarcely saw herself as a blood relation to her own mother, making a family connection with the suitors closer to the relationship between the plant and animal kingdoms.
      “Well, kiddo,” the elf began. Jane Doe felt some irony in this statement; considering that she was, at very least, an entire two feet taller than the elf. “I can see that this is all difficult for you, and I want you to know that I intend to take care of you and your mother,” the elf sighed as though Santa had announced on Christmas Eve that the entire batch of toys to be delivered were defective.
      Jane Doe realized it was her turn to say something, though she hadn’t received the script for this conversation. “Bitchin’,” she replied dryly, “Will you be bringing your pot of lucky charms as a dowry? I think that we should receive some compensation for this lusty maid that you’ve ensnared.”
      “Hardy, har, har. I’m gonna let that one pass. No, really. I’m not your enemy. We should be friends.”
      “Sure pal. We’re friends.”
      “Well, let’s shake on it. From here on out, you and I are buddies.” The elf extended his miniscule hand for shaking, and Jane Doe took it, knowing full well that handshakes mean absolutely nothing. “You realize,” she added, “that I’ve heard that one before.”
      “One? What one?” Jane Doe couldn’t help but notice the elf’s strange resemblance to Pinocchio when confronted with Gepedo after ditching school for a seedy carnival.
      The elf chuckled, walking away as though he was a regular size man. Shaking his head, he nearly collided with a ragged troupe of minstrels headed into the Wedding Garden. Clearly, the minstrels were drunk, and their dress indicated that the job required this state of being. For who, in their right mind, would want to wear a lacey shirt, an embroidered vest, a floppy felt hat with a long feather in it, and velveteen trousers that came to a stop above each calf, in 90 degree heat; if it weren’t for the fact that you could do your job while maintaining a steady drunk for the entire day, if not for a whole week? Each minstrel was either bearded or had acquired three to four days of facial hair growth. All were sweaty, and if one were to get close enough, the stench of manure secreted from their very pores. They varied in height and weight, but to extremes. The minstrels were either Ichabod Crane or William Howard Taft. Despite their strange appearance and musty smell, the minstrels fit right in with the guests and wedding party. The guests of the bride and groom had arrived in attire that they thought fitting for the occasion. Velvet and Denny, that-which-is-called-mother’s best friends, were decked out in skimpy, fur bathing suits that they claimed were traditional Norwegian dress for the period. Velvet, not a slim woman, let her flesh spill from every portion of her fur bikini. Vericose veins, stretch marks, and an ink blot, located on the droopiest part of what appeared to be Velvet’s buttocks, that was identified as a twenty-year-old rose tattoo, were all on view for the other guests to feast their eyes upon. She wore a suede headband, with dangling beads and matching suede boots that laced up to her knees, as though she were an American Indian, not a Norwegian goddess from the Dark Ages. Denny, a decidedly slight man, could barely fill his furry Speedo. He carried a plastic replica of a wooden club, purchased at a costume shop that sold Halloween goods. His headband and boots matched Velvet’s. Velvet kept referring to Denny as “Thor”. Each brought their own pint mugs with the words “Velvet & Denny Forever” etched on them. The rest of the guests followed suit.
      The arrival of the minstrels signaled that the wedding was about to begin. Jane Doe scrambled off of her hay bale and headed for the designated, air-conditioned, bridal trailer, hidden by a hedge of half-dead bushes to ensure the authenticity of the Renaissance atmosphere. Mother was busy adjusting a floral wreath on her head when Jane Doe let the door slam shut.
      “Where have you been?” That-which-is-called-mother lifted one eyebrow inquisitively.
      “Chatting with the next victim.”
      “How ‘bout you leave the sarcasm till tomorrow? We’ll be out of the way, and you can invite all your vampire friends over for bat wings and blood.”
      “Forsoothe, you are clearly as ignorant of my subculture as I am of yours. What say we shut it and get on with Operation Elf?”
      “Affirmative. Though, he’s more of a wee man than an elf.”
      “If you want me to stand up there next to you, don’t rationalize. Rational thinking is hardly the basis of this ceremony.” This comment was punctuated by the honk of a horn that sounded less like a herald and more like a moose in heat. Mother took a deep breath and stared at the door.
      “Shut up, will you?” She reached over and squeezed Jane Doe’s hand tightly. Though it seemed like the perfect time to get in a good zinger (“Here we go again!” or “Five times the charm!”), Jane Doe shut her mouth and walked the bride out to her groom.
      During the ceremony, Jane Doe tuned out all the sap and looked at her mother’s face. Through her moustache of beaded sweat, that-which-is-called-mother was smiling. She was happy. Yes, the look on her face was blissful. And though Jane Doe quite rightly predicted that it would all end in an annulment and a restraining order, for the moment, the old lady had the beautiful audacity to indulge in marital bliss. She just kept going for it, pushing the limits of chance and romance every time. There was something to be said for tenacity, especially the tenacity of circus freaks in love, and it occurred to her that she wasn’t exactly a non-circus freak. It was like a mosh pit of love, the world of that-which-is-called-mother, full of strange people colliding, slamming up against one another, smiling, laughing, making out, people big and small, people wanting to feel the crash of one body against another.