joe was tired, after his long and terrifying day, and did not look far for a place to sleep after being dismissed by june and after bob smith left him. he went back to the stable and looked for a spot in the hay as far from the horses as possible.
as he started to collapse into the hay, he noticed the outlines of a door in the corner of the barn. he pushed it and it swung open easily.
he was in a short, dark corridor. another door at the end of it also opened easily.
joe found himself in a small low-ceilinged room with a double bed, a chair, and a small table beside the bed with a lamp and some books on it.
joe picked up the books. they had dust on them. he ran his finger over the top of the table - dust. the chair - more dust. he decided it was safe to use the room to sleep in instead of the hay, and sat down on the bed.
joe looked more closely at the books. they were "the stars and the rain" by jennifer broughton, "dark eyes" and "dark eyes flashing" also by jennifer broughton, a novel by james patterson, and a novel by danielle steel with a coffee cup stain on it.
joe had never heard of any of them. he didn't like jennifer broughton's looks in her dust jacket photos.
he decided to try the james patterson book if he woke up.
then he fell back on the big soft bed and fell asleep.
he was the green knight, astride a big green horse with red eyes.
his opponent, the red knight, gazed at him - joe assumed he was gazing at him, his face was shielded by his visor - from across the river. the red knight rode a black horse without eyes.
the two sides of the river were thronged by the souls of the living (on the red knight's side) and the spirits of the dead (on the green knight's side). a bridge connected the two sides, and it seemed to grow longer as the green knight looked across it.
a castle rose from the water beside the bridge. joe/the green knight could make out the fair face and slender form of the white queen, and he wondered where the red queen and the black queen were.
but his musings were interrupted by the appearance of st christopher, who was being rowed in a little boat from the castle to the center of the bridge.
st christopher stepped on to the bridge, and st george and confucius rowed the little boat back to the castle.
"champions!" bellowed st christopher, in a voice that resounded through the eight galaxies, "choose your rewards!" he turned to the green knight first.
"say, sir knight, if you emerge victorious, will you free the spirits of the dead from their eternal bondage , or - he looked back at the castle - " will you choose the hand of the white queen?"
"i shall free the spirits of the dead," joe answered without hesitation, and tremendous cheers rose up on both sides of the river.
"and you, sir?" st christopher turned to the red knight.
"freedom for the dead, or the favors of the white queen?" joe wondered why he had been offered the "hand" of the queen and the red knight her "favors", but before he could articulate his question the red knight had already shouted his answer -
as loudly as the green knight had been cheered by the two throngs, the red knight was twice as lustily booed. the shouts threatened to expand the galaxies beyond their allotted space until st christopher shouted -
and total silence ruled.
"now, then," st christopher proceeded, and turned to the red knight. "it is your choice of weapon. you choose?"
"let us fight like men," cried the red knight. "with fifty pound scimitars."
"fair enough," replied the saint, turning to the green knight. "it is your choice then, to fight on foot or on horseback."
after a slight hesitation, joe answered, "on foot."
"you pussy!" the red knight shouted. "real men fight on horseback."
he turned to the quiet crowd. " i shall make short of this girl in a man's body. a man who doesn't want to fight on horseback doesn't want to fight at all!"
the portcullis of the castle opened and the rowboat emerged again.
confucius and st george were again at the oars, and the lady guinevere stood up in it, holding in her two hands a golden scimitar on a black silk pillow. she stepped on to the bridge and the red knight snatched the scimitar off the pillow without thanking or acknowledging her. what a rude fellow, joe thought.
the green knight heard a cough behind him. he turned to see king arthur himself holding out a blue silk pillow with a silver scimitar on it.
it looked the same size as the red knight's weapon. do gold and silver weigh the same, he wondered.
again, he had no time to formulate his question.
st christopher held a white feather over his head, "when this feather hits the bridge,
commence battle!" he cried, in a voice not so loud as he had been using.
then as the feather was floating in the air, he and the lady guinevere stepped back into the little boat, as they did so, the saint said something that the green knight couldn't hear but that made the lady laugh.
suddenly the red knight was on him.
the green knight heard a great splash and realized that it was himself hitting the water. he came up sputtering and heard the red knight's laughter and tremendous boos and catcalls from both sides of the river, directed at himself, he supposed.
"the same old story!" he heard a voice from the rapidly dispersing crowds.
"what a sell!" came anothe voice. "what a bloody sell!"
"at least i didn't bet money this time," came a fainter voice.
joe dragged himself on to the bridge. the crowds were gone, and so was the castle. he saw the red knight rowing the little boat away, with only himself and the white queen in it.
he looked back at joe and gave him a friendly wave. the white queen's back was to joe. they disappeared into the mist.