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Dear Tami,

I must say that when you first suggested I should try out the art of weequashing, I was a bit skeptical. Actually, VERY skeptical. Spearing eel from a canoe by torchlight did not sound like something I would be good at, let alone enjoy.

You *claim* you were inspired to ask me to try weequashing after reading a post at Dasia Has a Blog, though I can’t help but wonder:

a) Is this another random clue to the cave’s whereabouts?

b) Or is this a ploy to throw me off the trail?

And more importantly,

c) WHAT ON EARTH ARE YOU DOING IN THAT WRITING CAVE???

I’ll admit you piqued my curiosity in more ways than one and after pondering these and many other questions, I agreed to indulge your curiosity and give weequashing a try. You know I have a hard time saying no to you. Now please wipe that sly grin off your face. We both know you’ve won this round. Just know I’m not even close to giving up on finding your writing cave. The game is still ON.

And, because you and your friend, Laird Sapir offered to make me a playlist for such an outing, well, that sweetened the deal considerably.

As soon as you sent it to me, I quickly downloaded it to my iPod and set about preparing for this new adventure. Please let your readers know they should go to Laird’s blog so they, too, can listen to the playlist.

To start, I went to the local sporting goods store to purchase some necessary items as I don’t have a torchlight and a spear laying about in my flat. Luckily, it was easy to find such items. I was about to purchase them when a man named Wigwam Joe sidled up to me at the counter and offered not only to show me how to make my own torchlight and whittle my own spear from a branch, but also how to carve a sturdy canoe from a fallen tree.

Wigwam Joe has a wealth of knowledge about making such necessary items. We worked steadily in his workshop all day and all night and I came away with some fantastic weequashing gear. Unfortunately, Wigwam Joe didn’t know a thing about the actual art of weequashing, so he introduced me to his friend, Prickly Pete, who is a local weequashing expert.

Prickly Pete and I met the following evening at a nearby lake reported to be full of eel. The sun was just beginning to set, melting into the horizon and leaving in its wake a bright swath of pink and orange. You know how I love being outside at twilight, the time just before the stars take over the sky in a symphony of sparkles. I shared this sentiment with Prickly Pete to which he replied, “Yup. Best time to poke the little buggers ‘tween the eyes.” He wasn’t the most eloquent of chaps, but I must say he knew his weequashing inside and out.

photo by Imapix via Flickr

We set out on the water, spears and torchlights safely harboured in the hull of my freshly painted canoe (which I named Squeegee Beckenheim, for reasons I know you would appreciate). Once we were in the appropriate location, I turned on my iPod to listen to the playlist you and Laird sent me. Prickly Pete was very curious about what I was listening to and insisted that I plug the iPod into his boom box, which he apparently brings everywhere he goes. I obliged and soon the tunes you and Laird sent me were drifting on the gentle night breeze while Prickly Pete gave me advice on spearing eel by torchlight. It didn’t take long before we were both singing along, though that might have had more to do with the “juice” Prickly Pete brought than anything else.

You asked me to share my thoughts on how each song either assisted my prowess at weequashing or hindered it. Prickly Pete, of course, had some opinions on it as well. Here’s how it all went down:

Torch ~ Dropkick Murphys – This was a nice kick-off to the weequashing activities. Prickly Pete liked the song and said the lead singer sounded a bit like his Aunt Bunnie when she sings in the church choir. He was so inspired by it that he poured us both a cup of his homemade “juice” so that we could say a toast to his Aunt Bunnie. It wasn’t long before we were singing while holding our torchlights. This was, unfortunately, not conducive to finding many eel.

Float ~ Flogging Molly –  Another round of “juice” was poured. We both sang loudly throughout this song because, as you know, I BUILT THE BOAT. Prickly Pete was duly impressed by the Squeegee Beckenheim and said we should christen it like it was a true sea-faring vessel. Not having any champagne to do a proper christening, we settled for splashing some of the “juice” over the bow. I am not sure what was in the “juice” but I noticed the eel purposefully avoiding the area around the bow for the rest of the evening.

Lover of the Light ~ Mumford & Sons – By now the “juice” was having an effect on me and I needed to kick back a little in the canoe. Prickly Pete was concerned that we might come up empty-handed if we didn’t get into our weequashing stances and properly brandish our torchlights while looking for fish and eel. I roused myself to get into the crouching position with spear and torchlight in hand when Prickly Pete let out the loudest belch I had ever heard. We both burst out laughing and then began singing again. Still no eel to be seen.

Sunset Soon Forgotten ~ Iron & Wine – Another round of “juice” was poured as this song came over the boom box. Perfect timing, too, as the sun had just finished dipping below the horizon and a million stars were bursting on the scene. Prickly Pete said, “The eel like that mellow crap you got playin’ over there.” He then placed a monocle over his right eye (the left eye was covered in a black patch due to an unfortunate weequashing accident years ago) and squinted into the water to see if he could spot anything. I leaned over the side of the canoe, waiting for the eel to come closer.

Hallelujah ~ Willie Nelson – This one nearly made Prickly Pete fall out of the canoe as he let out a big “Whoo-eee! It’s my man, Willie!” Obviously, he’s a big fan. I had never heard this particular version of this song and neither had Prickly Pete. He had what could be called a semi-religious experience there in the canoe. Prickly Pete sang his heart out and – don’t tell him I said this – was moved to tears by the end of the song. (And, to be honest, so was I just watching the guy.) We did not even bother to look for eel.

Landslide ~ Fleetwood Mac – We were both feeling a bit emotional by the time this song came on. We had abandoned our spears and waved our torchlights back and forth, swaying like fans at a concert. Oh, and we had a bit more “juice”, too. Prickly Pete’s voice was starting to grow on me by then. Needless to say, no eel were caught.

Grew Up at Midnight ~ The Maccabees – Prickly Pete was a little puzzled by this one and said to me a least a dozen times “The voices are a little high for men, don’t ya think?” After several reassurances that the singers were indeed men, he was able to relax back into this fantastic song while I sang along. Given his confusion, we were not focused on catching eel.

Babylon ~ David Gray – By the time this song came on, Prickly Pete had become worried that his buddies back in town would “give him hell” about coming back without any eel. We lowered ourselves into our weequashing stances again, torchlights and spears in hand. Prickly Pete reminded me that balance was as important as being swift the spear. Crouched in the hull of the Squeegee Beckenheim, I waited patiently for an eel to come closer. And then it happened: I spotted one swimming by and attempted to spear it as Prickly Pete had taught me to do. Unfortunately, I forgot Prickly Pete’s number one rule and instead of spearing an eel, I fell right over the side of the canoe into the water. Obviously, no eel were caught.

Country Roads ~ John Denver – It took Prickly Pete a few moments to compose himself and help me back into the canoe for all of the laughing he was doing. He handed me a towel, another cup of “juice”, and told me my torchlight went out in the fall and was now too wet to relight. “At least you had the sense to git hold of yer spear,” he chided me between laughs. I couldn’t help but laugh, too. We toasted each other and sang along with John Denver. I was pretty certain the eel were long gone by now.

Going to Carolina ~ James Taylor – When you are confined in a small canoe like I was with Prickly Pete, you are bound to learn a few things about each other, things that might never have come up if you were not in the middle of lake listening to a playlist called Songs for Weequashing. That evening I learned that Prickly Pete was a man whose heart had been broken by a woman named – yes, you guessed it – Carolina. And even though this song is about the state, it reminded Prickly Pete of his one true love. Rather than look for eel, we toasted each other and to the sorrow that is unrequited love.

Tomorrow Will Be Kinder ~ The Secret Sisters – I don’t know if it was the gentle rocking of the canoe, the sound of the crickets in the distance, the stars spread out above us like a blanket of diamonds, or this lullaby of a song meant to soothe our souls, but Prickly Pete and I just sat there staring at the sky. No talking, no singing. Just two men in a handcrafted canoe speculating on our own existence.

Blue Spotted Tail ~ Fleet Foxes – Without a torchlight to see by, I was unable to properly weequash at this point so Prickly Pete took it upon himself to be the sole hunter of eel. This song provided a fantastic soundtrack as I watched Prickly Pete stare intently through his monocle into the water. Unfortunately, no eel were seen.

Fire by Night ~ Josh Garrels – Prickly Pete has extraordinary patience, let me tell you. This song put us both into trance-like stares as we watched for any signs of the elusive eel, though it was becoming increasingly apparent that we weren’t going to catch anything. I said as much and Prickly Pete nodded and said, “Yup. It’s one of those nights.” He went deep in thought for a moment, then removed his monocle. “Well, we can’t go back without a good story, so here’s how it all went down: I caught one o’ them buggers and,” he paused and held his hands arms-width apart, “it was this big.” I reminded him of the lack of eel to go along with the story. He then said in a matter-of-fact tone, “It’s obvious, isn’t it? We ate it.” I nodded in solemn agreement and told him the story would be safe with me.

Above the Branch ~ Calexico – We rowed back to shore under a sky full of stars and a milky, waxing moon. Once the canoe was tethered safely to the top of my car, I turned to Prickly Pete and extended my hand to thank him for an extraordinary evening. He didn’t shake my hand but instead gripped me in a tight bear hug. When he pulled away, he said, “Yer good people, Ben. Even though I’ll never understand why anyone in their right mind would stand nekkid on a stage in a cold theater and pretend to be that Frankenstein monster, I can tell yer good people. Don’t ever change.” Then, with a firm pat on my back, he walked off into the dark woods.

Even though our adventure ended without having speared any eel, the night was not without its rewards. I now have newly honed skills for making my own gear as well as a shiny, new canoe. I have a new playlist to listen to and remind me of a fine evening spent on the water under a star-filled sky. And above all, I made a new friend, someone whom I would not normally have taken the time to get to know but am forever grateful I did.

So, thank you for insisting I go on this adventure. And rest assured that I will be back on the trail to your writing cave next week just as soon as the “juice” is flushed out of my system.

Yours adventurously,

Ben

~*~

*Editor’s note: The views, ideas, and opinions expressed in the Letters from Benedict series are works of fiction and obviously did not come from the actor himself. This series is just my way of expressing adoration for Mr. Cumberbatch and his work and is not intended to be taken at face value or seen as a true collaborative writing endeavor with him. Though if he were ever interested in Weequashing Lite (no spearing of eels), I would gladly loan out the handcrafted Squeegee Beckenheim (after I carve one) and would throw in a jug of “juice” (after I make some) to make it all the more enjoyable of an outing. 

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