From his thirteenth-century shell keep atop an invisible mountain, Adam Levine—lead singer for the pop group known as Maroon 5 and reluctant commander of the Martin Ops Unit—growled softly and glanced up from his faded copy of Doonesbury’s Greatest Hits. His eyebrows were involved in deep negotiation regarding whether they ought to sulk or not. “Did you tell him I’m in the MIDDLE OF being INSPIRED, Festivus? Is he aware that inspiration is blooming on my—” He gesticulated wildly at nothing. “—my blossoming…tree of..inspirationality? You told him that, didn’t you?”
Festivus simply straightened his ascot, then cleared his throat. Years before, when he’d been a prefect at the second-best butler academy in the Western Hemisphere, he made his bones during a throat-clearing competition, becoming the youngest champion in the academy’s history. “I did, Mr. Levine,” he replied in his corduroy timbre. “But Mr. Martin has proven rather—”
“Annoying? Inconsiderate?” A blanket made of dour draped gently over Levine’s face.”FASTIDIOUS?”
“Persistent, sir. Also, I believe ‘fastidious’ is traditionally used as a mild compliment.”
God, why couldn’t Chris take up French cooking? Tennis? Mountain goat farming? Anything, really. “He probably just overcooked his sushi again,” Levine mumbled, stopping for a moment to admire his cuticles. They were his pals, his confidants. They brought the biggest gift in the party he called life. “That’s a chorus,” the Maroon 5 singer rasped. “Festivus! Open the Red Berry Cîroc and have Emile prepare the gourmet Hot Pockets. I’ve done it again.”
Festivus nearly flinched at the suggestion of gourmet Hot Pockets, but his facial muscles held the line; he was, after all, a professional. “Sir, Mr. Martin—”
“—is a muffinhead and what he did to ‘Billie Jean’ is UNFORGIVABLE. Have you heard that abomination?”
“I have not, Mr. Levine.”
“Fehhhh.” Colors swirled together. Even the half-eaten marmite-and-Nutella sandwich waiting patiently at the other end of table now seemed unappealing. Chris ruined EVERYTHING.
“He also requested I make emphatically clear that—” Festivus unfurled an ornately-rolled scroll, but before he could read the elegant script written there, Levine’s scowl interrupted, large and looming. “We’re taking messages on scrolls now? Who authorized that?“
“You insisted after Mark McGrath regaled us for two hours about his scroll service, Mr. Levine.” Levine grunted unhappily and sipped his Fruitopia, his glare penetrating the bottom of the glass. “Mr. Martin reports that someone wondered if Coldplay is ‘the greatest fourth-grade band in the history of the world,” and he requests that you ‘deal with’ the perpetrator. Sir.”
“WHAT. I don’t…I’m busy, Festivus!”
“I assure you that I recognize the declarative ‘what,’ sir.”
“All right. ALL RIGHT. Call Whinypants back and tell him—what does he expect me to do about it, anyway?”
“I’m certain I do not know, Mr. Levine, but he anticipated you might require ‘a bit of motivation,’ as he put it, and asked me to remind you that our lease is due for renewal soon.”
Levine yodeled in rage.
Adam Levine had signed for the castle on the clearest day of the year; the paperwork was completed under the same sycamore trees where he’d first admired it. On rare occasions, when the roar coasting into the stage rang out flawlessly, when the crowd responded the way crowds did when an Up-and-Coming Band levels up, he would unlock doors with his name and quietly detail the castle for a small audience of friendly celebrities and their interns. He spoke about the custom moat as one would a favorite nephew.
And the wealthy, fabulously-styled pop vocalist stuck to the facts—most of the time.
Levine routinely neglected to mention that he’d intended to purchase the keep not from the sycamore grove, but from his private table at Perkins. An hour before the scheduled meet, a water main under the restaurant burst. The manager apologized while fishing jagged chunks of pie crust out of her shoes. “Every Coconut Cream is flooded. And the Chocolate French Silk, the Homestyle Apple, the Banana Cream…my apologies, sir. I can offer you some Perky Bear Pancakes, if you’d like to—”
But while he lacked previous experience in the area, Adam Levine imagined that acquiring a castle did not generally involve pancakes from the Kid’s Menu.
He shuffled over to the cluster of trees across the street, where the castle-peddler, Christopher Martin of the Coldplay Martins, was waiting for him. And it was there that Levine assumed ownership of his fortress, his base of operations resting on a natural formation that the eye could not detect. Martin even offered to reduce the payments, provided that Levine would agree to occasionally “handle some minor nuisances” on his behalf.
Preoccupied with daydreaming about custom moats, Levine signed. A nearby thrush, witness to the entire exchange and cursed with knowledge it lacked the language to communicate, issued a worried little warble. Both men ignored it.
“EXECUTE PLAN ‘VIVA LA VIDA’!” Levine’s frantic bark cut through the sound of his jet-powered skiboat’s engine sputtering. “And get me Brian Eno!”
“Eno blocked you on Instagram last month, sir.”
Levine huffed and huffed some more and hoped Festivus noticed how well he was handling this crisis. “I just wanted to finish my book. I was going to rewatch Super Troopers tonight! The Extended Edition! And now I have to track down someone in America who insulted Chris’s band?”
“The culprit does not necessarily reside in the United States, sir.”
“He’s gonna HEAR about this!!!”, Levine howled.”I never should have taken the offer. And I hated ‘Yellow’! I don’t have time to look at the stars, Chris, ’cause now I gotta—”
“Mr. Levine, he appears to be calling again.”
But Adam Levine did not hear Festivus’s final words of that evening; he was already airborne, his helmet not entirely secure, his battle Chapstick sloppily applied. The skiboat wobbled under the weight of his diatribe. Festivus lifted a rather unnatural-looking rock and pressed a button hidden there. The hydraulic doors leading back to the castle’s skiboat staircase whooshed open, and from somewhere in the distance, he heard Levine’s mantra angrily echoing through across the invisible mountain range.
“WHY DO YOU RUIN EVERYTHING, CHRIS?”
Based on a quote from @omgitsgene, via @Zanthina