There were more than 100 barbers in Crepuscular Meadows. You could draw any conclusions that you liked from this, but the writer leans toward the notion that something good in the air or water or mindset of the town's residents gave them an advantage when it came to keeping their hair as they aged. But you could only keep so much of your hair before your better half or your employers or the ladies in the dining halls at the various settlements for senior citizens were apt to say something unflattering about the way you were letting yourself go to pot.
Crepuscular Meadows was not one of the most fashionable places you could live. It lived by tradition, and one of the traditions most worth having was neatness of appearance. This did not come from wearing the latest Italian suits or dressing up for church, but if you had an ounce of pride, you did not want people to think you were one of the riffraff.
And if you happened to be at a Starbucks two blocks from the Grocery Basket store on Main Street, at the corner of the road that led to the town Hospital, the people there were apt to bend your ear about what a great job Figaro Spontini did in his barber shop two blocks down a side street. Yes, the side street was named Seville Street, and the barber's name was Figaro. Coincidences did happen, even in Crepuscular Meadows.
So, let's say you drove down Seville Street to check the place out. Turns out, Figaro's barber shop was an experience. Figaro was in his mid-sixties, with a luxurious wavy silver head of hair. He had been cutting hair since his early twenties, and had seen generations of Crepuscular Meadows citizens come and go.
If you happened to be there to bring your elderly father or uncle for a trim, you did not need to bring a book to read to while away the time. Figaro had enough opinions for ten people, and he was a master at involving anyone in discussion, whether they wanted to be involved or not. You would find yourself putting down the book you had brought, and would not get a chance to read one more page from it.
You didn't want to get Figaro started on the work ethic among recent immigrants to Crepuscular Meadows, but honestly how could you stop him once he got rolling? He figured the town was going down the tubes because of the foreigners. He also had a dim view of the environmentalists, who usually just wanted the local streams to be pristine so they could go boating a few times a year.
If you happened to belong to the younger generation, Figaro offered a master course in town history. Of course you had to come back many times to learn much, but hair tends to grow back, and you needed to keep it neatly trimmed, right? And maybe Figaro wouldn't mind so much if you just liked to sit in a chair in his waiting room, whether you needed a haircut or not. He definitely found it flattering that people would want to hear his insights.
20. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: Spectacle Lake
No, this had nothing to do with Spectacular Mr. O'Toole. Nor was it in Crepuscular Meadows. It was about 15 miles away, and a couple of towns over.
Farmers used to gather there for dances and hog calling contests, among other things. That was in the 18th and 19th centuries. By the time of our story, there were few farmers left in the area, but it was such a nice spot that the city it called home had made a nice park of the lands surrounding it. There were picnic tables, and trails through the woods. A nice trail followed the shoreline; the gazebo was a particularly nice destination. During better times, bands had given concerts in the gazebo, but in this time of Coronavirus worry, those niceties had seen their day.
Still, if you observed the proper social distancing etiquette, and you liked to gaze through the water at the mossy stones at the bottom, you could have a nice time. The local duck population was well-fed, and tourist handouts helped to ensure that that continued.
The lake had occasionally been well-stocked with goldfish. This worked into the plans of seagulls that flew inland from the ocean 50 miles away, though. They didn't do this every year, so if Park authorities put some goldfish in the lake, they might last a few years, or until the next seagull invasion.
Right now there were a few goldfish visible, but they were wary, and with good reason. A few large, flat stones near the lake's center had recesses that a few fish could hide under. The fish probably bred in the lake, for they came in many different sizes. If seagulls came, the bigger fish wouldn't find enough room under the rock, but the little ones could hide until all was safe.
On a nice day in mid-July, several citizens of Crepuscular Meadows converged on the lake by coincidence -- none of them knew the others were coming.
Guy de la Tourette brought Heureux (on a leash, of course, as the rules required). Mayor Gladhand was interviewing an applicant for one of the town's agencies, and said applicant was meeting the mayor here on his lunch hour. In one of her few public appearances, the Mayor's cousin Elvira rode there with him.
Jim Dandrich had taken a day off from his work at the bank, and had his sons with him. Minny was there, too. This time there were no fishing poles. The boys walked around the edges of the lake, pointing at goldfish.
The Crepuscularians acknowledged each other, but made no effort to act chummy. This was not a reflection of any ill feelings, though de la Tourette had sometimes raised a stink at Town meeting about the state of the fountain in the park (one of the nozzles was blocked, so water wasn't coming out. No one else cared; plenty of other nozzles were working fine). Jim Dandrich thought the Mayor was doing a good job, and could see that Hizzoner was busy with someone who looked like a town official, though not one from Crepuscular Meadows.
Elvira did a very un-Elviralike thing: removing her socks and shoes, she dipped her toes into the water. This was not expressly forbidden in the rules, but who expected Elvira to do such a thing? A goldfish came up and nuzzled her toes (had she rubbed some fish food on them?). She tossed some fish food into the water to watch the fish gobble it up. The ducks were not left out; Elvira tossed some bread at a spot where a few ducks were swimming.
But -- Mother Nature with her capricious sense o humor!
-- a black cloud suddenly appeared overhead and threw sheets of rain at the visitors. Minny, being perennially prepared, took four umbrellas out of a bag, and handed them out to her family. De la Tourette headed for the shelter of the gazebo, and the Mayor took his guest into his car to finish the interview.
Ten minutes later nature smiled again, and the visitors resumed their pleasant activities.
21. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: Fernald Shanahan, the town's oldest resident
It was a lovely July afternoon when the writer went to Clematis Station to visit the town's oldest man. His name was Fernald Shanahan, born in 1920. This was the day after his hundredth birthday. I hoped that the excitement of his birthday festivities had not worn him out too much.
It was a couple of hours after lunch, and I had been told by the people who answered the phone that he customarily took a nap after each meal. An old man's digestion doesn't work as fast as it might have in his youth.
He was just coming out of his nap as I arrived in his room.
His eyesight was not particularly good, and he needed a hearing aid. Well, those are the vagaries of living a long life.
His room was tidy. He had undoubtedly left a house full of mementoes and memories. The writer wondered how a lifelong bachelor like him had managed to dispose of all that stuff, but having interviewed many residents of "The Station," the answer was not hard to find: several local charities had volunteers who routinely sifted through people's stuff when they sold their homes to go into
these kinds of developments.
The most prominent local charity was Staff of Life. With a little luck, it was able to find enough items of value to justify the effort. Recycling was, of course, de rigueur pretty much everywhere, even if China no longer wanted
America's stuff. Some cities would have already come up with alternative uses for recyclables such as composting food waste, or burning whatever was burnable.
Well, this chapter was supposed to be about Fernald Shanahan, and the topic drifted. Sorry.
Anyway, Fernald liked to be asked about the wisdom he had accumulated over a century. Even better, he liked it when an interviewer allowed him to choose his subjects, as he did today.
"You're probably here to ask about the Hurricane of 1938, he said in a weak voice. Everyone does, sooner or later. I was just 18, and I was in Nobility, the next town. As you know, the railroad tracks divide Nobility from Crepuscular Meadows, and I was at Nobility Station (so-called because there was once a railroad station on the border, at the corner of Water Street and Wattabighill Road).
Anyway, besides the houses that were near the former station there was a very large apple orchard. It was September, and the apples were perfect for picking. I worked there all afternoon, but around 5:00 I noticed angry dark clouds gathering overhead. The heavy rain and strong gusts made it impossible to think of doing anything but clearing out of there as fast as possible.
Trees were already starting to get knocked down as I walked along Wattabighill Road. The railroad station was getting pummeled by the wind. Water Street was dicey. It ran steeply downhill, which made it slippery with all the the rain that was racing down it. I had three miles to go, but it seemed to take forever. I don't know how I got to my home on Birch Street in one piece."
He paused for breath, an then promptly fell asleep again.
"I think that's all you're going to get from him today," said an aide who escorted me out of his room.
"Should I try to come back another time?" the writer asked.
"If you like to hear about the Hurricane of 1938, you can," the aide said. "Otherwise, the Crepuscular Evening Gazette ran a very thorough interview with him about 15 years ago, and we can get a copy of it for you."
22. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: Julia Lindstrom is a grandmother!
The birth rate in Crepuscular Meadows is not especially high, so when the stork brings a new resident to the town, it always seems to be an event.
Julia had raised one daughter, Emma, who had been considered the prettiest girl in high school. The boys had noticed, big time, and Emma never lacked for a date, even when she wasn't particularly looking for one.
Julia's husband, Lars, had gotten a job on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. No, it wasn't the Deepwater Horizon one that caused so much death and destruction, but in terms of the Lindstrom family, it was a fiasco in its own way. One of the secretarial workers on the rig caught Lars's eye, and the rest of his body followed suit. This happened when Emma was five, so Julia had essentially been a single parent ever since.
Child support payments had not been especially high, nor were Julia's earnings in the Clematis Station cafeteria. Add to this the fact that Emma's grades were not high enough to get her a scholarship to a good college, and Emma was lucky to get an associate degree from Crepuscular Meadows Junior College. She took some secretarial and business courses, and was able to sneak into the Clematis Station cafeteria often enough to learn culinary arts from her mother, and now she had her own little cafe near the south end of High Street.
If her meatloaf tasted a lot like her mother's, no one needed to be too surprised. Except that many of her customers didn't want a sit-down meal. It was mostly coffee and pastries for people on their breaks, or takeout food for lunch. Her meatloaf ended up in sub sandwiches. No problem! they were the most popular item on the menu.
While Emma was pregnant, her husband Ken Sullivan helped out in the cafe a lot.
The maternity ward at Crepuscular Meadows Hospital had closed decades before, but an expectant mother could be accommodated in a regular hospital bed.
A couple of part-time teenagers helped run the cafe now (it was summer, so school didn't prevent them from working the busy morning and early afternoon shift).
The cafe wasn't making a ton of money, but it was getting by. The new baby was named Viggo Sullivan. Not the most common name or the most auspicious baby, but to his parents he was ideal.
23. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: Thoughts of a tree
The writer has decided to take a risk. An entity claiming to be a sentient tree has asked to grant an interview so the readers could hear what it's like to be a tree in Central Park in Crepuscular Meadows.
Not just *a* tree, but perhaps the oldest and certainly the biggest one. What follows is written in interview form:
TW ]The Writer]: What made you decide to come forward now with this information?
TT [The Tree]: You may or may not know this, but trees communicate with each other through their root systems.
The maple tree next to the fountain has learned enough English to understand conversations between some of the humans that come through the Park. Someone named "the writer" has been talking to people about the town.
TW: What would a tree care about what humans say to each other?
TT: During droughts, someone named a groundskeeper occasionally waters our roots. we hear that metal grating has been put down around our roots so the ground won't be packed down too tightly. These are good things. What tree wouldn't want to let the humans know how nice this is?
TW: how much consciousness does a tree like you have?
TT: In cold weather, none whatsoever, but look around. When it's raining, as it is today, we feel the welcome moisture seeping into the earth around out roots. When the sun comes up, this wakes up our leaves, which go to work making energy, which goes into our sap.
TW: Can you tell us anything else?
TT: Sorry, no. That's it. Except that when there are enemy insects or infections around, we warn the other trees about them. How much else did you think a tree would care about?
TW: Yeah, I guess that make sense. Well, thanks for letting us hear your side of things.
TT: The sun has dimmed. I'm getting sleepy. Good day!
24. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: Gaia Philbin, who talks to trees and animals
When she wasn't hanging around "Welcome to the Sixties" or scarfing down meatball subs at Emma Sullivan's diner, Gaia Philpin tended to be wandering around central park or any of the designated nature conservation spots in Crepuscular Meadows. Now that the writer thinks about it, there were quite a few such conservation spots around town. Many were near the reservoir, which itself could be thought of as a conservation area. Except that one wouldn't expect Gaia to be talking to fish, would one? Those who knew Gaia said that one should rule out nothing.
Anyway, Gaia's claim to fame was that she was good at reading auras. And vibes. And you couldn't prove her claims one way or another. It was she who told the writer what the big old tree was thinking.
This was not necessarily a bad thing. Scientists who had studied tree-to-tree communication said that when an insect predator attacks one tree, distress signals were sent to the tree's roots, which tapped into a mycorrhizal network (the writer understands that this was a form of helpful fungus
that connected with roots of perhaps many trees) and alerted other trees so they could mobilize against it. Perhaps they could move distasteful substances into the leaves that the insect would not enjoy. Whatever.
Again the writer has unwittingly strayed a bit off topic, though the idea of communication among trees is not so far from the idea of communication between trees and humans.
Cynics (of whom there were many in Crepuscular Meadows) rolled their eyes when you told them about Gaia's "interviews" with the denizens of the town's forests.
The entire Board of selectmen had a formal policy of not recognizing Gaia if she showed up at hearings and wished to talk. Under pressure from the Town Counsel, though,
they were forced to allow her to give them written statements if she felt that she must (which she did, and often). There was always a waste basket handy when they read these messages.
Anyway, Gaia had "listened" to the local bat population during her travels in the 30 Caves Conservation Area that spanned he borders of Crepuscular Meadows and neighboring Heidelberg. Few other people ever went there, so she was popular among the Rangers who serviced the area. Not many people were troubled by bat infestations, but it was pretty certain that there were at least a few bats around. And, what Gaia had to say about the bats' predictions was troubling. Back in April, 2019, the bats had "told" her that many of them were not feeling well. Lo and behold, Covid-19 crossed from bats to humans in China. Was Gaia prophetic? Was she just guessing. Was she like Cassandra in the sense that she could always predict disaster? Did Chinese bat diseases even count here, this not being anywhere near China?
These are mysteries. You could argue that Gaia had predicted many disasters that had not come to pass. was she just lucky this time?
Should Crepuscularians gird for more disasters? There's no way to be sure.
25. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: The Cuckoo house
Not many people live in cuckoo clocks. There are two reasons: one, the clocks are usually not roomy enough for people, and two, there's just enough room for one cuckoo.
Cuckoos are much smaller than people.
When the writer started out to write this chapter, he assumed that real cuckoos would not be found in Crepuscular Meadows or environs. Surprisingly, two cuckoo species were native to the area. This was not a surprise to the cuckoos, as they knew where they were, or at least we assume they did. (If they didn't, perhaps other birds told them. Or not. Cuckoos were said to be guilty of stealing other birds' nests, which would not have made them popular.)
Anyway, up on a hill overlooking the Hoohaw River after it emerged from the reservoir dam, there was a side street where a man named Geppetto Conti had built a house shaped like a cuckoo clock. It was definitely big enough for humans to live in. As proof, consider that Mr. Conti had lived there for thirty years.
But no, Mr. Conti was not a toymaker despite his first name, which you may remember was the name of the man who created Pinocchio in a beloved story. You may well wonder why he would do this, and whether he dressed up as a cuckoo and emerged from the house every hour on the hour to say "Cuckoo."
Well, he didn't. You might justly call him eccentric, but he was far from crazy. No, he carefully maintained a grove of trees that attracted webworms and other caterpillars. Cuckoos feasted on caterpillars. Geppetto worked from home, as many people did in the days of Coronavirus, but he was doing it before the Covid virus showed up.
He had surveillance cameras hidden among his trees, and they had some sophisticated pattern recognition software that allowed them to recognize cuckoos. As soon as a cuckoo showed up, a little bell went off in Geppetto's study, and he scanned the screens so he could see the cuckoos.
This was either way too clever, or compulsive bordering on a disorder where we don't want to go.
Anyway, Crepuscularians were fairly jaded about eccentric behavior, so if the had heard about Geppetto Conti at all, their response to information about his cuckoo watching would have elicited a collective yawn.
But what would a spotlight series on Crepuscular Meadows be without a visit to Mr. Conti's unique abode?
Well, it would be incomplete. And this writer does not like being incomplete, especially as he has plenty of time in which to track the comings and goings of Crepuscular Meadows residents
So, late on a fine mid-July morning, the writer paid a call on the Cuckoo House. He had arranged the visit in advance, and Mr. Conti was eager to see him. Perhaps Mr. Conti was lonely for human contact.
Anyway, the house was lovely both inside and out. Mr. Conti showed the writer his surveillance screens, and the writer was lucky enough to see both a black-billed cuckoo
(which looked something like this:
and a yellow-billed cuckoo
And what kind of cuckoo house wouldn't have cuckoo clock or two? Certainly not Mr. Conti's. Not surprisingly he turned out to be something of a collector.
As it turned out, the writer had made a bit of a mistake, which he was soon to realize. While he was wrapping up his interview, Noon rolled around. In a house full of cuckoo clocks, this means a very long sequence of cuckoo calls. Considering that Mr. Conti had dozens (or it seemed like hundreds) of the clocks, the sound was unlike anything the writer had heard or wished to hear again.
So, if the reader likes the sound of cuckoo cocks, and wishes to hear them, and if Mr. Conti is still doing his thing, the reader is advised to pay a call on him.....
26. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: Watching the mill windows
High Street, the main commercial street of Crepuscular Meadows, ended abruptly when it met Union Street, which ran at right angles to it, and continued to Chestnut Street for a steep drop to the Hoohaw River valley and the various mills and, of course, the reservoir.
The shops at the corner of High and Union afforded a great view of -- a long row of mills, separated form Union Street by a five-foot-tall wall.
You might wonder why so many mill buildings were needed in this day and age when almost everything could be made cheaper and faster in China. The writer has no opinion on this, and does not even want to guess. Maybe these mill buildings, being so old, were dirt cheap as far as rents are concerned. Or the whole group of buildings were a front for clandestine affairs that no one would imagine were taking place in Crepuscular Meadows -- which would make Crepuscular Meadows the perfect place for them to be taking place.
Anyway, this spotlight is about an elderly women who tended to sit for hours at a table on the sidewalk in front of Emma Sullivan's cafe. She faced one of the mill buildings, and seemed intent on one particular window of one particular building.
Ken, Emma's husband, rolled his eyes when I asked what the woman was doing there. "She's harmless, I think," he said, sanitizing the counter. "She's been a regular ever since we opened the cafe. She sat inside until the Covid quarantine started, at which point she would get coffee and a donut as takeout, and stand at the wall, gazing at that window. Now that we are allowed outdoor seating, she sits outside, still obsessed about that building."
The writer pulled up a chair at an empty table six feet from the woman, and politely explained his mission as a chronicler of the town's people and places. He asked her name, and invited her to give her story.
"I'm Letitia Lochinvar," she said without hesitation. "Connery Lochinvar used to work in an office over there." She pointed to a window in the mill. It was dark at present.
"He swept me off my feet thirty years ago, when I was about to get married to a man my father had chosen for me, but I loathed. Connery turned out to be a much better choice."
She took a bite of her donut and a sip of coffee before continuing. "He wasn't wealthy -- very few mill workers ever are. But his family had a small house across the street from the Cuckoo House -- have you seen it?" I nodded. "Five years ago, my darling Connery Lochinvar disappeared into thin air."
I raised both eyebrows. Was this a confirmation of the possibility that clandestine operations really were happening in those mill buildings?
"Next thing I knew, that whole division was shut down, and an insurance company rented the suite where my Connery used to work."
"Curiouser and curiouser," the writer observed, referring to a Lewis Carroll turn of phrase.
"Well, I'm retired now myself -- I took a buyout from R. H. Nasty, with a healthy early retirement payout. I have time on my hands, and no interest in anything but keeping an eye on the place where my Connery was last seen."
"What are the chances that he will return to that building?" the writer wondered.
"If he needs money, and if they are hiring, he might consider applying for a job there," Letitia said thoughtfully.
"Besides, I'm not totally wasting my time, since my daughter Perdida works for that insurance agency now, and by coincidence sits next to the window my Connery looked out of. She gives me a little wave now and then."
27. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: Pure Water Springs
In the nearby town of Nobility, there was a trailer park. It probably came into being because there was a patch of swampland (nowadays usually referred to as "wetlands") that was going cheap, and someone wanted to stay with the times and perhaps make a little money by putting a trailer park there.
Trailer parks can be quite a great business model. The trailer owners take all the risks of ownership (insurance, home repairs, heating, etc.) because they own their units. The park owner just rents land to them, hands everyone a list of park rules, and deals with occasional turnover when someone moves out or dies.
There was no particular reason why a trailer park should spring up in this particular place, and even less of a reason to call the place "Pure Water Springs." But young entrepreneurs like to think they're seizing opportunity with both hands. These owners certainly did. The patch of swamp looked like the beneficiary of springwater as it dribbled down from the hill in back of the place, as well as the hill in front of the place. A gentle slope to the east ensured that any water would drain away.
So, the owner dug out the swamp, making a very nice swimming pool. The spring filled it. The land around the place was graded. Pipes for water were buried in the ground. Gravel pads were put in at each spot where a trailer would be put. The owners had no way to know that, sixty years later, environmentalists would decide that gravel pads were not good enough protection against storm damage; concrete pads would be all but required, at an expense of around $7,500 a pop, making the park no longer financially feasible.
Luckily, the owners had a nephew who was a lawyer, and he was able to argue that it was unlikely that a storm large enough to cause the trailers to bash into each other because of massive amounts of water swirling around was likely to occur. Ordinary tie-downs would suffice. Even tie-downs cost money, but so far the park was making a go of it.
But back to the park's name. Was "Pure Water Springs" an accurate name for the place? The writer will let the reader decide. The writer will not mention whether any egg farms further up the hill would be likely to release pollutants into the groundwater. Or whether enough oil would seep from the undersides of traffic moving along the increasingly busy road that ran past the park to make swimming in the pool inadvisable.
It's just a name, people. Even in a world of social media, some places are just not on the radar of the critics. And, if you cared to buy a trailer in the park, there would probably be a vacancy or two. Go, if you've a mind to. Enjoy. You would have cheap lodgings just four or five miles from the booming metropolis of Crepuscular Meadows.
28. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: what's that in the reservoir?
The Hoohaw Reservoir was especially popular on this day. No one had a ready answer as to why. At least, no one who wasn't plugged into social media. (Crepuscularians were on social media to varying degrees, but many of them were old enough not to get too involved. When you're in your sixties, and you're retired, the extent of your involvement with Facedreck was a matter of how many pictures of the woodchuck that had just eaten your tomatoes should be posted.
Underwater burial vaults of some long-dead Egyptians would not rise very high on that list.
But among the young generation, such as it was, things were different. When Jim Dandrich came home from work at 5:05, his son Bart asked him if he had heard the news about the discovery in Hoohaw Reservoir. Jim was no more clueless than most parents, but he still felt on the spot.
"Did someone see an unusually large bass, trout, or perch?" Jim wondered.
"No. An Egyptian pyramid. Dad, all my friends are talking about it. Someone put a video of it on Spewtube, and it went viral."
Well, Jim knew what going viral was, He did watch the news and read the occasional newspaper.
"Someone is likely to get arrested for putting it there, if it really is a pyramid," he said, not sure whether to hang up his coat or not. These kinds of events all too often led to going back outside (even though it was 90 degrees) to check things out.
Bart turned on the TV, which showed a growing crowd of people on the bank of the reservoir, gawking at the water. A News at 5:00 drone could be seen hovering over a spot 300 feet out from the bank, and an inset picture showed the top of a pyramid. Not just a replica, but a rather substantial one.
"Tell me that I'm not in the plotline for some movie blockbuster," Jim muttered to himself.
"If there's a lot of excitement, why couldn't we go there as a family and be part of it?" wondered Eulalie, Jim's wife. "Supper can be sandwiches. We can put them in a picnic basket. We can even pick up Minny on the way. She's always been a history buff."
So it was settled. They were going to eat supper on the bank of the Hoohaw Reservoir and be among the first to know what an Egyptian pyramid was doing in a reservoir more than 6,000 miles form where pyramids were usually to be found.
The car was an old model, and it wasn't too happy about the temperature and humidity that prevailed on that day, but it did get the family (including Minny) to the Hoohaw Reservoir Dam, where Peter Peters reluctantly let them cross the walkway so they could get to the other side where the crowd was gathered.
Because of the Coronavirus, boating was currently prohibited, but there were no rules against using drones. and the crowd was already there, as well as whatever it was that seemed to be a pyramid.
The Dandriches walked across to the side where the crowd was gathered. Then Jim inadvertently solved the mystery by walking off to one side, and was illuminated by a beam of light coming from the top of Overlook Hill.
The other onlookers gazed up at the hill and saw a grinning young man who was beaming an image of a pyramid at the reservoir.
It was a hologram!
No one knew whether he would be arrested for this (or even what laws he had allegedly broken), but the mystery was now solved. Everyone else dispersed. The Dandriches were left to eat their picnic supper alone. Which was not a bad thing.
29. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: The Meadows Hotel, and its modern existence as a rooming house
At one time, The Meadows Hotel was an above-average place to book a room if you happened to be in town for a while. When Vaudeville was in full swing, most performers stayed there while they were engaged at the Stranded Theater.
Those were the days. As was mentioned in earlier spotlights, Crepuscular Meadows was perfectly situated to be a crossroads. Those who took the railroads north or south or east or west knew they would be passing through the town, and could plan to stop for a while to rest and relax. Maybe take in a show at the theater. Eat at one of the fine restaurants that nowadays is but a name, but at one time was the epitome of above-average regional dining.
Even before the Hoohaw Reservoir became an attraction, there was always a chance that, in summer, one could take in a baseball game at Fullofit Field (presuming that the nearby Hoohaw River wasn't in flood stage. Nobody played baseball when the field flooded.). Canoeing on the Hoohaw River cold usually be counted on for a good time, except when drought made the water levels low.
There were even horse races, though just beyond the town limits in Clanville. This was three or four miles from Clematis Station, but you could hire someone to take you there.
But enough about the glories of the past. Nowadays, if you find a reason to be in Crepuscular Meadows for a while, and you need lodgings, there's a Whynot Motor Lodge in Marblerow. It's across the street from a Ritzy Hotel, which is another good choice.
So, what happened to the famous Meadows Hotel? The building is still there, and people still book rooms there, but it is now the Meadows Rooming House. This may not be a good place to walk past in he middle of the night, though incidents involving the residents have not been frequent.
Retired circus performers are well-represented in the Meadows Rooming House. This is not as outlandish as you might think. Up until about 25 years ago, the Barge-in and
Brazen Circus set up its tents in Fullofit Field every Summer. This was convenient because of the railroad tracks that ran along the Hoohaw River, and made easy access for circuses that traveled by rail.
Tina and Belle O'Grady, the "Daredevil Twins" who once did a trapeze act for the circus lived in the Meadows Rooming House now. You would never guess, to look at them now, that they had ever been on a trapeze. Tina is old and bent over, and walks with a cane. Belle, five years younger, is thin as a rail and smokes American Spirits. She coughs a lot, and you won't find her trying to move very fast, but what do you expect from someone in her late eighties?
The place has its share of alcoholics. Okay, more than its share of alcoholics. Management put in an extensive system of fire-detection equipment and sprinklers many years ago, just in case one of the alkies fell asleep with a lighted cigarette. These have saved everyone's bacon many times.
Should the writer come back with more fascinating stories about the residents in another spotlight? Please let him know.
30. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: the Meadows Rooming House and its rising reputation
In the last Spotlight entry, the writer mentioned the wisdom of not walking past the Meadows Rooming House in the middle of the night. Generally, it doesn't make a lot of sense to go walking in the middle of the night unless oyu have a good reason for doing so. And, walking past the rooming house at night might have been worth discouraging in the past.
But the writer has just got off the phone with Patrick Schneider, the man who makes sure the Meadows is in good working condition. Okay, before the writer tells you what Schneider had to say, one thing has to be settled first: although this Pat Schneider has the same name as a certain handyman in the TV series "One day at a time," he is not like that other Schneider, despite the name.
"The Meadows is attracting a much higher level of resident these days" is what Pat Schneider told the writer. "You can blame the virus," he continued. "Show business people are hurting, big time. Some really nice people have moved in here now. You might even recognize some of the names and wonder why they aren't relaxing on a beach in the Caribbean with mai tais in their hands. Well, the big studios have put new movies on hold. Some theater chains have filed for bankruptcy. Crepuscular Meadows is a really nice town where you can enjoy a surprisingly nice quality of life. The cafes have reasonable offerings at reasonable prices, you can walk along the reservoir or in the park when you want to restore the creative juices."
"Okay, give us one or two names," the writer wheedled.
"Well, there's Orfa Lompley, the star of that big blockbuster about putting rabbits in orbit ten years ago."
"I thought she had at least a dozen movies lined up," the writer protested.
"She probably does. Who knows when they'll go into production? Then there's comedian Nelson Globbit."
"But he's not unemployed," the writer protested. "I saw him at the Marblerow bar and grill last week."
"I've seen him there a couple of times myself," Schneider agreed. "They don't pay well enough to enable him to have a nice apartment. He won't be here forever, and we're thinking of hiring him for the lounge on the first floor of our building. But until fortune smiles on him, he's here. Enjoy him while you can...."
31. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: Cornicotopia
Many, many years ago, there was a man who considered himself far cleverer than anyone else. This was a view shared by no one else in his vicinity. That's the way the cookie crumbles, of course, but he reasoned that people disregarded his clever ideas because they were jealous of him.
In fact, people tended to cross the street rather than hear his latest wisdom. So he came up with plan. More specifically, he was ruminating under his favorite apple tree, when an apple fell on his head. No, he wasn't Sir Isaac Newton, though Newton was indeed very clever except when it came to investing in the disastrous South Sea Company. This proves that one person cannot be good at everything, though Newton was inarguably very good at figuring out the existence of gravity.
The man we are talking about, whose name was Jedediah Halfprat, didn't have even one great idea. Except to take the apple that fell on his head, fill a basket with other apples from the same tree, and sit by the side of the road offering free apples to anyone who would talk to him. This actually worked, as most people liked apples, and there were always some new people in the area, who didn't know Halfprat's reputation yet. (Another well-known man who lived around the same time coined the phrase "There's a sucker born every minute," but we won't expand on that, except to say.
that a fair number of suckers did talk to Halfprat, lured by the free apples.)
One such passerby got fed up with Halfprat, and wished he would move somewhere else. He told Halfprat about a man named Cornico who had a nice 90-acre farm in a town near Crepuscular Meadows, and was willing to sell it. A person could set himself up any way he wanted there. Halfprat didn't pick up on the stranger's snark, and thought he might set up a commune there.
Okay, now a word about the farm in question. It was like Florida swampland without the pleasant temperatures and orange groves. It was in an almost unimaginably broad and flat swampy area that stretched for miles. The Hoohaw River flowed trough it after leaving Crepuscular Meadows behind. The Little Hoohaw River flowed parallel to it for miles before joining it. Nowhere was the water particularly deep. If you could salvage some farmland that wasn't too wet to farm, the soil would prove to be rich enough to produce some fairly nice crops.
But you needed to know how to farm. Halfprat, for all his vaunted cleverness, knew nothing about farming. He invited some friends to join him there. He called the place Cornicotopia. His wife and four daughters came along, too (what choice did they have?). Halfprat noticed how robust the farm's orchards were, and imagined that everyone could live on fruit.
Nowadays there are people who attempt to live on fruit, but they have knowledge that Halfprat did not have. They know about the different nutrients a person ought to get, including the sense that one should find a balance among carbs, fats, and proteins.
In that day and age, many poor farmers had trouble getting enough protein, but if they had enough field area to support cows, they could use the cows for milk and, perhaps, meat. Halfprat believed that animals should not be exploited for their meat or their labor, so they used no animals for farming.
Dear reader, have you figured out where this tale is going? The settlers arrived a month behind the planting schedule. Only 14 of the 90 acres were arable. Farm work often took a backseat to teaching and philosophizing. Despite the land's fertility and the efforts of Halfprat's hard-working relatives and friends, they became malnourished and all but mutinous within seven months.
But that was more than 170 years ago. What doesn't work as a farming cooperative can still work as a tourist attraction, as in fact it does. Except when the Coronavirus is still on everyone's minds.
(Halfprat is based on a real man, whose eldest daughter did, in fact, marry a man named Pratt. Life is strange, isn't it? You can probably figure out who Halfprat was, but the writer will award you no points for doing so. It would be just too easy to guess his real identity. Unfortunately, this also blows the cover on a real community on which Crepuscular meadows is loosely based, though mostly because of the street plan. Well, it was going to happen eventually, and it's a nice story, so the writer is going to let it stand.)
32. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: Thormalus Orchards
David Thormalus likes to joke that the apple is like a god for his family. "God, as in Thor, and apple as in Malus," he explains with a wry grin.
"I'm proud that Fernald Shanahan was picking apples in one of my orchards when the Hurricane of 1938 hit," he said. "People still occasionally read that interview he gave the local paper, and the next thing you know they're there buying apples at my farm stand in Nobility."
It's much more than a farm stand, though. It's fairly large, and it stocks a lot of groceries and ready-to-eat foods. There aren't many times when it isn't busy.
That said, the main action, such as it is, can be found on the slopes of Wattabighill. "It's an ideal place for growing apples. Either that, or all other uses of the terrain were seen as less favorable than raising orchard fruit," Thormalus
continued. "The slopes are steep enough and uneven enough that a farmer would think twice about leading cows or sheep to graze there."
"And yet people do go there to harvest the apples,"
he writer said.
"They don't do it every day. Maybe that's the key. In September or October, you could hitch up your horses to a wagon, have them drag it to the orchards, and spend the day filling the wagon with apples. Pasturing cows or sheep means providing for them to be safe when the day's grazing is done."
"Have you ever heard of "Brokeback Mountain?" the writer asked.
"Practically everybody has heard of it, but I don't know why you've mentioned it."
"Basically, two young men are hired to lead a flock of sheep to an upland meadow, keep them safe through the summer, then return them to the owner at the bottom of the hill in the Fall," the writer said.
"Ah! Local farmers in past centuries wanted to know their animals were safe every night," Thormalus said. "That's why they built barns. They weren't prosperous enough to hire shepherds or cowboys to do their work for them. There was also some flat land for pasturing, and with luck it was near the barn. The hilly terrain was for raising apples."
Thormalus did not need to mention that the advent of aerial spraying of pesticides in the 20th century further enhanced fruit yields.
Anyway, he led the writer through his farm stand, pointing out Cosmic Crisp, Ruby frost, and other new apple varieties that were sure to enhance profit yields. "Time doesn't stand still," Thormalus said.
"You can say that again," the writer said, shaking hands and heading back to Crepuscular Meadows.
33. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: Little Biscuits of Wheat
Today's spotlight is on the local cereal industry, such as it was. Yes, it was a modest industry consisting of one relatively small player in the global cereal industry: Ivan Dooby Inc., which produced, with the permission of the parent company in the U.K., Little Biscuits of Wheat, which had the acronym LBOW. The cereal produced here was sold in the U.S.
As the Hoohaw River emerged from the sluice gates of the reservoir dam, it meandered North and then turned East, passing under a bridge on Chestnut street. If you stood on the bridge and faced downstream, you saw the Gofigure publishing company on the left bank, and the Ivan Dooby plant (perched precariously on a steep and narrow plot of land) on the right bank.
Both companies were exercises in WTF thinking. They reflected the efforts of townspeople to fight high unemployment during the Great depression of the 1930s, by using plants that were already there, to make products that people presumably needed -- books and breakfast cereal. Well, other times of high unemployment came occasionally. Breakfast cereal continued to make the grade as a desirable commodity. Ivan Dooby's plant on Main Street near the Clanville line was retooled so it could manufacture plastic silverware to accompany the cereal as it was given to troops who were fighting in Vietnam. Financially, this was the high point for the company.The writer knew some people who worked in that plant, which had since been shuttered as of this writing. The cereal continued to be made near the Chestnut Street bridge, but it was not exactly prospering.
34. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: the Gofigure Press
The Gofigure Press seemed to be thriving until the early 1970s, when it went bankrupt. But then a group of financiers bought it and retooled it so it could make greeting cards and instruction booklets for various products. At least that was what they told the public (and it was true as far as it went). It also published the National Disquieter, which seemed to be displayed on racks at every supermarket checkout aisle in the English-speaking world..
Not to be spoken of publicly was an even seamier sideline: porn. Yes, the Gofigure Press, which was started with such lofty ideals eighty years ago, now had its products in the homes of teenagers and young men who had little or no social life, or whose hormones raged whenever they were not with their significant others.
But even these lines of business were struggling to hold their own because of inroads made by the Internet. A promising venture to print out digital pictures so that family memories could be preserved had been started recently, and heavy advertising seemed to be making it profitable.
35. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: The choir from Hell
Nobility boasted a very fine interdenominational church. It had had a string of very fine ministers, as well as some talented choir directors, thanks to music faculty and students from a college in Clanville.
The town also had some native musical talent, as well as some people whose actual talent was, well, quirky. Take Mrs. Fleeb -- please! Short and stocky, with graying dull copper hair and a very strong set of pipes, Mrs. Fleeb had had some voice lessons. Her soprano was piercing, so it was a given that soprano solos would go to her.
In her early days, Mrs. Fleeb had been a real asset to the choir. She had a fine sense of pitch, and was a real leader.
But things gradually changed, especially her hearing. And then Jock Horsefeathers became organist/choir director. Jock was an asset, too, for a while. But he toe developed some hearing problems.
Do you see where this is going?
If the one voice that everyone in the congregation could hear was increasingly untethered (sometimes she didn't hear the right pitch as given by the organ), and the choir director couldn't always get her back on pitch (if he could even tell), then you would sometimes hear some unique sounds. Unique is not a synonym for pretty, though it might have been in other contexts.
Some parishioners had tin ears or hearing problems of their own. Or they bore such insults to the ear with the stoicism that comes from deep faith. In any event, things unfolded gradually, but you knew that a tipping point would be reached eventually.
That point was reached when the choir sang "For unto us a child is born," its annual selection from Handel's "Messiah." Mrs. Fleeb happened to come in half a step too high, and stayed there for the duration of the piece. It was a stunning assault on the ears. Worse, this was the one Sunday of the year when the church was packed. Everyone could hear that something was terribly wrong!
And many of those in attendance did not want the one time they attended church to be this jarring to the auditory senses.
So they passed around a petition, not against Mrs. Fleeb (who was a volunteer and couldn't be fired, and didn't really realize how much she needed a hearing aid), but against Mr. Horsefeathers for letting such a situation develop.
Fortunately, one of the .parishioners was a specialist in hearing problems. He tested both Mrs. Fleeb and Mr. Horsefeathers, and got the some hearing aids that worked for a couple of years.
Sometimes things can be tweaked. This was one of those times..
36. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: the charming but cramped library in Nobility
In this chapter, the writer wishes to shine a spotlight on the folly of municipal officials who try to hang on to charming but inadequate buildings.
Built at the beginning of the 20th Century, the Nobility Public Library was the kind of dream building that photographers from all over the country loved to take pictures of. It was a one-story building, except for loft space over the entrance. The walls were of stone. The roof was red tile. The building sat smack in the middle of about three acres of well-mowed lawn. For a town of less than 1,000 people, this was adequate. As the population quadrupled, however, The folly of maintaining the status quo became more and more evident, particularly to the town's newcomers, even though many of them came to town because the town library was so charming. What to do, what to do?
Well, a group of citizens had a plan. They got a grant from the state, matched it with donations form the townspeople, and built a new, much larger two-story library building -- behind the original building, which was left intact and used as a reading room.
Was the new arrangement functional? Absolutely! Did it look right? No way! The larger building served to make the smaller building in front like something that shouldn't be there.
What further solution could be found? That' easy! Move the old building, stone by stone and tile by tile somewhere else. Maybe Bridgeway Village, that "historical" village near the Berserkshire Hills, would welcome it.
But who would pay to move the building? Don't look at us!
So it's going to stay there and continue to not look right, even though it looked right for a century.
37. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: The classic neo-classical front of the Nobility Town Hall
The tall, broad columns that flank the front of the Town Hall in Nobility look noble and very classy -- until you realize that such sturdy columns really aren't necessary to hold up the overhang that juts out from the building's front.
But that's not going to change, is it? Nobility has many traditions, and this love of classy-looking buildings is one that Nobilitarians will hang onto. Maybe for good reason.
(The writer was going to call them Nobilitites, but Nobilitite is a mineral, which the writer will eventually
When was the Town Hall built? The writer has not yet figured that out, but the town's first attempt at a town library was housed in the Town Hall around 1860. So, the building was already in place 160 years ago. Those columns suggest a time frame of 1825-1860, which was the Greek revival period. Of course, this is the writer thinking (or writing) out loud.
As the building is so old, substantial work has been done over the years to strengthen the floor of the second story.
The writer hears that performances of some Gilbert and Sullivan operettas were performed in the auditorium of that second floor in the 1950s and 1960s.
Recent work has been done to construct an access road leading to the back of the building, so as to accommodate more cars. It is a fairly busy building. Nobility loves its classic old buildings, and the writer expects this to continue.
37. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: The house that straddled the tracks
Way back in the mists of time, some of the state's movers and shakers wanted to build railroad tracks along the line between Crepuscular Meadows and Nobility. The terrain was flat and even, with no subsurface impediments to the project. There was just one snag: Heidelburg Road, which ran parallel to the line, but about 100 feet from it on the Nobility side, had a house that straddled the border.
And this was no ordinary house. It was simply massive, constructed of large stones, and so high that you could see it from miles away. Its access road connected with Heidelburg Road, and there were no other logical places for access to it.
Would someone figure out how to move it? Well, there was a pretty big fly in that ointment: a former governor of the state lived in the house. Another fly was that the house was a historical building. George Washington had slept there. Thomas Jefferson had *tried* to sleep there, but with little luck because of the cicadas that made their sleep-disrupting noise night and day.
Well, the railroad had to go through, house or no house. The only option was to see if someone could cut a hole in the middle of the house, large enough and wide enough for even the biggest train to pass through. This had since been done with large apartment buildings. Roads had even been built through the middle of some large redwood trees, particularly the Avenue of the Giants in Eureka, California. Nature carved one of the spaces, and man followed her example with one or two other trees. Of course, the planners who thought of this solution had not actually seen the house, or they wouldn't have bothered.
This house was one of a kind, among the biggest houses in the country, and owned by the sort of person who could muster enough clout to get his own way. The railroad officials wanted a straight track -- no shifting around the house. Plus, if you were the resident of such a house, would you want to have to wait for a train to pass if you were on the access road at the time?
Conveniently, a gap large enough to service the purpose already existed within the house. This was due to local regulations in both Nobility and Crepuscular Meadows, which forbid any sort of structure within twenty feet of the town line. The people who built the house used these regulations to enable coaches to follow the access road around and unload passengers and luggage in the middle of the house, bringing them closer to whichever rooms they were to occupy. This was why the person who thought of cutting a hole really ought to have gone out and inspected the property. He would have realized that the hole was already there.
So, that problem was solved, and the railroad track went through, and the only occasional snag was that any unusually tall or wide items on a train had to be somehow shortened or narrowed in order to pass through this one particular needle's eye.
Now for the odder fact: the current resident of this house was a dwarf. How likely is it that a dwarf would have enough money to afford such a place, or the desire to
live way out in the middle of nowhere with the occasional train going through?
Well, this particular dwarf was Dillard Fremont, the world's best-known dwarf, thanks to the many iconic movies he had made. The writer does not need to name any of the movies. If the reader has heard of or seen them, listing them is unnecessary. If the reader hasn't, the writer accepts that the reader might not be interested anyway, and won't saddle the reader with unwanted information. IMDB.com lists the movies, and the reader can look them up if need be.
But to get back to the bifurcated house, the railroad tracks, and the world-famous dwarf, what was the real reason for his buying such an unusual house? Well, he was inordinately fond of model trains. What could be better than to also have *real* trains coming through from time to time?
38. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: Farrell Hogarth, a most unusual congressional candidate
Well, he wasn't *that* unusual as congressional candidates went. In 1970, there were a lot of congressional candidates who opposed the war in Vietnam. Hogarth fit right in with them.
But the others were not clergymen. To be honest, Hogarth was getting tired of preaching from the pulpit at the Nobility Interdenominational Church. He intended to resign, retire, or (if he was really unlucky) be carried out of the church in a coffin. This last option was a fate he opposed, but arguing with God on such matters was almost always futile.
Anyway, he had preached many a fire-and-brimstone sermon about the country's political situation. Some parishioners misunderstood his political stance. They thought he was soft on Communism (He wasn't. He couldn't stand Communism). A group of parishioners disliked him so much that they even broke away from the Church and started a church of their own, where they could hear a conservative Christian message every Sunday.
Hogarth, never a shrinking violet, called them "defectors," which only stirred up more ill feeling in town. Well, the die was cast in any event.
When a political action group was looking for a candidate to go against Crepuscular Meadows's ancient congressman, Morris Morgan, Hogarth looked like just the candidate they needed.
Hogarth had been a popular preacher at a church in Crepuscular Meadows (they had been sorry to lose him to the church in Nobility), so he had a base in both towns. Moreover, Hogarth was well-known on the lecture circuit for his presentations on the Holy Land. It looked like a slam-dunk. Except that when Hogarth won the Democratic primary, an enraged Morgan decided to run in the general election on stickers.
It was a gerrymandered district anyway, with some towns at the Eastern end full of anti-war sentiment. The more conservative Democrats at the western end were known for loyally voting for any Democrat who happened to be on the ballot.
Conservative Catholics had always been fond of Morgan. Hogarth's pull with Catholics wasn't likely to be as strong, but his firm command of Christian ethics was not to be disregarded, nor were his credentials as a Democrat. But winning the nomination was a nail-biter. He narrowly edged out Filger Pilchard and Morris Morgan. And then three more candidates entered the race as Independents. One was, indeed, a Catholic priest with a stronger antiwar message than even Hogarth could muster. And Pilcher himself ran on an independent party platform that sounded more democratic than the actual Democrats.
And the ultimate winner? Filger Pilchard, who won with a mere 37% of the votes cast. he lasted one term in Congress, after which Morgan regained the democratic nomination and then only served half of his term due to his demise.
Hogarth was appointed to fill out the second half of his term. Politics doesn't get much stranger than this, even in Crepuscular Meadows.
Mrs Mumble happened to bring up memories of that long-ago campaign one evening when she was visiting at Clematis Station. No one could remember who even won the contest of 1970. Many residents had been teenagers at the time -- too young to vote, as 21 was the legal voting age. Others had been eligible, but had misapplied their Morgan stickers, so their votes did not count. Mrs. Mumble's conversation lasted a mere five minutes, after which she started complaining about the odd architecture of the new Museum of Modern Art. No one opposed her on this, so she finally fell silent.
The writer voted for Hogarth.
The consensus wisdom about the election had been that Pilchard was the candidate who was the least disliked. He was young, good-looking, energetic about kissing babies. He was that rarity, a conservative Catholic who was also fervently antiwar. He had been mayor of the largest town in the eastern part of the district, but had also grown up in the largest town in the western part. His political base was more evenly spread across the district than that of anyone else.
Plus, an awful lot of Morgan's stickers were misapplied, so they were wasted.
Of course, this gave Hogarth two more years of inveighing against the American political situation. Looking back fifty years, the writer can't help but reflect that Hogarth should have had the seat, as he indeed did later.
But by the time he had the chance to enter Congress, it was 1973, and the war was seriously winding down anyway.
In any event, the strange business of the 1970 election was one reason why the residents at Clematis Station had a firm position on not talking politics. For some, this extended to religion as well. So wacky conspiracy theories, the food, the weather, and celebrities were what people talked about.
Except for Fernald Shanahan, who, on days when he was strong enough to join the others in the dining room, was always ready to talk about the Hurricane of 1938, and the apples he had been picking on that fateful day.
39. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: the day the high school burned
It wasn't that well-regarded as high schools went. If you were a parent of a student who attended it, and you heard a steady steam of complaints about the school, about all you could tell your hormone-drenched, pimple-faced offspring was that you knew how bad things were at the school, and that there were far worse schools in the world -- in some places, there were no schools at all. And anyway, all schools have underappreciated teachers who wanted to connect with their students. "If you went to school every day and paid attention, you would connect well enough to make something of yourself. It's what you put in that counts," you would tell them, knowing that they didn't necessarily disagree, but wanted to live up to their reputations as teenage scoffers and care-nothings.
The old high school stood where the police station is now: across the street from the south side of the park. By the time anyone noticed the blaze, the school was pretty much a goner. None of the students who were interviewed by reporters seemed likely to miss the place. It was old, cramped, not aging well, with drafty windows and peeling paint along the walls in the halls, and with a pervasive odor of teenage sweat. This last point could be considered a normal attribute of most old schools, even ones with efficient cleaning personnel. One supposes that the absence of a sweaty smell would be replaced with the smell of Chlorox. That was not the case here. When budgets were tight (as they usually were), cleaning supplies were among the first items to be cut.
Fortunately, it was late June, so no students would have to miss any school. This fact was greeted with a collective shrug from both parents and students. Many students were busy with summer jobs, while others were busy perfecting their various techniques of nonchalance, loitering, playing computer or video games in cramped basements. A very few were overseas, enjoying what upscale grads of generations past would have called The Grand Tour. Crepuscular Meadows had some wealthy old families ("Old money," as the term was usually used), but old money usually paid for a better education that what the town's public schools could provide. There were maybe a handful of students whom even the prep schools wouldn't accept, and these were the ones who were now on the Grand Tour. If the writer is guessing correctly, these few had the least fondness for the old school of anyone in town.
Well, so be it. The writer was living in Nobility at the time of the fire, so he heard it on the evening news. There was a video clip of thick, black smoke billowing into the sky, with the backdrop of Chestnut Street as it began its steep descent into the valley of the Hoohaw River. Say what you will about the old school, its south side gave a wonderful view of the reservoir in the distance. The building had had some sort of ersatz steeple (a strange architectural frill that
the town fathers of the early 20th century had considered de rigueur).
Few students ever climbed to the top of that "steeple." but the few who did were able to see, off to the West, Mount Hoohawsett, that strange mountain that looked like an upside-down bowl with a pimple on the top (if you saw the "pimple" up closer, you could see that it was a grand hotel or resort, hearkening back to earlier days when the well-off would take carriage rides to the top of the mountain for sightseeing). The only other place in the area with any kind of view of the mountain was Main Street in Nobility, at the point where it began its descent into the Hoohaw Valley.
Crepuscular Meadows was not endowed with many great natural features (the reservoir was a man-made artifact), nor did it have many superannuated trees (Clanville had the only very old tree in the area), a consequence of having been thickly settled from the mid-19th Century on. Having too many big trees around meant that you couldn't cram as many houses together.
Anyway, the old high school left a sizable gap in the package of services that the town was obliged to provide. It would take at least a year to build a new one, and the students had to study somewhere in the meantime. Most of Crepuscular Meadows' other schools were at or near capacity. What to do, what to do?
Ultimately, the town paid vouchers to other towns in the area so that Crepuscular Meadows students could attend them. Fortunately, Hoohoba high school in Nobility has enough capacity to absorb about 40% of the student body
(assuming double sessions and the temporary sacrifice of the gymnasium for extra classrooms), and the rest went to school in Marblerow, where students were used to having very little space anyway.
Once the rubble was cleared away, the town lost no time in building a new police station on the site. The old police station, down behind High Street was also razed. It was there that the new high school would be built.
Where did people go for police services in the meantime?
Well, there was vacant space in the mills nearby. When the writer say "nearby," he means less than 200 feet away from the old police station. You're never very far from a mill in that part of Crepuscular Meadows.