SPOTLIGHT ON CREPUSCULAR MEADOWS
1. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: Bismarck Fedora III
His grandfather was born on July 30, 1898, the day that Otto von Bismarck died. It wasn't that the baby's grandparents were lacking in imagination when it came to naming their children -- well, maybe, it *was* because of that, though they would have been the last to admit it -- but there was something, well, Bismarckian about the child. And, being Fedoras, the parents were not afraid to be old hat.
Anyway, Bismarck he was named, and Bismarck he stayed, and two more generations of namesakes came along, with few people batting an eye about the name "Bismarck." If the townspeople thought about the matter at all (which was unlikely), they assumed either that the family had come to Crepuscular Meadows from Bismarck, North Dakota (which they didn't), or that somewhere in the family tree's upper branches there had been a master baker who had become famous for making Bismarcks -- a round donut filled with custard or jelly, popular in the Western and Midwestern U.S. and contiguous Canadian provinces This was half-true, though by the time uncle Napoleon Fedora opened his bakery, the Bismarck name was already well-established in the family.
Anyway, Bismarck III was born in 1948, and by this time Crepuscular Meadows was hardly, shall we say it, a garden spot. Though it had been at the apex of the railroad industry in the 1870s, rail lines had been discontinued one by one, and there was no real reason other than location for the town to attract attention or residents.
Much the same could also be said for Bismarck III, As a teenager, he got a job sweeping the local railway station just before declining rail business forced the manager to reduce staff. Bismarck's next job was at a popular smoke shop, just as the U.S. Surgeon General's report was turning the tide against tobacco products.
So it continued for the hapless Bismarck Fedora. He got a job at a gas station in 1973, just as the oil crisis arrived. He thought he was lucky to be able to buy the station when the owner went out of business, but then the 1979 oil crisis set him back.
After this, he got a job at the Post Office, and raised a son and a daughter on what he made there. The children, alas, thought the town was hopeless, and moved away. They were right, but Bismarck was used to the town.
Anyway, as 2020 dawned, Bismarck Fdora III lived in Clematis Station, a retirement community that had once been -- you guessed it! -- the railway station that Bismarck had once swept for minimum wage.
2. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: Spectacular Mr. O'Toole, the eye doctor
Monday was the day of Bismarck's appointment with Spectacular Mr. O'Toole, the Ophthalmologist. Mr. O'Toole's office was in his home on a shady, tree-lined street that ran parallel to High Street. It was fairly plain as offices went. Mr. O'Toole's diplomas were displayed on the wall behind his desk. A chart with letters (largest on the top row, in descending size as you went down to the bottom) dominated the opposite wall. Sometimes a screen obscured the chart, so that an incoming patient would not study it too hard and get the "right" answers during his/her eye exam.
O'Toole was nicknamed "Spectacular" because a large pair of spectacles with thick lenses dominated his face. The effect was magnified by his short stature, slenderness, and habit of wearing thin, pencil-like ties. His skin was pale, and his hair was a nondescript gray, so the glasses stood out. He probably couldn't help this, as his eyes were pretty weak. Many people praised him for persevering with his work despite this weakness. He was apparently his own best patient. If this wasn't a good advertisement for his proficiency, what was?
Anyway, Bismarck had been having greater trouble seeing the clues in the crossword puzzles he did every morning. He was of the generation that grew up reading paper copies of newspapers, and was not about to stop now. Directing him to sit in the examining chair, Mr. O'Toole covered one eye at a time, trying various lenses and instructing Bismarck to read the lines further and further down the chart. When O'Toole had finished this to his satisfaction, he asked if Bismarck wanted a cherry lollipop or a lemon one. This was a long-running gag; O'Toole had a lot of young patients who looked forward to the lollipops. He figured that his adult patients might enjoy them as well. Bismarck was one who did.
Crepuscular Meadows, despite its shortcomings, was laid out in a not-unattractive 19th century fashion, with a lovely park one street up from High Street. The Town Hall was across the street from the park on the North side, and the Police Station faced it from the South side of the park. A very large building that housed a bank and the Masonic Hall occupied the block between High Street and the street that ran along the West side of the park. As for the East side, there were several residences as well as the Home for the Aged.
Bismarck had walked over from his residence, which was half a mile south of the Police Station. He walked to his appointment, cutting through the Park. Sometimes he visited a friend in the Home for the Aged on his way back, but she was in the hospital with Covid-19, so he chose his return route through the park. The hospital was about two miles west, probably too long for a walk, and Bismarck was looking forward to turkey a la king, which the dining hall at Clematis Station served every Monday for lunch. Was he set in his ways? Perhaps. Were they good ways?
He had every reason to think that they were.
By now it was lunchtime for Spectacular Mr. O'Toole as well, and he had instructed his cook to fix Shepherd's pie for him...
3. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: Freckles
The question was, was Freckles an ordinary kid? Granted, he was obsessed with his handheld electronic device, but he took pains not to let anyone else see what was on the screen. Was he just very private?
Then there was his mother, who kept to herself. She seemed to have no opinions. She never mentioned the fact that Freckles didn't seem to have a father, at least one who was ever around. She was so unmemorable that people promptly forgot about her as soon as she left the room.
The clincher was that Mr. O'Toole's cousin Sawyer lived in a town where Freckles used to live, and he remembered the kid as being older than he was now. Was this a Benjamin Button scenario? Or a case of mistaken identity?
Sawyer O'Toole, as was his nature, tended to embroider the known facts. By the time he was finished, Freckles was a backward-living extraterrestrial whose "mother" was an android. The electronic device he was so private about told the future, so naturally he didn't want people to see what it had to say.
Freckles seemed to be unperturbed by all this speculation. He spent time at the skateboard park. As this was summer, he wouldn't be in school anyway. He gave dark hints about not going to school in Crespuscular Meadows in the Fall, because his father was going to come back from some long business trip and move the family somewhere else.
At the barbershop and the general store, where old geezers got together to chew the fat, Freckles was grist for the rumor mill.
Or, he was just an ordinary kid. Not part of one of the town's old families, so he didn't fit in that way. He would soon be gone, and maybe Crepuscular Meadows would soon forget he was ever there. A pity, but that's how life is sometimes.....
4. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: Julia Lindstrom, dining room employee at Clematis Station
In the later years of its life as a railway station, a really first-rate landscape gardener had planted Clematis along the exterior of the place. Not just two or three plants, but a lot of them. Eventually, the station closed altogether, and the developers began planning for its metamorphosis into a gated community where elderly folks would be living. Lots and lots of elderly folks. Naturally, the station wasn't nearly big enough to house all of them, but the station was kept intact as an entryway into the much bigger building where there would be apartments and condos. The clematis was left unscathed. Indeed, more clematis was planted around the other buildings, and it took over as it had around the original building.
As you passed through the entryway, you found yourself with a reading room on the left and the front desk on the right. Straight ahead you could see an elegant dining room. Sometimes it was full of white-haired residents who seemed to be enjoying the food, with a bit of conversation thrown in. Appearances were not deceiving. The residents *loved* the food here.
And a major part of the reason for this was Julia Lindstrom, a second-generation Swedish-American. You can be forgiven for thinking that she was named after Julia Child, but actually her parents were enthusiastic about ancient Roman history and mores. Lots of women in the Julius Caesar family were named Julia. Maybe the Lindstroms were descended from that family. Or maybe not. Julia was a pretty name in any event.
Her name was pretty, but some people would not call her pretty. Unlike the stereotype of thin, blonde Swedish women, Julia was short, fat, and dark-haired, with gray highlights that befitted a woman in her early fifties. She could be called handsome, though, and her smile was her best feature.
Today was meatloaf day. Wait, meatloaf you say? Why would that be something the residents looked forward to? Well, there's meatloaf and then there's meatloaf. To take the example of one celebrity chef, such as Paul Prudhomme, a generous mix of the right spices can turn meatloaf into gourmet fare. Julia didn't use Prudhomme's exact spice mix, but she was aware of it, and had managed to improve on it if anything.
It was a quarter to five. People were already taking seats in the dining room. Stosh, who did most of the heavy lifting in the kitchen, had arrived fifteen minutes late, but had caught up nicely by now. Stosh is short for Stanislaw, and Stosh was indeed mostly Polish-American. Stosh was tall, thin, blond, and a favorite of many a white-haired resident.
Just goes to show that it's not wise to stereotype people.
5. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: Mrs. Mumble and Mr. Woof
Although she did not live in Clematis Station, Mrs. Mumble had several friends there. When she visited, she brought along a golden Retriever named Mr. Woof. She claimed that he was an emotional support dog, which was plausible, as he was friendly and loved everyone.
One person whom Mr. Woof loved was Freckles. There were rumors (which Mrs. Mumble did nothing to refute) that she was Freckles' grandmother. Certainly they both had hair of a radiant hue that approached that of marigolds. Both had freckles. Both had a charming (or, if you didn't like it, irritating) habit of whistling merry tunes.
Mrs. Mumble had some joint problems, which kept her from doing as much gardening as she used to do. Freckles was happy to help. Mr. Woof helped as well, for he liked to chase woodchucks from the garden.
Mrs.Mumble liked to go to the movies on Saturday night with her friends. If the movie she wanted to see was G or PG rated, Freckles was invited along. Strangely enough, Freckles' mother never came along. No one in town had ever seen Freckle's father, so they wondered if he also had the radiant marigold hair.
If, that is, Mrs. Mumble really was Freckles' grandmother. And if he wasn't an extraterrestrial..
life in Crepuscular Meadows could get tedious at times. It was nice that people had these rumors to keep their minds active.
Other rumors included, in no particular order: that Niagara Falls fell upward (no one in town had ever been there to see if this was true, so the rumor was safe from refutation, though not common sense), that President Trump had the bodies of Elvis and Jimmy Hoffa in the Lincoln bedroom (again, no one had ever been there to see, nor was anyone likely to), that the stars in the sky were fake, and that they had been painted on the inner surface of a giant dome over the earth.
This last rumor had been used as a plot point in various science fiction novels. It was suspected that the source of this rumor had read one of them. or maybe this rumor was true? Or maybe it didn't matter.
6. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: The Anything Goes Church
Walter Street, which ran along the West side of Central Park, had been planned as Walnut Street when the street plan was being laid out. Well, someone was not so great at spelling. Enough said.
Anyway, Walter Street formed the Western boundary of the Park. As it continued North past the park, it passed the Town Hall (with the public library facing it), and next to these were a doctor's office, faced by Mr. O'Toole's office/home. Finally, one building over from the Town Hall was the Anything Goes Church.
It had once been a Methodist Church, but you know how it is when some of the most important parishioners get bored with things and decide to move to the small town next door because they think they can be big fish in a small pond. Well, the outflux from the Methodist Church went to a federated church in which Baptists rubbed elbows with Unitarians, and Quakers had to deal with pretty much any other denominations that wanted in.
This had an unexpected boomerang effect. The Methodist Church, feeling unwanted and neglected, decided to put up the big umbrella as well. Heck, they welcomed people who weren't even Christians. Kwanza parties? Sure, why not? A couple of Jewish families took turns introducing the congregation to the finer points of Rosh Hashana and Hanukkah. Despite the welcome mat, Roman Catholics did not bother to come to their services. Muslims were similarly reticent, except for the occasional ecumenical ceremonies.
At first, the organist and choir threatened to resign. How on Earth were they supposed to find appropriate hymns for all these different groups? Well, a music professor from a college in the next town saved the day by providing, as needed, hymnals that would do the trick no matter what denomination was being featured in a service. The professor even volunteered the services of his son (a fine organist) and daughter (soprano soloist) to lead the way when this was needed.
Some townspeople welcomed the change, for the building was well-built, attractive, and blessed with a fine kitchen and dining facilities (important for soup kitchens, as there were many hungry unemployed people around, having lost their jobs because of Covid-19.). There was a community hall that could serve for anything from Bingo to amateur theater. Once the Couples Club put on a production of "Annie." (It didn't hurt that the president of the couple's club had a redhaired daughter with all the musical and acting chops to make the show memorable.) In back of the church there was a field that could serve as an informal badminton court, or a general recess yard for the kids during Bible School in the Summer (except that they couldn't call it that, as some parishioners were not Bible-oriented. So, why send their kids to Bible School? The parents just didn't want the little dears underfoot all summer.
7. Spotlight on Crepuscular meadows: Welcome to the Sixties
As you went away from the park on Walter Street, you passed the Anything Goes Church and two houses, and then you came to a building that, were it anywhere else, would be called a museum. The people who ran it, though, were serious about its *not* being a museum. They called it "Welcome to the Sixties," and they could not be dissuaded from their view that today is December 31, 1969. Really.
The docent who greeted you at the door was a dark-skinned man with an Afro. He was wearing a camel-colored turtleneck shirt, a light blue blazer with medium-wide lapels, and plaid pants. Inside, a woman wearing a baby-doll sundress with a red and white checked pattern handed out pamphlets proclaiming that the Sixties would never end, even though in the world view of the people there, they are about to.
The first room that you entered had pictures of prominent people who had been assassinated during the decade so far -- John F Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr and Bobby Kennedy, of course, but also actress Sharon Tate. (One couldn't help thinking that, had Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix died in 1969, they would have been classed as assassinated as well, done in by an evil society...)
There were also pictures of the police quelling riots at the 1968 Democratic Convention, as well as a picture of the American flag on the Moon. Through a door to the left of the main room, there was a small theater where iconic films were shown -- the Woodstock Concert, King's "I have a dream" speech, etc. Today, though, escapist comedy was on tap:
one episode each of the carol Burnett Show, The Beverly Hillbillies, the Red Skelton Show, Bewitched, Flintstones, Gilligan's isle, and many more, too numerous to mention.
The neighbors tolerated and sometimes even embraced Welcome to the sixties. There were half a dozen sitting in the theater at the moment.. Perhaps there were advantages to seeing these shows on a proper movie screen!
8. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: the lady in the window
No one knew who she was. Rarely was anyone seen visiting her, except for delivery people bringing her meals or whatever. She may have had a niece or nephew (or son or grandchildren) who visited when no one noticed, but most people had other things to do than spy on what was happening in her yard. She probably hired a groundskeeper to keep her lawn and privet hedge in good order. Frankly, many people along Walter Street envied her, and wished they could hire her groundskeeper themselves.
Was she independently wealthy? Did she work from home? No one knew.
What people did know was that she could often be seen sitting by the big picture window in the front of her house, looking out at what was happening. From her vantage point, she could see down the street to the library. the Town Hall, about a third of the Park, and of course
the Anything goes Church and Welcome to the Sixties (both of which were across the street from her).
Long ago, someone went to the Town Hall to see if she was registered to vote. She wasn't. Someone else went to the Library to search the resident listings. Two names were listed or her address: George and Elvira Westcott.
No one could claim to have seen anyone who might be George Westcott. She was probably Elvira. A popular TV series used to be hosted by Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. This was probably not the same Elvira (who was probably a fictional person anyway), but for anyone in Crepuscular Meadows who liked something to speculate about, Elvira Westcott was a godsend, albeit a dead end.
9. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: Mayor Gladhand and his cousins
The Gladhand family had been in town for a very long time. And there had always been at least one family member with his hands on the reins of power at one level or other. Hieronymus Gladhand was currently the most powerful man in town, for he served as mayor. In fact, he had been mayor for fifteen years now, and the populace seemed to show no inclination to give the job to anyone else.
Interestingly enough, as we consider the mysterious lady mentioned in the last spotlight, way back in the mists of time there had been a mayor George Westcott. Not the one who lived with Elvira Westcott, but his grandfather. And that mayor Westcott had married the sister of Hieronymus Gladhand's grandfather. The house where Elvira lived now had stayed in the Westcott family since then. So, Elvira was the current Mayor's second cousin.
Having this knowledge meant that what Hieronymus Gladhand was about to do made a lot of sense: He happened to be huddled with some advisors on a matter of some importance -- a zoning ordinance regarding a posh dog kennel next to the Westcotts' house, in fact. Saying that he needed a bathroom break, Gladhand went down the hall. Looking around to make sure no one noticed that he had walked *past* the men's room, he continued to the last window in the corridor, and cast a glance toward Elvira Westcott's house. Ah, she was in the window, keeping an eye on things for him. Great!
The mayor pulled out a pager to alert Elvira that he should step back from the window so as not to be seen answering the phone when he called her.
"Ah, Elvira, this is the Mayor. I only have a few minutes to talk. Listen, is that crazy lady who opposes the dog kennel in your vicinity? No? Good! I'd like to bring the zoning board over to take a look at the lot next door to you, the one where the Luxe Pet resort is being proposed."
That's all it took. The Mayor and the zoning board trotted off to the proposed site, got their impressions of what could be realistically done with it, and were back in Town Hall before anyone was any the wiser.
You could call Elvira a spy or an informant if you wished. She had her eyes and ears wide open, and the highest man in town government set great store by her observations. Moreover, Elvira's branch of the Westcott family had been fruitful in terms of multiplying, fanning out to houses in different parts of Crepuscular meadows. .Evira had at least ten cousins who were in communication with the Mayor on a regular basis. The Mayor used a special phone to get in touch with them, as it was best to fly under the radar in these matters.
The public had no idea that town government was being conducted this way, but what they saw reassured them: somehow, the powers that be in Town Hall knew what was going on in town, and they seemed to get pretty good results.
10. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: the dog kennel
It was such a nice day that Mrs. Mumble decided to take the bus to the ice cream place at the far end of Walter Street. She took Freckles along, of course, for what ten-year-old boy doesn't like ice cream? When they had finished their ice cream, they realized two things: 1. that they had missed the next bus back, and 2. it was a nice day for walking at least part of the way back to Clematis Station (not that Mrs. Mumble lived there, but she was due to have lunch there as the guest of Bismarck Fedora. She would drop Freckles off at his home on the way) .
So, they set of on foot -- not too fast, of course, because Mrs. Mumble had to use a cane to get around. It seemed like a good idea until they got almost as far as the lot next to the house where that mysterious lady lived. Out of the blue a woman approached them with the words "The town is going to the dogs!"
"Wow, what a great thing to hear!" Freckles exclaimed. "I have a wonderful dog, and I hope this will be good for him."
The strange woman recoiled in horror. "You are either a very, very bad boy, or you have much to learn," she almost hollered.
Mrs. Mumble tried her hand at defusing what was becoming a stressful situation. "What are you talking about, Ma'am?" she said soothingly. "I hear that a deluxe pet resort is being proposed for this lot. I'm sure the Mayor will not let it be approved if it is not good for the town."
The woman recoiled even more. "It's a residential neighborhood," she snapped, "and even if they got a variance, can you imagine the barking noise that would torment the neighbors? Plus, have you heard about the lethal new disease that dog fleas are carrying now? It's worse than Lyme disease, and it will wreak havoc with anyone who is bitten by those fleas from hell!"
She saw someone else to accost, so she marched past Mrs. Mumble and Freckles to continue her campaign of doom and gloom.
There was a subtle movement at the window where the mysterious lady kept her watch. She had stepped back from view, perhaps because she wanted to convey what she had seen and heard to someone else.
A taxi happened to be passing them, so Mrs. Mumble and Freckles got into it for the rest of their return trip to Clematis Station. Who knew what other crazy people were running loose today?
11. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: a newsdealer on High Street.
When Bismarck fedora was a kid, he liked to hang around a store that stocked newspapers, magazines, and the odd novelties. It was run by an unlikely partnership: a tough old lady named Ophelia Dradnog, and a middle-aged man (also tough, or at least he looked tough; the tattoos may or may not have been acquired to foster this image) named Mingus McCarthy. If you guessed that he was of mixed Irish and Scottish heritage, you would probably be right, though so what? The writer once knew a woman of Irish heritage who was named Gretchen. The parents just liked the name Gretchen. Maybe McCarthy's parents wanted to honor jazz great Charlie Mingus. Or not.
The two partners may have tried to list their two names in the store's title, but couldn't agree. Dradnog and McCarthy? McCarthy and Dradnog? Ophelia and Mingus might even have been considered. In any event, the store came to be known as "Crepuscular Meadows News", and that it has stayed.
But you may have noticed that many newspapers and magazines no longer get read in their print form. Some customers still bought paper versions of the publications on offer, but the store would not have shown much of a profit margin. So, like the Newbury Comics store in the mall on the outskirts of town, this store got imaginative about stocking things that people might buy.
Stuffed toys? Yep. Vinyl recordings? Sure. Coffee in its various forms, along with snacks? The Starbucks further down High Street might be annoyed at the competition, but let's be honest here. Many people felt that their coffee wasn't that great, nor were their munchies anything to write to Seattle about. So, Crepuscular Meadows News went for top quality stuff. And Starbucks could do nothing about it. It was no secret that Mayor Gladhands stopped there two or three times a day for coffee or pastries or a sandwich or two. It was just a block and a half from the Town Hall.
Yep, location can matter a lot. Residents in the thickly settled area around the park and the retail district appreciated it. So did people from farther out who had business to transact in Town Hall.
12. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: the statue of old what's his name in the park
What self-respecting park would be lacking a fountain and at least one statue? Not central Park in Crepuscular meadows.
Actually, there were two lovely monuments. One is dedicated to residents who fought in the Spanish-American War. The other honored those who fought in the Civil War. In the center of the park, there was a statue of children playing, surrounded by a lovely fountain.
It might not have compared with Rome's Trevi Fountain or the famous fountains at Versailles or the Katherine Museum near St. Petersburg. But so what? A statue of children playing was a nice touch, and quite likely to encourage real children to do some playing.
Granted, the demographics of Crepuscular Meadows made it unlikely that very many resident children would be available to do their playful duty, but strangely enough a number of visitors did come to town with their children (or, if not their own children, then someone else's children).
You see, Crepuscular Meadows was a relatively large community compared to most of the towns around it. After the Second World War, .a lot of people poured out of cities and into nearby small towns because they believed that these towns were better places to raise families. Maybe they were, and maybe they weren't, but the breadwinners of these families still had to earn a living. Where did they work? In the larger communities that they had moved out of. The surrounding small towns thus became known as bedroom communities. People slept there, but worked elsewhere. During working hours, there were few people of working age there, and as fewer moms chose to stay at home, this became more pronounced.
Anyway, we started to talk about the Park. The original fountain was destroyed by the Hurricane of 1938, but a replica was erected fifty or sixty years later. That may be a long time to wait, but if you stood at the main entrance to the park and took in the number of very large, old shade trees, you got a sense that fifty or sixty years wasn't that long a time. Many beeches, some maples, some smaller trees that replaced the American Elms after the Elm blight killed them were growing luxuriously. Many of them might have been more than 100 years old.
So, the trees had been around a long time.. Maybe they remembered things. Surely they would remember the Hurricane of 1938. If they lost some branches, then they grew some to replace them and continued as if nothing had happened.
But (and this is a big but) the park rules prohibited people from climbing or doing stunts on the trees. So, you could look but not touch. In general, you could have picnics in the park. You could sit on the benches. In these days of social distancing, you might want to bring along a mask if you come for a stroll, in case you get too close to other people. But that was about it.
Oh, and you might want to remember that you should be out of the park after dark.
P.S. We forgot to say who was depicted on the monuments. We don't know for sure, but not knowing should not detract from your enjoyment of the park.
13. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: Guy de la Tourette and Heureux
A familiar sight in the Park was Guy de la Tourette, who walked his dog every day.
You might ask what the dog's name is. I might well tell you. his name was Heureux, which means happy. I think that Guy de la Tourette intended for his dog to be happy, and on some levels perhaps he was. Maybe he dined on pate de foie gras once a week, with a little champagne. Or maybe there was a special dog biscuit imported from France that all the French dogs adored.. These would make most dogs happy, I'm sure.
Was Heureux happy, then? Well, it depended on whose company he kept. He marched along, matching Guy stride for stride. If he saw a squirrel he'd like to chase (and what dog wouldn't want to chase a squirrel?), he gives a quizzical look at his master, who usually shook his head. Guy is a lifelong bachelor, and his life has been long. Dogs aren't allowed off their leashes. in the park So, the squirrels went unchased, Heureux got no extra exercise, and Guy proceeded with the illusion that it was another typical day in the Park in Crepuscular Meadows. As well it might be.
Except on this particular day, when Mrs. Mumble was
escorting Freckles and Mr.Woof on a little expedition in the Park. Now, picnics are allowed and even encouraged in the Park. Freckles was carrying a little picnic basket (Mrs. Mumble was happy to let him carry it).
And then Mr. Woof saw (or heard or smelled or whatever) Heureux from 100 yards away, and yanked at his leash so hard that Mrs. Mumble dropped it.
Heureux loved Mr. Woof. The feeling was mutual. So there you have it. Poor Guy de la Tourette could do nothing to stop the two dogs from sniffing each other's butts and any other body parts. \
This was not what any of the humans envisaged or hoped for. The two dogs were happy as clams together (if clams were indeed, happy).
And then, after a few minutes, having said their hellos in typical doggy ways, Mr. Woof lazily ambled back to Mrs. Mumble and Freckles. Freckles had enjoyed watching this. Mrs. Mumble had not. They choose a nearby bench (there are many to choose from), and ate their lunches.
Guy de la Tourette, having finished what he came to the park for, returned to his grand old Victorian house with Heureux, and the incident was forgotten.
Until the next time the two dogs happened to be in the Park at the same time.
14. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows Who has stolen the roses from Mrs. Maxiver's yard?
Roses are not, by nature, ambulatory. This makes evolutionary sense. Root systems take a long time to grow, and they need to avoid disruptions. So, once they are there, they want to stay there. Oh, rose bushes can be transplanted, and of course they often are. But it's not as if the rose bushes wanted or asked to be moved.
If you ever encounter a rose bush that tells you it wants to be moved, you should be skeptical. Maybe you have wandered into Little Shop of Horrors territory.
Anyway, this was a particular rose called the "Maxiver Rose." Do you see the problem? Mrs. Maxiver went to the trouble of finding someone who would develop a rose specifically for her. Then someone who probably wasn't named Maxiver dug it up and took it Bob knows where!
Meanwhile, in another part of town, the unveiling of a statue of Horatio Grandhigh was taking place. It was, in fact, at a corner pf the Park that was as far as you could get from Mrs. Maxiver's house and missing rose. Mts. Maxiver had, in fact, been invited to the unveiling,. as befitted her status in the community. She had been president of the High School's PTA once (until her husband complained about all the time she was spending away from home, especially on nights when he expected his dinner to be served on time rather than early). Then she had participated in meals on wheels. Her husband turned out not to like that, for he felt that she was serving better food to strangers than she was to him.
Finally he divorced her for his young, pretty secretary. This was more of a blessing than a curse for her. No sooner had Mr. Maxiver departed than a really cute young guy approached her with the idea for a special rose named after her.
And now she didn't even have the rose.
As it turned out, she need not have worried about the rose. Her son Leonardo, as a surprise, had borrowed the rose to make cuttings so that they could be planted around the new statue. Most of the bush was being trimmed, and would be back in her yard within a day of two.
Can you keep a secret? This has a happy ending!
15. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: Peter Peters, Reservoir Supervisor
Somewhere in the distant past, movers and shakers in the growing community of Crepuscular Meadows realized that the town was going to need more water someday. More than they could get from wells, anyway. Never mind that the Hoohaw River (which ran through a corner of the town) could keep the town well-supplied. River water wasn't well-thought of, and this was before the days when pollution was a concern. But, if the river were to be dammed up behind a handsome, sturdy dam, that was a different kettle of fish.
Peter Peters hadn't been around in the days when the dam was built, but his great-great-grandfather not only was around, but he supervised the construction of the dam.
It took seven years for the reservoir to reach its capacity of 70 billion gallons. That's a lot of water, and even though some water is siphoned off and sent East to the much bigger community of Notsob, and plenty of Crepuscularians use what they need, there still is enough water to let through the sluice gates into the river downstream.
Peter Peters was known for his punctuality and the baloney sandwiches he brought for lunch every day. He claimed that the sandwiches put hair on his chest. No one wished to test this claim, or to have him remove his shirt. He supervised four people, and reported to the state Water Resources Administration.
The Hoohaw Reservoir was dug by hand. Several communities had to be relocated to make way for it. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the gossiping seniors at Clematis Station have it all wrong as far as curses are concerned. The reservoir is not cursed by the ghosts of the people who were relocated from graveyards in the towns that were submerged. This writer can't promise that curses and ghosts won't be mentioned as the spotlight series progresses. Such things make for fine storytelling, and this writer would welcome the soubriquette "master storyteller" if it should ever be applied to him. Not that this is either imminent or all that likely, but one always hopes to be appreciated, hopefully during his own time. Nevertheless, unless one is a fan of disaster stories like the one about the Johnstown flood, this is not a fruitful project. There is very little downstream from the reservoir except a baseball field and some old, creaky buildings that once housed the people who worked at some mills that used water power from the river. Those buildings would not be missed (except for the poor souls who live there), and unless a flood occurs during baseball season, people could always wait for the field to dry out after the flood.
Anyway, Peter Peters led a placid life, with little or no chance of a flood in his future. There are people who like to come to the reservoir to fish. They would miss the water, as would the fish themselves.
Keep your shirt on, Peter!
16. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: Jim Dandrich, fisherman for the afternoon
It was a lovely Saturday afternoon in July. Jim Dandrich, a distant cousin of Peter Peters, brought his two young sons to the Crepuscular Meadows reservoir once a week to fish. Well, the fish didn't need to be very worried, as Jim was garrulous and friendly with everyone he met on the way. They started out from their home on Birch Street after lunch.
Bart, the older son, was ten years old. He was dark-haired and fair-complexioned like his dad. Chandler, the younger, was eight. His hair wasn't quite as dark as that of his brother -- more like chestnut with copper highlights, like his mother.. The boys had no illusions about how many fish they were likely to catch. The last few Saturdays they got to the reservoir around 3:30, which gave them about an hour of fishing before they had to turn around and head back home, where Mom would have a nice supper ready.
Jim worked in a bank which meant that bankers' hours prevailed. Monday through Friday, the bank was open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. People who needed to get cash or make deposits had ATM's at their disposal. On Saturdays, the bank closed at 12:00 noon, hence the chance to take the afternoon off. Sometimes they went fishing on Sundays instead, but it looked like a stormy day the next day. There were a few clouds today, but rain was unlikely. Not that that would scare away the fish. It just meant that more people would be out and about on the street as the family wended its way toward the reservoir.
This worked in Jim's favor, as he regarded the boys' Mom as the main parent, while he was the spare. One weekend day per week he could step up as a reliable parent and take the boys on an outing.. This was the outing.
From Birch Street they turned left onto Water Street. Three streets later, they stopped at Cedar Street so Jim could chat with Jim Betts, the owner of a variety store that sold submarine sandwiches and beer and other things that a lot of people liked to buy on weekends. Jim planned to stop on the way back from fishing to get some of Jim Betts's famous Italian subs, which absolutely everybody in town loved. These precious subs would be cut into small pieces and given to the guys who would be playing poker in the Dandrich house that night. Poker was the one indulgence that Mrs. Dandrich allowed her husband. She disapproved of the cigars that the men would be smoking, but it was only once a week, and the guys usually dropped a few coins on the floor by "accident" during the game. The boys would find the coins the next morning before their parents got up.
They continued along Chestnut Street, past the Park, downhill past the mills, and then to the Reservoir. They only stopped to chat with friends six times today -- a lot less than usual. Peter Peters nodded as they drove by -- he was happy to know that his kinfolk were helping to keep the reservoir a popular spot for recreation. The people at the Water Resources Administration might think of the Reservoir as just a handy supply of much-needed water for the Big City, but it also drew tourists. There was a visitors' booth by the side of the road where the walkway across the dam began. Peter didn't work seven days a week, but he managed to be there Saturday afternoons, which was when a lot of tourists would come into town to see this monumental project that had once been the world's largest hand-dug reservoir..
The Dandriches parked next to an arm of the reservoir that came right up to the edge of the road. There were picnic tables, but these would not be needed today. From April through November, shoreline fishing was allowed. Social distancing was required, but there was plenty of space in case other fishermen arrived. Jim spread a big towel on the ground, then sat down and took out his fishing gear. The boys followed suit. Soon they were enjoying the view across the water to the distant towns of Hoohaw, West Crepuscular Meadows, and Lost Village (so called because at the last moment one of the state's high and mighty realized that his grandmother would have to be relocated from one of the submerged towns. You couldn't allow that, could you, so a space was cleared out of some woods, and the village was moved there).
Yes, it really was called Lost Village. The town's most prominent family was the Losts.
17. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: two very different mothers-in-law
What kind of parents would name their younger son Randolph Dandrich? Well, Jim's parents did just that. In school he was known as Randy Dandy, or Dandy Randy. I don't know which epithet hurt the most, but, like most children, Randy survived it. he grew up to marry Trudy Schoenberg, whose father was, as you might guess from the surname, German-American. Except that Trudy Schoenberg's father was German writ large. He pushed himself hard all his life. he ordered his wife Victoria around, which was a fair arrangement because she had spent her youth looking for someone to take orders from.
This was not abuse. She wanted to take orders, and she found a husband who liked to give them.
It's just that Victoria Schoenberg was misnamed on two counts: she was not commanding like the queen she was named after, and her married name was like that of a composer who set out to irritate people with his atonal music, just to get a rise out of them (the writer knows he is oversimplifying here, but this is done to make a point, which you will soon see). Getting a rise out of anyone was not Victoria Schoenberg's intention. She weighed upwards of 350 pounds, and liked to write religious poetry and hear funny stories. This was not an unhappy woman, though there were more than a few in town who thought she was more than a little bit unhinged. But did she ever hurt anybody? No!
The most she would do was to call the mother of her son-in-law --Minny Dandrich -- for advice when company dropped in unexpected an she was unsure which china to put out for them. Unlike most people, the Schoenbergs had several patterns to choose from.
Now, Minny Dandrich was not a well-to-do woman. If she had even *one* china pattern, she was lucky. Her one advantage was that she was smart, and had worked in a number of shops before she married. One such shop was Grandville's Department Store, and had had a particularly good grasp of the store's inventory. Yes, Grandville sold many china patterns, and Minny had arranged a lot of them for store displays. She couldn't afford to own any of the more expensive patterns, of course, but all Victoria had to do was describe the kind of company she as expecting, and Minny would advise her to put out the Blue Willow pattern. Victoria called with the same question six or seven times, and she never got wise to the fact that Minny's answer was always the same.
Maybe it had something to do with a television show that was popular in the 1960's. There was a character named Aunt Bea, who adored Blue Willow. It seemed to suit every taste. You literally could not go wrong by using it.
After Mr. Schoenberg died, Victoria seemed to call Minny more and more often. This could get exasperating, as Minny had no idea what to do about the neighbors' dogs getting into the trash cans, or a thunderstorm that had blown in a window in the upstairs parlor, or what to do about any number of other matters that kept coming up. Mr. Schoenberg had told her what to do. Now he was gone. Minny was apparently really smart (actually, she really *was* smart). So, Minny used her imagination and whatever she had picked up during 15 years of working in various shops and catering companies.
She got by. They all did.
But now a new potential crisis raised its head: Both women were about to move to Clematis Station. Minny was on the verge of panic. What if the powers that be put her next to Victoria Schoenberg? As luck would have it, the two units that were available were as far apart as it was possible to get. The dining room had two shifts, and the two women would not be in the same one.
Minny knew that Victoria, with her great heft, would not be likely to walk the distance to see her, so at last she could find some peace of mind.
It's funny how things turn out, isn't it?
18. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: A couple of popular diners on the outskirts of town
If you disapprove of it when a writer inserts himself (this writer is a he) into a story, read no further. You have been warned.
Main Street in Crepuscular Meadows eventually crosses the line into Clanburg. It's kind of a shame that it does, because two very nice, locally beloved diners lie just on the Clanburg side of the line.
One is the Drawbridge Diner, which sits in the shadow of a railway bridge over Main Street. A few hundred feet further into Clanburg is Dannee's Diner. When this writer's father was still alive (he lived to be nearly 100), and this writer took him to one or another of these diners many times).
Both places have had their names changed for the purpose of this story. The only people who are likely to figure out their real names are those who have been to the area. This writer's secret is probably safe, but if it isn't, so what?
The writer's father invariably asked for Lobster bisque no matter where he was. The diners mentioned never had that particular item, but were usually able to supply clam chowder instead, a choice that the writer's father accepted.
The Drawbridge Diner had clever signs and other jokes posted on the walls. There were stuffed bears, deer, and other taxidermy items here are there (the owner made no pretense at politial correctness. The food was typical diner fare. The writer enjoyed Cuban sandwiches or western omelets. At Dannee's, a more modest boxy place, there were lists of prominent places in each of the four towns that were nearby.
Both places closed during early afternoon. They catered to the breakfast and lunch crowd.
If you wanted diner fare after about 3:00, you were out of luck, though there were a few places in other nearby towns that could supply it.
The writer took his father to some of those places, too, though it would be tempting fate to mention them. Even changing the names will not prevent people form eventually figuring out what their real names were. And it is this type of name game that thi writer would like to avoid.
Besides, this spotlight series amounts to a trip down memory lane with barely fictionalized places. Let's let sleeping dogs lie, shall we?
19. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: The Barber of Seville Street
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.
40. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: off to the wilds of Maine
It was the last Friday in July. Coronavirus permitting, the children would be back in school in about a month. Jim Dandrich had racked his brain to think of a family outing that would not bring his family in close contact with anyone else, and he thought he had finally come up with one.
First he had to run it by Eulalie, his wife. She had heard of family trips in the past, and thought they sounded like great fun. "Your mother loved it when her family camped near Moosesteak Falls in Maine," she suggested. "'l'll bet it won't take much to coax Minny into coming along too -- that is, if that's the sort of thing you're thinking about. Your cousin Harry has a camp in that area, on a nice lake. He might not be using it when you want to go there. Why don't you ask him?"
Jim smiled, a broad grin from ear to ear. "You're a mind-reader, Eulalie," he said, kissing her. "I did, in fact, ask Harry this morning, and he won't be using the camp next week, and all he said was that we should beware of Simulium penobscotensis."
"That sounds like something g=dangerous and/or painful," Eulalie said, wincing.
"Painful yes, but probably not dangerous. It's a kind of black fly, and they are pretty awful this time of year."
"So, what does cousin Harry do to keep them away?" Eulalie said, wondering if this kind of expedition would be so great after all.
"Baby oil," Jim said. "Harry keeps lots of it in the main cabin. We'll be fine."
Bart and Chandler were excited about the chance to go camping. Getting out of Crepuscular Meadows was high on their list of priorities -- it was a pretty boring place for them this time of year.
Next, Jim asked Minny if she'd like to come along. Her only comment was that they'd need lots of blankets -- the nights got pretty cold in August, as she remembered from the 1960s.
"There will be blankets there," Jim soothed her, "but Summer in Maine is a bit warmer than it used to be. Oh, I forgot to ask Harry what kind of fish we'll be likely to catch."
Eulalie and the boys groaned in unison. Minny was just coming in the door, and she smiled at this. "You know, I don't think Harry has ever gone fishing in that lake," he observed. "He always had other things on is mind. Maybe we should, too. You know, I'll bet the Moosesteak Falls Chamber of Commerce has brochures about all the great things one could do in that area."
Bart and Chandler ducked into their room to go online and see what novelties the Moosesteak Falls area offered. It turned out that there were some fascinating grottoes and bat caves within a mile of Harry's cabin. Bear sightings were not uncommon three miles in another direction, and you could always encounter a moose.
"Yes, I'm sure you could," Eulalie said, laughing at this last tidbit of information. "They probably cross the road a lot, and all I can say is that I'm glad we got the brakes fixed last week."
It was a slow time at the bank. Jim easily got permission to take the next week off, despite the short notice. Actually, he had already asked for the week off months ago. The only thing he had neglected was lining up a place to go. That was now settled.
Other details remained to be ironed out. Should they leave Saturday? Sunday? Monday? Eulalie, who sometimes seemed like the only sensible person in the family, proposed leaving Sunday morning. They needed to ask the neighbors to keep an eye on the place while they were gone. They needed to ask the Post Office to hold their mail for them. Eulalie's book discussion group was on hiatus for the Summer, so she wouldn't need to tell the other readers. But Minny sometimes had dinner on Wednesday nights with Mrs. Mumble, so she needed to be told. Once You said anything to Mrs. Mumble, it was sure to get around. The woman was like the town crier in that respect.
"By Saturday night, I'm sure Peter Peters will be calling us up to talk about *his* camping trips in Maine," Minny said. "He's going to want to know what kind of fish we catch, and how large they were, when we get back...."
In many ways, Crepuscular Meadows was like a small town. If you happened to make a bad mistake, it could come back around and bite you in the butt very fast, but good things had a way of getting around just as fast.
It was looking as though this would be one of those good things.....
41. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: off to the wilds of Maine: packing for the big trip
It was Saturday morning, the first day of August. Things were unusually busy in the Dandrich household, given that there was less than a day left before they would load their luggage, fishing equipment, and other stuff into the family's Hondota Oddity for a three-hour drive North/Northeast to Eastern Maine.
Minny Dandrich was at Clematis Station, presumably packing as well. Over in Lost Village, where Jim's brother Randy lived, there was also some packing going on. Randy and his wife, Trudy, would be joining his brother in Maine late Monday evening, if all went well. There was a business occasion on Monday which Randy could not get out of, and another one the following Friday. This meant three hours of driving Monday night as well as Thursday night, but Randy didn't mind. Their son Jason would be with them.
A word about interfamily relations in the Dandrich clan: Minny was a proud grandmother who loved her three grandchildren with all her heart and soul. This did not always result in wise decisions, but it seemed better than not caring at all.
Because of Grandma Minny, Bart and Chandler were always the first kids in their class to get the latest laptops. This did not always make them popular with their classmates, but they got grudging appreciation because of their willingness to give away their older laptops (for some students it was a struggle to afford even older laptops; this helped them stay not too far behind the others).
Minny also gave new laptops to Jason, who was not as generous or as kind as his two cousins. This was not a situation that could be explained in 25 words or less (or even 2,500 words, frankly), so the writer will take the wiser path and not try. Let's just say that Randy and Trudy argued with each other rather a lot. As an only child, Jason sometimes felt like a hostage. If he sided with one parent, the other would get upset. He tended to feel isolated, and didn't develop the social skills that his cousins had.
Does the reader see where this is leading? If not, wait a few days.
In any event, in various other parts of town people were getting the drift of where things were going. At the Hoohaw Reservoir, Peter Peters showed up at 10:00 a.m., right on time. He knew not to expect that the Dandriches would come by for their weekend fishing. How did he know? Well, he lived next door to Geppetto Conti, the man who lived in a cuckoo clock house. And Geppetto Conti, in turn, had dropped by Jim Betts's store Friday night for one of his famous submarine sandwiches. While Geppetto was in the store, Figaro Spontini (the Barber of Seville Street) was there was well, and mentioned that Bismarck Fedora had told him about the Dandriches' plan to go camping in Maine. Mrs. Mumble had told Bismarck. Bismarck always had his hair cut on Friday afternoons.
So, you see, the grapevine in Crepuscular Meadows was exceedingly efficient.
As the spotlight series proceeds, the reader will be introduced to more fascinating characters.
And, if the barber had not told Peter Peters's neighbor,
the news would have travelled by other means as well. Freckles was working part time at Emma Sullivan's cafe. Emma's mother Julia, you may remember, ran the cafeteria at Clematis Station, and had been known to turn Jim Dandrich's fish into yummy dishes when Eulalie got tired of preparing them. Julia was also a friend of Minny Dandrich (who told her about the upcoming trip at Friday night's meal), and Julia played bingo with half a dozen Clematis Station residents on Friday nights. And as for poor, hapless Freckles, he liked to play tennis with Bart and Chandler on Friday nights. Mrs. Mumble knew about this, and would have given him the bad news.
Anyway, by Saturday at Noon, there were probably twenty or thirty people in Crepuscular Meadows who knew about the camping trip, and most were envious that they had to stay in town while those lucky Dandriches got to go swimming in crystal-clear lakes and go hiking in the woods where they might see a moose. Never mind that the black flies might make their lives a living hell if the baby oil didn't work.
Meanwhile, Bart and Chandler were agonizing over what to pack. Would there be wifi near the camp? If not, why bother to take the laptops? Oh, why had Grandma Minny not given them Smartphones? This assumed, of course, that there would be cellphone towers near the camp.
Wait a minute, cousin Harry had discussed the use of his cabin on the phone, so unless Harry had a landline, there would be cellphone signals.
"Maybe Jason will bring his Smartphone," Bart said to his brother.
"Yeah, like he would ever let anyone else use it," Chandler grumbled.
"Wait, I think dad has one, too," Bart suddenly remembered. This would set the stage for a remarkable drama in which Jim Dandrich's two sons would be uncommonly well-behaved in the hopes of getting their father to let them borrow his phone, at least for long enough to use social media.
The plot is thickening, dear reader. Take it with as many grains of salt as you wish....
42. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: Missing the Founder's Day Parade
Ginny Fassbender was less charitable than most when she heard that the Dandriches would not be in town on Wednesday for the Founder's Day Parade.
"I had counted on them for a float," she complained.
"You'll have plenty of floats as it is," Mayor Gladhand replied, putting down his pastrami sandwich for a moment so he could think of a tactful way around this issue. Freckles was hovering in the background with a pitcher of water. Attentiveness to people's need for water was usually good for an extra big tip, and Freckles could think of lots of things to use any extra money for.
The Mayor opted for distraction as a way of smoothing things over. "More coffee, Freckles?" he asked.
Freckles lost no time in sidling over to the coffee pot in back of the counter. He remembered that the Mayor liked his coffee with milk, no sugar. By the time he was back outside with the mayor's coffee, Ginny Fassbender had proceeded to another topic: "I notice that Clematis Station has been slow to tell us how they plan to participate this year," she said, somewhat accusingly. It was safe for her to say this outside, out of earshot of Emma Sullivan, whose mother, after all, worked at Clematis Station.
The Mayor breathed a sigh of relief. "They took up a collection for a float featuring a train station festooned with Clematis vines," he said solemnly.
Placated, Ginny let things rest for now. There would still be hell to pay on Wednesday, when the town's citizens realized that there would be no Dandrich family float, but for now there was peace. Last year, the Dandriches had organized a float for the Second Federal Crepuscular Meadows Bank. As a senior vice president, he had sufficient sway to organize such things, and frankly
no one else at the bank even cared. Jim Dandrich was the only town resident who worked at the bank, and ultimate ownership rested with a distant holding company. There once was a time when people took out mortgages with the assumption that the money being lent was a pool of savings by many local citizens. That time was now a distant memory. Mortgages were bundled into packages and sold to god knew what other entities.
Freckles brightened up a bit when he saw Chandler Dandrich coming into the cafe. "Mom is too busy packing to cook," he explained. "What's today's special?"
"Meatloaf with potatoes and carrots," Freckles said. He didn't even have to consult the menu on the wall. The specials always included this particular dish, and he knew that everyone in town liked it.
Soon, Chandler was on his way back to Birch Street with his package. The Mayor was on his third cup of coffee now, Ginny was long gone, Letitia Lochinvar was at the table next to the Mayor with her daughter, and a minor civil war was about to erupt because fans of the town's two rival Summer baseball teams had happened to cross paths unexpectedly.
There was never a dull moment in Crepuscular Meadows, despite the placid surface of things....
42. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: Why would the founders of Crepuscular Meadows choose August as the time to incorporate the town?
Well, the founders of the town might or might not have incorporated the town in August.
But let's go as far back as we can, to gain a bit of perspective. A very large chunk of land including numerous future towns was granted a charter in 1654. Until 1850, what is now Crepuscular Meadows was part of Clanville. If there were complaints about this, they have been lost to history.
Horatio Grandhigh and his brother were instrumental in gaining independence for the town. The Grandhigh family
continued producing new generations until the present day, so if you want to make big changes in Crepuscular Meadows, it wouldn't be a bad idea to run them by whatever Grandhighs happen to be around.
Anyway, there are some who say that the town was incorporated in *March* of 1950. Well, in more recent times there have been townspeople who have thought the town needed more festivities. It was getting too dull for their tastes, perhaps. August is the only month of the year that has no holidays, so it was decided that a Founders Day parade should be mounted on the fifth day of August every year.
Maybe there were some purists who scoffed at having such a parade in any month except March. The inevitable reply to such people would have been, "Yes, but August is when we need a parade. Horatio Grandhigh is long gone, and who is to say that he wouldn't appreciate being honored even in August. Nobody else has done anything lately to honor the town's founders. We want to do it, and we're going to do it, and if there's anyone in town who doesn't like parades, they can go somewhere else on vacation so they won't have to see it."
Well, that last bit would not have gone over very well this year, given that the Dandriches actually *were* going away on vacation.
Did Jim Dandrich forget about the parade?
Mayor Gladhand seemed to be the only person who wondered that. After his talk with Ginny Fassbender,
the Mayor called the president of the bank to see if the bank was going to mount any floats this year. It turned out that the bank president was on vacation in Switzerland, and had not even thought about it.
The Mayor then called Minny Dandrich to ask if she realized that she was going to miss the parade. "Oh, my God!" she exclaimed. "I forgot all about it, and I'm sure that Jim did, too. Could your photographer send us photos afterward? I haven't missed the parade in 17 years, so I have a pretty good record of seeing it. Have fun on Wednesday!"
Well, that was that. The Mayor kind of wished he could be in the wilds of Maine himself, but when you're in charge, there are some luxuries you have to forgo.
"Well, maybe no one will notice that neither Jim nor the bank will be represented this year," the Mayor said to himself. "I hope it won't be 96 degrees the way it was last year."
43. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: On the road to Maine, via Route 666
The Dandriches, weary from packing and making arrangements and last-minute decisions on Saturday, were slow getting up on Sunday morning.
They did not appreciate getting a call at nine a.m. from Osgood Collins, Jim's assistant at the bank. "What will we do about the float in this year's parade?" Collins wanted to know.
Jim was gobsmacked. Collins had never shown the slightest interest in the bank's float before. Jim was also feeling somewhat guilty, as he had forgotten about the parade. But he thought fast despite his fatigue, and told Collins which warehouse last year's float was stored in. "It should be presentable after some dusting and brushing off the spiderwebs," Jim advised. "I won't be on it, of course, but surely there must be some bank employees who might be willing to stand on the float and wave to the spectators."
"Well, I might do that myself," Collins allowed.
"Good, then it's settled," Jim said, happy to have found a solution.
It occurred to him that he had gotten into the habit of doing a lot of things himself rather than delegate them. He would remember to let Collins take on more responsibility in the
The family was on the road around 10:30 a.m., with the expectation of stopping for lunch along the way around Noon. That would break up the trip nicely. The navigation system was in good form (a geek at the dealership had figured out how to give the system the voice of Elmer Fudd), and it gave the family some good chuckles.
Now, as to the route they were taking, about half the trip would be on Route 666, an interstate highway that had been built in the 1970s so that traffic from points south could make a wide swing through the mill towns and rural areas in the middle of the state. One supposes that the planners reasoned that land in these place would be cheap to buy (it was), and that officials in the towns affected would buy the notion that population and land values would go up dramatically after the highway was in place (they bought it, and it came to pass). Everyone would benefit, except for the purists who thought that the historical buildings in the path of the highway should stay where they were, rather than be moved somewhere else.
The family drove from Birch Street up Water Street to Wattabighill Road, to the center of Nobility, where they turned right and caught Route 666 about a mile East.
They took the northbound lane, set the cruise control for 65 miles per hour, and cruised happily. The air conditioning wasi n good shape, the gas tank was full, and, really, what else could you want on a long trip?
The van had wifi, so Bart and Chandler could explore social media to their hearts' content. Happily, they had discussed the wifi issue with their dad the day before, and he had assured them that the wifi in the van would be at their disposal within reason. If it turned out that cousin Harry's camp had wifi (no one had thought to ask Harry about this), then there would be no problems anyway.
When the boys got tired of social media, they gazed at the scenery passing by. Not that it was especially eye-catching.
The road swept smoothly forward, avoiding sharp bends, and often opting for areas that had once been dairy farms or fairly flat forests. This meant that interesting hills, rock ledges, and buildings were not as common as one might want, if one was looking for variety.
Still, by lunchtime the Dandriches were happy to get out of the van and stretch their legs.
They were no longer on Route 666, which became Route 999 as it wove its way north not too far from the coast. 999 ran from Maine down to Florida, and seemed to be designed for the most painless driving experience possible. They were now near the Maine border, at one of those
roadside developments that the state to Maine's east had set up so it could sell liquor to motorists and use the profits for its tax base. There were a few cafes inside the building, and there was a reasonable choice of foods on offer.
Granted, these roadside rest stops all seemed to look the same (and looks were not deceiving), but on the plus side you could pretty much count on knowing what you would be getting.
Sandwiches, side salads, coffee, soft drinks, all at reasonable prices (well, not too unreasonable), and within 45 minutes the family was on its way again.
The scenery after this was beginning to change. There were fewer built-up areas and more stands of evergreen trees. Eventually they saw the turnoff for Route 4, which they took North to Moosesteak Falls.
That turned out to be the easy part of the journey. Once they left Route 4, there were long miles of winding back roads to follow. Bart and Chandler had abandoned their laptops entirely by now. They were hoping to see the occasional deer or moose.
They were disappointed; no large animals were visible, but the occasional flocks of ducks would fly overhead. "Surely they're not migrating south already," Bart grumbled.
Jim shrugged. Trying to explain how birds think was beyond him. It was hard enough to figure people out.
"The camp is on a relatively small lake," Minny said.
"You'll likely see ducks and Canada geese. You may also hear the loons calling." Minny couldn't remember hearing any loons during the early sixties when she was there, but she had since seen "On Golden Pond," which featured loon calls. Granted, Golden Pond was based on a lake in another state, and it was more than 100 miles away, but you could probably still count on seeing loons on just about any lake in the area.
At last, a little before 3:00 p.m. they pulled into cousin Harry's camp. It was less rustic than Minny remembered.
There was a reception tower on the roof of the main building. Wind turbines on the roof seemed to be there for generating electricity. Were there solar panels on some of the smaller buildings? It sure looked that way.
"It's all so different," Minny said as they got out of the van.
No one seemed disappointed, though. They might not have to rough it after all.
44. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: The surprise float for the Founder's Day parade
By now the reader has probably deduced that it's pretty much impossible to keep a secret in Crepuscular Meadows. The reader would be right, for the most part, but a major surprise was brewing, and it was going to amaze and please large numbers of people.
There have been so many chapters in this spotlight series that the reader may not remember #14. It deals with Mrs. Maxiver's missing roses. Got it? Good!
Mrs. Maxiver's son Leonardo, you may remember, borrowed the rose bush to make cuttings and put some around a statue of Horatio Grandhigh.
Leonardo was a talented abotanist and greenhouse owner who had access to all sorts of roses. He put his expertise to good use by putting a replica of the Grandhigh statue on a float, and then surrounding them with garlands of roses. This was going to be the star attraction of the parade. Leonardo would drive the truck that towed the float, and Guy de la Tourette would sit on a bench on the float, waving to people. His dog Heureux (who was beloved of a great many citizens) would be by his side.
When Leonardo pitched his float idea to Ginny Fassbender, her eyes almost popped out of her head. She was on cloud nine -- until she heard that Jim Dandrich's bank float wouldn't be in the parade. But it was now Sunday afternoon, and Osgood Collins had just told her he was cleaning up last year's float, and would personally drive the truck that towed it.
It had been a roller-coaster weekend for Ms. Fassbender, as you can imagine. Happily, she was in the upper range of her mood, and this was a very good way to be, as most people liked it when she was happy.
Another good thing was that someone had prevailed on Geppetto Conti to pile a number of his cuckoo clocks on a float. Leonardo Maxiver had donated some flowers for that float as well.
It was going to be a great parade!
45. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: Settling into the camp in Maine
Sunday afternoon was a time for figuring out what was available in the camp and making a quick run to whatever local stores there were for provisions that might be needed.
There was a main cabin which had a meeting room, a dining room, a guest room, and some kitchen appliances, plus a bathroom with a full shower.
"I bet it wasn't this well-furnished in 1963," Jim said to Minny.
"We even had to pump our own water from a hand-pump near the bridge," she replied. Not her favorite memory; the water had a metallic taste, and God knew what might be in it. The bridge she referred to crossed the little stream that flowed out of the lake on its way to the Kabibble River, which was a few miles downstream, and ultimately entered the Atlantic.
"I'm sorry you won't have the experience of pumping your own water," Jim said to Bart and Chandler, as if this was something they would be heartbroken about missing.
"Of course, you *can* pump water if you wish," Minny said slyly. "They left the old pump where it was. We passed it on the way in."
The refrigerator in the main cabin had next to nothing in it.
"Downtown Moosesteak Falls is about three miles away," Minny said unnecessarily. They had driven through it on their way there. Of course, it had taken them an hour longer than necessary to get from downtown to the camp, owing to the many forks in the dirt road that led them there. Satellite navigation was no match for the back roads of Maine. Even the Elmer Fudd voice began to wear thin as it gave wrong turn after wrong turn.
Each of the smaller cabins had two beds. There were five of them. Jim and Eulalie claimed Cabin A, and the boys claimed Cabin B. As a singleton, Minny decided to sleep in the guest room in the main cabin. That plan could be changed if Randy and his family had other ideas.
Jason was the wild card. Would he put up with having a third bed brought to Cabin C, where his parents would presumably sleep? Or would he try to wrest the Main cabin's guest room from Minny and make her sleep alone in cabin D?
Meanwhile, it was almost 4:00 p.m., and there wasn't enough food in the van to feed them all. Twenty minutes later, they were choosing which shops to try. There was a creamery/Dairy farm, a lumber shop ("Well leave that to the local beavers," Chandler quipped) a garden center, a butcher shop ("Good thing we're not vegetarians," Bart said), a coffee shop, an orthopedic lab, a salvage company,
a gift shop, a pharmacy, and a general store with freshly baked goods.
There did not seem to be anyplace where they could sit down for a restaurant meal. Jim reminded them about the Coronavirus, assuring them that it was safer to eat back in the cabin, not to mention more conducive to getting to choose what they wanted to eat.
Supper was on the table soon after they got back, and after a sound night's sleep the family woke up Monday morning ready to take a dip in the lake, explore some local trails, and maybe fish (that was Jim's fantasy).
Then the big news came on the television in the meeting room: a tropical cyclone was due on Wednesday. Winds wouldn't be strong, but tons of rain would likely be dumped on the area.
"Did we pick the wrong week?" Jim whispered to Eulalie.
"Honey, it's gotta rain some of the time, or the lake would dry up," she reminded him.
"I brought three umbrellas and some ponchos," Minny volunteered.
"Maybe after two hectic days of trail-walking and swimming in the lake, Wednesday could be a day of relaxation inside," Jim said.
What no one mentioned (because no one thought of it) was that rain and wind would not be good for the parade in Crepuscular Meadows.
46. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: Will there be a parade?
It was lunch time at Clematis Station. Some of the residents were eating their food with great relish, while others were listlessly picking at it. It all depended on whether people knew (or cared) about the parade on Wednesday. Those who had heard the news about the storm tended to be worried. Every year, the parade went right past the Station. Some residents could watch it from their windows, and others could make use of the big, long veranda that faced into the street.
Victoria Schoenberg was especially upset. She loved parades, and had counted on watching them from the veranda once she moved into Clematis Station. Now that she was settled in, there would likely be no parade. She usually asked Minny Dandrich for advice on such things, but Minny was somewhere in the wilds of Maine.
She would not make her dependence on Minny public, though. As much as she tended to be in her own little world, she had learned not to depend on Minny too much, because some of the other residents mocked her for it.
Suddenly, Bernard Philpin, the richest man in town, stood up from the head table, and asked for people's attention.
"As most of you know, I own Clematis Station," he began. "I'm here today to help put together a float for Wednesday's parade. You may also know that I own the Philpin Convention Center." Eyes rolled at the mention of this, as the Philpin family had taken a financial bath on that particular building, which sat on a hill overlooking town, near the cemetery. To say that it was hardly ever used was putting it mildly. Philpin continued: "You may have noticed that Imagine It! movie studio is less than fifty feet from the Convention Center. I think that the studio would be able to hold all the floats, and stadium seating could be set up around the perimeter of the convention center. If we could set up some canopies to keep the floats dry while they travel from the studio to the convention center, we could save the parade, if that's what the town wants."
Some of the residents had their doubts. Both buildings needed a good cleaning before they would be suitable for floats. And where would Philpin get the stadium seating?
"I will pay to rent the studio," he promised, "and I will ask the high school if the bleachers from the town's football field can be brought over to the convention center. And, we have some canopies here at Clematis Station that should serve."
A stunned silence greeted this. It would not be easy to pull this off, but when you have large amounts of money to throw at a problem, amazing things can happen.
A very large cleaning service from Workchester had been begging for work lately; All it took was fifteen minutes on the phone for Philpin to engage their services. Another fifteen minute call, this time to the owner of the studio, who lived in Notsob, lined up the studio itself.
As it turned out, the bleachers form the football field would take too much effort to move, and might not fit through the door, but almost every school and church in town had folding chairs that they were willing to lend, so people could sit while they watched the floats pass by.
Now people could focus on getting their floats ready, and not worry about getting rained on.
People resumed their dining. This time, the residents seemed more enthusiastic about what they were eating.
47. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: Before the storm
Chandler and Bart had to admit that the camp was a pretty cool place to be. Besides the usual attractions of pure lake water (well, not too murky once you were out toward the middle of the lake in a rowboat), inquisitive fish that nibbled at the bait you put on your hooks (they had resolved not to fish, but by the second day this resolution had gone by the wayside. After all, what kind of fish would live in these waters, and were they good to eat?).
Some other attractions that weren't so predictable: some paper wasps had built a nest on the underside of the pier.
Also, there were freshwater clams or mussels or whatever
hidden here and there in the sand. You realized that they were there when they released a bubble which rose to the surface and popped. What kid wouldn't dig to see what was producing such bubbles?
By mid-afternoon on Tuesday, they had spotted three moose. These were not as interesting as they had expected, but they were still novelties that you wouldn't have seen in Crepuscular Meadows. Well, maybe you'd rather *not* see them there, as the drivers in town were sometimes not all that great, and the question of what to do with dented fenders and an angry or dead moose was not one that the boys wanted to have to answer.
The only real drawback to the place was Jason Dandrich, who had arrived with his parents late Monday night.
Jason had just turned thirteen, and the change had brought out some bad qualities no one expected to find, without any good ones to compensate.
But perhaps the writer is being uncharacteristically uncharitable here. Perhaps it will suffice to say that Randy and Trudy, Jason's parents, had become unusually free from the urge to argue. They agreed, with a unanimity that was almost jarring, that, were Jason not their offspring, he would deserve to be throttled.
This made people-watching a fascinating endeavor. "Your mother and I feel" was the beginning of many a talk aimed at Jason. Could Bart and Chandler remember ever hearing Randy and Trudy say this before? If the boys were honest, the answer would have to be no.
They didn't bump into Jason very often. He was either off by himself, or, when he had to ask his parents for something, it wasn't the boys' problem..
This went on until late Tuesday, when Jason decided to go swimming. Let's say this about Jason's swimming ability: it was pretty much nonexistent. Why he imagined that he could pick it up suddenly in a lake in the middle of the woods, no one could say for sure. The end result was a call to 911, the appearance of emergency medical technicians, and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, which was successful.
That was it for Jason's presence, as well as that of his parents. They were soon gone, headed back to Crepuscular Meadows.
Bart and Chandler weren't sure whether to be glad Jason had suffered no harm, or that the chance for an extended family vacation had gone up in smoke.
They spent the rest of the evening trying to figure out what to do on a rainy Wednesday.
48. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: a float with the theme of singing in the rain?
After Mr. Philpin made his announcement, there were some nervous jokes about having a float with "Singing in the rain" or "Gone with the wind" or even "The little mermaid" as themes.
Some curious residents of Crepuscular Meadows drove or bicycled up to the hill where the movie studio and convention center were located, to see if the cleaning crews and other workmen were really going to get the two buildings into usable condition for the next day.
Sure enough, several large vans were parked around the perimeter, and some very heavy-duty machinery had been unloaded. From inside the buildings came loud noises
consistent with scrubbing grime, waxing floors, and other cleaning activities.
Freckles, one of the people who biked up to the area, peeked in one of the few windows. He could see a large number of people busy at various tasks.
"Hey, get out of there!" a man shouted from an open doorway. He was wheeling a trash can full of stuff toward
a special dumpster that had been set up off to the side.
Now for a word about the place where the movers and shakers of Crepuscular Meadows had chosen to put these buildings. The studio was to the left of the entrance to the town cemetery, separated from it by a chain link fence. The convention center was in front of it, and slightly downhill.
Probably the land had been cheap when these buildings were being planned. No one had minded blocking the view of part of the cemetery. Nobody loves to look at graveyards. It has been said that you could shoot a cannonball from one end of the cemetery to the other without hitting anyone, at least anyone living. This does not have to be taken literally, but perched on a knoll just inside the entrance was a Civil War cannon. Except when someone had recently died, there might be a small group of mourners gathered at the graveside, and many people brought flowers on Memorial Day. Otherwise, people might visit to keep the flowers watered, and the groundskeepers would keep the grass mowed, but that was about it.
Crepuscular Meadows had a lot of hills. Over the years, residents had found imaginative ways to build houses on those hills, but not every hill needs to be occupied. This particular hill had been designated as a graveyard soon after the town was founded, and once you put graves somewhere, they tend to stay. It's a bit of a pity, really, because when you walk to the highest edge of the cemetery, you can get a very nice view of the town. Oh, well.
Anyway, the verdict of those who had come up to watch the ongoing activities was that there was a good chance of finding a safe, dry place for the floats for the next day's parade.
And now a word about Clematis Station's float: the same float was used every year. It had a small, custom-designed
replica of the original train station. Real clematises were planted in pots around the edges, and a few residents of Clematis Station would wave from inside the station, or sit on a waiting bench behind it.
Does this sound hokey? If so, that's exactly what it was supposed to be. What else are you going to do for excitement in early August? No, wait, having a hurricane go through would also be exciting, but let's not overdo it!
49. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: When will the storm come?
The camp was a nice place to hang out. Everyone agreed.
Even as the occasional gust of wind hurled leaves and small branches at the Dandriches as they emerged from their cabins, they reflected that this place had seen similar things many times before, and would certainly see them again.
Jim and Eulalie were already in the main cabin when the boys arrived. Jim was ensconced on the sofa, watching the news on TV. An image of a very large, circular cloud formation filled the screen. The green areas showed where it was raining. No doubt about it, even a small storm could reach from Pennsylvania to Northern Vermont. The green areas were almost at the Maine border.
"Hi, boys," Jim said, "come sit down and see what's coming."
In the kitchen, Minny was making blueberry pancakes, while Eulalie was scrambling eggs. A dozen strips of bacon
rested on a platter next to the stove.
"I don't suppose you guys would mind coming over for some breakfast?" Eulalie said. "Whether you eat or not, the storm will still do whatever it's going to do."
This seemed reasonable, and anyway they were hungry.
"The price they charged for maple syrup in that general store is highway robbery," Minny grumbled.
"The blueberries and bacon were also no bargain," Eulalie agreed.
"We could also complain about the cost of gas to get here, and the cost to insure the van, but at least we're getting our money's worth in the fun department," Jim said.
No one was commenting, because it's impolite to talk and eat at the same time. This was a family where good manners were respected..
When breakfast was out of the way, the three adults contemplated the fact that cousin Harry had not seen fit to put a dishwasher in the cabin. "He could outfit the place with wifi, but a simple dishwasher was beyond him?" Eulalie said in a mock-disapproving voice. She knew darn well that the camp had been far more rustic back in the 1960s. No one needed to bring water form the pump any more. Cousin Harry and his wife were probably content to wash their dishes by hand. The two women persuaded Jim that dividing up the dish washing among three people would make the job go faster. He could still hear the weather updates as he worked.
By 9:30 in the morning, the five of them were perched in various places in the cabin where they could work their laptops or read (Minny had brought a book; she insisted that ebooks were not for her).
And so the day passed. Occasionally someone would go outside to test for drops of rain. Sure enough, the rain did start to fall, and it gained momentum, along with the wind.
By noon, it was coming down by the bucketful.
And then, by two the sun was out again and the road wasn't in particularly bad shape. "Let's go into town and see if there's anything interesting there," Jim said.
"Yeah, we need to load up on lumber and salvage items," Chandler said sarcastically.
"There's a coffee shop," Minny said. "Also a gift shop and a general store. You never know what you might find in places like that."
"Or, if those don't pan out, we could simply ride around the countryside," Jim offered. Moosesteak Falls is said to be pretty spectacular. Not as much as Niagara Falls of course,
but we came all this way. Why not see what it's all about?"
50. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: A safe haven from the storm
Ordinarily, the Founder's Day parade would start around noon or 1:00 in the afternoon. Not today, though. That's when the rain was expected to accelerate, along with the wind.
Instead, the parade was scheduled for 10:00 a.m., and would hopefully end around 11:30. This would give the viewers and participants alike half an hour to go back to their safe havens before the storm got bad.
At 9:30 sharp, two buses pulled up in front of Clematis Station. The night before, the residents were polled as to their desire to be brought to the convention center to see the parade. Roughly 60 people signed up. Each bus carried 60 passengers, but because of social distancing half the seats were to be empty. Thus, two buses.
No one asked the residents of the Meadows Rooming House if they would like to be bused. This was probably an oversight, but Tina and Belle O'Grady, the former trapeze
artists for a long-defunct circus, enjoyed watching the parade every year as it proceeded down High Street. They wanted to see it this time, too, and Mr. Schneider was sympathetic. He offered to take them in his truck, and they accepted.
There were enough folding chairs in the Convention center to accommodate 600 people, and they were spaced six feet apart, as per social distancing guidelines. Fortunately, the center had a mezzanine that went around most of the perimeter, so two floors of viewing space were available. There were six elevators, and the rule was no more than two people in an elevator at one time.
Mr. Philpin had explained the logistics of getting the fitter and more able-bodied residents up the stairs to the mezzanine, leaving the main floor for people with mobility problems. Amazingly, nearly everyone was in place at 10:00, when the first float entered the center. It moved counterclockwise around the room, followed by five other floats. The viewers got twenty minutes to see the floats,
after which they all exited, and six more floats came in.
The writer will not tax the reader's patience by listing all the floats. Many were blatant efforts at advertising local merchants or, in the case of Welcome to the Sixties, a museum that wasn't a museum. Everyone applauded the first float, with its statue of Mr. Grandhigh, surrounded by roses. At least sixty viewers applauded the Clematis Station float. The Cuckoo Clock House float was also warmly received.
At 11:15, the last float left the building. People filed out in orderly fashion, boarded their buses or other transportation, and managed to be back in their homes by the time the first downpour began.
All in all, a better outcome than anyone had expected. Mr. Philpin had spent plenty of money to bring this about, but it seemed to be money well-spent.
51. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: Parade video on Spewtube; rhe Frypan Fair
"Well, how about that?" Jim exclaimed Thursday morning when he checked his email.
"What is it, dear?" Eulalie asked, looking over his shoulder.
"I have an email from Mayor Gladhand, and he has mounted a video of yesterday's parade on SpewTube."
In seconds, the two boys were on hand.
"You'll get a better picture on cousin Harry's Personal Computer," Minny said, opening a door into Harry's private office.
Sure enough, a video lasting 75 minutes was on SpewTube. The family watched, transfixed.
"I never expected to see that," Jim said in a tone of wonderment.
"The Mayor thinks highly of you, always has," Minny said proudly. "He's obviously happy that you tapped Collins to go on in your place. Oh, and don't forget that your bank has a branch office in Nobility."
"Why would I forget that?" Jim said, puzzled.
"Because Nobility has a Founder's day parade of their own on the 14th. They've been begging you to put your float in their parade for years. This year maybe you can take them up on it."
This was a side of his mother that Jim had barely expected. He stood looking at her in awe.
"Now, let's choose our activities for the day," Eulalie said. "It's after 10:00, and we want to make the most of every day we're here."
Bart and Chandler sighed. They had explored every trail they wanted to explore. They had made a few trips on their bicycles. They had seen Moosesteak Falls -- not that big a deal, though the mist as the water hit the bottom was refreshing on a hot day. The gift shops were, well, kind of boring. And let's not mention the lumber and salvage places. The coffee shop was not one of those chain shops, and the pecan buns were yummy, but that was about it.
Then Jim mentioned the Frypan Fair, which was happening this week. Frypan was to the West, on the Maine border. This seemed intriguing enough that the whole family piled
into the van and headed over there.
What thy found was a charming, old-school affair, sort of like a combination flea market, carnival, cookout, and water sports event. Before they knew it, Bart and Chandler
found themselves at a picnic table munching corn on the cob, potato salad, and surprisingly delicious hamburgers. After their food digested, they saw a charming young woman along the river. She noticed them and asked if they liked canoeing.
Well, canoeing was kind of boring when their father did it,
but it might be interesting if this young woman was involved.
Sadly, she was just a shill -- there just for the purpose of getting customers -- but once they got out of sight of the crowds they began to enjoy the solitude. The trees along the riverbank, the sight of an occasional turtle, the inquisitive fish that probed the surface for edible matter, all found a responsive chord in the boys' hearts.
Then they realized a fundamental flaw in their reasoning: they were going downstream, and would have a ways to travel to get back to their family.
Then they saw a pier where they could get off the river. Even better, a shuttle van was waiting to take them back to where they started.
This was more like it!
The rest of the afternoon went by in a very happy fashion, and they were more than ready for bed after a nice supper
and another bit of rain.
51. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: Competing gardens
Mrs. Worthington lived next door to Mrs. Maxiver. They had been rival gardeners for as long as anyone could remember.
The first week of August had come to an end, and very few roses were blooming in Mrs. Maxiver's garden. She didn't go in for roses that came out with repeated periods of blooming through the Summer. Granted, her yellow roses had just put out a second crop of blossoms, and they were lovely.
Mrs. Worthington carefully planned her garden for plants with different blooming schedules. The phlox and daffodils could be counted on for color in May, followed by roses and irises, then coreopsis and early Coneflowers, followed by the later Coneflowers and Shasta daisies, until now the black-eyed Susans were there in all their splendor. Oh, the writer forgot about the various different kinds of lilies. Some of the daylilies, with a little coaxing, could be induced to bloom more or less constantly. Spirea, once it got started, always seemed to have a few bundles of tiny pink blossoms. Likewise Spiderwort, in purple or white, depending on the cultivar.
Mrs. Maxiver's only concession to through-season color was the large planter of petunias on her porch. This needed to be watered regularly.
Goldenrod bloomed in the backyards of both women's houses, but it didn't count. It was a weed. Likewise clover and dandelions. These were insignificant to humans, but the bees never complained.
Also in Mrs. Worthington's backyard was a large cluster of common milkweed, which sported large pods right now. Monarch butterflies danced round it in rapture.
Except for the petunias and the black-eyed Susans, the only other flower worth mentioning was sunflowers.
The asters were getting pretty tall now, and eventually the Chrysanthemums and Montauk daisies would put their seal on the end of the season. Then it would be time to start bringing the gardening tools and planters in for the Fall.
Although the two women were rivals, they did agree on one thing: Crepuscular Meadows was a dead zone where flower gardening was concerned. There was no flower show in June. Groundskeepers at Clematis Station seemed to have little imagination.
Mr. De la Tourette smiled when either of the women collared him with their lament about gardening know-how in the town. He would also shrug. Sometimes he would ask Mrs Maxiver if she realized how fortunate she was to have a son who had a greenhouse and some expertise with plants.
"When you hire a groundkeeper to make your place look nice, the work will actually be done by low-paid workers who have little incentive to give that extra little bit," he would say. "Clematis Station had someone exceptional, and that set the tone for what came later. Why don't you try to start a garden club? You could have weekly or monthly meetings."
But neither Mrs. Maxiver nor Mrs. Worthington were interested. They wanted to be exceptions that stood, not leaders who inspired other to possibly outdo them.
52. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: Meanwhile, in the wilds of Maine....
The Dandriches did not need to return to Crepuscular Meadows before Monday, but seriously, why explore trails you've already tried, or watch the fifth or sixth moose that has wandered into a clearing and stared back at you?
Is the writer saying that they were getting bored? Maybe a little bit.
And then Minny made an important discovery in a storage closet in the main cabin: board games, jigsaw puzzles, old maps of the area, even some decks of playing cards. At first the boys didn't think any of these would be fun, but they had not reckoned with Minny's life experience and wiles.
She was an awesome card player. She gave them some tips on putting jigsaw puzzles together. The boys had never played Monopoly, and thought the rents on the various properties were ridiculously cheap, but once they got into the game, they found it fascinating. And before anyone knew it, another afternoon had slipped away. The family drove to a restaurant in Lewiston for supper. Granted, because of the pandemic they had to eat it outside (the proprietors were not crazy about letting five people share a table, but they explained that they were, after all, a family).
And thus another day settled into the past.
53. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: Trip through the Whitish Mountains
"Frypan was a fun place, right?" Jim told the boys at breakfast on Saturday morning.
"Yeees," Chandler said, wondering where this was going to lead.
"Well, it's right next to the Whitish Mountains, which are loads of fun to drive through. The mountains may be fun to climb someday, but probably there won't be time to do that
today. Still, we might have time to drive up to the top of Mount Washinglots. It's the tallest mountain in the Northeast USA, and has a spectacular view."
The boys didn't have any real plans for the day, and this definitely sounded fascinating.
"If we make a day trip of it, we can get back here and have time to pack before we return home tomorrow."
So, that's what they did.
Once across the border, they followed Route 16 North -- even with the pandemic, the towns along the way were busier than they expected. There was a cog railway up to Mount Washinglots, but Minny had taken it once, and thought it was a pretty jarring ride. Fast, but jarring.
"Should we buy sandwiches so we can eat them at the top of the mountain?" Eulalie asked.
"We could do that," Jim said, "or we could eat in the cafeteria at the top. I've heard that the food there isn't half bad."
"Just as long as we don't get the half of the food that *is* bad," joked Bart.
This attempt at wit was ignored. It took about an hour of slogging through traffic before they got to the turnoff for the auto road to the top of the mountain.
There were some hairpin turns and steep dropoffs here and there, but when they reached the top, they realized that the trip was worth it. Fortunately, this was not one of the days that there was a cloud cover. In early August, it was clear or mostly clear about 45% of the time. They got lucky, and took lots of pictures.
Jim was right about the food. Or mostly right. Everyone managed to get something that was at least edible. The tuna sandwiches seemed to be the best thing on the menu, according to a tourist at the next table who had been there lots of times. Add some potato chips and a drink, and it was pretty decent.
It was only 2:00 p.m. when they got back to the bottom. There was still time to take in a few other sights. They tried wading in Luna's Baths. They considered the water slides at Gottthecash Mountain, but even with the pandemic there were still some lines of people waiting. Endofthetrail Ice Cream had some yummy treats.
There was also Miniature Golf, Fableland, and probably some more obscure attractions, but by 4:00 everyone figured that they had seen enough.
They were back at the camp a little after 5:00, and everyone figured they had gotten their money's worth.
No one had yet asked whether cousin Harry was letting them stay at the camp free, or if he was charging them rent. Well, Jim knew, but he was not saying.
The truth was, family members did favors for one another. Jim imagined that cousin Harry might need to shack up with Jim's family some day, and this was a good way to earn some good will toward the time when that might be necessary.
Who knew when the IOU's would have to be called in?
Who knew, indeed!
54. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: The art show at Clematis Station
First, we need to get one thing straight: this was not high art of the sort that one might see at a gallery, unless you mean the Museum of Bad Art.
But some of the residents of Clematis Station did have some artistic talent. One or two had even taught art in the public schools way back when. And the Station's artistic director, Donatello Firenze, had spent numerous years honing his craft as an artist and as an instructor. If he couldn't bring out whatever talent a resident had, then
chances are there was no talent to bring out.
But the rewards for slaving over a canvas in an effort to make it as good as you possibly could were modest. Of the 27 residents who were in Firenze's art class, only five would be honored by having their best work hung in the dining room for a month, after which they would adorn the walls across from the desk at the entrance. True, all the paintings that didn't win would hang in the art room, which was hardly in the center of the Station. Many residents had never even seen the art room.
And this year it had been especially hard to focus on painting when you had to stay six feet away form everyone else. No one had signed up to be nude models. Residents who wanted to paint arrangements of flowers had to contend with the fact that most florist shops were closed because of the pandemic. So they had top schlep their easels and canvases and paints into the garden in the courtyard, and try to select something that might look nice in a painting, but not in a heavily traveled walking path.
When Firenze announced the five winners, some of the students were disgruntled. Minny Dandrich, for instance, had labored hard on her painting of a stone bench with red Mandevilla growing behind it. It got beat out by Mimi Stella D'Oro's painting of a harlequin that she remembered from her youth in France.
"I guess it pays to grow up somewhere other than Crepuscular Meadows," Minny grumbled. Minny rarely grumbled. You could tell she was hit hard by what she saw as cultural favoritism. She had only just joined the art class, so maybe she would have better chances later.
Most residents thought Firenze was a pompous you know what, and the writer is not going to disagree, except to point out that making great art isn't a pretty process. The writer enjoys the Museum of Bad Art a little too much, and has no intention of apologizing for this.
Anyway, when the Dandrich family van stopped at Clematis Station to drop Minny off after the camping trip, she asked Jim to stay there for a moment so she could show him the painting she had done. Jim and Eulalie claimed to be very impressed by Minny's talent. Chandler wondered why his grandmother would paint Mandevilla when there was so much more Clematis around.
"I wanted to show how this particular stone bench was enhanced by the plants around and behind it,"
Minny explained. "I had no chance to get the gardeners to
put in clematis rather than mandevilla. Why does it matter?
Chandler relented and said it was a very nice painting. He wished Minny better luck next year.
As the van drove away, Minny reflected on whether she wanted to have the painting hanging in her tiny room forever. Well, maybe. In Winter, it would remind her of bright summer scenes...
55. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: The insurance man in the Victorian house on Water Street
"An art show at Clematis Station? You've got to be kidding if you think I want to see that," Alex Doulton scoffed.
The house he lived in was at the top of a rise as Water Street plunged into the Hoohaw floodplain from Nobility Station, then rose again to the level where much of the Crepuscular Meadows business and uptown residential district was. The house was quite large, with an entrance from Water Street (which Doulton himself used), and another entrance set back from a side street.
Doulton outlived his first wife, the one who bore him all his children. He was in his sixties now, an age that would have entitled him to apply for residency in Clematis Station. He scoffed at that idea, too. His insurance agency was prosperous. He could and did rent out three wings of the house as apartments (these were undoubtedly servants' quarters at one time). His children did him proud, but if they had needed a place to stay, he would gladly have let them stay in the apartments. Just as long as they didn't bother him.
He gave generously to charity. He regularly showed up at the Museum of Modern Art and pretended to be interested in the paintings that he saw. He wasn't really, but the idea of giving back to the community seemed noble to him.
Clematis Station and its accoutrements were another matter. Retired people were notorious for needing something to do. They could dabble in art, write motets, form jazz combos or singing groups to their hearts' content, and someone was there holding their hands.
Fine. But even the best of their creations were unlikely to be much good. Alex wasn't being mean when he thought this way. Maybe the odd outlier *would* produce something exceptional, in which case good for them! That tiresome man Firenze had come into his office the other day to show him a painting of a harlequin that one of the Station residents had painted. He had to admit that it was very fine. He even offered to sponsor its placement in the Museum of Modern Art, even if it wasn't all that modern.
I'm just giving back to the community, he mused, as another customer came in looking for advice on estate planning.
56. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: Concerts in the park and elsewhere
Crepuscular Meadows had a long tradition of offering summer music series. It had two bandstands dedicated to this. One was in the Park, and the other was in the courtyard of Clematis Station.
When the Covid-19 crisis hit, it was thought that this popular (if you were over 50) or unpopular tradition would have to go by the wayside. And, for a while, it did. You couldn't allow groups of more than ten people to congregate, after all. This was eventually eased to 50, then to 100.
There may have been some loopholes that could by used, though. After all, public transit in Notsob allowed as many people as could sit one seat apart, as long as they wore face masks. Mr. Philpin, the philanthropist, thought he could find a way around these limitations for concerts as well.
So, he put markers six feet apart in the park, in a circle around the bandstand. He hired a concert pianist who could
play transcriptions of popular classical pieces (Bolero, for instance, the Hallelujah chorus for another), mixed in with massively popular pieces from the 1940s through the end of the 20th century (except for John Williams film scores). He used a microphone. He was much more than six feet from his audiences, so he didn't have to wear a face mask.
That was the series opener in mid-July. He performed the same concert in the courtyard of Clematis Station the next week. Residents opened their windows and listened from their rooms.
At the end of July, the Covid Combo played jazz standards, with the same ground rules, and repeated this at Clematis Station on the tenth of August. Since the members of the trio were eight feet apart, they didn't have to wear face masks. Fortunately, the standard combination of instruments for a jazz trio was piano, bass, and drums. They got a big laugh when they played "Don't get around much any more."
Don't ask the writer whether these musicians were top shelf. If they were national or international celebrities, they might or might not have agreed to perform for peanuts in a fading mill town that few people other than our readers had ever heard of. Some A-list people did pro bono work.
Probably they had local connections, if you understand that Crepuscular Meadows was an easy drive from Notsob and Workchester. They could live anywhere within a fifty-mile radius, teach at colleges if they liked, or ply their trade in
bars, lounges, or some of the classier restaurants. Or all of the above.
Anyway, that 50-mile radius covered an area where a lot of talented people could and did make a go of it, financially. There would probably be no singing groups this year, but one singer paired with one pianist might work. Mr. Philpin had connections, as well as money that he could throw at a problem.
To get back to the Covid Combo, they pleased the crowd with arrangements of the "Star Spangled Banner (there had been no concert on July 4), Gershwin's "Summertime,"
"In the good old summertime," "Raindrops keep falling on my head" (rain showers were possible later ion the day),
a tune from "La La Land" ( to represent recent film music), and the all-important requests which residents invariably made. As accomplished as these performers were, they nevertheless declined to perform some songs if they were unfamiliar with the material. Those readers who know what "fake books" are might be unsatisfied with this, as most standards could be sight-read from the melody line in one of those anthologies of standards.
The writer explains this by mentioning that, in the days before sound recordings, and even in the early days of them, performers could and did extemporize. This, after all, was how jazz came about. But audiences understandably had their expectations raised by the perfection of music created in a recording studio.
The Covid Combo practiced regularly. They weren't going to wing it.
Anyway, many residents felt that the Summer might not turn out so badly after all. Mrs. Mumble and Freckles went to the concerts in the park. The people who lived on streets adjoining the park sat on their front porches to listen (the amplification was loud enough that they could hear well enough).
People who didn't live at Clematis Station were allowed to attend as long as they pre-registered and brought their masks. Folding chairs six feet apart were set up for them. Not many of these would fit and still give enough space for virus prevention.
Life can be good, even during a pandemic. But you had to take things one day at a time.
57. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: Fleemy Oil and Ice, a changing business model.
In 1900, the Fleemy family decided to go into business. They planned to sell heating oil from October through March, and ice from May through August. The two remaining months could go either way. It was not a bad business plan for the times, but times changed.
The refrigerator came into widespread use in the 1940s, but by the 1950s air conditioners were also becoming increasingly popular. So, if people no longer needed needed to buy ice for their iceboxes in the Summer, they did need to buy refrigerators and find some way to get them serviced. Also air conditioners, a product that didn't even exist way back when.
So, the ice business was abandoned, and the Fleemies hired technicians who could handle machines that kept things cool. To be on the safe side, their technicians needed something to do year-round, so they also mastered the ins and outs of furnaces.
Life was getting more complicated, but the second-and third-generation Fleemies took classes so they would have the know-how to deal with what was increasingly becoming known as the HVAC business (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning).
This brings us to the time that the writer is chronicling.
Eric Fleemy, who was now in his sixties, was the great-grandson of the company's founder. Although most of the people at Clematis Station were retired, not all were. Eric was one of the exceptions. He didn't expect to continue working much longer, but he also saw the virtue in simplifying his life.
His office was just down the street from the Station, and he spent about five hours a day there. His sons were running things now, and their children were waiting in the wings, so to speak.
His wife did some bookkeeping. She ordered parts. She even pumped oil on occasion, when someone was out sick. It's not as if she was unaware of what the business entailed when she first married into the family.
But the thing about refrigerators and air conditioners was that they didn't need a lot of upkeep. People still needed to have heating oil delivered in the cold months, and furnaces (especially the older ones) needed to be cleaned and sometimes repaired or replaced. This could have been lucrative for a mom-and-pop outfit, but in every generation there were offspring who just weren't needed for the business. They went into other lines of work.
Early August was a slow time of year for the business. Some customers bought their air conditioners from the Fleemies, along with a service package that included some cold-weather services as well. But economy-minded people were apt to get their air conditioners at the lowest possible price at Best Deal or Mall-Wart, and service packages be damned!
Thank goodness a far-seeing family member had begun selling gasoline to motorists in the 1950s, when the interstate highway system was put in, and people began traveling more. Sales of gasoline were steady. They evened out the cash flow.
Eric Fleemy and his wife Martha tended to spend more time at Clematis Station these days. Eric was on the city council, and Martha helped with meals on wheels, but these tasks didn't keep them busy for very many hours a day. The business didn't really need them any more, either, so they were often scrounging for things to keep them busy.
Well, what activities did Clematis Station offer for those who refused to stay idle?
Well, there was a book discussion group, which consisted of ten women and two men. Both Fleemies were in the group. Mrs. Fleemy had competed in the art competition, and wasn't as disappointed as Minny Dandrich had been when her painting wasn't among the top five.
"Frankly, I don't know what I was thinking when I decided to paint," Martha said. "There's limited space on the walls of our apartment, and Eric was honest about not wanting to see my painting of a pink iris there. I can't blame him."
High Street was within walking distance of the Station, so sometimes the Fleemies would walk to Emma Sullivan's cafe for coffee and a Danish in mid-afternoon.
A couple of blocks further, there was the news dealer, which sometimes had some interesting novelties for sale. Half a block further, there was The Meadows rooming house, which often had some residents sitting on the veranda. Some interesting people had moved in there recently. They were worth talking to for twenty minutes or so.
Then the Fleemies would trudge back to the Station. hoping that someone there needed an extra person or two for cards. or there might be something interesting to watch on TV.
"Is it my imagination, or is the town duller than it used to be?" Eric asked Martha one day.
"It's not your imagination."
58. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: The Library
The Grandhigh Library was quiet.
Er, maybe that should be phrased differently. After all, it's the nature of libraries that they don't serve their users very well when they aren't quiet. But it was 2:00 p.m. on a Wednesday afternoon, a time when there should have been at least a few people in the library, and there was no one.
Does the reader think that that might be a bit odd? The writer does!
Well, since the middle of March, library patrons have not been allowed to enter the Library except on a one-by-one basis to pick up books and other borrowed items, and then only if they were wearing masks to help prevent the spread of the virus that all of us were getting tired of referring to and hearing about, and being reminded of even when there's no real reason to be reminded of it. After all, no one needed to be reminded to breathe or eat regular meals or wear warm clothing when it's freezing outside. Yet, when one was in a supermarket, every few minutes a message would come over the public address system telling people to keep six feet away from each other and wear masks and wash their hands, as if this were the first time anyone had ever heard this message.
Anyway, there was not a soul in the Grandhigh Library. The lights were off. If there were mice in the building (most buildings of any kind have at least a few mice), they too were being quiet, mostly because evolution has favored the survival of mice who were too quiet to be heard by predators.
Think about this.
This public building, which sat at the corner of Church Street and Walter Street, with a fine view of the park and the town hall, is in a fabulously accessible location, and ought to have had at least a few people in it. Well, for almost five months it has had at most a skeleton crew.
So, there is not a lot to say in today's spotlight, except that there is nothing to say. Sorry.
The writer could give a brief history of the building, contemplating its one-time odd arrangement of books by accession number rather than Dewey call number.
But nothing was going on in the building. A pity, because on a hot day like the one the writer is writing about, at least a few people would be in there staying cool.
59. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: The Nimby Oak
The writer has to laugh at the name given to this massive tree that has, alas, passed into history. N.I.M.B.Y is an acronym for "Not in my back yard." Well, the tree in question was not in the back yard, it was in the *front* yard.
A photo taken in 1890 (original in the Library of Incongruous) shows a very large tree with a massive crown. Truly one of the crowning glories of nature, no matter where you happened to be. England has had some massive oaks, and whoever happened to reside in the house next to this tree would have been proud to have it *anywhere* in his/her yard. "So take that, England! We have an oak to rival your best" would have been what the proud homeowner might have been thinking.
Anyway, Gamaliel Nimby settled the spot in 1660. The tree was probably already growing there, and must have been impressive even at its younger age, for nobody ever cut it down. Or maybe it was just too pretty to cut down. It stood in front of the house, visible to anyone who traveled along the Notsob Post Road (currently Route 711).
By the early 20th Century, the Nimby Oak was regarded as the largest white oak tree in the state. It figured on the town seal of Lost Village, which was at least 15 miles away. To be precise, this tree was in Clanville, not Lost Village. It's doubtful that there were *two* Nimby Oaks (one in each town), but imitation is said to be the sincerest form of flattery. The one in Lost Village, if it existed, was surely a poor replica of the original, but it was surely much younger and might still be standing.
Those are an awful lot of ifs, but let's look at some other cases where more than one thing had the same name. For instance, "Notsob Post Road" was a term applied to Route 711. It was also applied to Routes 001 and 002. Strange how these numbers evoke the world of James Bond! Anyway, there were at least *three* Notsob post roads, so there really was no mystery involved. People liked to receive their mail, and this was a workable plan to get it to them.
And Lost Village was very proud of its oaks. It had Lost Oak Road. It also had a Mighty oaks school. Why worry about these little incongruities of life? Live and let live.
But don't stand too close to very large oak during a severe storm. In 1990, a storm took down most of the original Nimby Oak, so the rest of it had to be removed, too. And, this is the last place the writer would expect to bring up Fernald Shanahan, but it seems necessary to do so. The Hurricane of 1938 brought down A Very Large Oak in the town of Contentment, which is near Notsob.
Things to ponder, indeed!
59. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: the writer answers your questions
People who have read these spotlights on the town of Crepuscular Meadows have every reason to ask questions about what they've read so far.
They haven't actually asked very many, but the writer imagines that there are many matters that would have been brought up if this spotlight series had had a wider distribution.
So, here are some questions that would likely have been asked by inquiring minds who wanted to know some of the more obscure facts about the town:
1. Is there evidence of any Viking settlements in the town?
Well, the town is about 40 miles form the ocean. Vikings were known for traveling on the ocean, though obviously they could not have gathered lumber to build their boats unless they went inland.
And, the town of Noshar has a whaling museum, though it's as far from the sea as Crepuscular Meadows is.
Anyway, an expert in Westville says that there have never been any Vikings in the state. Some local towns have viking clubs, though. There may be sports tams that call themselves vikings
The upshot of it all is that anyone in Crepuscular Meadows who wishes to name a sports team or social club after the vikings is welcome to do so. If someone wants to put up a viking museum in town, that would be okay, if probably not likely to attract many visitors (though one never knows).
And let's not overlook descendants of Vikings. If your last name ends in "son," you may well have had Vikings as ancestors. The Johnson and Anderson clans in town might be interested in exploring their Viking heritage. or not.
2. Have there been Extraterrestrial visits to Crepuscular Meadows?
This question is fraught with peril for anyone who wants scientifically provable data. Jim Anderson, of Lofty Pitchpine Hill, has been claiming to have seen UFO's for years. In our next spotlight, we will discuss his discovery of Cumpin pottery shards in his backyard. We feel that the probable history of Indian encampments here is more provable than anything else Mr. Anderson may have in mind, so let's deal with that in our next spotlight.
Of course, if extraterrestrials are among us, they would be very stealthy, wouldn't they? So, the jury is out on this particular question.....
60. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: The Cumpin Indians
In our last spotlight, we wrote, ".Jim Anderson, of Lofty Pitchpine Hill, has been claiming to have seen UFO's for years. In our next spotlight, we will discuss his discovery of Cumpin pottery shards in his backyard. We feel that the probable history of Indian encampments here is more provable than anything else Mr. Anderson may have in mind, so let's deal with that in our next spotlight."
When you're a writer, and you can quote yourself from an early entry, that is a real time-saver! But the reader should be informed that this spotlight was started before the earlier one!
Anyway, Mr. Anderson found four or five pottery shards in the Lofty Pitchpine Hill Rockshelter.
The writer appreciates being able to go online and find out what a "rockshelter" is, too. It's an important ceremonial site in Native American history. Basically, what seems to have happened is that the Cumpin Indians found a cave to serve as a shelter for offerings for their spiritual beings. Ninety pieces were found, of which four were analyzed by scientists and found to be rim shards from pottery similar to
that from other Cumpin sites in the state.
The writer is quoting from a report that was found on the Internet, so it is unclear whether excavations in the cave were done by the Cumpin Indians or by the scientists themselves. No matter. This serves as proof that humans were living in the area long before the Grandhigh brothers decided to establish Crepuscular Meadows as a community.
They were there long before the first Europeans or their descendants settled in the area.
The report goes on to explain that this does not seem to have been a landfill. The pottery was deliberately broken, it seems.
Mr. Anderson was probably of Viking descent, which fact he may or may not have been cognizant of. His claims of contact with extraterrestrials may or may not have been scientifically validatable. But with these pottery shards he seems to have hit the jackpot.
The writer congratulates him.
Efforts to reach representatives of the local Cumpin Indians in Notfarg were met with less enthusiasm than the writer expected. "What, you found broken pottery in a cave? Are you asking whether we want it back? What do you think we would do with it?" said the tribal elder the writer talked with on the phone.
Perhaps the Cumpin Indians would have preferred relics that would look attractive for their displays. The writer feels that this is a reasonable position if it's true.
In any case, Jim Anderson did the right thing by involving scientists. In a more perfect world, the scientists would have glued the fragments back together, and a nice feast could have been shared among European and native American descendants alike.
Come to think of it, one can buy Nipmuc plates on Bidbay, but not enough such plates exists for a get-together. Sad, but Mr. Philpin surely could have financed the production of replicas of it.
61. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: Ballroom dancing at Clematis Station
Clematis Station had a ballroom. It had gone unused for several months, as very few dances existed that could be done with partners six feet apart from each other.
Then Mr. Philpin, who owned Clematis Station, read the fine print that covered social restrictions of the coronavirus. It turned out that husbands and wives could dance together as long as both had had recent tests clearing them of exposure to the virus. Mr. Philpin pulled the necessary strings, found out which married couples wanted to dance, and had them tested. Then he hired people to sanitize the ballroom, marking off zones that dancers would need to stay in so as not to be within six feet of other dancing couples (One could never be too careful).
Four couples signed up, and twenty other residents asked if they could watch from the sidelines. There was just about enough room for chairs for them.
The next order of business had to do with hiring an orchestra. Space limitations being what they were, it was decided that the Covid Jazz Trio would do nicely.
Did they know the popular Strauss waltzes? Turns out they had had a run of several weeks at the Mosby Ballroom in a Notsob suburb. That was a prestigious ballroom, and Mr. Philpin said he was proud to have them at the Station.
The night of the dance session came, and Mr. Philpin stepped to the microphone to tell everyone how proud he was to have restored, albeit in a downsized manner, the great tradition of ballroom dancing in the area. "As far as I know, this is the only ballroom in Crepuscular Meadows," he said, "though some social organizations had used their function rooms for dancing at times. The Masonic Hall
across from the park, in particular, has had a good record in that. But we hope to be pioneers tonight in cautiously bringing back this source of enjoyable exercise."
There was applause. Among the spectators were Minny Dandrich, the art teacher, and Mrs. Mumble, who was there as a guest of Bismarck Fedora. The Barber of Seville Street and his wife were there as dancers (they were not residents, but everyone knew that they were among the town's best dancers). Another couple was Eric Fleemy and his wife. The third couple were Bernard Philpin and his wife. And the fourth couple was Mayor Gladhand and his wife. They technically did not live at Clematis Station, but who was going to turn down the Mayor?
All the popular waltzes were played: Blue Danube, Tales of the Vienna Woods, .The Merry Widow Waltz, etc.
It was bittersweet to see these fit, hale senior citizens dancing, and to reflect that many younger people seemed to lack interest in ballroom dancing.
One advantage to having the Mayor there was that his video crew were there to film the session. The next night, the video was sure to air on the local cable access station.
Maybe enough citizens would see the video, and start thinking about following their lead. This could be the start of something big, or the governor could find out about it and clamp down on it. Too much publicity could be a problem.
Basically, it looked like any other waltz session, except for the face masks on the participants and spectators. Oh, well.
62. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: The Crepuscular Meadows Historical Society.
Visitors to Crepuscular Meadows were sometimes astonished at the array of museums and all-but-museums (meaning "Welcome to the Sixties") in the town. This was not a large community, but it boasted a museum of modern art, a non-museum devoted to the 1960s, and a museum that showcased the art and culture of Moscow and Saint Petersburg. There were rumors that in the late 19th century there was a natural history museum, but rumors such as this can easily spring up when people with too much time on their hands stare at microfilmed newspapers for hours at a time. Besides being a recipe for eyestrain, this can cause people to imagine that they have seen things that were not really there.
This may have been the case with the Crepuscular Meadows Museum of Natural History. The writer can point to an article in the 1895 Crepuscular Meadows Evening Sentinel about a local citizen who had visited natural history museums at Harvard University and the Bodpeaby Fuffex Museum. The subject of the article felt that museums were so wonderful that every town should have one. He did *not* say that every town did have one.
Nevertheless, most towns had a type of museum that called itself a historical society. Crepuscular Meadows was no exception, though its historical society suffered from low visibility despite being on Church Street, within a block or two of the Bank, the Park, the Library, the Town Hall, and numerous other better-known institutions.
For one thing, it did not occupy a ground floor space. Rather, it was on the second floor of the building that housed the Masonic Hall. Granted, there was a placard next to the entrance to the building, and if you wanted to find it, this would be enough to help you find it.
But if you didn't know you wanted to find something, you would not find it under these circumstances.
Be that as it may, the writer visited this fine institution on a Friday afternoon in August. It wasn't open every day, just four or five hours on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
The clerk who kept the place going was pleasant and enthusiastic. He volunteered the fact that the Civil War cannon in the cemetery was there because of efforts on the part of the people who ran the historical society in the late 19th century.
There was a display case full of pictures of people in 19th-century and early 20th-century dress, as well as a display of memorabilia of the Go Figure Press back in the forties and fifties when it was a wonder to behold.
There was also the obligatory display of photos of the reservoir at different stages of completion. This included photos of the towns that once existed where the reservoir was now.
All very interesting, but the writer lives in a world where the work and lives of humble people who go about their quotidian lives would not be considered of interest to people who have conspiracy theories and notions fed by what they see on the covers of the tabloids on the racks in supermarket checkout aisles. And as for television or the movies, most of what had happened in Crepuscular Meadows would not be considered newsworthy.
Except for that sixties museum that's not a museum.
But it was an afternoon well-spent, and no one cared if the writer was wearing a face mask (the clerk wasn't wearing one, and didn't seem to realize that anyone would expect him to.
63. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: What s the oldest tree in Crepuscular Meadows?
This is a question that no one has asked (at least not yet), but with the loss of the Nimby Oak in 1990, the area lost its claim to having the oldest tree in the state.
The writer is no arborist, but here is an educated guess, based on some online research. Really old trees seem to have occurred in places like Mohocket State Forest, which the state sensibly put under protection before its virgin forests could be chopped down for lumber. They have a very tall white pine, plus numerous other very old trees.
Inaccessibility also favors the sparing of trees, not to mention uselessness for lumber. Virgin trees with no commercial usefulness were found 500 feet below the summit of Mount Hoohawsett. Ice storms have damaged the branches of 100 acres of virgin forest there, many of them red oaks estimated to be 350 years old. The trees have never been of use for lumber, and really, to get them at all you would have had to climb the mountain. That was not going to happen!
Statewide, here are the most common trees: White pine, Red Maple, Northern Red Oak and Hemlock. White pines can live 450 years, but usually last only 200. Hemlocks might reach 800 years, but 300 is more usual. Red maples last about 100 years. Not many Crepuscularians have gone out of their way to plant hemlocks, and no one cared one way or another about sparing the ones already growing here. Likewise white pines. But oaks seem special, as we saw with the Nimby Oak. So, the writer is calling on residents of Crepuscular meadows to look for any really large oaks in the town.
It might also be sensible to look at the place where trees are protected and taken care of, namely the park. There are some large trees there, and the Park has been around well over 100 years.
Also, look at the street names, which include Walnut, cedar, beech, larch, ash, pine, and spruce. These names may reflect the kinds of trees growing in town when it was settled.
Good luck hunting!
64. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: Popular bars.
It is well known that mill towns like Crepuscular Meadows needed workers. Mills had jobs for lots of people who would be content to work for relatively modest salaries, in a diligent way, and be willing to settle for some inconvenience and lack of upward mobility. Often, this meant training people who were new to this country. They used these jobs to get their foot in the door, so to speak, and give their families a chance to climb the ladder in future generations.
Many of the countries that sent people to the U.S. had cultures that celebrated unwinding after work in pubs or bars. The people who militated for prohibition tried to minimize immigration from countries where people drank heavily, but by the time they managed to do so, lots of drinkers were already well-established here.
So, you may imagine that Crepuscular Meadows had a number of bars. You would be right, but the number of bars that survive to the times this writer is writing about are but a handful. The writer thinks that these bars survived by being a cut above average.
Interestingly enough, at least three of these bars were on High Street, which made them relatively central and accessible.
The Crepuscular Meadows Bar and Grill was on High Street at the corner of Union Street, next to Emma Sullivan's Cafe on Union Street. The writer thinks that the two places catered to very different clienteles, but who is to say? The atmosphere was said to be comfortable, the food predictably American. Cocktail parties and private dinners could be arranged. Takeout food was also available.
The Common Man Saloon was a block and a half North, also on High Street. In addition to food and drinks, it offered live entertainment, at least before the coronavirus hit.
Two blocks further North, near the junction of Water Street, was the Freedom Saloon. This bar offered cocktails, live music, and pool tables.
The writer doesn't know what the reader will do with this information. Nevertheless, the presence of several prominent bars bespoke a community that valued its citizens enough to offer them places to relax, have a few drinks, listen to live music, and maybe even play some pool.
It may or may not be worth mentioning that no mention of prostitution was mentioned within town limits. No, this was a middle-of-the-road town, where you could get drunk but you had to provide your own companionship.
Take it for what it was worth.
65. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: Down memory lane with CTC supermarkets
With this spotlight, the writer is kicking off a series of reminiscences of different stores that graced the town for a while and then vanished into oblivion. Retail is like that; restaurants as well, though we are focusing on stores right now.
The writer has chosen to ask Bismarck Fedora for his memories of a grocery store chain that ran from coast to coast (hence the name CTC).
The Writer (henceforth TW): Mr. Fedora, where was CTC when you were a little boy? I understand that it moved.
Bismarck Fedora (BF): It was on High Street near its junction with Union Street. I never understood why they had it there anyhow. Not much room for all the products they carried.
TW: Well, what can you tell us about when it moved, and where it moved to?
BF: Some time around 1960 the parent company built a large, modern store on Main Street near the Clanville line. It didn't have to share its premises with anyone else. There was one other feature that I'd like to mention.
TW: Which is?
BF: Tartan stamps. They were a kind of trading stamps. You were given one stamp for every ten cents worth of merchandise you bought. They gave you empty booklets as well, and you pasted the stamps into the booklets. When the booklets were full, you could go to a redemption center and redeem them for coffee makers, toaster ovens, or whatever else was on offer. Even furniture.
TW: That sounds like a lot of work for very little reward.
BF: It looks that way now, but at the time it was a big draw. I guess the modern enticements include coupons and discounts on the price of gas, but in those days this was a very big deal.
TW: What did you like about CTC?
BF: I was a little kid in the 1950s, and a teenager in the 1960s. What did I care about supermarkets? That was my mother's job. But she bought all her coffee at CTC. I think they called it Rise 'n' Shine. Not very subtle as a reference to morning and coffee. She always made her coffee very strong, too strong for me.
TW: It was the largest grocery chain in the country until 1975, when it began to falter. Regional chains got the upper hand until 2010, when MallWart became the dominant grocery retailer. So then we were back to having a coast to coast grocery chain. Maybe it's cyclical?
BF: I miss CTC, and I don't miss it. My wife buys most of the groceries now. But CTC reminds me of my mother, whom I still miss.
TW: Thank you, Bismarck. We will choose a different store and solicit reminiscences from a different citizen of Crepuscular Meadows for each one. I hope you like this series,.
66. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: Down memory lane with Wellworthit Stores
The Writer: Today I will interview Mr. O'Toole, the ophthalmologist, about the F. W. Wellworthit store on High Street. Mr. O'Toole, did you say your great aunt worked there?
Mr. O'Toole: Yes. For thirty years. It doesn't seem to have done her any harm, as she lived to be almost 100.
TW: Did you ever visit her there?
Mr. O'Toole: Well, I was a little kid, and she was getting on in years, and she seemed more like a foreign country than a family member, but yes, I did pop in there from time to time, even if I just wanted to watch the goldfish. I guess I did actually like her, as she always brought me little toys when she visited us for dinner.
TW: Ah, yes, the goldfish. I remember haunting a Wellworthit store near Boston, and I remember that they had everything from lamps to fans, and of course lots of cloth for people who did their own sewing.
Mr. O'Toole: There wasn't much they didn't have. Sort of like a smaller version of today's MallWart stores -- which also have a section with lots of cloth samples. And, yes, I sometimes actually bought some of those goldfish, and every once in a while I got lucky. One of them lived fifteen years in my aquarium.
TW: They had a good long run -- almost 120 years -- and some say thy could still be in business had they used scanners for inventory control. They had acquired a profitable shoe store, and simply kept that while closing the dime stores in 1997. A sad loss.
Mr. O'Toole: But MallWart was there to pick up the slack.
TW: They weren't the only ones, though. Dollar Emporium does very well with low-cost items. They *do* keep inventory control by using scanners. I've been to one of them many times. I sometimes get in line behind teachers who have up to 100 dollars' worth of items for their classes.
Mr.O'Toole: There are three MallWart stores in the Crepuscular Meadows area, but all are at least ten miles away. I think if you depend on MallWart, you'll get in your car and drive there, so all the stuff you buy will fit in the car.
TW: Some people will do that with Dollar Emporium, too.
Mr. O'Toole: True, but Dollar Emporium supplements the other stores in the strip malls that it tends to occupy. MallWart basically *is* a strip mall by itself. It doesn't need any other stores nearby. It tends to be like a little island.
TW: Dollar Emporium likes to nestle between used-items stores and laundromats. People grab essentials while their laundry is washing, or they look for a used bargain, then pick up toilet paper or school supplies.
Mr. O'Toole: Thanks for asking me about Wellworthit Stores. It's been a trip down memory lane.
TW: That was the aim of the interview. Our next interview will be about a hardware store that is still doing business, even in these days of superstores like Home Station.
67. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: Down memory lane with O. B. Shawn, durable hardware store
The Writer: Today we have with us HVAC expert Eric Fleemy, to discuss a store that rarely gets much attention from the mass media, but is popular with customers who know their hardware. Mr. Fleemy, the O.B. Shawn store in Crepuscular Meadows occupies a prominent place on high Street, between Church and Union Streets. The residents I've talked to can't remember it ever not being there.
E.F.: It's the oldest family owned hardware store chain in America. More than 100 years old. But look at some of the things they offer: fishing supplies, liquid chlorine, a computer that matches your paint for you, cutting keys, cutting glass, plumbing supplies, tools, popular brands of paint.
T.W: But how does it compete against the big box stores like Home Station, which have a huge selection?
E.F.: A huge selection is a disadvantage when you want to put your hands on what you want right away. The big box stores are great if you are actively building some kind of structure, or replacing windows, doors, etc. Not everyone wants to do that. Many times they just want to make copies of their keys. It also helps that people can simply memorize the store layout, and dash in and out in just minutes with what they want.
T.W.: It's in the heart of the High Street business district. Why is that an advantage? Wouldn't it mean congested parking? A cramped location, etc?
E.F.: The parking situation is not that bad, if you go at the right time. They have plants, they repair lamps, they have lumber, you name it.
T.W,: Sounds like one-stop shopping.
E.F.: You can special-order hundreds of thousands of special products.
T.W.: Have you done that?
E.F.: Of course! These people have been in the business so long that they usually know where to look. They don't have zillions of part-time people who don't know a screwdriver from a pair of pliers.
T.W.: Ouch! Let's not insult the people at other stores.
E.F.: I was being silly. There's method to my madness, though. A big-box store may have a lot of employees, but if the turnover is heavy, they'll have to keep training new people. That will cut into their profit margins. O. B. Shawn has fewer people, but they've been there a long time. They can repair things so you don't have to buy new stuff. They've had time to study the unique needs of Crepuscular Meadows. This isn't rocket science.
T.W.: Well, if someone wanted to build a miniature rocket in his backyard, I bet I know where they would get parts.
E.F.: Touche. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to pick up some supplies for the furnaces I'll be installing this Fall.
TY.W.: So long,. and thanks!
68. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: Ahabit of coffee
Ahabit of Coffee has been in our state for 26 years. The writer doesn't know when it came to Crepuscular Meadows, but 2005 is as good a guess as any.
The Ahabit location here was on Main Street near the Clanville line, as are a good many other worthy stores and cafes.
The writer has sometimes wondered why there's such a cluster of thriving retailers on the edge of Crepuscular Meadows. A railroad overpass forms a de facto line between Crepuscular Meadows and Clanville. On the Clanville side you will find a couple of popular diners that have been mentioned before: Dannee's and Drawbridge Diner.
The writer asked this question of Mayor Gladhand, who mentioned a once-popular drive in movie theater and cutesy candy place on a hill nearby. "It's sort of a crossroads of towns in the area. People in Nobility can just go down the town's main street, take a left on Route 011, and make a choice at five corners (actually four corners now, as one has been deleted). If you follow the main road, it brings you onto what becomes High Street. If you take the second right, you get a short road that brings you to what becomes Main Street, coming out within sight range of Dannee's, with the cluster of stores not far beyond."
In any event, the writer had not actually visited this Ahabit location, but he asked Emma Sullivan (who knows something about coffee and the things that go with it) to visit it and give it her unbiased opinion.
The writer said unbiased? Ahabit is a competitor, after all.
Well, she said she would keep an open mind, but she wasn't about to leave her judgment and expertise at the door when she entered. That seemed fair enough.
The Writer: How do you rate the place?
Emma Sullivan: Franchises don't succeed or fail based on the virtues or failures of one location. People expect to find that one location is as good as any of the others.
E.S.: I didn't try all the different types of coffee on offer. That would require someone with a better set of taste buds than I would have. My cafe only has one type of coffee, the house brew. Plus decaf. We can't forget that.
T.W.: Did you just ask for the generic "coffee," and let the chips fall where they may?
E.S.: Correct! it turned out to be very strong for my taste.
T.W.: I've heard that from other people who've been there. You wouldn't happen to have ever tasted the popular coffee from CTC, would you? Bismarck fedora says that his mother made very strong coffee from that, too.
E.S.: Actually, I have, and even that CTC coffee wasn't as strong as the coffee I had from Ahabit of Coffee. But there's more to Ahabit than coffee. Many people eat pastries with their coffee, or even opt for a breakfast sandwich. I tried one -- don't ask which one. Almost any of them that you try will have at least one of the following three ingredients: egg, bacon, or sausage.
T.W.: Would you go out of your way to get one?
E.S.: If I had few other choices, and the lines weren't too long, any of them would be okay. Ahabit didn't become the international success that it has become by being awful. They also have two kinds of oatmeal, and something that they call "egg bites."
T.W.: How about the pastries?
E.S.: I bought three of them to go: a chocolate chip cookie, a triangular pastry made with strawberries and yogurt, and a blueberry muffin.
T.W.: Your verdict?
E.S.: They won't set the world on fire. I think my supplier gives us better chocolate chip cookies and blueberry muffins than what I got at Ahabit. And we charge about the same price. But convenience matters. We are several miles form Ahabit, and it may not be worth the extra gas to come to us if you happen to be near Ahabit.
T.W.: Thanks for scouting out the competition, and reporting to us, Emma.
E.S.: My pleasure.
70. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: the most popular
man at the high school was not a teacher!
Enzio Verdi worked as custodian at the high school for 30 years before retiring ten years ago. He knew about half the people in town -- some were students during his working years, or were related to students. The writer has never met anyone who didn't like him a lot.
Since retiring, Enzio has taken up some projects that show just how creative a man can be when he puts his mind to it.
For example there's the fountain in his backyard. His mother's family had lived in Rome, where everyone was fond of the public fountains. Well, there was no way a replica of the Trevi Fountain was going to fit in his yard. Even the triple-decker fountain in Crepuscular Meadows' Park was a bit much for the purpose.
But he came up with something with cherubs. It looked something like this:
No one could see it from the street, but Enzio sometimes had barbecues in his yard, and people somehow managed to invite themselves to them. He also had a goldfish pool -- it had to have wire mesh over the top to discourage predatory birds from feasting on his precious fish! Enio sometimes liked to just sit in his backyard, looking at the fountain, listening to the water gurgle, and sometimes (on hot days) he would sit close enough to get splashed by mist.
That was all very well for the Summer, but in late September Enzio had to drain the fountain. The fish could be safely left in their outdoor pool, though it was necessary to keep at least a small area of the surface ice-free so enough oxygen could get into the water for the fish.
Winter required a different hobby. Enzio built a closed-in area for his front yard, and saw to it that there was enough heat there for tropical vegetation to thrive. Elephant ear plants grew there, as well as a couple of the small citrus trees beloved of the Italians. The "roof" was a screen in Summer, and a greenhouse-type of glass for the Winter. It took a fair bit of work to make all this succeed, but Enzio tweaked things for a few years until he got things the wanted he wanted them. Sometimes a visitor would say, "Alas, you have no flowers here." Enzio would point to the planters full of Petunias that he put on either side of his front walkway where it met the sidewalk.
"With such a green thumb, and knowledge of construction, you would be welcome at Clematis Station," many residents of that settlement would tell him.
Enzio would disregard these comments. He liked being in control. If he lived at Clematis Station, someone else would need to give him permission for almost anything he wanted to do.
Not that he was above visiting the Station. Mrs. Mumble had plied him with blueberry pies (his favorite kind!) and get him invited over there so he could see the art work. She invited him to her house, where she hoped he would help Freckles learn the art of making collages.
So far, though, he was content where he was.
69. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: the least popular staff member at the high school
Hugh Ryan Eep was not one to mince words. "Students who don't apply themselves are doing grave harm to their future selves," he told a reporter for the "Crepuscular Meadows Evening Sentinel." "The students in my classes never know when they are going to get a surprise quiz."
The writer hastens to add that regular quizzes were no surprise, as in fact Mr. Eep gave them frequently. It is also regarded as a fact around the school that math students under Mr. Eeps's guidance worked very hard, not willingly or happily, but stoically. Math was a required subject in three years out of four. Backing away from this requirement might have led to the school's rating being downgraded. In a less competitive neighborhood, school officials might have let things slide a bit, but Hoohawba Regional High School in Nobility (regional in the sense that three small towns sent their students there) was consistently well-regarded, and *they* required three years of math.
"What's good enough for Hoohawba Regional is good enough for us," said Dillard Wafna, president of the school board. Mayor Gladhand rarely jumped into this sort of discussion, but he had championed the school system's budgets year after year. It was a matter of enticing families with school-age children to stay in Crepuscular Meadows. People who wanted to move elsewhere to get a good public education for their kids were the subject of an intensive program of coaxing and cajoling with the object of reminding them how rewarding and fun it was to live there.
So far it seemed to be working.
In any event, Mr. Eep was now in his late sixties and showing no indication that he might retire soon. "Fat chance of that happening," said the mother of a son who had scraped through Mr. Eeps's math classes by the skin of his teeth. "Math teachers are hard to get. The school has one who knows his subject and is never out sick, and who coaches the school's championship tennis team. I know tennis is not a glamorous sport, but the school's prestige is propped up by his involvement in this area."
Regrettably, this was in fact the bright side of Mr. Eeps's presence. There was also a dark side, though it was not proven.
The fact was, Mr. Eep had sent letters (some of them anonymous) to the "Crepuscular Meadows Evening Sentinel" from time to time slamming various aspects of the town's life. If anyone went boating on the reservoir, or rode an ATV around the perimeter, guess who spotted them and reported them to the paper?
The writer mentioned anonymous letters. Complaints about the naked cherubs in the park's fountain were likely his work, as well as slamming of the work ethic of many of the town's immigrants. Mr. Eep was suspected of having written them.* Mr. Eep had arguably (not provably) been friendly with people who wanted to replace Mayor Gladhand. The quality of Gladhand's opponents' campaign literature was a cut above whatever his public supporters would have been capable of. Yes, Eeps could have been fired for being involved in politics, but he was a sly old fox.
None of the women teachers liked him. Was he misogynistic? Again hard to prove, but he had never voted for any female candidates for teachers' union positions.
A tall fence ran around his home, which was in a cul de sac in an area of town where few people ventured anyway.
What were his hobbies? No one knew, but his detractors' imaginations went into overdrive in attributing to him such nefarious pursuits as white slavery, torture of animals, and planning the formation of a neo-Nazi party in town.
His ex-wife and son had moved three thousand miles away so as to avoid contact with him, and "no comment" was their standard reply to questions about him.
All in all, not the most pleasant person to be around,. but the school's Math team (which he coached) regularly won trophies.
What can you do?
*Many people probably agreed with Mr. Eep about the cherubs and the immigrants, but his status as a teacher could have been threatened had he publicly acknowledged having written them.
71. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: hero of the French resistance
In 1944, at the tender age of five, Pierre Delamer was chosen to carry messages for La Resistance. Not that he volunteered. His father arranged for him to bring a lunchbox to his older brother Jacques (code name Frere Jacques) at school every day. An important resistance message would be in each lunchbox, and Jacques would see to it that Brother Bourcin (who taught at he school) would get it.
Jacques Delamer is still somewhere in France, though no one knows what condition he is in.
Pierre came to the U.S. in 1959 looking for work as a sous-chef. He found a job in La Jolie Provence, Crepuscular Meadows's fanciest restaurant then or perhaps ever. Eventually, tiring of the arduous work of preparing food, he got kicked upstairs, so to speak, becoming the general manager, and eventually married the owner's daughter, Mignonne, who died five years ago.
Pierre now lives in Clematis Station (Gare de Clematite), where he is not too enthusiastic about some of the food, but rousing himself to get Julia Lindstrom to prepare one of his favorite types of food would have seemed imposing. She had a clear gift, and it wasn't a gift for la cuisine Francaise. So be it.
On the wall of his room were posters of surrealistic art, notably Marc Chagall, whom Pierre loved for his depictions of farm animals in bright colors, with story-like themes. No melted watches or skeletons crossing a bridge over a desert for him.
He had had two children, whom he had named Pierre and Jacques. Both had moved to French-speaking Canada.
Some of the other residents regarded him as a hero, which he shrugged off. Others couldn't care less -- why couldn't Europe keep its wars and other problems to itself? Both approaches seemed going too far as far as Pierre was concerned.
"I was only five years old. Do you think I really wanted to be a spy?" he said in exasperation one day when reminded that he was Clematis Station's biggest hero. "My father figured that no one would suspect that a child was carrying messages. He was right. I seemed too innocent to have any such things on my mind."
With that he put another bite of Julia Lindstrom's meatloaf in his mouth. It wasn't French food (though meatloaf had been intended as a substitute for pate), but as meatloaf went, it was pretty good....
73. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: Robbins' Roost
Babcock Robbins and his wife Rhonda Celine were nothing if not hospitable.
They moved to Crepuscular Meadows five years ago, and
tried to figure out how to meet people and become part of what was going on. The trouble was, their little cottage was kind of out of the way.
It was on Hoohaw Street, which was at the bottom of a steep hill, just before Chestnut street crossed the bridge across the Hoohaw River, downstream from the reservoir.
At the bottom of that hill, you could continue straight on 062, cross the bridge, and follow 062 along the edge of the reservoir, eventually going far enough south to reach the outer limits of Workchester. Or, you could take a sharp left and follow Verde Street as it loosely followed the Hoohaw River. The Gofigure Press had a long string of buildings (once mills) that sat along the river, probably so they could benefit from water power. Most were vacant now. After the mills ended, there were multistory houses that once housed mill workers. People still lived in these buildings, but they were hardly the last word in luxury.
But if you took a right, onto Hoohaw Street, you had a view of an unnamed lake that the writer will call the Spillway, since it contains surplus water drained from the Reservoir, and the water becomes the Hoohaw River after it passes under the bridge and goes over an impressive waterfall which might once have run turbines for the mills.
Anyway, The Robbins' house was four house west of the junction of Route 062, and two of the "houses" were diners or cafes where mill employees might once have eaten at lunchtime (and some still did, as Gofigure still had a small staff, and they got tired of sandwiches that they brought from home).
People were so used to finding eating places along this stretch of the road that they occasionally knocked on the Robbins' door and asked what their menu was.
This gave them an idea. The third time someone asked for their "menu," Rhonda Celine said, "We're in the middle of
changing things around, but we do have one table set up. We won't charge you for the meal -- you'll be eating what we are eating -- but you are welcome to share it with us."
Henceforth, they made a permanent policy of letting people have lunch with them "by invitation only." They had a sheet of paper on the door where people could sign up if they wished to be "invited." They were to leave their names, as well as contacts (telephone numbers, email addresses, etc.).
That was five years ago. Since then, they have had two to four guests for lunch every day. Word spread by word of mouth (yes, Mrs. Mumble was one of their first guests, but since then pretty much everyone in town has known of this unique place to eat). You could eat there a second or third time only if no new people have asked to be invited. Or, Rhonda Celine might bend the rules and ask someone she particularly liked back for another lunch. Mayor Gladhand and Geppetto Conti (who lived in the Cuckoo house, which
they could see in the distance on Prosperity Street.) On a clear day, when there was no ambient noise from the traffic, they could hear the faint sound of all Conti's cuckoo clocks going off at 11:00 a.m. or 12:oo noon.
Conti was easy to please. A nice bowl of minestrone, a generous-sized chunk of garlic bread, and some cherry cheesecake for dessert never failed to please Conti.
Mayor Gladhand got tired of the fare at Emma Sullivan's, or sandwiches and coffee at Crepuscular Meadows News. (Besides which, Ophelia Dradnog and Mingus McCarthy were not easy to warm up to.) The Robbins's by contrast were perpetually charming hosts. They even asked the mayor for his preferences in coffee and food. He, in turn, let them in on what was transpiring at City Hall.
It was unconventional, but it worked.
74. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: Geronimo Labecque's Puppet Theater
Geronimo Labecque used to work in an office of a graphic arts company -- until March 15 of 2020, that is. He was in love with Penelope Schlager, the woman who worked at the desk net to him. She was a widow with seven small children, and child care costs were eating her alive. Two incomes would help with child care, plus they loved each other and planned to marry some day, hopefully the sooner the better.
Then COVID-19 came along, and the office was shuttered. They were given equipment for working from home, and something clicked in Geronimo's mind.
"We should get married now, move in together, work from home, and stagger our work hours so the kids will always get the attention they need," Geronimo said.
"We could live in my place," Penelope said, thinking fast.
"It's in an out of the way spot on Hoohaw Street, with a great view of the Reservoir dam."
A justice of the peace at Crepuscular Meadows town hall tied the knot a week later, Geronimo gave up his apartment, and they settled in together in the little house on the secluded street.
A week went by. Then another thing clicked in Geronimo's mind. "Say, there might be some way to keep the kids occupied, and be fun for us," Geronimo said at breakfast one morning. "I found an old puppet theater in the basement of your -- I mean our -- house. There are several hand puppets, and some books with sample stories in them.
I bet if three or four of your older children mounted a production, the littler ones could help design sets, and would make a great audience."
"Well, I think you're overestimating the artistic skills and attention spans of all the children," Penelope commented dryly. "But if this floats your boat, try it."
Thus was born Labecque and Schlager's Puppet theater.
Three months later -- the Fourth of July, to be exact -- the company staged its first show, a melodrama in which Uncle Sam, George Washington, and Betsy Ross tossed ideas back and forth about putting together the right flag. Songs included "You're a Grand old flag," "Yankee Doodle Dandy," and "Mary had a little lamb" (they had wanted to do the "Star-spangled Banner," but no one in the house had anywhere near enough range for it).
Mary's little lamb, of course, provided the wool that was spun into the flag that Betsy Ross sewed. Geronimo never thought that anyone would think askance about having "Mary had a little lamb" in a patriotic show. He thought wrong.
The two older children were in school (not at the moment, as it was Summer, but they had many friends). The next thing anyone knew, a crowd of their friends asked to watch the show, and word got about town that something great was happening in the house on the secluded little street.
A few days later, a charming article about the puppet show appeared in the "Crepuscular Meadows Evening Sentinel," and things began to get exciting. Maybe too exciting, but it was July, work was slow, and the family wasn't weighed down by too many other things.
So, that secluded little spot became rather a bit busier. Mayor Gladhand and his advisors wanted the people at town hall to see a special performance of the show, in the Hall's auditorium. There wasn't an empty seat in the place (because of the virus, of course, there were only 100 seats, set six feet apart, and even that was in contravention of state rules), and a video was made, to be aired on the local access TV channel. not to mention Spewtube.
You never know when someone will come up with an idea that millions of people might embrace. This was one such idea.
But the process turned out to be more work than Geronimo had anticipated. The children were instructed to plan on one more show before school got underway again, and Geronimo had the perfect idea for it: a melodrama about the founding of Crepuscular Meadows. "Mary had a little lamb" would once again figure in the plot.
75. Spotlight on Crepuscular Meadows: And the Gods of dessert said, "Let there be cake."
Crepuscular Meadows, like Rome, was built on seven hills. Well, you can fudge things a bit when you're trying to make the number of hills come out exactly right. But there's definitely a sizable hill that rises out of the Hoohaw Valley after Route 062 crosses the river going south toward the reservoir. If it was a spectacular view you wanted, you could have done worse than build your house on or near the top of this hill.
The people who established a bakery called "Let there be cake" built it on Summit Street. Maybe the scenic view from the bakery window inspired them. Maybe they just wanted to be away from it all so they could think more clearly about the important things in life, like creative approaches to cake-making.
In any event, it will not surprise the readers to learn that the lady who set up the bakery was a cousin of Julia Lindstrom, the culinary genius who made the dining room at Clematis Station the wonder that it was.
There was little family resemblance, though. Whereas Julia was short, plump, and silver-haired, Sonia Olson was medium height, slim, and golden-haired. She cackled when she laughed, which was often. She laughed when things went awry (which was also often; creative people endure a lot of fiascos and near misses on their journey toward inspired discoveries).
Every week there was a new surprise creation that was featured for the week. Let There be Cake had been started when gourmet cupcakes were all the rage, but Sonia and her assistant had left the competition behind long ago. You want to turn a fancy-schmancy coffee like caramel macchiato into a cupcake? Done! Or how about Notsob Cream Pie with pecans and raisins? The purists in Notsob would stick up their noses in disgust, but here on Summit Street, high above Crepuscular Meadows, they didn't have to know about this reimagining of the familiar treat.
Ahabit of Coffee had been begging Sonia to supply at least some of her cupcakes, and she was almost tempted. But she'd have to think about it. Emma Sullivan had begged, too, and she had gotten the chocolate meringue pies that everyone in Crepuscular Meadows seemed to like. Of course, you do things for family members that you might not do for total strangers.
Sonia Olson did a big business in catering and mail-order and Internet orders. Shipping had to be next-day delivery, as freshness didn't stay fresh for long.