It was a sobering day in Muskrat Flats. It was warm in the afternoon but in the morning there was quite the chill, even for late August. Gomer Eckstien reported an early morning temperature of 46 degrees, from the Muskrat Flats Municipal airport.
He took the time out of his busy morning of repacking parachutes for the First Step is a Doozy Jump School, to give us an official reading as the regulars sat down for our coffee, freshly baked blueberry muffins and organic peaches at the Oddfellow's Hall. The day had come to prep for the Labor Day weekend Picnic. The temperature didn't break the record. Back in 1953 the 6 am temperature was recorded at 39 degrees.
Everyone at the Hall was so concerned about the early morning temperature, because all of the school age children were going to be meandering out to their bus stops to await their ride in for the start of the new school year. Fashioned in their brand new school clothes and new backpacks with an arsenal of school supplies, they obediently waited for their ride to come, trying not to dwell on the fact that it was three days shy of the labor day holiday, and their first weekend back to the world of academia would afford three days off in a row. It just seemed silly, why not just start on the following Tuesday?
The old timers told tall tales and gossiped as they enjoyed the coffee and muffins.
The peaches were at their optimum ripeness, "Leaners" as old Sid Bartleby described them. They were so ripe and juicy, if you did not lean forward as you bit into them. You would have precious streams of peach nectar running down your chin, soiling either your freshly laundered shirt or the floor. The Oddfellows did not want peach juice on their floor, that would be an invitation to the yellow jackets, who undoubtedly woke up pretty ornery due to the ever lowering temperature. They knew their time was coming to a near and they were ready to sting anyone who got in their way, even if it did mean that stinging the perpetrator would sacrifice the life of one, for the good of the colony.
There was a ruckus in the kitchen as a stack of four muffin tins clanged loudly on the ground. The two kids in the back doing dishes, Paul and Don, were shucking corn for the Labor weekend. Charity Run picnic. They were busting each others stones and getting a little rambunctious with their hand gestures, one of them knocking the stack of pans to the ground. Having smoked a little of the local harvest at the dumpster during the last trash run, the conversation was quite silly.
They had been arguing about what to do if you encountered a UFO.
"If you encounter an alien you don't show any fear and you definitely don't think about what they might do to you because they may be telepathic."
"Dude, if you see a UFO and an alien comes out what you do is open your coat and make your self look bigger, " Paul said.
"If I were an alien I'd open my coat and then shoot you." Replied Don.
"No, wait that's not an alien - you do that if you see a mountain lion. Yeah, that's it, a mountain lion ... if you see one you open your coat and it makes you look big."
"Paul, a mountain lion is going to attack you no matter how big you look.
"But if you open your coat ..." Don just sighed. Paul continued.
"Well, it could work." Don just smiled and shook his head, no. Paul continued.
"Besides a mountain lion could be considered a UFO, so ... if you did open your coat and the UFO went away, I would have proven my theory. " Don was getting agitated.
"HOW is a Mountain Lion a UFO, PAUL?"
"If you are walking along. wearing a long trench coat, and you see something golden brown flying through the air at you, you don't know what it is, therefore it is a UFO. " Paul asserted.
"Yeah, but you will eventually figure out that it is a mountain lion."
Sure, but for a brief moment you don't know that, so, it is totally a UFO, dude." He then pretended to open an imaginary trench coat and the muffin tins went sailing.
Ernie, one of the Oddfellows ran back to the kitchen door and cracked it open wide enough to yell for then to "knock that shit off." As they began to giggle hysterically and began to badger each other repeating the phrase to "knock that shit off."
A few blocks away, a young mother waved to her child as the school bus pulled away headed for Muskrat Flats Elementary. Vanessa, who weathered the stress of the long summer, was finally free, even if it were for a few hours.
She went back inside the house and told her boyfriend, who had already situated himself in his "spot" on the couch that she had to run a few errands and had to meet a couple of clients. He didn't respond. the silence just shot another dagger into her already wounded and aching heart.
Why did she end up in relationships like these? And why was it so difficult to leave? She looked back at him before she walked out the door. He would be in the same position when she got home, and that pissed her off even more.
She had a date. It was the brother of one of her co-worker's clients. She had seen him in the office a few weeks ago. She found him on social networking website and invited him to a chat.
She was surprised to find that he was funny, cute and most definitely her type. He was divorced had a young child and was working on picking up the pieces of his life, A life second to none.
His name was Jeff.
This would be Jeff''s first time venturing back into the dating game after his divorce. They met at the mall. He was pleasant. She was pretty, funny and had a great laugh. She told him all about herself, after all she knew much more about him than he knew of her. She told him what she was looking for in a man and from a relationship.
He told her all there was to know about him, his strengths and weaknesses and his hard road struggling to recover a productive life previously lost to the depths of addiction.
She asked him, "What do you want from a woman?" Jeff simply replied.
Then he added. "I want someone who doesn't view me as a project who is going to try to change or fix me. I have a hard enough time dealing with those issues myself. I want someone to love me for who I am." He was intrigued, He was very interested. She was, too. But something he had said jarred her. Honesty.
As they continued to walk through the mall, Vanessa told him,
"I have to be honest ... I have a boyfriend and we live together. " His ears burned as she offered this information. He had been on the receiving end of that equation, before. Now, here he was, walking hand in hand with a woman he was interested enough in to "give it a try."
She continued to talk to explain herself, to justify her actions, she was unhappy and had made a mistake. She couldn't see a future where she was. All he could think about was the lies and the deceit and the sneaking around and manipulation his ex had put him through in order to to be with her true love - her new husband.
He kissed her anyway, his long dormant body responded. "Oh yeah, I remember this," he thought.
He could have gone down that road, he could have been the back door man. After all it fit his old lifestyle, the lifestyle of dishonesty, deceit and manipulation. He just didn't know his ex- who he truly loved, was just a little better at those three things than than he was.
In the end her, conscience got the better of her, Vanessa apologized and begged off saying she could not go through with the physical attraction which was taking place. He agreed ... relieved that a decision had been made on his behalf. Just, as decisions had been made on his behalf so many times before. He found himself once again climbing into the passenger seat, exactly what he is NOT looking for in a relationship ... after one very special, soul fulfilling kiss.
As they parted ways, he hung his head in shame, how could he have been so weak. Any credibility he had, any good impression he had made was eradicated. It was lost. His disease had taken over. The right thing to do would not have been to lead her to think that he may consider taking the position she desired for him in the ensuing drama; to disrupt lives who had already been disrupted and hurt before; the lives of boyfriends, children, parents and in-laws. Avoiding this scenario at all costs would be the right thing to do.
Instead he enjoyed that kiss, he harbored that thought. If he was going to do this he might as well be back to square one in his recovery. If he did this, he might as well have been using. He might as well have picked up a bag and a needle drawn up a water droplet, left over from a recent rainstorm, off of the hood of his car and shot that dope right into his arm.
That is the extent to which he was about to compromise his spiritual principles, and his freedom.
They both learned a lesson that day. Hopefully they both grew from the experience. Maybe this chance encounter will give her the strength to get out of her problem relationship on her own, without having to invest in the comfort and security of a man, allowing her the time to grow and not feel pressured to settle, perhaps even to find the true love she deserves, the one who is surely out there waiting for her.
Perhaps Jeff took away from this experience how easily he can be swayed by his disease. His addiction to ... More. If there is something to be had, he had always wanted more. More food, more alcohol, more drugs, more sex, more money, more, more, more. Perhaps he will now take the suggestion that he not get involved with a relationship until he has a year clean and has done some serious step work.
She went home to her boyfriend. Jeff got into his car and went to meet his uncle at the Oddfellow's Hall. Along the way he called a few addicts to tell on himself.
As he walked into the banquet hall, near the kitchen where the coffee club meets, he encountered giggling and laughter as Paul, who had found a trench coat, was standing in front of a dejected looking Don. The Oddfellows were whooping it up watching Paul, with his lanky arms fully extended holding the coat open, demonstrating how to ward off mountain lions and aliens. The Oddfellows had taken to arguing amongst themselves about whether or not the technique could work.
"well, he does look bigger, It could work."
"Bullshit, a mountain lion would just pounce on him and go for the back of his neck!"
"I was talking about aliens, not the mountain lion ..."
Jeff, looked around and he smiled. He had an exciting afternoon, dangerous, but exciting. Not as dangerous as dodging mountain lions or aliens, but it was pretty damn close.
From the basement of the Oddfellow's Hall on Petersen St., you will always find me ...
Running Hard Out of Muskrat Flats.