A warm front swept through Muskrat Flats over the weekend. This was preceded by some heavy periods of rain. The sewer culvert on the corner of Petersen and McKernan Streets was clogged with the earliest of the fallen leaves among other debris. The leaves probably were more swept away from their branches rather than falling to the ground as nature had intended. Sometimes nature decides it needs to speed things up a bit. But things, such as speeding up of the process, should not happen in such a glorious season as Fall, not in Muskrat Flats. Not when preparations need to be completed before the start of the Fall Festival.
The result of the culvert clogging was a 12 inch deep puddle which flooded the parking lot of the Odd Fellows Hall and Petersen St. The edge of the puddle ended up lapping against the doorway to the basement every time a vehicle would cautiously traverse the flooded street sending waves which rippled in either direction.
The members were outside enthusiastically clearing the culvert of the of the leaves, sticks and debris. This was nothing compared to the cleanup they endured at the beginning of the month. Two of the younger members worked on the storm drain with shovels and rakes while a crowd of members stood around and watched them work. The water was not going anywhere.
To the outside observer this scene would have looked like any other roadside construction detail you would see anywhere. This was accentuated by the dress of the bunch. The Odd Fellows were a prepared bunch of gentlemen, who always seemed to have a set of knee high rubber galoshes and yellow or day-glow orange foul weather gear handy.
Sid Bartleby stood by a welcome face in the bunch with his elbow locked together with that of his dear friend, Moe Eckstein.
Moe had been feeling better and healthier these days and ventured out of his assisted living facility to once again partake of the morning ritual involving Iva Bartleby's award winning blueberry Muffins, a recipe handed down by her husband's great Grandmother Edna, the woman who opened Bartleby's Mercantile, the General Store currently run by her and her husband Sid, and their daughter.
The last time Moe ventured out, all he could do was inhale the aroma of the coffee and muffins. He had no appetite and was nauseated. He had the antidote to this situation in his pocket. Even though he was wracked with the pain and suffering associated with chemotherapy, Moe was not about to put his "Sonny boy" Gomer in harm's way by lighting a joint in his presence. He admired what his son was doing with his new lifestyle, he wasn't about to tempt fate. They even had a lighthearted discussion about it recently.
"How are you feeling, Dad?"
"Ahhh," He grunted. "I'm nauseated and I can't eat."
"Well, there's an easy solution to that problem." Gomer motioned to the joint in his ashtray.
"What about you, Sonny?"
"You can have it, it won't bother me, I'll smoke the rest of it tomorrow." Moe laughed a cautious snicker as to not rattle his insides too much.
"Sure, you will, Sonny, sure you will. Thank you but, I'll pass." He hesitated ...
"You know that is not what I meant, right? That you don't NEED that or anything else?"
Gomer nodded and smiled.
"I love you, Sonny, I'm so proud of the man you have become."
Gomer stood across from the culvert. Among the crowd was Coley Blackstone, holding his dog Chubby. Coley, who had just been released from the psych ward, was on some meds, and was actually taking them. He felt better and it was an amazing feat that he was as involved socially as he was at the present moment. It helped him that the townspeople were so curious about his situation and welcomed him so warmly. Even when he was "homeless", the Flatlanders were more accepting of him than he may have been accepted elsewhere. Coley did double take to see if anyone was looking as he submitted to his obsessive-compulsive tendencies, quickly bending down and snatching a floating cigarette butt out of the water. He looked around again and slipped it into a small ziplock plastic bag he had in his pocket, balancing his little mutt in the crook of his arm as he did so.
Gomer looked away from Coley and watched his father and Sid, locked arm in arm. He remembered his father's credo, "Life is what it is, live it!" He smiled to himself, grateful for another day clean and grateful that his father could be out and about to enjoy this day.
Jeff Nelson, gave new meaning to his business name, Wake of the Flood Plumbing, as he careened his truck through the puddle and into the parking lot just a little faster than he probably should have. The waves crashed through the crowd, actually causing the water level to go higher than the rim of some of the members knee high rubbers. Gomer almost lost his balance. There was the typical shouting and fist shaking as Jeff exited his truck with a big mischievous smile.
"You better have that snake with you, Asshole!" One of the members shouted as his newly drenched sock squeaked and squished inside his boot.
He opened a back panel of his truck. Gomer ran over to grab the industrial strength snake and began to shove it into the storm drain. Jeff flipped the switch and began to manipulate the turning flexible 3/4 in. spring. A few tugs and forward thrusts later, he felt something give. A little geyser of water erupted from a manhole cover down grade as the cover lifted up and slammed down a couple of times. This stopped as quickly as it had appeared as the puddle noisily left the corner of Petersen and McKernan streets for an unseen destination. All but a few of the members retreated into the banquet hall.
Gomer and Jeff sat down at a table. They huddled in close.
"How are you today, Jeff?"
"I'm doing okay, my brother." He hesitated. Gomer asked,
"What ... what's that? Everything okay."
"I gotta admit, I've been praying all the way here. I am struggling this morning, I kept entertaining the thought of driving over to the South End in Dana, to see if anyone is out."
"Wow, how many years do you have?"
"I've got the same thing as you have, my brother, I've got today. That is all any of us has ... I woke up, I was feeling okay. I was a little distraught. It is so hot and humid and I have a job in a basement later on today. It is going to be murder." Gomer nodded in agreement. Then it dawned on him where this was going, having ridden in his sponsor's truck numerous times before. Gomer said,
"Hot and humid ... the truck?"
"Yes, the fucking truck!"
"Aw, dude, when are you going to deal with that? You need to get that rug power washed."
"It usually doesn't bother me, but today it hit me like a ton of bricks."
About four months ago, at the end of April, Jeff was doing a 12th Step call. He was picking up the son of a client of his who had developed a bad habit. Something he should not have done alone, but it was 3 in the morning and he figured that he would just pick the kid up and drop him off at a detox.
The kid was drunk when Jeff showed up. On the way there, he kept thanking Jeff for helping him out. He was spouting all of the usual stuff. He was fucked up and that he needed to get clean and he was going to go to meetings ... all the while, he was fidgeting and going through his pockets. The kid began opening something, Jeff looked over and was horrified that it was a plastic corner bag. He was pulling into the municipal hospital and neglected to see a speed bump as he was focusing on what was in the hand of his passenger. As he went over the bump, the kid dropped the bag on the carpet of his new truck.
"What the fuck did you bring into my truck?"
"That was a half gram of dope, man, FUCK!"
Jeff, sighed, silently said the Serenity Prayer. He got the kid to the front entrance. Exited the truck and walked around to the passenger side. He handed the kid a small fox tail brush and simply said,
"Clean it up."
The kid agonized over the fact that he had to sweep his dope out into the parking lot. He handed Jeff the brush back, and thanked him, he also apologized and began walking the road of recovery as he loped into the intake area of the facility.
Jeff didn't think anything else of the matter until about a week and a half later. It was one of those warm muggy spring days. He walked out to his truck and opened the door. He slid in to the driver's seat to be greeted by the unmistakable smell of heroin.
"FUCK, Fucking FUCK! What the FUCK?! He raged. He rolled down his window leaned his head out and went to pick up Gomer, who inhaled the aroma and looked at his sponsor with wide eyed disbelief as he got into the vehicle.
Underneath the picture of Coleman Hawthorne III hanging from the large oak tree outside his office, Jeff and Gomer continued their breakfast. Gomer said.
"Yeah, I remember that morning you picked me up, It smelled like a poppy field in Afghanistan inside your truck. I remember thinking, Okay, Jeff, I guess you're having a good morning."
"I'm glad you believed how it happened."
"Of course I did, who can make up shit like that?"
They both had a good chuckle about it as their subsequent and wholly unprincipled conversation deteriorated into cracking each other up about some of the newcomer women in the program who were "white key tag worthy", meaning a young lass they would likely relapse with if they encountered them on the wrong day at the wrong time, leading them to Surrender once again and start counting from day one as they continued their trek down the road.
They sipped their coffees. Gomer looked up and saw Sid and his father walking over to the table. Gomer sighed and shook his head as he saw what Sid was carrying. It was the cracked and faded leather and hemp harness which Sheriff Coleman Hawthrone the III, wore under his over sized white suit, preventing his neck from being snapped when he was "hung" on that beautiful Autum day in 1879.
"You can't seriously expect me to wear that crumbling relic during the Fall Festival?" As he eyeballed the rusted and flimsy fasteners on the harness. Gomer's father slapped his shoulder and said,
Ah, Comon, Sonny boy, What's the worst thing that can happen?" Moe smiled and looked over at Sid as he said this. Gomer looked at a parking lot puddle full of familiar faces who were silent for a few seconds before they all burst out in laughter.
"Yeah, Dad, what IS the worst that can happen?" Gomer said as he placed his hand on his neck and began to massage himself.
As the leaves are beginning to turn and throngs of tourists are about descend upon us, NOW would be a good time to start ...
Running Hard Out of Muskrat Flats.
Thanks for Reading,