Sid Bartleby and Moe Eckstein were waiting anxiously. Sid was standing and Moe was in a wheelchair. He was a little on the weak side but his spirits were soaring. He was able to get up and move around without too much pain, but occasionally he would get a jolt. His doctors said the treatment was working but he should keep the wheelchair in case he felt too weak to move around. Those days were becoming increasingly few.
Sid looked down at his smiling friend. He caught an unmistakable whiff of a freshly baked blueberry muffin as someone walked by balancing one of those folding cardboard carry boxes he only knew as "J trays", full of them. J trays, at least that is what the paper goods salesman wrote down whenever he ordered them.
Moe caught a whiff of the muffins as well, reminding him that he was actually hungry, and had one of his own balancing on his lap. He made eye contact with Iva Bartleby at the Odd Fellows table who was once again selling these legendary morsels.
Iva was wearing a frontier style outfit which was handed down from when her husband's Great Grandmother, Edna opened the Muskrat Flats General store, a business which is still family owned, thriving, and of course celebrating its anniversary during the Fall Festival.
Moe inhaled the rich aroma of the muffins but was caught short as he briefly detected an unpleasant smell in the air. It smelled almost like rotting fish. He looked around wondering what the hell it was. He watched as the crowd began to gather outside the Saloon.
Sveltlana Smith and her husband Jeremiah were situated inside the old Double Life Saloon. Jerry was dressed in his authentic western wear, cowboy boots, chaps, faded denims, a leather vest and of course, his Colt revolver strapped to his side. He was checking out the front window of the saloon which, now functioned as the cafe and dining area for visitors of the Farm Museum and Agricultural Archive. He looked over at his wife who was dressed in a corseted Victorian style dress which proudly displayed her enticing breasts. She walked outside briefly to make sure the foam rubber mat on the ground outside the window was deftly concealed by some hay bales. As she exited the saloon Jeff heard tawdry hoots, and whistles of appreciation from the growing crowd. She waved to the crowd and went back inside.
Jeff said as he looked over at his seductively attired wife. A special woman she was. She was bending over repositioning one of the hay bales inside the building, giving it a final push. Looking up, she caught her husband lustfully eyeballing her cleavage.
"You know Jeff, you should consider yourself lucky, did you hear that crowd when I went outside?"
"Oh, trust me, I heard the crowd, I know how lucky I am." He put his arms around her waist pulling her in for a hug, gazing into her eyes. As their pelvic regions met she could feel some movement down there. Coyly he prompted,
"Why don't you tell me how lucky I am?" She wiggled her hips a little and squeezed in closer.
"I don't know many women in the Flats who have the willingness to dress up as Sheriff Hawthorne's Favorite prostitute for the Fall Festival ... I think you are enjoying this role playing just a little too much, cowboy. Better put that gun away." She winked.
"Well, Celeste, it is a seller's market these days, you'll will have to charge me accordingly later on." Jeff felt a little rush as he flashed forward to the evening when he began to untie that corset, slowly and playfully unwrapping his sexy wife like a Christmas present. She giggled as he rubbed into her.
"Jeff, someone will see." and without skipping a beat they heard,
"Hey you two, get a room before I turn the garden hose on the both of you." Gomer Eckstein strolled up wearing an all white suit and broad rimmed hat. His walrus mustache was neatly trimmed. He took off his hat and bowed.
"Hello, Sveltie. How's my favorite girl today?"
"You'll have to take a number. So far, this guy has been my only customer all day, he just keeps stuffing twenties up my dress every hour," she said as she lifted her skirt giving Gomer, her former high school sweetheart, a nice eyeful of her thigh surrounded with a red satin and lace garter which now held five 20 dollar bills.
Gomer blushed. Jerry laughed and got on the walkie talkie.
"Is everything all set outside the Sheriff's office?" He listened to a garbled response, which he aptly deciphered as a positive one. Jeff Nelson and his new sponsee Jim Benoit came in.
Jerry looked at them and nodded. He turned to Gomer and asked,
"Are you ready? Gomer cracked his knuckles and nodded.
The Fall Festival was a great success. Paulie and Donnie, the two dishwashers from the Odd Fellows hall had their hands full as they headed up the crew directing traffic in the overflowing parking lots. The blueberry muffins and cider doughnuts were selling like they were going out of style. The weather was crisp. It was a lovely cool day in the Flats. The trees offered a wondrous burst of color as their leaves shone radiantly in the afternoon sun.
The tourists, or leaf peepers as some called them, milled around the Farm Museum taking in the various demonstrations including one at the cooperage, the vineyard, and the tobacco barn. The Bartelby boy, did a fine job in the smithy shop as he demonstrated how to shoe a horse. People were having a wonderful time, They were spending money, which made the nervous vendors very happy. It seemed like an idyllic time ... all except for that occasional stench that would waft through the air.
"What is that?" a visitor from Prescott asked his wife as they strolled near the vineyards.
"I don't know but it is gross. Hey let's hurry up, it's time for the hanging." They joined the rest of the crowd, and headed over to Main St. They arrived just in time, as Gomer Eckstein came flying through the fake window of the Double Life Saloon. He landed squarely in the middle of the foam rubber mat which was obscured by the hay bales.
Jerry and Jeff scrambled out of the Saloon followed by Sveltie.
"Get him!" Jerry shouted. Sveltie Screamed
"No, He didn't do it, you have to believe me, I was there! He didn't DO IT?" Jeff Shouted.
"So, think we weren't going to find out about the Deal you made with the Silverstein Brothers?"
"Now hold on, It's not like that."
Jeff and Jerry grabbed Gomer who was vainly trying to dust off his white suit.
"Now, come on boys lets' go to my office we can talk about this."
Jeff shouted to one of the many who followed them out of the saloon,
"Grab that rope." The crowd hustled Gomer over to the maple tree outside Hawthorne"s office where he was pinned on the ground. Jeff slipped the fake noose around Gomer's neck, reaching under his coat to attach the real end of the rope to the harness he wore. Gomer whispered
"This better work, buddy!"
"Of cousre it will work, after all I don't want to lose my favorite sponsee." He tugged the rope violently. Gomer lifted off the ground a little bit as Jerry towered over him. He drew his army Colt pointed it at Gomer and demanded.
"On your feet Hawthorne!"
"Come on, now. I'm telling you it is not what you think." Jerry ignored his plea and turned to the crowd.
"Sheriff Coleman Hawthrone the Third. You are charged with unspeakable crimes. Embezzelment of town funds." The crowd Roared
"We can always get our money back but what you did ... making a deal with the Silversteins. Don't you understand that what they are trying to do will rip this town to shreds. We have a community here, we are not just a silver town. We are different. And it saddens me to think that all of the love we feel for this town and this community comes from the many hours we spent together as you shared your vision for what this town has become and what it it will continue to be in the future. It saddens me that you had to resort to these acts of treachery. What do you have to say for yourself?" Gomer looked out the crowd. He saw Sid and his father laughing their asses off. He was about to deliver his line when he caught a whiff of something. Whew!
"What do I have to say for myself? I had a bad day. I owed someone some money and had to make some real quick." He started laughing and winked at Sveltie.
"Okay that's it! On the the horse!" Gomer lifted himself up into the saddle of the horse which was situated under the large branch of the maple tree. Jerry shimmied up a ladder and tied the rope around the branch.
Gomer sat on the horse looking down at Sveltie who was pretending to cry and wail. He got a smile out of her as he winked again. He heard Jeff slap the horse's ass. The horse took off. Gomer dropped. He swung back and forth from the branch a few times, the harness was working, thank God. The crowd cheered and applauded at the fine performance.
Then, as always in Muskrat Flats, the unexpected happened. The rope unraveled and Gomer tumbled to the ground. Fortunately, Gomer's paratrooper training kicked in as he instinctively tucked and rolled as he hit the ground. The only problem was where he rolled to. It was then that Gomer discovered where that awful stench everyone had been smelling all day long had been coming from as he had just smeared his face in it.
There was a layer of slime on his face, there were flies and bugs everywhere. Gomer gagged a little as the smell of rotting flesh mixed with a pungent aroma which reminded him of a very ripe brie cheese filled his nostrils. He was on the ground eye to eye with these ...
"Good God, what the fuck!?"
Sveltie and Jerry Leaned forward. Sid and Moe came running forward. As usual there was a brief gasp from the crowd. But people began to laugh.
Sid bent over to get a closer look. Then he heard someone yell.
"There's more of the them over here!" People began to look around and noticed these bizarre fungus growing out of flower beds and areas that had been layered with mulch. The farm museum was infested with them. Moe asked,
"What do you think Sid?"
The crowd was zeroing in on the mushrooms.
"Uhh, I'm okay, in case anyone was wondering."
"Ah, Sonny!" Moe said turned to his son and offered him a hand. Moe knew he was alright. Gomer got up off the ground and Sveltie offered him a tissue to wipe the funk off of his face.
Sid looked down at the white stalk with the bulbous brown head and the queer looking white ring on top.It was slimy and crawling with insects. There were some reddish looking ones in the flower bed across the way. Disturbingly enough, they looked like uncircumcised penises.
"They call them stinkhorns. I have seen any of these in decades. They also call 'em dog's dicks.
"I guess the Mohelim didn't get to these yet, eh Dad? Better call the temple."
Moe laughed but whacked his son on the arm regardless.
"Are you alright sonny?"
"Eh, I'm fine just like hitting the ground in a parachute."
Sveltie was hugging Jerry.
"Those are the oddest looking things." She said. Sid looked over at his life long friend, Moe, and said,
"The way you leaped out of that chair, you look like you are ready to beat me in the 100 yard dash again."
"Yeah, Dad, you moved pretty quickly."
"I'm a little weak from the meds but the doctors say I'm getting better." He hugged Gomer who still had the noose around his neck.
"I love you Sonny, boy ... Hey, look I got a picture before the rope came undone. Gomer put his arm around his father's shoulder. Sid leaned in on the other side and they all peered at the photograph of him swinging from the mighty Maple tree.
Gomer just looked at his Dad and gave thanks that he was here just one more day. He looked around and saw all of his friends and loved ones. Jeff, his sponsor was coming in for a hug.
"You alright, Buddy?" Gomer was a little emotional and sniffed back a tear. He never thought that he could ever have such a wonderful life without the use of drugs He was grateful for waking up, He was grateful that even though the re-enactment went awry that he got out unscathed and more importantly he didn't accidently get hanged. He was thankful for the Odd Fellows and Jerry and Sveltie, all of the people who didn't turn their backs on him even though he turned his back on them when he was caught up in the grips of his addiction.
"You know Jeff, Today I beleive that I never have to get high again, I really beleive that."
"I know, my brother. Does that mean you are going to get rid of that joint in your ash tray?"
Gomer didn't answer.
As the day wound down, people got back into their cars and emptied the cluttered parking lot. Paul and Donnie carefully wheeled the donut machine down McKernan St., back to the Odd Fellows Hall, where the members busied themselves with clean up and organization.
Soon Muskrat Flats was once again quiet and people settled in for the eve. Jerry finally was where he longed to be. Slowly untying his sultry wife's costume. Gomer and Sid drove Moe back to his house, where he read from the manuscript he had been working on in the nursing home, as his guests listened intently.
Yes, life is good in Muskrat Flats these days. But until the stinkhorns disappear the and the stench of organic decaying funkiness continues to permeate the air, it is probably the best reason to get it in gear and start ...
Running Hard out of Muskrat Flats