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              It was a blustery weekend in Muskrat Flats. The wind was conducting a symphony as the poplars bordering the vineyard...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Till The Morning Comes

'Till the morning comes, it'll do you fine.
Till the morning comes, like a highway sign
Showing you the way, leaving no doubt.
Of the way on in or the way back out."

Muskrat Flats is an odd place these days. Perhaps it is a good thing that there are so many Odd Fellows in the town proper.

Sure there is always much more going on in Muskrat Flats than we let on here. There is the section of town which is enclosed by three sets of train tracks, Silverstein's Triangle, or the Silver Triangle we call it.

There you will find poverty, drugs and lower rents. It is a hard concept for the residents of the Silver Triangle to accept ... no matter where they go in their neighborhood, they are perpetually on the other side of the tracks. The Silver Triangle is where 20 year old Kurt Bartleby, Sid and Iva's son, went yesterday afternoon.

Now, it is not what you think, Kurt is a good kid, he wasn't heading to the triangle for reasons that others may. He was going to check in on his mentor, Jim Benoit - Benwah as we have come to know him.

You see, Benwah had not shown up for work in the smithy shop at the Farm Museum in a couple of days. Kurt had some items to make to repair one of the yokes they used for the oxen who would be pulling the sleighs at the Holiday Festival. He was unsure how to proceed and knew his master could steer him in the right direction.

When he got to Benwah's door, a foul odor hit him. It was much too foul to have simply been some un-discarded pizza boxes or garbage. He immediately got on the phone and dialed 911, unwilling to enter the apartment, even though he had a key.

When the authorities entered the apartment they found Benwah's bloated body in a swarm of flies, flanked by a bottle of of whiskey, an empty prescription bottle of Ambien and a syringe sicking out of his arm.

Gomer and Moe Eckstein sat at the wooden table underneath the impressionist style painting of Sheriff Hawthorne done by one the ex-patriate artists he brought back to Muskrat Flats from Paris, after the elaborate charade which preceded his miraculous resurrection.

They were joined by Jeff Nelson, the owner of Wake of the Flood plumbing. Jeff was crying as he traced the outline of the tattoo on his forearm. The tattoo was three links of a chain with the letters FLT centered within each of the three links. Friendship, Love and Truth - three principles held dear by the fellows and gals who gather in the warm wood paneled room at the corners of Petersen and McKernan Streets.

Gomer read aloud as his father held his hand.

"To Whom It May Concern - I was born 20 minutes late ... so they say. All of my life I have been

racing to catch up

and regain

that precious one third of an hour.

A lot can be accomplished in 20 minutes. Sometimes it can drag on forever when I am bored and unoccupied. Other times I feel that I am on the verge of letting that 20 minutes slip away, further setting me back as I traverse this infinite, endless trek we call life.

It seems like I am 20 minutes late for everything these days. Work, appointments, I was even late for a meeting because I had 20 minutes to kill and fell asleep (passed out) for 30. I was 20 minutes late for the last meeting of the Flatlanders. I was supposed to be piping when they cut the Haggis. I was twenty minutes late when I caused that accident in Dana.

When I say I've been 20 minutes late all of my life that is an exaggeration. There was a time in my life when I was either on time, or early, obsessively so. You could set your watch by me If I was supposed to be somewhere at Noon I was there.

You hear idioms and phrases tossed around about time every day. Time is money, time is of the essence, no time to lose. Good Times, Bad Times. Time to get down to Brass Tacks. Wow Brass tacks. I'm not making sense anymore. I guess the pills are starting to work. Got finish this little task soon, otherwise I may wake up.

I'm finding it harder and harder to go on. I know these problems may seem insignificant. They tell me that I need to listen and that God is going to tell me what "his will" is for me today. The last thing I need is one more voice in my head.

Believe me when I tell you this. I deserve what I am about to get. Hopefully God has forgiven me for what happened in Dana, when I killed that lady and her little boy. I was late and I was drinking and drugging.

I deserve what I am about to get, but I also deserve to sleep peacefully, if it is forever, so be it.

Don't replace me at the Museum. Kurt is a good kid and a skillful blacksmith. He will do a far better job than I ever did or could. I leave him my set of pipes.

I'm sorry if I disappointed anyone. I'm sure if some of you were here to tell me there is another option I might believe it ... for a little while, but, I just can't see any other way. "

James Benoit

Sid and Iva were at the next table listening intently as they each held one of Kurt's hands.

Jeff wiped his eyes.

"Why didn't he call me?"

"Comon Jeff you can't say that." Gomer retorted.

"Sonny is Right, Jeff. This was written by a man who had made up his mind."

"That is pretty clear." Jeff said.

Small talk ensued and they had a few good laughs remembering some of Benwah's more hilarious moments, such as the one at the last Silver Days celebration when he got caught on the railroad tie, and crashed into the table full of pipes, as he stumbled after freeing himself. As you may recall the weight of his body tightened one of the bags which let out an awful whine as the pipes snapped upward, cracking Benwah right in the face.

Jeff and Gomer walked out the parking lot lingering and moving along rather slowly. Across McKernan St., in the park Coley Blackstone was flying kites with a group of ten young children from the day care center across the way. They were laughing and running around with not a care in the world, oblivious to such matters as a sick and suffering addict willingly taking his own life as a means to end his pain, rather than doing the work and recovering a life which he would never have the opportunity to discover wasn't so bad. Coley was instructing about five of the children on the finer points of kite flying, in the mild December weather. The rest of the children were with their teachers playing fetch with Coley's dog, Chubby, and a plastic banana.

"So, You gonna be alright?" Gomer asked.

"Yeah, it just sucks, you can't help someone who doesn't really want it ... You gonna be alright, he was your last remaining sponsee brother."

Gomer laughed.

"Yeah, about that. Kind of like a Spinal Tap drummer slash Grateful Dead Keyboard player kind of thing, your sponsees are dropping like flies. I'm the last one, huh?"

"You are it my brother. When word gets out amongst the so called anonymous, I doubt I will get asked to be a sponsor anytime soon."

"It's okay, we've got each other and we've got a network. Don't beat yourself up brother."

"I won't." Jeff replied. "How's Miranda?"

"She's doing very well. We talk to each other every day. She's my kind of freak. She promised me that if she ever got bitten by a vampire, she would bite me first."

"Oh, yeah? Thanks for sharing." Jeff smiled. Gomer pulled back his ponytail and began to clean his half moon sunglasses.

"I'm going to see her next month. The Satans are doing a small tour starting in LA on January 9th then we go up to Big Sur - a private party on Thursday the 15th in Sacramento, down to Palo Alto and we end up in San Francisco on Saturday night. Then she is coming back with me for about two weeks ... If I'm not in jail of course, my next court date is in a about a week."

"Oh, yeah, that's right." The hugged and bid each other farewell.

In the blacksmith shop Sid and Iva's eyes were shrouded by dark protective lenses as were Kurt's. He held up the glowing wrought iron bracket which would attach the reigns to the yoke. The yoke was made in two parts attached together by three chain links, each of which, Sid noticed had been adorned with the symbolic letters FLT. Kurt inspected the glowing iron. Sweat ran down from his forehead mingling with his tears. He placed the piece on the anvil and lightly tapped it a few times. His parents watched intently, proudly hugging each other as they watched their son plunge the bracket into a bucket of water.

Kurt was well on his way to a rich and fulfilling life. He didn't have to wear a suit, or sit at a desk. Although his college major had been finance, he chose a different path. He loved Musktrat Flats and doubted he would ever move away.

He looked out the window as the new girl from the gift shop was making her way in his direction. She had just moved here wanting to work with Sveltie in the Winery. For now, she was in the gift shop, but she would get her crack at the vineyards in the spring. She walked in to the Smithy shop. Kurt took off his glasses and toweled off his face. She was holding a bag and smiling at him.

"Hi, Gina."

"Hi Kurt." She nodded and smiled to Sid and Iva.

"I heard about what happened. I figured you might need a break."

"Thanks, Gina, that's sweet." She handed him a coffee. He uncapped it and began to put in the sugar and cream she handed him.

"I brought you some of these blueberry muffins, They are the best I've ever had." Sid and Iva looked at each other and smiled. Kurt noticed this as well. He smiled a sly grin at his parents.

"Yes, they are, Gina, they are legendary in these parts." Sid and Iva waved, and said goodbye, slipping out the door. As they looked back through the window they saw that Kurt was showing Gina the bracket he was working on. She looked at him admiringly.

Yes, tragedy came to Muskrat Flats this week, We lost a good man. Sid and Iva weren't worried about their son, They knew he would do just fine. He was heading into a bright and shining future and it looked like he may have found someone who would like nothing better than to walk along that road by his side.

Yes, tragedy struck a chord this week, but the music of Friendship Love and Trust will always overpower that dissonant chord tragedy has to offer. All you have to do is listen, even if you do have to sift through a few extra voices in your head to hear it.

Just for Today and hopefully for years to come, Kurt Bartleby will have to look pretty damn hard to find a reason to be ...

Running Hard out of Muskrat Flats.

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