It has been a very quiet week in Muskrat Flats. The usual mayhem we have grown accustomed to experiencing as we interact with folks from the Flats seemed to be on hiatus for the week. Some of that probably has to do with the fact that Gomer had been out of town most of the week and had not been present to either instigate or fuel one of the loud and public dramas for which he and his father have become famous.
Perhaps it had something to do with Valentine's Day. Sveltie and her crew at the Muskrat Flats Farm and Agricultural Museum Greenhouse had their hands full. The first weeks of February are always hectic for her. This is a good thing. Sveltie, AKA Mrs. Jenny Smith, wife of the museum director, Jerry, are the two workhorses that keep the Muskrat Flats Farm and Agricultural Museum in the black with their selfless service to keeping the raw frontier energy which fueled the development and growth of Muskrat Flats, in the first place.
It often seems, sometimes, that they inherited the energy demonstrated by the town's founder and first Sheriff, Samuel Coleman Hawthorne III. They are still influenced by Hawthorne's energy, sometimes even directly, which they both discovered, as the notorious prankster proved to them just about this time last year when one of his diaries surfaced and ended up in their hands.
Even though Sveltie was in the planning stages for the upcoming semesters for her Vintner Program, it was crunch time as far as getting together all of the orders and smoothly delivering all of the holiday flower orders to the lucky Valentines out there in Muskrat Flats.
Her assistant Gina had even recruited her boyfriend, Kurt out of the Blacksmith shop to help out as she tapped his organizational skills putting him in charge of setting up the staging area for the distribution, where he made sure all of the invoices and manifests meshed with the orders.
Kurt even had a hand in the production of the bouquets. Sveltie wondered if it was a good idea to have the two of them working together. It was hard enough to keep the two separated when Gina was working in the office and he was in the Smithy shop. But they did a fantastic job keeping it professional all except for one instance where she caught Gina copping a feel in the walk in refrigerator amongst the hundreds of multicolored roses, ferns and baby's breath.
Sveltie just mockingly suggested they get a room. But what could she really say to them as she began to really take an honest look at her own libido and the trouble it had gotten her into in the last few years? Even when she was "supposed to be working."
You see, Gomer wasn't the only person with whom she had dallied with outside of the relationship with her husband Jerry. She had her fun at some conferences as well. She had been a faithful doting wife for years until she first found out about one of her husband's drunken sexscapades.
It all began right in front of her one night. they were in a crowd of people at a concert. It wasn't entirely clear that they were together as a couple because they arrived separately. He had already been pretty tipsy when she arrived and was paying some attention to another woman, in the group, whom she did not know.
As he got drunker and drunker, he paid more attention to her until he made a move which which was reciprocated. Sveltie was pissed. He assured her the next day that nothing further was going to happen between them and he would not see her again.
Less than a week later, she knew that he had broken his promise as he began to avoid eye contact, and began acting differently toward her and stayed out drinking. She caught up with him on the way out of the house on a Saturday morning. He confessed to not only that conquest but to a couple of others as well. She listened, she cried, she told him that she would have to think about what he had told her.
She knew it was wrong the wrong decision, but she agreed to stick with him, she agreed that they were better off as a couple. However, she decided that she was not going to deprive herself of the experiences she so desired, but was giving up for a "selfish drunk,"
and proposed the addle pated don't ask don't tell policy when it came to such matters.
Looking back at her decision at the time, she had some regrets. Things seemed to be getting better between her and her husband, for a while, but she occasionally had that itch, that inexplicable desire to act out and seek love and comfort elsewhere. She regretted getting back together with Gomer, because she had begun to fall in love with him. She also suspected that Gomer's rekindling their romance from years ago, was responsible for his breaking up with Miranda or should it be said, her breaking up with him?
Yes there were tough times. But as of late, the last 3 months or so, Jerry had been living sober, he struggled with it, but he was giving it his best effort. Sveltie was lost in thought, when she heard someone clearing his throat.
Standing behind her was her husband, holding the huge bouquet that Gina had been working on for the last 45 minutes, trying to get it just right. After all she knew how special this one had to be.
Jerry stood there in his white suit, an unlit cigar in his mouth, complete with a broad rimmed hat and Sheriff Hawthorne's 1870 Smith and Wesson Model 3 American revolver strapped to his side. He dropped a small terry cloth towel on the ground, and placed upon it, one knee.
He had been in this position before, but then he had always been begging forgiveness. This time it was different. Jerry looked over his bifocals up at his wife as he held the roses out to her. She looked down into his hazel eyes and began to feel weak in the knees. She reached out to him taking the flowers and cradling them in her right arm held out her left hand to him. He leaned in and kissed her hand. He simply said, "Be mine." She stood with tears in her eyes again a repeat of similar circumstances in the past. This time she didn't have to compromise. She stood there elated, never wanting the moment to end, as he got up and kissed her. It was like a first kiss between two teenagers. It was a kiss which was electrifying. A kiss which made both Jenny and Jerry quake with anticipation. A kiss you never think is possible from two people in a long term relationship.
It wasn't only roses and a kiss Jerry gave Sveltie on that crisp Sunday afternoon in February. He gave her only what he had to offer at the moment. He couldn't take away the pain he caused her, he couldn't remove the embarrassment. He couldn't undo the harm he had done over the years, the harm to her, his friends and most of all himself. He couldn't undo his affairs or the pain he caused her which led her to think acting out the same way was the answer to her pain.
What Jerry had given her that afternoon was the man she had fallen in love with so many years ago. He gave her a little glimpse of peace. And he never wanted to take that away from her ever again, no matter what.
Gomer sat in a small restaurant in Mountain View, California.
He had been in the place one time before when he was on tour with the band PRY in the late summer and early fall. It was called Taquiera La Bamba. Gomer had been on tour for about 5 weeks and was getting sick of the back stage offerings. He really just needed a change of scenery. So he hopped on a mountain bike and ventured out into the California landscape surrounding the amphitheater.
That afternoon, he went to the Museum of Computer History and a few blocks away found La Bamba. What really drew him into the restaurant in the first place was the exterior look of the place. It reminded him of Muskrat Flats, simple as that.
It was Valentine's Day, and Gomer's heart was heavy with anticipation. He sat at an empty table eyeballing the food his neighbor at the table to his left was relishing. It was plate of Carne Asada, with a big basket of chips and some fresh green guacamole and a pile of freshly slipped cilantro leaves. The food was swarming his senses - it looked so good. His stomach rumbled.
He had been reading his blog, he checked his email a couple of times and checked the front of his iPhone for the time. Fifteen more minutes he thought.
He was caught up reading something else on the internet when there was a commotion at the table next to him. The woman eating the Carne Asada had been joined by another woman about her age. They were both about 26 years old. The woman at the table had brunette hair, a lip ring and a small scar on her cheek. Other than the scar, she was very pretty, nicely dressed. Perhaps on a break from work.
Her recent companion on the other hand, seemed like she would have been a resident of the Iron Triangle in Muskrat Flats. She was a white girl, wearing pajama bottoms, fuzzy slippers, braless in an Ecko hoodie. She was blonde, had too many rings on her fingers and had a broken front tooth.
"Oy!" Gomer thought to himself, as he sized her up. His interest was peaked and he began to eavesdrop as he pretended to fiddle with his phone.
"Hey Sherry, what going on?" The brunette asked. "I haven't seen you in 6 months."
"Yeah, I know, I've been busy, How have you been, Donna? I saw your car so I figured I'd stop by."
"Things are good, I got a promotion a couple of weeks ago. A new office, bonus, the whole nine."
"That's great! I wish I could say the same."
"Aww that's too bad, are you working still?"
"Yeah, I like it there and the bosses are cool, but I had to cut back a bit, got too be too much, and then having to go home and deal with my kids."
"Did you know my sister moved in with me about a month ago?" Gomer listened intently. Donna began to rant.
"That little whore, I can't believe her. So, she moves in with me, All she does is sit up on the couch all day. Smoking cigarettes, which I pay for. I pay for the food, I pay for the diapers, I do everything."
"Wow, I thought you guys were tight, what happened?" Sherry asked.
"The little whore had a kid with my man ..." Gomer exhaled a limp muffled laugh.
"And you let her move in?"
"Well I had to, my mom is still on methadone, so she is useless. And can you believe she stole my son's birthday away from him. She had her little bastard on my son's birthday." She continued, without seeming to take a breath.
"We had a birthday party last week, which again I paid for, did she lift a finger to do anything for her kid? I even bought the presents, the cake, the decorations ... Everything is going fine and then my ex shows up.
He begins to start some shit with her, then they are screaming at each other, her son is crying, and then my son freaks out and starts trying to take his helmet off ..."
Gomer had to get up and go to the bathroom at that point where he laughed until he thought he would puke.
His phone chimed. He looked down at the screen, It was a text message from his Father.
"Are You There, Sonny?"
"A text message from Mr. I can't stand people who fiddle with their phones in public? :)"
"Cut the Shit look at this." Gomer waited and his phone buzzed again.
Miranda Klein Text ...
His heart began to pump a little faster. His phone buzzed again. It was his father.
He looked down at the screen and tapped a picture he had sent. It was a close up picture of Jerry and Sveltie at the Odd Fellows Hall. His phone chimed again. He opened the message...
"Where r u?" He dashed off,
"El Bano, b right out." His phone buzzed again, it was Moe.
"You see the look in their eyes? That's what I used to see in yours when your were with Miranda."
"Can't talk now, Dad." He dashed off as he washed his hands and exited the bathroom. He didn't do anything in there other than have a good laugh and use his phone, but he didn't want to come out of the bathroom and touch Miranda's hand with one which obviously had not been in recent contact with water.
He walked out into the dining room and stopped in his tracks when he saw her. He was stunned by her beauty.
She saw the expression on his face and let slip a sly little smile. She held a couple of pages of paper in her hand. Which he could see had been highlighted in numerous places.
His email. "Oh No," he thought.
She got a serious expression on her face. and walked over to him. He was going in for a hug, but she held out her hand. When she detected from the coolness of his flesh that it had recently been washed she lingered long enough for him to lean down and kiss hers.
"I got your email, Gomer. Pretty intense stuff. If you truly feel this way about me, how could you have disappeared off the face of the planet like you did?"
Gomer just stood looking at her silently. He smiled.
"I thought I explained myself pretty well in the email." She picked it up and looked at it.
Yeah, I've read it a couple of dozen times. It is much more uplifting than your blog has been lately."
"Miranda, I made a mistake. I just couldn't face you. You are so sweet. I didn't think you could understand."
"What!!?? I told you when this was happening that you should take the time to figure it out. Did I have to be any clearer than that?"
"I know, I was a jack ass. Everyone was telling me what a fool I was for not calling you back. You were so sweet to me when you came to the PRY show at Shoreline. But I felt uncomfortable. Like I had betrayed you."
His phone buzzed. Gomer looked down
Moe Eckstein Text ...
"It's my Dad. He's doing well ..."
"I know, I spoke to him yesterday - told him I was coming. and that your traveling here to make up with me was not the "fool's errand" he described." Gomer smiled and shook his head.
"Are you, going to trust me, Gomer? Are you going to let me in?"
"You're taking me back?" He asked.
"No, Gomer, I'm not taking you back ..." His heart sunk and he began to tear up.
"I can't take you back because I never let you go. I love you."
She leaned in and for another moment that day, St. Valentine sent cupid out with his quiver of arrows piercing the hearts of two estranged lovers. Allowing for another moment one of those kisses that energize you but also leave you feeling as if you are teetering on the edge of unconsciousness.
Miranda looked into Gomer's eyes and saw that look that Moe had been talking about. She hugged him like she would never let him go. Gomer promised to himself that he would never let her go.
It was business as usual at La Bamba, Gomer and Miranda's conversation had gone relatively unnoticed. They could have been any number of lovers kissing on Valentine's day, just going through the motions because that is the proper thing to do.
Not so for them and not so for Jerry and Sveltie who were dancing in the warm glow of that wood paneled room at the corner or Petersen and McKernan Streets in Muskrat Flats proper. Everybody knew their business and was elated to see the progress that Jerry and Jenny had been making.
They were the finest examples of two people demonstrating the principles of Friendship, Love and Truth that anyone could find in Muskrat Flats that evening as they swayed under the impressionist painting of Sheriff Hawthorne at the Odd Fellows Valentine's Day Dance.
Moe's phone buzzed and he looked at the screen
Sonny Boy Text ...
Moe opened the message and all he saw was
Thanks for reading and Happy Valentine's Day. Call it my fond memories or my hopes for the very near future. But life is pretty damn good as I continue ...
Running Hard Out of Muskrat Flats.
Oh Yeah, Mountain View ... that was a shout out. Thanks for reading whoever you are.