PUMPKIN FESTIVAL - From A Builder’s Tale
But it was not until the annual fall celebration of the Pumpkin festival when the seeds, so to speak, hit the fan. The land near the lake and around Beauville through some misguided or perhaps benign assortment of soil and temperature was pumpkin growers heaven. Some years the farmers planted few and some years many more. But springing up around the fields that bordered the roads and shown against the deep blue of Lake Michigan appeared, every October, globular orange assortments of this bright squash. Like so many silent heads, some in formation, and others in great mounds of strident orange they dotted the landscape... awaiting Libby’s and little children and the many trucks from downstate and beyond to haul them away to the markets and processing plants of America.
In the fall you could see them truck after truck in line and waiting to be filled by giant conveyors. These lifting the pumpkins high and then dumping them, bushels, hectares of them into semis that then raced, south, West, and east with pumpkin bounty.
And in this season of orange, Beauville had an excuse to attract more tourists, one last-gasp before the skiing began and Christmas tumbled through, to attract the car crowds from downstate, to shop and squander dollars, with the merchants of the town.
The festival thought up in jest over twenty years before by a team of bored and drunken real estate agents, and some local lawyers was initially based on the Pumpkin Smash, a Vodka sugar, tobasco’d, puréed, creamy pumpkin concoction. Now, known by some as the Beau-vile bomb, this had become a main attraction, and it anchored the festival to the area. This mixture of lots of Vodka, and depending on the establishment, sometimes little pumpkin, and no cream what so ever, had morphed and expanded through the years into a whole week of celebration occurring in the middle of October.
The season, the time of year, perhaps the almost fifty days of relative tranquility, who knows, but concurrent with and perhaps because of it, during the same week as the Pumpkin Festival the Steven’s project descended into chaos once again. It could have been the Pumpkin Smash, or simply Janet Wainright’s continued annoyance at the construction noise and confusion...her road always full and damaged, her husband howling. Or it could perhaps have been the Pageant of the Dancing Pumpkins, but it was serendipity of sorts, a synergy of events that occurred the middle week of the month of the magnificent, orange, harvest moon. Because it was Janet’s annual achievement to orchestrate, conduct and direct the Pumpkin pageant and all the little pumpkins, and sadly it was here things ran amuck.
This year more than recent ones Janet had thrown herself into preparation. Starting in August, she had been writing new songs, often to old standard melodies, but some her own. To these she had added her lyrics along with some of Conrad’s when he was not so wasted to write the ditties he often did... those off-key in all aspect inspirations such as this one.
Oh little maid in your Pumpkin suit
You might think of me as wizened fruit.
But had you seen me in my heyday
You would have surely looked my way.
These always accompanied by an inappropriate leer and hearty cackles.
He made these up to annoy his wife and rarely said them to the little Pumpkin ballerina’s except on those occasions when the scotch had the better of him. Which, since his crashing mishap off the deck, now months ago, had been most of the time. This year Janet just bought bottles and kept him upstairs without his crutches when the little girls came by. Not wishing to see Conrad’s leer, or self-indulgent despair while the little, and not so little woman practiced their twirls, their dance, and singing. Or to guffaw at the new costumes displayed on the piano, newly stitched by those other ladies of Beauville who helped at Pumpkin time, the Daughters of the Pumpkin Patch.
It was probably the disruption of construction which had caused this years renewed industry, Janet needing something to occupy her mind and block the thoughts, the constant disturbance of Conrad, and the noise of saws and hammers. The ever-present reality of new neighbors on their old land. It was probably digger Brown who had set the stage.
Because like most homes on the old acreage which bordered Lake Beauville, in Longbottom estates there was no convenient sewer. The town and treatment plant was too far away and even if there could have been a sewer line it would have been prohibited by those who sought to limit sewage in order to limit health permits and thus building and development.
Janet Wainright was of this crowd, and Brown had over the years come up against her off and on about his digging, his destruction of the land, his development of her lake. And this year Brown had chosen the middle of October to install the pump-back systems now required by Longbottom’s new development and the Steven’s new house. Forest, and meadows on the old Wainright place, peddled by Conrad’s sister along with her shoreline.
Such can be the mix of conflict. And it was on a Tuesday morning when Janet was polishing off her choreography, adding notes here and their and fixing up one lyric or another when she heard Brown in the distance, digging. When she heard the chain saws roar and when a smell of diesel drifted through her open windows from the East. A morning when Conrad had already sent her sideways, hobbling in circles around the room three sheets to the wind by 8 AM, whistling one his own ditties with a Pumpkin Tootoo on his head. This sort of a Tuesday when she had gone to investigate the noise-- Her pumpkin concentration fleeting.
Things are sometimes worse then you imagine and this morning as Janet crossed the road and headed up the hill she imagined with foreboding the destruction riding the chain saws whine. Perhaps they would only cut a few. It probably would not need to be that big a clearing. But Brown’s few, Wilson’s few, the Stevens few, Longbottom’s few were oh so way too many. When she stared at the rising stumps defining a clearing one hundred feet wide and two hundred long, she realized her complete failure, seeing three years of fighting Longbottom, finally and completely all for naught. The trees were crashing even as she moved towards them, Brown’s men tumbling many and marking more to create a clearing horrendous in dimension.
It is often best to tiptoe into conflict, or just never go there in the first place, diplomacy (her father had been a diplomat she thought); however that moment negotiation was not even a dot on Janet’s possibility spectrum. When she saw the rising smoke, the spinning chain saw chips, and the trees, ‘her trees’, tumbling...the forest, ‘her forest’ vanishing and now murdered, the logs stacked like so many coffins from some Western Front between what looked like sandy bomb craters in the soil she went berserk. Striding with even longer strides, ten league boot strides, purposeful and straight towards him, Brown watched this stork like woman as she shouted,
“Brown you bastard, and Brown you so many more expletives that it would take a paragraph to list them. “Brown you son of a bitch, you born again Cretan...Brown you **************” Her shouts were so loud that all the men stopped and stared, big men, massive, big bellied, big armed, big chawing, big drinking... men. They all stopped and watched as this “one of them” this “one of those other folks...the summer folks” this Wainright headed strait towards Brown. And Brown watched this dervish, from his large black seat looking down towards her approaching cacophonous shouting; on his face an expression of humility until he turned his “born again” eyes skyward toward the heavens, a smirk towards the sky, hands clasped in prayer. Then he started laughing.
At this moment Wilson also entered the clearing, hiking up the other trail. He had heard the chain saws too, and wishing to make certain that Brown put the field in the correct location, and wanting to make sure he was not short-changed on the pipe quality, he had come to investigate. Janet had been ahead of him and on the other side so when he entered the clearing, Brown sat directly before him, laughing even as Janet shouted her disdain. Seeing Wilson she switched foes and launched into him as the certain cause of her troubles and the tree’s destruction.
“You damn developer”, she shouted. “Look at my trees, this clearing. How can you do this?”
“Money”, said Wilson, “I have no taste. And of course no talent. It is only money didn’t you know? And anyway, talk to Longbottom, shout at the Stevens, not us. And then to echo Blazing Saddles, he said “Brown just pawn in game of Life...Right Brown”
“Sure am”, said Brown, “and born again too. It’s me and Jesus, Janet.
With this statement, and the laughter now not only from Brown, but the crew as well. Janet shouted some more obscenities then walked to the largest “ape” in the clearing and grabbed his chain saw. A tugging match began, and the man yelled “Brown”, beneath his mirth. And clearly there was no way that this stork of a woman, tall as she was, would be able to rest the chain saw from the kielbasa fingers of this fellow, but she tried, and in tugging fell to the ground. Shouting “damn you Brown, damn you, damn, you”.
“Just give her the saw”, said Brown. “Take it Janet. We need help anyway. Cut that one over there.”
But Janet was not about the cutting of trees and she proceeded to move on to the next man and grab his saw too. Then to Brown and Wilson’s amazement she turned and walked away, back down the hill, chain saws sputtering their smoke behind her.
“What shall we do boss”, said the largest fellow?
“Oh just let her go, get the others from the truck. I’ll retrieve em later.”
Then turning to Wilson Brown said, “Pissed isn’t she”. “Seems to be”, said Wilson.
Then both man laughed again, there was nothing else to do.
This was not true for Janet, as she walked down the hill admonishing herself for acting so rashly, watching the saw’s blades first stop then spin—jerking to their motors sputter. She tried to turn one off, but could not find the switch. The other, she threw to the ground hoping it would cease its whine. Recalcitrant, like so many small engines, it did what it wished, continuing to belch and sputter as Janet lugged it, spinning next to her right thigh. By the time she reached the road, and the Steven’s drive, her pants were stained with oil and enough had become enough. The Applegate crew looked on as she walked by, straight towards the water’s edge, and then tossed the chain saw into the lake, steaming, finally silenced by sinking.
Most of the men took only a passing interest, except for Indian Dick who stared a little longer, then commented to Randy “holy shit Brown ain’t going to like this.” and Randy replying “Not likely! You know, Dick, did I ever tell you about how my grandfather sliced off his legs with one of those. Well, he was, cutting out there, you know, back by the old Kapurnski place when that bull, you remember that old giant bull, that one with that big sack, well she ran out in front of him and with one thing and another....the chain saw” Dick turning away, saying you told me” then repeating “Brown sure ain’t going to like this.
And as you might imagine, Dick was correct in his assumption.
“Resolve is a tricky proposition”
MacGuilties was packed that Friday when Brown, nursing his fourth coke and irritation mumbled under his breath, “Bitch”. And then, “To Hell with Jesus as he finally broke, fell off the wagon, and grabbed the whiskey bottle slyly from the rack, dumping at least four ounces into his coke. No one took any notice except Joanie Tweedle. Who, hearing the story of the chain saw, thought oh shit. But, busy with a row of lawyers and their gooey-creamy variety of pumpkin smashes, she had little time to advise or question.
She did notice that Brown sat quiet in his fuming, a slow burn about him suggesting someone deep in concentration. The question was how long would this continue? Would it be for only one lapse or had he tossed sobriety to the winds? Would he nurse the situation as she had seen him do before, through the night and the next day and perhaps even for two or three, sipping before his coals burst into fire? Literally, like last Christmas when he and others had left her bar and wrecked that house, burning the studs as so much kindling while bellowing out Carols. Brown was due. But Joannie figured all was safe, unless he went for the Pumpkin Smashes—creamy or straight, the former leading to the latter.
If you had looked towards Brown you would have seen a man seemingly in thought, deeper than you might expect from his clothing and the shabby baseball cap twisted askew above his brows. You would have noticed his eyes gleaming beneath the brim, bright enough to suggest there was more to him than his clothing suggested. More than one might surmise after reading the logo ‘Diggers do it Deeper, Digger Brown Excavation.
Moving then, beyond Brown down the bar and past the empty barber’s chair with its hanging dunce cap you would have seen about the captains chairs and tables the standard, weekend is coming, end of the day—Friday crowd. MacGuilties, a little more than half-full with an assortment of construction workers, local inebriates, and failed or retired former summer folk. The major difference from fall to summer was the haunt of expectant winter and the lack of tourists.
Of course, the weekend festivities would bring some to Beauville. However few if any of these would know of or venture to Macguilties with its shabby almost threatening exterior. The orange bunting which draped the walls, the patrons spotted with orange camo and hunter orange caps and vests. These were all local ambience and part of another fall weekend, jammed between mid-October and the November hunting season. In a way it was the gateway of events to fill the fall and stop the monotony. Had you somehow bravely stumbled into the place you would have seen most of these celebrators from the work-booted to the tassel-toed consuming a version of the Pumpkin smash. And very few like Brown nursing sodas, spiked or otherwise.
The bar hummed with cacophonous weekend zest and expectation. There were the humbugs, and those who saw a night ahead of shots and beers, smashes, hoopla and partying. But some of those gathered were in for only one or two, just enough to shake of the day and prime the night with interest, numbness or both. It was the weekend of the tug tossing pumpkin splash and the weekend of the dancing pumpkins, the little ladies, daughters of many of the men at MacGuilties, who would twirl, and skip to Janet Wainright’s choreography .
Brown stuck to himself, and those that knew him, those who were acquainted, and those who had never seen him before (which were few) all sensed his brooding. The few who went up to joke soon retreated at his scowl or vacant stare. He was thinking of the present and the past, his chain saws failure to start, which he could fix, and that year when his daughter had danced for the Wainright women, which he could not.
That year when all the little girls were costumed in their ballerina finery and his daughter, probably because she resembled Brown (even at ten) with her ham size legs, and substantial Northern Michigan shape. Janet had said she was just too fat to be a ballerina and instead had made her into a Jack-o-lantern, his little Shirley almost hidden, enclosed inside an orange sphere, her eyes peering from that paper-mache' face, only her white tight legs exposed. His daughter had cried so hard when the other children had laughed and joked that she resembled an orange rounder Humpty Dumpty.
He had tried to fix it for her, but Janet Wainright had needed a jack-o-lantern and said “Really, Brown, she’s just too large for dance, and she should just stop eating so many cakes or what ever he was overfeeding her”. He remembered her lecture now, the one on proper nutrition, the benefits of grains, rice and vegetables versus those “sausages you eat... Brown..those pizzas and fast food burgers ”. He thought about his drowned chain saw and the woman’s squawking. Then he grabbed the whiskey bottle once again, scratching his stomach, which was by any measure large.
But that was ten years ago, and since then there had been other run-ins, usually about his digging. During those years when Janet had been on the zoning board, one of the township planners, hugging trees and saving water. Silly woman never had to work. She cared nothing for people, but she sure liked trees, and the lake too, just the way she wished it. Unless it was her septic tank polluting the fine blue water, and if it was hers and her money, she was conveniently oblivious.
Hypocrite, thought Brown. But what about him? What had happened to his Jesus? Well, he had been a hypocrite there too, or had he been a simple charlatan or a little bit of both? From the perspective, the foreshortening of the whiskey in his glass, it was simple. He was just not born-again material. What had started as convenient farce and then become almost real was drifting away with every thought and swallow, back to farce again. Anyway, Janet Wainright sure liked her image, what ever that was?
With this thought fading, and a nod to Joanie, who in response took away Brown’s doctored coke, saying. ‘Enough Brown if you’re drinking-drink. I was on to you from the beginning. Has it been a sham? If this is what you are doing at home at night, you might as well drink with others. Unhealthy to be alone Brown, unhealthy”
“I’ve been pure as snow till now”, he says. And she nods back saying “sure you have and your Jesus wore a headdress too, I bet.”
Now the door burst open to hollering. “Brown I see you Brown, where’s my trench. And you’re drinking...Brown. Well it’s about time. Happy smash!” It was Walchinski the electrician followed by his partner Woodbine, and behind the two Wilson. Brown frowned, took a long slow swallow and nodded towards the men.
“How you doing, Digger?” said Wilson. “Did you find your chain saw”?
“Bitch threw it in the lake”, replied Brown.
“I heard. We all heard....Indian Dick”
“Yea, I’m sure he told you”, said Brown.
The men ordered drinks from Joanie, all chose smashes-up, which for all the Pumpkin in them might just as well have been straight shots of Stoli. These they chased with beers.
Raping the land again, were you Brown”? says Woodbine. “All that nasty noise and cutting. Soggy saw... Eh, I was thinking of going to church and finding salvation, wanta come?”
“Up your’s”, says Brown.
And Woodbine starts to laugh, and Walchinski says “lay off... want another..Brown?”
With this, Wilson chugs his beer... “Gotta go, I’ll see you guys at the Splash...Maybe. Oh
Tim and Daphne might be up this weekend so if you come by the job- be cool”.
“Not me unless you want to join me on the tug”, says Walchinski. “I’ve, got the gun set..ready to go.
“No thanks, but thanks”, says Wilson as he heads out the door thinking of Grace, and home, music and some solitude. He hopes nothing comes of Brown, but what the hell if it does it does, and Walshinski will probably keep track of him, he thinks.
Grace: when he gets home he tries to call her but he only gets the sister who doesn’t know and doesn’t know. He tells her to say he called and wonders why Grace hasn’t contacted him. Will he even see her again before Christmas or even then he wonders? Might it be like two years ago when she simply vanished for a year. This thought has
fouled his mood so instead of the putting the exuberant joy of nnnnnnnnnn on the stereo he instead heads for his old moody buddy Mahler, and searches for the most melencholy passage he can find, the second movement of the fifth. He pours some whiskey from a different form of fifth and after a few bars decides the odds of him going to town with all the crowds and hoopla are non-existant. He’s seen the pumpkins sail before, but maybe if he takes his boat. Won’t want to be driving because surely the cops will by watching and the last thing he needs is a drunk driving. He takes another sip, and mentally charts the next weeks schedule, whiled concurrently imagining Tim and Daphne as just so many windmills. He has not heard from them but thinks it would be about right, this weekend. It has been over a month.
He is not off in this premonition because at that very moment, somewhere between Grand Rapids and Beauville Tim and Daphne race and bounce along I***. No jet this weekend.
“I hate this truck,” she says. and Tim grunts back, taking the Peter built cap from his head. He is wearing heavy work shoes, carharts, overalls that encase him in a rough pencil thin light brown cocoon. Tim the workman hauler, driving rugged and pulling a trailer. But Daphne, as if to emphasize her contempt for their transport, is wearing chic, the contrast of the three of course ridiculous. “I hate this truck,” she says again. “Why didn’t you do as I suggested and have someone pull the boat? Why are we doing it? Tim glances behind him, “because you bought all that crap already, and you wanted it up here. You know the house will not be ready for it, can’t be. You heard what Wilson said, I bet it isn’t even framed completely.”
“Oh, he will find a place for it. We can always ask him to store it at his house. He could use some furniture. He has a garage.”
“Did you ask him”, says Tim?
“ No,” she says. “I forgot. I was busy”.
Tim shakes his head at this, adjusts his overalls, and sighs. He swerves by a racing lumber truck, on two lanes now, then turns back to his wife.
“Do you like confusion?” As if he doesn’t know after so many years with the woman. In Daphne’s case for it is not confusion simply a total self--indulgent habit, this not calling, . At least when he ignores he plan it is part of the plan. Daphne, differently, just ignores. Her lack of consideration, a habit.
“ Is your hope that we arrive with furniture to now sit outside, and get wet, rained on, just so you can complain.”?
“Now dear”, says Daphne, I am sure it is- will be, alright. You will make it so.” And then to switch the subject she adds anything happen with your new restaurants.
“Glad you asked, the one in Holland is half up they say it will be done by February. I’ve spent the week with that supply firm picking out the tables, china. They have a girl....
“I bet they have”, says Daphne. “I wish you would use Philippe. He is so creative, so what did he say, au courant. He’s au courant.”
“ You mean oh crackpot”, says Tim. “I’m sticking with Celia, she knows. Plus you already have that Philippe involved enough. We may need to get rid of him too, before it’s over, you know. His last bill was ridiculous, a hundred bucks any hour to swish, great job if you can get it.”
Daphne scowls back at him, frowns, then gives him the look that would surely launch a glass at his head in other circumstance. “Christmas, she say. “Why can’t I have Christmas’?
“ You can ask him again, ask Wilson. But you heard him, next year, economies of scale, he said. I didn’t follow him. I thought that worked the other way, bigger is better and all that but we cannot rock the boat now. Just stick to the plan.”
“Well, Ok she says, but I sure am looking towards having some time at the lot. We can picnic.
Janet sits in the auditorium, waiting. Conrad walks the stage, hobbles really, old man and his silly crutch she thinks, noticing that he is doing it backwards again, crutch in the wrong hand, on the wrong side. He lists as he hobbles, and recites his prose to two young captivated literary wan-a-bees. Woman who seem to like his crags and flowing gray, his poems. She listens as he recites some gibberish he has drunkenly called Ode to a Pumpkin.
“Oh pumpkin- orange – springing from the soil
You arise from the earth, just like a boil.
But one with greenery, vines attached.
For the earth
You’re a mighty match.
You grab its nutrients, this is true.
The succoring earth is there for you.
You grow round bright orange from the ground
And you do this all
With nary a sound. ”
““What did I ever see in him? His land, his big mop of hair, his money? It is too long ago to remember. Has it been a bad bargain, now with Conrad old, and a curmudgeon? And was his poetry always this awful. Oh, well we make our beds.... Today the dough is gone, well there’s still some, but now the cars are old and humble. And the house, she pretends that it is simply quaint, the past preserved, but really Wilson was right. It’s falling apart. They could sell and move inland-never. She would lose too much of herself if she lost the lake, her gardens and her morning walks among the trees. Her thoughts depart as the little girls begin to arrive, Conrad peers out from the stage and grabs the hand of one the locals. who helps him down.
“Oh little ladies of the night”
“Shut up Conrad”, says Janet, “Quiet, here, here’s your flask...Sit here”, she gestures to the row beside her and ushers him to the aisle. She has seen him before, galumphing through the seats, stomping on people’s toes, and this without a cane.
“Take a sip and then put that away”, she says as Conrad takes a swig. “Better yet, she grabs the flask. “I’ll take that, be quiet now, and no leering.” Looking at her husband with his cast, and bulbous red nose, thinking how we return to children. And Conrad- a problem child.
Conrad, lets out a wet phlegmy wheeze, follows his wife with his eyes and then switches his glance toward the ceiling then back towards the stage where the dancing pumpkins are starting to gather.
The theater, if you can call it that, is really just the gym, and a second floor gym at that. It is in the high school, two blocks from Beauville’s central core. First there are two old and massive doors opening inward set in dark and weathered granite. Inside sits the ubiquitous trophy case full of bronze and brass and silver statues plaques and chalices. Pictures of past classes line the walls. To the right a large stairway climbs up and then back on itself, and from the basement an elevator rises. It is humming now with props and scenery, and with little girls, all dressed as pumpkins. White and orange, some with bows in their hair others with gourd like paper pumpkin tops, the stem sprouting from red and brown and yellow heads.
Immediately inside Formica tables form a barrier. The central one holds two Pumpkin daughters in preparation to sell tickets. Ten dollars gets you everything, the show and cider, and later Bratwurst in the park. If you stay long enough you can watch the fireworks, and see the Pumpkin Splash. But these unlike the pageant are free, outside and full of inebriation.
Large steel I-beams and trusses support the ceiling, and then a roof. Rust streaks the walls. Beneath the beams hang banners and pennants celebrating sixty years of Beauville Buccaneer triumphs. Some are frayed and old and made of cotton, others are newer, sewn from nylon still as shinny as the day it came off the roll. The most recent one hangs in the center of the space... Class F.F.F. State runners up of 1989.
All is hubbub and confusion as music stands are placed in a makeshift orchestra pit beneath a raised stage. Some of the players are as young as their new and shinny instruments, others older carry the odd clarinet or horn showing its age. Among these musicians gather the dancing pumpkins, chattering like no vegetable should, hovering in a rotating mingling mass around a central Janet who is shouting out instructions for her pageant. Little girls leap and spin as she tries to achieve control, which she does eventually.... Just in time for the audience to only sense chaos as they wander in.
Most of the attendees know one another, either through their children, their business, or from the village streets...the constant grinding rumor-mill of a small town where everyone knows or assumes to know everyone. Shouts and greetings sound from one side of the gym to the other. “Tough day Jim. Sadie is my pumpkin. It should be a good one this year, Janet.........”
There are few tourists. It is Friday and most will still be on the highways North—the frantic race to God’s country; named like so many other God’s countries because The Big Planner would certainly have cared more for beauty than he did for the commerce of the South where the many gather amidst strip malls and confusion. Head north the highways call, pulling, tugging on the people “come escape your chaotic lives”. And thousands do, on weekends, leaving the land of the larger, busier and better farms...the factories. Because it is Southern Michigan which supports the state, and where most of the money comes from. Ford and GM, and all the mid sized companies that feed the cars, the salesmen, and the hustling lawyers. They all reside to the south in close proximity to the almighty dollar. But there is a trade off. Because the land is less magnificent and the skies are more often gloomy—hazy in the fall and summer. And in winter instead of the crisp cold and pristine snow, the clouds hang low on the horizon, above streets and towns gray and muddy with slush. Even by October the skies have already begun to purge their color, filling up with haze.
Let’s go North so many say, where the air is cleaner. North, where the perception (perhaps now false) exists that there is a greater freedom, where one was once free to run amuck. Although this freedom is now departing to the jeopardy of Madd woman, time and the asserting morality of too many trapped and fearful Christians.
But still, the perception remains. It and beauty beckon the people to a land perceived as safer—cleaner. And to a region whitely homogeneous. A place to escape, to do whatever the hell you want, unless it is operating your boat while drinking, or smoking a joint, or speeding. Unless you drive without a seat belt, or drink too much, unless the new fascists find you. For they have come here too of late, so many you might wonder what this God of God’s country is up to. Still, the grass is always greener, and in all seasons, Michiganders, Buckeyes, Hoosiers, Midwesterners head North from time to time for peace, and freedom to recharge. And on weekends, on Friday nights, they’re driving just like Tim and Daphne.
Few tourists, or part-timers will attend the pageant. It is scheduled, Friday, for the locals, their children and of course for Janet Wainright who is the major domo of the affair. Producer Janet, conductor Janet, choreographer Janet, Pumpkin Janet.
By 7:30 the gym is half full, and the orchestra ( a band if not for two violins and a cello) is adjusting stands, searching for their music, and playing streams of notes. The horns, strings and woodwinds all warming up in key, their note progression balanced. However, some are adjusting pitch to the key of C, and others in B-flat and still others waveringly in both. The effect would be sour to some ears but it passes unnoticed in Beauville. The patrons are more occupied by the tittering of their little girls, the raspy commands of Janet, and the clattering of scenery behind the curtains. Seven-thirty moves to eight and then to eighteen-fifteen when almost an hour late the lights dim and a trumpet sounds. Janet has written a fanfare to announce the pageant and an oomp-pah march to lead her to the podium. She enters to the sound of trumpets, costumed in an overtly youthful and ethereal garment of deep black , oranges, and all the sunset’s reds. The costume requires harps and floating but instead she struts to the rhythm of the march, her thin old legs, and long wattled neck ill suited to this youthful, almost medieval clothing.
As she reaches the center she turns slowly toward the crowd. A smattering of claps meets her gaze. She stares back, and these grow gradually into applause. Janet bows then rises to the podium. She taps her baton against the stand, then pauses, and nodding to the orchestra pull out a pitch pipe. Three chords latter they are under way as the curtains rises to an immense pumpkin in the middle of the stage. A small face looks out on the crowd from the center of this fabric vegetable balloon held upright and billowing by three internal fans.
Little girls begin to twirl, and the music sounds, first from the orchestra, and then from Janet who now and then must rush sideways to play a passage of piano. The Oomp-pah turns to waltz, and then into a passage copying Copland’s Billy the Kid, and then completely out of place, Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. But this goes unnoticed because Janet has only included the modern rhythms to display her depth—something lost to most of the audience—unnoticed except for the knowledge they disliked it. Within measures her creation hastens from atonal bashes into a sinuous tango, and then again a march. The dancers march twirl, and slink to strobes and flashes until the music switches again. This time into America. Then with the first bars of Shenandoah they form three lines in front of the Pumpkin. And as Janet anoints them, one-by-one, with her baton, they place their hands upon their chests. Words begin to whisper from the Pumpkin becoming only slightly louder as the child gains confidence. A little round face peering from her daddy’s spinnaker turned pumpkin reciting the history of the festival.
As we know history is in the wisdom, the eye, the words of the chronicler, and this history, a-la-Janet, somehow misses the inebriation of the founding fathers. Those bored realtors and attorneys who imagined it, twenty years before, primarily as a joke. Now, in Janet’s version, it has become a hodgepodge of Hosannas to freedom, thanksgiving and Halloween with some bunting draped about.
“It is twenty one years ago today when a special few, visionaries, launched our festival.” says the small voice. “Founded on the magic of commerce—the size and circumference of our pumpkins”. The head stumbles on visionaries and uniqueness, and then continues. “These men, woman, citizens of vision, these movers and shakers, framed our festival”... The child coughs, reddens and briefly a small scare crosses her face... “In their wisdom they not only created commerce but also the orange fields, the beauty of the” more coughs... “Commerce...livelihoods”. The pumpkin head has now lost her lines and pulls back the band around her face to look down into the pumpkin. Then as she vanishes ducking inside to retrieve them there is a rustling, a crack of wood...a crash and scream. The face is gone, leaving a hole in the orange fabric. Now faceless, the pumpkin continues to speak... from deep inside, this tiny small voice, hidden and barely audible. “It was with their wisdom”...., but no one is able to hear.
The eardrums of the audience strain and Janet looks despairing at her pumpkin, which now has begun to droop first along its left side and then on its right, caving in on itself. There is another crack but this is of electricity. A breaker blows. The fabric loses its illumination and the fans supporting it, collapsing completely in upon itself. While she continues to glower at the flattened cloth, which has collapsed much like the puddled wicked witch of Oz, she raises her baton and abruptly starts the finale. The little pumpkins twirl off the stage, and slowly as the pageant finishes a tiny girl in Oshkosh clothing crawls out beneath the orange cloth. A child so thin that a puff of wind might topple her. Her face is flushed, her ear bloodied, but her eyes gleam towards the audience. And denied the dance she now starts to prance about with the fanfare, twirling and skipping left then right, her face shiny from the lights, dancing as the trumpets sound, the drums hammer, and the single Tympani reverberates from behind bright pasted jack-o- lantern eyes. Janet glares towards the stage at this inappropriate ad-libbing and then back to the audience. One of the men shouts, “that’s my daughter”, and Janet thinks better of interfering, letting the little girl joyously twist until she conveniently topples with the final hammer of the tympani.
And this year, unlike former years when the curtains crashed, or the paper-mache pumpkin smoked and smoldered from faulty wiring. Or the one ten years previous when Conrad went on a bottom pinching frenzy. This year, thinks Janet, not so bad. They would have been deflating the pumpkin anyway. When the applause starts and builds she is not surprised. It appears everyone, except the mother of the pumpkin’s head has enjoyed themselves. And she, enthusiastic with her childs final dance only hesitates her clapping until she is sure the little girl is safe.
Janet has a triumph, she bows and as the crowd departs she basks in praise and compliments.
“Great job this year, Janet.”
“The little girls were wonderful.”
“So what if your pumpkin failed I liked the music.”
Conrad who has mercifully slept through the whole thing awakens now, standing next to his wife accepting praise he assumes must be for his poetry. Then he is pulling Janet with one arm as he hugs his crutch with the other. And this time he has it right, his inclined stumble straightened as he heads out the door. He and Janet and few buddies in search of one more pumpkin smash.
The finale’ was just in time because the tardy pageant has mislead the people who think they have an untouched hour before them, to eat, or like Conrad see if they can find a drink at the Lucy’s Raw or at the Jester down the street. But within minutes even as the vodka flows Walchinski and his tug are coming back through the drawbridge, firing. First lobbing pumpkin shells beneath the bridge and then above it and then amidst it as the bridge clangs and rises. As the traffic stops Walchinski toots his tug and fires its vegetable charges skyward, And Janet, who has grabbed hold of Conrad and dragged him from the bar, waits impatiently at the bridge, her part finished.
“Oh fire sharply, tug of night
Oh fire out those pumpkins...bright
Oh fire cannon, with barrel aflame”
“Oh shut up”, says Janet.
She must now prepare for her party, the one for her friends and some of the little girls, and their parents... The ones she cares for. Of course there will be her circle who are not so much friends as social niceties. She looks forward to tomorrow, her party and her friends and even those she is not fond of, like Longbottom. But she did invite him because of his influence, his place in Beauville’s mix. They have known each other a long while, and maybe, just maybe, she can still pursuade him not to sell any more lots...to keep the land, a conservancy—pristine. She is wishing she had not invited him since the chainsaw incident with Brown. And Longbottom has just told her that the Stevens are coming to her party too, and who was he to invite them. Damn, but she supposes she needs to know them. They will be neighbors won’t they.
At any rate the parties preparation now takes hold as she and the less than willing Conrad wait for Walshinski to finish lobbing pumpkins from his sewer pipe contraption its barrel belching flame with every pumpkin. These splash beneath the fireworks, and disrupt the gold orange band of moonlight reflected east-west on the harbor’s surface. Janet is fatigued, drained now and tired of the color. But pumpkin shades predominate. Except for the occasional flare of red white and blue the sky is lit up with booming and exploding orange surrounding a harvest moon rising larger then the sun. A moon just starting its climb, so low that it is both supporting and supported by the sky.
Wilson sees the same moon. Hears the noise, the explosions, and notices that his cat has vanished. It happens whenever there are fireworks, the poor animal is terrified. He sips the fluid in his glass, and checks to see if he has left her out. He wanders outside to look for her and finding no cat he instead kicks the pumpkin at the entry, nudges it really, until he just grabs the thing and flings it at a tree, curious to see if it will merely splat or try to start a fire. It does neither, the candle blows out and the pumpkin, deformed now, rolls towards the water.
He should have gone to town, and now he can’t unless he wants to take the Anomie, but what a hassle, and with the fireworks he might burn the deck or sparks might nestle in his headsail. He thinks he should have planned ahead, but then he would still be driving. He’s had a few and the police relish celebrations. They will be out in force. There are so many and they have to pay their wages somehow. In fact Beauville has gone wacky lately. The police have become a growth industry- self fulfilling prophecy and all that. As if a town with no crime needed five cops and seven sheriffs. They should at least be pizza delivery men too, then they could really invade the people’s privacy, and think of all that spicy cheese. But he needs the government to hassle with, like he needs three feet to run upon. No he will not go driving. They might be lurking right outside his door, just past his drive behind that new billboard with Welcome: Beauville the Beautiful, plastered large upon it. He hates the damn sign, but it is convenient. He now just tells anyone looking for his drive to turn at beauty and… Oh, watch out for the police. Because they have been hanging out behind the damn sign ever since the Petunia people put it up at the beginning of the summer... out there hiding behind those painted cardboard flowers.... waiting silently like vultures. Nope he will not go to town. He has recently seen them lurking everywhere.
What the hell, he pours another, when the phone rings. Grace he wonders? And although female enough for him to say “Grace, I was hope ....” It isn’t she.
“Its Daphne Wilson”, he tries to sound alert, less fluid, wondering if you can sound loaded with a simple “Yes....Yes.... Daphne”
“We are here”, she says. “How’s my house. I’m excited to see it and I have great furniture. A hutch like my Grandmothers, old, and Duncan Fife. And you should see the paintings.”
“How was your trip”, he says,... furniture did she say furniture?
“Antiques, I could not resist them. I bought a table for the foyer”, and “Oh the trip was wonderful, I shopped till I dropped. Philippe knew all the right spots.”
“Furniture!, there’s no roof yet, Daphne.”
“Not at all”, she says.
“Nope, were just finished with the two floors, the bearing interior partitions, next week...maybe by the end of the week we will have most of the trusses erected.
“Selected”, she says
“Erected”, he replies, “erected”, wondering if she can tell, hear the whiskey in his speech, and what does it matter. It’s Friday, anyway.
“Can we put it in the basement”
“The basements awful damp, Daphne”, I was planning to pour the slabs once we’re closed in. It could be months. Even with the drainage. The pea stone we’ve put there. I wouldn’t recommend it”
“No”, he says. “It might get ruined”. He can sense her seething over the phone.
“Well, I thought you would be farther, we haven’t been here for two months”
“Six weeks”, he says. “And we just started. I think you better find a storage room, there are new ones by the airport. I can get the fellows to unload if you wait till Monday.”
He hears her shouting in the background, “Tim, Tim, he’s not ready”.
Half-bright.... thinks Wilson, Then, “Call me in the morning Daphne. It’s Friday, I have plans, the festival….
“Were headed downtown, maybe, you can meet us there.”
“Let’s plan on tomorrow, or Sunday. That’s better for me.” He hangs up the phone adding, “When ever you wish.”
Saturday, the dawn comes clear, with mist drifting from the inland harbor. The wrappings of fireworks sit used and burned, floating in the water and scattered on the lawns and picnic tables. There is the occasional misfired cracker or rocket which will entice some boy to pick it up and try to fire it later. Trash cans sit full and overflowing. Mist rises from the harbor, damp wisps here then gone exposing and hiding the remains of pumpkins, their seeds and pulp. On the waters also bob whole pumpkins, large ones way to big for Walchinksi’s gun, and others the proper size either tossed about or somehow splashed into the water whole. These appear and fade in and out of the fog like so much planned Chihuly glass....a presentation, as the artist might say, to the town and morning.
Daphne stares out at this scene from her small condo balcony, her morning arriving with a throbbing head and eyes watery red from gin. Tim still sleeps but it is not long before she must awaken him, she cannot stand her head in solitude. So Tim is not left to snore but awakened early. He has consumed little the night before, knowing Daphne would, and knowing the two hammering heads might lead to problems. Plus he has been having health nights lately, an example to Daphne. Which, Judging by his wife’s bloated morning face have accomplished nothing.
Within minutes he starts to fuss and dash about.
Beautiful morning, eh dear, He clatters the coffee pot, and finds a pan, bacon and some eggs, which he begins to fry all together in what will become a greasy gooey mess.
“I feel terrible”, she says. “Look at that.” Daphne nods towards the harbor where two men, Walshinki and Brown, are stumbling cleaning up the electrician’s tug while reattaching the canon down the boats centerline. “Look”, she says again, “those clowns… they’re stumbling around out there like they are still drunk, all that booming nonsense.” Then she points to his eggs, “And what are you doing?”
“Eggs”, he says, “want some”?
“Not those,” she sniffs. “Gourmet’s what”?
“That mist is going to blow off”, says Tim. “Another hour for sure. When are we meeting Wilson, soon I hope. He gazes towards the men and tug, farts, then says “What a morning”. And then as if in payment for his wakening. “ How you feeling Daph, you look a bit under.” She frowns. “Well, did you talk to him”, continues Tim. “I want to get that junk out of my truck. Will he take it?”
“I don’t know”, she grumps back. “I’m supposed to call him. He said the house isn’t ready to store any furniture”.
“Surprise, surprise, surprise”, he says. “What did you expect, of course he did. I told you. It couldn’t possibly be fit for furniture. I am going to stroll. Call him.”
“Can you ?” she says. “He’ll listen better to you.”
“Your house,” says Tim.
“Tim”, says Daphne.
So Tim picks up the phone, which rings and rings because Wilson isn’t hearing. He isn’t answering. And he’s not going to either. They did not plan they didn’t tell him. Sure, he thought they might arrive, but still, fuck it! He was tired, and he had stayed up all the night drawing just for fun. A house he might build someday, if he finds a lot to fit it.
A flat slabbed edifice which will belong to the stones and foliage, a skylight, (it needs a hill) and then like water the structure flowing tiered and staggered down. Stepping as a giants path. He had thought of water, boulders, mountain streams. Normally he would wait but the new software was fantastic, he needed to learn it anyway, and now he had figured it out. With this his renderings had color, slab shading, trees and walks, He had even put some 3D cars in the garages. Someday, maybe he would build it.
He had found his muse in the whiskey bottle, and it had kept him up all-night. Now he was going to have another sip, make some eggs, watch a movie, take a nap. He was not going to talk with Tim or Daphne. It was the weekend, he was no step-an fetch it, screw em. And with this thought as a possible background to a meeting all the more reason just not to answer to let them contact him tomorrow.
“He’s not there”, says Tim.
“He said he would be”, says Daphne.
“Well maybe he went out, got lucky who knows.”
“He should be there”, she says, “We can stop by on our way.”
Eventually, in fact before noon, Daphne found her head and her brain began to fire. Electric charges grabbing at her random files, a hard drive amiss and needing defragging, but one that was not crashing. If you had seen her face you might have imagined the hum and pop—the whine, as some connections rolled like water, and others moved like mud.
The murky ones predominant as she and Tim raced his truck down Wilson’s drive. In search of.... an expedition.
They might have been a whole jungle full of creatures, a pride of this and gaggle of that, as Wilson heard them banging on his door and stomping round his house. He could see them, a flash of color here a blond head trapped and snagging in the cedars. From high in his Master suite he heard their noise, behind his walls of glass, high and open without curtains. Yet a space so private unless one were a bird or helicopter, or one climbed a tree it was impossible to see inside. Unfortunately, this privacy did not extend to noise. There was no shelter from the banging thuds, and clanks, or the shouts intended to summon him. No question... a design flaw, a mistake. He should have had more land—Guard dogs, gates, a portcullis, a moat.
These thoughts all crossed his mind as he listened to the Stevens shout and call his name, listened to their banging at his door, and their tromping through his myrtle beds and cedars. Their progress up and down and around his home, peering in windows floor by floor, east and west, unable to see him anywhere. He found their noisy progress invasive, annoying both in sound and presumption- the sounds of cracking twigs and vibrating decks, hammered doors, and shouting. But eventually he heard the footsteps go silent, and then an engine start large and loud, then drift into the distance. He had not been available, sitting upstairs, watching the Wolverine pre-game show on ESPN. And he suspected that Daphne was not happy.
This required little imagination, because he had heard her badgering Tim.
“I know he’s here. I bet he’s just ignoring us. That computer was running in his office. I know I looked right in the window. And I saw the cat.”
He would let them look alone, for now, and call them on the phone to schedule Sunday. It was a mistake to have put windows in the garage. They had likely seen his jeep. He could say he was on his boat. It had a heater. Hell, why say anything at all, it was not required? He had not signed on for slavery, only for a building. It was enough that he was copying the past, for them instead of doing something interesting….little joy now that he had needed to build old Saddle. Their costs, their choices...his efforts. Still it might make it more difficult, next time, next time when the money was not there. His recalcitrance. How soon, before the games would start again. He wondered knowing that before the month was done he would need to send another bill. Would they pay this one, or would Tim start dribbling out the cash again. Perhaps he should have been there for them. But to have had to fuck around with furniture now when the Wolverines were playing, too late. Had they called him early, maybe, but they had waited until it was almost noon, and then the beer was flowing.
The Victors was playing now, the Wolverines running across the field. It was Michigan, his alma matter, Michigan football. Would Steven’s understand. A man who’d gone to State with their lousy football and there massive chiseled Spartan statue. Or that plastic bobbing cartoon head, that big jawed Sparty now lolling about like a gift shop toy, supported on the legs of some half-blind student.
Tim, obviously was not watching, perhaps he hated football. Didn’t own an outfit. Anyway, if he had talked to them, he would have missed the game for sure. Minnesota, Michigan, the little brown jug, and Gophers too. What a weekend of absurdities, the pumpkin feast just out his door and Wolverines playing Gophers on the television screen. Such drama, such a history.
He wondered if his team would limp to the finish, barely victorious as always. He had started fast, that first design, but he had been slogging ever since. Not in industry but certainly in enthusiasm. Would it be a battle, a slow and drawn out finish limping to conclusion? Because the Steven’s did not pay on time, or because the old furniture had rotted? Would Margie talk Daphne into a kitchen move, and how many times might she change the windows. And what absurdities might Philippe come up with. Yes, there was every chance the job would slide that way, into holes of sloth and indecision. Just as the football game he watched: where Michigan once way ahead, and now just barely was about to lose the game over just such a dithering inertia.
“Damn she said, Damn, that Wilson.
“Damn said Tim, I thought you’d given up on swearing. Wasn’t that part of the self-improvement program. You and Julie, your friend the shrink.”
“Damn” she said again as an answer to the question. Tim just nodded in mock amazement, and looked towards the end of the drive. “Well there it is.”
Often those unfamiliar with building do not see the stages. They see, of course, the footers and the floors, the walls, the frame the roofs. But they often miss the quality, the progression, and they miss the time required. They frequently fail to understand or even notice the necessary planning. Yet, everyone has houses, everyone has kitchens, everyone has friends who know and advise. Often owners have no clue, and frequently it is those who have the most, those who can afford the greatest Grand who see the least, because they assume that money has brought them taste or wisdom. This is of course not always if ever true, and this group included Daphne.
Tim, oddly, had a sense of building. Perhaps it came from his restaurants, and their construction, or perhaps from his new venture Gourmet’s Everyone. He either saw or pretended to see and understand. But Daphne didn’t know what to say as she looked at the bare concrete walls, the structo-board first floor, the beams the walls the second floor, and the interior partitions. She would not have understood the structure—where the walls were only defining space and where they might be bearing.
“It’s surly not a house”, she said to Tim. “Does this concrete stay this color? I thought we were having stone. And where are the walls for the master bedroom, where does my kitchen go?
“You’ve seen the plans.” Tim looks around as confused as she is, but pretending not to be.
“Here” his arm waives the water. “See the view your going to have. Right out there towards the harbor. Here is the sink.” Tim gestures in space, above the floor.
“What sink, what harbor”, says Daphne?
“Well, you can’t see it. It’s at the end of the lake. And the sink. It goes right here.” He points once again.
“I need a map”, she says
“Chart”, says Tim. “Chart… when it’s water, a lake, it’s a chart.”
Daphne, shakes her head. “Map, it’s a map, names, places, map”
“Whatever”, he says.
Daphne now rummages in her satchel, a spotted ugly thing with little fleur de lie’s on it, brown and silly, but expensive, because oh my oh gosh she is using Louis Vitton, the satchel Philippe gave her to carry the plans. She thrusts these in front of Tim. “Does not look like the picture,” she says, which is a rendering from inside looking out, sashes and splashes of color, cabinets to the left and right, even a tub of roses on the counter.
“Well, how could it, the windows aren’t even in and none of the partitions, but that back one goes under this beam?” Tim leans against a post and points to the bottom of a beam which is carrying the second floor.
Now they are way out of place here and standing in the washing machine, but Tim convinces Daphne that…“Yes, it will look just like the picture” even though he is staring out the wrong window.
“I don’t know” she says. “Doesn’t seem right to me. Where is that Wilson, he should be here to explain we have driven all the way up?”
Then her mind drifts from her house, and she is talking about the party, and where is that anyway, over their. Daphne points towards the woods, which hold and hide the Wainright house. “Are we really going over to that old place, tonight.”
“We should, don’t you think”, says Tim. “T’wood be neighborly, and Longbottom said we we’re invited.”
“Humph”, says Daphne, “Longbottom. How did such a little man get that name. But he has a funny shape…. I don’t know about a party, I mean that old woman, I’m not sure about her. Don’t you think she looks just like some old hippy. And that Conrad, Last time we were up, I saw that old husband of hers hobbling down the road on his crutches, mumbling something. Don’t know how one can drunkenly weave on crutches, but he was doing it. And you know want else? He winked at me.”
“ You picked the property”, says Tim. “Not me. I think Harry is from a long line of Longbottoms. And that Conrad has years of practice, wobbling and winking.”
Daphne nod’s back in exasperation, her eyes rolling with a silent ‘well duh, surprise me.’
They walk once more about the house, she still complaining at Wilson’s absence while Tim takes imaginary golf swings in the air, hitting balls towards the harbor and lake Michigan beyond. Then switching to a fly rod and casting an imaginary line for imaginary fish. “ What are you doing now”, she says.
“Listening”, he says, “Listening to you”
Daphne studies her ankles, then stares at the water, and takes one last stroll about the main floor. “Here” she asks, “the sinks here, then”? Tim casts his line her direction
“Why don’t you try some pretend hammering?”, she says, looking where his line might have fallen.
Returning to town they pass McGuilties and Tim turns in as if his truck is leading, a truck to the stable that has seen the other trucks. “Some local color?” They bounce and jostle across the dusty dirt, plunging now on purpose, it appears to Daphne, into first one muddy hole and then another. “What do you think”, he again questions?
“In there”. She replies, “Never. You’re like a kid with this stupid truck.” She notices now that as the truck limps, then bangs, then sputters that part of the noise is her newly acquired furniture slamming together in the back. One leg banging against another leg, one corner wearing against another corner. “Watch it” she says, “Tim, my…my”.
“So what, it’s full of dents, and cracks.. and scratches anyway”, he says as he comes to an abrupt stop and the furniture slams into windowed panel behind her.
“No”, she says. “No now, no never, no way! You can go in some time when your in your lumber suit, those stupid red suspenders. In there, are you crazy?”
“Well it is the local hangout”, he says. “It’s always full. And it’s just down the road. We may want to eat here some.”
“Oh, get real”, she says. And full of what, rust and bubbas and trucks? Absolutely not.”
Just then two men with massive guts and low hitched pants come reeling, staggering out the door. One of them goes over to his truck, which is just beyond Daphne, and begins to take a leak, sighing like an exhausted old engine. She cannot see exactly, but she knows what the man is doing. It seems obvious as he stares first down the sways a bit, and then smiles back at her as his right shoulder begins to shake. “Tim”, she says, “Go.. Now.” She scowls at the man who stares back with a happy village idiot sort of face. And as they leave he too jumps into his truck and follows… out the drive, and for a while it seems they may have a caravan. That, this “lout” as Daphne puts it is following them on purpose. But just about the time she becomes concerned, and begins to lecture Tim, he pulls up next to them, wags a finger, and turns off onto a dusty road headed east, away from the lake. “See, You’re an asshole, don’t ever try to take me there” she says.
And then they are speeding, racing round the bends and looping over small drumlin hills, until almost at the town they come to the back side of Wilson’s bill board—smiling; not with bright Petunias on this side, but just a monstrous golden, white gleaming toothed sun, and blue and boats and welcome, and beneath all this welcome, a bunch of trash, old refrigerators, stoves, flue pipes, garbage, rusted tin and tires. Welcome. (Sunday is community cleanup) and if you did not know one might wonder what he was being welcomed too. But Tim and Daphne race by, unperturbed by scenery, consumed with banter, she still badgering, and Tim ignoring as he raps his hands to the country music he has decided fits his truck and afternoon, McGuilties, and this rural road back to Beauville.
Tim and Daphne have ignored the Wainrights. And now they are in indecision. Should they attend her party or should they not? As they wrestle with their choices, their importance, they might be suprised to find that Janet does not care. She has only invited them because of Longbottom, and she doesn’t care very much for him either. Certainly, the Steven’s are no where near the surface of her conscious unless it is their house. That unfortunate gray and ugly edifice that her guests must now pass. She imagines the questions.
“A monster Janet... Those new folks have no taste, but it sure is large”. Progress, well sad to say inevitable. Growth Janet, the engine that keeps us moving, jobs, jobs.”
She has heard it all before, just not next door.
At this stage of course to make any conclusion except to size would be impossible. But this will not keep her guests from trying. Moaning at progress and change, the lake is ruined and all the new and tacky money pouring North from nuveau rich wanabees The Regan revolution now tossing about its change. The old elites at Janet’s party will be troubled by the new, all their show and jingle jangle. This unavoidable recycling and redefining of the haves and the have-nots. This redistribution and expansion of the money supply to those newly made, who, of course must be lacking taste. Those folks who have no history.
Janet can hear the questions.
“Where does his money come from.”
“Burgers sir it comes from burgers, the burger and the greasy fry.
“Your money came from lumber didn’t it”, her friends might say. And it would be true, this money now almost gone. Her origins fight with her sensibilities, her environmental stands. But still, she clips the coupons.
It is the cycle, change, and some of Janet’s guests will see the Steven’s huge foundation bunker, and moan just as they moaned in England more then a hundred years ago. The aristocracy who shunned the tradesmen even if his sinks were made of silver. These new rich from soap and suds, widgets and steel. Those tacky folks who came from trade. Well, Tim came new from Mighty Burger, and what more could be said than that.
Her thoughts retreat from envy, as she sends Conrad hobbling out to decorate the veranda. To supervise the boy who is stacking corncobs in random order, and making shucks to frame the Pumpkins at the door. She can hear Conrad boss a bit, and then start telling stories to the poor kid who does not give a damn about this old man’s life or his bad or better poetry. But it is a limerick that Janet hears the loudest, framed inside a wheeze and gasp.
There once was a queen
When in Italy
She was into Amore-ia
She like dark haired men
| It Be Just Alright: An Island Journey | A Builder's Tale | Oh To Be An Indian | Captain Passion | Roland's Orange Cart | Roland's Orange Cart | The Pumpkin Festival |
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