Saturday, October 3, 2009

Blaze and the Voices from the Flame

Blaze Bonn lives at #3 Weeping Willow Apartments on 5th and Elm Streets, Cloverdale. To the casual observer Blaze appears to be an average boy, unremarkable would be a fitting adjective. But if you looked at him closely, you’d see average doesn’t describe him at all. Blaze's eyes set him apart from everyone. They are nearly human brown in color, yet different enough to cause one to stare at them beyond polite’s limit.

When exposed to candle light, Blaze’s eyes breath sparks of purple trailing thin strands of white gold. As if by magic, the flame’s siren song draws the boy into a spell. Moments later he speaks. His sounds cannot be understood. They form syllables, which in turn become words with patterns that confuse the English ear. His communions can last several minutes before his senses surface and the land of the living reclaims him as its own.

Once his mother asked him what he saw in the candle’s light.
“It’s not what I see mommy, Its what I hear.........Listen!,” He finished his sentence by raising his hand and cuffing it over his left ear. At that moment a distracted motorist slammed into the back of a stopped car just outside their apartment window. “You see mommy.” Blaze pointed to his ear and walked into his room, leaving his mother wondering.

“I hear dead people,” Blaze once told his Lutheran Pastor. The Pastor’s suspicions of Blaze were confirmed. On his church record, Blaze was labeled Fringe Lunatic, unusual for a boy his age. Counseling suggested.

Once during Sunday School, Blaze disagreed with the teacher over a passage in the Gospel of Paul.
“We don’t know what Paul meant exactly. It was written a long time ago so we rely on our understanding of Paul as seen through his other writings. That window into his heart and mind help us with passages that seem odd to us today.” The teacher explained. Blaze pulled out a cigarette lighter, created a flame and stared intently.

“Blaze, put that out at once and give me the lighter.” She demanded. Her order fell on deaf ears. Blaze was gone - disappeared into the other world. The teacher reacted instinctually. With the lighter in one hand, and Blaze’s hand in the other, she led him out of the room and to his mother.

“Blaze, what’s gotten into you?” Mother asked as they walked home along the canal. “What were you doing with that lighter?”.

Blaze continued to walk, wondering if his answer would bring her relief or more anguish. He settled on being truthful and replied, “Asking Paul what he meant.”

She stopped in mid step, took his arm and led him to a park bench. They sat down for for a moment before she spoke again. “Blaze, do you really talk to the dead through fire? I want an honest answer.”

“Yes,” Blaze answered.

“OK, take the lighter. I want to see you do it. Talk to mother. She’s been dead for several years now. Let’s see what Grandma has to say.”

Blaze lit the lighter and peered into the flame. Minutes passed. His eyes sparkled in harvest colors. Then came the mumbling. His mother watched his eyes intently. This was his ultimate test. Blaze never met his grandmother and his mother never spoke of her. His divining would either confirm or refute his claim.

The flame with out. Blaze put the lighter into his pocket and looked at his mother.

“Well?” she asked. “What did Grandma say?”

“She wasn't very nice was she?” he answered looking surprised.

“You talked to her then?”


“What did she say?”

“She said to stop talking and go away.” Blaze replied. His mother was quiet. Not a sound passed between them. Then she laughed, long and hard.

“My boy talks to the dead!” Mother shouted to the trees and the sky. “Grandma said that all the time. She never had time for anyone - especially children." She stood up, took Blaze's hand and led him back to the canal path. "Let’s go home and have some pancakes. Then we’ll decide what to do about you young man.”

They continued down the walk. Autumn leaves swirled in cool breezes around them.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Highlights of the Confederacy Harvest Fair & Festival

A Special Report
by Jaleta Clegg, roving reporter

This past week, all of the Confederacy was treated to the yearly spectacle known as the Harvest Fair & Festival. Held on Bowling Green, hundreds of Dunces gathered to ogle the best that the Confederacy has to offer.

Mrs. Davenport and Mrs. Ottoweiller enjoy a treat before the jelly judging.

The biggest upset came in the Jelly contest. Mrs. Livinia Davenport, 73, and Ms. Olga Ottoweiller, 74, have battled for the last sixty years to see who can make the best jelly. Mrs. Davenport’s strategy this year involved sizable bribes passed to the judges right before the tasting. Ms. Ottoweiller screamed “Foul!” and had to be restrained by her grandchildren. Her purse was confiscated by the authorities and classified as a deadly weapon. Both women were ousted by newcomer Tiffany Fweedicks, age 12, from Cloverdale Middle School, with her jar of “Hint of Elderberry Minted Fruit Jelly”. Mrs. Davenport and Ms. Ottoweiller were seen conspiring after the judging. “Bet that was a commercial jelly,” Mrs. Davenport muttered. “Not even true jelly. She had bits of fruit. More of a jam, if you ask me, which no one did. Little cheater. We’ll show her next year.” The two elderly women were last seen in a corner of Tubby Thompson’s Tea Emporium Tent. Tiffany Fweedicks was taken into protective custody by her aunts.

Mrs. Honoria Blakeley’s infamous “Half-Past Mass Berry Chocolate Parfaits to Make Sinners into Saints”

As the sun set over Bowling Green, the scent of baking floated across the fair as contestants scrambled to finish their entries in the Bake-Off. Hettie Toots of Strawberry Junction entered Berry Tarts, each one decorated to resemble one of the judges, if they were a berry and cream clown. The judges were not amused. Horace Haversack entered his prune tasties, for the fourteenth straight year. “Keeps me moving, regular like,” he explained as the judges sampled the misshapen blobs filled with dark brown sludge. “It would help if Horace discovered how to use sugar,” one judge whispered as they hurried to the next table. “And if his pastry weren’t the texture of wallboard,” a second judge agreed. Horace Haversack is very hard of hearing. He beamed brightly and waited for a ribbon that would never come.

Mrs. Honoria Blakely entered another of her gourmet concoctions. Mrs Blakely believes in the liberal use of spirits, both alcoholic and religious. The fumes from her Half-Past Mass Berry Chocolate Parfaits to Make Sinners into Saints knocked flies cold at thirty paces. One taste and the judges were definitely in a better mood. Three bites and they began regaling the audience with drinking songs not fit for young audiences. As they finished the parfaits, the judges were stumbling drunkenly. Perhaps that explains why Gumby Dodger of Dibley in the Dale won first prize for the dog biscuits he brought for his Great Dane, Hoobie.

First-place winner Gumby Dodger and his dog, Hoobie

The final contest of the evening was the watermelon carving contest. It was simple to judge since only one brave soul dared enter. Lester Pysogorski loves playing with knives and food. His piece, titled “Tropical Vacation on the Riviera”, brought home the blue ribbon. Lester has never been good at geography, although he can honestly claim to have the sharpest knife in the drawer.

Lester Pysogorski shows off his prize winning melon carving skills

Tune in soon for another update on the quilts, sewing, crafting, and animal contests!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Finda and Gordon Entertain at the Kicking Donkey Pub.

Finda and Gordon Brown live at 12 Winchester Circle in Cloverdale. They love their nice red brick two bedroom bungalow. It has a well kept front garden inhabited by a family of resin garden gnomes Finda found in a bring and buy sell at a village Lutheran Church while on holiday in Germany in 1983. The back garden is a bit of a bother so it suffers from minor overgrowth. Refilling the bird bath and feeder is the only thing that draws Finda out the back door. Gordon braves the botanical land of the giants on trash collection day. Its where he keeps the bins.

Gordon is five years retired from the Wonka Tobacco Works. Finda retired from the Confederacy Post Office three years ago. They enjoy their time together playing bridge, watching their favorite shows on Cloverdale Weekend Television, volunteering at the Salvation Army Thrift Store and grocery shopping at the Red Owl. Finda clips coupons while Gordon searches their rather extensive collection of recipe books for new and tasty dishes they’ve not tried before. A lack of money separated them from fine dining while their three children were growing up. In those days the family ate from a set menu based on their combined incomes.

  • Monday: Macaroni and Cheese with kool aid
  • Tuesday: Juno’s Frozen Pizza with kool aid
  • Wednesday: Fish Sticks with kool aid
  • Thursday: Soup or Chili with bread and kool aid
  • Friday: Hamburgers on a bun. Home made root beer
  • Saturday: Grilled Cheese Sandwiches with kool aid
  • Sunday: Chicken, mashed potatoes, corn, gravy with kool aid
Now that the kids are gone and the house is paid off, the Browns have disposable income. They're living the good life. Their surplus cash is spent on food. The excess calories have their reward - Gordon's waist expanded beyond every sewing fix Finda found in a library book titled Sewing for a Growing Husband.

On Saturday evenings Finda and Gordon finish supper at 8:00 P.M. Finda changes into her best dress and costume jewelry. Gordon slips on his white leather shoes and pink sweater (it was white once until Gordan tried to wash it with a newly purchased red towel). They walk arm and arm toward the Train Station and right through the doors of the Kicking Donkey Pub for Open Mic Night.

In the picture above Finda sings two of Abba’s famous hits. Gordon accompanies on the electronic organ. The pub supplies the drummer (who couldn’t make it the night this picture was taken. Apparently he had a better paying gig at the Goldstein’s wedding at the Knights of Columbus Hall. He played drums for Cloverale’s very own wedding singer, Frank (the Meadowlark) Pustill.

As a rule, the Browns refuse to take the stage until well past 10:00 P.M. This guarantees a pretty sauced audience. A tipsy room better tolerates Finda’s voice and Gordon's missed keys. If Finda is in good form her music has been known to motivate a few of the older couples to take to the dance floor and break into disco.

At three songs they hit their limit and surrender the stage to the next performer. Who, by the way, is usually Luella Flipsborn, the alto Baptist soloist. Her large 65 year old chest produces sounds other accomplished vocalists never thought possible.

If its Saturday night and you’ve extinguished everything recorded on your Tivo, I urge you to put on your dancing shoes and join many of your neighbors at the Kicking Donkey. Please be sure to stay until Finda and Gordon have had their way with you. I guarantee their music will always be remembered.

Monday, September 28, 2009

I Joined the Dunce Force. More from the Harvest Festival and Fair

Dunce Force (DF) is the national defense force of the Confederacy of Dunces. The DF’s public relations office is responsible for recruiting new volunteers. One method is to openly and actively recruit during the Autumn Shire Fairs.

Corporal Snell manned the DF booth at Cloverdale’s Harvest Festival and Fair. I found him answering questions and demonstrating the newest weapons the DF recently acquired from the American military. The Corporal had the gift of doing and saying just the right things to make the taking of massive amounts of blood in the battlefield seem so inciting only a fool would walk away from signing away four years of his life to the Confederacy.

Men and boys swarmed the booth waiting impatiently to handle weapons that not only looked cool but had the muscle to cut a man in half at 100 yards. Many in the crowd experienced heavy salivation accompanied with facial tremors when the Corporal played a DVD showing Americans using the same weapons in their war with Iraq. Several boys from Confederacy Elementary got a bit carried away during their time with the steel equalizers, as Corporal Snell called the machine guns.

“Gonna kill me some Arabs!” one youngster shouted from the end of the table. He had one of the ‘equalizers’ set up and in firing position. “Pow, Pow,” he shouted as the gun swung back and forth looking for anyone with darker skin and bad teeth.

“Now that’s racial profiling,” Corporal Snell laughed while highlighting the boy’s enthusiasm to the onlookers.

“There’s one sand devil down.” The boy shouted, marking off each simulated kill by licking his index finger and checking it off in the air. “Pow. Pow. And another one down!” He pointed toward the Navajo Taco Stand. Standing behind the counter was Cloverdale’s only native American indian looking very peeved at the misunderstanding and unwanted attention.

One boy wearing a black T-Shirt seemed engrossed with his weapon. I watched him for several minutes. He held the gun steady while slowly following someone in the distance. The target never left his eye. He demonstrated the patience of a sharp shooter as he tracked whatever it was through the crowd.

“Pop, right in the head,” he whispered as he pulled the trigger. Ten seconds later he handed the gun to the Corporal and walked away quiet pleased with himself. I stopped him and asked what or who was his target.

“My math teacher,” he answered. “He deserved that and more for giving us negative numbers. I'm bad enough with positive numbers. What am I suppose to do with negative numbers? I don’t know which way is up and which way is down.”

One gentleman held what I considered a bazooka. He also had someone in his sights. I moved around the table to see who it was. From just behind him I saw someone standing in its cross hairs. I assumed from her thin red lips pulled tightly together in sarcasm it had to be his wife. She stood in a pink dress holding a white purse. Her arms were folded across her chest, her high heeled foot tapped with impatience. She was obviously ready to proceed to the crafts pavilion and wanted him beside her.

I had the opportunity to handle one of the weapons but didn’t. The line of young boys waiting their turn stretched around the Carmel Apple stand and down the midway. I turned to leave.

“Mister?” the Corporal said while taking me by the elbow and redirecting me toward his Big Chief Table and four color ink pen. “You forgot something.”


“You didn’t enlist.” He seemed put out that someone would spend as long as I did at his booth and not enlist.

“I’m old.”

“I’ve seen older. We can use you in the mess halls or pushing papers.”

“I’ve got a tricky ticker, flat feet and, if you haven’t noticed, a problem with keeping hair on my head. Check your manual. I’m sure one of those things would disqualify me from service.”

The Corporal leaned forward and whispered into my ear. “I’ve got a quota mister. Please...... They’ll send you to your own doctor for a check up. You’re doctor will stamp your service card ‘unfit’ and that’s that. You’re a hero for trying to serve at your age and condition and I get the credit whether you pan out or not. Come on, what do you say? Do it for a vet?”

“What vet?” I asked noting his extreme lack of facial hair.

“Once got lost in a crowd in downtown Detroit. Will that count. Hey, I lived to tell the tale.” he said proudly.

“Good enough for me. Give me the pen.” I signed my name and joined the Dunce Force. You know, he’s right. The crowd applauded my decision. Many said that if every Dunce had as much devotion to God and Country the Confederacy would be a better place today.

I bowed to my newly found fans and said something to the effect that it was every man’s duty to step forward when his country called. Suddenly something else came calling so I cut my speech short and when searching for the nearest Port a Potty. I think something I ate at the Los GutChuckers Mexican Grill Stand near the Ferris Wheel was hoping to resurface.

More on the Festival and Fair tomorrow.

Good Night.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Harvest Festival and Fair. The Arm Wrestling Championship. Ned and Moose Don't Play Fair.

Ned and Moose in the Heat of Battle

Highlights from the Harvest Festival and Fair

Cloverdale’s Harvest Festival and Fair was held last weekend. It was just as I remembered from last year. There were competitions, exhibitions, fun rides and food. Not just any food mind you. I’m talking festival food, the kind brought in by locals, cooked on the spot and served out of their caravans and tents. I spent most of Saturday and all day Sunday sampling the delicacies. I’ll keep you in rapt anticipation and save the tasty details of my tasting safari for later posts.

I know you’re all wondering if I won the tomatoes judging. That too can wait for another day. I’m not in the mood to expose my failures for all to see at the moment. As for my selection for winner of the special effects photography contest, my decision was the cup with the bug and helicopter above the rim. Storey Phelps was gracious in victory and invited all other finalists to lunch at Maxie’s tent where the best barbecued corn on the cob with sides of baked beans and watermelon was being served. My invitation came as an afterthought just as the contestants exited the pavilion hall. Storey wasn’t sure how the others would feel having the judge who denied them their victory sitting to lunch with them at the same table. I refused the invitation on principle but Storey insisted and the others nodded in forced agreement, feeling it was necessary to demonstrate good sportsmanship.
I can only say delicious so many times. I guiltily confess to three helpings and feel badly it cost Storey nearly all his winnings to keep me in barbecued corn. I insisted on leaving the tip hoping to relieve some of the bill’s sting.

After the judging I set out to watch some of the other competitions. At approximately one hop past 2 o’clock in the afternoon I heard a loudspeaker announcement that caught my attention.

"Attention Attention, this is Bud Sparkles your Festival announcer talking to you from the announcings tent besides Mrs. Landrow’s Carmel Apple Caravan. The arm wrestling final, junior division is about to get underway in the Shriner’s Circus Tent next to Big Crow’s Navajo Taco stand. Moose Flanders representing Cloverdale’s Middle School is challenged by Ned Phillips representing St. Bartholomew’s. Don’t miss this face off between public education and private. Don’t miss this battle of champions pitting a godless state educated boy against a young man with the might and power of the papacy behind him. The pressure is on these two boys to win for their schools and their faiths, or lack of it. The winner will also receive a gift certificate to Moss’ Wonderland Bakery on the High Street. One other thing. Stubby Morton, your buffalo burger is waiting at the Custer Last Stand Buffalo Burger and Chips tent. That is all...."

I didn’t want to miss the junior arm wrestling championship so I delayed my purchase of a fruit smoothie and made a bee line to the circus tent. The boys sat opposite each other outside the tent as the crowd gathered. Moose wore a white T-shirt with black sleeves. Ned wore something resembling orange. Moose stared without blinking at the overly distracted Ned, who I’m told suffers from severe ADD. Other boys from each school gathered behind them to offer support. The on lookers gathered on the opposite side. I noticed two cans of Red Bull under Moose’s chair. I wondered if that presented a problem - an unfair advantage. I got the judge’s attention and pointed under the chair. The judge nodded, telling me that he already knew. The shoulder shrug that followed indicated a lack of concern.

“Grasp!” the judge shouted. Ned, realizing he was at a disadvantage promptly gathered all the flem his forced coughing could produce and promptly discharged it into the palm of his wrestling hand.

The public school crowd cried foul. The judge shrugged his shoulders saying there was nothing in the official arm wrestling handbook about spitting into one’s hand before competition.

“Grasp!” The judge shouted again. Moose swallowed hard, put his elbow on the table and reached out to take the slimy hand offered by Ned. He nearly lost his lunch of four Nathan’s Chili Dogs and Peach Soda when he felt his palm slip around on the slimy loogie draining down Ned’s wrist and dripping onto the table.

“Moose, take out that Catholic #%$#.” Moose’s dad shouted from five feet away. Moose’s dad is a bit hard of hearing from working at the saw mill for the past twenty years. He refuses to wear a hearing aid, concerned about his appearance I’m told.

“Wrestle!” the judge shouted, once he checked for proper alignment of arms and wrists. The boys bore down on each other. Faces contoured. Teeth mashed against each other and chins were pulled back. Ned’s elbow lifted from the table for a brief moment, a clear violation of the rules. This picture was snapped just at that moment, proving the infraction. Unfortunately, the judge didn’t see it and, once again, was the target of a series of rude comments from the public school crowd.

Ned leaned into the job. Moose’s arm weakened. It looked as if the Catholics would win this once again this year. Just when it seemed Moose couldn’t keep his arm from hitting the table top something remarkable happened. Moose lifted one butt cheek and released one of the worst farts ever smelt in Cloverdale, at least those of us in attendance through so. The air turned green. The background boys pulled up their shirts to cover their noses. I quickly reached for my gum, unwrapped a stick of wintergreen and held it under my nose. Some ran from the scene gasping for air. Others took hold of each other for support. Two children vomited in a near by bush.

Ned took the nasal assault badly. His own lunch rose several inches up his throat. His head started spinning and his arm grew weak. Moose gave him a smile and through his dad a wink.

“What was that for?” I asked, leaning toward his dad.

“It was my idea to stuff those chili dogs down him at lunch. Moose doesn’t do chili very well, as you can smell.” his dad confided.

Just then the entire public school crowd cheered. Moose was victorious. Ned jumped from the table screaming foul and asked for the nearest toilet. Both of the boy’s supporters moved toward each other. Each camp calling what the other camp’s boy did as immoral. It seemed it would evolve into a fist fight. That was my clue to escape. I jumped a small hedge, found a pocket of fresh air, refilled my lungs and walked straight to the tent serving my favorite, pineapple fruit smoothies.

It was a good day. More to come later.


Cloverdale Weekend Television. Sissel