Saturday, November 14, 2009
The Cloverdale Shire Health Department announces the delivery of the much anticipated H1N1 vaccine. The special shipment arrived yesterday evening on the Coastal Express. A crowd of eleven was on hand protesting the delay in the vaccine’s delivery. Morse Clubbard spoke on behalf of the protesters.
“We have people sick with the swine flu right now. People didn’t need to get the disease, but they did because we didn’t have the vaccine.” A general grunt of agreement washed over the crowd. Morse smiled at this sudden interest everyone was talking in his speech. Under normal conditions Morse would hardly be noticed at all.
Morse continued, “I blame the Swiss and Americans. The Swiss are to blame for being in bed with the Americans. The Americans are to blame for hogging all the swine vaccine,” Morse paused momentarily as he waited for his pun to take effect. After several seconds into an awkward pause, Morse continued. “What’s a Dunce to do? After giving this a great deal of thought, I’ve settled on a course of action. We boycott Swiss chocolate. That will get their attention.”
Morse raised his finger to silent an already silent gathering. Once he regained the attention he never lost, Morse pulled out a rather nicely packaged Toblerone Swiss Chocolate bar. He held it overhead.
“Today, we tell the Swiss to shove it. We don’t need their vaccines and we definitely don’t need their chocolate!”
Morse broke the bar in half. The crowd continued in silence, except for the barely audible gasps from the two elderly Milduw Spinsters. They were at the station’s package claim window waiting for a parcel of nicely sewn doilies that arrived on the same train as the vaccine. The sisters clutched each other’s arms in fear of being caught in a crowd showing such a disregard for civility. They collected their package and quickly moved to the back of the station’s waiting room and then out the door onto Station Street. Both sisters were so shaken by the experience they stopped at the Kicking Donkey on their way home for a pint of Cloverdale’s famous Scampy Ale to calm their nerves.
“The Swiss are Swindlers!” Morse shouted over and over again, hoping the crowd would pick up the chant. Some did but quickly became tongue tied. The chant died out as quickly as it started. Morse saw he was loosing the crowd’s attention. It was time to take the demonstration to the next level. He remembered watching Cloverdale Weekend Television's Special on the Anniversary of the American Embassy siege in Iran. An idea sprang from that memory.
“Those greedy Americans have all the vaccine. Look!” Morse pointed to Cloverdale’s two constables who were removing a small package from the train. One held the package while the other stood with a baton in hand to deal with unpleasantness.
Morse continued, “We have thirty doses. Thirty doses for all of us in this village. Who’s going to get it? Who will make that decision? It’s the Shire Health Department. America put us in this mess. America is responsible for all our problems. I’ve only one thing to say. Death to America! Death to America!”
The chant traveled from Morse’s lips and into the crowd of eleven where it was picked up by five year old Molly Muse, recently diagnosed with ADD. The rest of the crowd followed Molly’s example. Soon all eleven were shouting in unison “Death to America”.
Constable Willard became alarmed. In addition to his baton, he produced a can of pepper spray and threatened to use it on anyone that ‘got out of control’. The two constables exited the station and walked toward the village offices. The crowd followed them down Station Street shouting “Death to America”.
Demonstrations in Cloverdale are rare. A demonstration against America was unheard of. Everyone in the Confederacy of Dunces knew that America held a larger population of Dunces that the Confederacy itself. Chanting “Death of America” was like cussing out your own kin.
Half way down Station Street another crowd formed. This counter demonstration was composed of people exiting the pubs and restaurants, most still carrying their beverage of choice. These people were shouting “We Love America. We love the Beatles. We love rock and roll”. Their enthusiasm may have been caused by a bit too much too drink. The situation quickly spiraled out of control. The two constables were sandwiched between two competing forces. Constable Willard panicked and released several shots of pepper spray. Unfortunately he directed the spray into the Anti American group, which was upwind from his position. The spray blew back into the constable's faces. Their reaction to the pepper spray was immediate. Constable Jones dropped the package of vaccine.
The street fell silent except for the groans of those recovering from the pepper spray. Everyone stood staring at the package carrying the precious vials of H1N1 vaccine. Then, someone from the anti American crowd made a move for the vaccine and all heck broke loose. Everyone rushed to get their hands on the vials. Fists flew, hair was pulled, noses bloodied. The Constables sprang into action and emptied their cans of pepper spray to no affect. For awhile it seemed Cloverdale was doomed to descend into the abyss of chaos and anarchy. Many onlookers thought it was the end of civilization as they had known it.
The sound of a playground whistle rang over the assembly. The fighting slowed to a stop. Everyone in the gathering recognized that sound. It sent chills up their spines. Mrs. Tulla Trish, Confederacy Elementary's 83 year old former school headmistress, descended the steps of her modest two bedroom bungalow. She was blowing the very same whistle used to get her student's attention throughout her fifty years of teaching the children of Cloverdale, many of whom were present in the crowd.
“Shame on you all. Shame!” she shouted at the top of her 83 year old lungs. She hobbled her way into the street and pushed everyone back with the end of her cane. The crowd opened, freeing the disheveled constables.
“Move along, move along,” she warned. The constables picked up what was left of the package and ran for the village office. Mrs. Trish stayed behind with cane held high threatening to thump anyone that followed.
The demonstration was over. The vaccine was delivered. The following day it was administered to the children of Cloverdale at school. Mrs. Tulla Trish was honored as a hero by the parents of Cloverdale and vilified as a villain by the children on the receiving end of the needle. It appeared old Dr. Plopman’s hands aren’t as steady as they once were.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
In 1942 Clive and Madge Sniffer moved to Cloverdale from the Other World. In those days Cloverdale was missing several of the finer amenities one would expect from a village along Highway 1. For example, back then Cloverdale didn't have a Dairy Queen, a motel or a coin operated laundry. Any community expecting to be included on a road map should have those three things. They compromise the basic standards necessary for a village to call itself a community. They are the three pillars modern civilization is founded upon. Can you imagine anything better than stopping at a Dairy Queen for a Chocolate Dipped Cone and a burger after a long day on a lonely stretch of highway? Further down the road you discover a nice roadside motel with joining laundromat. You leave the village the next morning with clean clothes and rested from a comfortable night's sleep.
In 1942 Cloverdalew was missing a Dairy Queen, a motel and a laundromat. Visitors to the village had a choice of either staying in one of the Kicking Donkey’s three private rooms above the Bar or Mrs. Lather’s Bed and Breakfast. Each location had favorable points and each had certain qualities not usually thought of as positive. The rooms above the bar were noisy and lacked clean linen. There was also the issue regarding connivence's. Overnight guests at the Kicking Donkey had to use the pub’s public restrooms located on the ground level.
Guests at Mrs. Lather’s Bed and Breakfast had access to private toilets. What they didn’t have was privacy. Mrs. Lather was a lonely widow and enjoyed three hour talks with her guests. Now I say talks only because she did all the talking and you did all the listening. Wo be to anyone caught in her web.
In addition to the hours of memories, her guests had to contend with the cats. She loved cats and took in all strays. Cat hairs covered every possible square inch of the B and B, including the linen and your meals.
On a warm day in August, 1942, an old Buick drove into town carrying the Sniffers. The back seat and trunk were filled with luggage. Clive was discharged from the American army with a war wound. He took a bullet in the tongue. Its a story never told. Clive was 19. Madge was 16. They looked for a motel to spend the night on their way to Tamworth on Tide. They ended up at Mrs. Lathers. The following day they were in the village office filing papers for a building permit to build Cloverdale's first motel.
One year later, after using all their savings and a generous loan from Madge’s parents, the Sniffers opened The Pink Motel. Folks from as far away as Dibley in the Downs and Fernwood on the Moor came to see this history making event. Many booked evening accommodations.
The Pink Motel’s reputation grew through word of mouth advertising. It was known for clean, tidy rooms - all nearly tastefully decorated in pink. Pink was the theme and Madge was very creative in its application. Guests received complimentary pitchers of ice cold pink lemonade at check in. Instead of leaving chocolate on guest's pillows the Pink Motel’s maids left a handful of those pink butter mints usually found in tiny paper cups at weddings.
As the Sniffers aged the Pink Motel fell into a state of disrepair . Today the Sniffers are in their 80’s and don’t get about much. Their son and daughter in law handle the daily operation of the motel. Last year yellow was introduced into the room’s decor. The new managers claimed it brightened up the place. Today there's talk of adding blue curtains and white walls. The Pink Motel isn't so pink anymore.
The changes are more than the Sniffers can handle. Just last night while enjoying a pint of his favorite Cloverdale bitter, Clive was overheard at the Kicking Donkey Pub saying he and Madge were thinking of packing up the Buick and continuing on their way to Tamworth on Tide. That is where they originally wanted to settle when they first came to the Confederacy in 1942. Those of us that love the Pink Motel are wondering what they'll decide to do.
I’ll be sure to keep you updated.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
I was neck deep in cake batter, making one of my Red Devils Food Cakes for the Cloverdale LDS branch's annual Cake Walk to raise money so the branch's teens could go to Capital City for the district's Gold and Green Ball. The Cake Walk was tonight's MIA activity. You remember the Mutual Improvement Association. The Cloverdale Branch of the Mormon Church holds MIA every Tuesday evening at the Seventh Day Adventist Church. As you know, there aren’t enough Mormons in Cloverdale to warrant a building of our own. The Adventists are generous with the use of their building, as long as we leave it clean and tidy.
Our branch youth enjoy going to Capital City to attend the Gold and Green Ball held in the Confederacy’s one and only real LDS chapel. The chapel houses Capital City’s three branches. It’s the pride of all Confederate Mormons.
The chapel holds up to 100 people, and comfortably I might add. There is a small cultural hall with one basketball hoop on one end and a small kitchenette on the other. There are several classrooms. The Branch Presidents all share one office. The Relief Society Room is decorated nicely with a rose carpet, wood paneling and a piano.
During church last Sunday I was asked if I’d be contributing one of my cakes. I humbly agreed, claiming they “weren’t that good”. Of course, everyone corrected me by reaffirming the moistness and perfect balance I’m able to achieve between chocolate and the marshmallow frosting.
I started making the cake the moment I got home this afternoon . Half way through the recipe I discovered I was short two eggs . I thought to borrow some from next door but remembered I owe them a cup of sugar from last week. I didn't want to add a couple of eggs to my tab, it just wouldn’t be kosher. I had one alternative, a quick trip to the Piggly Wiggly.
I ran out the door and down the canal. I made a left, then a right and then another left. It was 5:02 P.M. The Piggly Wiggly parking lot was full. Everyone in town seemed to be shopping at the same time. I made it into the store and worked my way to the dairy section. The eggs were easy to find. Finding an open check out stand was hard.
I stood in line and waited and waited. Buying groceries in Cloverdale requires patience. Our stores don’t have the fancy bar code reading computers. Our checkout clerks do it the old fashion way, they punch in the prices. Now, one must be alert because it is easy for a clerk to ring up the wrong price. Why, just last week I had a clerk try to charge me ten dollars for a can of 10 cent green beans.
I finally reached the check out. The clerk punched in the price, I paid and was back to my flat in no time. I was going to be late for the first few rounds of the cake walk. It didn't really matter. I knew once I walked in with my Red Devil’s Food Cake the tickets would sell out.
Ah, living in Cloverdale is paradise. Why would you want to live anywhere else?
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Iris Brentwood sits on a chair outside Cloverdale’s Train Station. It’s the second Sunday of the month and she has come from Strawberry Field to visit her son and grandchildren. Iris Brentwood visits her son and grandchildren every second Sunday, and has been doing so since her son moved to Cloverdale five years ago.
She waits with a mother’s patience. Her son is never punctual. She expects he will be along soon. The Station Master came out 20 minutes ago and offered her a cup of tea and a double stuffed Oreo from the ticket window. She kindly refused. She knew if she took tea a restroom visit would follow and she didn’t want to make her son wait or think she had missed the train. As for the cookie, she had a bag full of her own.
Many of the passengers arriving for the 12:10 Coastal Express to Dibley on the Downs and Tamworth on Tide recognize Iris as a fellow Sunday traveler. A few stop to wish her a good day. She appreciates their kindness and offers each one a home baked devil's food cookie carried in her bag. Iris bakes several dozen each month. Many are given to the friends she’s made over the years on the train and at the station. The others are for the grandchildren.
Its a chilly Autumn day. Iris is glad she wore sweat pants under her skirt. She knows its a bit unorthodox and draws unwanted attention to her legs, but at her age comfort is more important than fashion. Beside, who cares about what an old lady wears? However, just to help distract unwelcoming eyes, she makes it a point to wear brightly colored blouses. Today she is wearing a purple blouse - her favorite.
Something has caught her attention. Its a coin. If she were younger she’d consider picking it up.
Her son is thirty minutes late. Another familiar face walks by. Good afternoons pass between the two grandmothers and another devils food cookie is offered. She’s asked for the recipe which Iris gladly produces from her purse. Iris hand writes several copies of the recipe on 3X5 cards before each trip. It’s not easy with her arthritis but she enjoys talking about her baking.
One hour passes. Iris stands with the help of her cane and shuffles to the end of the sidewalk to collect the coin. Its only a penny - which is why no one picked it up sooner. She removes a piece of putty from a sandwich bag kept in her purse for occasions like this and places the putty on the bottom of her cane. She stabs the coin with the end of her cane. The coin sticks to the putty and finds its way in her coin purse.
There’s a chill in the air. She sits down and watches for another familiar face. Her son will arrive soon. If not, she will walk. Her legs are good and she has her cane.