Beeches

If you carve your feelings in the bark of the beech tree in Sanderling Park, you can’t deny your love later, even if you sicken at the recollection. No matter how long it has been, no matter how much you despise the beast you once embraced, the record remains. Kathleen Boggs swears it isn’t her name on the tree, says she’d rather dip her nose in honey and shove her head in a groundhog hole than kiss Graaf Gribble. “Must have been another Graaf,” Gribble insists, “but if she did put her head in a hole, the groundhogs would think… Keep reading

The Western Method

Reaction to the Sycamore Shadows school district’s “Boys into Men” campaign has been overwhelmingly positive, despite isolated complaints from parents disapproving of John Wayne movies as instructional films, usually those intent on raising pantywaists. To enable parents to decide the issue for themselves, I have studied the movies shown by the school district and present a list of six lessons contained therein: 1. Whiskey is a powerful painkiller. Taken for medicinal purposes, it is a miracle drug. A mere pint will facilitate the removal of bullets and arrowheads from deep in the body cavity with bearable discomfort. A quart is… Keep reading

Life in the Shadows

After consulting her attendance book, Ada Sanderling has determined that Edward “Boy Ed” Hotchkiss, owner of the Hotchkiss Filling Station, hasn’t attended church services since 1997, the year she began keeping records. “You can’t worship and pump gas at the same time,” Boy Ed answered when confronted with the accusation. According to Miss Sanderling, Boy Ed’s wife, Edwena “Girl Ed” Hotchkiss, rarely misses a service. Minister Westminster announces that the subject of this week’s Tuesday evening Bible study will be sin. Several people have written in recent weeks to ask where I get my ideas, a question probably better addressed… Keep reading

Erotic Food

Several friends and I were enjoying dinner at the Crawdad Club yesterday when our discussion turned to some of the exotic foods eaten in foreign lands, much of it creatures we spray with insecticides. Wilson Hahn had seen a documentary the previous evening showing an Amazonian native eating a grub, which is basically any white larvae that looks like it’s wearing a brown helmet. Needless to say, we were in agreement that a larvae the size of a Twinkie was something we would not care to have for dinner. I don’t like Twinkies either, but at least they don’t wriggle… Keep reading

Life in the Shadows

SYCAMORE SHADOWS, Ohio. While I appreciate all contributions to “Life in the Shadows,” I cannot mention private spats between married couples or siblings. If you want your name in my column, scuffle in public. In Sycamore Shadows, where most people would rather go to bed with dirty feet than without praying, you wouldn’t think public nudity would have such a long history. In the Van Horne Journal of 1808, an important account of the town’s early years, we find the following reference to Aedre Bowman: “…she doth shed her clothing and slip into the water, where she delights in sinful… Keep reading

What Price Your Soul?

Cleb Bowman told this story at the Crawdad Club last evening. Apart from the obscenities, I have transcribed it as related:  “Old Man Chambers only cared for one other thing besides drinking—auctions. Craziest man for auctions I ever saw. Didn’t matter what kind—farm equipment, collectibles, church going out of business—all the same to him. He’d sit in the first row—drunk most likely—and buy things, no matter whether he needed them or not. It was fun going just to see him in action. Amos Finch’d give him free coffee and say ‘Hey, Chambers’ over the PA—make him think he was a… Keep reading

Lida Pond

On a summer night in 1897, seven men who had been standing quietly in the burying ground grabbed their shovels and began digging. When they heard the scraping of metal on wood, Abner Pond and another man dropped into the hole and exposed the coffin. After loosening the lid, Pond tied a rope to the handle and the two men climbed from the hole. While another man pulled the rope and raised the lid, Pond held a lantern. In the ground for six months, Lida had hardly changed. Surely this confirmed their fears. Pond hesitated, unsure what he should do.… Keep reading

The Grave Digger

Thursday evening the burying ground admissions committee, of which I am a member, agreed to accept the final interment, the body of Sycamore Shadows native and prominent educator, Professor Ila Wiley-Bishop, who died last week in Castor, Pennsylvania. When her considerable remains are lowered, when the sound of a shovel is heard for the last time, when the stone is set and the grass is planted, our beloved graveyard will begin to change. Though it may be many years from now, one day the last person with a loved one in the graveyard will die, and this hallowed ground will… Keep reading

Life in the Shadows

Ada Sanderling wishes everyone would engage in fervent prayer to the Lord while at worship services, if only to relieve her of the burden of reporting backsliders. She says it’s often surprising how many supposedly faithful members keep their eyes open, while many of the lukewarm close theirs and at least give the appearance of fervent prayer, but she isn’t there to judge, only to report. An anonymous source tells me that progressive Amishman Herman Yoder has pinstriped one of his horses. Due to scheduled repairs and maintenance, Cleb Bowman informs us that the town car will be unavailable this… Keep reading

Wishing on a Star

If you are unlucky enough to find yourself in love, do this: dress warmly, fill a thermos, climb to the top of Walker’s Cliff, lie in the grass with your sweetheart, and look at the stars. On a clear night you can see the Milky Way, a faint path across the sky. You look into the past, seeing light that had travelled long when Jesus was born, light that will continue to flow a thousand years and a million forgotten memories from now, the past itself, energy born as Hannibal tread the mountains, light that burst from a star as… Keep reading

The Long Shadow of the Ellipsis

On a hill above Sycamore Shadows, near where Musty Groves shot Frida Goblocks’ pet rabbit, Flopsy Sue, three circular mounds rise twelve feet above the landscape. From the ground they resemble first-day pimples; seen from the air they form a perfect ellipsis, causing you to wonder if the ancient Americans who created them worshipped punctuation. Standing in the soybean field next to the earthworks—soybeans this year, at least—I understand why people visit Stonehenge. For over 200 years scholars have scratched their heads while poring through books and squinting at manuscripts, looking for clues to the origin of the mounds, coming… Keep reading

Life in the Shadows

SYCAMORE SHADOWS, Ohio. Curly Dowd, plumber, says the finest scent in the world is a toilet fresh out of the box.  According to Curly, each toilet has a unique scent. He will not install a toilet until he puts his head inside for a moment. “You have to smell a commode before you fasten the tank,” he says, “because your nose should be facing the rear of the bowl and you have to lean over it from the back. You can’t do that when the tank is on—your neck isn’t long enough.” Happy squirrel season. Leena Freeman has completed the… Keep reading

The Shadow of Aedre Tour

SYCAMORE SHADOWS, Ohio. Anyone wanting to attend this year’s “Shadow of Aedre Tour,” conducted by Mr. Jacob “Nippy” Keene, should be in front of the Church of the Lost Sheep by 8:45 a.m. on Aedre Day. (Remember: September 18 falls on a Sunday this year. Aedre Day is Monday, September 19.) The tour begins at 9 a.m. and will proceed through Aedre’s life thus: Begin at the Burying Ground adjacent to the church, where Aedre, probably suffering from dissociative amnesia, “awakened” in 1800, near her supposed mother’s headstone. Proceed down Kishwaukee Street and Plane Tree Lane to Sanderling’s Run (near… Keep reading

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