Lost in a Small Town




LOCATION:  Elsewhere

CHALLENGE:  3.5 stars

DATE/NUMBER:  22-Jun-2002/45


Some day, an answer will find us
Quite a long shot, but anyway
I think the past, the past is behind us
Be real confusing if not, but anyway - Blues Traveler

So, I'm in this used bookstore, (the books being used, not the store, of course, tho the store was by no means new), poking around in a side alcove, and notice this book I read as a kid: Slow Freight by F. M. Busby. It was some science fiction thing, and I remembered it being terrible. I start leafing thru it, and much to my surprise, a Cinnamon Altoids tin falls out of it. A curiously bizarre arrangement, I muse to myself. Well, at least someone found a use for a worthless book.

So, the tin contains a crudely made chain and a wad of handwritten paper. I start reading the paper, and its some sort of purple prose amateur writing tripe. The odd thing is that it looks like it was written by different people or at different times, like one of those stories where everyone adds a line or a paragraph to, tho it seems more sophisticated than that, like it doesn't seem like fiction.

I started thinking about what I should add. I'm thinking -- what the world needs now is a letterbox clue based on the story of Tam Lin. That's what I should write. That, would be outstanding. Then I start arguing with myself: is the Fairport or the Steeleye arrangement better? I mean, if they can debate Ginger vs Maryann, shouldn't they be debating Fairport vs Steeleye on Tam Lin? I'd rather debate Sandy vs Maddy. That's a tough one, but no one on the planet could sing like Sandy Denny, no one. Sorry Maddy. Not that you don't have the voice of an angel yourself. (And sorry Ginger, I must admit that I'm a Maryann guy. Isn't that one at least obvious?).

So, did she jump or was she pushed? They didn't find no killer, and they didn't find no note. I say she fell. I mean, why isn't that one of the choices? That hypothesis certainly fits the known facts. I think its important not to be mislead by false dilemmas (dilemmae?). Anyway, it was the greatest tragedy in pop music history, unless you count the hair metal era.

So, I decided to write nothing. I never wrote the letterboxing clue based on Tam Lin. I felt like writing: "Everything's a lie and that's a fact" (I guess even Meat Loaf knows his Godel from his Goethe), but decided to do nothing but simply transcribe the writing from the paper into my PDA, and reproduce it below.

He watched her swimming in the river below. This was their place, the place they snuck off to on those rare occasions they could be together. Sometimes it was to gather berries, catch fish, swim together, or simply to watch the river meander down to père des eaux, as they jokingly called it, through this place of rolling hills and lazy rivers her people called the ground of the gods, but it was always to be together.

He admired her trim, dark athletic body and long black hair as she stepped out of the water. She was unlike any of the girls back home, halfway around the world in the court of le Roi-Soleil. But it was them, not she, that he'd be spending his birthday, and all that followed, with.

Her wet skin glistened in the spring sunlight as she walked over toward him.

"My father will breaking down the camp and heading west, and I'll be heading home", he said bluntly.

"Yes, the news is in the village", she said. "Your father has been a friend, and he will be missed."

"I had something special made for you, something for you to remember us by", he said, as he pulled a simple gray metal chain bracelet from his pocket.

"There is no need", she smiled. "I already have something far more precious to remember you by."

Her pain slowly faded as she lay on the village healer's floor. Her thoughts wandered back to the traders who had left a few months ago. She clenched her bracelet as the pain grinded thru her like the teeth and claws of a rabid wolverine. She looked at the healer, sitting in a trance. Her mind now wandered to his vision that the traders, much liked as they were, portended dark times for their people. Dark times never to be delivered from. Some had died of strange sores and other ills, after all. That was only the beginning, he had said. What did all this mean to her, now?

She could not enjoy this moment as she should with clouds of ill prophesy hanging over them. She handed her bracelet to the healer, and gazed into his eyes. "Tell us what you see?", she gently asked.

"For us, all is lost. Those who follow bring greed, war, treachery and lies. The ground of the gods known nevermore. But in his seed, brightness shines out of the black, ere the moon shines 28 and 92 times, when the grand chief of the north anoints him in greatness. The two suns shine, and all see him as the greatest evermore, even as the traders' children in pitiful envy besmirch his name."

"C'mon, lets go", she pleaded for the third time to her teary-eyed daughter, defiantly standing on the side of the hill.

"Why? Why must our people continue to cross rivers?".

"Its that", she said, pointing to her arm. "They come for that once again."

"Great-great-great-great-great grandmother's bracelet? What could they want with that?"

"You wouldn't really understand", she said. "They came for it when my mother was your age, but we razed their buildings, and they never came back, until now. On your birthday, they said we could live here, now they say they need our land."

"Why? Why must our people continue to cross rivers?"

"Its not important now. C'mon, lets go."

Before leaving, she hastily reached into the hollow at the base of a tree where her toys were hidden, to gather them, and as her arm got stuck momentarily, she didn't realise, and didn't care, that she just lost a little more than her home.

"This looks like a good lot, Jack", said the Briton.

"Yep. Right here on the side of the hill, with a view of the river, and close to where they're laying out the downtown."

"You'd better grab that lot fast then. Our little town has more that quadrupled in size this year alone, and there's no end in sight. I hear we're up to nearly 700 people now. We've got a real boomtown going now."


"Hey, that tree will make excellent timber for your new house."

"Nope. I got me some money from the mines, and I'm gonna quarry some limestone. Last longer that way. But that tree's gonna have to go anyway."

"You're right as usual, Jack. Lets get to work on that tree."

"Hey, what's this? Looks like some sort of chain, maybe some lucky charm. Clean it up and give it to my old lady."

"Which reminds me! I hear she's expecting. Congratulations!"

"The ways I hear it", Jack said, "is that some damn old fool rogue just don't get it. He didn't hear the treaty, he wants his land back, and he wants to buried here, or some other crap. I'll tells y'all one thing: sure he's gonna be buried here, as sure as I stand here."

"I hear 'em soldiers are hunting 'em down like rabbits in the hills", said Little Jack. "Look! there they are parading down Main Street!"

The crowd gathered along Main as the soldiers walked by. A tall, handsome one walked by Little Jack.

"Hey mister", the boy said. "I got a gift for you, a magic charm!"

"Hey sonny. How old are you? Five? Six? It wouldn't be right for me to take your toy, unless we had one for all the volunteers. But I deeply appreciate your gesture."

Little Jack felt a certain awe that he had never felt before.

Little Jack walked the two-and-a-half blocks from his house down Main to the building that was built when the railroad came thru. My, my, the town had changed, he thought: barges, railroads, stage lines, grand hotels and the gilded manor houses. Certainly the lucky charm his father found way back when had something to do with it.

There was a gathering around the five story building. Everyone's attention was drawn to the balcony and the speaker there. Something was vaguely familiar about the voice. Little Jack stood across the street from the balcony and gazed up. It was that soldier from 24 years ago! What was he doing back here? Something to do with politics. Little Jack didn't know too much about politics, but still sensed that awesome presence.

Instinctively, he pulled the charm he had all these years out of his vest pocket. As he continued to watch the speaker, a scamp snuck thru the crowd and grabbed the chain right out of his hand. Jack chased him down Main another block and a half, but he was too late as he ducked into one of the newer buildings across the street, a house just two years old.

The speaker's friend lost the election. It wasn't long before the river silted up, the trains made fewer and fewer stops, and many of the townfolk packed up and moved on. The manor houses went derelict. One day the railroad stopped running altogether. But Little Jack never stopped looking for that lost charm.

NOTE 1:  Off-trail walking may be involved.

NOTE 2:  Be wary of snakes and other wildlife when reaching into dark places. No need to dig for this box. All bearings magnetic unless otherwise noted. A pace is a long stride counted on a footfall of either foot, i.e. two paces are counted each time the right foot hits the ground. Be aware of if or when there is game hunting in the area.

NOTE 3:  Please re-hide the thing well just as you found it

DISCLAIMER & COPYRIGHT:  PERSONS USING THIS CLUE OR HUNTING THIS LETTERBOX DO SO AT THEIR OWN RISK. Do not hunt this letterbox without reading and agreeing to the waiver first. Children, do not hunt this letterbox without the supervision of an adult who has read and agreed to the waiver. Possession of this clue does not imply rights of access to particular lands and route choices, or the safety thereof, including the location of the box itself. Always observe current local regulations, signs, property rights, and customs; you are responsible for your actions. Clue not indended to be taken literally or to suggest route choices; route choices (and the choice to proceed at all), are your choice.
This clue and associated stamp art are copyright © 2002, by Randy Hall. Permission to reproduce for personal use granted; all other rights reserved.