Community Bulletin – Shame, Secrets, and Scandal

This is your Community Bulletin for the week of November 5th, 2016

Well, if there is anything we’ve learned from movies and television, it’s that every small town has enough conspiracies, dark secrets, and bodies bricked up in basements to keep Capote, Faulkner, and Priest busy for another hundred years. The truth is that bad things happen, the guilty are punished, and nobody talks about it. Can’t blame folks for that – what’s done is done, and nobody wants to keep reliving the bad things that have happened. Leverite is no different. Sure, we had all the murders, affairs, and unsolved disappearances most small towns had during the wilder days of the wild west, but there are recent shames we just don’t discuss.

Then Ms Sixkiller showed up.

It seemed innocent enough at first. While staying with the Ansari’s, she noticed that they had a closet nobody ever used. She asked about it, and Mrs Ansari gave her the Marge Simpson grumble, and snapped “It IS full.”

She was invited to a barbecue held over at Amma’s house, and noticed that she had a second storage building next to her mushroom cellar.

“That’s…umm, that’s just full dear.”

Then Sophia had been going through the ephemera in the archives, particularly the poorly preserved specimens, and seeing what was salvageable. She refers to it as “scrapbook archeology.” In the midst of it all, Ms Sixkiller found the church flyer mentioning the homily entitled “no room in the inn… nor the manger, nor the shed.”

Curiosity drove her, but she didn’t want to be rude. She tried to be subtle, but folks caught on quickly, and answered with the common refrain “It is full.”

She tried being direct and asked Edna. Edna only asked if she was familiar with “The Man who Corrupted Hadleysburg” and laughed. She laughed and laughed before cutting herself off abruptly with, “The folly of man is no business of mine. I just serve hash-browns. What would I know about people doing the same stupid and selfish things again and again every generation even unto the beginning. Coffee?”

Well, when yours truly came back, his desk was covered in a stack of anonymous inquires, some asking that we admonish Ms Sixkiller against digging too deep, and the others all asking “When does this hell end? When can I have my garage back? Where is the justice in this world?”

So, here, in honor of Halloween, the staff of The Leverite Press wish to come clean. We apologizes to anyone hurt by this revelation, but we can remain silent no longer.

Ms Sixkiller, the answer you seek is… myrtlewood. Every home in this town has at least one closet, crawlspace, trailer, or outbuilding stuffed to the seams with myrtlewood geegaws of some sort or another.

And this is all our fault. More correctly, the fault lies entirely with all of us, except for Edna, who didn’t even dignify us with an “I told you so.”

See, myrtlewood is a pretty nice hardwood. It has a sort of knobby grain that creates beautiful veneers, and it pretty popular among luthiers. However, Sometimes in the 1950’s as the road trip became a popular pasttimes, every little tourist place along the coast started looking¬† that special thing that they could sell that exemplified who and where they were. They didn’t want to sell yet another plastic doohickey with a space on it to dry-transfer “Oregon” onto. No, they wanted something people would take back home, use, appreciate, and maybe even buy two or three of as gifts.

Hence, the myrtlewood salad bowl was born. It was pretty popular, but with the sixties and seventies, mass production in foreign nations like China, Canada, and Kentucky meant that new products could be made from turning random shapes on a lathe and slapping thicker and thicker layers of resin on them to create enduring knick-knacks that might well outlive the The Universe’s lifetime warranty.

And so, in the shadow of the Cold War, a new arms race broke out among gift shops and galleries to produce,new, unique myrtlewood products that, oh my word, you will never see in the next town or even in the next gift shop oh my word Zelda you have to buy this for your sister RIGHT NOW!

The end result was a few guys in China retiring early and every Goodwill and Thriftcenter in six states having a whole aisle dedicated to getting rid of this crap. It got so bad that, under Reagan in ’82, the EPA started a superfund to dispose of this material, as the resins used meant you couldn’t burn it without creating a toxic cloud of death, and there was no way you could throw it in the landfill without everything touching it turning into myrtlewood, starting a chain reaction that could consume the whole planet. It was a big enough issue at the time that the city council passed a resolution stating that the sale, manufacturing, or gifting of Myrtlewood products within City Limits was punishable with being forced to hold three pieces for every one you dealt.

Well, by the time the superfund money had dried up, Leverite was, mercifully, myrtlewood free. Apart from a few honest-to-goodness antiques, and maybe a few saucey items in private collections, the police never had to enforce the law.

Then…SHE came to town. Cable TV brought her. She seemed nice enough, The Lady from New England. She was in every home and on the table in every waiting room. She said that some particular geegaw was popular that season, and overnight, that color, or texture or thing was the only one in the universe that mattered, and everybody was going to get rich cornering the market on her advice.

The Lady from New England slapped her name on everything she could reach. She made it sound so simple, like all these fun and quirky things she did were her idea, birthed full-formed from her brow like a craft-store Aphrodite. However, behind The Lady from New England marched an army of lawyers and undpaid interns. They scoured the land looking for old ideas to present as new, or ways to sloppily do things and call the resulting blemishes “artisinal.”

The Lady from New England.

It turned out that Someone here in town, and we’re not naming names, had a cousin that served The Lady. The cousin was flustered. She hadn’t met quotas. She was afraid she would get axed, but even more concerned that “The Axe” was not a euphemism for being terminated, but rather, a literal descriptor of the means and mode of termination. Termination here meaning “to be beheaded, even unto death.” The Cousin in question lamented that her coworker, The Perfect One Adored of The Lady, was always popping off with these “great” ideas that The Lady used. You know, like Baby Blue and Baby-Poop Brown, or distressed barnwood.

The Perfect One had recently visit a thrift store, and found a bag of myrtlewood geegaws, which she brought to The Lady as evidence of a rich vein in the craft-market goldmine. Surely, in the blink of an eye, all that old myrtlewood junk would be worth a fortune on eBay.

The Cousin continued to cry and press her woes, but her relatives could no longer hear her. Instead, they were scanning their shelves, and seeing dollar-signs pop up everwhere they looked.

Because the sad truth is, no matter how many of the old myrtlewood housewares you get rid of, there are always more.

Well, gossip of this potential windfall spread like wildfire. Soon, the people of Leverite were visiting thriftstore and fleamarkets as far away as Colorado to strip them of every last splinter of myrtlewoodiness.

Floorboards creaked and foundations sagged under the weight of the would-be largess. Then the new season of The Lady from New England’s show started, and all she could talk about was Jadeite Glass. Jadeite Glass plates, mugs, personal care items, you name it. Display it with some old silverplate and you had a masterpiece. It was a very good thing for The Lady from New England.

The cousin drove out of town slowly that morning, as the people of Leverite watched their ships dashed against the shores. She had gotten her revenge: Her revenge against a mother that convinced her to major in poetry instead of chemistry, and against a brother who pronounced facade and charade “fah-Kade” and “shur-ahd”.¬† She was finally free.

The rest of us were screwed. Our houses were packed with kindling that even Satan didn’t want back, and trapped by a town ordinance that meant that even throwing the crap away could risk us ending up with three times as much of it as we had try’d to get rid of.

And so it sits there, walled away in garages and attics, until the day of our release.

So, with apologies to Mr Poe

“And our souls from out that shadow/of myrtlewood geegaws behind every door/shall be lifted/nevermore.”