The following story, like a few others I wrote, was inspired by a real person, Ben S. Clarke, a local Rush-Limbaugh-Wannabe whose mission it was to offend everybody who was not on his side. Ben used to be a political speech writer in Washington DC during the dark eight years of the George W reign. After W’s virtual disappearance, Ben was out of work, and his mother arranged a “job” as at the local newspaper where he could marinate in his frustration about all things liberal. Well, after a few years, Ben virtually disappeared, too, and nobody but his mother misses him. I hope he has found what he was looking for and lives a good life somewhere far away from my neighborhood.
This post is part of “Cemetery Polka” and other dark stories from New England by Wilfried F. Voss
The Last Farewell
The hour of departure has arrived, and we go our ways – I to live, and you to stay in Grand Fenwick. – Sorry, Socrates!
“You’re not having second thoughts again, aren’t you?”
Judging by my wife’s voice, she was concerned. “We have signed the contract, and we do need to leave.”
“I know,” I said as we stood at the end of the driveway, sadly looking at what used to be our home for the past twenty-three years; this old farmhouse with its leaky roof, the bathroom ceiling that collapsed three years ago, the antiquated heating system that never reached the second floor during the bitterly cold winter nights, the outside hot-tub that succumbed to the annual chipmunk attacks, the missing garage doors, the swimming pool I converted into the largest flower pot in New England, and the red barn leaning in a perfect thirty degree angle since the existence of time.
Considering the condition of the property, we wouldn’t have been able to sell our home any time sooner than this year, the year of my retirement.
Both our kids, son and daughter, went to colleges as far away from Grand Fenwick, Massachusetts as they could possibly manage. I am proud to say, they are extremely smart kids, and living in Grand Fenwick quickly turned into a no-challenge-situation for them, if not sheer boredom, since the time they could walk and talk.
So, why did we come to Grand Fenwick in the first place, you may ask? Well, after living in Boston, both of us with promising careers, we had finally decided to get married and start a family, and wouldn’t it be lovely to buy an old farmhouse in the heart of New England?
That we did, innocently, without the knowledge that a Chevy-Chase-movie like “Funny Farm” was not based on mere fantasy, but careful observation. Unfortunately, we had chosen a charming little farmhouse in the middle of one of several archconservative pockets in the most liberal state of the United States of America.
Living in Grand Fenwick involves maintaining a love-hate relationship, but that is a story that shall be told another time. During the last four years, we had received, accepted and then rejected numerous offers for our house, wasted seven real estate agents on the way, until, finally, we had enough.
Surprisingly, the last push toward the decision to leave came from my in-laws, both of them in their early eighties. They were excited by the idea of moving to warmer regions, and they quickly sold their home. The combined proceeds helped us to buy a horse farm in North Carolina.
The in-laws, accompanied by their grandchildren, were now on their way South, where my wife and I were about to follow them.
“Okay, let’s leave.” I turned to my wife and entered the Subaru with the large trailer attached to it.
Once inside, I started the car and we proceeded, driving down the road that would lead us to the closest Interstate connection about thirty miles away.
My wife noticed my disapproving look while she was reading the local newspaper.
“It’s the last one,” she said with a stern look on her face. “You said the last one is okay to read.”
I only nodded. She was right. One of the promises we had made to each other was that, from now on, we would not get involved with local politics, she by not reading the local newspaper and I by not commenting on my blog.
Yes, for the past five years, since the time we actually got access to a high-speed Internet connection, I had maintained a blog that turned from a personal log into a well-read nuisance for the majority of Grand Fenwick residents. After all, due to relentless posting, my website had surpassed the ranking of the local newspaper who maintained only a limited online version of their articles.
The vast number of threats and insults I received through my blog during the last years did not play any role in our decision to leave, but they encouraged me to set up a “Donate” button, allowing the residents of Grand Fenwick to finance my move to North Carolina. So far, I had collected $17.82 over a period of three-and-a-half years.
“I don’t believe it,” my wife suddenly burst out.
“What?” I was annoyed. Not another one of those incidents that would get us into trouble again. This is how this whole dilemma started.
“They have arrested Drew Gingrich!”
“What?” These were indeed exciting news. Drew Gingrich was the co-owner of the local newspaper, the Grand Fenwick Observer.
“For indecent exposure,” she laughed out loud, hardly able to contain herself. “Apparently, he wore regular shorts, but, very visibly, without underwear!”
“Listen to this,” she continued, giggling. “He cites medical reasons! His doctor had recommended air circulation around his genitalia. Unfortunately, he felt the desire to scratch that area in the presence of a bunch of sixteen-year-old girls.”
“That makes sense,” I said. “I saw him the other day at CVS buying jock itching cream. I am surprised, though, that incident made it into his own paper.”
“It’s in the police log,” my wife smiled, “and I guess, he had to spend some time at the police station. Time enough to let it slip into the paper.”
“Oops!” she added and laughed again.
Drew Gingrich, a well-known but odd character in town, was not related to the former speaker of the house, but rumors had it, he maintained a “Newt shrine” in his house where he met with friends every Sunday afternoon to discuss the political landscape while smoking weed and consuming alcoholic beverages. I have no knowledge of whether or not these rumors were true, but it would be consistent with the – let me put that diplomatically – erratic comments he left on my blog on a regular basis, usually during a Sunday’s late-night.
Drew grew up as the youngest of seven children with all of the older siblings being girls. His mother, widely referred to as “Mother Gingrich,” now in her mid-nineties, had put it in her mind to give birth to a son, and she wouldn’t stop until it happened, which included multiple miscarriages.
My wife particularly hated Drew for his articles in the Observer. They contained derogatory comments toward women on a regular basis, the most infamous referring to the line “that men are created equal,” which, in his interpretation, specifically excluded women. Needless to say, but at the age of fifty-seven, he had never been married.
We had often speculated in regards to his hatred of women.
“I don’t think he hates women,” my wife had told me during one of our breakfast conversations. “I just think he grew up without ever being able to wipe his own ass. There was probably always some girl around to serve him. He just doesn’t know better.”
“And, no,” she added. “I don’t think he was abused. You just wish you could use that in your damn blog.”
“So, how come, his sisters swoon so much over his articles? Wouldn’t you think they would be offended by his writings?”
“That I don’t know,” she admitted. “You’d have to ask them yourself.”
“Well, I am happy I married an intelligent woman.”
“Thank you! I love you, too!”
After all these years, married for almost twenty-five years, we were still able to enjoy each other and maintain a lively conversation, and the long journey to our new home wouldn’t change that.
“And, by the way,” my wife added, “your last opinion made it into the paper, too.”
I could only grin and shake my head. During the last few years, I had written a number of what I believed to be well-tempered ‘opinions’ to the Observer, the so-called ‘Letter to the Editor,’ and even my non-confrontational wife approved of them. Nevertheless, none of them had ever been published. Well, until now…