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Eclecticaton

I lived and worked in a town where ‘horse sense’ was still a commonly used and understood phrase. People still sat out in front of a store that was still called Nelson’s Mercantile, “Ayup” was an accepted answer, and most discussion about town residents involved a short geneaology report along with the news.

It suited me fine. After the ugly and well publicized divorce (You’ve not truly felt like a slug until you’ve heard Nancy Grace sneer your name…), the fiasco that was the Jonsenberg case, and the equally publicized drunken soiree though Macy’s, I wanted nothing to do with cities, or anything remotely resembling them. So I’d sold off everything, packed my bags, and relocated (eventually) to Monville, KY. While it was named after the founder of the nearby mill, one Willhelm Mondski, I liked to spell it “MONville” in my head, for Middle Of Nowhere-ville.

Monville sported the aforementioned mercantile, an honest-to-God one room schoolhouse, a joint doctor and dentist office, three churches of indeterminate denomination, a small beauty parlour (“Marleen’s Hair n’ Nails”) attached to Lenny’s Auto Body, and the town newspaper, where I held sway.

Like I said, it suited me.

I’d stumbled across the for sale advertisement while driving aimlessly cross country trying to escape. I’d pulled over at the next pay phone (having tossed my cel into the Hudson), and bought it on the spot. Now I lived in the apartments upstairs, and printed out a small weekly newspaper on the ancient printing press in the back room. Nothing too fancy; birth and deaths and weddings as they happened, news from the few other towns in the area, a smattering of sporting events, and the ever popular gossip and advice column, written by the mysterious ‘Ms. X’.

Mostly Ms. X’s bits were gleaned from the latest chatter from outside Nelson’s, or from a cordial discussion with Marleen while her husband Lenny was occupied fixing some beater. The usual small town gossip; ‘so-and-so had been seen talking with that person’, ‘unnamed someone had bought fancy French perfume’, ‘young man & girl spotted holding hands’. Nothing shocking, although I occasionally had the urge to inflict NYC style society page drivel on my readers.

My usual routine involved walking out in the afternoon, making a slow circuit around town, down one of the dusty lanes a ways, then back into town where I’d filter through the chatter for next Sunday’s column over a bottle of soda. Same old, but comforting. I’d developed the routine of making up little stories about the scenery I passed- that gnarled old oak by the Henson place was really a portal to the underworld, and that’s why Mr. Henson was such a cranky bastard…The boarded up Jones’ place was a secret mob hideout. .. That big brown stallion over off of Main wanted to eat me (I could tell by the way he looked at me.)…

I’d been out for my usual walk, pondering the mystery of ‘shoes hanging on the power line’ (Why is there always some hanging off the wires, no matter where you go? Urban wisdom was that they marked the location of drug houses, but out here that was unlikely. Maybe there was a story in there somewhere…), when it came to me that there was a lot more noise in town than usual. Coming out of my budding novelist fog, I hurried over to Nelson’s, where a respectable sized crowd had gathered around a breathlessly hysterical Maureen.

“I’m telling you, he’s gone!” Maureen was screeching “And if he’s not over at that…that… blonde hussy’s house, then where is he?!”

‘That blonde hussy’ was Annabelle Taylor, Maureen’s arch rival. They’d been in competition for darn near everything since they both flounced into kindergarten- from who got to say the Pledge of Alliegance in the morning, to who was class president, to homecoming queen, coming to a head in the five years they were eligible for the Miss Monroe County crown, which Annabelle won 3 years, and Maureen 2. Maureen had her revenge by romancing Lenny right out from Annabelle’s nose. Local scuttlebutt had it that Lenny had never quite taken to married life, and dallied with Annabelle on a regular basis, although no one had ever been able to prove it, really.

Miss Annabelle, for her part, was sitting over on a chair someone had pulled out of Nelson’s, sobbing denials, and holding a rag to the nasty nail scratches down her face. A small gaggle of supporters were clustered around her, glaring at Maureen.

Maureen had paused in her diatribe, and blew her nose noisily into a hankie as I approached. I followed up her honk with a throat clearing of my own, and everyone turned to look at me.

“I hesitate to bring it up, but I did do some investigative work before I arrived here. Perhaps if someone could bring me up to speed, we could figure out what’s happened?”

I waited a bit, while the assembled translated city talk into local, and Maureen waved the hankie at me in distress.

“Lenny, well, he’s been comin’ home late all week long. Says he’s been working on Bobby’s roadster, but everyone knows he runs off to be with her, right under my nose, I don’t know why I put up with it!” she started to sob again, and I had to prompt her to keep going.

“Well, last night we finally had words about it, yellin’ back and forth. He grabbed his keys, and I said if he walked out that door to go cry on that woman’s shoulder, he might as well forget ever coming back in that door! He stomped out anyhow, and I heard him rev his truck engine and take off down the road! And now no one can find him!”

I turned to Joe Roy, the closest thing town had for a sherrif. He shrugged “Maureen called me this morning, she’d marched over to Annabelle’s to demand her husband back, but they weren’t there. She she figured they were in town, so when she got to Nelson’s and Annabelle was there, they got into a cat fight. But Annabelle says she doesn’t know where Lenny is, either. And his truck isn’t in town. As far as I’m concerned, he’s probably just gone for a long drive to get over being hen-pecked.” He gave Maureen a Look. Joe’s always been in the Annabelle camp.

I patted Maureen awkwardly on the shoulder. “He probably did go for a drive to cool down some, Maureen. You know how men get sometimes, we need our space.”

She snorted loudly into her hankie and nodded. Figuring the whole thing was settled, but the work day pretty much shot, I grabbed a beer from Nelson’s and decided I needed some space, myself.

So I set off down Crabapple Lane, figuring that I’d walk by Lenny & Maureen’s place if I took that route, and maybe I’d see Lenny driving back. It was a nice walk, scenic in that way that only random country lanes can be. There was even a pair of sneakers hanging off the wires, a worn pair with a big logo on the side, so I could get back to my wondering about the phenomenon. About ten minutes later, the penny dropped and I stopped in the middle of the road, trying to parse the detail my brain had just noticed.

Confused, I jogged back to where the shoes dangled off the middle of the power line, and just stared at them. Sure enough, they were a pair of standard issue sneakers, nothing special. What was different, was the logo patch on the side of one of the shoes. Not the shoe brand, but a custom patch reading “LENNY’S AUTO BODY-MONVILLE”.

What the hell were Lenny’s shoes doing hanging off of a power line? And if his shoes where there, where was Lenny? He didn’t seem the type to go driving an old truck barefoot.