|Long Night Cafe|
You know, Petunia, humans are weird.
They are probably no weirder en masse than any of the people of little Suschewalden. Although in Suschwalden on the first high tide after the summer equinox the curious event of fish fall is celebrated, if that is the right word. Fish Fall is an event that happened in historical Suschewalden when for no apparent scientific reason fish of all species and persuasions spontaneously committed mass suicide on the foreshores of the little town at the end of winter. Aside from being a notably smelly affair, it was a completely unexpected answer to the question of empty larders that had come to a head over the previous hard season. Henceforth, so folklore has it, the grateful citizens celebrated this event by throwing a bucket of fish on the town beach; a tradition continued to this day when hundreds of citizens with their buckets converge on the coves and beaches of Suschewalden. Generally to the delight of the town’s resident seagulls and dolphins, and the consternation of sunbathing tourists. Why the event is commemorated in mid-summer during the height of the tourist season, instead of say, at the beginning of the spring thaw for example, is a question only STOOP (Suschewalden Tourism and Other Opportunities Promotions Committee) could answer.
On this particular occasion the local police in the figure of Officer Hadrikson were in charge of firing the starter pistol to begin the festive fish throwing. He squinted into the sky and noted the presence of a very large flock of unidentifiable birds lazily circling high in the sky. The crowd shuffled expectantly behind him on the promenade, the clunk of buckets and the occasional murmur along the lines of “That’s a nice haddock” being the only sounds. The normal shush of the waves and happy chatter from holiday goers on the beach several metres below, wafted up to the crowd, only to be damped by the anticipatory silence. All eyes watched the town hall clock as its hands stiffly jolted towards the magical moment of 11.27am; the official start of Fish Fall.
The pistol shot startled the seagulls into flight and the tourists upright on their beach towels. The luckless ones were those who had chosen to sit close to the promenade’s high stone wall. They received the full bountiful blessing of the Suschewalden fishing fleet’s catch of the day; or previous day to be exact (and in the case of a few thrifty citizens the catch of some days past). Mrs Bowsplint, the town’s prominent hairdresser and keeper of knowledge, threw her bucket load over the chain which looped along the top of the wall. She was satisfied to see that she would be receiving a few clients this afternoon in her salon. The special shampoo and conditioner she kept on hand for just this occasion, which removed the oily residue of fish scale, was remarkably effective.
Tony Alboney of “A Pressing Hurry” drycleaning was also suitably content as he surveyed the astonished faces of the hapless tourists below. He waved cheerfully at those shouting from the water’s edge. This year he had cunningly attached his business cards to his fish so clients could find his laundry more easily. It was likely business would be good over the next few days as Fish Fall ran the customary three days, and the local college students took to their traditional light-hearted shenanigans of spontaneous fish fall pranks. He also pretended to not see the daggers Mrs Bowsflint shot him when she spied one of the card-carrying fish on the beach below. She never liked someone stealing a march on her, even if they weren’t in the same business. He mentally reviewed his security system and reminded himself to triple lock the doors on the drying rooms and pick-up area. It had taken him weeks to pick out all the cooked fish from his dryers last time.
You know, Petunia, one of the most glorious things about writing is that you tend to be more than one person at a time.
No one in Suschewalden was more than one person at a time of course. Although the police office was manned by just one person, Officer W.D. Hadrikson, who was also the town's postmaster, out-of-hours librarian, domestic animal control officer, Park Ranger and fireman. The last office was voluntary and he was not the only person in the Suschewalden Voluntary Fire Brigade. This was just as well, since summer was peak fire season and ever since the Suschewalden Tourism and Other Opportunities Promotions Committee or STOOP as they preferred to be called for some reason, started advertising the glories of camping in the magnificent Suschewalden woods, at least once a week tourists set fire to something or themselves. Of course Officer Hadrikson spent most of his time on law enforcement, hunting down overdue library fine offenders and the like. He was one of the few unmarried eligible bachelors in town and reasons for his unattached state ranged from the tragic (a past lost love) to the sinister (he was an ex-Mafia informant living under an alias). His air of mystery was assured when he refrained from sharing his first or middle name, preferring to be called just WD or Dee. Mrs Bowsflint had it on good authority he had been jilted at the alter, or so she said, and she had taken pains to make sure there were always at least two or three attractive single girls in the salon any time he came in for a haircut. Men were always happier when they had someone to worry about in their spare time and she liked people to be happy.
Hairdressers are of course not without their skills. Indeed apart from keeping the Suschewalden citizens' locks tidy and attractively coloured, they hold the office of knowledge keepers. So, if anyone knows anything about anyone it's Florence Bowsflint, the owner of Hair-Lock the only hairdresser and barber in town. She cuts and colours the women's hair and her husband Reg looks after the men. The only person who has never visited her establishment is Mr Holtsmyer the florist. The fact that he has a cranium of thriving follicles only adds insult to injury as far as Florence is concerned. But he keeps his secrets and his hair studiously away from her salon, despite the coupons and cut-price vouchers she regularly slips into his mailbox or leaves on his counter. Each time, the little slips of paper reappear on her counter with a single seasonal flower. No note, no mention of them in conversation, just the single flower and the untouched vouchers. What perhaps annoys her the most is his apparent complete unconcern about the black mane he casually braids into a long cue which swings a confident pendulum across his back as he walks past her shop. Her fingers convulsively snip the big silver hairdressing scissors even as she returns his cheery wave through the front glass-window. She says people with secrets were not to be trusted.
I know I did not promise posts, but I am now sharing the Chronicles of Suschewalden with you here. I know you can click the link to my site but in case that is too much effort, here is the verbage. For the rest of the preceeding post, which is not about Suschenwalden, you will have to go to the bother of clicking the button. Good luck.
I think it’s good to reflect on things bigger than ourselves from time to time.
I think of you, Petunia, a little like the “Wow” – I don’t expect you to call back, but I know you are out there, somewhere.
I also think Frans Holtsmeyer who owns the flower shop on Mains Street is a little like you, from the flower perspective, and I have it on good authority that he owns a telescope. Not that I am insinuating that owning a telescope should in any way make him any more extraordinary than anyone else here in Suschewalden. Of course no one else owns a telescope. Or lives on a cliff-side house with a widow’s walk that overlooks the gorge. Or spends his nights on the walk with that huge telescope fixed up at the sky. But everyone should have a hobby, it keeps them out of mischief. I think he’s looking for comets. Well, one comet in particular. I do hope he doesn’t find it.
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