Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Crow's Nest 3-5



3-5

            A month past.  The telephone rang.  It was Margaret.  “I HAVE SOME MORE OF MOTHER’S RUBBISH I WANT TO SELL TO YOU SO COME UP HERE TOMORROW.” she commanded.  I did as I was told.
            Of course nothing had changed and Margaret’s offerings were pitiful from an antiquarian perspective.  But… three notices came out of this visit.  First, this trip became the model for near monthly, brief, all business, rubbish purchasing trips that went on for the next six years.  There was never an improvement in the quality of the rubbish and never a change in the formula of the visits.  From these junctures I had a private epiphany:  Margaret did not like or care about antiques.  She did not know or care about a good antique …or a bad antique.  Her gatherings were in imitation of her mother: they had no root of true interest or commercial caring to package them.  Her business with me in the front parlor was also imitation of the mother.  Margaret did what she thought one did.  This ritual of selling to me is what she knew to do, had learned to do, had been trained to do and obsessively DID DO “to keep up appearances” as she’d been told to do.  All my visits became very… very brisk as Margaret streamlined the process to suit her complete disinterest in ALL OF IT.
            Secondly I noted the progressive decline of Margaret both physically and mentally.  Frail, thinning, hair becoming not kept then moving to wild, the addition of numerous noises, grunts and mutters made to herself in front of me combined with distant looks above and away from our business …and… a general impatience… never expressed or acted on… towards all of the visit… caused me to call Margaret to be “getting (more) cuckoo”.  Margaret living alone in the giant old antique house of her mothers, wandering through it on endless day & night pilgrimages calling for “mother” to guide or …end… this expanding odyssey of lonely cuckoo became a very obvious horror to me.
            The rubbish she brought forth proves this oblivion.  It became clear to me that the old living section of the home, including the sheds and barns, were, unlike the front section rooms I’d briefly glimpsed, JAMMED FULL of “mother’s rubbish” and TRULY it WAS RUBBISH.  The mother never “kept” a “good thing”.  IF she had a good thing… it was sold.  All that filled these huge spaces was the residue rubbish rejected from ALL the mother’s rubbish she had gathered.  The mother did not leave a single treasure in her house full of plunder.  Margaret had become the heir to this oblivion; the curator of a rubbish collection bestowed to “keep up appearances”.  “I’d go cuckoo too” I concluded.
            The third notice was a one time query I made on this first visit.  Boldly I asked “Have you been to Blood’s Farm?”
            “YES AND TOO MUCH I HAVE BEEN THERE ALREADY WITH THAT DRUNKARD HUNTING NEIGHBOR BOYS HE THINKS ARE PIRATES.  MUSTER DAY WITH THE FIREMEN STARTED AS A BEAUTIFUL OLD STYLE PICNIC IN THE BLOOD’S FARM YARD BUT ENDED WITH DRUNK MEN SHOOT CANNONS AT EACH OTHER.  MY GOD I THOUGHT WE HAD ALL GONE TO HELL.”
            “The firemen shot off cannons?” I said.
            “THE PIRATES SHOT FIRST.  THEY HIT THE SIDE OF THE HOUSE BY THE ATTIC.  THE FIREMEN FETCHED A CANNON OUT OF THE FIRE TRUCK AND FIRED BACK.  Eb-bEE WAS BESIDE HIMSELF THINKING THE HOUSE WAS GOING TO SINK.  THE FIREMEN HIT ONE OF THE PIRATES AND HE FELL OVERBOARD.  Eb-bEE WANTED HIS HEAD TO PUT ON A SPIKE.  THE FIREMEN TOLD HIM THE FISH WERE EATING THE BODY.  NOBODY WAS EATING THE PICNIC. THEY WERE ALL DRUNK AND SHOOTING THE CANNON. I COULDN’T WAIT TO GET OUT OF THERE”.
            At a later date it was explained to me that the firemen had arranged this picnic AND a mock pirate fight on the river for Eb-bEE’s …and theirs… boys-will-be-boys style entertainment also bringing Margaret in tow for a reunion with Eb-bEE.  The cannonade lifted Eb-bEE to a new high of river pirate hunting.  He was over the top with excitement, ignored Margaret and… the picnic DID deteriorate into a “few too many cold ones I guess” and a lot of expended black powder.  What I specifically got out of this was the realization that Eb-bEE was NOT a drunkard but that Margaret used the drunkard term to denote and conceal …cuckoo.  She preferred to think Eb-bEE was drunk instead of cuckoo.
            I must admit that… I… became personally fascinated by this Margaret – Blood’s Farm drama so actually passionately attended each “come hither” call from Margaret.  I bought truck loads of worthless rubbish willingly, hung on each word uttered by Margaret for clues to deeper events, had more and more chance meetings with locals and firemen watching out for all three, vigorously absorbed those people’s gossipy utterances and… actually enjoyed my singular role in the drama.  The firemen did too.  Of all the people, THEY seemed to be the only ones who actually cared about the “antiques; the houses are full of them what if there’s a fire they’re VERY VALUBLE”.  The men did not have a clue as to WHAT any given “antique” was but they were absolutely sure I KNEW WHAT was WHAT and that they were… “VERY VALUABLE”.
            Six years went by.  By that time Margaret looked and acted like a frayed rope.  As for Blood’s Farm, I understood the Alice still held court below decks in her kitchen while Eb-bEE still hunted and evaded pirates on the river from the attic windows.  His head was not on a spike I was always assured.  At the six year mark, with no notice at all, Margaret stopped calling me.  For six months all was silent.



Monday, February 27, 2012

The Crow's Nest 3-4



3-4


            At this moment the front door opened and the old Federal doorway was filled with a large human dressed like an 18th century sea captain.  A voice boomed from this form as it stepped forward showing the captain shouting “YOU AIN’T A PIRATE WHAT DID YOU SAY PIRATE FOR HE AIN’T A PIRATE!”.  Down the steps clomped and lumbered the boot bedecked captain who at the bottom step looked down at the overgrown dirt path and then at me saying “WELCOME ABOARD SIR!  FINE DAY SIR!” He then turned his eyes to the sky saying “FINE FRESH BREEZE TODAY SIR!”.
            “See:  I know what cuckooed IS” said Alice softly as we both viewed the captain turn from us and clomp up to the river side corner of the front side of the house.  He very carefully peered around that corner.  He bent lower in a squat.  Then even lower in the same squat.  Then he stepped back and stood up behind the corner.  He turned and marched to the front door, opened that door, went inside leaving the door open and ascended the now visible to us front stairs.  “Pirates” said Alice.
            Quickly the sound of boots clomping down the stairs and out the front door signaled the captain’s return showing him to be carrying his extended brass telescope.  He went back to the house corner and slowly peeked around it with the telescope fixed to his eye.  He remained motionless then quickly turned, closed the telescope and walked directly down to us.  “BRIGATINE SIR NO COLORS.  PIRATES SIR.  MOST LIKELY THE PORTUGUESE AGAIN SIR.  TOO FAR OFF TO TAKE HER SIR.  HANGING OFF OUR PORT SIR” he said, stopped, looked hard at me and waited.
            “THANK YOU CAPTAIN.  PROCEED SIR.” I said.  Alice smiled at me.  The captain walked back past the front door to his viewing corner again.  After peering through his telescope for a long minute, he reversed, marched again to the front door and disappeared inside.  We could hear the boots go up the stairs and then could  hear the captain clomp toward the riverside windows of the attic.
            “It’s John Hastings’s boy fishing.  It’s usually him.  The boy knows the captain and his pirate hunting so never comes down past the house.  John’s old farm is up above on the river.  Always a very decent family and get on very well with Eb-bEE.  They never pay a mind to him and never taunt him either.  He’ll go back up the river in a minute you wait.” said Alice.  “All the firemen like Eb-bEE and support him; let him be just as he is.” she continued.  “They bring him down to the firehouse once a month to make sure he gets out.  Marches in the parades.  Attends all the supper too”.  They are all fine men and watch out for him.  They watch out for me too for that matter”.
            Down the stairs came boot clomping that interrupted Alice and the captain reappeared at the doorway.  “BLIGHTERS FALLING OFF.  WASTING.  WE ARE TOO FAR AHEAD SIR.  ANOTHER DAY SIR.  THEY NEVER GIVE UP SIR.” Boomed the captain from the doorway.  Then he surveyed the overgrowth before the doorsteps, followed that down to the old stonewall before the road and then scrutinized the branches of the large maple in front of the wall. “SURPRISED THAT DAMN CROW HASN’T COME BACK WITH YOU SIR.”.  We all looked up into the tree.  There was no crow.
            The captain walked over to us and speaking in a normal tone said to me “We are rid of it and all of them too she’s told you?”
            “Yes I know sir.  It seems to have worked very well for you and I am very glad for you”.
            “Very well it has indeed sir” he said and paused.  “Margaret’s never come back” he finalized.  Then he turned and walked back inside the front door.  The door closed and he was gone.  That was the last time I ever saw the captain.
            “Margaret put him on to the Portuguese pirates when we were little.  Told him they cut off the captain’s head and put it on a spike.  Scared him to death with her made up stories of the Portuguese pirates.  His whole life has been fear of having his head on a spike.  He’s the captain you know.  So it would be HIS head you see” said Alice.  Then she stood looking at me.
            “Do you think that could be true?” I said “That he misses Margaret?”
            “Of course it’s true.  They’re BOTH CUCKOO.  They’ve been that way together forever.  BOTH OF THEM.  Could never get past cuckoo to the obvious.  OBVIOUS to everyone else.  Even her mother tried.  The two of then should be up there hunting the pirates together right now.  That’s all they ever DID then so they should be doing it NOW TOO.  But its always been like this.  Margaret wants to be loved but won’t let Eb-bEE because he’s cuckoo and he will not love her because SHE’S CUCKOO TOO.  THIS pirate fight in that attic IS THEIR LOVE.  Even the crows know it.”
            “Maybe their love that way IS OK.  It’s THIS WAY; it is THEIR love.”
            “Well its fine that way if Margaret comes out here.  But she hasn’t been out here in a year.”
            “Maybe YOU should go to Margaret”
            “NOT ME.  But I HAVE told the firemen.  They’ll do something.  I know them”.  The last she said with finality.  That finality extended like a smother.  I tried a few more words but they smothered.  I flustered slightly.  Alice stood ground, watched and said nothing.  I excused myself… and drove away.  That was the last time I ever saw Alice.



Friday, February 24, 2012

The Crow's Nest 3-3



3-3

            Outside, loaded and having seated myself in the truck cab in Margaret’s yard… including having the demijohn bottle cushioned for travel but showing off in the center of my pickup bed load… I made a choice and… headed for Blood Farm.  Up the dirt roads, down the dirt road and UP into the farm yard where… as I stopped… Alice burst from the side door, eyed me come out of the truck cab and started yelling “NOTHING IS FOR SALE GO AWAY NOTHING IS FOR SALE!” to begin my… visit.
            “I KNOW I KNOW I DON’T WANT TO BUY ANYTHING I WAS JUST AT MARGARET’S AND SHE TOLD ME ABOUT YOU GETTING THE HOUSE BACK” I yelled back and that worked for Alice stopped yelling, look at me again, looked at the truck load and said “DID YOU BUY THAT FROM MARGARET?”
            “Yes.”
            Alice came right down the steps and went right to the back of the truck and started scrutinizing the whole load.  After a long minute she said “Well… none of that came from HERE.  In fact… it looks like it IS all Margaret’s stuff”.
            “I just bought it from her”.
            “That bottle’s full of her stamps” Alice said reaching a thin arm over the side of the pickup and pointing downward to the demijohn in the center.  “She did that when we were little girls; always put the stamps in that bottle.  Used a stick from cemetery flag to poke ‘em in.  Why’d she sell that?  I remember that bottle clear as today.  Funny bottle with all her funny stamps in it.  Can’t get ‘em out.  CAN’T even LOOK AT THEM.  She was cuckooed even then.
            “That was Margaret’s bottle?” I said.
            “When we were little girls.  Don’t look like its change a lick.  Except for the dust.  Used to be by the door in the living room.  In the corner.  Always there.  We always would look at it.  Sometimes we had some stamps to poke into it.  The stick was there too.”
            “No stick with it today.” I said.
            Alice paused while still looking at the demijohn and then said “Why’d SHE sell you that?  She’s just cuckooed now.”
            “Seems a little bit of that.” I said.  “Talks to her mother I think”.
            “TALKS TO HER ALRIGHT don’t she JUST but I don’t see her just HEAR them talk.  Came out LAST YEAR with that lawyer and THE WILL.  NICE MAN he is after I found out he wasn’t after us or the farm.  Nice man and kept Margaret straight and narrowed after she found out the will.  MRS. ARDSLEY kept her promise to me.  SHE always said to NEVER WORRY.  Well with Margaret I WORRIED.  Then that nice lawyer stood right here with Margaret and THAT WAS THAT.  Alice paused, took her eyes off the demijohn, turned from the truck back and cast her eyes up and down me.  “YOU KNOW WHAT:  Margaret didn’t seem to care.  I THOUGHT SHE’D BE.  But she weren’t.  Just stood with the lawyer there.  Never went inside either of them.  Stood there until that crow come down”.
            “Crow?”
            “THAT CROW THAT BEEN IN THAT TREE” said Alice point up into the branches.  “IT WENT IN THE ATTIC.  Eb-bEE chased it OUT.  It come down behind the lawyer’s car.  Hopped around.  Pecked the ground.  Then Margaret says SIMON to it.  Then says it again and again.  Well I know who Simon was; was her MOTHER’S CROW.  BABY crow pet when she was a little girl.  So I say that’s NOT Simon Margaret but she looks at that crow and says loud MOTHER. Well no one said anything and the crow flew off.  Then I said Margaret are you getting cuckooed ?  And she was cuckoo then and IS CUCKOOED now.  She’s never come back since but I hear they see her talking to the crows around in town.  Calls ‘em all SIMON”.



Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Crow's Nest 3-2



3-2


            At the mother’s house… everything was the same.  The front walk, the front door, the buzzing doorbell, Margaret walking through the house to the door, the key turning, the door sticking, the up the front hall escort, the into the front parlor, the modest mounds of “rubbish”, my chair and… Margaret did not sit down in the mother’s chair at the desk… as was her style.
            “I HAVE CALLED YOU TO BUY SOME MORE OF MOTHER’S RUBBISH.  HERE, HERE AND OVER HERE” she began with added air slicing hand gestures.  “HOW MUCH FOR ALL OF THIS RUBBISH HERE.  DO NOT INCLUDE THE FISHING POLES.  THOSE ARE FOR MRS. TAYLOR’S BOY.  FINE YOUNG MAN BUT NOT A BRAIN IN HIS HEAD.  GOES FISHING. WILL NOT WORK. ALWAYS FALLS IN THE RIVER NEVER CATACHES ANY FISH.  FINE YOUNG MAN THOUGH.  COULD BE THOUGHTFULL IF HE THOUGHT OF IT.  FINISHED UP LAST IN CLASS I’M SURE.  GUESS THAT CAN’T BE HELPED THESE DAYS NOW TELL ME HOW MUCH FOR ALL THIS RUBBISH”.
            I looked at the jumble of four fishing poles, reels and their binding ball of snarled old fishing lines.  I looked at the rest of the …rubbish.  A large 2 gallon olive green glass Civil War era demijohn dominated the front of the small piles of offerings.  It was half full of old postage stamps that had been torn or clipped from postcards or envelopes and pushed down the neck of the bottle… long ago.  A footstool, a small brass bucket, a valise, a table lamp, 19th century cardboard cracker boxes, a small box of glassware including a pattern glass cruet in blue glass, an umbrella, a parasol, a 1900 cast clay & painted plant urn, a stack of magazines, a stack of old books, a white enamel covered metal box filled with postcards and ephemera, a metal tray holding old tools, a very small box with three jackknives in it, a faded and soiled machine made wall tapestry of the “SPIRIT OF SAINT LOUIS”, a framed print of a country doctor visiting a home, another framed print of a church in Rumford Falls, Maine, a clump of wooden handled WWI era domestic cleaning tools, a not very old globe of the world, a pile of old women’s shoes, a small box containing old tintype photographs of mostly middle age men, an old dog collar, a stack of 20th century bumped & bent pewter plates of various sizes, three rolled up wall maps from a local school circa 1930’s, three boxes of jumbled rubbished, a single broken black painted carriage lamp, two perfectly useless old harden tar filled buckets, a random gathering of glass jars in a cardboard box and… HOPELESSLY MORE RUBBISH of the same ilk WITH… a singular addition of a WW1 era cheaply made fraternal lodge sword within its scabbard and having its cheap but flamboyant harness… too… laid on top of one pile as if a finalizing “TAH-DAH”.  “One hundred twenty-five dollars for all of it” I said clearly.  That price offered was the top dollar valuation of the demijohn assuming it was in perfect condition.  I did not inspect it.  I did not even touch ANYTHING.
            Margaret waffled where she stood, hesitated, looked at me, looked at the rubbish piles, lower her slicing hand and said “WELL… I SUPPOSE THAT WILL HAVE TO DO.
            It was gonna “have to do” because the stuff sucked.  I didn’t move.  I didn’t look at the stuff or Margaret.  I looked at the fishing poles.  I was glad couldn’t buy them.  “PAY ME PLEASE AND MAKE OFF WITH YOUR RUBBISH” boomed Margaret’s voice.  It awakened me and I looked at her.
            “What has happened at Blood Farm?” I heard myself say.  Margaret looked back at me, paused, scowled, paused again and said.
            “THAT’S ALL FINE AND WELL FOR YOU TO ASK BUT IT IS NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS.  EVERYONE KNOWS HOW SURPRISED I WAS.  I NEVER HAD A CLUE.  I ALWAYS JUST ASSUMED BUT I SUPPOSE ONE BETTER NEVER ASSUME ANYTHING.  IT HAS ALL BEEN WORKED OUT NOW BUT I NEVER WAS MORE SURPRISED”.
            “Surprise?  Surprised about what Margaret?”
            “SURPRISED ABOUT THE WILL:  MOTHER’S WILL.  SHE HAD A WILL.  NEVER THOUGHT OF THAT.  VERY CRAFTY MOTHER IS.  WAS.  STILL IS.  CAN’T SEEM TO GET AWAY FROM HER.  SHE SEEMS LIKE SHE’S STILL ALIVE.  SEEMS LIKE SHE’S HERE LISTENING TO US IN THE LIVINGROOM.  ARE YOU THERE MOTHER?” Margaret shouted past me toward the upper end of the front hall.  This moment, in hindsight, was the first moment that… I… realized Margaret …as Alice will define it shortly… “has gotten cuckooed”.
            Silence followed Margaret’s query.  Then she looked at me and resumed “MOTHER HAD A WILL SHE MADE WITH HER LAWYER IN PORTLAND.  VERY FINE LAWYER HE HIS.  HARVARD.  KNOWS EVERYTHING ABOUT EVERYTHING.  HAS ALL THE RIGHT PEOPLE READY AT ANY TIME.  CALLED UP AFTER HE READ ABOUT MOTHER’S DEATH IN THE PAPER.  CAME RIGHT UP WITH HER WILL.  VERY CRAFTY MOTHER IS.  MADE A WILL WITH HIM YEARS AGO.  EVERYTHING; ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING COVERED BY THE WILL.  THE LAWYER SEES TO IT ALL.  ABSOLUTLY ALL OF IT.  I HAVEN’T HAD TO DO A THING.  A LOT MORE TO MOTHER THAN I EVER KNEW.  VERY CRAFTY MOTHER IS.  VERY CAREFULL.  PROBABLY ALL FOR THE BEST BUT IT WAS QUITE A SURPRISE.  EVERYTHING IS SPELLED RIGHT OUT.  THIS HOUSE.  OUR HOUSE.  MOTHER’S HOUSE.  IT WAS ALL HERS NEVER MINE NOT EVEN NOW.  TRUSTED THE LAYER CALLS IT.  IT’S ALL TRUSTED.  THAT MEANS IT IS STILL HER HOUSE.  ALL HER MONEY TOO.  TRUSTED.  LOTS OF MONEY SHE HAS TOO.  THE LAWYER SEES TO THAT.  I DON’T HAVE TO DO A THING.  JUST KEEP UP APPEARANCES HE SAYS.  OTHERWISE EVERYTHING IS TRUSTED”.
            This oral blast from Margaret… I took sitting in my chair.  I understood the blast and… felt I might be getting a profit on my journey after all.  The mother WAS crafty and HAD “trusted” Margaret; set her up for life.  I got it.  The lawyer had a firm grip on all of it and… I bet it is worth his time and grip… were my thoughts.  “What happened to Blood Farm?  She owned Blood Farm didn’t she?” I cautiously queried.
            “THAT TOO:  TRUSTED.  SHE TRUSTED THAT TOO.  TO THEM.  TRUSTED BLOOD FARM.  TO THEM.  IT IS ALL THEIRS NOW.  AGAIN.  MOTHER TRUSTED IT BACK TO THEM.  IT IS ALL THEIRS AGAIN THE LAWYER SAYS.  TRUSTED.  JUST LIKE MOTHER’S HOUSE.  IT’S ALL THEIRS AGAIN AND MOTHER TRUSTED THAT TOO.  THE LAWYER SEES TO IT.  I DON’T HAVE TO DO ANYTHING.  THEY CAN LIVE IN THERE WITH ALICE’S RUBBISH AND NEVER WORRY ABOUT A THING.  I NEVER HAVE TO GO THERE AGAIN.  THE LAWYER TRUSTED IT.  HE DOES IT ALL.  THAT IS ALL FINE AND WELL FOR ME.  DIDN’T WANT THAT BOTHER ANYWAY.  BLOODS ARE ALL DRUNKEN FOOLS.  MISERABLE OLD MAN STILL FIGHTING THE PORUGUESE.  THINKS HE’S SAILING AFTER PIRATES OUT THERE.  MISTERABLE OLD DRUNK HE IS.  TRUSTED THE LAWYER SAYS.  SO ON AND SO FORTH.  COMMITTEE AT THE BANK.  LAWYER HEAD OF THAT.  GROUP OF MEN.  RESPECTABLE BANK MEN.  THE FIRE CHIEF.  FINE YOUNG MAN HIM.  THEY’RE ALL TRUSTED.  ETC., ETC.  MEET ONCE A YEAR.  SAME AS MOTHER’S HOUSE.  I DON’T HAVE TO DO A THING.”
            This second blast I didn’t understand precisely but understood the essence:  Blood Farm had been returned… in trust (?)… to Alice and the captain by the mother’s will.  It was theirs; all theirs and… paid for “in trust” (?).  That the mother’s lawyer was in charge and a bank and other men including the “fire chief” were the trust guardians (?).  Probably true and makes sense I reasoned quickly.
            “PAY ME PLEASE AND MAKE OFF WITH YOUR RUBBISH” boomed Margaret’s voice.



Monday, February 20, 2012

The Crow's Nest Part 3 #1



3-1


            “To wait”.  No professional action do I take more often as an antiques dealer.  I never thought it would be a “this way”.  But it is.
            “To wait” and do… AND THINK… absolutely nothing about …any and all… antiquarian ventures has been a standard default for me professionally and continually for nearly five decades.
            “To wait” is not fun, not pleasant and very… very tedious to accomplish …well …in a professional manor.  In the case of Blood Farm… and Margaret… nothing happened except “To wait”.
            A few days past.  A few weeks past.  A FEW MONTHS PAST.  A year past.  NOTHING HAPPENED.  I did NOTHING and …waited.
            Actually I did do SOMETHING one is NOT suppose to do.  I THOUGHT “about the stuff”.  Do not think about the stuff is the rule.  Do not think about the stuff no matter what even if six years have gone by, two key players have died and a major international museum has sent a helicopter to hover over the estate.  NO:  Never think about the stuff.
            First I thought about the tea table.  I thought about how the real Blood Farm tea table COULD POSSIBLY be in the mother’s house but always returned to the “she sold it” and… chastised myself for breaking the rule of… do not think about the stuff.
            This tea table thought and the rule breaking lead slowly to… the best banister back arm chair I ever owned that I purchased from the mother …decades ago thoughtS.  Starting with a mental “huh” the mind trail of thought lead DIRECTLY to the Blood Farm attic, the old captain clomping about that attic and:  Therefore that the chair was… PROBABLY a “THE OLD SEA CAPTAIN’S CHAIR NOT FOR SALE” hidden in that attic.  That lead to… skullduggery… and the mother.  A quarter of a century ago.
            I thought about that chair. 
            I had bought and sold that chair a quarter of a century ago …after the mother had purloined it using skullduggery a quarter of a century ago… from the attic of Blood Farm.  Actually she probably didn’t… actually… use skullduggery but used, I would guess …that old antiques-dealer-in-the-attic TRICK of “musical chairs” (here LITERALLY a chair) whereby …things of the “old stuff” in an “old attic” are moved around and… moved & moved around… in a slight of hand musical circle… in the attic’s dusty darkness… over time to become, when the music stops… no only where they weren’t before… but sometimes …NOT THERE AT ALL.  IF the tea table could be switched it was highly probable… I thought… that ONE DAY when the music in the attic stopped, that banister back chair sat down in the BACK SEAT of the …Mother’s car.
            After those thoughts and the subsequent chastisement for …breaking the rule… I stopped thinking about ANY OF THIS except:
            “To wait”.
            After well over a year had past, in the late spring, Margaret telephoned me:  “I HAVE SOME MORE OF MOTHER’S RUBBISH I WANT TO SELL TO YOU SO COME UP HERE TOMORROW AND WE WILL DO OUR BUSINESS FIRST THING IN THE MORNING YOU KNOW IT IS GETTING NICE AGAIN I WILL LOOK TO SEE YOU FIRST THING” she said without breathing, obviously using the mother’s telephone and… hung up that telephone right away.
            I went to see Margaret at her mother’s house the next morning.  I arrived promptly and punctually.  I no longer had “to wait”.



Monday, February 13, 2012

The Crow's Nest 2-9



2-9


            The captain went to a window in the cleared area once holding the Mother’s rubbish.  He peered out that window then squinted up the river.  He turned, clomped across the attic to a far corner darkness.  He bent down, rummaged in the darkness for a few seconds then stood up and returned across the attic to the same window extending a long antique brass telescope as he traveled.  At the window he peered through the telescope up river and said “BRIGANTINE! …NO COLORS!  ENGLISH… French… PORTUGUESE!  Too far up to take anyway.  No colors… probably Portuguese.  VERY DANGEROUS the Portuguese.  HATE the Portuguese.  Margaret tells me they cut off your head and put it on a spike.  I don’t want MY head on a spike!”  The captain lowered the telescope and looked toward me.
            I walked to the  window beside him and looked where the telescope had been pointed.  Far up the river along the far shore I could see a small aluminum boat drifting down the current with a single man fishing.  He stood in the boat wearing a hat and a tackle vest.  He steadily cast from his rod inward toward the far shore.  He was not a sailor and did not sail a Brigantine but he did show… “no colors”.  I looked toward the captain.  He had resumed his telescope gaze.  “PORTUGUESE!  Very dangerous.  Margaret says they are a worthless people.  No accounts.  Might as well be cannibals she says.  Lay-abouts.  Pirates.  Feed the whole crew to the sharks.  Cut the captain’s head off and tie it to the bow.  Drunk all the time she says.  Gallons of wine all the time.  Loose all their gold when they’re drunk she says.  Put my head on a spike she says.”
            I looked back at the river.  The little boat with the fisherman had stopped along the shore and was reversing direction.  The fisherman started a small motor on the back of the boat and slowly moved back up river along the shore.  It seemed to me that he knew to not come further down the river; that the captain might actually take action or that the captain HAD taken action in the past and he …did not come near the house.  “HE’S TOO FAR AWAY TO CATCH.  NO COLORS.  Not English.  PORTUGUESE FOR SURE!” the captain finalized.
            He collapsed the telescope and cradled it in his right arm against his body.  He turned to face me.  He was quite a sight.  He stood a full six and half feet tall including the tri-corner hat, and boots.  He costume was fully that of an 18th century sea captain.  He had an old rusty flintlock type pistol tucked in a cloth sash tied around his waist and …he lacked only a raised cutlass to assure me that MY head was going to be on a spike.  I stepped back from my window and away from the captain.
            “LET US TALK THE BUSINESS OF THE DAY.  NOW GET TO IT.  YOUR ON BOARD THIS MORNING AND I’M CALLED TO BARTER.  YOU’VE SEEN BELOW DECK SO TELL ME:  HAVE YOU SEEN ENOUGH?  IF WE SELL IT ALL WOULD WE RAISE ENOUGH GOLD TO BUY THE SHIP FROM MARGARET?”
            “Sell the antiques to buy the house?  From Margaret?”
            “EXACTLY.  THE ONLY PLAN I’VE GOT.  CAN IT BE DONE?
            I paused… then carefully stated “Depending on the cost of the house… which could not be that much… the condition you know… there should be enough money raised… I would think… but… how much land is there?”
            “A THOUSAND ACRES.” the captain said.  “MY TIMBER LANDS.  I WILL NOT SELL THOSE LANDS!”  Eventually it was public knowledge that Blood Farm rested on about one hundred acres, “plus or minus”.  At this moment a thousand acre declaration was possible trouble to a valuation except that …what ever the land was… WAS in the middle of the nowhere Maine that is filled with A LOT MORE identical “timber lands” …for sale.  “TELL ME THE TRUTH OR I’LL PUT YOU ASHORE!” bellowed the captain.
            Ashore?  Maroon me on a deserted island.  I was already on a deserted island FILLED WITH ANTIQUES.  “It would seem to me, sir, that the money could be raised sir.” I said.
            “FINE ENOUGH.  NOW GET TO IT SIR!”
            “Yes sir, but now sir?  We, sir, …need to know… first sir, from Margaret, her price sir”.  I said entering into verbiage THAT HE LIKED.
            “FIRST SIR, HER PRICE SIR!  YOU ARE RIGHT SIR.  HER PRICE SIR.  LET US GO BELOW DECK SIR AND SPEAK WITH MY SISTER. WE HAVE A BARGIN SIR.  YES SIR.  AND DAMN THAT CROW SIR.”  This last was said with the captain scanning the attic space in search of, evidently, the crow.
            The captained turned from me and clomped across the attic to the door.  I followed.  At a safe distance.
            Downstairs; “below deck”, Alice was waiting for us.  The caucus was brief.  Alice did “not want to sell anything”.  The captain bellowed his “only plan” again.  I, after two cycles of that stand-off neutralized it by saying no decision was needed about selling “ANYTHING” until “WE” “had a price from Margaret”.  I hammered that home with Alice deciding I was her savior AND the captain deciding he still had “a bargain”.  THEY would speak to Margaret.  Margaret would then contact me.  I didn’t like that.  It seemed to me I was suddenly in the middle of a bargain that included me doing a lot of work and …getting nothing.  I left and began… to wait.



Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Crow's Nest 2-8


2-8


            “We didn’t know that either.” said a voice to my rear.  I turned to see a large male standing in the open doorway.  He was back lighted by the windows in the hall so a concise view was impossible but I could see the large form, that this form was a male; a tall. robust, middle aged male dressed in an old Colonial style costume that include a tri-corner hat.  He stepped forward into the attic space and walked toward me.  I had turned to face him.  As he approached he continue speaking.  “THIS IS THE CAPTAIN!” my mind said.
            “We know the history NOW but it took us a decade to discover it was fake and another decade to figure out what happened” said the approaching male.  The attic window light took over his form and I saw full bodied late middle-aged male in 18th costume coming straight at me.  He was no ghost and his tall leather boots clomped on the old board floor.  He stopped his approach when he reached the distance a gentleman would cease his approach.  “It was Margaret’s mother who did it.  Mrs. Ardsley.  We found the label and knew something was wrong because our table never had a label that we could remember.  Our table had always been up here; right there.  It couldn’t possibly have moved and it was our great, great, great, GREAT grandfather’s gift to his wife.  The whole family always knew this.  That was that.  So when we discovered the label; I actually found it, Alice and I knew something was wrong.  We talked about it for years.  Then one evening just before Christmas, it struck us both in a flash.  Years and years before, just before Christmas, Mrs. Ardsley had begged to borrow the table for a holiday pageant at the Tea House Society.  Of course we loaned the table.  She took it off and then back it came right after the pageant.  She brought the table right back up to the attic and put it right back there where it’s always been.  We never gave it a thought.  Years later I discovered the label.  Mrs. Ardsley had switched the table.  She took our real table and brought back this fake. HOW would we know the difference.  We never thought of such a thing being done, never looked or never ever even considered such a thing.  Even now to this day we cannot fathom it and only conclude that this happened this way because there can be no other way”.
            “Did you tell her?” I heard myself say as my mind rushed through decades of transaction with the Mother that …came to the same conclusion as this captain:  That the mother would and could have done this but I too would never have thought of such a thing.
            “Of course I brought it to her.  RIGHT HERE we stood and I showed her the label.  She said the label was there when she took the table.  OF COURSE the label was there on THIS table but THIS TABLE is NOT OUR TABLE I reasoned back.  She couldn’t; WOULDN’T, understand me.  YOU SWITCHED THE TABLES I said to her.  She said no she did not.  What were we going to do?  Even then it was YEARS ago.”
            “What happened to the table?” I again heard myself say as again my mind roared through my history of transactions with the mother.  “She sold it” my mind said.
            “HOW WOULD WE KNOW what that woman would do with it.  It was years and years ago.  We always have hoped she still has it hidden away in that house of hers.  You know it’s full of her plunder.  She’s a PIRATE you know.  WAS a pirate.  DEAD just five days she is.  Might as well still be alive with Margaret already here trying to take everything and sell the house.  BURN IT you know is what she wants.  The fire chief told us.  Says she came right to him and talked all about it.  The mother owns the house you know.  Bought it years ago.  Years and years BEFORE she switched the table.  Alice says she did that to get her money back.  The table is very valuable.  We’ve always been told that.  THAT table is of NO value” he said pointing at the one I stood beside.
            I looked down at the table with the tankard sitting on it.
            “WHERE’S THAT DAMN CROW!” he continued.  “GONE I HOPE.  BACK OUT THE WINDOW I HOPE!  I came in here after you left yesterday and A CROW was hopping around in here.  CAME IN through that window.  WHO OPENED THAT I said and Alice said Margaret did.  I chased that damn crow around in here.  Wouldn’t LEAVE.  Just hopped around where ever I chased it.  THE HELL WITH THAT I SAID and left.  Locked the door with the crow still in here.  Figured it would find its way out.”
            I wasn’t listening.  I was still looking down on the table.  “The table COULD BE in the mother’s house.  She COULD still have it” my mind reasoned.  I looked at the captain.  His back was to me and he faced the window he’d just closed.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Crow's Nest 2-7



2-7

            Alice turned her fierce yet wispy stance away from me, vanquished her assertive glower and walked to the front hall with its stairway to the attic.  I followed.  At the base of the stairs she said politely “Go on up.  The captain will be there to speak to you”.
            I did as told.  I went up the stairs alone, confronted the closed doors alone, opened the proper not blocked doorway alone, stepped into the attic world alone and… stood there alone.  The dusty blank space that yesterday held the mother’s rubbish glowed as emptiness in the window light.  The remaining mounds of …rubbish… surrounding this empty space stood undisturbed.  The one window was still open.  The tea table was still there.  The tankard was still on top of it.  Quickly looking around to confirm that no one, including a “captain”, was there, I walked over to the tea table.
            After touring the antiquarian gold of the first floor this jewel of classic New England Colonial furniture… hidden in the attic… elevated in fact to the probable supreme inclusion in the estate.  Sure, for example, the… flat topped… highboy on the first floor, with its old surface and dangling original hardware… but long… long, long separated into two pieces of furniture… in two different rooms… with the bottom in the sun by a window and the top in the back of the front hallway darkness… was a “good” but… not a “great”.  The tea table was a perfect antiquarian gold nugget to my eye; a singular career discovery of perfection… in an attic… “untouched”.  I walked over to it.
            I took the tankard off of its top and set it on the floor.  I picked up the table and bent the top in toward my lap as I stood holding it.  I peered at the underside of the table.  Darkened patina and age toned wood with matching glue blocks showed an undisturbed old realm of “as it should be” antiquarian surface perfection.  A small rectangular slip of old paper was pasted to this surface.  I saw the old paper’s edges.  I saw the printing on the paper.  It was a label.  An old label.  An old maker’s label.  I twisted the underside of the table toward the window light and bent further to see the label.  I could read it.  The printing said “This piece was HAND MADE in the workshop of Charak Furniture Co., Boston, Mass.  It is numbered 266.  Made in Year 1931”.
            The tea table was a FAKE.  It was a high quality hand made REPRODUCTION now darkened, age toned, dust covered, soiled and attic hidden away… that I was holding in my hands.  I peered at the label again.  I read the label again.  I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, holding, thinking and:  I set the table back down.  I stood there looking at the top with its dust ring where the tankard had sat.  I picked up the tankard, looked at it quickly.  The tankard was real.  No question.  I set it back on the table.  I stood looking down on them both.  THE TABLE WAS A FAKE.  IN THIS ATTIC!  I couldn’t believe this.  I looked around the whole attic.  “It’s fake.” I heard myself say.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Crow's Nest 2-6



2-6


            “She died in her chair right there.” she continued gesturing to another 1880’s oak rocking chair that was a near match to her own in the kitchen.  “I spoke with her and went to the kitchen.  When I came back I thought she was asleep; just sitting there.  An hour later I realized SHE’S DEAD!”
            I was looking at the chair at the side of the room beside the window where a sitter could …look out.  “How old was she?” I heard myself say while still wondering WHAT to say.
            “Ninety-three.” said Alice softly.
            WELL NOW WHAT DO I SAY?  I didn’t have to say for Alice continued after the silent pause.
            “YOU’VE SEEN IT NOW and it’s NOT FOR SALE!”
            “Seen what?”
            “BLOOD FARM.  MY FAMILY.  IT’S NOT FOR SALE!”
            I didn’t dispute that.  I didn’t do anything.  I just stood there.  The house was full of antiques.  And they were not for sale.  That didn’t surprise me.  In fact I didn’t care.
            Alice, she had demonstrated, obviously was fully aware of ALL the antiques in the house.  She obviously knew they were “good” and “valuable”.  She knew ALL of the things in her home very personally and had for a very long time.  Sure she didn’t know the exact collector super facts about each iota of every object.  She didn’t know the detailed detail that probably the finial on the top of the banjo clock was replaced by a family member in 1889 to suit their personal taste, that the old tall clock (grandfather clock) lurking in the dark behind the door of the far front room had an English brass movement in a coastal Maine or New Hampshire cabinetmaker’s Federal style case or that the china service on the dining table had an age disparity of the plates being gold trimmed porcelain from the 1870’s while most of the serving pieces were Chinese Canton probably purchased by a family sea captain for his still highly regarded by Alice wife…  And ever more USELESS antiquarian IOTA of NO sense to the … WHAT DID I JUST WALKED THROUGH?
            I got it.
            ALICE GOT IT.  And evidently she had got the got it for a long, long time.  She got it from her mother… who died in her chair.  The MOTHER got it and SHE got it from HER mother… who died somewhere in this house.  Two mothers before that THAT mother died in the house giving birth.
            After that they redecorated?
            NO!
            They didn’t touch a thing and just put more of that generation’s “my things” ON TOP of the past generation’s “MY THINGS” and… kept on going until… the farm ran out, the money ran out and THE FAMILY RAN OUT.
            I STOOD IN THE END MOMENT OF Blood Farm.  Or did I?
            “Nothing is for sale” Alice said again.  “All of this: NO.  Margaret says she will sell the house and move us out.  No.  I will not leave.  No one can make me”.
            I understood the direction now.  I had been brought in to be shown Blood Farm because Alice knew from watching me… and from Mrs. Ardsley… that I WOULD KNOW.
            Know what?
            That I WOULD KNOW that… the antiquarian all of “all of this” was NOT the single select objects here and there within the family homestead.  Certainly selected objects were selectively valuable to the antiquarian market but in fact even those were not absolute stand alone finery.  No, even those were a part of a larger wholeness; a hallow ringed box of an old and decrepit HOMESTEAD on a river in the middle of nowhere Maine.  And:
            THAT I WOULD KNOW TOO that …this was NOT a museum, never would be a museum and WOULD DIE TOO when the LAST BLOOD DIED and…. THAT did not matter TOO for… then …and only then would the “THIS” I was standing in END and that then IT DID NOT MATTER… and never would… even if each antique collector had each object they “rescued” from Blood Farm in climate controlled protection, digital photographic on site identification and scholarly enunciation and dissertation.  AND THAT IS BECAUSE BLOOD FARM as I stood in it now… IS GONE. Then.  Then it IS gone.


Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Crow's Nest 2-5



2-5


            The trucks left.  Margaret left.  First.  She blocked the trucks.  I left last.  I arrived first.  Before I left Alice beckoned me with her craggily arm from the shadow of the doorway.  “When you come back tomorrow the old captain will speak with you”.  I wasn’t in the mood for that.
            “I’m not coming back tomorrow.  I’m done here”.
            “No please: you must comeback.  There’s so much more up there and Mrs.
Ardsley always said you would.”  Mrs. Ardsley was the mother… by married name.
            “Come back tomorrow?” I said.
            “YES.  Please do.  The captain will speak with you”.
            “Captain WHAT? is gonna speak with me” my mind said.  I said “First thing in the morning?
            “Perfect” said Alice and she grinned… at me… with all her brown teeth.
            The next morning I was there.
            Since I didn’t see Margaret again I didn’t have to talk with her.  I didn’t want to tell her I was going to …Blood Farm.  That attic space was serious.  Starting with the tea table with the wooden tankard upon it and moving off into the mounded darkness, a siren’s song of New England sea captain antiquarian gold WAS THERE; in that house.  I know an “old estate”; a generations old and intact New England family’s accumulations packed into a still-in-the-family preferably large undisturbed by renovation homestead… when I come upon it.  This one was an outstanding example.  I arrived in the yard fully intending to …get it all.
            Alice greeted me at the doorway.  She gestured slightly to enter by following her.  She said nothing.  She said nothing for the next twenty minutes.  I followed her into the house.
            She did not turn to the right and start off toward the front hall and stairway as we had constantly and only done with my previous visits.  She stepped to the center of this first room, stopped, raised and spread both arms, made a slightly upward “here” gesture with her hands and turned partially around toward me while looking over her left shoulder at me.  After a moment she dropped her arms and headed left toward the doorway to the next room.  During the previous moment I quickly surveyed this whole room.  Then followed Alice.
            The next room received the morning sun through its windows and showed a darker, densely packed dining room having a large Civil War era dining table fully extended to seat at least eight dominating the center.  This table was set with an old dinner service “soup to nuts” that was partially buried under additional accumulation placed on top.  These last looked like these placings had been going on for one hundred years.  The old yellowed candles, in the eight matching brass candlesticks scattered on the table top, bowed due to prolonged placement and summer heat.  Past the table and against the side wall was a modest sized dark hardwood Federal sideboard.  The old surface was a dry and blackened.  One top drawer was partially open.  The top was covered with dust drenched clutter.  A banjo clock hung on the wall between two windows.  It was not ticking and I could not see it well for it hid in the darkness between the glare of the sun drenched windows.  Alice, saying nothing, repeated the same gestures and moved to the next room.
            I followed into the kitchen of the home.  She repeated her performance; centering in the room and not speaking.  “Neat as a pin” described what was otherwise a time capsule Civil War era fully equipped farm kitchen.  Breathtaking actually, the walls were lined with shelves full of neatly arranged old china, iron cookware, kitchen gadgets, kitchen textiles, kerosene lamps and potted plants on iron brackets.  A small kitchen table, with both drop leaves raised, sat prepared to serve two against a side wall of the room.  Again I note that this room was “neat as a pin” although packed full.  It was clear to me that Alice “lived here”; in this room.  A single 1880’s rocking chair was to the side of  the old iron kitchen cook stove.  THAT was Alice’s chair.
            Moving right along we visited three more rooms.  Alice continued the exact performance in each room and said nothing.  These rooms, particularly the middle room of the three, were dark and packed full …YET NEATLY ARRANGED… in an older Civil War to World War I style.  This had generations of dust-settled-upon accumulation tucked, stacked, fitted and piled on to this original household arrangement.  All of this room filling was… neat in placement although dense and abundant.  It was not the work of a crazy woman hoarding.  It was the work of a woman who had a lot of stuff she wanted and only so much space to store it.  All of it was clearly “family things”;  all old and antique but nothing a collector had purchased.  This was Alice’s own crafting of her family’s …collection.  She had kept the whole house just the way it had come to her.  The interior was left just as it was after the Civil War and she had piled the later generation’s good things upon this and… tried to keep it neat and clean.  She had been, including the density of the packing, successful.  She had made her home a Blood family time capsule.
            Once in the final front room and when Alice’s arms dropped, we stepped through the front hall into the original room that greeted the side door.  Alice went to this room’s center and said  “This was my mother’s room”.