Thursday, December 2, 2010

THE MAIN EVENT, THE MAINE EVENT…

The main event yesterday was a trip to Konriko’s Company Store, a shop next door to the Conrad Rice Mill, which has been in operation for 90 years and is a draw for tourists from throughout the country. I had set out to find fig preserves for Elizabeth, my youngest daughter who is visiting with me, to take back to California. She has loved this biscuit topper since childhood, and every year for almost twenty years now, I have been able to find the syrupy preserves here in New Iberia. The fig crop must have been a scant one this year because Konriko had none of the wonderful preserves on their shelves.

No preserves…but I experienced an unusual surprise as I left the store. When the clerk asked my friend Vickie where she lived, she was startled to hear a voice behind her say, “We’re from Maine.” I had already begun walking out of the store, and when Vickie caught up with me, she volunteered that the gray-haired woman who had thought the clerk was questioning her, lived in Maine. I had reached the top step of the porch when a strong intuition prompted me to turn around and re-enter the store. I walked up to the woman, who was still standing before the cash register, and blurted out, “You’re from Maine? Where abouts?” She seemed puzzled by my outburst but answered, “Aroostook County, Limestone, Maine.” I looked at her in amazement. “I lived there over fifty years ago,” I told her.

We enjoyed mutual surprise and calculated that she had graduated from high school in Limestone at the time my former husband and I moved there. My husband served as an intelligence specialist attached to a Strategic Air Command at Loring Air Base in Limestone and spent most of his days in a radar shack scanning the skies for enemy planes. Mrs. Thompson knew my landlord and the exact location of the farmhouse in which we had lived and which has been demolished, along with all the old frame houses in the neighborhood where the farmhouse stood. Sadly, the airbase is no longer a part of the town and its removal has added to the diminished economy in the area. “We no longer have a Main Street, but we’re working on it,” Mrs. Thompson told me. “And our winters are not as severe.” When I asked about the lowest temps of winters there now, she replied “only 30 degrees below zero,” which is a definite warm-up from the 52 below zero temperature we experienced one winter night in 1954. The snow cleared from roads around Limestone still reaches the height of telephone poles along major highways (a fact that caused my southern relatives to look at me as if I was fabricating a tall tale).

Mrs. Thompson introduced me to her daughter and to another relative who opened his top shirt to reveal a t-shirt advertising Limestone, Maine, along with a list of the inhabitants: 2,000 people, over 800 deer, and bears and muskrats in two-digit ranges. “I wondered why I put on this shirt today,” the man told me, “but it seems it was for your benefit.” I explained to him that it had just been one of those synchronistic events, a Maine Event!

I wished mightily that I had put copies of my books in the trunk of the car (which seems to be the best way to sell books anymore), but I did give them my name and the title of my book about the Limestone sojourn entitled THE MAINE EVENT. This morning, I revisited the book and am including an excerpt from the mystery I wrote about this small town located at the furthest tip of Maine on the Canadian border. It was published by Border Press last year.

   We trekked uphill to the stand of white pine and stood in a clearing at the top, looking down at the frozen St. John River. Rusty wanted to go deeper into the woods where tree branches extended outward like dark claws ready to enclose us, but I refused to go any further than the edge of the stand of pines. I had turned to lead them back downhill when I heard Rusty shriek, “There she is!”
   Not far from the river, on its western side in a little copse of white pines, I glimpsed a platform with a form lying on it. We scrambled downhill. Birdie Brun lay face up on a platform made of sturdy packing crates used to ship potatoes out to other states. The wooden crates had been carefully placed under a tall pine, a makeshift bier topped by a deep bed of pine needles. Her wide open green eyes looked up at the sky, and her hands were folded at her waist. The normally tangled red hair had been carefully brushed away from the fair-skinned face spattered with freckles. I put my hand over my mouth to stifle a scream…surely, surely I was sleepwalking. Then there was a rushing sound in the trees, and a large seagull swooped over us, seeking the ocean. I glanced down at the ground surrounding the bier and discovered what appeared to be the bone of a small animal, and absent-mindedly put it in my pocket…Suddenly, the tin-shaded sky formed a stronger wind that began to blow large, stiff flakes across our faces…

THE MAINE EVENT can be ordered through Border Press, P.O. Box 3124, Sewanee, Tennessee, 37375 (http://borderpressbooks.com/) or at http://www.amazon.com/.
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