A quick family weekend in the mountains. 1918 wds.
|“Ok babe! I made the call. It’s all set up and paid for, let’s head out.” Jamie was hollering up the stairs to his wife, Jan, who was rummaging around frantically trying to see if there were enough clean clothes for a quick departure.
“He made the call” she laughed to herself. “Now I have ten minutes to pack for four people, or Paul Bunyan down there, will get his undies in a bunch.”
Jan called back. “Is the car cleaned out? Is it gassed up? Did you check the oil? What about snacks and drinks? Is the cooler clean?”
“Oh” shouted Jamie, “I better get on that stuff right away.”
They had made a snap decision to get away from the city for few days. Rent a cottage way up the mountain, above a shimmering lake of cobalt blue, nestled among pristine pines, and spruce.
No phones, no computers, no internet, “not a single luxury” they had both sung in unison.
Once the decision had been made they sprang into action.
Jackie, their 17-year-old, constant source of pride/fear/anger/pride had opted, not for the first time, to forego the family enrichment trip to what she called “no man’s land.”
To Jackie, no man, meant no fun. She wanted to spend time with her boyfriend. And a few days away from her annoying little brother, Kevin, wouldn’t do any harm either. Might just save her from a murder indictment.
Kevin was 14, very smart, with a bright future in computer software, but Kevin was short, pudgy, with a bad case of acne that made his face look like an angry little minefield. His older sister was merciless, calling him an embarrassment and a disease. Which hurt him deeply, because despite her obvious banality, and selfishness, he looked up to her and wished they could at least be friends.
“Kevin!” his father called.
“Time to wrap up whatever you’re doing and get in the car. Help mom with the luggage and let’s get a move on.”
“Shelly, get the dog and the dog food and hop in”
“Okey dokey Dad.” Shelly was eight years old and still carried her bear. “Our little blonde wonder” Dad would say. She could be shy and quiet one moment and cheerful and exuberant the next. They were never sure what triggered her moods.
As they all piled into the Cherokee, and prepared to leave, they saw Jackie marching out of the house, backpack over her shoulder, a murderous look on her face. She got in and slammed the door.
“What are you all staring at?” She snapped. “I just decided I needed some family bonding that’s all.”
“Oh no! Jason must have broken up with her.” Shelly breathed.
Kevin looked concerned. “It’s alright sis. He didn’t treat you that good anyway.”
“Oh, what do you know?” she almost screamed at him. “You’re an expert on relationships now? Jason and I have a little flap and you think I need your pity? Leave me alone. All of you.”
Kevin turned away, wiping tears with the sleeve of his “Big Bang Theory” sweatshirt.
Shelly retreated into one of her quiet moods, hugging her bear.
Jamie sighed. “So, I guess a few rounds of the Valderee mountain song is out of the question?”
Getting no response. He backed out and they were on their way.
It was hot when they left the city but as they reached the somewhat rustic town of Silver Creek, it was cooling off nicely. Jan who had fallen asleep with one foot on the dash and the other out the window stirred.
“My foot is cold. Where are we?”
They rolled past a sign that said, “Entering Silver Creek – Population 182”
“Apparently, we are in Silver Creek” Jamie replied. “Don’t look like much, does it?”
“No” Jan said slowly, as she pulled her leg inside the car. “Check out the guy over there in the red plaid jacket, staring at us?”
“Yeah dad. Thanks for bringing us up to Dog-patch City on this stupid mountain to be ogled by the hicks.” Jackie muttered under her breath.
“Did you say something sweetheart?” Her father asked.
“No dad, just enjoying the scenery.”
Kevin was straining to see around his sister and out the window. He imagined he was in an old west mining town. All kinds of colorful characters hanging around.
“Look dad, that guy over there looks like the Sheriff”
“Sho’ nuf, pardner, I reckon he’s the law around these here parts” Jamie said as he pulled in at a place called the Tank n’ Tummy.
“Oh please” begged mom. “Not the western cowpoke talk.”
Shelly giggled out. “I want me one of them Sarsperillers, pappy”
“Okay thar’ sweet thang. Soon as I put the feedbag on ole’ Nellie here, I’ll saunter out back and get you one. Anyone else want a Sarsperiller?
“I want me a Coca-cola Sarsperiller, pappy” Kevin drawled.
“Did you just call me ole’ Nellie?” Jan asked.
Jackie said. “I’m gonna shoot myself if I don’t puke first”. She got out of the car, slammed the door, and went over to some picnic tables near the building under some tall pines.
Kevin and Shelly followed. Taking Pete along so he could lift his leg on literally everything.
“Watch for cars!” Their mother yelled. They sat down next to their older sister who promptly got up and went to the next table.
Dad parked the Cherokee, dug some drinks out of the cooler in the back and settled on the bench with his family.
“Ahh, smell that clean mountain air.”
“Hey dad can we go hiking in the woods around our cottage?” Kevin asked.
“Yeah” said Shelly. “I bet we’ll have some great adventures.”
A voice interrupted. “You folks ain’t from around here are ya?” It was the Sheriff.
“We don’t get many strangers up here anymore. Not since the trouble of ought 6.”
Said with a deep baritone, slightly raspy, as though tobacco smoke was taking a firm hold on the vocal chords.
“What trouble” Jan asked. Unable to hide her concern.
The Sheriff ignored her. Turned to Jamie. “You folks enjoy your drinks and I’ll see you get on out of town safely.”
Shelly hugged her bear, moved closer to her mom. Kevin pulled the dog onto his lap.
Jamie stood. A good head taller than the portly law officer and motioned him away from the tables.
“We’ve rented a place Sheriff. The Gentry cottage up next to Gentry Lake. You know of it?”
The Sheriff listened. Pulled out his pipe and began the ritual filling, tamping and lighting. He looked up at Jamie and said:
“Well, my advice to you would be to forget all about the Gentry Place, especially that lake. Take your family, get back into that little SUV, and go on back to the city. Take them to Disneyland or something.”
“Thanks for your advice Sheriff…what’s your name? I don’t see a name tag.”
“Just Sheriff will do.” He said, puffing his pipe.
“Thanks for your advice Sheriff, but I have money down on the place. We will be fine for a few days I’m sure.”
Just then they saw the strange man in the red plaid jacket, leaning against the gas pump, staring at them. And another one across the street near the Diner, just standing there staring.
Jackie had moved over near her father. “Daddy this town is creepy. Those guys in the red plaid seem to be everywhere. All they do is stare.”
Jamie asked. “What’s up with those guys Sheriff? It would seem to me that maybe you got more to worry about in your little town, than a family coming for a visit.”
Jan, Kevin and Shelly had moved over to stand with Jamie and Jackie.
“Aww don’t pay them no mind. Them are the DT’s. The Daulton Triplets. They dress alike, and look so much alike that nobody can tell them apart. They think they’re being cute. The townsfolk just sort of generically call them the DT’s.
“Hey DT” the Sheriff hollered to the man near the pumps. Why don’t you go in and see Mrs. Ferndale. She’ll give you a Moon Pie. Tell her it’s on me.”
“The DT’s are my eyes and ears around town” he explained. “They are little slow, but no danger to anyone.”
“I don’t like the way they stare at us mom”
“Me either Jackie. Cm’on Jamie. Let’s get going.”
They all piled into the car. Jamie shook the Sheriffs meaty paw, thanked him again, then turned to enter the car. The Sheriff didn’t let go, crushing Jamie’s hand in a powerful grip.
“if you insist on going up there, you can enjoy the grounds and the woods around the place, just don’t go near the end of the dock.”
Then releasing Jamie’s hand, he said: I’ll come check on you tomorrow” He turned and waddled off to his squad car, pipe smoke trailing over his shoulder. The DT’s were suddenly nowhere in sight.
Twenty minutes of beautiful mountain roads brought them to a driveway with a sign that read: “The Gentry Cottage by the Lake – a little bit o’ heaven”. They had passed two leering DT’s on the way up and now, here was another one leaning against a tree, a motorcycle hastily concealed in the bushes.
“So that’s how they get around so fast” Jamie said. Pulling in and down the long, dark, tree lined drive.
Arriving at the cottage, they were surprised to see the Sheriff was there leaning against his squad car.
“Jamie said: “How did you get here so fast Sheriff? No way you passed us on the road.”
“I’m not the Sheriff, I’m just the deputy.” He said, tapping his badge.
“You met my brother in town. He’ll stop by tomorrow and check to see how you are getting along. I’m here to make sure you get settled.”
Jan asked. “So, you and the Sheriff are twins?”
“Yes ma’am. “You folks ain’t from around here are ya?”
“We don’t get many strangers up here anymore. Not since the trouble of ought 6.”
“What is all this trouble of ought 6 I keep hearing about? “Jan exclaimed.
The deputy frowned. Pulled out his pipe and began the ritual filling, tamping and lighting. He looked up and said:
“Well, my advice to you folks would be to forget all about this place, especially that lake. Get back into that little SUV, and go on back to the city. Go to Disneyland or something.”
Jamie had had enough. “Well Deputy whatever your name is, we have paid for 3 days here in this cottage, next to this beautiful lake, nestled in these pristine pines, and we are going to stay and enjoy them in spite, of all the weirdness of your creepy little town.”
The next day Sheriff Jeremy Daulton, Deputy Jared Daulton and the 3 DT’s, stood surveying the carnage. Foxes and coyotes had been busy dragging the larger pieces off into the woods.
“Looks like they got too close to the end of the dock huh Pa?” one of the DT’s asked.
“Yup but we both warned them didn’t we Jared?”
“We sure did Jeremy, warned em” good too, but they wouldn’t listen.”
“Well” the Sheriff said. The critters will clean up the yard. You boys get rid of the car and all their stuff. Uncle Jared and I will hose off the dock.”
“Don’t get too close to the end Pa.” the DT’s chorused.