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Ghosts (Part Two)


#8 Phyllis Tabor, with Ella Rose, her twin, were pioneer aviatrices (is that the plural of aviatrix?) and also happen to have been Howard’s great-aunts. He had a special relationship with Aunt Phyllis, who shows up in other settings. Twins fascinate me; in fact, there are multiple sets of them in the Agincourt story. And in two of the three cases, death took one of them prematurely. What do you suppose the impact had been on the survivor? Perhaps Howard asked Aunt Phyllis before she died a couple years ago.

#9 Ray Benson was retired from the Merchant Marine and a neighbor of Rosalie Oakes, mother of Rowan Oakes. Rowan is married to Howard. Ray sounds a great deal like my cranky former neighbor Ray Jackson, who may not have disliked dogs but did seem to have been bothered by mine, Mr Moose, a twenty-five pound Cockle Spaniard. One day as I read quietly in the living room of the Little House, with the screen door open for ventilation, I heard what might have been pellets being slung against the front of the house and rose to see what had rained down on me like hail. I jsut got a hint of Ray going around the corner and then noticed what he’d thrown: dried dog droppings — none of which were from Mr Moose, by the way, because we pick up after the animals — which Ray had assumed were ours and then accumulated them for “return.” Ray was a man of action, if not words.

#10 Ernest “Red” Anhauser was the village atheist, a watchmaker at Salmagundi, Agincourt’s jewelers and purveyors of “precious things.” He, too, needed a second entry. “Red” exhibits many characteristics of Cecil Elliott, a former colleague at N.D.S.U. There are those of us who have stepped away from our religious upbringing and the select few who carry an active grudge: it’s one thing to be irreligious and another to be hostile.

#11 “Veterans” is as close as I can get to understanding Agincourt’s many contributions to war. At some point, there’ll be a specific character who can stand for all those listed on the memorials in The Square.

#12 Brother Crucible is yet another attempt to tell the complex story of religious institutions in the community’s history. I don’t know him. Perhaps you do. Architecture is one of those professions, perhaps the foremost of them, that seem to be monastic. So why not imagine an order of actual monks devoted, not to silence and poverty (though architects can identify with the second of those), but to architectural restoration. Visualize coarse brown franciscan robes with a tool belt where the knotted rope should be.

#13 Robina Lyle is very real, the public health nurse in my elementary school, a character so legendary in my own community’s history that an elementary school is named for her.

#14 Michael Corbett was someone of my acquaintance in about the 5th or 6th grade. When beating the shit out of me during recess ceased to be any fun, he then moved on to another target. Decades ago there was a TV show called “F.B.I. Files” which dramatized cases from the bureau’s archives. As luck would have it, I spun around the dial one evening — this was long before cable — when a snippet of narrative including “…Willow Springs, Illinois…” caught my attention. I knew people from there; went to school with some of them. The case involved the mayor, who was being sued for divorce by his wife — she having discovered he had been operating an illicit gambling and prostitution ring; hey, it is Chicago! — as well as the local police chief. The half hour dramatization of their solution involved drugging Mrs Mayor, stuffing her in the trunk of hizzoner’s car, driving to the bank of the Sanitary & Shipping canal, where the Chief pumped a few bullets into her drugged body, and then pushing the car into the canal. Actors, of course, played the roles but at the end, there was my grade school nemesis in a police mugshot, frontal and profile views. All things considered, I guess I got off light.

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