Saturday, January 26, 2013

Wes Takes a Turn With the Book of the Strange

Jocie Brooke here reporting from Main Street, Hollyhill. Well, I would be reporting except I have to do this science report for school about plant stamens and pistils. I know. Boring!! But Dad says grades are important and I can't just make something up. Pistils sounds like something made up to me. Anyway, since the report is due Monday, I'm turning over this week's search for the strange to Wes. He says he's no good at writing stuff, that his job is to help my father get the papers printed, not put the words on the papers. But I told him this "Book of the Strange" was mostly his idea and so it's his turn. You'll like Wes. Most everybody does, except Zella. But then, Zella doesn't like anybody.  

So here's Wes. I've got to go figure out what pistils are. Only thing I know for sure so far is that you don't shoot with them. That was supposed to make you smile. I need something to make me smile because science reports sure don't. See you next week if I get caught up on my homework.

Wesley Green here. I'm no reporter, no writer either, but I did pester Jo into trying her hand at this. Maybe I'd better tell you a little about myself before you go to thinking I'm a young whippersnapper like Jo. I could be her old uncle. She's hollering "grandfather" back at me, but I'm not about to admit grandfather age to nobody. So what if my hair seems to have lost its color. That could have happened when I fell out of that Jupiter spaceship. Orange Jupiter hair would've made me stand out too much down here on Earth. Folks might have figured out I was worse than what they call a "furriner" here in Hollyhill. Orange hair might be a dead giveaway that I might be an alien from Jupiter just like I've always told Jo. <wink wink> The one thing you can be sure of is that when you start figuring out strange in Hollyhill, old Wesley Green fits right in the number one spot on the list. 

You see, I wasn't born here like most everybody else. Nary a person anywhere for miles around can call me cousin. I figure I'm the only one in Hollyhill what can say that. Folks here are kin to each other on every side of the family. Even old Zella has a pile of cousins scattered around the county. Of  course, she picks and chooses the ones she claims. A person has to qualify to be kin to Zella. 

So you're probably asking how a strange old guy like me ended up here in Hollyhill. First off, I might be old, but I don't know that I've "ended up" anywhere yet. Second off, I rode that old motorcycle up in that picture right into Hollyhill back about nine years ago. Or maybe it was ten years. I lose count. Numbers up on Jupiter aren't all that important. We gave up keeping count of anything on account of all those moons up there. We'd think we had them counted and another one would pop up out of nowhere. Then being sensible folk, we decided not to worry about it. What difference does it make if you have sixty-seven or fifty-seven moons? Folks down here on Earth seem fixated on counting everything. Words in a book. Toes on a foot. Hairs on a head. Oh, wait. That's just the good Lord that numbers that last. 

Anyhow, I never planned on staying here. Just planned to work a few days to make some money to put gas in my old motorcycle and go on down the road. But that Jo was a cute little tyke at three or four and every time I said anything about leaving, her little lip would tremble. Besides she liked my Jupiter stories. Somebody liking your stories isn't something to take too lightly. 

So that's how I got here. Fell right out of that Jupiter spaceship going over Hollyhill and turned into a beatnik on a motorcycle. Now is that strange enough for you? 

(Remember, leave a comment and tell me and Jocie what's strange about your town or just say hi and your name will go in a hat for a March 1 drawing to get Scent of Lilacs.  It's got all kinds of my Jupiter stories in it.)


Monday, January 21, 2013

Hunting Strange on Main Street

Hunting Strange on Main Street in Hollyhill

Hello. Jocie Brooke here reporting from Main Street, Hollyhill, Kentucky where everything seems pretty ordinary the same as every day. My fellow reporter, Wesley Green, thinks I’ll spot something strange to report on here in our new venture, the Hollyhill Book of the Strange. But I’m still thinking the Book of the Ordinary would suit our little town better. He shakes his head at me and says everything seems pretty strange here to him, seeing as how he landed here from Jupiter. 

I can’t argue with that. I’m sure if I was up on Jupiter, I’d think things were strange. That’s the one that has all the moons. Wes says over sixty of them, but only four that look much like our earth moon. Think about looking up at the sky and seeing four moons shining down on you with dozens of others popping out here and there like bouncing balls. Wes says folks going out at night on Jupiter have to wear hats to keep from getting moonburnt. That could definitely make a book of the strange.

But here in Hollyhill we only have one moon to shine down on our Main Street. So come on and we’ll walk down it together. You can poke me if you notice something strange that I’ve looked at all my life and think is ordinary as can be. Of course, then I may just think you’re strange. 

First we’ll go down Main Street where the stores are lined up on either side, snuggled edge to edge. We have two stoplights – one in front of the courthouse and another up by the post office on the north end of town. The post office was built during the Great Depression by the WPA. That was the government giving people jobs and our little town got a great big post office out of it. That’s kind of interesting but not exactly strange since it happened in towns all across the country. Then again it might be strange that they built it up so high off the street. The workers must have had a fondness for building steps or maybe it was just to make the job last longer. 

We have two grocery stores, two ten cent stores, two banks, two drugstores, two ladies’ dress shops, two lawyer offices, two hardware stores, two furniture stores, two Laundromats, and two grills. Notice a trend here? Well, before you decide Hollyhill has two of everything which might be decidedly strange, I’ll point out we only have one newspaper office, one barbershop, one defunct hotel, one chiropractor’s office. There are three poolrooms that are off limits to kids like me. To make up for whatever mischief might go on in them, four churches anchor both ends of Main Street – First Baptist, Presbyterian, Christian and Methodist. The Pentecostal and Second Baptist churches are on back streets behind Main. Oh, I forgot the jewelry stores – two of them too. But only one men’s store. There used to be a movie house, but it went out of business years ago. Dad tells me when he was a kid there was a bowling alley in the upstairs rooms over where the wallpaper store is now. That’s strange enough to think about. Somebody bowling over top your head. There used to be an Opera House and hotel too, right across from the train depot, but that’s on a side street up from Main.  Oh, and I forgot the car dealerships, Ford and Chevrolet, that are right on Main Street. And there’s two gas stations at the end of town past that courthouse stoplight going south.

Whew, I’m beginning to wonder how all of these buildings can be squeezed along one Main Street. The churches and the post office do spill on down the street from the two and a half block center of town. And that most important building, the library is on another side street up from the Post Office. We have Andrew Carnegie to thank for that. I looked him up in the encyclopedia and he gave building grants to start over 1,600 libraries in America and Hollyhill’s was one of them. Thank you, Mr. Carnegie! 

So we’ve walked down Main and taken a side trip up to the library, but I’ve not spotted much strange. Did you? If so let me know so I can take another look. And meet me again next Monday. By then something exciting might have happened. Don’t hold your breath, but I suppose anything is possible. Even in Hollyhill. 

(Remember, if you leave a comment here or on One Writer's Journal, you'll be entered in a giveaway for an autographed copy of Scent of Lilacs. Each comment gives you an extra entry. Drawing March 1.)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Hollyhill Book of the Ordinary

Hollyhill Book of the Strangely Ordinary – 1964

Jocie Brooke here reporting that it’s been another ordinary day here in Hollyhill. More of the same. That’s how it is in Hollyhill. People get up with the sun, go to work, come home to supper and sit on their couches until bedtime watching whatever channel might be coming in best on their television sets.

               Wes tells me all the time that we should write the Hollyhill Book of the Strange. I say if we did, it would be a mighty short book. But he just smiles his Jupiter smile and says maybe it’s time I opened my eyes wider and looked around. That strange is bubbling up all around me. There is Zella, I suppose. She’s been working for my dad at the newspaper office since forever and strange could definitely be her middle name! Wes thought I was making a good start when I told him that. Zella and Wes don’t exactly see eye to eye. She’s been wishing Wes would leave town for years, and it’s no secret she thinks the first day of school is the best day of the year since it means I won’t be underfoot at the newspaper every hour of the day.

But then Wes tells me not to forget about him when it comes to strange. He is a little different. So different that for years I almost believed him when he said he fell out of a Jupiter spaceship and that’s how he got stuck here in Hollyhill. He claimed to just be killing time until another spaceship showed up to rescue him. But now that I’m thirteen, I know when Wes is pulling my leg. At least I think I do.

Still, his Jupiter stories can be pretty convincing. Like how Jupiterians don’t dare comb their hair down flat because if they do it grows back into their scalp and tickles their brains and nobody likes their brains tickled. Wes says that can cause all sorts of complications like making you want to run for mayor or eating sugar on your cereal instead of salt.

“You don’t eat salt on your cereal,” I told him the first time he came out with that story.

“I don’t? Uh-oh.” Wes pushed his hand through his gray hair to jerk it up away from his head. “Next thing you know I’ll be handing out combs that say Wesley Green for Mayor. Green combs.”

“Not a bad idea.” I laughed.

“Mayor Green.” Wes kept a straight face. “Does have a catchy sound to it.”

“So what will be your first official act after you get in office, Mayor Green?” I pulled out my little notebook to jot down notes. I keep it handy for any good stories I stumble across. Wes being mayor would be a story and half.

“Suspend all city council meetings indefinitely. Eliminate library fines on overdue books and give every kid in town a bicycle.”

I scribbled a few words before I said, “You’ve got my vote.” Wes knew I’d been wanting a new bicycle forever, but that’s what politicians do. Figure out what to promise to get votes. Doesn’t matter all that much if the promises are kept. Folks like to hope.

Wes finally grinned. “Now if that ever happens, you’ve got a fine entry into that book of the strange you’re thinking about writing. Mayor Green.”

“But it hasn’t happened.”

“Yet,” Wes said. “And I got to admit it ain’t likely to no matter how tickled my Jupiter brain gets, but you open your eyes up a little and you’re liable to find strange on every corner of Hollyhill.”

So here I am. Jocie Brooke with eyes wide open and looking but all I’m seeing is everyday ordinary. But maybe with a little help from you, I can start seeing things in Hollyhill that if they aren’t strange, at least they might almost be interesting. Let me look around a while and I’ll get back to you next week. Maybe it takes time to spot strange in a little town like Hollyhill. 

Oh, and if strange things are going on in your little towns, be sure to share them here. Maybe something the same might just happen in Hollyhill.