January 5, 2013
“You can almost always hear what you need to hear, if you close your ears and listen with your mind.” –Loyd English, English Accent
If there was something peculiar going on inside or outside of Last Chance, Loyd English was the fellow who would sniff it out and maybe explain it a little. Loyd (that’s “Loyd” with one “L”) was the editor of the Last Chance Gazette & Publisher, our town’s most popular and only newspaper.
The identity of the paper’s actual owner/publisher was a wonderful secret; in fact, Loyd always said he’d have to take big decisions “to the board” even though everybody knew he paid all expenses out of his own pocket. The common understanding was that this is how a fair and free press operates.
Loyd English, retired champion competitive whittler and serious amateur professional journalist, printed the Gazette‘s weekly edition every Wednesday. He never missed a deadline, never missed bringing the truth to Last Chance’s citizens. Loyd’s English Accent editorial column was famous locally as a source of the kind of wit, wisdom, and common sense that’s mostly scarce around these parts, or at least very well hidden.
This is not an Advise Column. I do not offer Suggestions or Antidotes from my own Experiments. My Detention is to Tell You what is Right and Wrong, and how to Extinguish the Difference between them. If the Devil himself came Calling in Last Chance, would you Know Better than to Shake his Smoky Claw?
Loyd refused to clutter his office’s walls by hanging random landscape paintings or motivational posters of determined kittens. He anticipated winning the Pulitzer Prize and insisted there would be some kind of a plaque or certificate or other token of two-dimensional validation. It would be rather large and shiny; better described as gross and gaudy if it existed merely for ornamentation’s sake.
“You can’t eat one of those journalistic aggrievement awards,” Loyd would say often, “but you sure as heck can ram them down the throats of the competition!”
What a wonderful man, and with such a flair for word-craft! Loyd’s presumed rivals, likely to be local ham radio operators or writers of letters, were never identified or rammed.
This past summer, Last Chance found itself tossed into a chef’s salad of crisis. Outside interests were hard at work in their attempts to divert the town’s clean, simple pathway that meandered through a daily routine. As it turned out, the truth of the controversy was a bologna sandwich about to be consumed along with crispy potato sticks and a glass of cold milk.
Seriously, folks, Traffic Lights? For close to 200 years in Last Chance, Vehicles of Every Sort have Managed to get from Point C to Point F without Parishing in Fiery Collusions. Our Nobel Ancestrals Survived without Traffic Control Devices much more Complicated than HEY, HOW ARE YA, HERE I COME. Last Chance’s Oldest Citizens will Reconnect the day in 1937 when Our Town Erected its First and Only Stop Signs at Main and Center Streets. These were Important Erections, but are we Not More Evolved than our Four Fathers?
Within minutes of putting to bed this week’s issue of the Gazette, Loyd stumped down to the town’s municipal offices. If he’d had much hair, it would have been on fire that day. Chin up and shoulders back, Loyd bypassed the nail barrels, sacks of livestock feed, and lovely pocketknives lined up in the front half of Farm & Fleet, and threw open the door marked “City Business Only, Please.”
Constable Arlene was not at her station, one of two desks in the office, but Loyd was on his own investigative mission. Best to let Arlene get on with her job of questioning vagrants and opening accidentally locked truck cabs. There would be plenty of time for arrests and interrogations and leaked statements.
Loyd cleared his throat, and then a second time, before removing a loafer and banging its heel on the front counter. Most of Last Chance’s population had forgiven Loyd’s partiality to Italy-made mail order slip-on shoes, as well as his ever-present unlit pipe (carved by Loyd himself), on the basis these doodads made our beloved editor seem even more plausibly independent and journalistic.
Last Chance’s clerk and most senior resident flinched in his seat, and a suddenly agitated haze of dust enveloped him. Frisky Clinchitt’s exact age was unknown, even to his own self, although he was able to recount the exact details of events leading up to and following the monsoon-like rains and subsequent Hay Glut of 1921.
Frisky leaned over a microphone and began speaking through a public address system, even though he and Loyd were the office’s sole occupants.
“Yes, Mr. English,” Frisky’s amplified voice creaked. “What is it?”
“I demand information in disregards to the alleged traffic signal at Main and Center,” said Loyd. “It would be in your best interest to regrease these facts to me.”
Frisky nodded almost imperceptibly toward a row of file cabinets arrayed along the wall a few steps behind him. Loyd’s fingertips and eyeballs vibrated for the entire half hour it took old Frisky to reach the files and locate the document in question. At last, the Order to Install Traffic Control Device (Electronic), all stamped and countersigned in a most convincing manner, lay spread out on the counter before Loyd.
“There, you see it?” hooted Loyd, stabbing his whittled pipe stem in the clerk’s general direction and then back toward the work order. “These villains are playing shifty games with our parliamental procedures! Look, look at this! They’re so brazen, they’ve left their plan right here for anyone to see!”
“It’s a matter of public record, Mr. English,” Frisky Clinchitt said into his microphone, risking the smallest of shrugs as he spoke.
“Not yet,” replied Loyd, “but it will be very soon!”
In all of the Last Chance Gazette & Publisher’s years, there had never been an “extra” edition, even in response to any of former Mayor Taz Nelson’s three or four major scandals. That changed on Friday.
Some Folks Say, let’s Let Sleeping Dogs Lie, even if those Old Hounds are Lying in their Sleep, and that’s No Lie. The Response to this Bad Reasoning is a Lewd, Clear: HECK NO! Without a Well-Deformed Citizenry and a Strong Sense of this Town’s Mission, where would We Be except Outside the Gates of our Own Community, Waiting for Scraps to be Tossed our Way by Those who would Depress us? Anything that’s Good about Last Chance must be Preserved, and Preserve it we Will, Gentile Reader.
Last Chance is not known for the birthing of heroes—around here it’s just regular people and the occasional jackass. All of us together stared into the abyss of irrational modernization and governmental hoo-hah. The traffic signal scheme was placed on hold indefinitely. Thanks to Loyd English, the greatest thing since canned pasta, the whole town slammed on the brakes and said “whoa” just before making the kind of mistake that can unravel a community faster than an epidemic of pink eye.
Fate and good fortune are oftentimes in cahoots, and their collaboration creates a soothing yet non-greasy and non-staining salve that promotes healing. They slip a twenty-dollar bill into our wallet while we sleep, just so we can have a little spending money in our dreams.