Small Town Talk
Time was, you could'a fired a shotgun down Main Street at high noon on a Sunday, and not hit a soul. Nowadays, you'd get hauled in just for havin’ a gun - not to mention, you’d be likely to hit somebody even if you's a poor shot.
Progress, they call it. Town's gotta grow to stay alive, they say. (Hrhmm!) Fact is, this town was mighty lively some years back… ‘Course, it was a while before my time, but I know plenty about it. Most of us older folks do - we just don't talk about it. Plenty of talk went on back then.
You see that big house over there to the right? The one just beyond the tall tree. Ernest Schopenhauer built that house. They come from back East, Ernest and his mother, and a while later some more of the family come out. Dunno what brought ‘em here. They musta had money though. (Hrhmm!) From what I was told, Ernest and his mother, Lavinia, stayed in the ho-tel while he was buildin’ the house. Those days, it was a nice place and cost a pretty penny to stay there. Shame it’s in such a state now, just a rundown flop house.
O’ course, Ernest didn’t do all the work on the house his-self - he hired men to help. Boys, too. Paid ’em well. That started some wild talk. Where’d he get all that money? Some thought he musta been a criminal back East, maybe a thief. (Hrhmm!)
Story goes, he give ’em silver dollar coins. Twelve, fourteen-year-old boys gettin’ a silver dollar coin for a day’s work back then - whoo! That was somethin’ to start the rumor mill. And the mill ground out plenty, I tell ya. Rumors flyin’ around in the air like chaff, and no more substance to ’em.
That’s another thing ya can’t do these days - hire a kid to do work like that. Progress? Hah! Buildin’ houses was buildin’ character, you ask me - but nobody does… I worked my share as a youngster. Never got paid in silver dollars though. (Hrhmm!) Wonder if any o’ those fellers hung on to the ones they got. I do have a silver in-got that come from the family mine over in Nevada, but that’s another story. Anyway, back to Ernest.
He musta had money comin’ in by rail from back East. Postal service had whole train cars transportin’ mail back then, and a mail sortin’ place by the station. (Hrhmm!) Ol’ Ernest - well, I s’pose he was young then, or middle-aged - he’d go meet the train. Next thing, he’s out buyin’ more buildin’ materials and puttin’ the rest in the bank - money, that is.
Now, postmaster knew the comin’s and goin’s ’round here, but he was pretty closemouthed due to his job bein’ federal. He didn’t dare spread any rumors, or even give out facts about anybody, or he could lose his job. Mrs. Postmaster though - she was a different kettle o’ fish. (Hrhmm!) She was a busybody, that woman, if the stories are to be believed.
Mrs. Postmaster (I’m callin’ her that for convenience, ’stead o’ sayin’ “the postmaster’s wife” every time), she was friends with Mrs. Stationmaster, if ya get my drift, and between the two of ’em they had all the news before anybody else. Thing is, in a small town, there’s two sides to everybody knowin’ everybody. If there’s somethin’ good happens, whole town knows it. If there’s somethin’ bad happens, whole town knows it even faster. Way I see it, if ya can’t say somethin’ good, don’t say nothin’ at all!
(Hrhmm!) Now, where was I? Well - there’s a few different ways the story is told, but the one I’ve heard the most is, this: Mrs. Stationmaster and Mrs. Postmaster had been whisperin’ that the Schopenhauers come West ‘cause Ernest had done somethin’ unlawful, and he was on the run. They couldn’t seem to agree as to whether his mother knew or not. Just about the whole town got to be suspicious, one way or another.
Then, one time, Ernest come to meet the train as usual. He took his pack o’ mail, stamped by the postmaster, and his bag o’ money, and headed off. After he left, Mrs. Postmaster come in to see her husband, and she spied a letter that was dropped on the floor. It was addressed to Ernest Schopenhauer. (Hrhmm!) Did she take it to her husband, the gare-on-teed officer of the U-nited States Postal Service? No. Did she take it to Ernest Schopenhauer, its rightful owner? She did not!
(Yes, dear, I hear ya - I’m just finishin’ talkin’ to these visitors. I’ll be right in.)
My dinner’s on the table. I’ll just finish this up real quick and let ya go.
Mrs. Postmaster took that letter to her friend, Mrs. Stationmaster. They went into Mrs. Stationmaster’s laundry and steamed it open with an iron! Tamperin’ with the US Mail! Inside was a letter to Ernest Schopenhauer, which ya can see on display in the house there, along with some other old stuff if ya like that kind of thing. It’s a museum now, deeded to the town by the Schopenhauer family. (Hrhmm!) Well, nice talkin’ to ya, folks. Enjoy yer stay!
Copy of the text of a letter found on display in the Schopenhauer Museum:
Dear Mr. Schopenhauer,
It is with greatest pleasure that we once again inform you of the fortuitous results of your investment in the construction of railroads.
The prudence and wisdom wherewith you conduct your business is a testament to the strength of character you possess.
We commend you on your stated intent of using the profit from this venture to benefit your new hometown.
Please send a telegram informing us that you are in receipt of this letter, so that we may dispatch your funds expediently.
[Commemorative plaque found on display in the Schopenhauer Museum:]
This display is dedicated to the memory of Ernest Schopenhauer, philanthropist, in gratitude for the tremendous support given to this, his adopted community.
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I really love this story! I felt as if I was engaging with the narrator in a two way conversation. It flowed so well and had such a great cadence. Great read!
Thanks - Glad you enjoyed it! I had fun writing that one.☺️
Hi Cindy! I once had an English teacher who said: some stories are best read aloud. I absolutely think that this story is one of those piece. You captured such a beautiful accent and character. I love the spin you put on the end. I also loved the profession you chose to highlight as a lover of good old fashioned letter writing. Nice job on this piece! I noticed a worrisome comment below and reported it to Reedsey. Thank you so much for writing this piece! Keep writing!
Hi Amanda, Sorry it took so long for me to reply to your very nice comment! I haven’t been on the site much, due to projects other than writing… Thanks so much for your observation. Yes, in my head the story is kind of a monologue with stage set background.😄 You got the vibe! And thanks for your vigilance in reporting the comment you referenced - I think the user is immature.
You capture the dialect so well. People nowadays jus talk too fas.
Thanks! That character jus’ popped into my head an’ started tellin’ the story, so I had to write it down.
Cindy bringing on the nostalgia again! I just love reading your stuff - gives me the warm and fuzzies. Great voice here and such wonderful work evoking time and place. Loved the "Hrhmm!" throughout. Great work!
Thanks, Hannah! I don’t know where this character came from, but he’s been waitin’ to tell a story. I wrote the first three paragraphs months ago and didn’t know where it was going until this prompt came up. Now he’s got it out of his system!😛
Mid, my little pony is better. You should stop writinf and make my little pony cum jars