The Rockport Miracles Part 2 Episode 5 Fiction by Scott MacGregor

Rockport Miracles

Part 2: Episode 5  “Family Matters” 

A 1969 map of Rockport revealed a city shaped like a shaggy rectangle. Only two miles deep and five miles wide, its dimensions made it an ideal sized town to maintain, serve and protect. 

In 1970, the map was revised to show a big gash up its midsection after Rockport’s annual Christmas tree bonfire festival devolved into disaster when a freak windstorm out of the north scattered flaming trees into the guts of the town and set hundreds of houses and buildings ablaze. Many died or were injured in the storm. Then, as if by design, the windstorm was immediately followed by a wave of heavy wet snowfall that subsequently extinguished all of the ravaging fires. Some called that a Rockport miracle. 

Wren Mathews and I had escaped the chaos at Lakefront Park and ran eight blocks to her parents’ house. We were relieved to find her home literally untouched by the storm, another miracle when you consider that all the other houses on her street were damaged or destroyed. Relief immediately turned to shock (at least for me) when we entered her house and found Wren’s mother unconscious on the living room floor. I feared that she was dead until we discovered a half finished bottle of vodka next to her. 

“She’ll be OK,” said Wren sadly, “this isn’t unusual.” She said that her mother tended to “freak out” during storms. I looked around the house and asked, “Where’s your Dad?” Wren wouldn’t answer at first. Instead she said, “Help me get Mom off the floor.” Her mother was a slight woman and easy to pick up. We gently laid her on the sofa after which Wren decided to answer my question. “We don’t know where Dad is,” she said, “pesky family matters aren’t his concern anymore since Sparrow left us.” 

A Polaroid camera laying on a table by the front bay window kindled my curiosity. It was the old-style instant camera where a developed snapshot is peeled away from its paper negative. “It looks like she took a picture,” I observed. “The white pull-tab is on the floor but she didn’t pull out the exposed shot.” I gave the picture tab a yank and out came the undeveloped picture. We counted down 60 seconds and then peeled apart the result. It was a picture taken through the window looking out on the street. A large section of the foreground was overexposed and completely white. “It doesn’t look like it developed correctly," I said. I inspected the negative and could see more latent detail in the blotched area of the picture. It was a shape of some sort but I couldn’t determine what it was. I was quite the shutterbug in those years and asked if I could take the negative for a better look. Wren was too busy with her mom to hear me, so I decided to just take it and give it back to her the next day. 

At that juncture, I finally remembered my own parents and how worried they must be. “I’d better get home, Wren. My folks are probably freaking out, also.” Wren walked me to the door and made me swear that I wouldn’t say anything about everything to anyone regarding what happened during our fateful evening together. I assured her that our secrets were safe and locked in “the vault.” Sensing an opportunity, I made an awkward move for a kiss goodnight but her mom suddenly called out for her and she impulsively shut the door in my face. I kissed the door knocker with my nose. 

Dejected, I walked away rubbing my bruised nose for good luck when Wren’s creepy neighbor stopped me. “I was trapped inside my car during the storm,” he said, pointing at his old beat-up Chevy Nova station wagon, “AND THAT’S WHEN I SAW IT!” I jumped away from him like he had a full body rash. “Saw what?!” I asked. An obvious smoker, he started coughing productively and said, “IT! Haughhh! I saw IT! I don’t know what the hell it was. Look at their goddam house--IT’S UNTOUCHED! Do you know them? Are they Ruskies? Haughh!” The guy totally grossed me out and I decided to keep on walking. “Stay away from here if you know what’s good for you!” he gurgled, “They ain’t the ‘Brady Bunch,’ sonny boy!!” 

The kooky coughing neighbor’s rant was the last bit of crazy I could handle for the night. I stumbled through the wreckage of my beautiful town to my own home a mile away. Thankfully, our house sat well outside of the storm’s central path and was intact. My parents were relieved but yelled at me anyway for making them worry. Despondent, I apologized and took my broken heart and bruises upstairs to my bedroom. 

Before hitting the sack I took out the Polaroid negative and backlit it with my lava lamp. I took a close-up picture of it with my Nikon camera. I then collapsed into my bed and tried to sleep, but my brain wouldn’t rest. All recollections of the storm, the fires, the injured and dead, the cliffs, the cave, the ghosts, the flaming rats, the flying crucifix, the priest, the donuts, the passed-out mother, the kooky coughing neighbor, and the Chevy Nova were all put on hold for now. The only thing I could think of, the only thing I wanted to think of…was Wren Mathews.

Next: Part 2 Episode 6: "No Quarrel With Reality" 

© 2018 Scott MacGregor-EOI Media Press Inc.

Illustrations ©2018 Rob Masek and Greg Budgett

Catch up on previous episodes at: http://lakewoodobserver.com/download-issues/

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Volume 14, Issue 19, Posted 2:26 PM, 10.02.2018