The Rockport Miracles Part 3-Episode 1: "The Past Is Prologue"

The earth is in charge. It’s under attack by elite sectors of humankind infected with arrogance and greed. They plunder the planet’s most precious resources with depraved indifference. They crap into the waters we drink. They poison the air that we breathe. Sooner or later a breaking point will be reached and the earth will revolt. When the earth revolts, the earth will win. Why will the earth win? The earth…is in charge.

Those were just a few nuggets of Lester Brown’s foreboding wisdom told to me in the storeroom of his camera shop. We were waiting out the second vicious storm to hit Rockport within 24 hours. Trapped like a raccoon in a dumpster, I became a captive audience to Lester’s downsplatting opinions of mankind’s quest to destroy itself. His mordant views of the world formed the prologue of a larger tale from Rockport's past about a mad scientist named Roycroft.

In a whispering voice he said, “Arthur Roycroft was an engineering genius--but like many men of his ilk, he had a dark side.”  According to Lester, Roycroft had built a laboratory on the town’s lakefront cliffs where he conducted mysterious research from 1920 until 1939. “And then,” he whispered, “during a storm- tossed night in 1939, his laboratory was blown to kingdom come.” Still whispering he added, “His body was never found and the cause of the explosion was never revealed. Rumors flew that he’d been experimenting with a new kind of energy source inspired by…(gulp)…Tesla.” 

“Why are you whispering?” I asked, “It’s just us and Jesus in here, for chrissakes.”  Lester gave me a stern look and barked, “Shut up and learn something!”

According to Lester, Roycroft still holds over 40 patents and had worked with heavy hitters like Edison, Westinghouse, and (gulp) Tesla. At some point he and Tesla had a falling out but Roycroft continued to work on what he believed would be his crowning scientific achievement. Then, on the dark and stormy night of September 29, 1939, an explosion that was heard as far away as Sandusky destroyed Roycroft’s laboratory. When the authorities moved in to investigate the only thing left was a large smoldering hole in the ground. The land on which the laboratory stood is today a quiet wooded lot still owned by the Roycroft family.

Just then, we sensed the Armageddon noises from outside were diminishing, a signal that the storm was beginning to pass. “Are any of Roycroft’s descendants still living in Rockport?” I asked. Lester stood up and stretched. “There was a child--a son, in fact," he said with a yawn. “He still lives around here--I’m sure you know him." I scratched my head and answered, “I don’t know any Roycrofts’ in this town." Lester replied with a chortle, “That’s because you kids know him only by his first name.” I scratched my head again and then my face. “Who??” I asked, “who are you talking about??”

Lester smiled and said, “His name is Kenny, but you punks have assigned him a cruel little nickname--am I right?” My jaw dropped in disbelief. “You…you don’t mean..”Crazy Kenny?” Lester began laughing like Dr. Frankenstein and blurted out, “Crazy? Ha!---Crazy like a fox!” 

The storm was over so we opened the storeroom door and walked out into the showroom. It was safe to assume that Rockport Camera would not be open for business that day. The store's lone Hasselblad camera was the only thing still standing because the heavy duty tripod it was mounted on had been bolted to the floor. Lester was stunned and made hamster sounds as he surveyed the damage all around him. His shelve inventory, display cases, lights, etc. were all gone with the wind. Crestfallen, he wrapped his arms around the tripod, laid his clammy forehead against the Hasselblad and began to weep softly, “Y’know, this is the camera they took to the moon,” he cried. (Even in a grievous state, he couldn’t pass up a teaching moment). “It’s asymmetrical Zeiss lens has a cemented optical group on each side of the diaphragm…” At that point, I interrupted him. “LESTER, Lester, I’m really sorry for all this but I have to go. I’m worried about my parents and I still haven’t found my friend, Wren.” 

As I started to climb over the debris blocking the front exit, Lester abruptly stopped his sobbing and said, “Wren?...you mean Wren Mathews?” 

I whirled around like the Three Stooges at the sound of ‘Niagra Falls’. “Yes--Wren Mathews! Do you know her?” Lester instantly composed himself, pulled a handkerchief from the hip pocket of his sans-a-belt slacks, and started polishing his eyeglasses. “Of course, I know her,” he said in an oddly authoritative voice, “May I ask why you are looking for her?”  Incredulous, I puffed my cheeks and starting tucking my shirt in. “Because I LOVE HER!” I exclaimed. “Because she’s the most amazing, the most incredible, the most beautiful thing on two legs in Rockport--WHERE THE HELL IS SHE?!” 

“Welllll,” said Lester, “It’s not my place to say. I helped someone sanctuary-ize Wren and her mother last night. Their neighbors went, shall we say, ‘a little kooky in the kielbasa’ and tried to destroy their home with them still in it. Wren called the police and then called us.” Putting his glasses back on, he added,  “…and I’m not at liberty to say where they are.” 

By that point, I was so worked up that my mouth was turning itself inside out. “Sanctuary-ized her? That’s not a word! Tell me where she is, I’ve got to find her!” 

Lester did another 360 of his wrecked camera store and said, “Hmmmm, so you’ll help me put the store back together, right?” I hemmed and hawed but finally said, “Yes…yes I’ll help you,” Then, he said, “…and you’ll do it for nothing, right?” By that point my brain’s bladder was so full I had no choice but to agree. “Yes, yes, God help me, yes,” I said. Lester stuffed the handkerchief into his shirt pocket like a hunk of lettuce and said, “Well, I don’t really know where she is, but I know who does.” 

He then paused a few seconds for dramatic effect and finally said, ‘Talk to Father Marlowe.”

Next Episode: Part 3:Episode 2:The Belles of St. Swithun's

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Volume 14, Issue 22, Posted 4:01 PM, 11.20.2018