The Rockport Miracles-Part 4: Episode 17: “The Ballad of Derecho Dan” Continues

Little Dan laid uneasy on a table in a damp, cramped basement in Cleveland’s Little Italy. Still babbling incoherently, Little Dan was accused of over 30 counts of negligence and arson in the wake of storm 5.5. On the lam, he'd been a fugitive as much to reality as he was to justice. Unable to grasp exactly how the promise of his young life had been destroyed in less than five minutes, his tortured mind retreated into a fitful dream:

“LITTLE DAN! LITTLE DAN!” shouted the shadowy figure before him. The apparition was so close that its words were blowing past Little Dan’s ears. “Little Dan, it’s me, Maynard!” said the specter in softer modulations. “It’s me, your cousin…Maynard Gridley.”

Little Dan felt the deep fear one feels in dreams. A fear so terrifying, that your legs turn into cement and you cannot run or escape. “I-I thought you were dead,” mumbled Little Dan. “I AM dead,” replied Maynard. “A drunk driver T-boned my motorcycle when I was riding home last night.” Little Dan began to cry uncontrollably. “How can you be dead?” he sobbed, “I was just getting to know you.” Maynard just shook his head and said, “I know. It’s amazing to think that I survived the nuns, Vietnam, and gallons of cheap Mogen-David wines, only to be wiped out by some asshole in a Buick.” Maynard paused for a moment and concluded, “Life’s a funny ol’ meatball, ain’t it?”

Little Dan replied, “I will join you soon, Maynard. Y’see…my life is over, too.” Maynard just laughed. “Little Dan, you are only 19 years old. At your age, EVERYTHING IS REPAIRABLE.” Suddenly, the weight of Little Dan’s legs dropped back to normal. “Little Dan--do you remember the story about ‘Monsoon Charlie’?” asked Maynard. Little Dan chuckled and said, “How the heck could I forget ‘Monsoon Charlie’?”

The dream shifted gears once more and now Little Dan was inside the cabin of a boat. He looked out one of the portals and observed a Great Lakes freighter going by. Maynard said, “You like my boat, Little Dan?” Incredulous, Little Dan replied, “I didn’t know you had a boat, Maynard.” Suddenly, they weren’t on a boat anymore. They were standing on a cliff with a bilious crowd of River City jerks who were cheering as another storm roared in off the lake and crushed itself against Rockport.

Maynard put his arm around Little Dan's broad, round shoulders. “The boat is big enough, Little Dan,” counseled Maynard, “Remember ‘Monsoon Charlie’ and get it done. That is your MISSION.” Before Little Dan could reply, Maynard's ghost began to fade from Little Dan’s dream. Little Dan flailed his arms and tried in vain to keep Maynard’s spirit from leaving him. “I’ll get it done, Maynard! I’ll get it done! DON’T LEAVE ME!!”

Blasted from his incoherency by the dream, Little Dan shot up from his prone position on the table and screamed, “I’ll get it done, Maynard! I’ll get it done!!” Suddenly, someone shoved an entire Wonder Bread sandwich into his wide open mouth. At first he just sat there stunned with the sandwich dangling halfway out of his face. Then he started to chew. The sandwich’s taste was familiar—it was tuna salad. Not just any tuna salad, either. It was his mother Wilmena's famous tuna salad! He hadn't tasted Wilmena's tuna since their house fell on top of her during Storm 5.4.

The more Little Dan chewed the more he began to gradually come out of his trance. He looked confusedly around the room. The people that surrounded him were familiar but he couldn’t quite remember their names. He continued to chew on the tuna sandwich and just like Popeye and spinach, the more tuna salad he swallowed, the stronger he became. Then, at once it all became clear. The people that surrounded him were the three Joes and his Aunt Rowena! 

“Welcome back, Little Dan,” said Rowena. The three Joes patted Little Dan on the back while muttering Mediterranean phrases of relief. Rowena then said, “I finally convinced your mom to give me the secret recipe for her tuna salad. It wasn’t easy. She held that secret for 40 years! I had to cut off her oxygen before she'd literally cough it up.” Little Dan didn’t see the humor but her story cracked up the three Joes to no end. “Turns out the big secret ingredients are plain olives marinated in Coca-Cola! You have to puree the olives and stir the vile slop into the tuna salad. That’s what gives the flavor it's special kick. Imagine that.” 

“Aunt Rowena,” said Little Dan with great urgency in his voice. “Maynard...he came to me in my dream. He said he was dead!” Tears began to well up again in Rowena’s eyes. “He’s gone, honey. Maynard is in heaven, now…hopefully.” Little Dan cried hard as he ate the rest of his sandwich.

Then, he wiped the tears from his eyes with the short sleeves of his dirty T-shirt and said. “I really need to go to the bathroom.” The three Joes helped him stand up. After a minute, Little Dan had regained his bearings. Then he turned to Rowena and said in an unusually strong and firm voice, “Take me to Maynard’s boat!”

© 2019 Scott MacGregor-EOI Media Press Inc.

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Volume 15, Issue 20, Posted 4:59 PM, 10.16.2019