The Rockport Miracles-Part 4: Episode 34: “The Ballad Of Derecho Dan” Continues:

Once the warring suburbs of Rockport and River City had agreed to a cease-fire, the polluted waters of the Rocky River again flowed unvexed to the lake. "Shale Wars I" had been a particularly nasty clash of highly agitated suburbanites and an inevitable outcome for the two towns whose bad blood had been running deep since the first days of the Storm Era.

Both of these cities on Cleveland's west shore had legitimate reasons to be upset. More recently, the storm diverting explosion just 100 yards off the River City coast had caused millions of dollars in property damage and dropped a thick coating of fish entrails over 10 square miles of prime real estate. Even worse, 47 beloved backyard gazebos had been cruelly burnt to the ground during the ensuing civil unrest.

River City’s corrupt Mayor Bart Ridgewood, an awful man whose nose had been sheared off by the dorsal fin of a popular sporting as well as eating fish, spoke to reporters from the steps of the River City City Hall. His head had been bandaged “Invisible Man” style following the first of what would be several incremental nose replacement surgeries.

Speaking in obvious discomfort and using a cardboard toilet paper tube to amplify his words, the Mayor vowed Old Testament style vengeance in a voice replete with frothy, albeit muffled emotion. “No one can burn down that many of our goddam gazebos and get away with it,” he bleated, “Not on my watch!”

Squarely at the top of the Mayor’s most wanted list was “Derecho” Dan Newman. He was furious that the new folk hero of Rockport had been whisked from his jurisdiction. During a contentious phone call with Armin Arden, Rockport’s Law Director, Ridgewood demanded the immediate extradition of Derecho Dan to the River City City Jail.

“Mr. Newman’s crimes were committed in River City,” yelped the Mayor in a pinched nose sounding voice, “they fall squarely within the purview of the laws and courts of River City.” Indicative of the general attitude most Rockporters shared at the time, Armin Arden blew the wad of tobacco he was chewing out an open window and barked, “HELLS BELLS, BART...YOU CAN GO @#%& YOURSELF AND THE WILDEBEAST YOU RODE IN ON!”

Meanwhile, Mickey Mars was on a mission. His bait store, “Mickey’s Juicy Bait & Beer," was an A-Frame shack that sat upstream from the River City Yacht club. In an act of reprisal, an unscrupulous gaggle of Riverites targeted Mickey because of his role in saving Derecho Dan from mob justice. They broke into his bait shop, vandalized it, and absconded with all of the beer, tobacco and Hostess products. Then, they set the shack ablaze.

Now, Mickey Mars is a smart guy. He had insurance and knew that someday he'd rebuild a bigger and even better bait shack. He was, however, very distraught about something that was lost. A precious family heirloom went missing in the wreckage and was feared destroyed in the arson fire.

As the story goes, Mickey’s father, Mortimer, was an able-bodied seaman who’d lost his life when the freighter barge Morania exploded and sank in 1953. One of the ship’s ring life preservers that survived the explosion had been recovered and was presented to Mickey’s mother Mabel at the memorial. Mabel chose to display the life preserver on a wall at the bait shack where for 22 years it had occupied a place of honor, nestled between the fathead minnow freezer and a Pez display.

Determined to recover the only known vestige of his father’s time on earth, Mickey boarded a skiff and floated downriver in search of it. When he reached the lake he was struck by how calm the waters were. The lake resembled a sheet of glass when only the day before it had been a psychotic, homicidal monster. Happily, Mickey’s efforts paid off. Upon reaching the mouth of the river, he discovered the errant life preserver entangled in a blob of lake muck.

He brought the skiff up closer and was reaching for the life preserver when something jostled his boat and nearly capsized it. “Whoaa! What was that?!” Mickey exclaimed. Then the boat began to move as if bewitched with mysterious power. It was the same mysterious power that hundreds of people witnessed pulling Derecho Dan to safety in the moments before the explosion. Mickey’s boat picked up speed and was heading toward Canada before stopping so abruptly, the boat flipped over. Mickey soon found himself treading water in the greenish-gray waters of Lake Erie.

As he clung to his upturned boat, Mickey sensed that he wasn’t alone. Something ominous was definitely under the water and moving around him in a tight circle. And, it was BIG. Mickey’s first observation was that it was 30 to 40 feet in length.

He suddenly felt something substantial bang against his lower legs. “WHAT ARE YOU, DEVIL CREATURE?!” he shrieked in fear, “SHOW YOURSELF!!!”

Then, as if in a Japanese monster movie, the waters all around him began to bubble and roil. Something below the surface of the water was on its way up. Mickey spotted the life preserver resting on the water a few yards away and he swam over to get it. If these were to be his last moments on earth, he reasoned, then he would go with his father’s memory wrapped around his face.

Then, the thing finally showed itself. It’s becoming hard to imagine what life was like before it showed itself. Mickey’s first reaction was one for the books and became part of all the folklore that followed. He took one look at it and let out a scream so shrill that birds actually fell from the sky.

© 2020 Scott MacGregor-EOI Media Press Inc.

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Volume 16, Issue 19, Posted 6:07 AM, 10.08.2020