Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Quest: A bolt out of the blue

Dinner at the big-house had the pomp and ceremony of a meal with heads-of-state.

All of Michael, Sr’s children were there as were their spouses.

Steve and Sally Straeder were there.

Walt Shaw was there and somehow he found himself with Dona Binakowski as his date. He did not recall talking to anybody about it.

Had he been paying attention to anybody besides Dona, he would have seen the knowing glances from the slightly older women. What he saw as an act-of-God was the nudge from a few women who knew that younger people sometimes need a bit of help in seeing what is as obvious as the nose on their face.

Dinner fare was simple. It was a boiled dinner. Ham, potatoes, carrots, rutabagas, onions, dinner-rolls and butter. Simple and filling.

As the main courses were eaten and folks started thinking about dessert, Michael, Sr stood and the murmur of conversations died.

“I want to recognize our special guests” Michael started. “Steve, Sally and Walt left here on a trip to Iowa. The chances of their success were what? 10%, maybe 25%?” Michael Bazylewicz asked.

“As they forged their way west, little tidbits came back to us. We followed their progress with avid interest.” Michael said.

“We cannot, with certainty, connect every dot. But there are stories of somebody known as ‘The Preacher’ bringing the wrath of God to evil-doers not fifty miles from here. From the timing and the descriptions of the actors suggest it could have been one of our guests” Michael said.

“As Jesus said, ‘He who lives by the sword shall die by it.’ and better it should be at the hand of a righteous man and sooner is better than later” Michael said.

At this the men started banging their mugs of ale...until the women-folk placed a gentle hand upon their thigh or forearm.

The compound was unabashedly Christian. But it was not the Christianity of Hallmark cards and milque-sops. It was the Christianity of gristle and backbone and sharpened steel. It was in-your-face Christianity of the Christ who flipped over the tables of money-changers in the Temple.

“Which brings me to what happens next” Michael said.

“As you know, we have a shortwave that keeps us in contact with the outside world” Michael continued.

“By general consensus, I have been given the task of offering the three of you jobs. We...the people of Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, want you to continue restarting the railroad.”

“What do you think?” Bazylewicz asked.

The three members of the expedition were blind-sided.

The idea of resurrecting the rail-line had started out as a glib reason for the expedition’s mid-winter travels.

But then it took a life of its own. It verbalized the hopes for a better future that everybody harbored. It was not a shapeless and random wish. It was ordered and showed a clear path to that future.

Sally’s improvisation accidentally capture the heartbeat of four states. Or perhaps it wasn’t an accident. Perhaps it was Sally’s innate sensitivity to the harmonics thrumming just below the threshold of perception. Regardless, the story took on a life of its own, a life that carried Steve, Sally and Walt eastward like a surfboard riding a wave.

Steve looked at Sally. Sally gave him a tiny, negative shake of her head.

“We have to get home. We were given a mission and we have not seen it through” Steve said, somewhat regretfully.

Michael, Senior looked over at Walt.

Dona gave Walt’s arm an intimate, supportive squeeze.

Walt’s inherent modesty kicked in. “I don’t know how to start a railroad.”

Michael, Sr’s brows furrowed. “Just do what you have been doing. Keep traveling east. Let the towns know the railroad is coming.”

“Yeah, I could do that, but what authority do I have?” Walt said, truly baffled.

“I would be hazarding a guess” Michael said “but I don’t think you would be out-of-line if you claimed to be the railroad’s Head-of-Security and the Postmaster.”

“Maybe I could help with security, but I would be a disaster as Postmaster” Walt said.

“Hmmm” Michael Bazylewicz said. “I can see how that might be a challenge.”

“Dona” Michael said “can you think of anybody who is organized, is very good with detail and follow-up, somebody who would make a competent Postmaster….or Postmistress?”

“Me!” Dona blurted out. “I can do that!”

“Problem solved.” Bazylewicz pronounced.

The rest of the evening was a blur for Walt.

In the morning, Steve and Sally left with the three horses and Dog, the older of the two dogs. Walt kept the puppy. Steve and Sally had six more days before they made Eaton Rapids.

The Bazylewicz clan pulled together a “rig” for Walt to continue his eastward mission. While they could have whipped it up in less than two days, they sand-bagged a bit. It took them a week.

Father Casmir performed the wedding ceremony before they left.

Walt’s breath was taken away by the speed of events. In a moment of introspection, he asked Father Casmir “Shouldn’t this take longer?”

Father Casmir gave it honest consideration. “Some people date for five years before they marry. Some of them live-together for a decade before they marry.”

“Incidentally, the church frowns on people living together before they are married” Father Casmir intoned. “And they still get divorced. Time is no guarantee.”

“Only God can be totally sure” Father Casmir said. “You are a God-fearing man, honorable and humble. She is a God-fearing woman who is not contentious nor is she a gossip.”

“A blind man can see that there is a spark between the two of you” Casmir said. “Judging by how you look at her, you don’t find her hideous or ugly, nor she, you.”

“If you put God first in your relationship and if you treat each other with the courtesy you show everybody else, I don’t see how you can fail” Casmir said.

Walt found the Catholic Mass to be long and arcane. He certainly felt married after it was over. The marriage part was short and simple.

The girls of the Bazylewicz compound re-enacted the wedding for the next six months. The boys hid when they were doing it.



  1. The boys hid... And that's why we're matrimonial prey.

  2. The whole railroad angle was a benevolent ruse at first for the good purpose of helping them survive and complete their mission. But now it has become something real.

    I am reminded of a Kevin Costner movie called The Postman. The critics panned it, but I thought it was a good movie. In a dystopian Pacific Northwest, Costner is a travelling troubadour, going from town to town, doing ribald Shakespearean performances in exchange for a meal and a few coins. At the bottom of a ravine, he finds an old USPS mail truck, including the skeletionized remains of the unfortunate driver. He puts on the postal uniform, and goes from town to town delivering the letters. Then people start giving him letters to deliver to relatives in other towns, and voila! Just like in the Eaton Rapids chronicles, what started as a ruse becomes a real endeavor, embuing him with a new purpose in life.

  3. Good one, and of course the boys hid! :-)

  4. This was the best one yet! I smiled all the way through it. Thanks for taking the time to put the creativity on paper.