A pound of cold ointment

By David Grima | Jan 30, 2014

I looked to the east as the sun rose over a freezing harbor Sunday morning, and could not believe my eyes. There, coming in low over the water from the direction of the Vinalhaven town dump, I saw the Four Seagulls of the Apocalypse flying in perfect formation and carrying between them an ancient Victrola.

The beauty of this primitive record player is that it does not require an electrical supply, a facility that I am quite without as I live up here in the north tower at the foot of Mechanic Street. As the birds landed and set the device on the old milk crate that serves me for furniture, a small miracle happened. The little woodstove which had sat cold and empty in a corner of the tower since sundown the previous night suddenly burst into flame and began heating the frigid air around me. Delighted and for once quite speechless, I reached for my antique record collection and wound up the Victrola. As my coffee warmed on the woodstove (another miracle, for I had run out of coffee a week before) I placed a scratched and dented copy of the Drifter’s song “Under the Boardwalk” on the turntable and set the needle down on it. For 20 minutes as I played the song over and over, my sense of being half frozen to death simply faded away and it was summer once again.

At length as I gazed about me at the green trees, the Ferris Wheel, and the busy beach below, I found myself wishing that “my tired feet were fireproof.” I opened my eyes and saw that I had slipped too close to the woodstove and my shoes were indeed beginning to smolder. Suddenly the woodstove was out and my coffee vanished. As I leaned back on my old bale of straw, all that was left of this transforming vision brought by the birds was the clicking of the needle at the end of the record. I left it clicking until the spring had completely wound down.

* * * * *

By now you will have heard the story about the pope and the peace pigeons. To recap, recently the pope brought two children with him to the Vatican microphone so they could each release a peace pigeon in front of the multitude as a powerful symbol of international good will. The kids released the peace pigeons, which were immediately attacked by a crow and a seagull.

It is traditional in newspapers to describe Catholics en masse as the faithful, although we can assume that each crowd of the faithful contains some of the less than faithful, the unfaithful, and the faithless. And there they were, the faithful and the otherwise, watching the symbols of peace being harassed and assaulted by feathered scavengers in front of a pope named after a saint who used to preach the gospel to the birds. What better representation of how difficult the world has become.

* * * * *

Speaking of difficulties, did you hear there is a school board member from Rockland talking of a petition to get us out of the school district? What’s going on here? It used to be that other towns would try and withdraw from the Rockland school district. (St. George is an example of a town that is usually trying to secede from something or other.) Has our dear city risen so high in the pecking order that we are now trying to leave? If Rockland quits, where will we go? Will we have to move to some desolate spot such as Appleton? I say we stay here and wait until St. George wants to secede again. That will feel more normal. But the trouble runs deeper than that. The school board members themselves seem to be afflicted by a terrible irritation, something that even a pound of cold ointment could not cure.

It has been rumored (by no less than myself) that board members from all the towns in this school district gather in their own secret enclaves after board meetings, pronounce curses on board members from the other towns, dress in weird robes with pointy hats, walk backward in circles to remind themselves they represent the people, and enact occult ceremonies that involve burning red candles and dripping the wax in a bucket of unconsecrated tap water to see if the wax solidifies into the shape of the next school superintendent. We all know that our current super is leaving next month, right? He is the 99th superintendent to quit, get fired, composted, reupholstered, simonized, or merely inclined to suddenly catch the next stage out of town in only seven months. Truly I say unto you, we are cursed.

Citizen politicians all, these school board members seem to be out of their depth in handling the important business. It’s just mayhem up there these days. The plain truth is that some people should never run for any office higher than dog catcher. Certainly I should never be trusted with any office. For example I was once elected to the vestry at St. Bildad’s by the Sea, and in two short years I managed to annoy everybody. And the school board’s high jinks will only get worse, mark my words. You know what the problem is? Cabin fever in the middle of an atrocious winter. It’s just the wrong time of year to try and get anything done. They should all stay home and not come out until spring, when we will carefully measure their shadows to see how long it will be before the next superintendent quits.

Any better ideas?

David Grima is a former editor with Courier Publications. He can be reached at davidgrima@ymail.com.

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