Monday, May 3, 2010

Small Town, United Space


Cedarville was a logging town. Your usual Small Town, USA. Everybody knew everybody else. They attended the same little grade school, same little junior high, same little high school. Married their classmates. Sent their kids to the same little grade school, junior high, and high school. Attended the same church. Hung out at the same café. Went to the same barbershop. Took their sweetheart to the Bubblepop Electric drive-in theater.

Your grandma lived just around the corner. Your Aunt Minnie lived right up the street.

In Cedarville, every day was much like the day before, or the day thereafter. Everybody knew what to do. Knew their little role in the great scheme of things.

This morning started out like every other morning. Bedroom lights came on. Stubble-faced men got up before the crack of dawn to shave, drink black coffee, down a hefty breakfast, and drive their pick-up trucks to the sawmill. Boys and girls got ready for school. Just like clockwork.

But today was different.


This morning the road out of town…well…there was no road out of town. I mean, the old road was still there, but it didn’t go anywhere. You could start out, but once you reached the city limits, your vehicle bumped into an invisible, impenetrable barrier. There was no way to drive out of town or walk out of town or ride a horse out of town.

And once you got to the city limits, you didn’t see the countryside beyond the barrier. What you saw looked like outer space. Stars shining bright white against the black expanses of outer space. Like looking up at the night sky. Only it was daytime, and you weren’t looking up, you were looking ahead. Straight ahead. At eye-level–into outer space.

It’s as if, while the townfolk slept, a giant crane scooped Cedarville out of the ground and deposited the whole town onto a space platform with a plastic dome overhead. Like living inside a big snow globe.


It didn’t take long for all the townfolk to burn up the phone lines talking to each other, or visiting the house next door, or congregating at Eula’s café. Or Ben’s barbershop. Or Dora’s Beauty Parlor.

All abuzz over this baffling and ominous turn of events. Everybody was in a state of panic.

Finally, they held a town meeting at the church. The mayor was there. And the sheriff. And Pastor Felt.

Of course, the mayor and the sheriff had no answers. And Pastor Felt had no answers, either. Indeed, he was deeply shaken.

Fred Silverman, the high school science teacher, did have a suggestion. This must be some sort of zoo where aliens from a more advanced civilization could study our species in its natural habitat.

Needless to say, that explanation was deeply unpopular. Still, it seemed like the best explanation, all things considered.


The “aliens”–if that’s what they were–kept Cedarville in a state of equilibrium. The townfolk had power and water, as well as phone service–although you couldn’t make a long distance call, which, in its current configuration, meant you couldn’t phone anyone outside of Cedarville.

While the townfolk slept, the aliens kept the tavern, gun shop, gas station, supermarket hardware store, and doctor’s office restocked and resupplied with booze, bullets, drugs, nails, bait-and tackle, food and drink, deodorant, shampoo, and other sundries to maintain business as usual.

Likewise, the woods and ponds were replenished with fish and game. TV and radio continued to broadcast game shows, golden oldies, football, baseball, cartoons, commercials, sit-coms, soap operas, telethons, cops, doctors, and lawyers. However, there was nothing new or newsy. Just reruns.

There was no incoming mail, except for Christmas cards and birthday cards which the townfolk mailed to each other.


Over the next few weeks and months, the townfolk had different ways of coping–or not.

Pastor Felt lost his faith. He was totally unprepared for something like this.

But while he was losing his faith, his teenage son, Rodney, came back to the faith. Rodney had been in rebellion. A backslider.

Yet this event jolted him into the realization that life was not something to fritter away.

Myrna Milford used to write her daughter a letter everyday. The daughter who lived in Cincinnati. After Cedarville was transported to outer space, she continued to write her daughter a letter every evening, and take it out to the mailbox every morning for the mailman to pick up everyday. For his part, the mailman continued to do pick it up every afternoon.

Of course, there was no way, from outer space, to deliver the letter, but you had to do something to pass the time. He’d store the out-of-town in the backroom. Over time it began to pile up. On shelves. Counters. Tables. The floor. Stacks of yellowing, out-of-town mail with nowhere to go.

For his part, Abraham Carter continued to write life insurance policies for the townfolk.

Coach Bob continued to hold football practice–as if he was training his team for the upcoming season. Of course, there were no other teams to play against. But you had to do something.

On the other hand, Ed Mullins, who ran a used car dealership, become very depressed and shot himself one evening. But he woke up the next morning, good as new. Apparently, you couldn’t die here. At least, not by accident, homicide or suicide. That would upset the alien experiment.

However, Dr. Filmore continued to treat measles, set broken bones, and deliver babies.

Men went hunting, fishing or dirt-biking, played pool, poker, or baseball, mowed the lawn, swept the leaves, remodeled the house, made love, or tinkered with the car–in no particular order.

Living in Cedarville felt claustrophobic. There was no way out. They were trapped–like canaries in a cage. Many men and women hit the bottle.

The Christian townfolk treated this ordeal as a test of faith. They knew how to escape–but not in this life. They'd have to wait their turn–when the Lord called their number, one-by-one.