And so it came to pass that two and a half years after I called Peg Lynch from the kitchen in my house, a box containing her ashes sat on the table where I’d written down her phone number. You never know where things are going or how they’ll turn out, except that there will be ashes somewhere. What’s done with them, you never know. Who bears them to their final place, you’ve no idea. You can hope; you can make arrangements, but in the end it’s a hired man safarwith work gloves turning the sod back over. In between you can only hope for the best.
I think she got as good as she would have wanted. As for the final disposition, the items in the box (which also contained her husband’s remains and some mementos), the look of the grave, all the emotions involved in bringing her back home - it’s not my story to tell, and I leave that to the pen of her daughter, who’s a damned fine writer. My job was to get the box down to Kasson.
We set out early, and the miles just slid by. The four-lane led to a two-lane with a shoulder until it was a two-lane with no shoulder. A few southern Minnesota towns looking comfortable and populated. Flags on the highway for an upcoming festival, something I pointed out to Astrid: are there Union Jacks lining the road in Merrie Olde? Flagpoles in the front yard? No. It was enlightening to see Minnesota through the eyes of someone from Elsewhere - how clean and content it looked, how high the corn was, how all-American normal it must have seemed.
When we got to Kasson we trolled down the main street.
I wish you could go down Main on that map, because at the end was something that made me gasp:
It still operates. Down the street, alas, a defunct department store, the old signs unlit for who knows how long.
We tried to find her old house where she grew up. Had a picture from twenty years ago and an address, but it was incomplete. It said North, but the streets were Northeast and Northwest. Stop, ask someone. No good. Try again down that direction. by now we’ve done enough driving around and taking pictures that I’m sure someone has started a rumor. “She asked me a question, I think she’s English. In fact I think she’s Madonna!”
A kind fellow at the Post Office deciphered the address, and we found the house. To my surprise the big trees are still standing; a flag in the yard says it’s “Grandma and Grandpa’s Home” and that memories are made here. It's faded. You wonder if the grandkids are still around. There's an old swing set in the back, and you can imagine a daughter telling them they can get rid of it, the kids are too old, it's all rusty, they could get tetanus, really Mom. And you can imagine Grandma not wanting to part with it. Perhaps she sees it from the window by the kitchen sink.
All the curtains are drawn. No one’s home and perhaps it’s just as well. Enough to get a picture of Astrid in front of her mother’s place.
Off to City Hall to get the nice lady who will take us to the cemetery. The office is modern and quiet; four women at computers, all of whom look up and smile. One burly maintenance guy and one middle-aged man in an office. Kasson looks to have a staff of six to keep the town running.
The graveyard is on the edge of town. It wasn't when they first laid it out, although the town has taken its time getting out here - and once it got here it decided to put a trailer court next door. There's no church attached, as I'd expected. Some of the graves look like switches in various positions, although all the settings are OFF.
The box is laid on a square mound topped with fake grass, and the nice lady from the city retreats.
When Astrid was showing us the things that were going in the box, one was an old 78 of a Grieg song she remembers her parents playing often and loud, singing along. I asked if I could, er, perhaps make a copy? I’ll just go scan it and hold it up to my monitor to transfer the sound! Used the record player to snag a scratchy copy, which I slapped on the Phone. At the site I got out a small speaker and we listened to the song.
And that was that, and that was over.
Astrid went off elsewhere to find some graves of other relatives to make sure they had flowers, as ordered - a lovely gesture for people who hadn’t had a visitor in 60 years. I wandered around taking pictures of the stones.
You can tell the prosperous ones who came after the settlers.
The age of the place can be determined by brusque abbreviations. An ancient GAR sign was by Henry's grave. Company D, 34th Illinois Infantry, Civil War.
You may despair when you see signs erased by wind and snow, but . . .
. . . I saw a copy of the cemetery's layout, and every plot is numbered and named. This one stood out; money bought you better rock.
Twenty-two days. Like it's a record: Beat that, folks.
At the furthest point from the grave I looked back. A man had appeared with a spade and was replacing the grass. Once the flowers are gone there’ll be no sign anything had changed recently, although of course everything had.
Never did play how the theme song ended.
The last note is higher than the one before.
We're in the difficult middle of the Serial - here's where the original idea is muddled, the objectives swapped out for other schemes, the bad-guy plans foiled with such regularity you think they'd just kill the hero outside his office when he walked out to buy some smokes. The strange internal logic of the Serial has taken hold, and there's no getting away,
We're watching "The Black Widow," by the way - the most expensive serial Republic had made. Today it's . . .
To keep you up to date:
They were on a mining cart in the old abandoned mine (all mines are abandoned in Serials), pursued by fire. At the end of the last installment, they saw a wall up ahead, and no escape was possible. It seemed certain they would be killed and the serial would end after five episodes.
Stop them, you fools! No, wait, let them go, whatever.
Well, Steve Colt, who is a mystery writer hired by the newspaper to solve . . . . something, I don’t know, we’ve kinda lost the point of why he came on board - stalks into the publisher’s office, and demands to know why they ran a story about the escapades:
To tell you the truth, I have no memory of that whatsoever. I’m not sure it happened. I’m not sure it matters. The audience would just nod and go along. Well, the newspaper, as is their wont, gives away plot points and elements of national security, noting that there would be a demonstration of a Cynotrone, a device that dampens aforementioned sound waves. Ah hah! The next techno-gizmo to keep the plot aloft. Naturally, the Black Widow finds out about the event, using her network of spies . . .
. . . who just bring her the paper that explains what's going on. Since it's an even-numbered episode, that means it's time for Dad to show up on his magic smoky fire-chair. Hello, Lord Santa:
His role, more or less, is to appear in a puff of smoke and flame and say "Daughter, do some stuff," and then she says, more or less, "it will be done." Serial villains often answer to a boss who resides elsewhere, and these bosses are known for their hands-off approach. Never works well for them. Whoever they entrust, that person fails, over and over again, and while they'd like to blame it on Meddling from that Accursed Reporter or Batman or Rocket King, it's their own fault.
So the Black Widow’s gang kidnaps one of Dr. Weston’s Science Gals, and Sombra does her fake-face routine:
It’s helped by a convenient dissolve, as you might expect. Who is this Science Gal? Someone we saw talking to Joyce, the Newspaper Gal, who was also kidnapped. None of this was shown. It’s very confusing. Then Steve Colt gets a call at the newspaper, saying Joyce is being held by the gang. It could be a trap! But it isn’t. He just shows up and punches out the guard and asks her what happened, and she says she was kidnapped, and they leave to get back to the lab so no one tales the Cynotrone.
This is story-telling incompetence of a breathtaking quality. All it would take is 20 seconds of strong-arm action, with Science Gal and Newspaper Gal hustled into a car.
Well, nevermind. Back to the lab. Here’s your Cynotrone:
See? It’s based on Sound, so it has, like, a harp-thing. We are shown a demonstration; a beaker of milk is exploderated. It also overshoots the target and breaks the window glass, sending its lethal waves into the city beyond - sorry sorry, my bad! Dr. Weston turns it off. After the reporters leave, having duly observed a top-secret weapon the likes of which the world has never seen, the fake Science Gal, who is in reality Sombra the Black Widow, calls some movers to get the machine. Dr. Weston is confused, and does not want his device to leave the lab. Well:
But! Steve shows up, and it’s Fistfight! Somehow the Cynotron gets turned on:
This is why you don't have big switches on your death-ray machines.
Joyce is not displaying situational awareness.
We think the problem will be Joyce’s dissolution by the machine, but it turns out she’s more to fear from the broken glass. Hats are on for maximum fighting power, but will Steve punch out the minion before the all-powerful sonic distruptor causes the broken glass to slide down the frame?
I can't wait to see if she's okay! Tell me she'll be okay!
Today we've half the Vendos. Next week I will say "it's the second half of the Vendos" and you'll know exactly what I mean.