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Home: The Toast

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John Leavitt last told us how to make an Aviation.

First off, I want to say I’m not complaining. Not really. There are many upsides to living in this quaint English village. (Don’t worry, you haven’t heard of it and it’s not near anything you might have heard of.) Our borogoves are indeed mimsy and there’s nothing more wholesome than fresh milk from a neighbor’s farm. We’ve very progressive for our size and location. You’ll hear no whinging from me about our weather, which, while mild, does tend toward dramatic fogs and sudden, bracing rainstorms. I don’t even mind that half of the high street stores are curiosity shops that never open.

No, none of those things bother me. It’s a simpler thing, a sense of tedium offered by the same familiar hedgerows and cobblestones. The same stories pass through, changing only slightly with the seasons. The same births, deaths, marriages and reunions.

Although, if I’m being perfectly honest, it’s mostly just the deaths.

It hardly seems proper that a month can’t slip by before someone finds a body strangled in a glen, drowned in a bog, or stuffed inside a scarecrow. Half the time these deaths are faked, done with the help of a previously-unknown identical twin or a mass delusion caused by eating moldy rye. It’s all very frustrating, not to mention repetitive. There are only so many places to hide a body and they all start to run together after a while.

We lead the country in candlestick bludgeonings.The number of cyanide poisonings alone has led to a municipal ban on almonds. That hardly good news for the local tourism board but still they come, thick as starling flocks in fall.

The shipwrecked foreign soldiers I understand. They had no choice to wash up here, and Lord knows we need something for our suspiciously young horde of rich widows with mysterious pasts to do with their time. I suppose all those babies that turn up on the church’s doorstep help with the numbers. It would be nice if they left some identifying papers or medical histories along with the child, rather than broken lockets, faded portraits, or scuffed ancient rings set with moonstone.

leavittvillageteaReally, we’re lousy with ancient rings and cameos and amulets. The antique store can’t give them away.

What brings them here, all these other people?  Everyday, more and more drop in; runaway brides looking for a new life, novelists on vacation, detectives on holiday, and brash young Americans claiming auntie-such-n-such left them the manor house in their will. I work at the Railroad Hotel and it’s really starting to hurt business. We constantly have to close the salon for seances or so some pipe-swinging person can gather everyone after dinner. It’s hard enough to keep up with housekeeping when you have half the hotel running up and down the stairs being shown yet again how Pastor Fellick and the Italian Nurse were, in fact, the same person.

Also, how many times can people go missing from a locked room before we start asking for payment upfront? How many times do I have to explain that we cannot accept payment in state secrets? Nor can I  pay the suppliers with ingenious riddles scrawled on the backs of envelopes. And the constant questions! I’ve had to endure so many genteel interrogations from so many visiting old dears that the sight of a carpetbag and shawl is enough to make me spin right around and run in the opposite direction, double-time if they’re knitting.

I swear it’s starting to effect the townsfolk as well. Before, you’d get a varied lot to work with, some town girls, some farm hands and the like. Now every new maid I get to train is either an undercover reporter or secretly married to the hotel owner and not a one of them can shine silver or clean a painting’s peep holes properly. Not that it matters. Half of them don’t last a week before they vanish and I’m forced to replace another uniform out of my pay. Again. I had to let two cooks go last month. One for being an Algerian prince and the other for adulterating the meat pies. It’s same story every time, I don’t need someone with flashing eyes and an enigmatic smile. I need someone to cover the weekend dinner shift.

Don’t even think about trying to meet someone. Half of the young men in town have taken to glowering in the open moors. The other half are mad. And while the stone cottages and hand-painted storefronts are picturesque, the infrastructure is falling apart. All it takes is one small snowstorm or summer shower to knock out power, wash out bridges, or otherwise render the roads unusable. This inevitably happens just when you’ve gathered together all your close friends for a dinner party and before you know it the lights cut out and you’ve lost track of everyone and by daybreak most of them are face down in the garden fountain. It’s enough to put you off socializing all together.

I’ve stopped going into people’s basements or attics. It’s just not worth the stress.

I think it’s high time to move to someplace a little quieter. Find a few faces and places to endear myself to. Thankfully, a long-lost cousin of mine has just invited me to his little island in the States for a family reunion. I can’t wait to be away from this whole tiresome business. I hear coastal Maine is beautiful in the winter.

John Leavitt is a cartoonist, writer, director, and illustrator, His cartoons and illustrations have appeared in: The New Yorker, The Chronicle Review, The New York Press, The Common Review, The Journal Of Science Fiction and Fantasy, Narrative Magazine and elsewhere. He has worked with Molly Crabapple to produce posters for The Electronic Frontier Foundation and others.

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