Spyglass House 2 - Up In The Air
I drove into the peekaboo town of Widow's Walk, Maine, easing along in a red sports car, and turned in at an old country store with old-time fuel pumps outside.
It felt like they should register the gas price at thirty-five cents a gallon.
The late afternoon glare on the dirty glass, spotted and flyspecked, obscured the pump face, but I could see enough to know it was somewhere around eight or ten times that price.
I zipped up against the cool breeze–cold to my home in Washington D. C.–crawled out of the leased, two-seated Mercedes 520 SL, and started pumping, catching in the reflection of the glass my Under Armour jacket, red like the car, but with my name in yellow over my left breast.
When I had ordered the jacket, I chose the embroidered-name option because if I got really drunk, and forgot who I was, I could always look in the mirror and there it would be.
Good old Rex Barney, six feet one, green eyes, black hair, one hundred and ninety pounds.
Except, looking at the mirrored image now, I was good old yenrab xer.
I filled the tank, crunched across a gravel drive, and entered the country store. A group of men huddled around a table, the air filled with the clacking sound of domino tiles and the smell of burning coal from a potbelly stove. It looked exactly like the last time I was here. One of the men detached himself from the group and came up to the cash register as I poured myself a styrofoam cup of coffee.
"Didn't I see you last winter? Don't get any outsiders in January."
"Yes," I said, giving him my credit card, and looking over to the men around the stove, I raised my voice. "I came in here asking how to get to Crow's Nest Lane."
"What number Crow's Nest Lane?" asked a man in a Budweiser cap.
"Never heard of Crow's Nest Lane." Budweiser Cap said.
"Never hear that one, Crows Nest Lane," one of his companions added.
"Try going up north a town a ways," said another. "Look for road signs."
I glared at them.
This was the same insane conversation I had the last time I was here.
"That's what I'm trying to tell you. I found it about a mile north of town."
"There ya go," Budweiser Cap said.
"Looked for road signs, right?"
"Figured it was north a town."
I shook my head, grabbed my coffee, and headed out.
What a concept.
Look for road signs.
About a mile north of Widow's Walk I came to Crow's Nest Lane, a sign there so stating–what a concept–and took a right, the only way I could turn, and drove down and around a curve where, on a rocky outcropping jutting into a slate gray sea, perched a stately mansion of the same color. A low wall separated it from the parking area with a brass sign at the entrance:
Two Zero One Seven Crow's Nest Lane
Since it was the only building within miles it could just as easily have been Six Million Timbuktu.
I turned off the ignition, climbed out of the car into the boom of waves crashing on shore and a moist air saturated with the smell of sea-salt, seaweed, and maybe a touch of dead fish.
The building glowed in the low sun of the waning day. Large round turret rooms marked its four corners, three stories high, giving it the appearance of a small castle or an eighteenth century squire house. For all intents and purposes, just another edifice along Maine's jagged coast.
Except this place sat square on a fault line of time and space.
For the members of the Spyglass House Club it's called the TimeSpace line, pronounced like times-pace. And the thing about it is, you can go in and out of the front door of the house without anything seeming amiss.
But don't go out a side door.
The last and only time I had been here, six inches of rutted, ice-crusted snow covered the ground and the temperature hovered around that of liquid nitrogen from a gale that blew down from the arctic circle.
On this spring day it was merely brisk.
I zipped up my jacket.
Well, super brisk.
But on that occasion, with the gelid weather out front, I had stumbled through a side door into the alternative world of tropical Baybom, Indjia, a land of snake charmers and elephants, where entertaining moments were interspersed with life-threatening days of sheer terror.
I circled around to the trunk of the car.
Big time not interested in repeating that again.
I retrieved my backpack and a small strongbox, called a tron box inside the club, and shut the trunk.
No side doors planned this trip, if you please.
Well, not planned anyway.
I turned to see the groundskeeper, dressed in a mackinaw and floppy galoshes, saunter across the parking lot.
"You comin' here? Spyglass House member?"
I nodded. "I am. We met last winter, remember?"
"No, sir, but that ain't unusual. Be here awhile?"
"A day or two anyway."
"Uhyeah. We have a storm comin' in. Could put the car in the garage, ya like."
"Sounds good. I could pay you to wash it?"
"Uhyeah, I could."
I tossed him the keys, pulled up my collar, and headed for the entrance.
I had come here to goof off for a couple of days, but mainly to take money out of my account to buy the car. So getting it out of the storm was a good move.
Two massive slabs of wood barred the house's entrance, each with its own wrought-iron, lion's-head knocker proportionate in size. I grabbed one of them and smashed it three times against a plate underneath, its echo battling the volley of waves down on the rocks. One of the wood slabs opened and a tall thin man–six feet four with a pasty white face, dressed in a black suit, white shirt, and black tie, somber as a mortician–motioned me into a vestibule.
"Hello, Jasper," I said to the house's chief butler-in-residence, "how have you been?"
"Excuse me?" he asked, making no attempt to usher me further on.
"Rex Barney." I pointed to the name on my jacket, good old Rex Barney, six feet one, green eyes, black hair, one hundred and ninety pounds. "I stayed here last winter.".
Jasper's dark eyes were not impressed.
"Don't you remember?" It was only my second time here, but you'd think he'd have some recollection.
I opened my tron box, containing a velvet bag of fifteen gold coins and my four-inch brass key in the shape of a telescope. The mortician turned it over to reveal the number 342 clearly etched into it's side.
"Ah, Mr. Barney, of course. Forgive me." He opened the inside door, waving me in. "Welcome back to Spyglass House."
Spyglass House Voi 2 - Up In The Air, March 2014 342 pages US $13.95 in paperback Drop me a line if you like.
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