A Connecticut Yankee

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George Bernard Brainard was a born and raised Connecticut Yankee. By the time he reached thirty, he was a billionaire and he owned his own quaint village just next door to Mystic Seaport. His village was named Brainard, of course–his mother’s family name.

Father ran off with a red-haired harlot decades ago. Originally his family made its money in tobacco–the outer leaves of cigars. But with the embargo of Cuba, their biggest customer, the business fell into ruin, as did the family.

His sister, Zelda, was a writer and a damn good one. She wrote adventures and mysteries. Our story concerns one of her adventure novels–the one that changed the history of history itself, and caused GB to go on that adventure, from which he returned quite  changed. But I’m getting ahead of myself. It was at another one of the family’s quirky Sunday dinners that Zelda implored her brother to read her unpublished novel. Not being much of a reader, GB hemmed and hawed and just carried on as if she asked him to shoe all the horses at her lucrative horse farm. Finally he agreed. To read the novel of course, not shoe the horses.

It was one rainy evening a few days later that Zelda called and hounded him about the manuscript. GB opened a bottle of Claret and sat down to read for an hour and no more. That hour passed and then another, and another until it was past midnight and GB finally fell asleep in his favorite chair in his favorite room. It was a deep and restful sleep that lasted only a few hours or maybe a few days–GB never did know. When he finally awoke, it was pitch black and damp and smelled rather nasty. He wasn’t sitting in his chair and there was no lamp next to him to switch on or was there?  And then he did it. He changed everything….

GB flicked on his lighter. The tiny flame wasn’t much help to him but the darkness came alive–too alive for his taste.  There were sounds of ughs and ahs and screams and laughter and he spied bleeding colors that bled too much and left behind layers of filth. His lighter would become too hot to hold and he would let it cool down and each time hands touched him and even roughed him up a bit–pushing him off his seat of whatever that was. Rock, perhaps or maybe something worse? As luck would have it, GB’s lighter ran on an experimental chip that provided nearly limitless energy–from his R&D company.

Then the sun came up. He was beginning to wonder if the sun no longer rose but there it was shining into what was obviously but astonishingly a cave, and it was filled with the dirtiest, nastiest tenants. As soon as he returned from wherever he was, he planned to notify social services of the reprobates living in a cave. Surely they must have slipped through some bureaucratic crack or abyss? But now, what to do, what to do?

He looked down and there in his lap was Zelda’s manuscript. He stood up, sore and stiff and holding onto the manuscript while doing sleight of hand with the lighter, insuring its dubious safety. Trying to reach the mouth of the cave was a bizarre obstacle course of sleeping bodies, garbage, rock, babies and rotting everything, and were those bones? Finally reaching the entrance, GB continued out of the cave and looked around. Nothing looked familiar. For as far as he could see, there were woods, a forest so vast GB couldn’t believe he was still in Connecticut. Then he saw it. The escarpment with Bear Rock in the distance was a familiar play ground for GB and his friends.

GB turned and looked at the disheveled group of cave dwellers. They really did need help, he thought. With another sleight of hand the lighter reappeared. He flicked it on, showing them the flame and how to make it. He built them a fire pit of rock inside the entrance and filled it with wood and kindling he gathered near the cave. Then he started a fire. He spent the day instructing them on how to keep it going–they weren’t the brightest group of people and none of them talked. Then he handed the lighter to the male who seemed to be in charge and climbed down the hill to the forest floor. Days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months.

Finally, nearly six months later, he awoke in his favorite chair in his favorite room with Zelda’s manuscript on his lap. He never told anyone what happened to him. But he changed. He was different. He met and married a woman and treated her to candlelit breakfast in bed every Sunday. He donated to charities and he paid Zelda not to publish her manuscript–a tidy sum, and a huge sum of money to add certain details to the story.

Then one night, he and his wife squeezed into his favorite chair together and they took turns reading Zelda’s manuscript. They disappeared and were never heard from again. But the strangest thing was the disappearance of the Village of Brainard. The gap that was left was filled quite nicely by others. No one was missed. But where did they all go? No one noticed, no one cared–except, Zelda who had a copy of the manuscript with her…always.

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