Sliding Down the Road of Life

“Do me a favor, will ya?  Stick with me on this.  You’re the first to hear the story…I’ve only just finished giving the police the details and since I don’t write things very often, I need you to hear this…and remember all the little stuff.  It may help me in getting my hands on the dirty scoundrels that did this to me.  You can also help me by standing the next round.  I’m not going anyplace, at least for a while and of course it helps jog my memory.”

The guy named Norman ordered another Beefeater Martini.  He ordered a pint of North Country Amber Ale for himself.  Norman shifted in his plush leather corner of the sofa in the lounge of the Country Club where the two were seated. He turned his full attention to the guy who was ready to tell his story.

“A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I decided it was time to get the new well-drilled at our camp on Upper Saranac.  We had been using a “point” and it was on its way out.  The lights flickered and the shower water would stop in the middle of a shampoo.  It was driving Marnie crazy.  Me?  I just had to wait out the water stoppage while washing dishes.  Our well was becoming a real pain in the arse, if you catch my drift.  So, we call the local well driller and had a 160 footer drilled just a few feet from our bedroom window.  Hey, there goes my nap.”

Norman sipped his ale and tried to concentrate on the guy’s words but his mind began drifting to his plans for the Labor Day Fireworks.  He was the chair for the Pyrotechnic Committee of the Country Club and felt it was his supreme responsibility to deliver the best bang for the Club’s buck.

“Nice pun,” he thought. “I’ll have to use that at the next meeting.”

“So, the drilling went quickly and painlessly.  All that we had to do was flush the system of the newly disturbed silt and sand.  It is the Adirondacks, after all.  Nothing but sand and gravel.

He took a long swallow of the martini.

“We ran the lawn hose from the tank into a bucket.  And that’s when I had second thoughts.  It was as brown as Llama shit and left gritty bits all over the place.  I mean we had to vacuum, like three times a day.  I was think of hiring a cleaning lady it was so bad.”

The guy got up and, excusing himself, went off to the Gents room, muttering about only borrowing the Gin for a few minutes before unloading it.

Norman’s thoughts went back to the fireworks.  He just could not come to a decision about which Fireworks company he should sign with.  He was leaning to the one based in Burlington.  They used a lot of green sparkly stuff.  He liked that.

The guy returned and settled back into the corner of the sofa.  He stared at the martini for several long minutes.

“Alright, time to cut to the chase and get to the point of the story.  You with me, Norman?”

“Fire away, dude.”  He had some lingering thoughts on the green sparkles.

“Well, Marnie was going nuts and, truth be told, so was I.  We made the decision to get out of the house and take a short hike.  Now, Norman, that means we had to leave the downstairs sliding screen door unlocked because of the hose needed to drain into that damn bucket.  We don’t normally leave anything unlocked around our Camp because of the recent break-ins some of the summer people have had.  So we were a little uneasy but off we went.  Well, Norm, that’s when it happened.  We were violated, man!  Someone got in through the screen door…the one we left unlocked.”

Norman sat up and began to take notice now.  He thought of the tons of really good stuff he had around his Camp.  That new 60″ plasma TV came to mind.

“We saw something was wrong when we pulled into the driveway after the hike.  Don’t know what it was but something looked different.  As soon as we saw the wide-open sliding screen door we knew.  Marnie took the upstairs and I went around the downstairs, checking our LB collection, books and the computer and cameras in my office.  Nothing seemed to be gone.  All my rare antique prints were still on the wall, including the autographed poster of a 1989 Bob Dylan concert in Cleveland.  Then I saw it!  I saw what was missing!  It had been right there on my media table.  Some bastard stole my…my slide sorter.”

The guy put his hand through his hair and lowered his head to his knees.

“A slide sorter?” Norman asked while tilting his head quizzically.  “Some guy walks off with your slide sorter and you are seriously taking this…seriously.  Christ, it was only a slide sorter, man.”

“You don’t get it, do you Norman?”  The guy’s eyes were dewy now.  “You don’t get the big picture here do you.”

“Well, I guess I don’t.  Please help me understand, this.  I mean, with all the great stuff you have…I’ve seen you’re original Daisy BB gun that’s still in the freakin’ box…and your blown away by a slide sorter?”

“You don’t get it do you, Norman?” The guy’s eyeballs seemed to drill into Norman’s like a 9.2 volt Craftsman Hand Drill.  “You don’t see the big picture, Norman, all you see is the distance to the next green on the back nine.  You see, this wasn’t just another slide sorter.  I was looking for this particular baby on eBay for well over a year.  It’s a Logan, a “Havana” with a very low serial number, 358196M.  You can’t find these at just any auction or antique boutique.  Once people get their hands on one, they rather trade their first-born than part with it.  That’s what we’re talking about here, Norman.  Are you beginning to see the big picture?”

“eBay? You must be kidding guy.  Nobody looks for slide sorters on eBay.  That’s so ’70s.”  Norman looked at his finger nails for a moment then refocused on the guy at the other end of the sofa.

“So now you’re dissing eBay, eh, Norman?  Should I be the one to mention the “date” with the Peruvian “model” you made on Craigslist last year.  That sure did a lot for your marriage, didn’t it Norman?”

“Are you bringing that up?  I can’t believe you’re bringing that up again.  I thought we had an agreement?”

“You must understand, Norman, that I’m lost…totally lost without this particular slide sorter.  It was supposed to replace the family heirloom one that my grandfather brought over from Ireland.  For generations we sat around and admired the purest and most expensive slide sorter an Irish pound could buy.”

The guy’s eyes began to mist over and he seemed lost in his memories.

“That heirloom is no more, Norman.  It was destroyed in the fire that destroyed my grandfathers home in Boston.  It happened on a long forgotten night, at a long forgotten house with a long forgotten address on a long forgotten street.  It broke the family apart.  Besides the fact that my grandfather died in the fire, no one seemed interested in family anymore.  We scattered.  I don’t even know where my sister lives now.  That, my friend, is what happens when an heirloom is destroyed; it breaks the fabric of the family and tears apart the very bonds that held us together for generations.”

Norman just stared at the guy, then went to the bar to order another round of drinks which they both consumed inside a minute.  He was beginning to feel uncomfortable with the look that overcame the guy.  He looked down at his Rolex.

“Gosh darn, guy, I almost forgot.  I have my daughter, Ashley this weekend.  Love to stay but have to run.  Hey, I hope they catch the rotten thief and string him up by his family heirlooms.  See you around.  Take care.  So sorry, man.  Love to Marnie.”

Norman almost ran to his car and sped away, like he was leaving the scene of a crime.

The guy slid behind the tan leather of his Audi and drove home.  Only one light was on. He called for Marnie.  Silence.  He went to the kitchen and saw the note taped to the pale green door of their Samsung refrigerator.

Honey, gone to the opening of the new Whole Foods.  Can’t wait to try their fillets of Norwegian salmon.

The guy looked around the empty house and from the picture window he gazed out over the lake.

Someone took my slide sorter, he said to himself.  No slide sorter?  No need for a house, right?

He went to the garage and brought back a 20 lb propane BBQ tank and some kerosene.

He drenched the floor around the propane tank and wadded up a bunch of paper towels.  At the front door he lit the Bounty towels and let them fall on the kerosene soaked carpet.

He left the door open as he drove off in his Audi.

The guy was six miles away when he heard the explosion.  He was passing through Lake Placid when the firetrucks began speeding past him with sirens so loud that even people with iPad earphones had to plug their ears.

On the Interstate, he checked the back seat and saw his Nikon DSLR.

He’d still be able to take slides if he found the right store that still sold film.

In the piles of wet, smelly burnt debris, Marnie found an old photograph.  The police made copies for evidence and returned the original.  Below is the only extant copy made available by the family to the public:


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