Chronicles of the North Country: Part I
[shrink v. To become constricted or to dwindle from heat, moisture or cold.]–The American Heritage College Dictionary, 3rd ed., 1997.
“Population of northern upstate New York shows signs of shrinking.”
—The Adirondack Times Herald, August 3, 2012
You may think that you’ve seen and heard it all. You watch CNN and assume you are fully informed about the state of the world. You watch TLC and walk away convinced that you have seen the complete spectrum of human life on earth, from Duck Dynasty to Pawn Shop. But, I am writing this in the small hours of the day to tell you about the full truth about what does not make NBC or MSNBC or even FOX, yes, even FOX will back off from exposing this story. This story, that is so full of intense human agony, suffering and tragedy that you will scarce believe your own eyes, is going to see the light of day. You will be shocked. You will be horrified. You will read in a catatonic state of disbelief and fear. The details will be so frightfully scary you will try to avert your eyes, but you will not be able to turn away. You will cry out to be sealed in a pit of your own filth to block out the image of what I am about to describe. And, yes, I am only one of a few that can tell the whole story because I was privy to the very people who were involved. The others, the rest of those players in this human drama, are gone now. They have been taken to Area 51 and will likely never be seen again, unless they pop up in a strange and odd location that is a world that exists in its own bizarre world by itself, like Texas.
Allow me to begin by saying that I knew the person that is described in this tale. She and her husband were friends of ours. They had a lovely camp here on Rainbow Lake, in upstate New York. Their home was artistically appointed with rare and valuable Adirondackia. The hand of creativity had swept the house’s interior. The decor was pleasing and intriguing. In other words, it looked nice.
Since I’ve been sworn to secrecy, I will call her Judy. Her husband is John and their grown daughter is Jean. Her mother’s name was Jane and his father’s name was Joe (Joseph, for short). They were amiable people and we enjoyed many a fine evening of gourmet dinners, superb desserts and glass after glass of the finest beverage in their cellar. I’m no connoisseur, but it was the best tasting Bud Lite east of the Mississippi River.
Then Judy began to descend down the path of tragedy and mystery. We ended up at their boathouse and looked at the 75 HP Evenrude. Very impressive, I must say.
It was while we were all sitting in our Adirondack chairs on our very own deck, that I first noticed the beginning of her problem. Her problem that was to demagnify itself into history.
The days were getting shorter. I went inside to put away my shorts in favor of “long pants.” I changed from my short-sleeved shirt to a “long-sleeved shirt”. I returned to our very own deck when I noticed that Judy’s shoe had fallen off. She giggled and put it back on. It slipped off again. Strange, she said, it fit tight this morning. We spent the remaining hour singing “It’s A Small World After All”. That was the beginning.
Within a few weeks, it became obvious to people like me who can see the details. Judy was getting smaller. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that, as far as I’m concerned. Each to his or her own. If that’s the lifestyle she is choosing, who am I to judge?
I began to google the phenomenon on my computer. What I discovered nearly short-circuited my synapses. There was, it seems, a spate of articles that appeared in such prestigious periodicals as The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Foreign Policy, The Lancet, JAMA, Martha Stewart Living and Arthritis Today. These articles were common for a short period, but after several months, the flow of information was cut short.
There was even a groundbreaking documentary on AMC titled “The Incredible Shrinking Man.”
Now, the documentary was about a male, but from what I read, the recent occurrences were involving females. Does that suggest that man cannot shrink? It’s been noted that men have been known to shrink but not at the rate that women have achieved in recent years. Feminists have been working for years to call attention to the “height ceiling” that have held women back in their attempt to bridge the height gap.
Anyway, while poor Judy was suffering, the rest of the world went on about its larger affairs. She continued to diminish in size. Her Laura Ashley cardigans were hung up in favor of simple (and inexpensive) elementary school uniforms for girls. These garments are found in abundance in rummage sales in church basements all over the North Country.
Soon, John began to feel uncomfortable taking Judy out in public for fear of being arrested for child abduction.
The downward spiral continued. We all tried to put on a smiley face, but the reality began to make itself real. In truth, the end was near. Judy had now dropped to 19 pounds and was the size of a large Raggedy Ann doll a guy might win at the County Fair.
We said our good-byes before we left on an extended working vacation. We went over to their house and she was sitting in their Adirondack chair. I thought she had taken on a certain cuteness she lacked before this tragedy befell her. We left on our trip.
When we returned two months later, it was all over. According to a tearful John, she went out to their very own deck and climbed to her favorite spot in the Adirondack chair. Several hours later he went out to serve her a half teaspoon of milk from a small kitten dish. She was gone. Only her tiny American Girl earrings were left behind on the chair. There was a faint whiff of patchouli lingering in the pristine Adirondack air. John gave us these details while wiping a nagging tear that slowly crept down his left cheek.
These days he sits in the Adirondack chair and reads Being and Nothingness by Jean-Paul Sartre. The melody of Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony drifts from the open windows. He has a nice SONY sound system. High end, with 12″ woofers. He’s hesitant to discuss the tweeters.
Well, that’s the long and the short of it. In a sense, it’s the story of Everywoman. You’re born tiny, you grow up, you suffer put downs and you end your existence, here on this small planet, after a lifetime that is too short.