Victory put a wooden shaft, a woodcarving knife, a can of varnish, a needle, some thread, some golden yarn, a large piece of white fabric, and a smaller piece of blue fabric on the counter. The cashier was a kindly old lady with horn-rimmed glasses that were attached by a string to her neck. The craft store had a humble appearance, but it had anything you could possibly want for odds and ends.
“Did you find everything you were looking for, young man?” the lady asked.
“Yes, I did,” Victory said with a smile, and handed her the money.
“Will you be all right with the sewing, son?” she asked, bagging his items.
Victory thought back to his younger days in the Boy Scouts. He’d been a real hell raiser in his patrol, throwing frogs in fires, spraying no-stick oil on cabins, beating up the younger scouts, and chopping at everything that moved. His mother had staunchly refused to sew any badges onto his uniform for him. After the first few shoddy merit badges and rank advancements, he’d gotten the knack of it.
“I’ll be fine,” he said.
“And the woodcarving?”
Victory once again reminisced about his days bopping around the various campsites in and around Pennsylvania. Resica Falls, Delmont, Daniel Boone’s homestead, Blue Rocks, and Camp Horseshoe. He’d picked up a lot about woodcarving (as well as a lot of scars and gashes).
“I can handle it,” he said.
“Well, have a nice day, young man.”
Victory stepped outside, and shaded his eyes from the sun with his hand. A big crowd was milling around. He quickly spotted Dina and she joined him. They walked together, arm in arm.
"What did you get in there?" she asked him.
"Nothing much," he said.
"Come on, tell me," she said.
"Later. Look, the mayor's about to speak."
The mayor, Richard Abel, was standing on a podium on the steps to the new Museum of Modern History. He was a handsome man, and very honest. Everything he did seemed to have the air of being totally above-board. Women liked him, although he wasn't married or even romantically involved. Men respected him for not acting like a politician. His image was that of a lovable buffoon, and he liked to cultivate that image. He was dressed in an Italian suit which might have looked stylish in another situation, but it was so sweaty it looked more like a crumpled jogger's clothes.
"Hello, everyone!" Abel declared in his usual, cheerful voice, "I'd like to thank you all for coming out on this scorching day for this museum dedication. I brought a giant pair of scissors to cut the ribbon, and also a giant roll of tape to fix it."
This elicited a few laughs from the crowd.
"God, why is he wearing that suit?" Victory whispered to Dina, "It must be a hundred degrees."
"He wants to look professional, I guess," Dina said, without looking at her boyfriend.
"I've seen politicians look professional in short sleeves," Victory replied.
"Quiet," Dina hissed.
Abel had started speaking again.
"Now this is a history museum. I know history probably isn't important for a lot of you. For a lot of you it was just another boring subject at school you had to sit through to pass. Heck, I remember that most of the work I did in history class was passing notes to the girl behind me."
There was a little chuckling from the audience. Abel was actually blushing.
"But, all joking aside, history is a very important matter. History is a bit like a compass, and the future is a lot like a dark sea. We have no idea where the future will take us, and if we just let the wind blow us around, we'll crash. But we can look to history for lessons that will help us guide our way in the future.
"This museum stands here as a lighthouse - sorry to mix my metaphors - but it's a permanent building. And there are so many things we can learn from what's inside. I know learning isn't fun, but we have to do it, or else we'll end back in another Dark Age.
"I mean, think about how far our country has come just since the Civil War. Slave owning is over. People are more tolerant of one another. But it's not as though it could never happen again. There's still hatred in this world. I know that for a fact."
His tone suddenly became dark, and a strange, unusual mood took him.
"I grew up on the streets. I know what it's like. I know about the racism, the hatred, the anger. I've seen things I pray no one else ever has to. Gang wars, drugs, crime, it's there. I could be the wave of the future, if we're not careful. If we sail into the future without remembering how racism tore our country apart, we could end up back in the same place we were before the Civil War. We've not come to the point where we're safe from the past."
He became cheerful again, the dark cloud passed. He returned to his usual casual bantering style of speechmaking.
"But I'm not here to give you a history lesson. That's what the people of this fine new institution are here for. I just want to tell you a bit of what I think. See, some people think the past is dead and buried, and it can never come back. But I think differently. I think the past is like a prisoner. We keep all the good things, the knowledge, the love, the wisdom, and all the bad things, the ignorance, the anger, the war, we lock it all away. It's not dead. It can always escape and attack us. That's why we have to be ever vigilant. We must always keep the past foremost in our minds, or it will escape and devour us. With beacons of knowledge like this new museum, we can keep all the pain and the woes of the past safely locked away. So I hope you'll make use of this place, often and thoroughly, so that our future will be bright and sunny."
Abel cut the ribbon and the crowd swarmed up the steps. Victory tried very hard to bully his way to the mayor, who was busy grinning and shaking hands. He was almost swept away by the wave of people, but he pushed his way up to the podium. He suddenly remembered Dina, and looked for her. She was inside the museum, fascinated by a display on McCarthyism. She wouldn't mind being apart from him for a bit. He wanted to speak to the mayor.
A journalist was asking Abel, "Mr. Abel, they call you 'The Bachelor Mayor'. Is there any reason why a fine catch like you hasn't been, well, caught yet?"
Abel laughed affably.
"I guess the right fisherman - fisherwoman, I should say - hasn't come along yet."
"No personal problems, sir?" the same lady asked him.
"No, no," he said, "Unless shyness is a personal problem. Ladies just intimidate me a little, that's all."
He was very charming, and his mock-shyness was very attractive. Many of the women around him were looking at him moonily. Victory finally managed to break through to his goal. He stuck out his hand, and the mayor, somewhat distracted took it.
"Sir, my name is Victory Halov, and I..."
"Kale, was it?"
"No, sir, Halov."
"Halov, good. Nice to meet you."
"Thank you, sir, you too. Sir, about what you were saying, I've often thought the same thing myself. In fact, I'm thinking of starting an organization to promote tolerance and understanding. A sort of brotherhood of workers."
"Sounds like a fine idea, Mr. Halov," Abel said, "Don't call it a brotherhood, though, call it a fellowship. That way you won't exclude ladies."
"Oh, thanks for the idea, sir."
"Let me know if the thing comes together, Halov," Abel said, beginning to be swept away by the crowd, "I'll throw a little political support your way."
"Thank you, sir!" Vic said, raising his arm to wave.
"Manuscripts don't burn"
- Mikhail Bulgakov
Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."
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