West Minster Abby
My first attempt at the great American Novel
The moon waxed purple and silver. It was a vision I’d never witnessed before. I have seen many strange and wonderful things here since I arrived ten years ago but never a purple moon. I’ve seen a harvest moon; with its oranges and browns signaling the coming of autumn. I’ve even seen a blood moon though I’m not quite sure what it means. But never in my life have I seen a purple moon until this very evening. Now it was around this time last year that Page’s hardware store burnt to the ground. That was strange because prior to that, the last fire of any kind other than a camp fire in West Minster was 1973. There were plenty of rumors floating around town that old man Page had had a number of financial problems. We were all relieved to learn that old man Page and his store were fully insured.
A year prior to that a child of six had gone missing; last seen on her way home from school. The girl’s father had passed out drunk and forgot to pick her up. This was not so strange; unforgivable yet not strange at all. She thought she would have no difficulty at all finding her way home but after taking one wrong turn down a block she assumed she was familiar with, she got lost. Three hours later she was found by her older sister sitting on a curb with her knees held to her chest, scared and alone and just a block away from home.
I imagine that these events and others like them happen in small towns all over the country; nothing out of the ordinary. And that’s why I love it here. There isn’t much crime to speak of. If I were a criminal West Minster, Illinois would not be on my list of potential visits. We’re not even listed on the map. When I say ‘the map’ I mean any map at all. The closest interstate is thirteen miles away. A few years ago, some congressman got lost on his way through and now the state is currently accepting bids to build a bypass to I-55. Once that happens the peaceful town of West Minster will be no more.
The increase in traffic will create more gas stations and the obligatory fast food chains. Why hell, we might just get one of those trendy coffee shops with all those high-brow exotic flavors and free Wi-Fi. I just might take advantage of that one.
For now however, not much happens in this boring little hamlet. That purple moon will most certainly make the front page of the West Minster Chronicle. As a matter of fact, Lindsey Shae, the town’s one and only photographer was making her way up the path along the canal with her Nikon; seeking out the perfect vantage point. Surely it will be her photos featured in the newspaper. I strode up the small hill to greet her but she was gone. She’s a quick one that Lindsey Shae.
Soon enough the entire town was filing out into the street to gawk at the purple madness. I stood there in silence; listening to their proposals and questions as to what might be the cause and watching the silver ripples in the water. To most folks in West Minster the Canal is nothing more than a haven for mosquitoes. It was once used, or so I’ve recently learned, to haul produce and other trade goods to and from Chicago and other towns along the Illinois River. But I’m afraid that now it’s nothing more than what they say it is: a haven for mosquitoes.
About one hundred yards east, down the dirt trail that runs along the entire stretch of the canal is an old wooden bench. It was built in 1850 by Wilbur Hounds tooth, or so says the West Minster historical Society. You can’t get a decent slice of pizza in this town but we have an historical society: go figure. It was on that very bench about ten years ago that my life changed forever.
Still glancing at the moon, draping everything it touches in a warm violet glow, I strolled to the bench and sat, inhaling the late spring air perfumed in lilac. Please forgive me my dear reader. I enjoy irony but unfortunately it is wasted here. The lilac is simply a coincidence and by no means is it a by-product of the celestial glow.
It was here that I met the man Tom Abby: the man that changed my life. The man that saved my life, and the world…