Every small town has one: The slightly off guy or gal who's just enough off-balance that you're never quite sure whether to run away or stick around for a few minutes of entertainment. And of course the entertainment always runs into a half-hour and you're dying to get away but you've been trained to be polite and anyway the person just won't stop talking long enough for you to say your goodbyes and on top of that every now and then they throw in a statement just interesting enough to pull a response from you which then closes off your escape route. So there you stand.
So there Flat Stanley stood at 9:30 pm, Thanksgiving eve, blocking the organic foods aisle at the local Giant Eagle. Jack has a memory like a steel trap, and he remembered FS from a retail position she held at a dollar store six years ago. He also remembered that she worked for a year at the local paper. He's the kind of guy that talks to lots of people, reads a lot, retains facts, and spins it all into a fascinating tale just believable enough to keep one on her tiptoes. It's like remaining poised at the edge of the Grand Canyon waiting for that one final, amazing observation that will surely convince one to leap with Jack hand-in-hand into a grand new understanding of the ordinary.
That is to say, the observant listener knows that much of this stuff might be true. It's quite possible that a guy like Jack has met every president since Eisenhower. Being from around here, it's quite possible that he grew up visiting the Eisenhower farmstead as a child, and that he remains in touch with the Eisenhower granddaughter.
It's quite possible that Jack has an uncle who was attached in someway to the British embassy in Washington. And was an ambassador. Whose neighbor was Colin Powell. Who used to shoot the breeze with Jack when Jack visited his uncle and Mr. Powell was in town. During Viet Nam. And who once explained to Jack just why the US couldn't solve a certain logistics problem involving deployment to Southeast Asia by simply setting about to solve it.
Turns out that Jack, though an open-minded kind of guy, doesn't like the second President Bush. It's personal. It's because, Jack tells FS, that he personally saw the president rape a 17 year old student at a local private school. But that's nothing, according to the backstory Jack provided, compared to why President Bush felt that he could force himself on this helpless student. But Jack overplayed his hand on this one.
This girl's parents were stationed overseas, Jack says. That's certainly easy to believe. They wanted to send their daughter to a very good private school, so they chose -- Academy. They couldn't afford it, but the family was diligent and the girl was awarded a full ride from Merrill Lynch. So far so good.
Merrill Lynch, however, made the award contingent upon the the student signing a document agreeing to provide sexual favors to any US political figure who asked. Even Flat Stanley doesn't buy that one.
The girl signed the agreement. Uh-huh. And Pres. Bush called in his favor. FS's not buying that one, either. Jack didn't happen to explain how it was that he got to watch this go down, or why it was he to whom the girl told her story.
Dang it all. When FS returned home she mixed all the dry ingredients for a double batch of pumpkin bread. At 10:30 pm she discovered that there was not one drop of cooking oil in the house. There will be no gifts of pumpkin bread at the Thanksgiving table tomorrow. But there will be at least one good story.