Fortunate in Fortunaby Author / Mike Bozart
another pSecret pSociety pshort pstory
Fortunate in Fortuna by Mike Bozart (Agent 33) | July 2017
Fortunate in Fortuna
by Mike Bozart
? 2017 Mike Bozart?
Fortuna. Spanish for fortune. A place with a name like that surely invites a psecret psociety visit when in the vicinity. And we, Monique (Agent 32, my wife) and I (Agent 33), very much were on Saturday, June 3rd (2017).
The two of us hopped aboard a half-full RTS (Redwood Transit System) bus at 4th & H Streets in Eureka (CA, USA) at a refreshingly cool - and agreeably overcast - 3:11 PM. The 36-minute, 18-mile (29 km) ride was relaxingly noneventful; this time there were no deranged conga-drum-toting passengers.
At 3:47 we disembarked onto N Street (near 11th Street) in the log-sign-proclaimed 'friendly city', a small town of 12,321 (or so) inhabitants. We paused to survey the scene from the sidewalk. So, this is Fortuna. Seems nice enough. A bit warmer down here. / This town is sunnier than Eureka. I don't like it. I forgot my parasol. I don't want my pinay [Philippine] skin to get any darker.
"Hungry, asawa?" [wife in Cebuano and Tagalog] I asked my brown-eyed, black-haired, late-30-something spouse.
"I could go for a little something, 33."
"How about that Mexican place that the lady told us about in Eureka?"
"Sure, Parkaar. [my ailing alias] Lead the way."
After only a two-block walk, we had arrived at Taco Loco (on the corner of Main & 10th Streets). The veggie tacos did the trick: not too large, fairly tasty, reasonably priced.
"Where's an interesting place to check out in Fortuna?" I asked the mid-20-something, dark-brown-haired Latino waiter. Check out? Does he want to die today?
"Tourists?" he asked. My red hair. / Because I'm Asian.
"Yeah, bus-to-foot tourists from Eureka," Monique informed.
"Why did you guys journey down to Fortuna?" our genuinely curious waiter asked.
"It's an intriguing Spanish name and it's on an RTS bus route." And Ernie [the electronic earwig] would approve.
"You mean that you didn't come here for the Eel River?" he asked, surprised that I didn't mention the shallow-this-time-of-year, yet still wide, northwest-flowing stream.
"Well, I'm not much of an eel fisherman anymore," I replied. Probably out-of-staters. [sic]
"Oh, the name is a bit of a misnomer," he then stated. "What the early white settlers thought were eels were actually lampreys. You know, those gnarly-mouthed whale suckers." Whale suckers? Yuck! / Gnarly? People still say 'gnarly'? And way up here, a long way from the San Fernando Valley.
"I see," I acknowledged. "Wrong names often stick."
Our Hispanic American waiter wasn't phased in the least by my remark. "You can still land steelhead and even nice-size salmon. It's not completely fished-out like many think. As for an interesting nearby place to visit, there's the [Fortuna] Depot Museum. Lots of artifacts and history in there. Just walk down Main Street and make a left on Park Street. You'll be there in ten minutes max." That sounds perfect. / That's not so far. Don't want to get too far from the bus stop. Hope hubby knows the time of the last bus back to Eureka. Don't want to get stranded here for the night. It might be scary.
We thanked him for that bit of info and left him a generous tip with a Gold card (a cardstock coupon for a free download of my erotic, deceptive, maddening 2013 roman noir).
In nine minutes and nine seconds, we were on the front porch of the waiter-recommended, lapboard-sided, old railroad depot museum. An ancient caboose was moored to the right. The corner entrance door was to the left. It wasn't locked. We casually entered.
A 70-ish Caucasian couple were the only two inside. The older woman cheerfully greeted us. Then the older man stepped away from his desk and walked up beside his apparent wife.
"Want the just-for-you guided tour?" he asked us.
"Sure, if it doesn't cost an arm and a leg," I replied.
"We're frugal travelers," Monique revealed.
"No body parts need to be donated; it's totally free," the white-haired man announced with a smile.
"You'll enjoy it," the elderly woman said. "He's a walking local-history encyclopedia." We've come to the right place.
"Where are you two from?" he then asked us.
"Charlotte," Monique answered.
"Ah, North Carolina," he said. "I won't hold it against you this time." He then chuckled. Huh?
"Where are you from?" I asked, unable to specifically decipher his faint Midwestern non-accent.
"Indiana," he stated. Ah, yes; he sounds just like Wally.
"Indianapolis?" I then asked, venturing a guess.
"Bloomington," he specified. That explains his remark.
"Ah, Indiana University - bigtime college basketball rivals of [the University of] North Carolina and Duke," [University] I posited.
"Well, to be honest, [the University of] Kentucky is our biggest rival," he clarified.
"When did you move out here?" I asked.
"A long, long time ago. Way back in the '70s."
"It seems like a nice town," Monique opined.
"It is. Fortuna wasn't our first stop, but we just kind of settled here. I'd say that we're pretty fortunate to be in Fortuna, all things considered. There certainly are worse places to wind up." Indeed.
"No doubt," I added.
The old man then opened a vintage wooden door that had an antique doorknob. In the spacious yet packed room, we saw a plethora of manual tree-cutting saws on the main wall. Some of the slightly curved, large-tooth, steel blades were over two meters (6.56 feet) in length.
He noticed my interest. "You certainly didn't want to have a drunk as your sawing partner. If he didn't show up for work, you wouldn't get paid, either. A single man was worthless with one of these tandem saws."
"I know a few friends that I'd have to rule out," I said with a quick laugh.
Monique was looking at some old rods, reels and miscellaneous fishing tackle. "Was the fishing better back then?" she asked.
"Much, much better," he replied. "They say that you could walk across the Eel River on the backs of the salmon and never get wet." And never touch an eel.
"Oh, wow!" Monique exclaimed. "I love fresh salmon, grilled."
"They reeled them in by the ton," he said. "And then, they sent their haul down to fancy restaurants in San Francisco. [255 miles (410 km) south] The railroad sections were all linked together in 1903. Booming times in Slide - Fortuna's original town name - taken from the name of a nearby hill."
"Did this area get caught up in the mid-19th-century gold rush?" I asked. Mid-19th-century? This guy must be a writer.
"Oh, yes. Lots of that sought-after, soft, yellow metal was found in the mountain creeks around here. Fortuna became a service town for the miners. Well, for a while."
"Very interesting," I said.
"So, what line of work are you in?" the old man asked us.
"Writing: technical for pay; creative for folly," I answered. I just knew this guy was a writer. Wonder if he'll ever use any bits of our conversation.
"We're part of a group known as psecret psociety," Monique told him. "However, it's really not very secret, and it's not much of a society. Oh, it's spelled with silent p's." Pompous puntificators, [sic] I bet.
"You mean like p-s-e-c -," he spelled.
"Exactly," I said.
"Is there a secret handshake?" he then asked.
"I'm not sure," I said. Huh?
"What do you mean?" he asked, looking stunned.
"I'm not sure if I got that memo," I said. "But, maybe there was no memo." This boy has gone off the rails.
"Are they changing the locks while you're away?" he then asked both of us with a taut grin. A pair of loons.
"Maybe so," Monique said. "But, one never knows." She's gone off the rails, too. What a demented duo.
"Your eccentric coterie sounds like quite a surreal undertaking," he serenely said.
"Surrealism is certainly a major ingredient," I stated.
"Well, some have reported seeing a strange, translucent, claw-handed, flat-headed, elf-eared apparition on the museum's front porch, right before dusk," he disclosed. "I tend to think that it's just the redwoods' branch and needle shadows." Darn! We can't stay that long. / I hope my hubby just lets this bait go. We don't have time for this. We can't miss that northbound bus.
"That sounds like something that would be right up our alley," I told him. "However, the clock is not our friend today." If not now ?
We then said our genial farewells.
As Monique and I walked over Rohner Creek on the footbridge to O Street, my mind passerelled [sic] over to knowhere. [sic] Wow and how! Those sprinkled-upon-the-taco granules of grandeur have finally kicked in. This bizarre universe is still expanding. And accelerating. The galaxies are whizzing away from our Milky Way. Faster and faster. Someday the nighttime sky will be pitch-black - completely starless, even on the clearest of nights. Maybe in five hundred billion years. But, who - or what - will experience this in Fortuna? Any sentient entity? Wake up! Fortuna and Earth will be long gone. Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit's [inventor of the eponymous temperature scale] parents died on the same day [August 14th] in 1701 from ingestion of toxic mushrooms. Wonder what species they ate. Probably an Amanita variety. Death caps. Destroying angels. Such a nasty exit mode. Around 151,600 people die each day. Wonder if there are any magic mushrooms in these woods. Are we in liberty cap territory? A day in Fortuna in 1917. A worker yawns. Bleak sorrow. Sure would like to get a cursory look-see at the front of that museum.
"Agent 32, how about a quick glance?"