The ‘Boo’ in Caribou
There are two reasons that I have never been to the Caribou Club. The first reason is nearly 100 years old. It’s been passed down through the generations, a one-sided feud with the creeps. Of course I wasn’t around then, so the facts I’m about to relay to you came through the tradition of spoken words. Bits and pieces have been verified here and there by those who might have remembered the faded story after all these years to the extent that I have proven, at least to myself, that the account is undoubtedly true. You see, that building where the Caribou Club is situated was not always a swank setup to host galas and galleries. Some will remember that no so terribly long ago it was a hardware store. And, fewer yet will remember the edifice’s original purpose, at least as far as this is concerned. I refer to a time when the velvet-lined boxes from there were larger, constructed of pine, and showcased few jewels. The only hardware reference was a doornail, which was used in describing the state of being of the proprietor’s primary customers.Yes, many decades ago that building that is now the glittering centerpiece of our beloved town catered to more stiffs than it does even now on a New Year’s Eve. It was indeed the mortuary.It was back in those times when my great-grandmother Francis met her demise. She was not the first Marolt to visit that place. However, she would become the last.You are undoubtedly thinking ahead to discern what could have possibly gone wrong to steer all future generations of Marolts away from that building. What awful occurrence could have taken place to fuel a grudge through numerous owners, uses, shopkeepers and facelifts of the structure?Assuredly the undertaking business is an unpleasant necessity if there ever was one. Moreover, it has been no well-kept secret that there is more than the occasional unscrupulous lout who takes up the trade with all bad intentions of capitalizing on family tragedies, verily nickel and dime-ing the survivors to death.But, I’m pleased to tell you that was not the case. In fact, the undertaker at the time was hospitable, consoling and honest beyond reproach. On the day of her scheduled burial, poor great-grandmother Francis was laid out in an upstairs room so that the dearly beloved could have one last remembrance and an opportunity to pray a rosary for the departed.So many loved ones congregated that the room became stiflingly hot. The kindly undertaker, attending to every need, took it upon himself to open a window to decelerate some of the mourners’ withering, lest gossip arise that he unduly attempted to increase his customer base. So adept at his job was the veteran practitioner that not a soul took notice.Through the window a prevailing breeze blew. The room was soon comfortable again, so much so, in fact, that all were transfixed into an unusually deep mediation. With things much under control, the undertaker took the opportunity for the daily coffee break he was permitted by custom and contract. He slipped downstairs into the alley for a smoke. It was then that tragedy was predestined to strike. A rogue gust blew through the open and unattended window upstairs where the mourners prayed. The wind happened to rustle a drape which happened to be on the side of the window where a candle happened to be lighted to commemorate the solemnity. The tapestry caught fire! Deep in reflection, nobody noticed. Reeking of smoke from his break, the undertaker didn’t immediately detect the burnt-toast smell filling the stairwell on his return to duty. Had he not paused outside for a few moments to check and wind his watch, perhaps the day could have been saved. However, this is only speculation. By the time he opened the door to the room, the flames were clearly in control of the oxygen.The room was cleared as quickly as possible. The stronger men helped the women and children. The process was slowed because of the rescue of others, who already had their reservations booked there, whose arthritic knees gave them pause navigating the narrow steps.I am happy to say, for I might not otherwise be here, that all of the living were saved from the conflagration. Not such a fortunate report can be made for the building. It was totally consumed by the flames and with it, the body of my great-grandmother. Not a trace of anything buryable was recovered. As it was unanimously agreed by those in attendance that her soul had clearly been saved and without question the body had served its purpose, the loss was uninsurable. If it could be construed that there was any pecuniary gain, it was that the embalmer’s charge came in at 50 percent off. And, there never was a Marolt who held a grudge against the poor undertaker. Our family continued to do business with him for many years, at his new location across from what is now Paepcke Park.It’s just that memories are not easily altered, and even irrationally frightening images are stirred by familiarity. My father taught me well, and I’ve never been back to that building, at least not since this story was told to me. Actually, the first time I heard this tale was over cocktails a couple of weeks ago at the Maroon Creek Club, where I was invited for dinner. It was a lavish affair at which I feasted on the tenderest cut of prime rib. The wine was superb. I’ve dreamt of the dessert every night since! Ah, but I’m getting sidetracked. Back to the story: the second reason I’ve never been to the Caribou Club is that I’m not on the roster of that private club and no member has ever asked me to visit as a guest. But, compared with the first reason, I’d say that is pretty insignificant. Wouldn’t you?Roger Marolt believes that, if you really can’t ever go home again, it may be because you know too much about it. He’s always at email@example.com
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