Christmastime 2004

Dear Non-Bedford People,

Well, here lies Bedford, having survived yet another year as America’s prime exhibit of a Third-World habitat. This year has been a rather trying one indeed for some of the local populace, at least for those of a more liberal persuasion. It began with a police raid on Momma Ritchie’s School for Young Girls, which had long been a popular charity for many of the county’s philanthropists. Supported by men of all ages, both high and low alike, it received many donations from these altruists who frequently visited the institution in order to assess firsthand the progress of the supple young pupils. After the raid, however, it was discovered that the course of study being offered was designed more for the benefit the school’s male benefactors than to enhance the students’ classical education. The resultant closure put a number of our local young women out of work, and Momma herself was facing jail time until it was revealed that the school also had offered a course in cinematography. Evidently the quality of videography was such that after some of the prominent citizens viewed the productions it was determined that Momma Ritchie should be allowed her freedom to pursue further artistic endeavors. Of course, had she not opened her school directly across the street from City Hall, the whole sordid episode might have been avoided.

As if that weren’t depressing enough, our local Democrats (all eight of them) were severely traumatized by the latest presidential election. Despite Fr. Bob’s attempts to counsel them, the whole lot decided to move to Canada. Under the leadership of town agnostic Bobby Jim Martin and the inimitable Holly Wainright (who consoled each other a good deal more than seemed warranted after the election), the troupe packed up all their essentials and headed north to establish their ideal of a socialist utopia in Rat Pass, Northwest Territories. They may actually have succeeded in their attempt had their Winnebago not developed transmission trouble just outside of Milwaukee. Now ensconced firmly in a couple of booths at Rusty’s Bar, the group has decided to take up drinking instead, vowing not to regain sobriety until Hillary wins in '08.

The Cratons were less discommoded by the election, however, though they remain in therapy for culture shock since moving here 20 years ago — John wonders if it could really be that long as he says it seems more like 60 years. Dr. Debbie at least seems to enjoy living here, and she continues gleefully working with all the sick people of the community. Constantly one to relish tempting fate, she and some friends vacationed to Florida this summer just in time to be evacuated by Hurricane Ivan. Her reputation as a harbinger of national disaster is becoming legend: The year the same group visited North Carolina’s outer banks, the East Coast endured a tropical storm; the terrorist attacks of 9/11 happened while they were in Florida in 2001; and this year it was Ivan. Lately she has been receiving letters from the California Department of Tourism encouraging her not to visit lest the Pacific should reclaim San Francisco and the surrounding environs.

The Craton young’uns continue their varied pursuits in life. Ben is now a junior at Purdue this year. His major (which one sincerely hopes remains unchanged till graduation) is now history, or more specifically the history of science and technology. Exactly what he plans to do with this we’re not sure, but possibly the Discovery Channel would cater to someone with his narrow field of expertise. We expect a marriage proposal to be emanating from his direction soon, given that he is still enamored of the same lovely lass hes been dating the last two years who, unlike him, is gainfully employed.

Jon is a senior in high school this year and became infected with senioritis even before the fall semester began. Still exhibiting no interest in dating, he likes to have “the guys” over to play video games on an almost daily basis. As any one of his friends appears large enough to bodily consume wiry Jon, his parents haven’t had to worry about what to do with leftovers this past year. A cursory glimpse at his acquaintances will quickly reveal how the lad has avoided being picked on in school lately. Jon plans to study Japanese at Indiana University next year where one supposes he hopes to meet a cute Asian chick and proffer her pickup lines in her native tongue.

Stephen also is in high school now and will be driving soon, thus making his parents officially old. The only one of the offspring who remains consistently employed, he continues working on his scheme to overtake the Bill Gates empire someday. Whenever strapped for cash, he simply goes online and finds some kind of computer scripting work to do and earns his own keep. If only his friends were of Jon’s friends’ stature, no doubt the lad could make a respectable loan shark. Would that his father could be so successfully employable.

As it is, poor old John has been more engaged in promoting the Injury-of-the-Year Club than in doing anything profitable for society. Featuring shingles in 2002 and a cat bite with resultant osteomyelitis in 2003, this past year — just to keep a good tradition going — he decided to break his ankle. Both bones. In five places. Now a borderline cyborg, he hobbles about with a plate and nine screws in his leg — surely enough to make attempts at fleeing the country through an American airport a serious challenge. Continent-hopping now more unlikely than before, he remains shackled to Bedrock and spends his time trying to teach a few kids how to play the violin and composing. This past year, among other worthless drivel, he finished his second opera — some people just never learn their own limitations.

But the writer certainly knows the limitations of space and of his readers’ endurance and therefore will end this blather by simply wishing all our faithful audience a happy and profitable holiday season and a recession-free New Year.

John, Debbie, Ben, Jon, & Stephen Craton, et al.

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