Though Marienstadt was beautiful at any time of the year, Henry Werner considered that October was the very best month to live there. The nights were chilly but the days were sun-drenched with the deep gold light of the shifting sun. The maple trees along Main Street turned fiery bright and the air smelled crisp and rich with the fragrance of woodsmoke and apples. Farmstands sprang up along the backroads decorated with sprays of brilliant leaves. They sold gallon jugs of home-made apple cider, baskets of Concord grapes, squash, and pumpkins as big as hassocks.
The local shopkeepers joined in, too. The window boxes of The Calico Cuckoo were filled with brightly-colored gourds and sprays of colorful leaves. Lola hung a grapevine wreath wrapped round and round with orange bittersweet berries in their papery husks on the door of her strudel shop. The gigantic Christmas Cactus in the window of Kneidel's Meat Market exploded with silky fuchsia blossoms and Andy turned the plant so everyone passing by could see the waterfall of flowers. People started donning all those hand-knit scarves and quilted jackets made at Gretchen's Friday night needlework parties and the Wednesday Needle Nights at The Snuff Box. Every time he walked down the street, Henry thought his town was more lovely than it had ever been.
“Henry! Hey, Henry, wait up.”
He turned to see Matthew Schreiber sprinting toward him from his law office in the stone Victorian house on the corner of Walnut Street. He was a hearty-looking man in his fifties, tanned and fit with a build more appropriate to a farmer than a lawyer.
“Matt.” Henry shaded his eyes.
“Haven't seen you in a coon's age.” Matt shook his hand. “How are you doing?”
“Not bad. How's yourself?”
“Good. Do you have a few minutes? There's something I want to talk to you about.”
“Sure.” Henry pulled open the Town Hall door. “Want to come in my office?”
“Yeah. I have to tell you, I got a hell of a surprise today.”
“Henry,” Donna Lynch said as soon as she saw him. “Mrs. Hauber has called three times since you left. She's in a bad mood.”
Henry rolled his eyes and took the message slips she held out to him. “Go on in my office, Matt. I'll be right there. What's her problem?”
Donna grinned. “She's all pissed off... uhm... mad because of the noise Juney Wickett's chain saw is making. I guess he's giving lessons again and she said she can't stand the noise.”
“Well, what am I supposed to do about it?” Henry asked knowing full well the question was rhetorical. Juney Wickett had recently purchased the property next door to Ethel Hauber's out on the edge of Opelt's Wood. Juney, a chainsaw artist, had filled his front yard with carvings of wild animals, Indian chiefs, and nearly naked women. This resulted in endless phone calls from his neighbor to the police station.
“It's obscene,” she sputtered. “It's just downright indecent. I can't even go out on my front porch anymore without being visually assaulted by all that smut. I want you to do something, Henry Werner, or I'm calling your mother.”
Henry groaned but he made a trip out to see Juney's affronts to public decency. It was true that the figures of females in his collection were scantily clad but there was just enough drapery to conceal the most significant parts of their anatomy. In addition, Henry thought, they were actually quite good. There was one of a mermaid-like creature rising up out of graceful waves, her long hair just barely covering full breasts from which he had a hard time averting his eyes.
“She's a beauty, isn't she?” Juney said running his hand along her gleaming shoulder. “If you're interested I'll make you a good deal.”
Henry raised his eyebrows. “It's tempting,” he said. “Listen, she's going to keep calling me. Do you think you could move the ladies out of her line of sight? Maybe on the other side of those trees?”
Juney nodded though he was obviously less than thrilled. “Yeah, I suppose so. But the miserable old bat will just find something else to complain about.”
“I know.” Henry sighed.
“You know, she's no joy to have as a neighbor either.” Juney pushed his plastic goggles up on top of his bald head, folded his hands over his ample stomach, and frowned. “A couple weeks ago we had a little party in the yard out back, me and my wife. Sort of a house warming party. It was a nice night and some friends came over with beer and stuff. We were just sitting around talking, not making much noise. It was early, too, and the old bat opened up her windows and played her Lawrence Welk records as loud as she could. What a way to kill a party. 'Ana one, ana two...'”
Henry nearly doubled over laughing.
Now he glanced through the messages. “Juney has a perfect right to give carving lessons on his own property. I can't stop him from earning a living. She's just going to have to get used to that.”
Donna grinned at him. “I heard that she killed her husband by putting rat poison in his whiskey.”
“That's not true.” Henry tucked the messages in his shirt pocket and turned toward his office. “He put it in there himself and drank it on purpose. Can you blame him?”
He could hear Donna's laughter even when he closed his door.