I COULD ONLY WISH

By John Thomas Tuft

Darby was a cockalorum as well as an ultracrepidarian. He couldn’t nail two boards together but could expound endlessly about proper construction techniques for the neighbor’s barn. It was a challenge for him to mix water and flour to make paste, but Mrs. Winslow at the bakery knew enough to head for the ovens in the back whenever Darby came in, lest she have to listen to his endless ramblings on the chemistry of proper bread making. And Parson Brown often had his post preaching sense of fulfillment on Sunday afternoons dashed by Darby’s glad handing at the door, accompanied by his eternal question, “If Jurassic Park could happen, then couldn’t God be cloning Jesus and his disciples and maybe that’s the Second Coming? I could only wish…”

The good folks of Green Hills, Incorporated 1809, along the Beaver River, were content for the most part to let life happen the way it always seemed to happen.  People got married and grew older, crops got raised and harvested, mayors got elected, children changed everything and nothing changed, and the world is what it always was. One day Darby sought out Parson Brown to see about getting married. “Stacy Bridges is a fine woman, from good stock, she has a pretty smile, and I can see being happy with her the rest of my life!” he announced to the surprised reverend. “Have you been seeing her, Darby?”  Darby pulled out a piece of paper. “Statistics show that we’ve got a 50/50 shot at it, Parson. Numbers don’t lie.” The humble parson scratched his head. “Does Stacy even know you want to marry her?” Darby responded with full confidence, “I’ve been watching people get married for a long time now, I know what it takes, Parson.” The reverend asked gently, “Does Stacy even know your name?” Darby got a faraway look in his eyes. “One of these days. I could only wish…”

Another time the good folks of Green Hills, Incorporated 1809, were preparing for the annual Verily Venison Festival. Every able-bodied hunter from teens to codgers suited up, cleaned and oiled their weapons, and took to the hills and fields for miles around. Not being a hunter but self-assured he knew of such things, Darby took to the hills and fields around the area, as well. He made it his mission to go from group to group, traipsing over dead leaves and cracking branches, to offer his wisdom. “Get further up the creek!” he hollered to one group, waving at their disgusted gestures and plunging on. “They can’t see you in those trees!” he shouted to a group of teenagers stalking an eight point buck. He ran toward the sound of gunfire. “Aim for the heart,” he screamed as his orange hat sent spinning off his head, a neat bullet hole added to its crown. Later as Darby surveyed the meager offerings of the Verily Venison Festival, he clapped Parson Brown on the back. “You gotta take what the Good Lord gives you,” he said. “These people really need to listen to me. I could only wish…”

Then there was the year of the Green Hills Bicentennial Celebration and Old Fashioned Market. Year of Our Lord 2009, to be exact. Folks from all over the county planned all winter, spring and summer for the event. Acres of home canned goods from vegetables, fruits and meats to homemade jams and preserves to elderberry, strawberry and dandelion wines lined the streets of the town. Acres of ‘em, mind you. Then the rains came. And the Beaver River rose higher and higher. Flooding was imminent. Darby thought hard and went to the mayor and pastor to say, “I’m the only one who knows what to do. I’ll put all this merchandise up in the old mines behind my scrap yard. The temperature is perfect for storage. I’ll keep it there, for a small charge per person, and then, in all fairness, sell it at a reasonable profit after this time passes. It’s only fair, and I could only wish…”

Some years later the Great Plague descended upon the land. Which included the town of Green Hills, naturally. People had been angry with Darby after the bicentennial and refused to have anything to do with him for all those years. Now, everyone had to stay in their homes, shops and restaurants were closed. Everyone grew more and more anxious and afraid. The parson could not hold services in the church and Mrs. Winslow feared for the bakery. Then one night a note was slipped under her door. The next morning the town of Green Hills awakened to a glorious surprise.

On each and every doorstep sat a basket. In the basket were fresh-baked breads and goodies. Accompanying a robust selection of everything from canned vegetables, fruits and meats to homemade jams and preserves to elderberry, strawberry and dandelion wines. With the simplest of notes: For you in this time, I could only wish…

And that is how Green Hills came to be named Darbyville. If not, they can only wish it was so…

Words are magic, and writers are wizards.