Thursday, May 5, 2016

One day in July of 1967

521...523...525...that’s the one. I stopped the car in front of the house to confirm the address. Good thing too. This was the end of the street, and all that was left was a cul-de-sac. I used it to turn around, roll back to 525, and park out front. It was a fourplex just as I was told. Two stories with two up and two down connected by a central main entrance. I could see the balcony door on the upper left unit was open to let in some air. He was home.

I got out and did my parking ritual. Opened each car door, cranked up its window, pushed down its lock and slammed it shut. Once the doors were all locked I checked to make sure I was parked close to the curb. You wouldn’t believe the number of tickets I’ve gotten for being too far away. I didn’t want anything weighing on my mind during this visit. 

I paused for a moment and stared at the fourplex’s main door. Someone had left it open. It was now or never. I walked up the path, went inside, climbed the stairs and knocked on his door.

“I’m comin’,” came a call from somewhere deep inside the apartment. 

After what seemed like an eternity, the door opened and there he was.

He was probably in his late 60s or early 70s. Not tall. Grey hair. Slightly bent, but spry. An unassuming presence.

I started into my well rehearsed introduction, “Hello Mr. Moore, I’m Ed Bryce. My wife called you about visiting?”

A grimace briefly flashed over his face, but was soon replaced by a broad smile.

“Son, the only fella who calls me Mister is Uncle Sam, and when he does, it’s never good news. Call me E.L.”

We both laughed.

“E.L., I’m glad to meet you!”

We shook hands. He looked me over.

“I’m glad to make your acquaintance too, but you’re lookin’ a bit parched son. Why don’t you come through to the kitchen and I’ll pour us some iced tea. I made a fresh batch this mornin’. Looks like it’s going to be another hot one today.”

He was right. It was barely ten o’clock and it already felt around ninety. 

He started to amble off toward the kitchen at the back of the apartment. 

“Can I leave my car parked out front?” I asked as I followed. 

Without glancing out a window to see where my blue Plymouth was parked he replied, “Sure, it’s not botherin’ anyone.”

We passed through the living room to get to the kitchen. There were stacks of books and models and magazines and miscellanea on all available horizontal surfaces and shelves. There was an overstuffed chair with a tv tray in front of it topped with a new model in progress, but I didn’t see a tv anywhere. Off in a corner was a large diorama of what looked like his 1900 engine servicing facility that was in January’s MR. In an opposing corner was clearly a layout of similar size cloaked by a plastic sheet. The place wasn’t messy in a hoarder kind of way, but it was missing a woman’s touch. There was a strong bachelor-pad vibe.

“Is that your engine facility diorama over there?” I asked as I stood at the kitchen entrance and looked back into the living room while he went to the fridge for the iced tea.

“Yeap, and you got here just in time. Next week a fella from up in Raleigh is coming to pick it up for display at his hobby shop. Maybe he might use only the buildings. Damned if I know. I don’t care too much what happens after they’re done. Leisurely workin’ on new models is where the fun is for me. Right now I’m leisurely workin’ on the RMC building for Carstens.

E.L. laughed and continued while I heard some clinking from the kitchen, “You’re new so you get the full philosophical musin’s. Why don’t you take a load off and I’ll get some glasses,” he said as he motioned to a chair by a small table in the equally small kitchen. I plopped down in it like a sack of potatoes. I didn’t realize how tired I was.

“Your wife said on the phone you were passin’ through,” he said as a conversation starter as he placed the pitcher of iced tea on the counter and got some tall glasses from a cupboard. 

“Well, yeah. It’s a bit of a long story.”

“Go ahead. I’ve got nothin’ but time. You’re stayin’ awhile aren’t you?”

“Yes, if that’s ok?”

“Sure is, and don’t let me forget, I’ve got fixins for Spumoni clubs for lunch. Got some rhubarb pie too.”

“Sounds great.”

“Well, go on. ‘It’s a bit of a long story’....?”

“Ok. Last week - it seems like a year ago now - my grandfather died. My boss gave me a couple of days compassionate leave. I bundled that with some vacation time that needed using up and drove from Houston up to New Toronto for the funeral. Cathy couldn’t get away from work so I went by myself. I got there in two long days and a bit of a third. Funeral was the next day.”

“I’m sorry to hear about your grandfather.” 

“Thanks. Heart attack. He had a history of heart problems. But, he lived nearly a decade longer than the doctors said he would, and even out lived one of them. So, they don’t know everything. Anyway, after the funeral I had to get away and decided that since I had the time, and I’d already driven that far, I’d go a bit further to Montreal for a day to see Expo.”

“The world’s fair you’re havin’ up there?” he said while placing a tall, cool glass of tea on the table in front of me. “Sugar’s there,” he said pointing to the sugar bowl. I added a few teaspoons. He pulled up the other chair and we sat and drank tea.

“Yeah, 100th anniversary of the country. Let me back up. For some reason while I was in New Toronto, I called Cathy and asked her to call RMC to see if they could tell me where you lived so I could visit on my way back. I thought you were in Texarkana.”

“Texarkana? How’d you get that idea?”

“I don’t know,” I said staring at my glass, slightly exasperated at my dumbness, “Anyway, she sweet-talked Hal Carstens into giving me your address. Imagine my surprise when I found out you lived in Charlotte.”

“It’s a ways east of Texarkana,” he said with a grin.

“I’ll say: it’s a thousand miles east of Houston! I won’t be going through Texarkana on my way home that’s for sure. I’ll head south-west and follow the Gulf. Anyway, that’s for tomorrow,” I was starting to feel a little overwhelmed by the thought of the long drive still to come. I pushed on, “So, being crazy, two days ago I left Montreal and now I’m here.”

Two days of hard driving later that is. When I pulled into the motel I flopped on the bed dead asleep. I woke up in the middle of the night thinking I was in New Toronto in January and the furnace had broken down. When I came to my senses I realized it was just that the air conditioning was set to extra frigid. I reset it to cool and went back to sleep. 

“Well, that’s some drivin’. I don’t do any myself, but that’s a long trip you’ve been on and I’m glad you came. I like havin’ visitors drop by to chat awhile.”

I took a couple long pulls from my glass. I couldn’t believe I was here, but the tea was working its magic and I felt the life force return.

I guess my demeanor was perking up because his next question was one I came to this place to hear, “Wanna see my layout? Bring your glass.”

Glasses in hand, we headed back into the living room. He walked over to the table draped in a dust cover and asked, “Can you help me lift it off?”

“Sure,” I replied as I put my glass on a side table. I grabbed the far end of the sheet and together we carefully lifted it off the mountains and hills and buildings. It looked in pretty good shape for what was likely a 15 year old layout. He folded up the sheet, set it on the floor and proceeded to plug some ancient looking power packs into wall sockets. 

“I gave it a good cleaning yesterday so it would run ok today,” he reported as he placed a loco from a nearby shelf on the track and hooked up some cars. “These days I only run it about once a year or so. Every so often I think I should sell it, but once I get it going, nostalgia rushes that idea outta my head.”

And it ran as well as he said. We spent sometime running trains through mountain passes, around lakes, and into Elizabethton. We picked up logs in the hills, dropped off day trippers at the lake, and shuttled thirsty workers to the saloon. We ran every loco and car he had.

After the last passenger had been safely delivered to their destination E.L. asked, “I think it’s time for sandwiches. Whaddaya say?”

“Sounds good!”

We carefully gathered up the locos and cars and returned pieces to their resting places. Each of us took an end of the dust cover and carefully placed it back over the layout. A billowing section caught some trees and twisted them out of position. E. L. reached in and straightened them. 

Fiddling with the trees seemed to trigger a memory in him, which he narrated as he reattached the scenery, “My Uncle Martin, whose full name was Martin Maybeck Mohrslavoski by the way, was a logging man from way back. Claimed even to have run a balsa tree operation in Ecuador. I wish he had as I’d have an unlimited supply. 

“Well, as a young ‘un he prided himself on being the fastest tree feller in the county. Could chop ‘em down lickety-split and land ‘em wherever he wanted. As the years went on he tried to get into the business end of things and run his own show. One day he’s out chopping down trees at some old fella’s place and the two brothers who live on the property next door saunter on over to see what Uncle Martin is doin’. 

“They start to chattin’ a bit and one brother says to Uncle Martin, ‘How much would you charge to chop down that one?’ pointing to a big maple precariously tilted over a shed on the brothers’ property. 

‘That’ll be twenty-five bucks’, answers Uncle Martin. 

‘Twenty-five bucks! You gotta be kidding,’ gagged a brother.

‘You’d probably drop it on the shed to boot,’ chimed in the other brother.

Uncle Martin’s pride was hurt by that and shot back, ‘They drop where I want them to drop.’

The brothers gave each other a little glance, and then one said to Uncle Martin, ‘I’ll bet you 10 bucks you can’t drop it right here,’ while walking over to a spot opposite the shed and placing a ten dollar bill on the ground.

‘Stand back,’ Uncle Martin commanded, as he picked up his axe and proceeded to chop down that leaning tower of Pisa maple in record time and drop it right on top of the sawbuck without even a breeze disturbing the shed.”

We both laughed and then made sure the dust cover was secured over the layout. We then wandered back to the kitchen.

“Can I help with anything?” I asked.

“No. Help yourself to some more tea if you want. Do you want mustard or mayo?”

“Mustard sounds good,” I replied as I got a refill of iced tea from the pitcher in the fridge. E. L. rustled up some bread from a cupboard. I sat at the table, but try as I might, I couldn’t keep my eyes open.


“Ed. Ed. Wake up sweetheart.”

Cathy was shaking my shoulder. I’d fallen asleep sitting upright on the couch in our living room. 

“We’ll be late.”

I slowly came-to bathed in the light of the big screen LED tv bolted to the far wall. An old black-and-white show was ending and a well dressed man with a cigarette and a gravelly voice came on screen to speak to the viewers, “If you ever find yourself behind the wheel of a blue Plymouth near the outskirts Montreal on a hot summer day in July of 1967, don’t hesitate to follow the signs heading south. You never know who you might meet in, The Twilight Zone.”


The very first episode of Ed Bryce and Leslie Warden's exciting adventures can be found here. Missed it the first time around? Don't worry, all 40 episodes soon to be Kindlized, with more on the way. Stay tuned!


  1. Welcome back Ed! Very Twilight Zoney, I look forward to the Kindle release, I very much enjoyed the series the first time through.

    1. Thanks for the kind words Michael! Strangely enough, the old Light Ray Blues / Street Car Noir series were the most viewed series of posts on this blog even exceeding the E. L. Moore series - maybe I'm in the wrong line of work :-)