It's the last days of summer in Greentown, IL, and a young boy, Charlie, is bored and waiting for excitement. He runs to the house of Colonel Stonesteel, an elderly neighbor. Stonesteel notes that the Labor Day parade occurs the next day, but admits that things tend to run down when a boy is 13. Charlie looks to Stonesteel for an idea and the colonel bets him six cans of pop against mowing the lawn that something miraculous will happen in town in the next 24 hours during the slow time of the year, the desperate empties. Charlie agrees and Stonesteel goes inside. They finally go upstairs to the attic and Stonesteel offers to create a mystery...Read the full recap
Colonel Stonesteel: How old are you, Charlie.
Charlie: Thirteen, almost.
Colonel Stonesteel: Thirteen. Well, things do tend to run down come 13. Come to a dead halt when you're 14. Might as well die at 15.
Colonel Stonesteel: Meanwhile, Charlie, what do we do to survive none of this very day?
Charlie: Only you know, Colonel.
Colonel Stonesteel: Oh, son, you know, I can move politicians big as prize hogs. I can make locomotives run backward uphill. But small boys and long autumn weekends with a bad case of the desperate empties...
Colonel Stonesteel: You hear that, Charles? What's it say?
Colonel Stonesteel: Time, mostly, it says. Oldness, memory, dust. Listen! You let the autumn wind shake the skeleton of this house, you'll get true-time talk. Bombay snuffs, tombyard flowers gone to ghost.
Charlie: Boy, Colonel, you ought to write for Topnotch Magazine.
Colonel Stonesteel: I did once. Got rejected.
Colonel Stonesteel: Oh, child, life is a magic show. At least it could be, if people didn't go to sleep on each other. Always got to leave a bit of mystery for folks, son.
Charlie: Colonel... what's he truly made of? What's he mean?
Colonel Stonesteel: Boy, you were there. You helped. You saw.
Charlie: No. Tell me, Colonel.
Colonel Stonesteel: You want to know who he truly was, once upon a time? Well, he was everyone. He was no one. He was someone. He was you. He was me. Well, his body.. his body's made of crushed flowers. New wedding and old funerals. Ticker tapes, unraveled, gone off forever. Egyptian pharaoh midnight trains. Circus posters, torn off seed barns in Northstorm, Ohio, shuttered south to Fulfillment, Texas. All the things that were once need, hope, first nickel in a pocket. framed dollar on the cafe wall. Printed there by odd old men and time-orphaned widows, saying, "It'll happen tomorrow." "Tomorrow it'll happen!"