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*****
The Cranky Yankee - reprinted from the South Shore Puzzle Journal, Issue No. 48 - March, 2010
By Stephen Martin

      On Nantasket Beach, March comes in like a whole menagerie.
      Heralded by flapping flags and laughing gulls, wind and surf roll in like endless circus trains. Listen for the lions' outraged roar, the tigers' righteous snarl. See the high-plumed sea mares prance to strains of mad calliopes.
      Then the stakes come up and the caravan moves on, leaving only seaweed reins and half-deflated jelly balloons glowing purple on new sand.
      On Nantasket Beach, March limps out like an old lion.
      Battle-scarred and weary, well aware the circus could still return for him at any time, the lion waits, rampant on a field of cold, unyielding gray.
***
      On Clayton Lake, February doesn't stop until it gets to April.
      A winter's worth of drifting snow all but conceals the cabin. A splash of red flannel in a world of blinding white, the Cranky Yankee rests on his shovel to catch his breath. The first flakes of yet another nor'easter are already refusing to melt on his just-cleared porch floor.
      "Insult to injury," he mumbles, stowing away the shovel and stamping inside.
      Mrs. Cranky's at the door to help him take his coat off - his arthritic fingers have trouble with the buttons.
      "I'll do the shovelin' aftah this storm is spent," she asserts. Before he can object, she adds, "I'm twenty yeahs youngah, healthy as a pig and strong as an ox."
      And it's true. At 84, our beloved patriarch just can't do the things he used to do. The garden is shrinking year by year, and we've cut and stacked the firewood for the last few autumns. He still takes care of the chickens and the hogs.
      He grabs his laptop with a sigh and sinks into one of the overstuffed chairs by the hearth. She settles into the other chair and takes out her knitting.
      Outside, the storm gathers.
      Hours later it thunders full-force through the Great North Woods, tearing off limbs and driving every forest creature deep into its den. The only light to be seen through the cabin's window is the orange glow from the big log burning through the night. The rocking of their sturdy cabin has long since lulled the Crankys to sleep, as it has through hundreds of these storms.
      In a clearing an acre away, Elmer - the biggest, oldest tree in the area - strains against the wind, as it has through thousands of these storms. We're told Elmer was old when Cranky's grandfather was a boy. But, nothing lasts forever.
      CRACK! The report is so sharp it can easily be heard over the booming wind. The life-long lovers stir in their sleep, snuggling closer. With more cracking and creaking, the giant Elm slowly topples.
*****
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