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Montclair Tall Tale
COURTESY JONNY LINDNER/PIXABAY
Montclair Local is starting a story…and we need your help to finish it.

Release your inner author, Montclair.

We’re looking for writers to help us with our jointly created story, “Howdy, Neighbor.”

This week is the call-out, we’ll publish the first installment (written by you!) sometime after the Montclair Film Festival.

Each entry should be 500-700 words, and sent to culture@montclairlocal.news.

Those chosen to be published will receive a gift certificate: the first installment chosen will get a coupon for Gelotti of Montclair.

Here are our main characters:

  1. Rachelle: Our protagonist. Founder, CEO, etc. of Ready for Brine Time, a “gourmet artisan organic farm-to-table picklery.” She is establishing a new location in Montclair after taking Brooklyn by storm. Driven, capable, determined to keep the business, along with her family, afloat and running smoothly (easier said than done).
  2. Nathan: Rachelle’s husband and business partner. He’s going through an existential crisis after an investment went sour (and not like pickles). He thinks that his jeans, man buns and Patagonia vests aren’t sufficiently hipster anymore. He’s thinking of going really radical: wearing a suit. Maybe Brooks Brothers. And a tie.
  3. Sophie, Ava and Treat: The couple’s three kids, ages 15, 5 and 10, respectively. Sophie, the eldest, will attend Montclair High School, and has enough books to fill the library at Alexandria. Ava, the youngest, will attend Bradford Elementary School, and is already showing signs of inheriting her mother’s business acumen. Treat, the middle child, will attend Buzz Aldrin Middle School, and is obsessed with UFO conspiracy theories.
  4. Rambo, Loki, and Gustavus: The family pets: a dog, a cat, and an “emotional support porcupine,” respectively.

Things we love: spies, mystery, mistaken identity, doppelgangers, space aliens.

Things some of us don’t love: vampires, werewolves. (On the other hand, some of us do, so if that’s your jam, go for it.)

And keep it family-friendly: no cursing, excessive violence, or Fifty Shades stuff.

Feel free to introduce new characters and plotlines. Please end your episode with a cliffhanger!

Rachelle Birchmore sat in front of a makeshift computer desk — an end table built out of a pickle barrel — facing the front window in the living room on Warren Place. She had a smart phone on speaker, and a headpiece in one ear, and Loki the cat dozed nearby in his basket.

This was her temporary headquarters until Ready for Brine Time had its new Montclair location up and running.

“Okay, that shipment of radishes needs to be in on Tuesday, and the cucumbers, they need…accident in the Lincoln Tunnel?” Rachelle let out a disappointed sigh. “Those cucumbers are going to be wilted by the time they get the tunnel cleared out.”

Rachelle and Nathan – mostly Rachelle, with some help from Nathan – had taken Brooklyn by storm with all those pickles and relishes. And the ad revenue from Instagram and all the exposure on the foodie blogs meant the Birchmores had hit the big time: being able to afford the property taxes on a decent-sized single-family house in Montclair.

A week after they’d made the trek from Brooklyn to Montclair, the whole house was still a jumble of packing boxes and re-assembled IKEA furniture. Nathan and the kids were unpacking — or at least, they were supposed to be — the boxes as Rachelle conducted a rapid-fire series of business meetings over the phone.

The kids seemed to be adjusting well. And Nathan was finally coming out of the funk he’d been in after his “Tough Mudder yoga” studio venture went belly-up.

Rachelle clicked off one call and switched to another. “Hey, Kelly, got your message…Rachael Ray? Again? We’ve been on the show five times this month, but, okay,” she said. And another phone call, this one from her sister. “Hi, Monique…yes, we’re settling in just fine. We’ll have a housewarming party – bring Lance and the kids.”

She was responding to two more interview requests – one from Essence, one from The Today Show – when Ava walked in, with her Startup CEO Barbie tucked under one arm. “Mommy, will you play stockbroker with me?”

“Later, pumpkin, Mommy’s a little busy right now. Why don’t you take your dolls and your stuffed animals and go have a business meeting, okay?”

“But my teddy bear’s late with his quarterly report,”  Ava pouted, but she headed off to the playroom.

“‘Scuse me, coming through!” It was Sophie, lugging another yet another box of books up the stairs to her room, as Rambo scampered around her. Rachelle and Nathan had dropped a few hints about maybe offloading some books before the move, but Sophie had refused to part with a single one.

“Hey, Soph, some lady at the library said there’s rumors about a Jersey Devil sighting up here in 18-something or other…”

“Whatever, Treat, now get out of my way before I drop this box!” Sophie retorted. “Rambo, shoo!”

As the two squabbling kids’ voices and Rambo’s barks faded away up the stairs, another phone call came in for Rachelle. It was the realtor calling about the business space Rachelle was looking at on Walnut Street. “The competition for these commercial places is fierce. Especially where there’s food involved. You know how people come to this town to eat,” the realtor said.

The doorbell rang. Rachelle groaned and tried to stave off the headache that she knew was coming.

“Nathan, can you get that?” Rachelle called.

The door open and closed. A moment later, Nathan — in his “Brooklyn dress formal” outfit of jeans, Patagonia vest and T-shirt, with his graying blond hair pulled back in a man bun — came in holding a brightly ribboned basket loaded with assorted goodies. Gustavus, his “emotional support” porcupine, waddled behind him.

“Look, honey, it’s a welcome wagon basket! How cute!” Nathan said.

Honey? Okay, Nathan was embracing his new identity as suburban dad a bit too much.

“Look, there’s a book about the schools, and some coffee, and, oh, cool!” He pulled out a slip of paper. “They’re having a gladiator match in the Bay Street Station parking deck to see who gets the last available permit!”

He handed Rachelle the basket, and she looked through the contents. She was vaguely aware of Rambo barking at something, and Treat hollering something down the stairs.

There was a card. On the front it said, “Howdy, neighbor.”

Rachelle opened the card. Inside it read, “Look out the window.” She did just that, and her jaw slowly dropped.

Gustavus’s quills rose, and Loki sat up in his basket and hissed.

The Jersey Devil – not some guy in a giant red hockey mascot suit, but the hoofed and snouted beast of legend itself – stood in the front yard. It was eating from a jar of pickles.

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