During a recent drive along the Maine coast, I saw a strange-looking building that looked like a giant blue bowl turned upside down. I got closer to see white lettering on the side that announced “Wild Blueberry Land.” It had been a long drive and it seemed like a good time for a break. And I find local kitsch amusing, so I pulled on the lot.
Inside was exactly as I suspected, everything blueberry you could possibly imagine: jellies and jams, cookbooks, T-shirts, mugs, can openers…on and on. After a few minutes of poking around I’d had my fill and was just about to leave when I noticed a blue door in back, almost hidden by a shelf of clothing, with a sign above it that said, in letters too small to read from more than a few feet away, “Wild Blueberry Floor Show. Every hour on the hour. Twenty Dollars. ADULTS ONLY. No refunds.”
A middle-aged man with a tragic comb-over in a loud, unbuttoned Hawaiian shirt sat by the door in a white plastic lawn chair, flipping through a copy of “The Racing Form.” When I walked over he gave me a bored glance. “Floor show?” I said with a smile. “Sounds like pretty spicy stuff.”
He didn’t return my smile, just scratched a hairy chest and inspected his fingernails. “I can tell you’re a guy knows all about blueberries,” he said in a sarcastic tone that raised my hackles.
“Well yes,” I said. “I’m not completely ignorant on the subject.” He gave me a seen-it-all grin. “Sure,” he said, nodding. “Bet you’re a real expert. Blueberries on granola…maybe some pancakes. And you read that book about the kid picking blueberries with his mom, right?” I was starting to find his manner quite annoying. “Yes. Blueberries for Sal," I replied. "Of course I know that book.”
He leaned back in his ratty little chair, folded his arms and nodded. “Yeah...a real expert. But if you wanna learn a little something about real wild Maine blueberries, give the floor show a shot. Or you could just go buy a pot holder and call it a day.”
We all have moments we wish we could replay…turn back the clock a few days, or even a few seconds, and make a different choice. I could have just walked away. Instead I took out my wallet and angrily plucked a twenty-dollar bill. He snatched it, put it in a cigar box sitting on the floor by his chair and waved at the blue door with a grand gesture.
I turned the knob and stepped through to enter a dark, short hallway, at the end of which was a beaded curtain. I pushed through to find myself in the quintessential low-rent strip club—the kind of place you’d never, ever want to see under bright light. There was a little bar with a half dozen stools, and off to the side a small stage.
The stool I sat on wiggled and squeaked under my weight. The only other people at the bar were an elderly local guy in a feed cap and plaid shirt who looked like he had more toes than teeth, and two young Asian men in suits who just stared expectantly at the stage, faces covered with a sheen of sweat. I ordered a white wine spritzer and the bartender gave me a dead-eyed stare. “I got Bud. I got Molson. I got Canadian Club.” “Just fizzy water,” I said, and left a five on the bar.
Just then a woman wearing a black mini skirt and a shiny, low-cut blue blouse strode onstage, carrying a small wicker basket. She paused a moment, surveying our motley crew with a smile that mixed pity, amusement and contempt. “Good afternoon, gentlemen,” she said with a bright, insincere smile. “Welcome to our Wild Blueberry Land Floor Show. We hope you enjoy.” She upended the basket to dump a load of blueberries, then vanished.
The room turned black for a few seconds, then a single spotlight shone onstage. The sound system started cranking out Rick James’s “Super Freak” at tooth-rattling volume, and then the blueberries began to move…
Minutes later I crashed through the beaded curtain down the hallway and through the Blue Door, to the great amusement of the guy in the chair. See, Buddy?” he said, as I charged past. “Not Sal’s blueberries, huh? His wet chuckle splashed across my back as I staggered outside.
So if you find yourself on Highway One, a mile or so west of Columbia Falls, near the intersection of Highway 187, and come upon a place called “Wild Blueberry Land”…my advice is to just keep driving. Unless you want to share my fate, jolted awake each night by a blueberry-scented nightmare.
Charles Coe is author of two books of poetry: “All Sins Forgiven: Poems for my Parents” and “Picnic on the Moon,” both published by Leapfrog Press. His poetry has appeared in a number of literary reviews and anthologies, including Poesis, The Mom Egg, Solstice Literary Review, and Urban Nature. He is the winner of a fellowship in poetry from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Charles’s poems have been set by a number of composers, including Beth Denisch, Julia Carey and Robert Moran. A short film based on his poem “Fortress” is currently in production by filmmaker Roberto Mighty. Charles is co-chair of the Boston Chapter of the National Writers Union, a labor union for freelance writers. He has been selected by the Associates of the Boston Public Library as a “Boston Literary Light for 2014.” His novella, "Spin Cycles," will be published in September by Gemma Media.