Chapter 1 -- Introduction
My best friend and I had the same first name, spelled identically -- Stuart. I knew he was near death in a hospice. His cousin called me. "Stuart is near the end and he has some things he wants to say to you. Can you come up?"
I flew the 1,300 miles to the Newark Airport and went straightaway to the hospice. As soon as I walked in, Stuart motioned for me to come close. He whispered, "I left some things in my will for you. One is my bracelet with my name. On the back are six letters -- A code to special words. If you get them right, you will receive magical powers. You know enough about me to figure it out." Then he nodded off to sleep, never to awaken. He died that night.
After the funeral, his widow handed me, among other things, the bracelet. Yes, Stuart was on the front. On the back -- I love you. MTYLTT.
What did MTYLTT mean? The answer to that question has become my obsession.
What do I know about Stuart's life?
- He and I have the same first name
- We both love jazz
- He's travelled extensively in southeast Asia, India and Great Britain
- He did several "drugs"
- He had a minimally successful business, importing trinkets from India
- We were roommates in our senior year of college.
- He was the brother I never had, and conversely, I was the brother he never had
Chapter 2 -- Overtaken by ObsessionThe flight home was uneventful, except, of course, my mulling over and over about MTYLTT. Karla picked me up at the airport, and after a quick peck on the cheek kiss drove home.
"How was it?"
"For a funeral, it was kind of upbeat. Lots of funny stories and he had a couple of things for me." I said. I showed Karla the items Stuart had for me and I continued, " His college ring and diploma, His Best Man Snake ring, and A bracelet with Stuart on the front and some code letters on the back."
"That's all he had for you?" Karla asked, adding, "your best friend of over half a century..." Her voice trailing off. If you sense that Karla wasn't overly fond of Stuart, you would be correct. Karla and Stuart never really "hit it off," as they say. Karla and Robbie (Stuart's wife} never really "hit it off" either. In fact, now that I think about it, only a few people hit it off with Karla. On the other hand, I "hit it off" with both Stuart and Robbie. Similarly, I never hit it off with any of Karla's friends. It wasn't hostility or anything like that. It was just, as my mother used to say, booooorrrrrrring! Nothing in common. Now that I think about it, acutally less than nothing; not the same foods, movies, types of friends, education. Here is some insight:
- Karla and her friends -- Hard-coded middle class -- people who would bring a Sara Lee cake when visiting someone. High school oriented a la Grease. 1950's doo-wap. Live with parents until wedding night.
- Stuart and I -- Beatnik to Hippie -- Who would have taken Karla's cake, said nothing, and replaced it with "Alice B. Toklas brownies." Classical jazz a la Brubeck, Farmer, Silver.
- Stuart -- North Joisey with lots of Manhattan expertise
- Me -- Small town, semi-rural life in a culture of antiques and some basic survival skills
"K" my nickname for Karla, "What do you think the letters stand for? Stuart said that we knew enough about him to figure it out."
"I don't know. He was your friend." K shot back. "Maybe it means Much Time Yonder and Little Time Tested. Or maybe Mulling This Yields Little True Testimony. Or maybe they engraved it wrong and it should have been MANDMS -- Much Ado about Nothing, Don't mean shit!"
The message was clear! Karla wasn't going to be much help in solving the puzzle and activating the magical powers. It's clear I'll have to do this on my own. I will take all the things I know about Stuart and follow them one by one until the magic magically appears
Chapter 3 -- He and I have the same first nameI knew and loved Stuart's parents. They were nice people. In fact, I knew not only his parents, but his aunts, uncles and cousins, as well. I had actually helped in one of the uncles' business's and dated his daughter. I fell head over heels in love with her. But it was not to be...
Stuart and I had the same first name. (A little side note here -- I never know what to say here. It is had the same first name or have the same first name? But I digress...) We first met during our freshman year at college. It was very strange to meet another Stuart. I did not know another Stuart until Stuart. When the phone rang and the caller asked for Stuart, I would say, "You got 'em."
The caller would respond, "You're not Stuart!"
I would reply, "Yes, I am Stuart, but you want the other Stuart."
Anyhow, by our junior year, we decided to room together until graduation. In our senior year, we rented a trailer -- a 70' Marlett. Stuart had the main bedroom, I had the middle bedroom, and Mike, our third roommate had the sofa bed in the living room.
Since my college major was Russian, we decided to name the trailer, Milky Way, in Russian -- which is Млечный путь. Transliteration is mletchnee poot.
Wait a minute!! mletchnee poot!!! Did I just see an M? Yes!!! Did I get the first letter? Yes!!! Hmmm, Maybe not! No magical thing happened! Bummer!
But wait another minute!! It was about the Trailer. Get it? T for trailer! I got the first 2 letters. Anything magical? No! Double bummer!! I guess we soldier on...