This was the stuff of epic tales

Sometimes one witnesses, firsthand, epics in the making, not in the grand tradition of the Elder Edda Old Norse poems, but more like the Finnish epic poem "Kalevala," which takes the prosaic facts of farm life and turns them into the stuff of legend.

Well, in the incident of which I'm thinking, actually it was more like Punxsutawney Phil, the groundhog weather savant. At least that's the way it came to feel in my tiny town when an innocuous event took on a life of its own.

It started when a young woman I'd never seen before came to my door in a big hurry. "Do you have a bottle opener I could borrow?" she asked breathlessly.

Assuming her to be a new neighbor, I opened the kitchen drawer and happened to pull out our very best one – shiny with a couple of gadgets attached. I gave it to her, and she thanked me and left.

And that was that until about five days later, when my husband suddenly grumped, "Where is my bottle opener?"

I had forgotten all about it. And that's when the event became peripatetic.

I could only tell him what happened – which helped not at all. This led to my going around the neighborhood, stopping at every door, asking if anyone might be the borrower.

As when guides appear on the path of the quest in "Lord of the Rings," it was a blessing in disguise. I managed to meet some new neighbors and get in some good chats with others whom I normally saw only in passing.

But, one and all, they pointed me on. One knew of a housewarming at a new home two doors up. Another said he had seen guests at the corner house – maybe they had it. I had a feeling it was the kind of thing that was about to take me to the Great Sinkhole at the end of the world.

My inquiries must have stirred somebody's memory ... or conscience. My husband walked in a couple of mornings later with an odd expression on his face. "You'll never guess what's outside," he said.

"The bottle opener?" I answered hopefully.

"Nope, the wheelbarrow we've been missing for weeks," he said. "I found it leaned up against the woodpile."

More days went by. I was still wondering who this mysterious young lady was. Our neighbor, June, with whom we walk every morning, suggested she might have been someone passing in a car who just happened to stop at our house. That wasn't a very comforting thought, but I couldn't come up with a better one – unless she was a sprite appearing as they do in fairy tales from nowhere, just to keep things stirred up.

With that in mind, I decided to call on my own reserves. I submitted a note to be posted on our town bulletin board: "Would the young lady whose name I did not get please return the bottle opener she borrowed? My husband is a gorilla and wants it back."

Our "guardian of the board," taken aback by the power of the image, decided to leave off the last sentence.

"No, no, you have to include it," I said, although I didn't want to tell him that it made the difference between a formula for catching out a fairy versus me sounding like a cheap old bat.

He harrumphed that it was a lot of hoo-ha, but put it up in spite of himself, with no name attached per my request.

A few days later my husband walked in and said, "Close your eyes and hold out your hands." When I opened them again, there lay the bottle opener.

"Where was it?" I asked.

"I found it hanging on the doorknob," he answered with a little smile.

Our treasure recovered and the tale concluded, I had the guardian place another note on the bulletin board: "My gorilla wants to thank the mysterious person who has enabled him to enjoy his bottle of banana juice once again."

And yes, we are living happily ever after. As June put it, "You got some real mileage out of that."

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