Thursday, December 29, 2011

Angels Crest


Leslie Schwartz
Nestled at an altitude of approximately eight thousand feet, Angels Crest is more than a small, snowy town hidden on a mountainside only noticed by the outside world during tragedy; it is a place filled with real people with strong ties to their past despite struggling to manage not-so-perfect-lives. The town is mainly inhabited by working class citizens rooted in the pioneering and resilient spirit of their ancestors, who have resisted severe climatic hardship to settle at the location they call Angels Crest.

Although some people may struggle with broken relationships, alcoholism and their innate differences, they tend to sympathize with each other, especially in the face of tragedy. A recent case in which a three year old boy died in the woods due to a parent negligence, affected most Angels Crests residents and also drew the attention of many out-of-towner following media coverage on the subject.


Angels Crest foundation dates back to 1889 and its name originated in honor of five babies who survived harsh conditions in one of the worst winters in history in which there was an accumulation of about twenty feet of snow. Settlers and their livestock died by the numbers because they were trapped in the snow and their wagons could not keep moving forward due to the snow accumulation.

People perished as they were exposed to extensive cold, starvation and disease. It is said that angels stopped at the summit of the highest peak and watched over the newborn children through the whole winter. The settlers therefore named the peak, Angels Crest. The locals are really proud of their legacy and how they have evolved from such withstanding tradition.

Unlike some small tourist towns in the mountains where beauty rests on the glitziness of the Christmas lights decoration year round, Angels Crest does not have the incense and soap scented stores, which are so characteristic of such places targeted at tourism. Instead, it basically grips one’s attention by its simplistic atmosphere, emptiness and relentless silence.

For an outsider driving through town on the Main road, there is nothing exceptionally remarkable about the place and what they see are basically cars parked in the driveways of small houses and some toys scattered on the lawns here and there and little else. From a visitor’s observation, it is fair to say that Angels Crest is not be a fast paced, growing town but children are still born and raised there. Even though the population may appear static, there are children behind scattered toys which in turn could mean that the town is alive and the population has continuity.

Most of the buildings congregated along Main Street, predominantly from the nineteenth-century era, harbor businesses in town. There is a diner, a Laundromat, a bar, a dentist’s office, and a hardware store. There is also a Sporting Goods Store and a pawnshop. One may be able to tell what kind of behavior and lifestyle locals would likely have just by observing the physical aspect of the town, the sizes of the houses, location, and accessibilities to other big centers and the type of trades there are in the area.

The existence of a Sporting Goods Store in such a small town may suggest that men are inclined to partake in outdoor activities such as seasonal hunting and fishing. Pawnshops may indicate that some people have the habit of using personal objects as collateral to borrow money.

People look into such options when they are faced with some kind of financial constraint and are forced into converting valuable objects into cash. Obviously the drawback with that kind of trade is that it benefits the pawn shop itself most of the time as opposed to the individual. In some cases the borrower never goes back to claim their possessions.

 It is fair to assume that money does not flow abundantly among the residents of Angels Crest as it does not seem to have much activities going on. The town does not look as though there is the potential to attract much investment which would cause the local economy to grow and generate employment and consequently establish more substantial cash flow.

One of the most popular places in Angels Crest is Angie’s diner. That is usually where people would go to socialize, engage in conversations and where information would get disseminated among the residents and outsiders. Ever since the news of a three year old boy who disappeared in the woods outside the town of Angels Crest became known to the outside world, Angie’s diner turned into a popular place for reporters and other people who come to town to get more information about the boy and the details of the family’s ordeal. Angie’s is described as a cozy and friendly place and it is suddenly filled with more people than usual due to the developing story. The place became a strategic spot connecting Angels Crest to the outside world.

People from all around have reacted to the news of a young boy who disappeared in the woods after the father recklessly leaves him sleeping unattended in his truck, as it becomes the focus of some news media. However, no one gets as moved emotionally in this community of three hundred and fifty five more than those who were directly hit by the disturbing fact, the parents themselves.

As the chances of finding the boy alive had become improbable with each passing hour the incident escalated into a tragedy and re-ascended old wounds among the main characters involved in the plot. In the face of all the commotion around the boy’s tragedy, Angie, the diner’s owner, becomes very uneasy as she has to deal with a growing number of outsiders who come to Angie’s to gather more information related to the case.

Since the media is covering the developing story more people learn about the details of the facts which led to a tragedy. It was almost dawn on December first when Ethan drove his son Nate up the mountain with the intent of showing him the woods up close. This was an opportunity for him to have a close encounter with the divinity of the forest. Hunting was one of Ethan’s passions and he wanted Nate to enjoy the forest as much as he did. He could barely wait until his son came to an age in which they could go hunting together, him and Nate.

But for a boy at the age of three the most he could do was to get him to observe the woods for the time being. It was close to day break and the skies looked overcast as he headed for the mountain with Nate half asleep in the back seat. As he drove up the winding road, heavy clouds and the fragrant scent in the air indicated that snow was about to fall at any moment. Ethan’s thoughts drifted away as he tried to sort out issues related to Nate’s custody.

Discreetly, a gloomy light tinted the night sky and slowly turned the landscape into a magical place as he arrived at his favorite spot, the old Angels Crest trailhead. He stopped the truck to observe nature and hear the sounds of the forest while Nate slept heavily in the back seat. Suddenly he spotted a few deer over the rise and he was filled with excitement. His fatal attraction for the things of the forest and lack of experience as a parent overshadowed the responsibility he ought to have as a child custodian.

He felt the strong urge to follow the animals just to see where they were headed. He then, with a certain degree of hesitation, left Nate sleeping in the truck and followed the animals. His heart was heavy as deep inside he knew it was not the right thing to do, but he was convinced that nothing would happen to Nate if he stepped away for just a few minutes.

As it turned out he was away just long enough to create a time and space void between him and his son. He was so excited to be able to follow the deer so close but at the same time he could not take his mind off Nate. He was worried and a little guilty about leaving him unattended like that but he had no doubt that Nate was going to be fine and certainly would still be sleeping when he got back to the truck minutes later.

Although a mixed feeling of excitement was finding its way into his head as he moved further and further away from where the truck was parked, he just felt he could not miss that rare opportunity to be so close to those bucks. Without realizing he moved so far out, he lost sight of the truck and momentarily also lost track of time.

He suddenly came to his senses and realized he was away for almost fifteen minutes. He took his focus off the animals as he knew he could not observe them indefinitely and thought of Nate. He started to get really worried once he realized he was away for too long. He rushed back towards where the truck was parked. He was glad he was able to track the deer for so long without being spotted by them and was happy as he satisfied his impulse but now all that mattered was Nate’s safety. As he reached the valley’s crest his heart begins to beat heavily as he noted that the trucks’ door was wide open. He soon would find out that the consequences of his decision would turn his life upside down.

Ethan would take the rest of his days trying to cope with his loss and to recover from the guilty feeling he would carry inside as a consequence of a split second decision. Ethan experienced agonizing moments once he reached his truck and found out that his son was nowhere to be seen. The anticipated snowstorm had started right at that moment and that enhanced his sensation of despair. He looked all around in disbelief and called his son’s name loudly for several minutes. No answer was heard. He realized Nate woke up while he was gone, managed to free himself from the seat and got himself out of the truck somehow.

The boy got lost in the woods and was eventually found dead by his friend Glick more than a mile away from where Ethan’s truck was parked. With each passing day, Ethan experienced a growing psychological burden which he would not be able to recover from. It eventually led him to a point of no return. It is hard for one to begin to understand the full extent of the suffering expressed by the regret and guilt that Ethan’s harbored after the incident took place. No matter how hard one tries they will never be able to fully describe what goes on in his mind and the intensity of his grief.

People from the community were devastated by the news of the tragedy and they had mixed feelings in regard to Ethan’s situation. Ethan was a liked person and the townspeople felt really bad for him. He was given custody of his son for being considered the most centered and responsible of both parents. But at the same time he was young and inexperienced and obviously did not fully understand the scope of his responsibility as a parent.

Even though his love and caring for Nate was apparent he could not get away from being held responsible for what was considered a reckless act. He was aware that according to the established rules he was going to face trial and potentially spend time in prison if proven guilty. In his heart he totally accepts the fact that he deserves to be punished. However, no matter how long he stays in prison it will never surpass the punishment he inflicted on himself starting on the day Nate disappeared in the woods.

The news of a lost boy in Angels Crest reached Judge Jack Rosenthal through his car radio as he was driving aimlessly on a narrow iced-patched winding road towards the mountains. Jack was feeling completely off centered emotionally and his deep negative thoughts were only interrupted by the periodic swerving and sliding of his black Mercedes which caused his body to experience a rush of adrenaline.

He was completely disoriented and especially disturbed with the image of Marty, his son who became a drug addict, entering the house the night before accompanied by his stripper girlfriend and stealing Adele’s Jewelry and his coin collection. He was in shock to witness his son, that he once loved the most, was able to commit such an act. He felt that his life had apparently become meaningless and out of purpose. He was so small that he wished he would vanish from this world. First he lost his wife Adele to cancer just six months before. Second, his son Marty, the youngest and the brightest of his children had deviated from the kind of life he had hoped for him and became a drug addict and outlaw.

It was by chance that Jack heard the news on the radio about a boy lost in the woods for a few hours, near a town called Angels Crest, apparently located in the same area he was driving by. Something impulsively locked his attention onto the intriguing story and he felt he should make himself available to help in the search for the boy. He turned his car around and followed the road which led to Angels Crest.

He had nothing to lose by stopping by and trying to help the family. He had to put his mind on something constructive and stop thinking about his own situation otherwise he would go insane. Maybe by taking the focus off of his problems and help others it would ease his suffering. As he reached Angels Crest he changed his mind set as he become more observant of the surroundings and realized how beautiful things could be in a simplistic way.

He momentarily thought about Marty and metaphorically drew a parallel of his situation with the lost boy in the woods. It felt like the story of this boy was in a way the allusion of his own situation in which his son Marty had followed a path into a dense forest of uncertainties and was stripped from his dignity and swallowed whole. That is basically what drugs did to him. The same way that a father lost his son in the woods, he lost Marty to a life of drugs and other wrongdoings.

Jack’s situation was in a way similar to Ethan’s and in fact they had a lot in common. They were both successful in their trade and executed their duties well. Jack was a well to do individual and had prestige. Ethan was a hardware store owner and lived a relatively good life.

 They both met in the face of tragedy. They were both devastated by what happened to their sons and shared the same guilty feeling and self-blame for not handling things appropriately to prevent tragedy from happening. They both took on the responsibility for what happened to their sons even though Ethan’s pain was even greater because his son actually died whereas Marty was alive albeit living a miserable life of drug addiction and poverty somewhere in Hollywood.

Jack impulsively headed to Angels Crest firstly because he was completely out of control. He had no real purpose driving up the mountains despite his decoration of words which implied that he may take his own life. He was very upset and going through emotional distress but he is a man of strong faith and it does not seem that he would have the courage to take his own life.

He made the sudden decision to head into Angels Crest likely because he was unconsciously sympathetic with the families affected by the boy’s tragedy. He, in a way, felt the same pain and was capable to understand the extent of the family’s suffering despite the fact that he did not know them. Maybe by joining the search effort he would grow out of that situation and it would help ease his anguish and the awful sensation of defeat.

Both men seem reserved and tend to keep to themselves. They usually tend to be on the sidelines when faced with a crisis situation. Jack tends to rely on a divine power and hope things will resolve pacifically according to God’s will. Ethan is not religious and believes in the divinity of the forest and seems to be empowered by it. In a way they are both drug addiction enablers.

When Marty was at the age of thirteen he started to show traits of a deviant personality and that created a lot of friction in the relationship with Jack. Their communication deteriorated significantly and Jack reacted irrationally quite a few times in the face of the disappointment and frustration he felt in dealing with his son. His negative behavior was really conflicting with what jack and his wife had projected for him.

With each situation it became more apparent that Jack had lost control over Marty. From then on Jack became afraid of him and what he might do. (Schwartz 93). Jack regretted not being able to handle the situation differently back when he was very little. Jack’s abrasive reaction to Marty’s behavior may have contributed to Marty having become even more deeply addicted to drugs.

Ethan’s ways of handling the situation could potentially characterize him as a drug addict enabler as well. The initial attraction Ethan and Cindy had for each other faded away after Nate was born. Ethan little by little got fed up by the unpredictability which came with Cindy’s drinking habit.

 He also longed for a strange desire to be in solitude and live a life of regularity which was not possible in Cindy’s company. Ethan became gradually more withdrawn and would usually keep to himself. He drifted away from her even further and involuntarily fed her addiction as she found shelter and comfort in her drinking.

Jack hated the fact that he always acted at the wrong time when dealing with his son. Even during the worst case scenario, when Marty was caught after he sneaked in the house in the middle of the night with his stripper girlfriend to steal Adele’s jewelry and his coin collection, his voice was barely above a whisper. He basically froze and acted out of fear and just let Marty get away with the stolen items.

He could have called the police even after the fact to file a report or strongly demand that he drop the items and leave the house immediately using a convincing tone. But that was not his style. He did not do any of that because he was afraid of what Marty may have done to him.

 He was probably also afraid that if he went to the police the media would probably blow it out of proportion and that would have affected his image as part of a religious community or as a public figure.

But above all and despite of all the anger and frustration and hard feelings, deep inside he is a father who could not ignore the fact that this was the son he once loved dearly. So, instead of doing something about it he disregarded the seriousness of the event and would rather just keep it quiet. This is probably also a sample of how he always operated when dealing with Marty ever since he was a child.

He never had the nerve to address any issues accordingly in dealing with Marty. Jack lacked the authority and lost the respect of his son. It is easy for one to imagine that Marty was a spoiled kid who always had access to nice things and never really worked hard towards being self sufficient because he always had everything easily available.

Ethan Denton and Judge Jack Rosenthal are two very distinct characters whose paths would not have crossed if they had normal and happy lives; the chances they would know of each other would be very slim under normal circumstances since they only met by chance in face of tragedy.

Coincidently, they mirror each other in many aspects. Angels Crest townspeople and outsiders sadly followed the tragic story of a three-year-old-boy who was found dead after disappearing in the woods for hours.

They also learned the fate of his father, who eventually ended up taking his own life as he could not cope with the loss and all the guilty feeling which followed the child’s death. While the town of Angels Crest will eventually return to its sameness and relentless silence; people will remember the drama of the boy who was lost in the woods for many years to come.

Work Cited

Schwartz, Leslie. Angels Crest, Fiction/Literature. New York, NY:
Anchor Books, a Division of Random House, Inc, 2005. Print

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