by Judith Allen
Grandpa goes to his 50th High School reunion with mixed results. Fishin' seems better.
|In which Grandpa buys a new suit and attends a long anticipated reunion, sees an old girl friend and meets a Master Mortician.
Our Millie used to say that there is no goin" back to the way things were but sometimes curiosity get the better of you, and you just have to see what happened in all those years, often with mixed results.
Our Millie just couldn't understand why Grandpa was so mad and why he was comin' home at almost midnight, gunnin' his old truck up the lane, spittin' gravel and dust under its tires. Why was he wakin' the chickens and hogs and scarin' old Nixy from his hound-dog dreams under the porch steps? That stompin' would have woke the dead, and slammin' the door to the house and mutterin' something about embalmin' and funerals and crematin' must have meant that Grandpa had the dead on his mind and was mighty riled up about it. She knew that she should cover her ears, but try as she might there was no gettin' over the fascination of it all. She looked at Billy Bug as he crouched in the corner of the screened-in porch and knew he was feelin' the same way. Whatever happened they had to be real quiet in the shadows so they could get the whole story.
Our Millie and Billy Bug had been spendin' the night with Grandma while Grandpa got all dressed up and went to his 50th reunion. He was kind of excited about it since a couple of his friends he hadn't seen for a long time wrote and told him they were plannin' to be there. He even went out and bought a new suit, complete with a white shirt with button-down collar, and a tie with some kind of squiggly design on it that he didn't really like, but Grandma said it was just right. The last complete suit he had bought was when he and Grandma got married shortly after graduation so he figured it was about time for another one. Besides, he wanted to look presentable in case Lucy was there. She was always so fancy, but of course she couldn't compare to Grandma when she was young, or even now, as Grandma kept remindin' him. He wanted Grandma to go too, but after the incident she had with Lucy and shoppin' cart at the Stop and Shop about 45 years ago, she thought it was best not to take the chance of gettin' hit with flyin' food again. She told her cousin Libby, who had been in Grandpa's class, to be sure and keep an ee on that Lucy and report back to her if she was still makin' eyes at Grandpa.
Grandpa wasn't supposed to be home until tomorrow afternoon and Our Millie and Billy Bug had been havin' a great time with Grandma, playin' with the new kittens and helpin' in the garden. She even let them have chocolate cake, and wasn't too particular they didn't eat all their vegetables just this once. They had been tellin' ghost stories and scarin' each other and had just taken blankets and pillows to the screened-in porch and were gettin' mighty sleepy when the excitement started. Grandpa didn't know they were there and Grandma was so busy tryin' to get him calmed down that she forgot all about them, so they stayed real quiet and listened.
It seemed everybody was havin' a pretty good time at the reunion. Grandpa's friends had come and they were talkin' about football and such. The drinks were flowin' and the steaks comin' off the grill were just right and everything was goin' okay. they hadn't reached the point where there wasn't much else to say yet, so the catchin' up was still fun. Grandpa was mighty pleased that he was lookin' so spiffy in his new suit, even with the squiggly tie, and was really feelin' pretty young as he looked around. Lucy was still fancy. It was kind of disappointin' that she had married some big shot from Nashville and she kept talkin' about all the Grand Ole Opry folds that stayed at her house when they were in town performin', and her husband kept struttin' around like he was even fancier than she was. There still might have been a little flirtin' on Lucy's part, but Grandma's cousin Libby always seemed to be hangin' around. Grandpa didn't like that much "cause he thought cousin Libby was just bein' a busy body.
Grandpa was startin' on his second steak and diggin' into the baked beans and laughin' with Milford Wallace about a prank they had played on the cheerleaders right before the big game, when the door opened with such a flourish that it drew the attention of the group and the entire atmosphere in the Eagles Hall changed. The Master Mortician had made his entrance. As Grandpa tells it, it could have been the Angel of Death himself comin' among them, except he was wearin' a tee shirt from his run for Mayor ten years ago, that he said he would have won except for unfortunate circumstances that he didn't go into and no one bothered to explain. He was grinnin' and shakin' everybody's hand from the first table on in. Grandpa thought he might as well be a Master Politician just then.
Grandpa was grumblin' to Grandma that this guy was always around town drummin' up business. Seems he hadn't even gone to school with any of them, but he had taken to goin' to all the 50th reunions, and even older, givin' out his Master Mortician cards and talkin' about grave sites and showin' off his new white hearse with pure leather seats. And he even had a mahogany casket in the back to show as an example. Rumor had it that if you slipped him a few dollars he would even let you lie in it to see how it fit.
One of Grandpa's friends was so excited. She announced to everybody that she had even taken some money she was plannin' to use for a trip to Hawaii and bought her grave site. She took her coffee up there in the mornings and enjoyed the peacefulness. She was mighty high on the fact that she was goin' to spend eternity so close to her two favorite boyfriends when she was growin' up. It was nice that their wives were lyin' on the other side of each of them so she could have a clear view of the guys.
Grandpa was so mad he couldn't finish his second steak or have any of the strawberry pie. All he could think of was that Master Mortician drivin' that hearse around and takin' all his classmates up to the cemetery. And he was sittin' there and eatin' and drinkin' and laughin', and he even got out on the dance floor and did the Electric Slide with some of the girls in Grandpa's class. Even Lucy was makin' a fool of herself with the Master Mortician. Grandpa refused to take his card, grabbed his hat and took off in his truck to come home to his life in the hills.
Our Millie and Billy Bug took a risk and peeked at Grandpa as he slouched over his coffee cup at the kitchen table. His voice was risin' and his coffee was sloshin' around as he ranted that to top it off, when he was drivin' home he turned on his favorite bluegrass radio station to get some music to calm him down and all he heard interruptin' his songs was a commercial for half-price graves, just $499 and up. and funeral insurance on special too. He couldn't even get any good banjo pickin' or yodelin' or nothin'. Our Millie and Billy Bug crouched back down in the corner with their hands over their mouths to keep from laughin' and makin' Grandpa even madder.
Last thing Our Millie heard him say before he grumbled up the stairs to bed was that he might use his new suit for his funeral, but that guy wasn't goin' to touch it. But then again, he might just send him the squiggly tie for somebody else. Grandma didn't like that very much but decided to just hide the tie in her closet until Grandpa's storm passed over. Or Grandpa did. Whichever came first.
Next day Grandpa took his fishin' pole and some of Uncle Jessie's good 'shine and headed for the creek. Grandma even fixed him up with some food 'cause he might not be home for a couple of days. He had to get that Master Mortician and his big white hearse out of his head.
Our Millie and Billy bug were lookin' forward to the fish he would be bringin' home on the line. They knew that when Grandpa was in a mood he did his best fishin' and caught the biggest ones in the creek. They knew there would be the best ones of all, "cause they had never seen Grandpa so mad.