I was looking for empty three-ring binders. I found a box of old high school memorabilia. Helpful? Not really. Fun? You bet.
One of the items I unearthed was my first-ever foray into the land of magazine editing, circa 2000. I created an entertainment weekly for my friends strewn far and wide by summer vacation in a time when my email address was email@example.com. LYLAS, y’all.
The feature article was a short story I have absolutely no recollection of writing — but it made me smile, nonetheless. Takeaways:
1. I need a nice cool glass of sweet tea and some pound cake, stat.
2. I need Herman’s Hardware Heaven to be a thing.
3. I need a headline-writing bootcamp (still).
4. I need to write more.
Grumpy Old Women
Ms. Harriet owned a shotgun and a poodle, and both could cause fatalities if they had a mind to. Of course, it took the 78th Annual Mason County Fair and Mrs. Margaret Winterbottom to discover this.
* * *
Ms. Harriet took her dog, George, and her gun, Gracie, everywhere she went. She would sling Gracie over her shoulder and shove George in an old, worn-out wicker picnic basket, the kind that you see Toto peeking out of in The Wizard of Oz. Ms. Harriet went everywhere like this; to the grocery store; to the movie theater; to choir practice at the House of the Lord, Amen! Church; and even to Bingo night down at the Gray River Senior Citizen’s Center. Ms. Harriet had the longest winning streak ever heard of in the history of Bingo night. (The Senior Citizen’s Center also had more bullet holes in its ceiling than the firing range down at Overton.)
Ms. Harriet lived in the oldest house, too, in Gray River, Alabama, or at least it was the oldest house according to Ms. Harriet. Everyone took her word for it. Her house looked like the pound cake that I dropped on mama’s floor when I was six and a quarter: it was still square, but it was mushed in around the bottom, it leaned slightly to the left, and there were bits and pieces of it lying on the ground next to it. Amidst those bits and pieces of Ms. Harriet’s house was George’s house, a four-room, air-conditioned masterpiece built by Herman himself down at Herman’s Hardware Heaven. When he delivered it, he told Ms. Harriet that it was his greatest accomplishment.
Everyone in Gray River knew about Ms. Harriet and her slight temper; everyone except Ms. Margaret Winterbottom. Ms. Margaret had moved to Gray River the first of July, back when it was too hot to notice anything but the steam rising out of the bean fields. She was short and plump and reminded me of a picture I had seen of Mrs. Claus in one of my Christmas books. She had moved to Gray River after old Walter Winterbottom, her brother, passed away, leaving her his entire estate, including his Purple Martin bird farm in the backyard.
* * *
By the time that the colorful trucks and vans belonging to the 78th Annual Mason County Fair pulled into town, Ms. Harriet and Ms. Margaret had become fast friends, much to everyone’s surprise. Half the community thought it was just what Ms. Harriet needed, that she had obviously been lonely for too long; the other half waited to see what Ms. Harriet wanted from Ms. Margaret. Little Tommy Benton down the road told me it was her liver.
One morning after church, my mama was talking to the two women when she said, “Why Harriet, what a lovely necklace! I believe you have one just like it, don’t you, Margaret?”
Well, Ms. Margaret looked kind of sick then, and just nodded and rushed off to start her rhubarb pie for the fair.
“What was that all about, I wonder?” mama said as she guided me towards the parking lot.
(Continued in next week’s issue!)
That’s right; it’s a cliffhanger. Shazam! I certainly don’t remember having the foresight to create reader demand by leaving everyone hanging, waiting for Part 2. Including myself, nearly 15 years later — because in that big box of junk, I can’t seem to find the magazine’s next issue. (It’s quite possible the editor jumped ship before it went to print :).)
Good ending, anyone?
If I go looking for the second installment, I already know what I’ll find: that stack of binders.