The Reunion, cont’d
As he navigated through the masses of sagging arms and lagging butts and bottle-glass spectacles askew on generic faces assembled for the festivities, Goose felt woozy and disoriented. He was having trouble focusing on folks talking about the house down the road, east a bit, where eight sleeping were felled by an axe. Just across the street from the dusty path leading to the swimming pool, where he once got hopelessly tangled in the lane ropes during a regional swim meet, was where it happened. No one was ever brought to trial, but a few males with darkish skin and squinty eyes were rounded up by bloodhounds trucked in from Omaha. Goose read in the news that whoever did the deed propped a slab of bacon near a bedroom window, an odd detail, to say the least.
Memory is tricky though, and Goose’s memory was no exception (yesterday, he actually forgot to wear shoes), so the bacon-slab may have been a misfire. The house, refurbished in the 70s by a well-intentioned farmer obsessed with saving stuff, still offered tours during reunions, and Goose figured he’d be bound to follow the printed schedule of activities, including a tour of the town’s “museum.” Formerly the site of a furniture store and coffin-making venue, it had been converted by the same farmer, and was now a dumping ground for crumbling collections of salt & pepper shakers from state fairs, heaps of cherry pitters and apple-corers, and specimens of wicked barbed-wire mounted on dampish cardboard. He prickled at the thought of going there, though truth tell, he felt a certain fascination in viewing the hide of a bear formerly caged at the Conoco on Route 71. It reminded him of Dooley.
Whatever the connection, Dooley-in-the-flesh trumped the pelt. She’d had ample flesh and he’d seen all of it. Getting through this day would be a bitch, especially with the sun beating down on his itchy, almost-real hair. Despite his gel-filled arch supports, his feet throbbed, and the moist crotch of his seersucker pants ripped as he reached for his third helping of ham. The towering elms of his youth had died in the blight of ’55, so there wasn’t an inch of shade anywhere. The lilacs had disappeared, replaced by pots of plastic roses. No birds were in sight, except a crow pecking the remains of whatever was sticking to the wheel of his car.
Had he only imagined the lilacs and bluebirds? Come to think of it, when was it he’d floated face up in the Nodaway River, pretending the cool water laced with hog shit runoff would carry him all the way south to New Orleans? He regretted (God damn it to hell!) that he’d never even seen the Big Easy. He and the Roadmaster needed to plan a trip south, soon, before his knees gave way, and he bulged out of his seersucker suit forever. Considering all the woes down South, his bibles would surely sell like hotcakes, and anyway, he’d pretty much tapped this county. It was a sure bet the women on his route weren’t about to turn him loose without a fight, especially the ones who received dinged and dented bibles free of charge. They were grateful. Some were more grateful than others, but it all evened out, though the rewards weren’t quite what they were a decade ago.
Goose played it safe at class reunions. He kept his trap shut between bites of ham. Sure, there was plenty of chatter, mostly about the dearth of burial sites on King’s Hill and what folks thought about the new Tyson chicken factory on the outskirts of town. Their opinions about the “foreign” workers with dusky skin and too many kids were punctuated with comments about the recently fired Chief of Police, Milo “Fats” Spindle, who arrested a PHS chap intent on poisoning the punch at the 2007 Porkopolis prom. This tidbit made it all the way to AOL online, and caused such a stir that the city fathers forced Fats to retire. Goose had to hand it to Fats, who had swallowed his pride and come to the reunion dressed in his official uniform, minus the badge, of course.
Porkopolis folks weren’t inclined to mention the war in the Middle East, or even Hillary and Bill, let alone the man currently in the White House. Certainly they talked about the bible, shared recipes for pork ribs and bragged about their offspring (except one, whose kid expired in prison), but they seemed to have forgotten the spinster ticket-taker at the Rialto who hung herself in the theater lobby, the young doctor addicted to morphine and the popular farmer who accidentally shot himself – though everyone knew it was no accident because the shotgun was inside of his mouth when they found him sprawled face-up in his barn, holding a note addressed to his wife who had run off with their handyman. Goose guessed confusion might be a tool of the Lord and was not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, wasn’t the Lord himself confused when He mistook Lucifer for a good guy? Even the Almighty is mistaken now and then.
Goose decided then and there. He’d take that trip to New Orleans and test the bible-selling waters. Get a feel for the place. Dye his hair, maybe brown like Brad Pitt’s. Sample Bananas Foster, take a tour of the cemeteries where the dead rest in mausoleums guaranteed to keep their feet dry. Settle down with a good woman and experiment with Viagra. He confessed to himself that he’d never actually read the bible, but he’d have time enough in the Big Easy. Forget Porkopolis.
It would be heartbreaking to leave Dooley behind, though there was comfort in knowing she was forever safe in the last remaining plot on King’s Hill. Bless Dooley. As far as Goose was concerned, there was no such thing as loose women; there were only women of uncommon generosity. Polly Dooley had sure been generous. Goose wasn’t the least bit confused when it came to Dooley. She was one for the books.