According to Valley gossip, her arrival at the Oates St. home (the one with the century-old elm and American flag out front), involved much fanfare and a great deal of huffing and puffing by the two men who transported her considerable self up the hill, through the black walnut front door, and onward to the cramped kitchen where she was destined to reign for years, though exactly how many is still unclear, as the records of her arrival have long since disappeared under a pile of grease spattered recipes surrounding her Barcalounger.
The Julia Childs of this kitchen worked for one Farley Q. X. Banister, well-known in the Valley as a purveyor of French lingerie, but don’t let that fool you. Mostly his life consisted of shuttling back and forth from his shop (“Farley’s Folly”) near the square to his home on the hill. At age 50, Q.X. was seemingly prosperous and seemingly content, though what contentment means is a bit unclear. In Hambone County it tends to vary with the weather, weather that’s known to shift on a dime. The last storm that blew through in ’08, blew out with the EverLife Methodist Church. It was also the town’s final glimpse of the Most Reverend B.
But anyhow, Q.X. kept his newest employee (there had been others, equally elusive) under tight wraps. She was never seen in town (Q.X. did all of the shopping), though occasionally, locals claimed to have seen her considerable self sitting squarely in a corner of the kitchen. Described variously as having skin like silk, skin the hue of amber, skin almost defying description, whatever its true color, it never saw the light of day. Twice yearly, Q.X. purchased a 50-ounce jar of Pond’s Cold Cream, ostensibly (or so folks surmised) as a gift for his faithful employee to slather on at the end of a hard day of polishing and waxing. In addition, Q.X. purchased mountains of rags from the inventory of Orvis “Shine” McLoon, a high school classmate, who when he wasn’t gathering rags, drummed in a rock band and tried to perfect the intricate Moonwalk.
How it happened is a mystery, but word eventually leaked that the lady with the lovely skin was one Ms. W. Pool, though she was no kin to the local Pools known for raising hellfire throughout the Valley. More than one nasty Pool (for example, the Pool twins, Eunice and Eustace, had been entombed in the Valley jail forever and ever, though face it, a few less Pools was a good thing. Or so hear tell. No one knew for sure what the W. stood for.
The years ground on. Q.X. lost his lean shape and grew to be ample both coming and going. His gathering of foodstuffs from the shelves of local grocers and notable Victory gardens became legendary, though some wondered who in their right mind would consume vittles enough for 12: cartloads of carrots and potatoes, exotic spices and breasts of fat fowl, bags of flour, tins of pork lard, barrels of sugar, and from the local Carnegie library, cookbooks detailing the art of baking Whoopie Pies, which I guess I should mention are smallish-round chocolate cakes filled with sugar spun into heavenly fluff. To call them pies is to err.
As Q.X.’s body expanded, so too did his lingerie business, leaving him with enough spare change to take a leap into the XXXXL specialty thong business. Don’t laugh, but rumors took root that Q.X. was given to wearing them during wild nights in the house on the hill, nights when lights blazed until dawn. But don’t believe everything you read here.
A week prior to the grisly discovery, Frankie Furlong, a local teen hired to trim the lilac bushes near the bedroom window, had caught a fleeting glimpse of what he believed to be Q.X. lollygagging in a bustier and lime-green thong, dancing to the beat of the Rolling Stones. The glimpse sent Furlong headlong down the hill and straight into the jailhouse office of the Valley’s one-armed sheriff, Bucky Upshot, who in turn, raced back up the hill armed with axes to better bash down the black walnut door of the stately mansion.
But no trace was to be found of Q.X. on that particular summer day. Nor was Ms. W. Pool anywhere in sight. The space where she usually parked her bottom was occupied by a fine multi-burner gas stove polished to a high shine. Nearby and neatly folded and stacked in a wooden Peaches ‘O The Valley crate, were hundreds of rags and half-empty jars of Pond’s Cold Cream.
The kitchen floor was shamefully (God loves cleanliness!) littered with remnants of meals past, meals too diverse and numerous to describe, though there seemed to be a propensity of Spam cans, fish and chicken bones, chocolate cakes and marshmallow fluff. Lurid movie magazines featuring Madonna lay strewn hither and yon. Valley folks were pressed to imagine Q.X. bringing such shame to the Valley. Surely it was Ms. W. Pool who brought him down. Fingers pointed and tongues wagged. Quentin Tarantino made the scandal into a hit movie.
Then came the day Cletus delivered a big order of fluff and got quite a shock.
The lengthy autopsy took place in Omaha, 70 miles to the west. It was duly determined that Q.X. met his end from gobbling prodigious amounts of Whoopie Pies allegedly baked by Ms. Pool. In a struggle to eat the last, remaining pie from a batch numbering one hundred, apparently he tripped and strangled on the lime-green thong which, because it no longer fit, had worked its way upward.
At a later hearing, Sheriff Upshot reported that when he arrived at the scene, the oven held a slew of freshly baked Whoopies, the absolute favorite bedtime snack of Q.X. Sheriff Upshot tasted a few and agreed they were fine enough to die for.
Those (like me) with a history in the Valley, recall that eventually Whoopies came to symbolize Valley decadence. Fortunes were made when they were hawked as “The Pies That Killed Q.X,” and it wasn’t long before a sly marketer from Des Moines came up with the eureka idea that they’d sell even more if the pies were wrapped in black cellophane designed to suggest French lingerie, and well, the whole thing spun forward like crazy. Within a decade, the annual take generated from the Whoopies slathered with fluff, outstripped the funnel cake sales at the state fair. The town was able to erect a fine marble memorial to Q.X. in the square. It’s a small bronze (budgetary concerns meant they whittled Q.X.’s manly sculpture to a mere foot in height), but no one has been heard to complain that he resembles a garden gnome. Ms. W. Pool was never memorialized.
The slimmed-down actual remains of Q.X., rest in the SoLongGetaLong cemetery, high on the hill, not far from his mansion. Carved in granite from Frostbite, MN, is a big, round Whoopie, inscribed thusly:
Here lies Q. X.
Who Took The Cake & Then Some
It pains me to tell that a few dedicated Valley historians believe Ms. Pool never existed, but was spun from a myth born of the terminal boredom of area residents who knew that the annual Crowning of the Corn Queen just wasn’t cutting it anymore, and the Maypole dance was nothing to crow about. After all, they reasoned, a good myth never killed anyone.