(From Uncle Charlie’s Corner)
The other day, when I was a rummagin’ through my old tackle box and tryin’ like the dickens to get a bass hook out of my sleeve; I was also a rootin’ through my ol’ memories of the times when pretty Martha, my ol’ dog, Duker and I used to go a fishin’. We didn’t go a whole heck of a lot, I mean all three of us together, but them few times seemed to put a catch in my throat, just the same. As I was a puzzlin’ a way to unsnarl myself from some of the line attached to that bass hook, I was also wonderin’ why pretty Martha and I never went no more. I knew why ol’ Duker never went no more, ‘cause he was a long gone and in the ground, for somethin’ like twenty years or more, I reckoned. (Most probably why my throat was a tighten’ up some, was ‘cause I missed that mangy ol’ cuss, somethin’ awful, let me tell you.) Still, we used to have a whole lot of fun on them outin’s and all. What most came to my mind was the smell and taste of the fried chicken and ‘tater salad that pretty Martha whipped up, as if by sorcery, and put in that ol’ blue wicker picnic basket that I ain’t seen in ‘bout as long as ol’ Duker had been gone. As I was finally disentangling myself from the fix I’d gotten myself into, I had a fancy notion that I should just up and go ask pretty Martha, what really did happen to that ol’ basket. While I was at it, I thought, maybe I could talk her into fryin’ up some of that tasty chicken, too. (It seemed a bit much to ask her to make up some of that special German style ‘tater salad, with hot mustard, and all.) So, I finished up my sortin’ of bobbers and lures, and wrappin’ up the line and stickin’ all them loose hooks back into that ol’ disintegratin’ cork, and what not; and then I proceeded out of the shed towards the back porch of our house.
I noticed, for the third or fourth time, the beautiful, green, late summer day surrounding me and it felt good to be alive, on such a fine one as that one was then. Our trees and flowers were lovely to behold, let me tell you. (I say "our" although I knew it all belonged to no one in particular and if and it did; it belonged to my pretty Martha. She was always improving the landscape, around our house, in her own magical way, a way that struck me dumb most times, when I tried wrapin’ my brain around it.)
The aftertaste and smell of my imaginary fishin’ picnic seemed to bring a right powerful urge on me to hurry up some; somethin’ I don’t normally have a habit of doing. I decided that maybe I could hurry it up some more by hollerin’ out to my Martha what my intentions were.
"Martha, honey!" I whooped out as I climbed up the back steps. "Oh, Martha, sweety!"
"What the heck you yelling for, Charlie?" Since I knew she’d heard me, I toned it down a touch.
"I ain’t a yellin’," I said. "Am I?"
I swung the screen door open and it shut with a bang behind me. I winced, ‘cause, once again I forgot to slowly let it to and my pretty Martha was always on me ‘bout not doin’ that.
"Charlie!" She let out from the hallway. "How many times have…"
"I’m sorry, sweetie," I took off my hat and looked sheepish at her. "But hey, I got me a notion, and…"
"Oh, Charlie," She said, comin’ into the kitchen. "Not another one of those hair-brained schemes again." She was a lookin’ at me in "that way", as I’d come to call it through the years. She was in her faded blue jeans and the new U of M sweatshirt I’d ordered for her last winter; her "workin’ clothes" she always called them. (Of course, she changed into different pants and shirts—she calls them blouses—and all of that; but still, she always looked good to my eyes, no matter what she wore, or not…but, that’s another story and one that I’ll only tell her, so never you mind.) She must’ve been dustin’ up the scrollwork in the hallway, ‘cause she had her fearful feather-duster in her hand. Seein’ that wicked implement of my correction, I decided that maybe I should broach my new plan with a wee bit of discretion, so I sat down at the table and started fidgetin’ with the glass salt shaker.
"It ain’t nothin’ really," I said slyly, not lookin’ at her. "I’ll tell you later, when you ain’t so busy."
Do you see my strategy here? Now, I don’t know ‘bout all woman, but I DO know my pretty Martha. I also knew ‘bout that Pandora lady, too, and how she had to just open that box there, come hades or high water, back in them ancient days. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but when it came to my wife; it opened doors for me, that she’d a notioned had been nailed down shut, years before.
She sat down, too, and set that mean lookin’ duster off to the side. I let out a mental sigh and felt a whole lot of relief come on me.
"What are you talkin’ about, Charlie?" She let out a real sigh and crossed her arms. "And would you set that shaker down?"
"It ain’t much, honey," I looked up, all innocent like and shrugged my shoulders, letting go of the shaker a little too quickly and it toppled over, spillin’ a few grains of salt. I took a pinch and was about to throw it over my left shoulder, when I saw "that look" again and stuck it in my mouth.
"That’s better." She said, wiping the rest of the spill into her hand. She got up to throw the salt into the sink and as she did, I asked.
"What do think ‘bout us goin’ fishin’?"
I started to cringe in anticipation of a lecture, but by the way she rubbed the salt off of her hands, and the look that she gave me, I knew I wasn’t a goin’ to get one THAT day. She leaned back against the sink, resting her palms on the edge and said, "You know, Charlie?" She was noddin’ now and hope was a comin’ up in my heart like a tide. "I was just thinking the same thing myself, this morning."
"You were?" I asked, maybe a little too kid-like. But, what the hey! That’s the way I usually am, anyways. "What brought it to your mind, sweety?"
"Well, you know, Charlie?" She came back to her chair and sat down again. "When I smelled the wisteria this morning," She brushed at her gray hair in that girlish sort of way that always made me feel fondly for her. "And, as I looked out of our bedroom window, down onto the tiger lilies glowing so warmly in the sunshine," I nodded ‘cause I’d seen them, too. "For some reason, it brought to mind that time you broke that shovel, digging for worms."
Now don’t that beat all: from tiger lilies to worms. Or, maybe it was: wisteria scent to shovels; but either way, it caused me to ponder the feminine mode of logical reasoning, something that I’ve been a ponderin’ on for over sixty years, and still—for the life of me—I can’t quite get a hold of. I guess that’s on account I can’t think like a woman and all. Viva la difrance, I thought. I was feelin’ a mite full of myself, ‘cause in this case, it meant no never mind to me at all which way she’d reckoned it, ‘cause I’d done hooked her and now it was time to reel her in.
"So, you reckon that you’d like to go a fishin’?" I could taste that dream chicken even better now.
"Maybe so, Charlie," She smiled, "As long as we don’t have to go too far."
"Oh, boy!" I said aloud, but was only intendin’ to keep it in my mind, but since, it’d already come out, I kept right on a goin’. "That’s great, honey buns!"
Woops! I forgot that she don’t like me to call her "honey buns". When I saw that big ugly frown on her pretty little face, I just rushed right on along, like a southbound freight. "We could make up a picnic, you know, some fried chicken, and then…"
"What do you mean, "we", Charlie Hill?" She crossed her arms again and up come "that look". Oh, oh! I knew I had to let out a little line and play it a little more or I’d lose this fish, sure as shootin’.
"Uh, well… maybe, I uh…" I reckoned I was snagged up on somethin’ or other and I felt like an ol’, just out of reach, channel cat floppin’ itself back into the river.
I folded my hands and hung my head down. The clock a tickin’ on the wall, above the stove, seemed to become all amplified and it was a gettin’ kind of louder like, you know what I mean. I took a peep out from under my eyebrow and she saw me. Then all of a sudden, she broke into a big grin and laughed. I knew, right then and there, that I had me a keeper.
Dedicated to "Martha", my love.
© 2007 Charles M. Baker III