Poor Mojo's Almanac(k) Classics (2000-2011)
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Fiction #218
(published March 17, 2005)
Whatsoever Comes After
by David Coffman
I'm not sure trailer park living is for me no more. For awhile, I got to believing I was honest-to-goodness royalty, right stuffy about my double-wide manor when one day it come to me: Why, it's starch and plywood with a wrinkly, aluminum skin about two steps from the next one. If you spit, you get in trouble. I'm about to the point of giving up on the whole idea, and laying it on like the fellow in the play (I forget who wrote it): A pox on trailers, and those who invented them. Pox is a good, old word as it's sort of a curse without using bad language. Out-of-fashion, but blamed if I don't feel the same after playing jock in a dude ranch environment.

How'd I come to think any different? Well, by proof and persuasion, as they say in hornswoggling. Two old tricks: Call it what it ain't, and up the price. For a few instances: The Royal Acres, Royal Crest Palazzos, Midas Mobile Manor, Castle Loma Estates, and The Royal Crest Coaches. Now, jack-up the price to what you pay for a house, and you think you got something. Well sir,' as my grandpa used to say, they done hornswoggled you. They done sold you a trailer smack-dab in the middle of a trailer park.' What's more, they'd have you believe there's no sinning as there once was in trailer courts. They're all Christians or old-age Boy Scouts.

Yes, sir, I call them trailers although they switched the names: coaches, mobeel homes, caravansary, Argonaut, drifter— Oh gosh, you name it, anything sounds prettier than trailer. Once, I said to the owner of our park, "If you want to call them something else than what they are and stay honest, why don't you call them WHATSOEVER COMES AFTER?' Sure enough, they come behind a jeep, a truck or tractor. Then, you could call where they parked a WHATSOEVER COMES AFTER PARK. Don't that sound nice?" He didn't take it kindly.

Let me tell you how I come to live at Villa Du Capris. I am fifty-five, and my wife fifty-three. We have grandkids and money in the bank, as we were business folks and did right well. Still, we got it into our heads to have an adventure or two before the sands of time had run out. We answered an ad to manage this "small piece of paradise". Right from the beginning, they laid on the dog, as we say. It sure was no piece of paradise. Maybe a little like a dog and pony show. We signed on for two years, and I can't say it was a bad assignment, but it made you wish you had taken up teaching English as a second language somewhere else.

One thing the job did was spruce up my language for words that sound good. Somewhere in the beginning of trailer parks, the folks who were putting up the cash got scared to death of tripping on a lawyer and losing everything. They come up with a tight-ass talk that would put a Mennonite to shame. Why I hardly felt like I could say "hello" without putting some sort of attachment on it.

You've got no pictures of me, so I'll tell you straight out, I'm bulging at the seams— mostly around the waist and hips. I don't think a man of fifty-five has got any other choice but to roll a bit over his belt. I swear, it's like the old bear fattening up for winter. Besides, we got a right to enjoy the first appetite of putting something in your mouth when we lost all the rest— sex appeal, lust, or just kicking up your heels. I tried dieting, and even a little girl masseuse, which Ilene put a stop to. "Not worried about you doing something you oughtn't; just don't want you feeling bad by being reminded of the many times you couldn't." Well, we all got our shortcomings.


There's a sign out front that reads: No Peddlers, Solicitors, or Agents. Pretty well covers every sort of "don't belong," but the devil's an undeclared occupant . He's as much afoot in a trailer park as just outside the door of every tabernacle, and it's fair to say he's loose inside no matter all the preaching. Sure enough, he jumps up among the coaches because he wasn't posted in the exclusionary policy out front. See, I couldn't talk like that until I got to be manager of the Villa Du Capris. Why in the world the owners and their assigns missed this loophole in their declared intentions beats me.

It keeps you "crackin" as grandpa used to say, "if ya gonna stay even." Trouble is, bad news can sort of slip up on you.

I looked up from my pruning (our job included work of that sort around the park property) and here comes a squatty man with a satchel and a Bible in his hand. "Sir," I posed in front of him, "did you read the exclusion policies on the sign out front? I'll have to ask you to leave."

He squints at me as if narrowing his lids would make me go away. "Praise God!" He gets an expression on his face as if he had just seen Him. "The Lord goeth where He pleases, for He is like unto the wind, passing everywhere invisibly."

"Well, sir— that may be true, but you're not the Lord and I want you off this property. We have a legal claim, duly posted, that constitutes and fulfills the law." (That's the kind of talk we had to do all the time— like speaking from a parchment scroll of terrifying terms.)

"I shall thank you for discriminating against me— a witness of the Lord— and for rejecting His word, for He sayeth, Bless those who curse you.'" He bowed his head and cried aloud for peace in a troubled world, "Oh Lord, instruct me, your faithful servant in what I should say to this one who stands in the way. Forgive him, for he knows not what he does in working with the devil in this place."

I was frazzled already with the interview, but to link me with the devil really poked a stick at me. I was going over the park rules for assault when he stopped praying and tried to back me in a corner. "Sir, I have it. I am none of these you have on your sign. I am no salesman; I give the salvation freely. I beg for nothing— no alms, no charity only a moment of your time. I am no agent paid off by commissions, and gratuities. I am the servant of the living God. Go tell your masters I am exempt from your restrictions as I am exempt from every exigency of the flesh. Glory be to God and His Grace, which strengthens me."

I teetered between the notion of laying on hands, or going up to call the police. All at once, I got an inspiration. I got a mean look as best I could without a mirror, stuck out a finger and drew three sixes in the air. At the same time, I began mumbling loco words with the name of the devil mixed in.

If I'd sprouted a tail, belched fire, or grew red horns on my head, I never had guessed the scare that man had of the devil. His back humped, his air gushed out as if Joe Lewis had laid a right in the pit of his stomach. There was so much whiteness on his face I swear it fluffed off on the ground. Gulping for a breath, he yanked a silver cross from his belt, turning it this way and that in front of him. By George, he hissed like a snake, and scooted backward down the driveway. I almost broke up with the laughing bouncing up and down in my gut, but stalked after him, sort of bowlegged. Damn! Wish someone had got a video.

I might have chased him down truck Route 713, that passes in front of Villa Du Capris, all the way to Boileau thirty miles away, but a screaming woman stopped me at the property line.

Of all the words on earth to turn the bald scalp of a trailer park owner or his assigns ice-cold, one of them is injure. That was the word that got my attention. Not from him saying it, but from a screaming woman pounding on my shoulder. "Villars!" (That's my given name.) "You'll injure him! Villars! You stop this minute!" (It was my wife, and her given name is Matilda.)

By then I was so puffed out, and wheezing like I had a leaky valve from holding back the big laugh. I was ready to let him go anyhow.

"Why, what have you done to him to make him turn all starchy, and hiss like a busted pipe?" That did it. I tell you, I rattled the composition shingles on the nearest trailer losing all dignity: a trailer park manager roaring like a maniac.

When I finally simmered down, and let her in on the joke, we went to pieces all over again. Every now and then, in the middle of a quiet evening it'll come back to one of us starting to laugh, "Remember remember the witness?" Longest durn laugh I ever had.

However, it didn't take long for the kettle to boil again. Mrs. Gillham, who lives in Space Twenty-Three, came to our door in a hurry one afternoon, her house-slippers slapping on the asphalt. (We have lots of senior citizens in the park and they're casual in their dress, not having to go off to work any more and no longer trying to dazzle anyone.) She could hardly get any words out of her mouth, as she had left out her false teeth, and most of what she said just sort of spluttered out. "Mr. Jessop in Thirty-Two has got a .35 and he's out in front of Twenty-Two cause he thinks Ms. Foss is cheating on him, and has another man inside."

We had lots of clues to go on, but as it turned out, she had mixed things up. Mr. Jessop had a .22 and was out in front of Number Forty-Five, although he did live in Number Thirty-Two. There he was— when we got it straightened out— standing halfway between the front door and the back door, waving this pistol in the air.

Mr. Jessop is seventy-three and portly, as they say— about 250 pounds of him. He had gone beyond respectable in his language, shouting four-letter words and accusing Ms. Foss of infidelity and entertaining another man, while he spent all his Social Security on her. I tell you, I would have broken my ribs laughing if it hadn't been for that wicked little pistol he kept shoving this way and that.

There were seventeen patrons of the park (those kind of words again) jostling for position on the front row, all white around the lips for fear of being shot— or maybe hoping for a quick way out.

Old Joe Thompson, a paper-thin wag of eighty-three, put the finishing touch on it. "Why you making such a fuss, Jessop? She can't get pregnant anyhow, since she's more'n seventy."

Mr. Jessop kindled up his face, flushing red and swelling like he might bark, or explode. I think he wanted to kill Thompson. He stared at him and growled, "I'd blow your god damn head off— you nasty bastard, except I'd waste ammunition! I'm saving my powder for those two lying horny-toads inside." With that, he kicked the siding on the trailer— buckling the skirt— and I heard two squeaks somewhere in the doublewide.

Through the louvered window in the door, I could see a chair propped under the knob, but no sign of any occupant. So, I tried diplomacy, with old Jessop snatching up his gun to level it on me as I took two steps in his direction.

"Put that gun away and I'll go inside and tell you who's in there. Mr. Jessop, violence never is an answer for anything, and if you love her, give her the chance to handle your accusations honestly. You can reverse the risk of arrest and the risk you take by threatening another's life by handing over the gun. The alternative is arrest and prosecution, and possibly jail."

"I've had it in for you, too, you pussy-footing catch-and-find for the landlords— stealing us blind! You over-charged me on my electric bill last month!" (We always read the meters and send out the bills.) "By God, by fifty-five cents worth too, and that don't mean a damned thing to you and your penny-stealing masters, but it means a hell of a lot to poor folks like me! Well, you tail-sniffing bird dog, how would you like to die for fifty-five cents? Puts a whole different light on it, doesn't it?" His lips jumped up and down with his wild laugh.

And sure enough, it did put a different light on it. In about two seconds I figured that would amount to one cent per annum for every year I've lived. Very little recompense for all a man has done, and no justification for getting killed either. My heart had begun galloping and I wondered at what speed it would just shut down and I'd die in spite of myself.

I called out, with my back to the door, "Amy Foss, you in there? If you are, come on out before the police arrive. They're due in one minute."

I hoped to distract Mr. Jessop long enough to think of something else. I had no solution at that moment, other than bringing Jessop around to thinking of killing everyone inside, instead of killing me.

About that time, a siren wailed down the truck route, and I was sure someone had called the police and I'd have to face the owner's wrath and explain my failure to manage with foresight and proper intervention. Mr. Jessop plucked at his hearing aid, and when convinced he heard the siren too, listed this way and that, dropped his gun, and went weaving off to his trailer. The siren zipped on by, and the showdown at Number Forty-Five had come and gone, and no one had done more than hyperventilated.

About an hour later, Mr. Jessop suffered a mild coronary, and the ambulance whined up to his trailer and they wheeled him away— with Amy Foss holding his hand— to the emergency ward. She clung to his side for his three days of observation, and a week later, I saw them sitting on his porch, sharing a tall one.

Whoever the Casanova might have been never came to light. Later, Thompson gleefully told me that Old Geritol (our name for him, as he was ninety-five) had gone over to borrow an egg. Without knowing it, he had become the "hound dog" in the plot. Amy keeps the secret to this day.


Most folks homesteading in a trailer park are there to stay. It's a bit like waiting at the train station for the last train out. Truth is, the last train comes and most often the men get on first. The widow population peaks at about two-to-one, leaving a lot of gals waiting around in the chorus line of regrets.

Of course, the time arrives when chance provides an extra man or two, and those fellows are the cock of the walk. Trouble is, they're not doing much crowing any more, so all the free meals and flirting at the dances are just like dust in the wind. However, their coolness to romance sure won't save them from the desire of the widows.

Two women conspired in the laundry room against a "tramp" who had cheated them. They had their eyes on a newfound catch, recently released from matrimony by the departure of his wife on the outbound train. "I was talking to him first, and that old biddy cut right in and pushed herself up next to him— with her jacket open to give her a bosomy look— although I hear she's gone back to training bras. But you know how men are— they want the feistiest with the mostest." They shared a good laugh and the crosspatch went on: "Well, anyhow, she starts with that put-on Swedish accent, pouting up her lips in what she thinks is a come-hither smile, but to me it looked like it was stitched on. Then she whipped out her photo album— supposedly to show him a picture of her riding a camel at the pyramids— and flashed a stack of bills she had folded in it, and a bunch of credit cards. No self-respecting man is going to stoop to that— being bought off by money and such." They went on quite pleased with themselves, after priming the washers and sitting down.

"I don't know, Lorena, times have changed for us since we got the vote. Time was, when I was a girl, the nice girls always won out. I'm beginning to think its hussies like that Dorenda who get their choice. For forty-two years, Geoffrey and I were a perfect match, and to have to start over and scratch with the likes of her makes me want to take up solitaire altogether. Oh, I could just strangle that smooth-talking bitch!"

"Have you thought of fighting fire with fire? I mean, that nice girl attitude had its place forty years ago, but proffering what a man wants is no sin, is it? Go right after him. Have him over and get into something comfortable, and let him know you're a modern girl."

"Do you mean I should try and get him to to?"

"Yes! Asking him to do something used to be considered naughty, but Clarese, you got no time to fool around."

At that moment the offending party walked in— in a pretty summer dress— and dumped her gauzy unmentionables in a tub. "Hello." She smiled over at them and met daggers flashing from the eyes glued on her.

Dorenda wondered what she had done to deserve such wicked imprecations in their glances. She poured in her Puff detergent, cycled the timer to slow and kicked on the machine, then stepped over to them, asking amiably, "I'm going to have a Coke. Can I get anything for you two?" This time the glare was blinding. "I'm sorry," Dorenda commiserated, "is something the matter?"

"You know what? You you grave robber, stealing an old man while another woman is pursuing him. You stand there sweet-talking as if we were so dumb we couldn't see right through what you've been up to, and I won't mince words telling you what you are. You're nothing but a a "

"Ladies, ladies," Dorenda cut in and saved Clarese from spoiling her reputation for Christian propriety. "In our times things were different; why, we've all had to sit on display while some male took his pick of us. Don't you remember? Now it's not the same; our odds are ten times worse, so, what does it mean? Why, we've got to work together. No sense letting them continue with that game."

Dorenda let them think a minute, while she bought a Coke from the machine. "I had him over last night and gave him a meal for a king— steak and potatoes, salad and low-fat dessert. I even balanced out his cholesterol. Well then, I didn't waste my time. I slipped on a flimsy little negligee and cuddled up to him."

"Ladies," she leaned close, "he couldn't do a thing! I don't know whether mourning or obesity got the best of him, but I did my best for an hour with all the tricks I've learned. He went home a virgin, I might add."

"Well, that's simply shameful!" Clarese sniffed. "I want a man for his spirituality and companionship. Anything else is only an extra benefit."

"Rejoice." Dorenda gave a soft, melodious laugh. "Now you know for sure what you won't get. Those other two requirements are more difficult to measure."

The temperature climbed steadily as they talked, as they all came to realize how much they felt the same. When I left off cleaning the sump, they had become downright enthusiastic in their judgment of the unworthy male sex.


Cruise through a trailer park and listen for what's happening. You scarcely hear anything. Here and there a patron shuffles to the Rec Hall or the laundry room; a car slowly makes its way over the speed bumps. There is a hush which seems to have been imposed, and "thou shalt not" is written on the wind. Anyone who violates the creed is likely to become an outcast. The way of getting along that has taken those busy ants eons of evolution has been managed by the trailer park community in no time at all.

Two men had taken up residence in Number Seven. One was a youngish man in his twenties; the other, an older fellow in his fifties. Their partnership, as with many others, ran aground on the shoals of love almost at once— Kelly and his lover, Giordano. Kelly was more handsome and had pretty ways, sweeping down the lanes in the park— tall and graceful— his hair a shiny bronze, curly to his shoulders. Giordano on the other hand, was a great fireplug of a man, with thickness in his arms; his movements like a powerful wrestler.

The women in the park understood they were together, but tagged along after Kelly anyway. They chattered and buzzed around him like junior high girls without a date.

To tell you the truth, I wasn't quite sure of Kelly. That he was altogether pleased with Giordano. No, I'm not saying he was interested in another fellow. Quite the other way around— I had reason to believe he had a fancy for a pretty girl. I had a suspicion that he was what they call bisexual.

Samantha was her name. She was a granddaughter of Mrs. St. Pierre down in Number One-Fifty-Five. Can't say that Samantha thought of Kelly as anything more than a chance acquaintance. But they sure enough liked to be together. I seen them several times in the swimming pool up at the Rec Hall— and I want to tell you, they were a perfect match for a Barbie and Ken. I've told you about Kelly, and here is a little word picture of Samantha: about five-foot- ten, willowy, as they say, silky blonde hair to her waist, and she had all the curves in all the right places.

Sometimes I saw them reading together under the big oak next to the playground. It seemed they both liked plays and they'd trade off saying the various parts. Gosh, they did it well, too. I'm telling you, I was almost jealous myself to see what a good time they were having. So I got no trouble in figuring out just how Giordano felt.

Well, there he was one day, sitting on a bench about ten paces from where they were reading. You could almost see the lump in his throat, and his big hands clenched as if he was holding on tight to something. Actually, I felt sorry for him and went over to join him. "'Morning, Giordano, how's it been?"

For a while he didn't answer, and I could see he was doing everything he could to keep his mind and feelings off Kelly and Samantha; looked up at the sky, stood up, and sat down again. Finally, he came right out and said, "I just can't stand it, Villars;" he gestured toward his lover and the girl. "How in the hell can I compete with that— can't she just leave him alone? I'm probably gonna be moving out."

"Why, Giordano, you paid big bucks for that trailer," (it was a triple wide) "and you gonna let a little falling out with Kelly make you give up that rig? You're gonna take a big loss, you know."

He waits a minute, and then stammers out, "What thewhat thewhat the hell, money isn't everything." Then he talked straight to me, just like he hadn't seen me before. "Villars, this is the third time I've been stood up, and the nastiest thing of all is I guess I'm realizing I'm just too old for it."

He stares at me a minute, and must of picked up a flicker of doubt in my eyes. "I tell you," he says with the tears ready to brim over, "I love this guy. God! What a time we've had together. We met at Carnivale down in New Orleans" He couldn't go on.

"I remember one time when Ilene and I were courting. I saw her dancing close up to another guy. I tell you, I was just about ready to hang it all up and head out for the Foreign Legion. Soon as they finished, I took her outside on the porch and I said to her, If you're gonna be my wife, you ain't dancing with somebody else like that.'

She gave me a little laugh, which was more like Stop me if you can', and came right out and jarred me to the heels, Who said I was gonna be your wife? And if I ever was, that's when I'll stop dancing like that.'" (I'm just telling you this as a way of showing just how bad I felt for Giordano.)

"Giordano, last thing in the world you want to do is make a case of it. I honestly believe to keep your love you gotta let m go."

You know, it was like sunrise in the morning. Giordano knew I was right. He got right up and walked off and he didn't look back. I could tell it was the toughest thing he ever done. Then he started whistling just like he didn't care: When The Saints Come Marching In. By George, Kelly looked up and saw him going, and in about ten seconds left Samantha and took off after Giordano. I saw them sitting on their veranda about an hour later having a great time, and reading lines from a play.


A quiet day in the park— the regular sounds— a few women tracking into the laundry room, a car bouncing over the speed bumps, a TV muffled within a draped interior. Two women faced each other across a narrow strip of lawn, greening between their trailers. They were at war.

Mrs. Jadrell has hung a bird feeder outside her kitchen window and her feathered friends hop along its ledges, pecking the seed from the little troughs. Mrs. Tidwell waves her hands explicitly at the trail of gray droppings on the grass, the railings on her porch, and the indoor-outdoor carpeting newly laid.

"They're doing it everywhere!" She brings up the volume of her voice. "And it never happened till you got that thing there on your window. This is no place for pets; I can read you the regulations— Number Fifty-Three— denying patrons the privilege of owning, or having pets. I'll not clean another bit of those nasty leavings on my property."

"First place, it's not your property. You're only leasing it and you just have leasehold occupancy. I can read the regulations too, and more than that, I don't own any of these birds. No one on earth, or in city hall, is going to tell me I haven't the right to feed the birds. If a little bit of cleaning up starches you, why don't you just leave things natural? After all, God didn't make this world only for trailer parks."

Mrs. Jadrell showed red creeping into her cheeks, and she took a step closer to Mrs. Tidwell. "Law or no law, pets or no pets, if those birds " She could not bring to mind the decorous verb she would have used. "If those birds deposit if they " she seethed through her teeth. "If they shit on my lawn or home any more, I'll get a gun and start shooting them."

Mrs. Tidwell had been a dance-hall girl in the Depression, and had not forgotten her expletives. "You bitch!" She stamped her foot and pushed her face up to Mrs. Jadrell's. "You so much as touch one of these little ones, and I'll kick your ass to Timbuktu!"

Mrs. Jadrell commenced to cry, warbling incoherent pleas to God, to justice, to anyone, to give her a moment of peace in an endless, troubled life. "This home is all I've got, and I've no one to defend me in my own back yard!"

Mrs. Tidwell bought none of it. "That's tough, mama," she hissed, with the pity of a stone.

Mrs. Jadrell filed a complaint, and it went before the Committee of Patrons at their next session. Six members, and myself, heard the case. Both plaintive and defendant were asked to appear and present their arguments.

The word had gotten around, and on the appointed night, the meeting had to be adjourned to the Rec Hall, as it had caused such controversy in the park. The place overflowed and anyone could read the crowd, for half gathered on one side and the other half across the aisle— drawn in some mysterious cognition of their differences. The air buzzed with kinetic energy— like the prickle of lightning— tenuous before the strike.

I had seen them in their finery, setting the room up for the occasion. I came dressed to the nines— shoes shined, wearing a tie, my white shirt starched and snowy. As I took the podium— half scared and half celebrity— the battle crackled into open conflict.

"What we gonna do about them birds?" The crowd sizzled into action, everyone jumping to their feet, and the division in their antipathies was true to the aisle— the bird lovers on the left and the pest control on the right. I got that much from an occasional comprehensible phrase exploding above the roar. "They got lice!" And the contretemps, "They're the last innocents of God."

I gave them two minutes to argue it out and then blew my whistle good and loud, as I used to when I coached Little League. It required ten blasts to quiet them down and draw their attention to the panel. "Sitting here is your committee representing the community. If you'd rather have me decide, I'll just clear the house and send my judgment down tomorrow, in writing." The taunts and insults tailed away, and I called for the parties at variance to come forward and present their arguments.

Mrs. Tidwell, as the accused, took the stand. She started with the discourse she had written down, but gave it up in the heat of her sentiments. "I don't need to read the words like this." She dropped the script into the basket by the podium. "If God gave us light and air, he also gave us birds, and I've got as much right to see them and have them around as I've got rights to look at the sky. Nobody's going to take that away from me. I love birds— I always have— and hearing them outside in the morning and evening, and seeing their pleasure in simple things, is enough for me. There's nothing quite so entertaining, or so edifying and there's just no justification in taking this last joy from me." She started to take her seat, but remembered the mess, and faced the audience once again. "They're messy; yes, I know it," she pointed her finger at the contingent on the right, "and I'm willing to clean up the best I can, but I can't reach the roof and every bush. According to some of you, all God's creatures should have diapers, or be run out of town." There was a tiny mood swung for her, but no great cast in her favor.

Mrs. Jadrell dropped her text into the basket also, clearly emphasizing the intensity of her dispute with the defendant. "I paid three hundred dollars for that carpeting on my porch, and you should see it now! There's droppings all along the railing, and my pretty lawn is almost white with the stuff plopping down all the time. I bought this home with the last of my husband's insurance, and I have nowhere else to go; now I'm told I don't have a right to interfere with feeding the birds, but I have rights too! And I've always lived peaceably with my neighbors, and now I'm up against an argument that birds come first. This is my home and property they're" she dredged for the word, "defecating on."

They gave her some applause in her deference of terms, and a little laugh or two. "I'm standing up here telling you I won't be deprived of my rights! Those birds are certainly unsanitary, and I'm sure the Health Department will side with me."

The right side of the room blazed up in support and the left scoffed with, "How they going to keep birds from going to the bathroom?"

I looked to my panel, and they edged away from that hostile swarm of faces waiting for them to decide. I had already seen— by the nodding of their heads— the way they would run, three to three, leaving me to become the enemy of the court— despised and rejected by the adversaries, after I implemented the deciding vote.

Everyone in that room knew the case was lost, whatever the verdict, for no jurisdiction in the land had the authority to defer the adulation of nature, or of its possible detriment. Some power had trapped us all in the confines of a trailer park. I had only a minute or two before I fell into the trap, and the silence held more dread than the uproar that had come at the outset.

I fished in my head for some alternative, or maneuver, to thread the needles for my masters, but no spark of intuition came to my puzzled brain. Suddenly I had become the culprit— the one on trial.

Then old Joe Thompson— God rest his soul, for he is no longer with us— took my hand and walked me across the waters. "Villars, if I may rise to a point of order, and stand as friend of the court." He waited for me to give him the floor. I almost bounded to his side, handing him the gavel. "Yes, the chairman entertains a request for Joe Thompson to address the panel!"

"You know," he began, "we're all divided up in the same house. What I mean is, the birds aren't the question. It's what to do with their doings." Right away he had them on his side. "So, let's hang our hats on the thing that's really bothering us. Like most things troubling us, it can be solved with money, and not much, but it's a whole lot better than fighting each other. I'd suggest we put on a big feed, with the women cooking and the men serving as dishwashers. The food can be bought from the clubhouse funds, then we'll charge a couple of dollars apiece, and have someone from the Audubon Society come and tell us about the birds and bees." Well, he had them then. They laughed like they'd never heard that joke before.

"Now, what should we do with the money we collect? Out here in the open space in the playground, we'll build a bird foundation, and of course, several feeding stations. Anyone who wants to, can just come, sit and enjoy all those simple things most of us have forgotten about."

And that's exactly what we did; built the prettiest bird sanctuary you've ever seen.


I walked to the clubhouse a few days later, and old Joe Thompson and his wife Sadie called me over to sit with them and have a cup of coffee.

"Sadie wants to go off to Mexico again," he said. "It's our second time. We've been most every other place we ever wanted to go, but I just can't get up the steam, somehow, to trek all that way to ooh and aah over the jungles or pyramids, or white sands at Cozamel. I guess I've about figured there comes a time to give it up, no matter what all the philosophers say about going on as if tomorrow never comes. Remember that old song by Maggie Whiting: Is That All There Is? Well, I wouldn't say it quite that way, because really, I've had plenty, but it's just like Mexico— I wouldn't do it all over again. Did you ever have that feeling on a lusty spring day that you want to move on, like the call of the wild or some hidden thing you have to try and find? Well, that's where I'm at— at the brink of moving on."

He did just that— peacefully, in his sleep— three months later. Sadie used to sit on the porch and pine away, and six weeks to the day, followed him. They had been married fifty-seven years.

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