I have just witnessed the all-time most anticipated, small town show-down in history! And it completely lived up to it's potential.

There are two people who live in this town, I will call them Fred and Ginger. I had no idea that they knew each other until they both came into our office today. (Although, I am learning not to be surprised; most of the folks in town know each other fairly intimately.) Ginger was on her way out when Fred walked in.

You will need some background:

Fred, rambling, meandering, a little over six feet tall, is the ultimate small-town busy-body. He gathers personal information from townsfolk at shops and on sidewalks all over town and regurgitates that information wherever he happens to land next, along with a fair dose of his own insight on the matter. He never seems to have anything better to do, or any other place where he needs to be. I look forward to his visits because impossible things pop out of his mouth. He is capable of insulting every single person in town, but he does not do this out of malice. He just says what he thinks. He has a very strong opinion on every action and every personality, and he is not afraid to share his opinion loudly with whomever he happens to be near. He does not expect agreement; he doesn't seem to need approval. He's just talking. He frequently stops breathing so that he can tell his stories without self-interruption, and it is virtually impossible for anyone else to interrupt. From time to time, a word or question or phrase can be interjected quickly into his conversation if timed precisely, and he will steamroll over that opinion, or address it in an aside and move right back to his subject. Leaving during his conversation cannot be done; he follows. Politely telling him that you have other work to do means nothing; he will brush your work aside and tell you that you are working too hard anyway. He is unstoppable, unpredictable, uncouth, and completely lovable in a twisted sort of way.

I must be twisted.

Ginger, petite, feisty, no-nonsense, gets her business done quickly and efficiently. And heaven help the person who does not handle their end of her affairs just as efficiently. Ginger also has strong opinions and does not hesitate to share them if it pertains to a particular subject, but she rarely takes time to dawdle. Her opinions are limited to the subject at hand. She is blunt and precise and will quickly put you in your place if she feels that you are not in your proper place, but I have also learned that she is nice. Her exterior protects an interior that is mushier than expected. I have grown to like her, and I suspect that many others in town have also.

Fred walked into our financial office as Ginger was walking out. They greeted each other warmly. Fred started his conversation as he always does, personally: "Are you here getting your taxes done?"

Ginger did not hesitate at all or seem taken aback, "I don't think that's any of your business, Fred," she stated frankly.

"Well, I'm just asking," he sighed but did not seem offended. "So are you getting your taxes done?"

"No, I am not."

"Well, have you gotten them done yet? You know April 15th is coming up very shortly. It creeps up, you know. First thing you know, it's January and the snow is falling and you think, 'Oh, I've got plenty of time,' and then you wake up one day and it's the middle of April. Snow is still falling because we've just had such an awful winter this year, but even with the snow, it is the middle of April, and what are you going to do? You'd better hope you have all of your receipts and such with you and in order." He paused, "You do have all of your tax papers in order, don't you, Ginger?"

She just looked at him with her lips pressed closely together. I tried to analyze her expression, was she upset, angry, bored? I don't think so. She seemed to be waiting him out.

He only waited three seconds for her to answer. When she did not offer any information, he tried a different tact. "So, how is your wonderful son these days?"

I watched her facial features soften, and her voice was proud as she answered, "You've got it right, he's a wonderful son." She adeptly did not volunteer any more information.

"I saw him this past December at the barbershop. He must have been in town for the Christmas holidays. It must have been wonderful to have him home again. Where is he living now?" Fred waited two seconds, and after receiving no answer pressed on. "The last I heard he was living in ________ City. Is that right? That's what he told me anyway."

Ginger responded shortly, "He ought to know where he lives. He's the one living there." She edged toward the front door and put her hand on the doorknob. "I'm on my lunch break, so I need to get back."

"Wait, I want to know more about what's going on with you," Fred spoke up quickly. "Will your son be coming home for Tulip Time in May? I wonder if he will bring a girl home with him someday. Why are you trying to leave? I just want some information."

"You are nosey, Fred."

"Well, is that any way to talk to a fellow citizen? I'm just small-town gossip in action," he defended himself in a surprised tone of voice. "You can't tell me that you don't gather information where you work. You know that everyone goes up there, and they just have to chat and share. I've got it a lot harder than you do, because I have to go to the information instead of having the information come to me." He truly sounded sorry for himself.

Ginger and I laughed loudly at his confession, and Ginger offered a small tidbit. Maybe she felt sorry for Fred. "My son said that he was bringing a girl home." She opened the front door slightly and a sliver of sunlight sliced its way up her body starting at her shoe. Fully poised to walk out, she was halted with Fred's next onslaught.

"I hope you know what you are going to cook when they arrive. Boys now-a-days have it so easy. They just depend on others to do their cooking for them. It's too bad you never taught your boy how to cook for himself, Ginger. Whatever poor girl he ends up with is going to have to slave over a hot stove for him night and day, and she won't thank you for that, I warrant. If you..."

Ginger loudly interrupted, "And who cooked for you all these years, Fred?"

"Well, you've got me there, okay," Fred agreed good-naturedly. "For the earliest part of my life, my mother did all my cooking, but the tables turned rather rapidly, and I've cooked six years for my nieces, 10 years for my father, 10 years for my mother, that's 26 years, right there. You know, life doesn't always turn out the way you think it will, and you just have to roll with the punches. You have to hunker down and live it out in the trenches. You just have to play with the cards life deals you, and you can't complain, okay."

Ginger nodded, emphatically agreeing with Fred's assessment of life.

"I just think it's too bad that you cooked for the boy all those years. You've spoiled him, you know. How is he ever going to survive on his own if you keep on cooking for him."

I personally am not sure how this argument applied to Ginger's son, because he has been living on his own in a completely different town for many years now, but that did not stop Fred from criticizing Ginger's child-rearing skills and her son's survival skills.

Ginger took it all in stride, which is what most people do with Fred's rambling criticism. She kept leaning towards the doorway, about to take a step out when Fred would bring up another subject with renewed vigor. Finally, she looked him in the eye and shouted over his soliloquy.

"Fred, I'm leaving now. Good-bye!"

She walked out of the office while he finished his sentence.

Then he turned to me...
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2 Responses
  1. oh, Missy! That is TOO funny! I can TOTALLY picture the whole episode in my head (and have known a few small-town folks like that in my wanderings and moving!) You do SUCH a great job writing! :-) You made me LOL!

  2. Debbie F. Says:

    Missy, you need to write a book. I'd buy it for sure!

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