Is This How It Might Have Happened?
An older New York couple—we’ll call them Fred and Ethel—leave their NYC apartment because they’re tired of their neighbors’ shenanigans—Lucy is always coming up with hare-brained schemes and Ricky is always beating on a Conga drum and yelling “Ba-ba-looooo!” Gets on their nerves. Plus all those steps to climb because the elevator never works. Most of their other NY friends and a good percentage of their NJ friends are already at Smith Mountain Lake and tell them how great it is. So Fred and Ethel move into a place on a quiet cove. (Are there any quiet coves left at SML? I’ll work on that later. Back to the plot.)
Anyhow, Ethel starts serving on a bunch of committees and joins a bunch of clubs, and Fred takes up golf—but he’s lousy at it and the other retirees make fun of him. Ethel also notices that their place could use a little fixing up.
One day, when they’re driving through the countryside (what there is left of it in the county), they notice all these little places with upright stones in them.
“Could those be cemeteries?” asks Ethel.
“Nah,” replies Fred. “I’m pretty sure you can’t have a cemetery in your yard.” He looks over the tall grass in the hayfield surrounding the bucolic little cemetery. “And don’t those people ever mow their yard? As big as this place is, you’d think they could afford a gardener or something.”
“You’re probably right, Fred,” says Ethel. “Cemeteries should have hundreds of people in them, not just a few. Maybe somebody tried to build a miniature Stonehenge here and then just gave up.”
“Ethel, are you nuts?” says Fred. “Who’d do such a stupid thing?”
“Well, I’ve heard in Roanoke there’s a miniature Graceland,” Ethel says. Then she gets an idea, which is not a good sign what with all of Lucy’s former influence. “One of those stones would make a perfect step next to the deck. You know, where you’re always falling off? It’s not like anyone is actually using them. Whattya say, Fred?”
“I dunno, Ethel,” says Fred as they climb out of their humongous SUV to take a closer look. “They got people’s names on them. Probably whoever put them here. And dates.”
“Hmmm,” says Ethel, as she squints because she refuses to wear glasses. “The last date must be the ‘use by’ date. Some of these rocks are pretty out-dated.”
“Lookee!” says Fred. “There’s one in the back row without an expiration date. Let’s get it. I don’t see the owner of this place around. It isn’t like anyone will miss it.”
With a lot of pushing and heaving (New Yorkers are noted for their toughness), Fred and Ethel wrestle the stone into the SUV and drive it home where it makes a lovely addition to the backyard. And Fred doesn’t fall off the deck nearly as much.
After trying it both ways, they decide to put it face down so the writing doesn’t show. Ethel’s “Art Appreciation and Wine-Tasting for the Not-Quite-Elderly” group just studied minimalism and merlot, so she thinks the blank side makes more of a statement. Especially when you’ve killed off a bottle of whatever vintage was on special at Kroger’s last senior citizen’s discount day.
All Ethel’s new friends (at least the ones in the most recent arrival division of the latest newcomers club) think her new decorative step looks great.
“It looks great!” they say, as they sip another glass of wine and nod agreement with each other.
Fred uses the stone to practice putting and shaves several strokes off his score, thus gaining respect from the other guys at the country club.
As they sit on the stone in the warm November night and watch the sun set over the property across the cove (the development of which will soon obscure the sight of the sunset and just about everything else) and enjoy the quiet (now that most of the week-enders and tourists are gone for the season), they rest in peace.
And maybe kill off a couple of bottles of merlot.
Note: Astute readers (and members of my writing groups) will be quick to spot the major error in this story: “the tall grass in the hayfield.” In this drought? Is that a piece of fiction, or what?
The above story was, of course, fiction that I wrote last night. For those needing a non-fiction fix, here's the scene that greeted me a bit after seven this morning: a pile of gravel surrounded by a church pew and metal chairs.
Wonder what story goes with that?