My Life A Bit South of Normal

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Save the Date and Japanese Gardens

With 2 weeks left until the wedding, Dixie had sent the invitations out without 'bothering' Kathleen about them. Unknown to Dixie, Kathleen was planning the wedding she and Jeb truly wanted, Kathleen had covertly copied the guest list from her mother's computer. Dixie's idea of a secret password was 'wedding'. She and Jeb had chosen the people from Dixie's list that they wanted to invite to their event. Then adding their friends and those Charlotte wanted to invite, Kathleen prepared a blast 'Save the Date' email. For those who may have already received Dixie's invitation, she explained their separate plans. Kathleen asked everyone to keep the alternative plans to themselves - proper invitations would soon follow.

Kathleen had selected an invitation that she felt better reflected her idea of her wedding. They were addressed and mailed forthwith. She told Jeb, "Well, we did it. There is no turning back now." To take care of her father's money, she called The Columns and explained her situation.

The Wedding coordinator, having heard many tales of war between Brides and their mothers, understood and assured Kathleen she would handle it. "I'll humor your mother along and ensure she does not make any more plans. If she requests anything, I'll tell her that the details have been taken care of.  Kathleen asked, "What about the contract?"

"When she comes in to sign the contract, I will give her a fairly long memo that means nothing for her to sign." Kathleen thanked her. The coordinator continued,"Also, I'll send your father's check back to you."

She paused and laughed, "Like I say, we are a full service organization. We will not lose anything, I have 2 other brides who want that date so badly, they will take it even at such short notice."

Kathleen could not believe how things were finally working out for her. Again, she told the coordinator how much she appreciated her assistance with her mother. They exchanged a few pleasantries and rung off.

Kathleen called Jeb with the good news. He was much relieved. Avoiding Dixie's wedding was not the issue as much as calming Kathleen's nerves. Besides, even if this alienated him from his future mother-in-law for life, it may be a victory.

Later that day Kathleen received the package from 'Marilyn We Rent it all' with her wedding gown. The dress fit her perfectly. She never dreamed she could have a $5000 designer gown, better yet for only $200. It was all falling into place. For the first time in months Kathleen took a deep breath with excitement for her wedding. Next, she had to share the "alternate plan" with her father.

By the time Della and Bunny got to the park, the Johnson brothers had left. Looking around and seeing them nowhere, they asked a few people they saw on the street, if they had seen them. No one had seen Johnson men. It was as if they had disappeared into thin air. Given it was 1 pm, Della assumed eventually they could be found at the bus stop .

"What are you going to tell them?" Bunny asked.

"That they are in the right place, and that the Eldridges need to give them another chance."

"But, they do not look anything like the photos Flora and Cora had."

Della stopped walking and turned to Bunny. "Do you seriously think that you were talking to the wrong older twin brothers, named John and Don, who happened to arrive on the same bus the Eldridge grooms were supposed to be on?"

"Guess not," said Bunny quietly.

As it was, John and Don found themselves at Cre Uisce Aer. While roaming the streets of Gallagher, waiting for the bus, they had run into Pearce Phinnigan. He approached them and asked if they needed help. Hearing their broken English and recognizing them as Japanese, Pearce spoke to them in their native language. During a summer as an intern with a Japanese Tech company, he had learned the language.

Needless to say, the men were relieved to find someone who spoke Japanese. During a very pleasant conversation, Pearce learned that 2 men were Japanese Gardeners, trained in the Ogawa Jihei VII's school of design. Hearing this, Pearce asked them what brought them to town. Not wanting to get into the details, John told him they were going across the country and somehow ended up in Gallagher, lost. 'What were the odds?' thought Pearce.

He explained to them that he was in the process of restoring the gardens at Cre Uisce Aer. The one most people were familiar with was a traditional English Garden, his grandmother used for cut flowers. However, there was another garden, in a Japanese style, behind the house. It was in poor condition. In the off chance they could help, Pearce asked them if they would consider looking at the garden and giving him some advice. He would pay them of course.

John said they would be most interested, however since they were waiting for the 2 pm bus, they would not have enough time. After some discussion, Pearce convinced them to go back to the estate with him. He had plenty of extra bedrooms they could stay in. He assured the 2 men that he would get them back to town to catch the early bus the following morning.

Back at the Rental Company, 'Miss' Ella dropped in to tell the girls what happened after the bus left. As she told her story, Della laughed and looked at Bunny with a 'knowing' look. "What?" asked 'Miss' Ella, "I don't find it funny. I find it tragic, what happened and the attention, or rather lack thereof, the Eldridge sisters paid to them."

Della assured 'Miss' Ella that they were not laughing about the situation. After Della filled her in with the details of Bunny's encounter, 'Miss' Ella was relieved. "Well, that was very nice of you, Bunny. I just feel so sorry for them." She sighed, "I just wish Flora and Cora would have at least spoken to them. Personally, I found them to be quite pleasant."

The more Ella thought about it, the more agitated she got. Knowing she did not have much time, she had a plan. "Girls, I have something I need to do. As always it was so nice to visit with you." She turned and walked out the door. Della and Bunny just looked at each other.

Ella quickly walked to Flora and Cora's house. Those sisters needed to remember they were not spring chickens. Chances like this didn't come along everyday. She stepped on the porch and rang the doorbell. No one answered. She looked in the windows. She could not see anyone. To be sure, Ella walked around to the backyard. No one was there. She knew what her next move had to be.

She pulled her phone from her purse and called the cafe. "Ed has the bus come yet?" He said it had not and, in fact,  he had gotten word it may be 10-15 minutes late. She thanked him and rang off. All during the call she had been making her way to the bus stop. Maybe she could catch the Johnsons there and work something out.

Ella was shocked when she turned the corner to see Flora and Cora waiting at the bus stop. 'What the heck?' thought Ella.

As she approached the women, she could tell they were in deep conversation. Flora spoke first when Ella reached the bus stop. "We were just not hospitable to the Johnsons."

Ella just thought,'You think?'

Flora continued,"Ella, you have to understand, we were upset they were not on the bus. Then when we learned they had in fact arrived, we were shocked at what we saw."

Cora spoke up, "Ella you know we were raised better than that. Mama would be after our tails for the way we acted."

"And, now we have lost a chance for a life we have never had," added Cora.

"Well, I don't think it is too late. They have to be here by 2 for the late bus. We'll just wait."

The women were bit anxious as 2 pm approached and the Johnsons had failed to show up. Ella assured them that they still had some time since, according to Ed,  the bus was going to be late.

10 or 15 minutes later, the bus pulled up, several people disembarked. A few minutes later they watched the door close and the bus slowly drive off. Flora and Cora were crestfallen. Flora turned to Ella, "This is our fault and I guess we deserve it, given how we acted."

"Oh, don't give up yet. The good news is that they were not on the bus. How far could they get?"

After some discussion, the 3 came up with a plan. They would ask everyone they could if they had seen the Johnsons. They split up and went separate ways in search of the missing grooms.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

We Came for Nice Ladies

Trying to remember who got off the bus, Ella only saw a young mother with 2 children and 2 teenage boys. 'This is just horrible', she thought.

The words had not gotten out of her mouth, when the bus drove off. In all the confusion of the band breaking up, the crowd going home, and the Mayor's miff,  Rayanne noticed 2 short oriental men standing there, each holding a bag in their hand. She turned to Ella, "You don't suppose. . . ?

Ella finished Raynne's sentence, ". . .how many older twin men do you think would get off that bus." Ella left Rayanne and walked toward the men. "Good afternoon, my name is Ella, can I help you?"

One of them stepped forward, "Us?" the man answered.  

“Yes, y’all.”

One of the men replied in broken English. "My name is John and here is the brother, Don. We came to look two ladies here."

'Well', thought Ella. 'These men did not favor the photos, the twins had shown her - not even close.' Ella smiled, "They are right over here." With that Ella led the 2 men over to Flora and Cora who were still standing at the bus stop. She introduced them. The Eldridge twins were stunned.

"Are you sure you are John Johnson?" asked Flora.

"Yes, and here is the brother Don."

Cora stood there not sure what to say. Finally she spoke. "But, you don't look like the pictures you sent."

Rayanne, trying to mitigate the disastrous situation, looked at 4 of them. "Lord, where are my manners." She introduced herself to the men. "Cora, I am sure John and Don are tired and famished from their trip. Let's go to Ed's and get them a good burger."

Cora was speechless, but Flora answered,"Yes, so we can find out what is going on."

The 4 of them made their way to Ed's. In doing so, they had to step over balloons that had fallen off the poles, a couple of signs excited towns people had dropped in disappointment, and a spilled bag of confetti. Ella acted as if there was nothing there.

The group walked into Ed's. The chatter in the diner came to a silent deafening roar. Ed seated them at a booth in the corner. As he walked back to the counter, he gave everyone he passed his, 'Mind your own business, or get out' look. Most of the patrons got the message and turned their attention back to their meals.

Mae trotted over, not wanting to miss a thing. "Y'all doing OK? What can I get you?"

Cora and Flora asked for lemonade. Ella and Rayanne ordered coffee.  John and Don were not sure what to do. Ella saved them, "Mae just bring these 2 gentlemen tall sweet ice teas." Mae made some notes, smiled, and returned to the counter.

Trying to make everyone comfortable, Rayanne broke the silence. "How was your trip? I'm sure you are exhausted. Personally, I find bus trips very tiring." She gave a small laugh, "But then I haven't been looking for love."

Neither man said a word. Ella picked up the conversation."We are so happy you are here, right ladies?" The twins smiled slightly and murmured that they did also. "Tell us about yourselves."

In broken English John spoke up,"We come from long way. You are so soft to us."

Don added, looking at Flora and Cora,"You are more beauty than I thought. Hope we can make marriage." Then there was silence at the table. Thankfully, Mae returned quickly with their drinks.

As she was serving the drinks, she said. "We are just so excited that you are here. I think it is so romantic." She smiled. Ella thanked her and said no more. Mae realized she had been polity dismissed, so she left the table.

Turning to the, me Ella asked, "I never learned where you are from?"

John looked at Don, then spoke, "We come from Lost Angels."

Ella thought. "Los Angeles? Wow, that is a long way off."

Finally flora spoke up. "This is fraud. You don't look like the pictures you sent us. "

John answered, "We were feared that you would not give us." He paused, "You are such beauty women. We just wanted love from you."

Totally put out, Flora looked at both men. "I am sorry this did not work out. There has been a serious mistake. I think Ed said there would be another bus at 2 this afternoon."

Ella was speechless.

Rayanne stepped in, "Now, Flora, this problem is not their fault." Flora and Cora glared at her. "This is not really a problem, much more like a situation.  Let's work this it out."

At that point Cora and Flora stood up. Cora smiled weakly, "It was nice meeting you." With that the 2 Eldridge sisters turned on their heels, as if synchronized, and walked out of the cafe.

That left Rayanne and Ella with John and Don. Remembering her hair appointment, Ella apologized and reminded them about the bus. That reminded Rayanne that she was late meeting her bridge club for coffee. They said their goodbyes, paid the tab, and left. The 2 men were clueless.

Ella walked back into the diner and handed John some money. He smiled. "Honor you," he said as he nodded his head. Ella smiled and left.

The 2 men were not even sure where they were. Gallagher did not come up on a map. They were a bit puzzled about the money Ella had given them. They spoke quietly among themselves for an hour or so. By that time they were tired of sitting. Not knowing anything else, they left Ed's.

John and Don stood on the sidewalk looking each way. John said something and they turned to their left and proceeded down the sidewalk. They had not walked far when they ran into Bunny, on her way to the Starlight for lunch.

Assuming they were visitors, she stopped. "Can I help you? You look lost."

John smiled, "That is very good. We wait for a bus."

"Really? I think the next bus doesn't arrive until 2 pm."

"Yes, they say."

"Who?"

"2 nice ladies and . . ."

Don interrupted. "They were very peaceful and buy us lunch -  'Bello' and 'Raymond'."

Bunny thought for a moment, "I don't think I know them. Why don't we sit over here and talk." She led them to a bench on the edge of the town park.

"Now, first where y'all from?"

"We John and Don traveled from Lost Angels."

"Never heard of that." Bunny smiled, "How did you get here?"

"Through the bus", answered John.

"Oh my. I imagine y'all were wondering what all that was about - the band and the Mayor and the balloons."

In total confusion they just shook there heads.

Bunny just chatted on. "See we have two nice older ladies - they are twins. And, who knew, but they found 2 men who were also twin brothers to marry them.  I saw pictures of the men, they look like movie stars." She paused, "Anyway, the men were supposed to come in on the bus this morning." Bunny looked across the road. She sighed. "It was so sad, because the men were not on the bus. Makes me wonder what kind on men would not show up."

John, only understanding part of what Bunny said, replied, "We came for nice ladies."

Ignoring John's last statement, Bunny just kept on talking. "I bet you eat a lot of fish and rice. Are you fisherman or rice farmers?" Then Bunny thought to herself, 'What if these 2 were like those men she had seen on that TV show, 'Disappeared' and were here to kidnap someone.'  Now she was scared. Bunny had never met any Japanese people. "I'm think you might be in the wrong town.  There are no Japanese women here." Bunny paused a bit. "We did have a nice lady named Lin Sing who worked in the post office, but she moved away." Bunny stopped again. "See, we do not raise rice here bu we get good fish from the coast. And, no one eats with chopsticks." She said as she tried to imitate eating with chopsticks.

John and Don just stared at her, totally confused, not understanding what she was saying. And her animation made no sense.

"I'm still upset that those 2 men did not show up for Flora and Cora."  Then Bunny remembered she needed to get back to the office. Not knowing what else to do, she stood up, bowed to the 2 men, and said very loudly, so they would better understand her, "Nice to meet you." She turned and left.

Back at the office, Bunny told Della about meeting these 2 Japanese men on the sidewalk who seemed to be lost. 

"How do you know they were Japanese and not Chinese, or Korean?"

"I'm not sure, but they were from that part of the world. And, they like rice."

"Like rice, they told you that?"

"Well no, but I have seen those shows on National Geographic. That's what they eat - rice."

Della just shook her head. "So you just left them there?"

"Well, they said they were waiting for the bus."

"Bunny, how did they get here?"

"On the bus this morning. Can you imagine how confused they were when they saw everyone there waiting on Flora and Cora's grooms?"

"What were their names?"

"Don and John," Bunny replied, "Why?"

"Did they look alike?"

Bunny looked surprised, "Come to think of it, they looked exactly alike."

"Bunny, how do you know they were not the 'Don and John' the Eldridges were expecting?"

"Because these men were Japanese. They did not look like the movie stars, 'Miss' Ella told us about."

"Bunny, what if the pictures they sent the Eldridges were of movie stars not themselves?"

"Why would they do that? The Eldridges would have never recognized them when they got off the bus."

"What are the chances twin men, named 'Don and John' would come to Gallagher on this morning's bus? Did they say anything else?"

Bunny answered,"I think they said they 'came for nice ladies', but they were hard to understand."

Della laughed, "Bunny, I bet those men are the ones Flora and Cora were expecting."

"No. These men were Japanese and short." 

Della called Vivian to see if she could handle the phones. Then she got up and put her coat on. "Let's go."

"Where?"

"To find Don and John. Show me where you saw them."

Following Della as she walked toward the door, Bunny asked in a serious voice, "What if they are here to kidnap someone? You know like secret Samu?"

Della just shook head as they walked out of the door, "You mean Samurai? Seriously?"

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Happy Days are Here Again

The following morning, Dixie and Kathleen went to visit The Columns. Kathleen had to admit it was an impressive place. To be a new facility, the designers had paid close attention to details. The Corinthian columns on the front porch were intricately carved. The main house was made of traditional old style bricks. All the plantings in the yard, as well as in the garden, were heirloom varieties dating back to the early 1800's.

Their meeting with the wedding coordinator was very cordial. All was copacetic until the coordinator pulled out the list of services Dixie had requested and approved.

Kathleen found the wedding cake policy a little much, but then who wants to offend the pastry chef and take a chance on the other food he prepares for the wedding being off menu. Worse yet, that the chef 'absentmindedly' forget to prepare the steamship round or substitute chicken nuggets in lieu of the boiled shrimp. Then she was shown the $48,900 tab for everything from chairs to the parking valets, outrageous. 

In Kathleen's mind, her father's offer of $40,000 more than generous. Besides, she knew that this was only part of the bill. She was certain Dixie had costs in addition to this. The list did not include the 'designer' flowers, the fancy cake, and God knows what else. Keeping with her promise to her father, she did not let her exasperation get the best of her. She could hold it until they got home.

After they finished the contract discussion, the coordinator took them through 1 of the 3 large French doors that opened onto a tremendous flagstone terrace. With the house providing a lovely back drop for the terrace, in the other direction, it overlooked the sloping lawn, which was large enough for a fairly good size wedding or nice reception.

Kathleen and Dixie were commenting on the lovely site, as the coordinator walked them down a large stone staircase to the lawn.  They stood on the thick carpet of green grass, surrounded by flowering scrubs and beds filled with rich colored blossoms. Then  a loud roar interrupted the beauty of the moment.

As Kathleen and her mother turned toward the sound, they heard a deep voice through a loud speaker announce, "Gentleman, start your engines." There was a starter's gun followed by the racing of engines, and the yells of a boisterous crowd. Kathleen turned toward the wedding coordinator.

"What is that?" Kathleen asked.

The wedding coordinator quickly answered in a nervous voice. "That is the local race track."

"Racetrack?" asked Dixie.

"Yes, not professional, just local drag strip."

"How often do they race?" asked Kathleen, fascinated in a way, since she had never seen such.

"Oh, once or twice a week," the wedding coordinator said dismissively. She turned to the 2 Quinton ladies, motioned toward the house, and suggested they go back in, as if to say, 'Move along, nothing to see here'.

But not before Dixie asked the obvious question, "And what days would that be?"

The wedding coordinator was very uneasy with her answer, "Wednesdays and Saturdays."

"Every Saturday?" asked Kathleen.

"Yes", answered the coordinator in total dejection.

Dixie, not wanting to dwell on this, looked at Kathleen. "Sweetheart, do you have any more questions?"

Kathleen said she did not, turned to the coordinator, and complimented her on the lovely place. "Mama and I have a meeting back in Gallagher, so I am afraid we need to leave."

The wedding coordinator shook both lady's hands and thanked them for coming. "If you have any questions, please let me know. You are a lovely Bride, Kathleen and I think you would be most satisfied to have your wedding here."

The 3 ladies exchanged some pleasantries and the Quintons left.

While Kathleen and her mother had been touring The Columns, Gallagher was preparing to warmly welcome the Elderidge's future husbands. Word traveled fast around the town. It seemed a majority of the citizens had showed up, some to share in the joyous moment and others simply due to idle curiosity. 

Ella and Rayanne had tied dozens of balloons, in large bunches on the street lights in front of Ed's. A large banner strung across the street read, "Welcome John and Don." The marching band was standing in formation waiting their cue to play. Col Wadsworth was present astride his horse in full Confederate regalia just for the occasion. 

Ella and Rayanne were standing up front with Flora and Cora. All 4 ladies were dressed in their Sunday best. The twins were wearing matching floral print dresses. Their wardrobe was complete with hats, white gloves, and the large pink and white corsages they had been presented.  Even the Mayor was there. While Flora and Cora appreciated the support, they were just a bit anxious.

The previous night the 2 women had shared a serious discussion about their decision. Flora asked, "Are we ready for this? What are we doing? How are we going continue making our firewater?"

"Flora, I think at our age we can handle this."

"Cora, there are other things, I'm concerned about. What if they . . .,"she paused. "What if they have certain 'expectations'?

"Flora! That is not something a decent woman considers at our age."

"I don't know. I have read books about it."

Cora quickly told Flora that she was never to mention that again. Cora went out back to check the still and Flora finished ironing their dresses.

So here they were, very excited but anxious as the time went on. The bus was running late which only raised their angst. Then a not so quiet comment could be heard in the crowd, "I told you this was a hoax. These 2 old biddies are bat shit crazy. They must have been drinking their own stuff when they dreamt this up." 

Ella immediately found the source and gave him the choice to either hold his thoughts to himself or leave. As she was making her way through the crowd to take her place beside Rayanne, the rumble of the bus could be heard turning into town. The murmur of the crowd got a bit louder as everyone waited for the bus to arrive. 

The bus approached the crowd, stopped, and its air brakes hissed. The driver opened the door and stepped out to get the luggage for anyone disembarking there. The crowd held their breath. The marching band started playing 'Happy Days are Here Again." The majorettes, twirling their batons, led the musicians to the front of the bus. The Mayor stepped forward holding the Key to the City decorated with a huge red bow.

Several travelers exited the bus, a bit confused with the crowd, the balloons, and the band. In a few minutes, the driver got back on the bus, closed the door, and slowly pulled away. The crowd fell quiet. The band stopped playing. The Mayor, obviously perturbed, approached Ella and Rayanne. "Seriously! What was all this about anyway?"

Ella quickly replied that she was sure there was an explanation. Flora and Cora were not known to make things like this up. "Maybe the men missed that bus and will be on the next one."

Ed called from the crowd. "The next bus doesn't arrive until 2 this afternoon."

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Coveted Invitation to the Bridal Shower

Cordelia's Bridal Shower for Kathleen was held at the Tea Room as scheduled.  She had reserved the additional dining room off the main dining room. Knowing the size of the room, Cordelia had asked Dixie to give her a list of 15-20 ladies, she and Kathleen would like to invite. Dixie had come back saying that she needed to invite more.

2 weeks before the shower, Dixie finally got her list to Cordelia. Irritated by her delay in getting the names to her, Cordelia was even more aggravated after reading through the list. Cordelia called Dixie.

"Good morning Dixie, do you have a moment?"

"Yes, but just a moment. I'm expecting Luigi anytime now. For some reason he'll only work with me for an hour, so want to make sure I am ready for him."

"I'll try to be brief. You may need to call me back later."

Dixie asked,"You did get my list didn't you?"

"Yes, and that is why I'm calling. Going over it I was surprised. There were a few ladies not listed whom I was certain, you would have included. Perhaps it was an oversight?"

A bit bewildered, Dixie looked at her watch. "Like whom? I had to invite Blanche Jackson since I invited Ada Mae Magillicully."

"I didn't realize you were so close to Ada Mae."

"Only socially, but her husband is a state senator. You know, one of the Mobile elite."

"And, Stella Marlboro is not on the list, nor is Ella Osborne? You know Ella will be hurt if she isn't included. She thinks the world of Kathleen" Cordelia held her frustration but added,"If I am correct, Ella taught Kathleen how to bake."

"But you know, I needed to invite my college roommate, Amy. She writes for the Mobile Press Register. I'm sure she will want to write an article about the Shower for the Register's social column."

"Yes," Cordelia paused. "I'm sure she will do that." Knowing full well as sweet and accomplished Kathleen was, this little soiree was not going to mentioned on the Sunday social page of the Mobile Press Register. She would just let Dixie live in her dream world. Cordelia continued, "And Charlotte Beauregard? Certainly that was an error."

"I had to cut somewhere. As much as I know this is a coveted invitation, the wedding invitations will be even more prized. I thought we would add her there."

Cordelia was short, "Dixie, I think we need to invite Charlotte. Remember she is the Mother of the Groom."

"Oh dear, I guess that does make a difference." Dixie paused and thought. "I'm sure you can add her to your guest list."

'Guess?' Cordelia thought. However before Cordelia could answer, she heard Dixie's doorbell ring. 

"Oh, that must Luigi." Dixie looked at her watch, "He is always on time. Cordelia, can we finish this later?"

"Dear, I'm afraid not. The invitations are already a week late being mailed. And, you have the entire list. I gave you the number of people we could accommodate at the Tea Room." She paused, then added, "Also, I do not recognize any of the guests as Kathleen's friends. Are they all from out of town? I'm sure you included some of them." Cordelia changed her tone to a bit excited. "That will be  so nice to meet her friends."

Dixie was getting aggravated. Cordelia had given her the number of guests for her to invite. Certainly, Kathleen had her own number. These women, Dixie mentioned, had to be included. After all they were the 'elite' of Mobile.

"Dixie, why are you inviting people Kathleen doesn't even know and not including her friends." Cordelia started laughing. "One would think you are the Bride!"

"Can't we just add a few more ladies. I don't even have Joan Monroe, Loretta Buchanan, or, Lord, we have to invite Lucinda Shackelford."

"Shackelford? As in the Lieutenant Governor Shackelford's wife?"

"Oh, of course. I would not want to hurt her feelings, since  . . ."

Cordelia had lost patience. "Dixie you gave me a list of 35 ladies. The room will only seat 25 at most. We certainly don't want the guests to be uncomfortable. Surely 'we' can work on the list. At least the Mother of the Groom has to be invited."

"Of course, of course," Dixie laughed nervously. "You know I just assumed she would be invited."

"I am not 'assuming' anything. Can you get back to me this afternoon with a manageable number. And, please let Kathleen invite some of her friends. Dixie," Cordelia paused, "she is the Bride. The party is for her."

They rang off and Dixie hurried down to the den where she knew Luigi was waiting. She had already lost 15 minutes of her time with him. 'Honestly', Dixie thought to herself. 'Cordelia can fit a few more women in for the Shower.'

Cordelia had something else in mind. She called Kathleen. "Dear, your mother and I are trying to put the guest list together for your Bridal Shower. I'm sure you understand that side room in the Tea House, is only so big."

"Oh, 'Miss' Cordelia. I am so excited about the shower. A smaller group is much more intimate." She paused. "To be honest, the larger the room, the more people my mother will invite."

"Probably so." Cordelia laughed. "Well, looking over the guest list, I don't recognize any of your friends."

"Well, that would be because I did not make up the list. In fact, I was not even consulted about the list. It wasn't worth the fight."

"Well, we are going to do something about this. The Shower is for you and I think you should invite whomever you wish. Do you think you can get me the names and addresses by this evening."

"Of course, they are all in my contacts list. I'll drop it by as soon as I get it written out. Thank you."

"One other thing."

"Yes mam, anything you want."

"Let's just not tell your mother about this."

"No, mam, I can promise you that will not happen."

Cordelia and Kathleen discussed other details about the shower and numbers of guests. Then they rang off.

Monday, March 19, 2018

We Have to Welcome Them to Town

After much unpleasant discussion between Kathleen and Dixie, Harrell intervened. "Kathleen just to bring peace in our house, please go with your mother to see this place - whatever it is called."

Kathleen was in her father's office. She had come to plead her case. But, he had had enough."You don't have to like it."

Kathleen just stared at him.

"Just go to visit the place."

"OK," said Kathleen dejected.

As she turned to walk out of his office, Harrell added,"And, for God's sake, if you don't like it, don't say anything to your mother until you get home."

"Yes, sir," Kathleen said as she walked out of the office.

At the rental office, 'Miss' Ella and Rayanne walked in together. That was always the sure sign of something amiss.

Della just shook her head,"Why do I think you are up to something?"

Rayanne smiled, "Now Della, you know us, we are always good." 

'Miss' Ella looked at Rayanne. "Good at what?"

Both the older women giggled. Della stopped what she was doing and gave them her attention, if nothing else out of curiosity, "OK, what's up ladies?"

"We just got back from visiting the Eldridge twins."

Della interrupted,"I didn't realize y'all were good friends."

"We're not," added 'Miss' Ella.

"Any way," said Rayanne continuing, "we took them some of Ella's special banana bread." 

"You know, we just thought we would be neighborly." Ella looked at Rayanne. "And, congratulate them on their upcoming nuptials."

Before Della could say anything, Rayanne continued the story, "I really did not believe Ella, until they showed us pictures of the lucky men. I swear one of them, looks just like Donald Sutherland."

"And, the other one, like I said," 'Miss' Ella added excitedly, "The other one looks just like Sam Elliott."

"So, I've heard," said Della, waiting for the rest of the story to stumble from the 2 of them.

"But, they do look just like those 2 men. But, that's not why we are here." Rayanne smiled widely, "They told us that their gentlemen friends are arriving tomorrow."

"Wow!, That's earlier than I thought," said Della.

"We were thinking that some of us should be there when they arrive. You know, to show support." said 'Miss' Ella.

Rayanne added, "You know, to welcome them to town.?

"And, they are OK with this?"

"Not exactly," said Rayanne. Without taking a breath, she continued, "But we know they will be overjoyed when the see us there."

"Are they flying into Mobile or Montgomery and renting a car?"

"No, we'll meet them in front of Ed's."

Della looked confused. Rayanne continued,"That's where their bus will come. You are probably too young to know that Ed's is also the bus station."

Della shook her head. Once again 'Miss' Ellie, didn't let her start. "But that doesn't matter. We'll have balloons and a big banner welcoming them to Gallagher."

Sarcastically, Della added, "Why not have a marching band?"

Rayanne was thrilled. "We didn't think of that. That's a great idea. Ella don't you know Mike Gee's mother? Remember she is the one who does everything with the high school band. I bet you could ask her."

'Miss' Ellie pulled a small pad and pencil from her coordinating purse. As she jotted a quick note, without looking up, she said, "I'll do that this afternoon."

Della, getting tired of this show, laughed and said, "Well that's that. Looks like you 2 have it all under control."

Rayanne looked at Ella,"Let's go. We need to find the balloons."

As they walked out, Della heard one of them say, "Oh, we have to have flowers, you know a corsage for Flora and Cora. The other one replied, "Then we have to get 2 boutonnieres. Finally the door closed.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Personally, I Think He is Dreamy

The Sheriff had just gotten his first cup of coffee, when he was surprised by a phone call from the FBI. Apparently the agency had been following up on the Midsummer Sanatorium case. They had nabbed the main players, thanks to Hugh McKissick's help. It was easy to establish a case of mail fraud to hold them until the Attorney General filed other charges. What the Sheriff did not expect was to hear that John Dean aka Frederick Barker, was also indicted. His attempt to embezzle Iris Barker's funds was not his only problem. The Feds found he was in collusion with the parent corporation of the Sanatorium.

The Sheriff inquired about Hugh, "I'd really like to talk to him."

"Well, that's another situation. He was beat up pretty badly and is in a hospital."

"No life threatening wounds, I hope?" the Sheriff asked concerned.

"No, he will recover, but it may take some time. As soon as Hugh was able to give us what we needed some goons came, found him and beat the living daylights out of him. Apparently, the company decided to seek retribution. They left him with a concussion, lacerations on his face, a broken nose, several broken ribs, and a broken leg."

"Whoa, that's pretty bad." The Sheriff asked for the hospital Hugh was in so he could contact him. "I want to tell him how much I appreciate what he did."

"Yes and no? He definitely deserves credit. However to keep the goons from finding him again until the trial, we have put Mr. McKissick in the Witness Protection Program. Even if I knew where he was, I couldn't tell you."

"I appreciate the call. Keep me in the loop."

"We will. We'll probably be in Gallagher some time soon to talk with Mrs. Barker. You may want to tell her."

"I'll do that. Thanks again." They rang off.

In town, Wade came into the Rental Office. His first words were,"You can't make this up - only in Gallagher."

By this time his booming voice had called Bunny and Vivian out from their offices. "I've got to tell y'all something." He smiled, "And for once I bet you don't know anything about it."

Della laughed, "You've got my attention."

Wade continued, "You know how the Eldridge twins are in their mid to late 70's and have never married?"

Della added,"I always wondered about that."

Bunny looked at her, "Della!"

"Well, guess who is getting married?"

"One of them?" Vivian guessed.

"No - both of them,"

Della just looked at Wade with a large smile,"See, I told you so!"

"To whom?" asked Vivian ignoring Della.

"A set of twin brothers, also in there 70's."

"From where?" asked Bunny trying to wrap her head around this news.

"That's what is so funny. They went online."

"Like eHarmony.com?" asked Della.

"Sorta, but they found a dating web site setup to help seniors in their 70's find companionship."

Bunny just remembered her experience with the online dating service Silverspoons.com. It was both disappointing and dreadful, leading to her kidnapping. Still puzzled, Bunny asked Wade,"Have you met them?"

"The grooms? Wade asked, "No, I don't think they are in town yet."

Della gave a wry smile, "And, just where did you get this news?"

"Mae, at the Starlight."

Della just shook her head, "And, you believe her?"

"Well, let's put it this way - if she just made this up, she can go into creative writing."

They all laughed and discussed the matter for a while before everyone decided they needed to get back to work. Wade turned to Bunny, "You got a minute?"

"Sure", she said walking back into her office. Wade followed her. As she was taking a seat behind her desk, Bunny said, "I think that is so sweet, at their ages, to get married."

"I can see it now, they'll have the 7 elves in their wedding," Wade said as he sat in the chair in front of Bunny's desk.

"You mean gnomes?"

"Whatever," Wade said in a dismissing tone.

She and Wade discussed some business. Bunny printed off the account sheets he requested.

Wade sat back in the chair, "How often do you see your mother?"

Surprised at the question, Bunny replied, "Not often, but that is our relationship. Why do you ask?"

"Well, sometimes I wonder about her. She seems to work all the time."

"Oh, I don't think that's the case. I see her out and about." Bunny laughed, "and personally, that suits me just fine."

"Well, that's good to hear."

"Wade! Are you interested in her?" Bunny giggled

"Of course not," Wade said as he stood up to walk out. However, Bunny could tell there was something there. Over these past years she had become pretty good at reading him. Come to think about it, in all the years she had known him, she had never seen him act quite like that before.

Della stuck her head in Bunny's office, "Any problem with my taking next week off?"

"Of course not. What's up?"

Della asked, "Remember that trip to Texas Sam and I were going to take?  We had to cancel due to Sam's mystery assignment. Now that he's back, he wants us to go next week."

"Great. You think he's going to ask you to marry him?" an excited Bunny asked.

"Bunny! Don't start that. Remember what happened last time you got that idea."

The image of the premature wedding shower party she had decided to host for Della and Sam, was fairly embarrassing.

'Miss Ella' came in to pay her rent. Della commented, "You know this is not due for 2 weeks."

"Oh, I know, but I happened to be walking this way and figured I may as well stop." She pulled out her checkbook. "Have y'all heard about Flora and Cora?"

Della answered, "Yes mam, Wade told us this morning."

"I'm so excited for them. I always wondered why they didn't marry earlier."

"Really?" asked Della.

"Well, they are nice looking patrician ladies. They are tall and slim and have aged well, if I say so myself."

"We'll see." Della paused, "How long have they been seeing these men?"

"Oh," said 'Miss' Ella distressed. "That's the only thing that bothers me. Flora and Cora have never seen them. So far everything has been done online." She finished writing her check and handed it to Della. "But they showed me pictures." She blushed. "Even at my age, I would accept a marriage proposal from either of them."

Della looked at 'Miss' Ella. This was not something she expected to ever hear her say. "Why so?"

"Well one of them looks like Sam Elliot and the other is the spitting image of," She paused. "Oh, who was that very handsome actor who played the president in that picture show about the girl who was selected to represent her city in those horrible games?"

"The 'Hunger Games'?"

"Yes, that show."

"Are you talking about 'President Snow'?" Della asked.

"Yes that one, 'President Snow'."

"Donald Sutherland?"

"Yes, Donald Sutherland. Personally I think he is dreamy." 'Miss' Ella had this misty look in her eyes. "Oh, I remember when he was in 'Kelly's Heros'. I saw that show twice just to see him."

"Really?"  Della laughed, "Well, this should be interesting."  Della answered her phone and 'Miss' Ella waived goodbye and walked out. 

Monday, March 12, 2018

A Little Much, Don't You Think!

"Cordelia took another sip of her tea. Then she continued. "Other than being concerned about Belva, I totally understand. If you had just been up front with her earlier."

"Do you know how hard that would have been? She is more concerned about her social standing and the Country Club. And, Wells - how do you tell a child that his father wants to be a woman?"

"You would be very proud of him. Belva has him seeing a counselor who specializes in children of transgender parents." Cordelia watched tears come to Colleen's eyes. She continued, "At supper the other night he told us that your leaving didn't mean you didn't love them. He told us you left them to figure out your life." She smiled. "Then he said, 'You know some people are born as boys but when they grow up they realize they are really girls inside.' " 

Colleen dotted her face with her napkin and tried to hold it together. "I know I put myself above them but I didn't know what else to do. I was tired of sneaking around. Our marriage was on shaky grounds anyway. Belva was so into her social life," she paused. "But then, I was so involved in my life. I stayed as long as I could for Wells' sake. Finally I realized I wasn't helping anyone. Gallagher was far enough away from Mobile but close enough that I felt I hadn't gone that far."


"You knew I was here." 

"I did, but by that time I thought I was no longer 'Culler'. I was Colleen."

"Does Haynes know?"

Colleen sighed, "No, and that is something I am wrestling with." They looked up to see Grice approaching the table.

"Are y'all OK? Can I get you anything?"

"No thank you Grice, we are just fine," Cordelia said as she looked at Colleen and smiled.

Grice walked away and Colleen continued. "I always knew, or at least I hoped, that I would find someone. But I never thought it would be someone as nice as Haynes."

"Well, you are a knock out, if I must say so myself." Cordelia gave a little chuckle as she took a sip of her tea.

Colleen wasn't sure what to say. But Cordelia continued, "Seriously, Haynes is a wonderful man. No one thought he would ever start seeing someone after his wife died. You have brought joy back into his life. Be careful there." She paused. "And, I understand Parker is very fond of you also."

"I know, I know."

"I want you to know that I am here if you need me. Your secret is safe with me. However, I do not envy you figuring out how to handle Haynes."

Colleen smiled,"This means so much to me. I truly did not expect this reaction from you."

"Oh, I can surprise people." She smiled, "Now, I do not want to keep you from your appointment."

Colleen looked around for Grice, "At least let me pay."

"Honey, it is already on my account."

"Why am I not surprised?"

The ladies stood up and walked out of the Tea Room. On the sidewalk, Colleen gave Cordelia a warm hug. "You have no idea how much this means to me."

"Like I said, family is so important to me." Cordelia smiled, "Besides, I hoped you would share where you get your incredible wardrobe. Not that I could wear it as well as you do, but they might  even have something striking for an old lady."

They both laughed and went their separate ways.

At the Quinton house, Dixie and Kathleen were having breakfast that morning, Dixie handed Kathleen a small cardboard box. It was 5 x 7 and about an inch deep. "What's this?" Kathleen asked as she opened the box.

"A surprise, I know you will love it. I am so excited they finally came in."

"They?" Kathleen stopped opening the box.

"Mama, what have you done?"

"Oh, it's just one more necessary thing for the wedding. It was on your list."

Kathleen continued opening the box with a sense of dread. So far, no 'surprise' about the wedding from her mother had been something she 'loved'. Inside the cardboard box was a lovely white satin covered box tied with a wide lavender gross grain bow. Kathleen looked up.

Dixie was standing there holding both her hands to her mouth, as if in prayer. "Honey, I am so excited!"

Kathleen untied the ribbon and opened the box. Inside was very thin lavender rice paper sealed with a gold sticker on which the letters J and K were embossed in large script.  She carefully broke the seal and unfolded the paper. In it she found an engraved invitation with an elegant white ribbon tied at the top in another bow. She took the invitation out of the box and looked up at her mother. "A little much don't you think? You could have just handed me the invitation."

"That is the invitation."

Kathleen held up the card. "This, right?"

"No dear, the whole box. Isn't it fabulous!"

"This?" she held up the satin box. "This is the invitation?"

"Well of course they will be sent in an outer box, just like the one you opened."

"Fabulous? No Mama, this is ridiculous." Kathleen would have started crying except it was so outrageous - it was almost funny. She read the invitation which, thank God, had the traditional script. But something struck her as off. Then she saw it.

"Mama you realize you have Daddy's name wrong. 'Dawson' is not his middle name. In fact he doesn't have a middle name. Where did that come from?"

"Oh, honey, we couldn't have a father of the bride on a formal wedding invitation with no middle name. That is unheard of."

Kathleen shook her head. "So you just made up a name?"

"Never mind that, isn't it the most elegant thing you have ever  seen?"

Kathleen dropped the invitation, box and all, on the kitchen table. "This is disgusting."

"Sweetheart, we have made so many plans . . ."

"No, you have made the plans, you picked out the cake, the floral 'designer', and now these things." She pointed to the box on the table. She picked up the invitation and read through it again. "This says the wedding will be at The Columns. I've never been to that place. How can I get married someplace I've never seen." She looked at Dixie. "This is not your wedding, it's mine." She paused. "Anyone paying attention to what you are doing would think it is your wedding."

Ignoring what Kathleen had just said. "We need to go visit The Columns. You will love it."

"Why do I need to go see it?"

"Honey, it is the wedding venue."

"Mama, I don't care about The Columns or a 'destination'."

"But it's already engraved on the invitation."

"Invitations? I still haven't gone through the guest list. Last time I looked, I recognized very few names." She paused. "That's it. We're eloping."

Kathleen walked out leaving Dixie with boxes, bows, and paper of the invitation piled on the kitchen table. Dixie picked the invitation up and put it back together. Quietly to herself, Dixie said, "I've always heard that young brides are emotional and temperamental, but Kathleen was being impossible. She didn't even appreciate all the work she had put into her daughter's wedding. These young people just did not understand the importance of the wedding itself."

The phone rang and Dixie found herself talking to the wedding coordinator at The Columns. "Mrs. Quinton, I hope I am not interrupting anything."

"No, not all." Suddenly Dixie had the worst thought - had The Columns double booked the venue? 

The coordinator continued, "I was hoping you had had time to talk with Kathleen, the bride, about scheduling a visit to The Columns."

"Oh, I am working on it. I feel certain that I can call you later today with a date."

"Well, I hope so. I hesitate to say, but we have had several inquiries about that same day. If you are going to use the venue, the bride needs come visit." She paused,"Otherwise I will have to release the date to another wedding party where the Bride came with her mother to look at the venue."

Dixie, once again, assured the coordinator that she would call her promptly with a date and time.

She and the wedding coordinator rang off.

As she hung up, the coordinator did not have a good feeling about this. Once again it seemed as if she had a Mother of a Bride planning her dream wedding despite the desires of the Bride. From experience, she knew this was not going to end up well.