I don’t know what day it is. It’s been nine months since I retired, and a rhythm has developed to my weeks. Sunday morning still has me in church for an hour of fellowship; Tuesday noon I attend an Al-Anon meeting learning to detach and yet still care; and Friday noon my writers’ group meets to discuss one of our current stories. But this pesky polar vortex has descended on us again with below-zero wind chills, and I haven’t been anywhere this week. All my days have run together. The geese didn’t return on the first day of March (see Frank and Opal), and no wonder. The pond is frozen over again and it’s too cold to be outside for anyone except fur-hooded folks who like igloos.
In-between arctic plunges, I chatted with Billy, who had repaired my ninety-year-old mom’s car. I was hoping he couldn’t fix the u-joint, whatever that is, but he did (see Jerky and Pears). He used to run his own repair garage, but like many of us, has slowed down. Now he works on an occasional car in his driveway. Too bad many of my readers will never get the benefit of his expertise. By the way, my mom says she wants to drive again if spring ever comes, but that’s another story.
Billy told me about what had recently happened to him. Apparently K.S. isn’t the only one who loses $50 bills (see The Red Truck). He had stopped in at the local bar for a late afternoon pick-me-up, and then headed to the grocery store. When he reached into his pocket to pay for cigarettes and coffee, his fist came up empty.
“I knew which pocket my fifty-dollar bill was in, but it warn’t there,” he told me.
He left his items with the cashier and re-traced his steps to the tavern. “I asked the bartender if anyone had turned in a $50 bill, knowing the chance was slim to none.”
A stranger at one of the tables overheard his question and piped up, “Which table were you sitting at?”
Billy turned around to speak to him and pointed at the table.
“Which chair were you sitting in?” the man asked.
Billy walked over and pointed again.
“Which side of the chair did your fifty-dollar bill fall on?”
Billy said, “The left side. Had it in my left pant’s pocket.”
The stranger reached in his shirt pocket, pulled out a $50 bill and said, “This must be yours, then.”
That’s life in small-town America, filled with kind strangers and honest car mechanics. Hoosier hospitality is real, and still deals out fairness and generosity, both of which are in short supply in our country’s leadership. But that’s altogether another story.