Column: Memories can truly be painful

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 30, 2001

I have a neighbor named Spurgeon.

Wednesday, May 30, 2001

I have a neighbor named Spurgeon. He is a good neighbor, but he is one of these guys who insists on living in the past. He has reason. He once told me that he is going to continue to live in the past until he has the bills from there paid.

Email newsletter signup

Well, the other morning he came hobbling up to my house. He was using crutches and had a big cast on one leg. I could tell that he was new to the crutches. He wasn’t moving very quickly. He was making more dust than miles. I thought maybe I would have to drive stakes beside him to see if he was moving. He was muttering to himself as he clumsily made his way up my walk. I opened our front door and welcomed him. I got him into the kitchen and situated in a chair and poured him a cup of coffee. I asked him how he had broken his leg. That is what you ask someone who you believe may have broken his leg.

&uot;Well, about thirty years ago,&uot; said Spurgeon.

&uot;Don’t start,&uot; I said. &uot;Why can’t you ever answer a question without dredging up the past? All I want to know is how you broke your leg?&uot; Spurgeon gave me a look. It was the look that told me, &uot;I’m telling a story here. Shut up and pay attention.&uot; I shut up and paid attention.

&uot;Like I was saying,&uot; Spurgeon went on. &uot;It was about thirty years ago. I was working for a neighbor by the name of Emil Peterson. Remember Emil? Of course, you do. Emil was a working fool. My father always said he did the work of three men. He’s a lot like you. You do the work of three men, also – Larry, Moe and Curly. Well, Emil liked to work all the day and half the night. And when you worked with Emil, you worked as hard as he did and for as long as he did. Emil talked me into staying at his house. He had an extra room and that way I could start working a little earlier in the morning and I could work a little later into the night. I didn’t mind. Emil’s wife, Bessie, was a fantastic cook. She made chicken and dumplings that were worth dying for. And then there was Emil’s daughter Pauline Peterson. Pretty Pauline, as pretty as any picture. Don’t tell me that you don’t remember her?&uot;

&uot;Oh, I remember Pauline,&uot; I admitted.&uot;She was as beautiful as any movie star.&uot;

&uot;She sure was,&uot; said Spurgeon, with that tripping down memory lane look on his face. &uot;Long blonde hair and a devastating smile. I thought that by staying at Emil’s, I’d have the opportunity of admiring her grace on occasion. She was such a beauty that I knew she would never ever have anything to do with the likes of me, but I thought it wouldn’t hurt to look.&uot;

&uot;Sounds like it was a good plan. She was worth a good look.&uot;

&uot;I thought so, too. I was a sharp fellow in those days. I’ve lost ground since then. Well, sir, the very first night that I am spending at Emil’s, I am in my room and just getting ready for bed when I hear a knock on my door. I answer the door. My parents had raised me to be the kind of a guy who answered knocks at doors. It was pretty Pauline Peterson. She was looking particularly fetching in a red dress. She also had an attractive smell – something that I’m guessing came out of an expensive little bottle. I remember that red dress and that perfume like it was yesterday. She asked me if there was anything I wanted. Then she smiled this funny little smile. I told her that I didn’t need anything and that everything was just fine. She said, ‘Are you sure you don’t want anything?’ I told her that I was sure. Then she started fluttering her lovely eyelashes at me and asked another question. ‘Isn’t there anything I can do for you?’ I replied, ‘I reckon not.’&uot;

&uot;Excuse me,&uot; I interrupted. &uot;Does this have anything at all to do with your broken leg?&uot;

&uot;I was getting to that,&uot; said Spurgeon. &uot;Well, yesterday morning, I was up on the roof of the house replacing shingles that the last windstorm had blown off. I was hammering away, when suddenly it dawned on me what Pauline Peterson meant that night. That’s when I fell off the roof of the house and broke my leg!&uot;

Hartland resident Al Batt writes columns for the Wednesday and Sunday editions of the Tribune.