Monday, November 20, 2006

Mr. Grumpy's Thanksgiving

I've been to Trader Joe's, Stop & Shop and the Haymarket. We have that hippy-dippy free-range turkey to pick up Tuesday and pies and bread to bake. It reminds me of a story.

About 40 years ago, in Plainfield, New Jersey, two older family friends were anticipating a rough Thanksgiving. Evelyn and Rollins Justice (everyone called him "Justice," which seemed to fit such a kind and thoughtful man) had a tough year and a tougher guest.

They ended up fearing a Thanksgiving under the tyranny of his father. Think Abe Simpson and you are in the area. The old man had retired from the railroad in his 40s, sponged off one child and then moved in with his son and daughter-in-law in Plainfield. He was entitled, demanding and often nasty. He wanted what he wanted when he wanted it, from morning biscuits to his rocking chair placement. Justice was old school country from the western mountains of North Carolina. He would never toss the old guy or order him to behave.

Evelyn had volunteer work with the veterans' hospital, she had visited remote sick grandkids, money was tight and Justice had to work. They simply could not prepare a Thanksgiving meal. Evelyn was a fabulous cook with the Southern pride of my-hand-to-your-mouth hospitality. She was sad not to be able to cook and she and Justice dreaded the response from the old man.

They didn't discuss it with him. Rather when Justice got home, they got into their black Rambler and headed out to find someplace that was open and they could afford. The only place seemed to be the drive-in Steer Inn on Route 22.

Evelyn steeled herself as Justice went in and returned to the car with burgers, fries and drinks. Amazingly, the old man had not said a word, much less started a tirade about the first Thanksgiving of his life without a feast presented to him.

Finally, as Evelyn and Justice looked out the windshield and started on their burgers, the old man spoke. He said only, "Hain't got no table."

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