When I got back to the farm, I eased my car up to the back door. My grandfather’s little red Chevy pickup truck was still parked under the carport where my parents and I keep it when we aren’t staying at the house. Sort of a safety device to make passersby think there’s someone at home even though my grandparents have been dead for several years now. All the locals know, but anyone joyriding down these old dirt roads may not have a clue.
Even though I’d made my big debut in town that afternoon, I wasn’t ready for company just yet. In these parts, turning on the porch light or leaving a light on in a window in the front of the house is just as good as sitting on the porch in the swing with a glass of lemonade. Nothing says, “Welcome!” like a porch light on a country road, so I just turned on the small light over the stove instead. It lit the kitchen well enough for me to put away the groceries and make a grilled cheese sandwich.
I was exhausted. But it was nice running into Mrs. Banks again. Seeing her after so many years was almost like seeing my Granny again. They were the best of friends, and I’m sure the Judge wishes most every day his sweet wife had taken a few cooking lessons from my grandmother. Just the thought of all those poor folks at the church being subjected to her “lagniappe” made me smile. I’ve never been happier with a humble grilled cheese than I was that night.
I had not been in the house again but for a scant few hours, and I was going to have to resign myself to the fact that the ghost of my grandparents were still alive and well and living in these four walls. Just so long as they didn’t manifest themselves, I would be just fine.
But still, it was nice thinking they were still around watching over me. It was nice to think that someone on my side was watching over me. There was no telling who was really watching. I hoped never to find out…or that I was just being paranoid.
There’s something about this town. I knew I’d feel safe here, or as safe as I could right now. I could have gone anywhere to hide, but hiding in plain sight where everyone knew me seemed a better choice. Small Town, Alabama, is just like you’d think. Everyone knows everyone, and everyone knows everyone’s business. But, everyone tends to be very protective, too. This is a very protective community. Harold Jenkins down at the filling station may know that Mae Sterling was wearing her Sunday best when she stopped by to get her oil checked, but he also knows that her “Sunday best” outfit is the same outfit she wears every time she goes out. She can’t afford anything new. Everyone knows, but no one tells.
Given that just about everyone in the county has known me since I was knee-high to a turnip, should anyone come to town looking for me, I’ll know about it rather quickly. That’s another thing about small towns. News travels faster than the speed of light. I was counting on it, just in case.
For now, I’d have to do my best to relax and fit in. I packed fairly light when I left my house in Montgomery, and I wasn’t in any mood to read any of the books I had stashed away for a rainy day. For all purposes, it was pouring. Even with the satellite service for the television, there was nothing on to watch except football. Normally, that would be fine, but watching football alone just isn’t the same. Football and infomercials. If it weren’t for the satellite, I’d be stuck with the infomercials and nothing else. I quickly made a mental note of adding reading material to my mental list of Things To Buy and Do.
Tonight, though, would just be me, some random football players, and my yoga mat. A few Downward Facing Dogs, some Warrior poses, some easy stretching, and I was fine calling it a night. Even if it was only a little after 9 p.m.
The morning would come quickly enough. Truth was, I just wasn’t sleeping well these days no matter how tired I was when my head hit the pillow at night. When I did sleep it wasn’t a restful sleep. Fitful is a better way to describe it. Tossing and turning all night not only makes for long nights but it certainly doesn’t help pass the time during the day.
As I snuggled under the covers and nestled with the light chill of an early autumn evening, I couldn’t shut off my brain. Running lists of things I could do when the morning broke. Fix that squealing back door. Call the bug guy, which quickly shot to the top of the list when I thought I could hear something brush against the back wall under the bed. Laundry. Vacuum. Some light housekeeping. Maybe wash Granddaddy’s truck. Anything to stay busy.
This was the part of the day I hated most.