Another Friday evening, and once again The Greene Grocer is packed to the rafters with customers. Bubba, as it turns out, owns a small local craft brewery; and his supply of excellent beer is as endless as his enthusiasm to sell it. Tommy Higgins, who is here tonight with the exquisite Mary Robins, is very pleased with himself for having engineered this lucrative new arrangement, and he has not stopped at the libations. He has arranged for musical entertainment, soliciting the services of an authentic Virginia bluegrass band, led by two bearded and flanneled chaps called Pickens & Grinnen.
Bubba has unscrupulously perpetuated the myth that I am English nobility of some sort, and perfect strangers have sidled up to me all night to get a selfie with “Lord Greene.” My protestations have only encouraged Bubba further, and I am now told that he has been telling my customers that I was lately the Prime Minister. One otherwise delightful young woman has even asked me to introduce her to my friend Benedict Cumberbatch.
Twangy banjo and delicate mandolin mingle with the sound of jumbled voices and the smell of fresh produce. An ancient man, well into his cups, begins a creaky jig in time to the music. His Rip van Winkle beard sways in synch with his slim hips, and his eyes sparkle with innocuous mischief. Others join in: two dancers, then ten, then nearly everyone. Before long the shop is a sort of hillbilly mosh pit. I fear for my new shipment of melons.
To my utter surprise the boisterous crowd begins chanting “Mary Robins! Mary Robins!” and a handful of burly lads lift her up onto the small stage, where she stands next to Pickens & Grinnen. She is smiling, but clearly embarrassed. Someone hands her a microphone and after a moment she opens her mouth.
In my life I have marveled at the wondrous, ethereal music of Johann Sebastian Bach. I have stood trout fishing in the middle of a Scottish chalk stream and listened to the unmatched music of God’s earth as the crystal waters rushed by me. I have even thought about Heaven, imagining the glorious voices of the angels, rank upon rank, singing with incomprehensible beauty, filling my entire being with wonder and awe. Nothing in my life up to this point, however, has prepared me for the sound I hear when Mary Robins Higgins begins to sing.
I am overcome by sensations I have no words to describe, and tears well up in my eyes. Here in my lowly grocer’s shop, in obscure little Chipping Norton, Virginia, amidst farmers and minstrels and brewers, I taste an unexpected morsel of Heaven on Earth.
© 2013 Middlechurch Musings, LLC