There is a buzz in the crisp night air as townspeople file into Mitzi’s Bar and Taxes to participate in Bubba’s pub quiz. Bubba has cajoled, brow-beaten, and harangued nearly a hundred locals into coming to his inaugural event, challenging people to form teams with risqué names and wear crazy costumes. Mitzi herself has gotten into the act by creating a special menu of “pub fare” for the occasion, with dishes like “Catfish and Chips” and “Bangers and Grits.” The band Pickens and Grinnen are here for the festivities, too, offering rousing renditions of bluegrass tunes.
As always seems to be the case in Chipping Norton a lively party breaks out, and soon the beer is flowing, the good cheer is shared, and everyone is on the floor dancing, having completely forgotten about the pub quiz. It takes a Herculean effort, but Bubba, who has appointed himself emcee, quiets the throng and reads the first question.
“What is the predominant phosphoprotein found in fresh milk?”
Since nearly everyone in Chipping Norton is a farmer of some sort, the crowd groans at the easiness of this first question; but I have no clue. The animal husbandry questions go on for a while before Bubba switches to “Types of Food in Deer Plots” and “Virginia’s Presidents.” I am outgunned, so I make myself useful by checking to make sure people’s glasses are properly charged, especially my own. At one point there is a momentary lull in activity, so I take the opportunity to shout above the murmuring din.
“Any of y’all need a beer?” I say with authority.
It is as if I have flipped a switch. My words invoke instant silence and two hundred incredulous eyes turn toward me at once. Tommy Higgins rises from where he is sitting and walks slowly over to me.
“What did you just say, Simon?” he inquires. I’m rattled and a bit confused, so I try my question again.
“I said, ‘Does anybody need a beer?’” I try.
“No, Simon,” says the exquisite Mary Robins in her angel’s voice. “You said, ‘Any of y’all need a beer?’”
“I most certainly did not!” I protest. Bubba drops the quiz cards he is holding and, his friend Mike in tow, rushes over to where I am standing.
“Too late!” he shouts gleefully. “You said ‘y’all’! You’re a real-live, bona fide Southerner now!” Bubba and Mike lift me to their shoulders to the whoops and hollers of everyone assembled, and parade me round and round Mitzi’s ramshackle restaurant. Pickens and Grinnen break into song. Dogs bark in the distance.
For the second time in six months my life appears to have made an abrupt change with the aid of an accident: first a fire, and now a slip of the tongue has literally placed me in a spot I’d never imagined I’d be. I never wanted to be Lord Greene. I only wanted to be like everyone else in this quirky, sleepy, little town. I think I’ll celebrate, too.
© 2014 Middlechurch Musings, LLC