When I occasionally mention to people that I grew up in Mississippi I invariably get one of two reactions. First, and my favorite, is the image of me swinging in front of an Antebellum mansion while slaves pick cotton in the fields and the Mississippi river rolls by in the distance. Second, and least amusing, is the vision of me as a barefooted ragamuffin sucking on a hayseed in front of a sharecroppers shack in the Delta.
Neither image is accurate but rather something in between. Mississippi is a fabulous state filled with history and landscape, famous writers, innovators, entertainers and beauty queens. Miss Mississippi was once a mainstay of the top ten at the Miss America pageant. Far more interesting a place to have roots and ancestry than say Iowa. Not that there is anything wrong with Iowa but you get the idea.
Patrick was equally as eccentric as myself and we became fast friends. Two qwars adrift on the island of misfit toys. Patrick had the distinction of living in the esteemed neighborhood of Belhaven, two houses down from Armand Coulett conductor of the Mississippi Symphony, three houses down from Belhaven college where Lipsynka attended classes, and five houses away from the famous authoress Eudora Welty. Nice neighborhood, mine was better but that’s another story.
One day I hatched the brilliant plan to be Eudora for Halloween. An ambitious effort to say the least as she was not the most attractive woman. She was downright homely with a horse face and buck teeth a spinster a working women a photographer and a journalist. She was ever so famous and I would occasionally meet her in the produce aisle of the Jitney Jungle grocery store. She was an entirely accessible celebrity. I ran into her again the night her play The Ponder Heart debuted and she remembered me. That’s a fond memory.
Anyway so Patrick and I were sitting around on Halloween drinking and smoking. We were lit. I had decided that I wanted to be Eudora Welty and show up at her house dressed as her to do a little trick or treating. I thought it would be amusing that she would open the door to find herself on the stoop staring back. I imagined a whole short story devoted to the incident.
About that time Patrick produced a gray wig and some false teeth. Patrick was a wizard with makeup and he whipped up a concoction of cornstarch, Elmer’s glue and rouge. It replicated the delicate complexion of Ms. Welty to precision. Patrick of course was a dashing ghoul with a top hat and tails. We set out on our adventure.
We arrived at Ms. Welty’s estate around seven o’clock. The lights were still on and as we stepped up to her pseudo Tudor I could see her purse through the window placed neatly beside the sofa. We opened the screen door to knock when we saw a notice affixed to the door. We both silently read it then we looked at one another and had the same idea. Each of us reaching our hands out grabbing for the little note. I happened to be the quickest.
It’s signed in crayon!