The Summer of '62; Episode 13
They sat at the table. Nobody made a move for the food. It soon became a bit uncomfortable.
“Where’s Mother?” Mr. Miles asked.
“She’s in her room.” Mrs. Miles said. “I’ll get her after we say grace. Would you like to say grace, Rich?”
Rich was so flabbergasted and caught off guard that he responded by merely moving his lips and nothing intelligible was uttered.
“Tom,” Mrs. Miles said, “I think you’ve embarrassed our guest. Would you mind saying grace?”
Mr. Miles appeared irritated, but bowed his head and said, “God we thank thee for thy bounty we are about to receive, amen.”
Everyone said “amen.”
Mrs. Miles excused herself and rose. “I’ll get mother.”
They waited until she returned with a small thin elderly woman dressed in a flowered dress. She was decrepit and moved slowly. Mrs. Miles was impatient with her and prodded her to move faster by nudging and gently pushing with her hands. Mrs. Miles pulled a chair out for her, but when she took too much time to settle back into the chair, Mrs Miles said, “For God’s sake,” and shoved the chair into the back of her knees. Rich nearly said “amen” again. The old woman fell into the chair and nearly tipped over once she sat.
“Tom, get her some food,” Mrs. Miles said abruptly.
Tom stood and slapped food onto her plate like it was a prison chow line.
“This is Grandma,” he said as if she weren’t there.”
“Hi Grandma,” Rich said. “I’m Rich.”
She glanced up from her plate and smiled quickly.
“She’s lost her mind,” Mr. Miles said. “They say it’s hereditary. That’s what I’ll have to put up with in a few years.” He glanced at Mrs. Miles.
Mrs. Miles sat and the food began to be passed. The meal consisted of a small bowl of tomato soup, a tossed salad, stuffed pork chops, mashed potatoes, gravy, and green beans with slivers of almonds, and fresh lemonade.
“Where do you and you family go to church?” Mrs. Miles asked.
Suddenly it came to Rich in a flash. “Tom likes me and wants to hang around me. His parents do not approve. This meal, this weekend, and these questions were designed to demonstrate to Tom I was not of their ilk. One thing that I had learned in the last two years about competing with snobbery is to give them a show, strike back with sarcasm.”
Rich smiled politely. “We haven’t attended church since the family left England two hundred years ago. We worshiped at Stone Hinge. My Mother’s side were Druids, but we all converted to religion practiced by the Incas, mainly because of the human sacrifices.” Rich looked at everyone long enough to see the confusion change to a light hearted titter. “Actually we are Lutheran, but to be honest we seldom attend.”
“You should come to church with us some time,” Mr. Miles said.
“Sure, I don’t mind,” Rich said. “Tom says there’s some hot looking girls that go there.”
“He did not,” Mrs. Miles insisted.
“When did I say that?” Tom said defensively.
“I’m just kidding,” Rich said.
“I should hope so,” Mrs. Miles said.
The mood changed with some forced smiles.
“I understand your Father works for the state,” Mr. Miles said.
“That’s right,” Rich said and waited for him to ask what he should have asked to begin with.
“What does he do?” Mr. Miles asked.
“He works at the nut house, loony bin, la la lockup, booby hatch, funny farm; the state hospital, ” Rich said.
“In what capacity?” Mr. Miles asked.
“He watches the fruitcakes, nuts, and squirrels,” Rich said spinning his finger near his head.
“That’s an odd way of putting it,” Mrs. Miles said as if mildly offended.
“It’s kind of like watching old people who have lost their minds,” Rich said and gestured with his fork at the Grandmother.
Mr. and Mrs. Miles made eye contact. Rich did not know what the glance meant, because he had no way of knowing how they thought, but he had an idea.
“What does your mother do?” Mrs. Miles asked. “I understand she works outside the home.”
“My mom is a cashier at the drug store in Northland Plaza,” Rich said.
“I think I’ve seen her there,” Mr. Miles said.
Rich wanted to say, “what are you doing checking out the chicks at the drug store?” But too much sarcasm can quickly turn on you.
“Edna worked at a drug store when we were first married,” Mr. Miles said. “Didn’t pay much in those days. As soon as I moved up in the company I got her a job in personal. Now she practically runs the place.” He chuckled. “She gets more raises than I do.”
“That’s not so,” Mrs. Miles said. “You got three raises in the past two years and I only got one.”
“Yes, dear,” Mr. Miles said. “But that one was as big as my three.”
Rich said to himself, “I lost. I should have kept up with them, but now I am no longer the participant – I am the audience. I guess that's good, but it was so much fun.”
The smug talk continued, all artfully designed to inform all that neither Rich nor his family suited their realm.
“Do you plan on attending college?” Mrs. Miles asked.
“I would like to,” Rich said and tried to give them some insight into his insecurity. “Perhaps, they might display some interest, “But I don’t think I’ll ever have the grades.”
“Nonsense,” Mr. Miles said. “You’re a bright lad. It’s not brains. Its fortitude and ambition.”
‘Now I get it,’ Rich thought. ‘I always thought I was dumb, rather I’m lazy and uninspired only. I’m not as nearly bad off as I thought.’
“If you work hard you can achieve about anything.” Mrs. Miles added. “Tom wants to attend dental school at Ohio State University. How about you, what would you like to be?”
“Maybe I’ll be a minister,” Rich said.
Mr. and Mrs. Miles’ mouths turned down and they nodded with approval.
“I know what you’re thinking. How can a kid that doesn’t go the church be a minister?” Rich said. “I guess I’m kind of like the guy who always wanted to fly, but couldn’t afford it, so he became a pilot.”
Rich had no idea why he said that. He thought it was the ultimate calling and little discussion would follow.
“Dentistry is a really secure field,” Tom said.
“And God isn’t?” Rich said.
After that, the conversation turned to the weather, work, and more weather.
After the meal Rich and Tom helped clear the table. Mrs. Miles left Grandma seated. She placed a picture puzzle on the table in front or her.