Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Another Billy Whiskers Morning

It was a busy weekend, including a pit stop at the Billy Whiskers Café. Karen was in antic mode and declared that she has gone feral, with no desire to fix her hair or diet or do any of the expected things that bludgeon women’s time and energy.

We reminisced about the old Paige House, a two-story charmer from the late 1800s that sits at the bottom of this mountain, and a couple of miles from Columbia. When we were kids, our parents used to vote there. I can remember entering its creaking front parlor, where the canvas voting booths were erected.

While my mother voted, I looked around. The interior had the look of a place that has spent winters with its windows open to all weathers. The wood was gray and dry. Where there was paint left, it was peeling. The floors were bare of rug or carpet. A long stairway penetrated the center of the house and went steeply up into darkness. I was sure that the place was haunted.

Karen remembered that Mrs. Paige played the piano with an élan that indicated advanced musical training. Karen never saw her do this, but would sneak up from her family’s property, next door, and listen from outside. When Mr. Paige died, Mrs. Paige was left without resources. She was carried from the house and, according to either Karen’s first-hand memory or to stories she heard of the event, Mrs. Paige’s hair was pure black, although she was in her nineties. However, when they got her to the county hospital and washed her hair, it was white as snow. That’s how long it had been since she’d had her hair washed.

Karen’s father bought the property and annexed it to the family ranch. The house is painted mint green, now, and stands amid its ramshackle gardens of old roses and fruit trees, all un-pruned, with a look of vacancy, although it is presently occupied. It retains its air of mystery, still, turned in upon itself as if ruminating upon a past no one else can remember.

After breakfast, when David went to pay, Karen and Rick insisted it was on the house. Why? we asked, astonished. Because we had brought them a jar of our raw honey and they were enjoying it immensely. But that was a gift, we protested. So was breakfast, they countered. And Karen added that, in her present feisty mode, it was dangerous to argue with her. We graciously and gratefully accepted and went our way.

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