Sunday, February 28, 2016

Sixteen Cucumbers

Mom came to town for a visit. I brought her to the genealogy room at the public library - a strange, dark little room. I can't believe I never "blogged" about that room before. But now I remember: I thought it was good enough to put into one of my failed novels. So I jotted some notes about it in a special jotting book which is now at the bottom of a pile of some other special jotting books, never to be seen again. We poked around the genealogy room and found a thin volume of reminiscences from a man whose name I believe was Glover Moore (?). When Glover was a lad, he and his sister Alice had a pet pig who enjoyed rolling over to have its belly scratched with corncobs several times a day. The pig's tail had two curls in it but sometimes it would run and the curls would straighten out. As it ran, it would say, "U-r-r-gh! U-r-r-gh!" I believe that was the spelling. Anyway, they ate it. The family ate it. I am sorry to tell you. And I was sorry to read it. The pig was "loyal to the end," wrote Glover Moore. And I closed the book and said to my mother, "Glover Moore and his magic pig/ Scratched it with corncobs/ ... 'til it got big." And Mom replied, "I've seen pigs caught and heard them squeal/ Getting ready for the great big meal." And I looked at her across the table and she said with a touch of sadness, "It's true." We also found something called the SNIPES FAMILY COOKBOOK, which included a facsimile of a long letter dated 1899, from Pearl Snipes of Benevolence, Georgia, to her beau Oscar Morrison. Pearl tells Oscar how she received his previous letter while she was at dinner and couldn't eat another bite. Sister teased her about the contents of Oscar's letter, so Pearl ran and shut herself in the other room. The family stood at the door and tried to get her to tell what was in the letter, but she wouldn't reveal a word. She is relieved to have it confirmed that Oscar hasn't been sporting about with another woman. She asks Oscar to give everyone her love and "keep a double portion for yourself." Mom said, "She was forward, wasn't she?" I said, defending Pearl Snipes, "She was his intended!" The letter was signed, "Your devoted intended." I think I have most of that correct. You can't remove the books from the genealogy room, so you have to stuff all the details into your head. Neither Mom nor I had thought to bring pen or paper. I will add that Pearl Snipes placed charmingly arbitrary phrases in quotation marks, kind of like Mattie in TRUE GRIT. The cookbook had a recipe that called for sixteen cucumbers and water with "enough salt to float an egg." There was also a recipe for "Bohemian Coffee Cake," which Mom wanted to copy for Dr. Theresa, having determined with one of Mom's favored genealogy websites that Dr. Theresa is, in part, of Bohemian descent. I said that the coffee cake probably wasn't ACTUALLY Bohemian (there was a recipe for "Martha Washington Cake" with cherry Jell-O, and I don't think Martha Washington ate that) plus there were many stern warnings posted, as I have already noted, about removing materials from the room. As we were leaving the library, whom should we encounter but Carla, who used to work at Square Books, but has recently become a librarian, long a fond wish of hers. Carla showed us her "staff picks" selection, which included my first book. How nice! I know she had lost all hope of ever seeing me at the library. I ran into Carla at the City Grocery Bar and she upbraided me for not being the faithful library patron I had sworn myself to be. She had never seen me there. So it was a sincere "staff pick," I think, with no thought I would ever hear of it. She put me on the shelf with THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE, one of my favorite books, and QUEEN OF EARTH, a good movie (pictured). So I felt all right. And I was like, "Hey, Mom, look at that!" Carla told us that the genealogy room is an entity entirely separate from the public library, though housed in the same building - hence the many prohibitions. It has always been empty, in my experience, and running on the honor system, I suppose. There are a number of butterscotch-colored molded plastic chairs stacked up high and teetering in there, and some boxy, dead-looking computers. And Dennis the Menace panels in acrylic stands on the tables, for reasons that elude me. The Snipes family is mightily represented in several thick binders, though as far as I can tell they have no connection whatsoever to Oxford. There is so much Snipes material scattered around that I briefly wondered (though knowing full well the contrary truth) whether the Snipeses were some undiscovered inspiration for the Snopeses.