Friday, May 15, 2009

Things Were Better Then (Part IV)

Jojo walked along until he got to the Church, where he saw a large crowd of women, and a few men, all milling around tables filled with baked goods. Every Wednesday was Cake and Muffin day, and both churches got together and sold baked goods to raise money.

Jojo walked in and around the different tables, barely noticed by the people working them, and he found it convenient to get around crowds by crawling under some of the tables. A few times he was given a kick and yelled at, but for the most part people left him alone. When he got to the table with the Ms. B’s, Macy and Agnes Bernier, selling tarts and cookies, Jojo was feeling tired so he sat and rested. He scooted under the table, leaned against a table leg and looked at all the different pairs of legs swarming around outside.

“It’s five cents a cookie and ten for a tart or muffin, dear.” Macy or Agnes repeated the same line over and over. Everyone seemed to think the price was fair, and so she kept selling and selling her treats. A few times she ran out of something and reached into a box, only a foot or two away from Jojo, and grabbed another plate of one thing or another. Eventually Father Francis came over, and Jojo had to hold his own hand from reaching out and pulling down on Father Francis’ robe.

When others had walked away, Father Francis started chatting with the Ms. B’s. “How are you selling?” He asked.

“It look as if we’ll be selling out shortly. We made, oh, almost thirty dollars between the two of us.” Agnes walked off, saying she was going to get some water, and Macy kept talking with Father Francis.

“So, how about those special treats? Any sales.” Father Francis, bent down to tie his shoelace, and Jojo was sure he would be spotted, but Father Francis never looked his way.

“Enough,” Macy said. “More than last week. Ever since we started those Sunday night tea and cake to-dos, we’ve been selling more and more.”

“You wouldn’t happen, by chance, to have any samples of that fine cooking here, now would you? You know how I enjoy it.”

“You wouldn’t happen to have five dollars to pay for that sample, would you Father?”

“Hey,” Father Francis said, his voice getting angry, “You two wouldn’t be able to get along as you do if I didn’t let you, so how about a little appreciation? I, at least, shouldn’t have to pay.”

“Everyone pays, Father. Everyone. And you can talk all you want, and threaten us all you want, but if you do anything, anything at all like that, I’ll make sure everyone in the Diocese knows what you’re about.”

“Hey, hey, easy. I didn’t mean anything by that. You know I’m with you all the way here.” Francis moved his feet agitatedly, up and down, up and down, as if he was walking in the same spot. Jojo started to giggle, but put his hand in his mouth to keep anything from getting out. “it’s just that,” Father Francis continued, “I’d sure like to taste one of those nice Lemon Poppyseed cakes.”

“Oh, really? The sweetgrass muffins not good enough for you anymore?” Agnes asked this last question as she came back to the table. “What’s wrong with my muffins?”

“The good Father was just telling me it’s been quite a while since he’s gone on a trip.” Macy said.

“A trip you say?” Agnes replied. “You mean on a magic swirling ship?” The two Ms. B’s laughed together, and Father Francis grumbled that he didn’t think they were very funny. “Oh all right, you blighted beggar. We’ll give you a bit, but don’t expect it for free on Sunday night.”

“Oh, no problems there, Agnes. I assure you, I’ll pay my dues like everybody else. It’s just that my nerves are a little jangled today.”

Jojo saw a wrinkled old lady hand reach under the table and pull out a wicker picnic basket. The lid opened, and Father Francis thanked them and walked away.

“He’s lucky we had some extra left over. I thought for sure we’d run out by now. Is Nathan going to be at Mass?” Macy asked.

“He said he was. Don’t worry, we’ll get everything when we do the collection.”

The basket came back and rested under the table, and the Macy Ms. B walked off saying she was going to the bathroom, while the other Ms. B went to another table to talk with some ladies there. Jojo, seeing that no one was around, reached into the picnic basket to get some treats that Father Francis had seemed to like so much. He pulled out four muffins, but they looked like the bran muffins his father ate, and Jojo hated Bran. Jojo started to put the muffins away, but thought instead he should bring them back to his father, in case he did something else today that might get himself in trouble.

Jojo climbed from under the table and started walking away, but felt bad about taking the muffins and not paying, so he pulled out his money, and remembering that one of the Ms. B’s has said muffins were ten cents, he pulled forty cents out and left it on the table. Like always, none of the adults seemed to know Jojo was even there.

* * *

Nowadays there aren’t any real big town meetings, where everyone would come down and show their face about, except for maybe Hi-Ho Day, when we all get in the ice arena and buy old clothes and books and the like that were donated to the hospital. But back then, back then the town met all the time. They met at games, at socials, at the bowling alley, and at the legion. On most Sunday nights, people would go to the old Bernier sisters place and have tea and cakes. It was supposed to be an invitation only thing, and the way people talked about it then, it was all supposed to be a whole lot of fun. I remember that a few Catholics went down, but mostly it was the Presbyterians who came over. It was refreshing, as I remember, to see the people from both sides so happy together, like they didn’t have a care. As a boy I would hang outside the house with some other lads, and we’d try to see what it was all about, but all we ever saw was a lot of laughing, some dancing, and people walking funny when they left later on at night. It was no different than what you’d see at the Legion most nights.

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