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A Little Town in Missippi
There once was a little old town in Mississippi, and in that town there was an old church. On top of that old church sat a steeple. Inside of the steeple there sat an old bell. The old bell would ring every thirty minutes, every hour of every day. Across the street from the old church and down the road, take a left, and then a right, and you will find an old house. An old house with a picket fence painted white. Inside that old picket house sat an old couple.
Every day, that old couple would wake up, fix breakfast and read the newspaper together. They would do everything together, and every day at half past two, that old couple would go to sit on the porch. That little old lady would bring out lemonade and cookies, freshly baked every day, and they would sit and eat their cookies and drink their lemonade. The cookies were never bland, nor would you have to pillage to find some. Every day that old couple would watch the sidewalk watching the people as they passed by. When one day a little boy and a little girl, too different in looks to be related, stumbled on to their front lawn, that old couple was utterly schizophrenic. The little old lady loved the children, offering them cookies and lemonade. The old man, however, did not like children at all; he would become pusillanimous and lurched at the sight of the children toddling onto his yard.
“Hey mister,” the little boy said on his third visit to their porch, “don’t you like cookies?”
The little boy held out a cookie to him in his little hand. The old man was puzzled by this. He took the cookie from the little boy and muttered a short response. Every day from then on, the little girl and little boy would come over to the old couple’s house. They would play in the yard and eat cookies and drink lemonade. Every day the little children would talk to the old lady and try to coax a response out of the old man.
One day, the little girl turned to the old man and said, “What does my-oh-pick mean?”
The old man was stunned.
“Where did you hear such a big word?” he asked the little girl.
“I was at the eye doctor today, and he said I was my-oh-pick,” the little girl explained, sounding out the word.
“Myopic means nearsighted,” the old man told her, clearly forgetting that she wouldn’t know what that meant.
“What’s that?” the little boy asked this time.
“It means you can’t see things far away very well,” the old man answered.
Both children found this to be a satisfactory answer and went back to playing in the yard.
The years passed by slowly, the children fastidiously returning each day. Whether there was opulent sunshine or ominous clouds, the old couple would bring out cookies and lemonade. As the children started school, their visits became fewer and farther between. Each day, it seemed as though the old lady was becoming more senile. When the children, though they weren’t so much children anymore, would come, they wouldn’t play in the yard. Instead, they’d oscillate on the porch swing and talk to the old couple. Although the old man wouldn’t admit it, he was starting to enjoy the young people’s company. He had learned the girl was pious and benevolent, while the boy was robust and rebellious. They couldn’t be more different yet they got along so perfectly. The more the man thought about it, the more the young pair reminded him of his wife and himself. One night, the young pair stayed later than usual, babbling on about a slinky lady who seemed to slither about town. The old man found that he was not fond of this lady they spoke of. Gossip got around quick in town, even to people like the old couple.
One day, many years later, the young pair came to the old couple’s house, hand in hand. They were seniors in high school at this point and were going to take on the world together. Only a week was left until their graduation, and they wanted to invite the old couple.
“What’s this?” the old lady asked with eyebrows raised, looking directly at their intertwined fingers.
The girl seemed to embarrassed and started to babble, “Well, um… you see,”
“She’s my girlfriend now,” the young man professed proudly. The girl blushed, but her jade green eyes showed her happiness. The old couple exchanged a knowing glance. It had been obvious that this would happen someday.
“Finally,” the old man said gruffly, “I was beginning to wonder how long it would take you.”
“We were wondering if you’d like to come to our graduation,” the young lady said looking hopefully at that old couple that always sat on their front porch.
“I’d love to, Deary,” the old lady said, smiling. It was the kindest thing anyone had ever asked her. The old man was touched as well. He had never imagined being invited to anything by the young couple, much less something as important as their graduation. He was suddenly ashamed of how abominable he had behaved towards them before.
The young couple gave the details for the graduation, and the old man went to get pictures from his own graduation. They looked through the sepia pictures until they came to the back of the photo album. There, gouged into the cardboard back of the album, were the initials of the old couple with a heart around it. The old man closed the book as agilely as he could; he had done that himself and it was supposed to be occult. The two couples stayed up late that night, talking and laughing until night was pungent in the air. The old couple trudged to their room as the younger flitted home.
The graduation came and went, and summer’s heat closed in on the small town in Mississippi. The young couple went up to the old house at half past two, as they did as often as they could, but did not see the old couple on the porch. How odd that they had been there yesterday, but were absent today.
The young couple made their way into the house, after a bit of debating, and called out, “Hello? Is anyone here?”
They didn’t hear a response, so they went up to the bedroom where they found the old couple lying in each others’ arms for the final time.
The funeral was arranged by the young couple, and tantalizing cookies and lemonade were served in abundance. However, no one seemed hungry, after all the wailing done at the service. The air was brittle, despite the usual Mississippi humidity. The amber sun wavered in the sky and the mourning people dispersed.
Happier days ensued, and now there stands the old church. And on that old church stands a steeple, and in that steeple sits an old bell. That old bell would ring every thirty minutes, every hour of every day. And across the street from the old church and down the road, take a left, and then a right and there is an old house. In that old house lives a young couple. That young couple did everything together; they played in the yard, ate cookies and lemonade and talked to an old couple every day. Now, every day, that couple will eat cookies and drink lemonade on their front porch, waiting for a couple of children to wander on to their front yard.