How anything so simple as a Thanksgiving dinner could be blown so far out of proportion is beyond me. That’s saying a lot, since I grew up in a place where everything seemed to be blown out of proportion in 1998.
It all began when Marvin Walsh stopped by the Hoffbrau to pick up a “to go” cup of coffee — two creams, no sugar — as he did on mornings when he left home before his wife, Loraine, had time to make his morning meal.
There was no time to waste. At least not that day. Walsh was a man on a mission, or so it seemed.
His original reason for leaving home so early was to meet with Raymond Cooper and Elbert Lee Jones to make plans for the special edition of “Renderings with Raymond” taking place four hours later, at noon. Farley Puckett would meet them later in the morning, but needed to open his hardware store at 9 a.m.
Walsh’s heart stopped when he saw newspaper editor Iris Long, Methodist minister Sarah Hyden-Smith and former politician Juliet Stoughton together in the corner booth overlooking Main Street. Jessie, Hoffbrau waitress, seemed to be taking her sweet time as she poured their coffee.
“They’re up to something,” Marvin thought, and he was right.
As hard as he tried, he couldn’t make out their conversation from the counter. He would have gone over and sat at a nearby booth, but all booths were filled with farmers, housewives and a couple of traveling salesmen. Brother Billy Joe Prather, pastor at First Baptist Church, walked in after Marvin. As Billy Joe talked about the beautiful morning and blessed day ahead, Walsh became especially irritated, as the chatter made it even more difficult to overhear what was being discussed in the corner booth.
When Jessie finally returned to the counter and handed Marvin his coffee which had been carefully poured into a 12-ounce Styrofoam cup, she muttered “Have a nice day” as Marvin hurried out of the diner.
She laughed to herself, sensing Walsh was irritated at something, which, after knowing him more than 40 years, she knew to be his usual disposition.
Heading straight toward the radio station in his bib overalls, Marvin was in no mood to be delayed as Helen Walker shouted, “Hello, Marvin!” from across Main Street as he approached the front door.
“I told you, Raymond,” he shouted as he entered the station lobby.
“What are you yelling about so early in the morning?” Cooper asked as Walsh rushed into the studio without waiting for an invitation.
“I told you yesterday that those women were up to something, and I just got proof!”
Raymond asked, “What kind of proof? What are you talking about?”
“They’re over at the ‘Brau right now. I saw them with my own two eyes. That newspaper editor, that woman preacher, and that Stoughton woman are all together. I’m pretty sure Jessie is in on it, too.”
“Well, it sounds like you were right,” Cooper said, knowing Walsh – who still saw Raymond as his hero, even after the Federal Reserve and election fiascoes – would appreciate the confirmation.
“What are we going to do?” Marvin asked, a bit calmer.
“Elbert Lee will be here soon,” Cooper began, “and we need to get Farley over here as soon as he gets things settled at his store. There is strength in numbers.”
“Good thinking,” Walsh replied, as if Raymond was looking for confirmation.
There was something about Raymond Cooper most of us didn’t realize before 1998. He didn’t seem to need anyone’s confirmation. He seemed to feel invincible. Sure, he had lost the mayor’s election, but that was a fluke in his mind. And his newspaper wasn’t doing well. The latest issue was two weeks earlier, but he blamed that on his schedule.
“People need me more than once a week!” he’d shout into his microphone, referring to the original weekly schedule of the Valley Patriot. “I feel it’s my civic duty to be here with you every day!” making another reference to his daily radio show.
Just then, Elbert Lee walked into the studio.
“Elbert Lee,” Raymond shouted, “go find Bascomb Finch!”
“What am I supposed to do when I find him?” Elbert Lee asked innocently.
“Tell him to meet you at the Hoffbrau for lunch. Marvin and I will begin the program without you. And tell him he’s going to be on my show at 1 o’clock.”
“Why am I taking Bascomb Finch to lunch?” Elbert Lee asked, rubbing the top of his head.
“Don’t worry about that,” Cooper answered. “Just take him to lunch, and buy him at least two beers. Have you got that? Three, if you can.”
Jones was confused. “Why would he drink three beers at lunch?”
“Don’t you worry about that,” Raymond answered. “Three beers, then bring him over to the station.”
Visit LennoxValley.com to get inside information about Bascomb Finch and A.J. Fryerson “Lennox Valley: The Book” is now available at Amazon.com and other booksellers.