To Be Where You Are

By: Jan Karon




It was the first day of October, and all things considered, Mitford was pretty quiet.

Around the tenth of the month is when it would hit the fan. The chlorophylls of summer foliage would have degraded into nonfluorescent chlorophyll catabolites, and hidden pigments would explode in a pyrotechnic extravagance of scarlet, gold, vermilion, and out-loud yellow.

While the display would be rampant throughout the Blue Ridge Mountains, Mitford was proud to offer its very own autumn expo:

A brace of mature Acer rubrum, which paraded from Town Hall to First Baptist. Such annual spectacle would not be missed by tourists in the thousands, steaming up the mountain with the ubiquitous cell phone and occasional Nikon.

There was, however, a caveat. There were now two gaps in the parade of maples. One where lightning had struck in 2005 and the other where trunk rot had finally dealt its fatal blow.

The Council had ordered the stump ground and the vacant sites disguised with mulch. Mitford had not enjoyed a furor in quite a while and somehow, collectively, had decided the time had come.

A party of locals demanded that the maples be replaced, full-size, which would cost the town a bundle. Others campaigned to replant with beds of pansies, historically known as the town flower. A group calling themselves the Vocal Locals objected to pine bark mulch as too acidic for the soil and pressed for cocoa bean hulls, which others rejected outright as ‘too foreign.’

Esther Cunningham’s copy of the weekly Muse hit the porch at seven-thirty sharp; she read the feature on the trees while cranked back in her recliner.

She hadn’t served as Mitford’s mayor, albeit former, for nothing. She knew about such things. People were right about th’ pine bark—get it offa there and go with th’ pansies. How often did they get a blank spot to drop in a couple flats of pansies? As for replacement, no. Nobody in their right mind would go for the cost of spading in mature trees, and young stock would look ridiculous among their elders.

After sixteen nose-to-the-grindstone years, she’d been retired for how long? Too long! She had sworn never to run for office again, but didn’t people change their minds all the time and so what if she was gaining on ninety?

Take th’ woman in England who was a hundred and still tend-in’ bar—pullin’ pints, she called it, three days a week. And that hundred-year-old gal writin’ for a newspaper, askin’ people, Got any news?

And how about th’ mayor who was still mayorin’ at a hundred an’ two, bless ’er heart? Just lately, she dropped dead comin’ out of a council meeting, which was no surprise. How many of those monkey shows had she, Esther Cunningham, barely escaped with her life?

She located the remote in the pocket of the recliner, cranked upright, and reached for her iPad.

Havin’ an iPad had opened a whole new world. Her daughters could no longer accuse her of bein’ Stone Age; she knew what was goin’ on out there with people livin’ longer.

• • •

At seven thirty-five, Father Tim Kavanagh dropped a frozen banana, half a package of frozen acai berries, and a handful of frozen mangoes and peaches into a blender. The mélange was followed by a container of Greek yogurt, a spoonful of tahini, and a long pour of almond milk.

He hit the Blend button while firmly holding down the lid. Completely new to the smoothie regimen, he was alarmed by the possibility of the lid flying off and splattering stuff all over the kitchen. But the blender wouldn’t blend. It sounded like an eighteen-wheeler spinning tires on a sheet of ice.

He hit Off and reviewed the options.

Puree, Whip, Mix, Stir, Grind, Frappé.

Grind did not work. Same with the other options.

Okay, so some of the contents were frozen like a rock; maybe they had to partially thaw. When the nurse gave him the recipe after his physical, she didn’t say the ingredients had to be thawed. He did not have time to wait for something to thaw. He hit Blend again. A sound like tires screaming on a NASCAR track.

This would be his first morning without caffeine. Whether he could live up to the caffeine-free regimen recommended by Dr. Wilson, he couldn’t say. He was totally hooked on coffee and had been for decades. Cut him some slack, for Pete’s sake. Let him cling to this harmless vice.

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