Been There, Done That
“Guess who I saw at the IGA this morning?” Phil McKavity said to his wife Flossie as he deposited three sacks of groceries on the kitchen table.
During the Saturdays of his high school days Phil had worked as a carryout boy at a Red and White grocery, and he had vowed on the night of his high school graduation that he would visit grocery stores as infrequently as possible. However, people and times change, and now that he had retired from his lucrative dental practice, he found that he could help out around the house by doing the weekly shopping. He looked forward to the mystery of seeing whom he would encounter at the store.
“Elvis, you saw Elvis Presley, and I'll bet he was watching the fruit flies fight over the bananas,” Flossie answered sarcastically.
“Close but no cigar,” Phil chortled. “There are no fruit flies in August Provender’s store. He is the most respected grocer in a three-state area. I had better tell you because you will never guess in a million years.”
“I have the uneasy feeling that I don't really want to know, but who did you see?”
“You won’t believe this, but I saw Brig Grapnel.”
“You are partly right; I don’t want to believe it. What was he doing at our IGA?”
“He was arguing with Rhonda at the check cashing station. She was refusing to cash his check, and she was actually getting crispy with him. I thought I had better try to defuse the situation before it got out of hand. When Phil saw me, shook my hand, and his aggressive demeanor changed instantly because he was so glad to see me.
“When I asked him what the trouble was, he pointed to Rhonda and said that she refused to cash his check. I told Rhonda that I would vouch for him, but she informed me that Brig’s check was from the Dillinger National Bank and she had no authority to cash a check from that bank. She asked him if he had read the sign at the entrance to the store that checks from that bank would not be accepted. Brig replied that he was in such a hurry he had not seen the sign. She suggested that he try the Keating Savings and Loan, Wells Fargo, or even Menards.
“He explained that he needed the money immediately so he could make a deposit on an apartment he was hoping to rent. I then said I would write a check to cover the one from the Dillinger Bank, but he said he didn’t want to take advantage of my friendship.
“After he apologized to Rhonda for any unseemly or untoward behavior, he told me that he had decided to return to take up permanent residence in the town where he had so many fond memories, and he recited Robert Frost’s definition of home. ‘Home is the place where when you have to go there they have to take you in.’ Then he looked at me and said ‘I have come to ditch the meadow.’ Then he dug an elbow in my ribs and guffawed.”
A fierce scowl appeared on Flossie’s face, and she said, “Let’s have the rest of the story because I’m sure there’s more. Now out with it. I don’t want to find out later.”
Phil cleared his throat, winced, flibbered his lips and started to speak, but Flossie spoke first. “I hope you have not told him he could stay with us until he finds an apartment. I seriously hope you have not done that because do you remember when we were in dental school in Iowa, he moved in with us for five months?”
Ruefully, Phil looked down at his shoes, nodded, and attempted to explain. “Dear One, my Light of Love, don’t you recall that I did that to help Brig in an emergency. If you remember, he was having an affair with his landlord’s wife and the man had threatened to shoot him the next time he saw Brig. In fact, we sent you to get Brig’s things from the landlord.”
Flossie would not be moved to sympathy, and she said, “Brig stayed with us for five months. During that time I was able to see the kind of person he really was. I didn’t tell you then, but now I think there are some things you need to know about Brig Grapnel. I was so glad to get rid of him then, and I didn’t think we would ever see him again, so I didn’t tell you about your so-called friend. So, listen carefully.
“First of all, Brig Grapnel is a man in search of an audience, and once he finds one, he becomes a monologist who will not allow you to speak. Indeed, he becomes as intense as a snake staring at a bird to hypnotize it. He has a glare in his eyes not unlike Bella Lugosi just before he sinks his fangs into the tender neck of an innocent virginal maiden.”
“Now wait just a minute, dear. Aren’t you being a little harsh?”
“No, I am not. The man has absolutely no self-knowledge. He has no idea how obnoxi0us he is. .Brig is driven by a deep need to call attention to himself. He has to be the center of attention at all times.”
Phil still felt the need to defend Brig, and so he replied. “Yes, I am aware of Brig’s need for attention, and, frankly, I found him to be amusing. He kept his friends entertained with his jokes and stories.”
“Do you know why he left after living with us for five months?”
“Yes, I believe he found a girl to move in with, but I can’t recall her name.”
“That’s because there was no girl. I need to tell you why he left. Remember the afternoon you had to meet your faculty advisor? Well, right after you left, Brig asked me if I didn’t find you a bit boring. He said that you were a nice guy but you didn’t like to party and swing. He propositioned me that afternoon and suggested that we engage in a little hanky-panky. He said that no one need ever know what had happened.
“Well, I called him a Judas goat and several other names, and I saw this invitation as a way to get rid of him. I told him to move out immediately or I would tell you what he had just suggested. He saw that I meant business, and so he moved out, telling you that he had found a girl to move in with.”
Phil was shocked at what Flossie had just told him, but still he tried to defend Brig. “I’m sure he was just joking around with you, Flossie. He would not have betrayed me.”
“Just tell me one thing, have you invited him to stay with us until he finds an apartment? Tell me the truth now?
“Well, dear, I thought for old time’s sake it was the least I could do. And he wouldn’t be living with us for long.”
“Do you remember how long he lived with us before?”
“Yes, it was about a month or two.”
“No, it was five months, and he wouldn’t have left then if not for my ultimatum.”
“Dear Heart, what are friends for? Brig could use a friend now, and I wrote him a personal check to cover the one he could not cash at the IGA.”
“You did what? How much was the amount of the check?”
“It was for $500.00, and I was glad to do it.”
“Let me ask again, did you invite Brig to stay with us?”
“Yes, I did, but only until he finds a place of his own.”
“Well, when he arrives here to move in, you meet him at the door and tell him you have changed your mind, that we don’t have room for him.”
“Oh, I don’t think I can do that. Dear, don’t you see how mean-spirited you are being? Where’s the sweet girl I married? Don’t you realize that there’s a lot of hard bark on you?”
“Don’t you realize, Phil, that you are living on the cusp of a divorce/”
“Are you really serious, Flossie? Can’t you give Brig another chance? Why are you so determined that Brig can’t stay with us?”
“It’s really quite easy. You see I’ve been there and done that.”