Day 271: Sayers Sayings

It was time once again for another almost-day-off. The past evening, Laetitia and her grandmother had joined several of Laetitia’s friends for dinner, drinks, and conversation. As the meal progressed, the dinner talk drifted to gossip about who was sleeping with whom. As the discussion wore on, Laetitia’s grandmother suddenly quoted:

As I grow older and older
And totter toward the tomb
I find that I care less and less
Who goes to bed with whom.

She followed this quote from Dorothy L. Sayers with another: “I always have a quotation for everything. It saves original thinking.”

Laetitia’s grandmother wasn’t a prude. When she was out with “the girls,” they often had similar conversations, except theirs were usually about who slept with whom years ago in college. What provoked her grandmother’s outburst of intergenerational pique was that she knew none of the people Laetitia’s friend’s were talking about.

With the past evening’s events in mind, Laetitia opened the ornate door of the Emerald Victorian, wrote and posted the limerick of the day while the coffee was brewing, and settled into a comfortable chair in the library to read Sayers’Have His Carcase.

The gossip about sex sensational
Tends to be just a bit generational
Those who’re over the fence
Talk of love in past tense
Before they wore garments foundational.

Day 270: Still Spirits

Laetitia and her group moved south toward their destination—Fayetteville, in the northwest corner of Arkansas. Located in the Ozark Mountains, Fayetteville is home to the University of Arkansas, which is noted for its national championships in track and field events.

As their bus drove through the wooded hills of the Ozarks, Laetitia and her group stopped at a country store for ice cream cones. The hamlet in which the store was located also contained a few houses, a church, a filling station, and a blacksmith shop, but had no sign announcing its name. The store looked like something out of a time capsule. In addition to the usual grocery items such as canned goods, flour, sugar, and cereal, it had horse harnesses, a glass case full of guns from the era when gunstocks were still made of wood, and rock candy. Across the street, under a shade tree, was a bench upon which sat a number of men in overalls and straw hats, who were whittling. As she ate her ice cream, Laetitia, always on a quest for limerick material, moved close enough to hear what they were saying.

They were talking about bootleggers. The word “bootlegger” comes from the practice of hiding liquor in a flask in the leg of a boot. Since things that are hidden are often illegal, the meaning of the term has broadened over the years to include not-quite-legal things in general, but in Arkansas, it is generally applied to the practice of making and selling distilled spirits without a license, thereby avoiding the necessity of paying whiskey tax. Even though Prohibition was repealed in the 1930s, the existence of many dry counties in Arkansas and the remoteness of the Ozark Mountains encouraged this illicit cottage industry. The men were talking about a bootlegger they knew or knew of who was rumored to drink more than he sold.

In Fayetteville, Laetitia and her group visited the botanical garden and then moved on to their lodging for the night. At dinner, Laetitia presented the limerick of the day.

Said a man who lived near Fayetteville
In defense of his sour mash still
“Although bootleg whiskey
Is awfully risky
I can’t afford Beam or Bushmill.”

Day 269: Mountain Home Gnome

Laetitia and her group headed southwest, crossing the border into Arkansas. Today’s destination was Mountain Home, a picturesque city of 12,000 situated between two large, man-made lakes, Bull Shoals and Norfolk. Because of its location near the lakes, Field and Stream Magazine ranked Mountain Home Number 2 in its list of Best Fishing Towns in America. Laetitia’s group on this day was made up entirely of bass fishermen, so they spent much of the morning and afternoon on a chartered boat on Bull Shoals Lake, with a shore lunch at noon.

When they arrived at Mountain Home late that afternoon, the fishermen had no interest in doing a walkabout, so Laetitia gave them a time and place to meet for dinner and walked around by herself. She found a shaded park bench and sat down to read her book and think of a limerick. A few minutes later a small, slim woman about Laetitia’s age stopped to talk. She was carrying a book bag that said “Mountain Home Public Library.” The women introduced themselves and talked about college and their work.

The woman, whose name was Lily, worked at the local library and found Laetitia’s job fascinating. “I live only a block from here,” she said. “Would you like to stop by for a glass of wine?” They walked down an alley and entered Lily’s backyard through a door in a high hedge. Lily entered the house and emerged with two tulip-shaped glasses of Cotes du Rhone. The house was a small, older bungalow. The backyard was spacious and shady, with fully-grown trees. As Laetitia sipped her wine, she scanned the surrounding scene. They sat in the midst of a ring of giant artificial mushrooms, mostly fly agarics, with brilliant red caps that looked to be sprinkled with rolled oats. There was a reflecting pool, and on the high board fences that bounded both sides of the backyard were murals. The mural motifs were mountains and woodlands and a castle somewhat resembling König Ludwig’s Neuschwanstein in Bavaria.

“This looks like a stage set for a fairy tale,” Laetitia said.

“It is, sort of,” Lily replied. “My boyfriend and I were both in theater. We went to a small college, where the actors had to participate in all parts of putting on a production. We both have costume and set-making skills. He works for a corporation in the area. Nobody he works with is interested in anything but social climbing and money. I got a masters’ degree in library science hoping to be a children’s librarian, but most of our local library clientele are retirees. My boyfriend and I like to role-play at night in fairy bride scenes that we write ourselves. Right now he’s a gnome and I’m a water sprite. It means I always have to be on top. Otherwise lying on my wings gets very uncomfortable. We sometimes assume the roles of Tolkien characters. I made love to Frodo once.”

“Lily doesn’t sound like the stereotypical little old librarian in tennis shoes,” Laetitia thought. She loved the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but somehow couldn’t imagine making love to Frodo—Aragorn, perhaps, or Legolas or Boromir. No matter; she had the limerick of the day.

Young Lily who’s from Mountain Home
Likes best the times when she can roam
Neath the trees as a sprite
As night after night
She has amorous trysts with a gnome.

Day 268: Silk Ilk

Laetitia and her group stopped at Big Springs State Park near Van Buren on the way to West Plains, Missouri. Big Spring is the largest spring in the Ozarks and one of the largest springs in the world. The spring is one of the major sources of water for the Current River, which is only about 1,000 feet away. After a hike in the park the group visited Blue Spring and Round Spring and did an underground tour of Round Spring Cave. Then they went to Grand Gulf State Park to view the canyon and natural bridge. Late that evening they arrived at West Plains, where they were spending the night.

Before dinner, Laetitia assumed her usual position on a bar stool and began to think what she could write for the limerick of the day. Within earshot, there was a table of young men having a lively conversation. Laetitia eavesdropped, of course. The term “eavesdrop” has several plausible origins. In his palace at Hampton Court, Henry VIII’s spies could listen to conversations in the great hall through concealed holes in the ceiling supports. In England during Anglo Saxon times some houses had small, concealed holes under the eaves near the entrance, so those inside could listen to conversations of those outside seeking admittance.

The conversation in this case was mostly about a local girl whom most of the young men had unsuccessfully tried to date. The talk was sometimes colorful, with phrases like, “decided she wants to fart in silk,” and “thinks she’s the Veiled Prophet Queen.” From overheard snippets, the following story emerged. “Old man” Murgatroyd, the well-to-do father of the girl, Millicent, had sent her to a private women’s college in St. Louis so she could meet and marry someone from the upper crust. Before she had succeeded in doing that, the economy took a downturn and Mr. Murgatroyd could no longer afford to send her to the school. She came home to West Plains, but had developed expensive tastes in the meantime, and none of the local men could afford to go out with her.

After dinner, Laetitia presented the limerick of the day.

When Millicent Murgatroyd deigns
To go out with the men of West Plains
She wants haute cuisines
Like foie gras terrines
And tartlets washed down with champagnes.