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Chapter 29

There is, no remembrance of former things; neither shall

there be any remembrance of things that are to come

with those that shall come after.

Ecclesiastes 1: 11

THIS WEEK Margrethe and I, with help from our daughter Gerda, are giving our house and our shop a real Scandahoovian cleaning, because the Farnsworths, our friends from Texas - our best friends anywhere - are coming to see us. To Marga and me, a visit from Jerry and Katie is Christmas and the Fourth of July rolled into one. And for our kids, too; Sybil Farnsworth is Inga's age; the girls are chums.

This time will be extra special; they are bringing Patricia Marymount with them. Pat is almost as old a friend as the Farnsworths and the sweetest person in the world - an old-maid schoolmarm but not a bit prissy.

'The Farnsworths changed our luck. Marga and I were down in Mexico on our honeymoon when the earthquake that destroyed Mazatl'an hit. We weren't hurt but we had a bad time getting out - passports, money, and travelers checks gone. Halfway home we met the Farnsworths and that changed everything - no more trouble. Oh, I got back to Kansas with no baggage but a razor (sentimental value, Marga gave it to me on our honeymoon; I've used it ever since).

When we reached my home state, we found just the mom-and-pop shop we wanted - a lunchroom in this little college town, Eden, Kansas, southeast of Wichita. The shop was owned by Mr and Mrs A. S. Modeus; they Wanted to retire. We started as their employees; in less than a month we were their tenants. Then I went into hock to the bank up to my armpits and that made us owners-of-record of MARGA'S HOT FUDGE SUNDAE soda fountain, hot dogs, hamburgers, and Marga's heavenly Danish open-face sandwiches.

Margrethe wanted to name it Marga-and-Alex's Hot Fudge Sundae - I vetoed that; it doesn't scan. Besides, she is the one who meets the public; she's our best advertising. I work back where I'm not seen - dishwasher, janitor, porter, you name it. Margrethe handles the front, with help from Astrid. And from me; all of us can cook or concoct anything on our menu, even the open-face sandwiches. However, with the latter we follow Marga's color Photographs and lists of ingredients; in fairness to our customers only Margrethe is allowed to be creative.

Our namesake item, the hot fudge sundae, is ready at all times and I have kept the price at ten cents, although that allows only one-and-a-half cent gross profit. Any customer having a birthday gets one free, along with our Singing Happy Birthday! with loud banging on a drum, and a kiss. College boys appreciate kissing Margrethe more than they do the free sundae. Understandable. But Pop Graham doesn't do too badly with the co-eds, either. (I don't force kisses on a 'birthday girl'.)

Our shop was a success from day one. The location is good - facing Elm Street gate and Old Main. Plentiful good trade was guaranteed by low prices and Margrethe's magic touch with food... and her beauty and her sweet personality; we aren't selling calories, we're selling happiness. She piles a lavish serving of happiness on each plate; she has it to spare.

With me to watch the pennies, our team could not lose. And I do watch pennies; if the cost of ingredients ever kills that narrow margin on a hot fudge sundae, the price goes up. Mr Belial, president of our bank, says that the country is in a long, steady period of gentle prosperity. I hope he is right; meanwhile I watch the gross profit.

The town is enjoying a real estate boom, caused by, the, Farnsworths plus the change in climate it used to be that the typical wealthy Texan had a summer home in Colorado Springs, but now that we no longer fry eggs on our sidewalks, Texans are beginning to see the charms of Kansas. They say it's a change in the Jet Stream. (Or is it the Gulf Stream? I never was strong in science.) Whatever, our summers now are balmy and our winters are mild; many, of Jerry's friends or associates are buying land in Eden and building summer homes. Mr Ashmedai, manager of some of Jerry's interests, now lives here year round - and Dr Adramelech, chancellor of Eden College, caused him to be elected to the board of trustees, along with an honorary doctorate - as a former money-raiser I can see why.

We welcome them all and not just for their money... but I would not want Eden to grow as crowded as Dallas.

Not that it could. This is a bucolic place; the college is our only 'industry'. One community church serves all sects, The Church of the Divine Orgasm - Sabbath school at 9:30 a.m., church services at 11, picnic and orgy immediately following.

We don't believe in shoving religion down a kid's throat, but the truth is that young people like our community church - thanks to our pastor, the Reverend Dr M. 0. Loch. Malcolm is a Presbyterian, I think; he still has a Scottish burr in his speech. But there is nothing of the dour Scot about him and kids love him. He leads the revels and directs the rituals - our daughter Elise is a Novice Ecdysiast under him and she talks of having a vocation. (Piffle. She'll marry right out of high school; I could name the young man - though I can't see what she sees in him.)

Margrethe serves in the Altar Guild; I pass the plate on the Sabbath and serve on the finance board. I've never, given up my membership in the Apocalypse Brethren but I must admit that we Brethren read it wrong; the end of the millennium came and went and the Shout was never heard.

A man who is happy at home doesn't lie awake nights worrying about the hereafter.

What is success? My classmates at Rolla Tech, back when, may think that I've settled for too little, owner with-the-bank of a tiny restaurant in a nowhere town. But I have what I want. I would not want to be a saint in Heaven if Margrethe was not with me; I wouldn't fear going to Hell if she was there - not that I believe in Hell or ever stood a chance of being a saint in Heaven.

Samuel Clemens put it: 'Where she was, there was Eden. 'Omar phrased it: '- thou beside me in the wilderness, ah wilderness were paradise enow.' Browning termed it: 'Summum Bonum'. All were asserting the same great truth, which is for me:

Heaven is where Margrethe is.

Chapter 28 | JOB: A Comedy of Justice |