The Monroe Grange Hall was a scurry of activity. Twenty vinyl-covered folding tables lined the perimeter of its spacious and ancient, oak-planked floor. Each table was laden with a range of food from friend chicken to orange marmalade cake. The tables and their contents all stringently monitored by Madge Butterworth, the Grange's unofficial, self-appointed hostess for over 40 years.
Twenty or more people milled about the tables, gawking and savoring the various aromas coming from the food. Others sat and talked at the linen-cloaked and flower-decked tables scattered around the center of the hall.
Sounds of children playing outside on the freshly-mowed lawn drifted through opened windows. Country music softly vibrated through the floorboards from the cellar as a barker called out dance steps to those learning how to do the grape-vine shuffle to the tune of “Achy Breaky Heart.”
All-in-all, each in their own way, having a grand time at the Grange’s annual potluck dinner celebrating the end of a long, hot summer.
“I swan,” Madge said, to her niece, Chelsea, who was standing next to her at the utensils table. “This event gets bigger every year.”
Chelsea looked around, eyes sparkling. “Oh it does; and it’s just glorious. Mary has outdone herself this year with those red roses mixed with the blue hydrangeas she used for the center pieces.”
“Huh, huh, and I hear every yard from here to Avondale is mysteriously missing a few blooms in their gardens.” She stopped suddenly, nudging her niece. “Well look who just came in, Sally Goodson carrying what she calls her special casserole on that silver platter she calls an heir loom, which I know she found at an Avondale yard sale. And I’ll tell you another thing; I know why she comes late, making an entrance. It’s because she’s always accusing me of mixing her homemade casserole with Edith Hick’s store-bought one just so Edith won’t be embarrassed by nobody eating hers.” Why the very idea…”
“Oh please, Aunt Madge. You know how it distresses me to hear gossip. Besides you know what Reverend Hicks says about gossip. It comes to no good end and God always sends a gentle retribution.”
“Nonsense, Chelsea. And beside, I do not gossip. I just try to keep up with things and pass it along – there’s a difference.” She looked around smiling as more people entered the hall. “I do hope Blanch Klepper doesn’t bring anything this year." She whispered. "I don’t know what she does to her food; but who ever eats it ends up,” her voice quieted to a murmur, “they get,” she cleared her throat, “well you know - Montezuma’s revenge. Stay away from it at all cost.”
Chelsea sighed as Grover Nichols, Grange President, sauntered up to them, carrying a dish of scalloped potatoes. “My wife’s contribution,” he said, setting it down.
“But Grover,” Madge feigned surprise, “your wife always bakes her wonderful sweet potato pie; it’s an annual favorite.”
“Indeed it seems; but she wanted to try something new; and I make it a point never to disagree with my wife.” He smiled
“Sounds like a good recipe for marriage,” Chelsea interjected.
“Indeed it is. Now if you’ll excuse me I promised my wife to try line dancing down in the basement. I also make it a point to never disappoint her as well.”
“What a sweetheart,” Chelsea said as he walked away.
“Well let me tell you,” Madge whispered, “there’s more to that story than scalloped potatoes and line dancing.”
“Aunt Madge, please.
“Well, I’m just saying.” She glanced around the room. “Oh look there’s Joanna Crew. She’s bringing her Blue Ribbon appetizers. We’ll have to try one before they’re all gone.”
Joanna set the tray down before them, smiling. “Help yourself; I have to run back to the car.”
“Oh thank-you, I guess I will try at least one.” Madge exclaimed.
Chelsea courteously shook her head, smiling. “Not quite hungry yet.”
Madge quickly picked one up and put it in her mouth as Joanna went back outside. A smile brightened Madge’s face. “Oh my, these are wonderful, I’ll just have to have one more.”
Joanna came back through the door with another tray as Madge was finishing her third appetizer.
“Oh, I’m so pleased you’re enjoying Blanch’s appetizers.” Joanna said. “She’s sick and called to see if I’d bring them over on my way here.” She smiled, as she put the tray she was carrying down. “These are mine; but I’m sure hers are just as good.”
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