Tales from the Crawdad Club: The China Set

by Jackson “Happy” Fohl

My first wife, Lucretia, a capital woman, was crazy for saving money. She’d skip a meal for a chance at a five-dollar bank deposit. One time I watched her jump into a manure pile to fetch a nickel, then hoist it over her head like she’d discovered the Templar Treasure. Nothing wrong with swelling the nest egg against a rainy day, but an occasional omelet doesn’t hurt, neither. Lucretia would have been a miser if we could have afforded it.

Soon after our wedding, her aunt gave her a china set worth thousands of dollars—a family heirloom, according to the aunt. A dish is a dish to me, but this china set had been made in Poland by artists who kept their secrets close, and was fairy-taled all over with gold filigrees and terra cotta fandangles.

Lucretia and I hadn’t been married long when I had an idea:

“We’ll have a special evening and dine off them fancy dishes,” I suggested.

Well, you know what “special evening” means to a newlywed. Lucretia said she’d special it all over the house, through the pigpen, and into the barn if I wanted, but the dishes were staying put, being reserved for extra-special occasions—seems this wasn’t one. If I’d been more Solomon and less David at the time, I’d have pondered what her words meant.

We were married for three years before she climbed that tree—there’s no kitten worth the price of landing on a picket fence from ten feet—but she never did meet an occasion special enough to warrant the china.

Three days after I married my current wife, Ethel, I had an idea:

“I’ll buy a bottle at Fingus’s Drugs,” says I. “You roust that china out of the cupboard, and we’ll dress for dinner and jolly it up tonight.”

There’s no saving in Ethel, and she’s ready and keen for special occasions. Did we have a bully time that night! We laughed while sipping girdleboom from them uppity cups, giggled while eating lowdown meatloaf from them fancy plates, and we put corn bread on the saucers, too! Ethel said such saucers weren’t made for eating from, but we didn’t care.

By and by, I remembered Lucretia and began to feel guilty, though she’d been in her grave for nearly two months.

“You can’t live with the dead, Jackson,” Ethel remarked. I recollected a Bible verse that said the same thing, so the guilt passed.

“Ha!” I laughed. “Maybe you can’t live with them, but you sure can have a ripping good time with their china set.”

In the end, what did all the saving get Lucretia? Nothing. What did it get me? One of the best nights I ever had, and a strapping boy what came along about nine months later. I ain’t saying it was the china set that sealed the deal—Ethel says seeing me in a bow tie and fresh shaved sure didn’t hurt—but the china helped, and maybe would have helped Lucretia, too, if she hadn’t been saving it. Turns out, Lucretia and I had plenty of special occasions—she just couldn’t see them.

 

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