THIS IS THE SECOND IN A THREE-PART SERIES
He leads me out to the back patio that’s covered by one of those rollout awnings. A fetching young woman, who I assume is his daughter, brings us iced tea. She’s wearing tight short shorts and a white shirt tied at the waist. Long red hair falls at her shoulders. And, she smells like jasmine, or strawberry jam, I’m not sure.
In my attempt to be friendly, I blurt, “And, this must be your lovely daughter, Mr. Doodle, er…uh…I mean…Mr. Dat…Ditson.”
She extends a hand. It’s warm as butter on a griddle. She smiles even more warmly. “Hi, I’m Lucy Locket.”
I don’t know what to say and try to find a way to extract my loafer from my mouth. Then it dawns on me. I’m still holding her hand. She pulls hers gently away. “I’ll leave you two to chat. Nice to meet you…uh…Mr?”
I wipe my sweaty palm on my khaki’s. “Uh, it’s Mister…Iffy…I mean…Williams.”
“Nice to meet you, Williams.” And she disappears into the house.
I look over at Mr. Ditson. He’s staring at me with beady eyes. “For the record, Lucy’s my wife. And, we have two daughters. One’s out shopping at Costco. The other’s on a nuclear sub…somewhere in the Gulf of Aden.”
“Oh,” is all I manage to get out.
“Well, she’s a dandy,” I say and quickly realize the stupidity of that remark.
“That she is.”
He leans back in his chair. “Well, sonny. What can I do you for?”
“Mr. Ditson…sir…when it came to our attention that you claim to be Yankee Doodle we thought there might be a story here, especially with the Fourth of July coming up, you know. So, is this true?” I reach for my notepad and pen, poised to take notes.
He grins. “I’m the real live nephew of my Uncle Sam.”
I chuckle and then stifle it. “C’mon now. You’re pulling my leg.”
“Nope,” He holds his hand up like he’s taking an oath. “I swear to God and all the Angels in the Heavens above, the Good Book, and cross my heart…” He does that in a quick swipe. ..”and hope to die. And, what’s more…I was born on the Fourth of July.”
He leans in toward me and his eyes begin to gleam. “And, here’s the best part. I’ve got me a Yankee Doodle sweetheart –-you just met her, yes, you did–and damned straight, I am a Yankee Doodle boy.” Now he’s grinning broader than the Cheshire Cat and I’m starting to feel like Alice in Wonderland. Maybe this guy is a nut case.
At this point, I figure if I can gently trip him up with some well-placed questions I can confirm he’s ridonkulous and call it a day. “Tell me about your Uncle Sam.”
Ditson sniggers. “Oh, he’s a cracker, that one. Everybody knows Samuel Wilson ‘round here. He’s a meat packer and lives over in Arlington. Mass, that is. He’s had this long-term contract to supply meat for the U.S. Army. That’s why they call him Uncle Sam.”
We’re interrupted when Lucy returns with a tray and two bowls of macaroni and cheese. She smiles at me. “Jeetyet? You must be powerful hungry coming all the way over from New York. I hope you like it. It’s Tommie’s favorite.” She pecks him on the cheek and he pats her on the bottom. She pours more ice tea and leaves.
He shakes his head. “Yes, indeedy. She’s a pissa. A real Yankee Doodle sweetheart.”
I explain to him how macaroni and cheese was my staple diet when I was in college. He nods and pokes a fork my way. “Dig in, sonny.” I’m hungry as a bear and follow his lead.
“Tell me. How’d you become Yankee Doodle?”
“It has to do with my genes…and I don’t mean my Levi’s.” He splits a gut at his own joke. “Get it?”
I chortle, just to humor him. It’s a poor joke but I must admit I’ve used it myself on occasion and usually to the same effect where I’m the only one who appreciates the genius of it. Or genes of it, you might say.
He’s still guffawing in-between forks full of macaroni. He washes it down with ice tea and finally settles down. “My ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, The Spanish-American War, the Pacific Front of World War Two, and I saw me some action in Nam. And, my great-grandfather saw action right here in Orleans, Mass in World War One.”
“Yep. One day a German U-boat attacked the town and sunk his tugboat, the Perth Amboy. He was still off the deep end about that until the day he died.
“Anyway, some historian over at the city library discovered all this and decided since I was the last living relative to have seen military action that I should be our honorary town marshal for the Fourth of July parade. Been doing that gig now for the last forty years or so. And, then old Dick Shuckburgh, editor over at The Minuteman, dubbed me Yankee Doodle. Damn if it didn’t stick.”
“I can appreciate that,” I said.
To be continued. . .
Zoltan James is the pen name of Z. J. Czupor. He lives in Denver with his wife, Marta, and two collies that are smarter than he is. He splits his time between the main floor and the lower level of a rambling ranch home, down near the old dry creek bed, south of town, across the dirt road from the Conoco station, and downwind from the Ostrich farm.