Quite Quaint They Ain't

Tales from Oysterback

November 11, 1992|By HELEN CHAPPELL

OYSTERBACK, MARYLAND — Oysterback, Maryland.--Everyone has got to be a tourist somewhere. At least that is what I, Desiree Grinch, proprietor of the Blue Crab Tavern believe, and I have been a tourist in enough places to know that of which I speak.

Still and all, after that unfortunate incident with the late, unlamented Haney Sparks at the Mosquito Festival a couple of )) years ago, we don't get the tour buses anymore, which is just as well, all things considered. They tended to be filled up with little old ladies with blue hair who are all looking to spend their widow's mite looking for husband number two, and it was driving Ferrus T. Buckett crazy, as he is the town's only eligible senior-citizen bachelor, and he gets irritated like you could not believe. Ferrus isn't a misogynist or a bigot, mind; he doesn't like anybody.

I guess that's why we were all surprised when these two little old ladies with blue hair and a copy of something like Ye Olde Guide to Ye Quainte Eastern Shore wandered into the Blue Crab the other night. ''We're here,'' one of them says to me, just as cute as a little red wagon, ''to see all the quaint Eastern Shore characters Mr. Michener talks about in 'Chesapeake'.''

I was brought up to have respect for little old ladies, and heaven knows, I plan to be one myself someday, but I had to hold my tongue between my teeth. Between you and me, if I had a nickel for every time I've heard some Shoreperson curse that book for bringing all these tourists and transplant foreigners in here, I would not be running this place; I would be in the Caribbean with Harrison Ford, sipping Mai Tais on the beach, thank you very much.

But they were so sweet, and so nice, and asked for double gin screwdrivers and keep them coming, that I said, ''Well, if it is Eastern Shore characters you want to see, you have come to the right place, for this is Friday night and every waterman, every skipjack captain and every crew member will be in here tonight, and you will certainly have your full share of local color. In Oysterback, as my friend Captain Saloman says, we have characters we haven't even used yet.''

That pleased them so much they took a table within earfall of the bar and ordered Oysters Desiree ($12.95 entree price) which of course pleased me no end.

''Ferrus,'' I hissed as I went on by him, ''you be nice to those two blue-haired ladies. Or at least, don't try to cadge drinks off them.'' Ferrus just snorted into his Rock and Rye and started to recite some of his poetry. Except it's really Robert Service's.

Long about then, Hudson Swann and Junior Redmond come in, still in their gumboots.

I could tell they had come from the program because Huddie says, sort of mulling it over, ''I never knew Reinhold Niebuhr wrote the Serenity Prayer. He must be spinning in his grave every time someone else stamps that prayer on a piece of varnished cedar with a decal of the Last Supper.''

''And he's not gettin' any royalties, either,'' Junie added indignantly. ''Say, there, gimme one a them designer waters, Des, that's a friend.''

L I opened his lime-flavored Perrier and slid it down the bar.

''Is the espresso machine working?'' Huddie asked. ''I'm cold to the bone. Wind's up and down the mast today.''

''Russell Means, Best Supporting Actor, 'Last of the Mohicans.' Hollywood loves Native Americans,'' Ferrus growled, just loud enough for everyone to hear it. From time to time, as everyone knows, he predicts the Oscars. It's a God-given talent.

Just about then, Deputy Sheriff Johnny Ray Insley came running in, all out of breath. ''Everybody come! Aliens from Uranus are trying to break into the seafood plant over to Patamoke! We need all the help we can get!''

''Hot damn!'' Junie yells, coming alive. ''Come on, Huddie, they need us!''

''Sounds awful like!'' Huddie says. The two of them picked up Ferrus and scrambled out of the bar like I'd reminded them about their tab. There was a roar of pickup trucks in the parking lot and the siren faded into the distance. The sudden silence was deafening. You could actually hear the juke box.

Life may not be the same since those two started doing the 12-step dance, but it hasn't slowed down any, either.

''It isn't all like Mr. Michener wrote,'' one of the little old ladies said. I don't think she was disappointed.

Helen Chappell is the amanuensis of Oysterback.

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