Oysterback, Maryland. -- I don't imagine I have to tell you things are bad.
You probably have your own way of gauging hard times, but for me it's the pot of deer-meat chili I keep on the stove all winter for those that need to eat. The faster that pot goes down, the worse things are, and lately that pot's been awful damn low.
But we had an idea the other day we like. See what you think.
It was a usual Wednesday girl's night when we were sitting around the bar waiting for the Lotto drawing.
Some of us had tickets; none of us had high hopes, except Hagar Jump, Oysterback's postmaster, who bought about ten tickets based on some new system that uses logarithms and her grandchildren's birthdays. Hagar is an eternal optimist, while I, Desiree Grinch, proprietor of the Blue Crab Tavern, tend to move more in the other direction.
Miss Nettie Leery sort of summed up the general mood when she looked up from her Pink Squirrel she'd been nursing all night and said, ''I lived through the Great Depression and a world war and I have never seen anything this bad.''
''It's the dermo and the PMS that killed all the oysters,'' Doreen Redmond sighed, stroking her lottery tickets against the bar.
''MSX,'' Jeanne Swann said absently, watching the sports wrap-up on Channel 16, over the bar. ''My daddy always used to say, 'Well, you can get a job over to the wire factory,' but they're laying off too, now.''
''If we don't get some crabs this None of us had high hopes, except Hagar Jump, the postmaster, who bought about 10 Lotto tickets based on some new system that uses logarithms and her grandchildren's birthdays. Hagar is an eternal optimist.
summer, you're gonna see a lot of people leavin' this marsh come fall. Bidness is way off down to the Salon de Beaute,'' Doreen sighed.
''I'm right tired of Tuna Helper,'' Helga put in. ''And it's three days till the social security checks come in.''
''I told Junie if things don't get any better, I'm gonna rent him out,'' Doreen said, laughing. ''Some of the weekender ladies who come into the Salon de Beaute say, ''Oh, my, Doreen, it must be nice to be married to an outdoors man instead of my boring old lawyer or stockbroker, so neurotic and selfish. At least Junie doesn't sit on the edge of the bed and say he can't see you the same day he sees his therapist.'' She took a sip from her Screwdriver.
''That's fine if you like being around a guy who can only deal with his feelings about dogs or moving engine parts,'' I said. ''You can follow them from room to room going, how do you feel about, oh, you know, whatever's going on at that moment and they panic and lock themselves in the bathroom. A nice, rich, selfish stockbroker looks good to me right now, especially if he can help me make the mortgage.''
''I'll have you know,'' Helga says, mocking a man's voice, ''That there are a lot of women who would be thrilled to go out with us here fine upstanding Oysterback men. Some of us clean up real good and even know what fork to use. Why, Huddie has his own black tie!''
''And white boots,'' Jeanne cried. ''Would you all be thinkin' of taking Huddie to a white-boot affair or a black-boot affair?''
''We could call it the Midnight Waterman Escort Service,'' Doreen said, opening a bag of miniature Snickers bars and passing them around. ''We'll provide you with a macho outdoors man of your choice. With or without teeth, in Ferrus' case.''
''Boy, can you imagine those bored, rich, urban, yuppie women snapping them right up? They look at Huddie in his old tight jeans and that cute butt and you can see them drooling,'' Jeanne laughed. ''And he's had two years of college, although you wouldn't know it to look at him.''
''Wait till Parsons Dreedle has a couple of drinks and starts quoting Robert Service to them,'' Helga giggled. ''That would certainly be a change from policy wonking.''
''Tired of endless conversations about him, him, HIM? Try a man who communicates in a series of sophisticated grunts!''
Well, all men, inside or outside the beltways, do that. But we still think it's a good idea, so if you are interested in the Midnight Waterman Escort Service, come down to Oysterback. We have 'em in all colors, shapes, ages, sizes and testosterone levels. Just come by the Blue Crab on Girls' Night and we'll fix you right up.
Especially that lady up in Baltimore who won the Lotto.
Helen Chappell is the amanuensis of Oysterback.