Litey Clash Pays a Debt Tales from Oysterback

HELEN CHAPPELL

November 10, 1993|By HELEN CHAPPELL

Oysterback, Maryland. -- I was up on the counter chalking up the White Meatloaf Special on the blackboard the other day when I heard the clang of 15 pounds of gold jewelry and Litey Clash walked in.

Now, no matter what people may say, I, Desiree Grinch, proprietor of the Blue Crab Tavern (****, Guide Michelin) have nothing against Litey, or that watering hole he chairs down in Wingo, Virginia, the Dew Drop Inn. If someone wants a crabcake about the size of a baby's fist deep fried in a hogshead of grease and served with a side of vegetables boiled until they're olive drab, I almost always recommend the Dew Drop.

Still and all, I was pretty surprised to see him in Oysterback after the Dew Drop softball team, the Lounge Lizards, lost the playoffs to our Blue Crab Jimmies again this season.

My questions were quickly resolved when I saw he was carrying a case of Accomac Merlot, the vin du pays of his neck of the woods, and a fine vin it is, too.

''Well, I am here to pay up, Desiree, and never let it be said that a Clash welshed on his bets,'' says Litey as he sets the case on my clean bartop. ''But next year, we'll hammer you. Snake Wingate will be out of jail by then.''

I looked at his matching diamond pinkie rings. ''Have you been hitting Burt Reynolds' yard sales again?'' I asked him as I got down two glasses and the corkscrew. I selected a bottle from the case and drew the cork. Accomac Merlot doesn't breathe -- it gasps for air, so I had time to set out a plate of melba toast and Gostjetost. Unfortunately, this also gave Litey time to develop a suitable rejoinder.

''Pretty good for someone who's pulling 30 on a boat hitch,'' he says.

''They say that if you ever fell overboard, you'd sink right to the bottom, weighed down by all that gold.'' I poured just a little wine into one glass; it had nice legs. I enjoyed the way that faint, fruity tang rolled on the back of my tongue -- the sign of a good, rich Accomac table wine. '' '93 was a bad year for Wingo ball players but a good year for Wingo wine,'' I remarked.

''Nice talk from someone from Oysterback! This place is so small, you have to rent a town drunk.'' Litey says, tasting his wine. He closed his eyes and savored it, the only thing to do with a good Accomac Merlot.

''In this town, our family trees fork,'' I replied.

''You call Oysterback a town? Three streets at low tide and two at high,'' Litey says.

''If I owned hell and Wingo, I'd rent out Wingo and live in hell,'' I said. I brought out a slice of green peppercorn pate Desiree and a couple of tart Northern Spy apples. Litey cut the Northern Spies into paper thin slices and I spread the brie on some sesame biscuits. It was soft and runny, just perfect.

''I'd sooner live in Wingo than Oysterback. People up here are so backward the Episcopalians are snake handlers,'' he remarked. I filled up both wine glasses again.

''Well, the only thing you need to be a socialite in Wingo is a working set of jumper cables,'' I observed.

Litey tried another piece of goat cheese and nodded. ''I hear things on Oysterback are so dull that a bug zapper is considered quality entertainment.''

''Down to Wingo, a seven course meal is a sixpack and a crabcake,'' I sighed. If you wait, after a while, you can just taste the ocean wind in the bouquet of Accomac Merlot. Maybe it's because the vineyard is within a mile of the Atlantic.

Litey poured out the last of the bottle into our two glasses. We both savored it.

''Well,'' I said when Litey got up to go. ''At least we don't live in Church Hill.''

He shuddered so hard all his chains clanged at once. He sounded like Marley's ghost. ''There's a thought,'' he said.

I waited until he was out the door and into his Cadillac. ''The favorite car color in Wingo is primer!'' I called out the door.

I like to have the last word.

Helen Chappell, an Eastern Shore writer, is the amanuensis of Oysterback.

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