Sunday, June 4, 2023
Adventures at the Chautauqua
Sunday, June 4, 2023
The chautauqua was in town last week. It’s a great idea, one they revived from the 19th century but without the Sunday school part (churches are somewhat out of favor these days, except in this region and a few scattered outposts). The local one is based in Gainesville, and they travel around northeast Georgia from late spring through late fall. So we got our screen tents together, loaded up the wagon, and made a week of it since the town was letting people camp in the park.
Rene got a little more than he bargained for, but I’ll let him tell the story…
Holá, y'all. Monday afternoon after the chautauqua troupe set up their portable stage, but before they started the performances, they asked all the former service people to come up on stage to be recognized. There were a bunch of people besides Serena, Kim, and me, and most all of us felt the same way about it — we'd had our fill of military life, but even after you're out you still have to do your duty, right? Their little band played the national anthem, everyone cheered, wave the flag, USA, USA. I guess I should be less cynical since they offered my family a lot in return for a couple years of my life (and I got out early anyway), but you could also say that the junta shouldn't have given us so much grief in the first place.
The good part, at least for me, was getting noticed by all the girls. They noticed Kim too, but he still only has eyes for Christina, and she can be a little territorial anyway. One of the girls hung onto me, it was kind of flattering and I'm not used to that. Half of my life, the only girl I knew who was my age was Serena, and she's been my best friend instead of anything romantic. I never had time to meet anyone in the army — boot camp, EDID training, deployment, then the war heated up just as I got a little leave… they say the truth is the first casualty of war, but my love life was the second, jejeje. So I palled around with Amber for the next couple of days. Farf-Mom didn’t look too happy about it; she said that Amber’s family has a long history of being troublemakers in the county. Papa just gave me The Look — the one that says, “This won't end well.” Of course, Christina might say that hormones speak louder than parents (and I would say she should know!).
Things were cool until Wednesday night. That's when the troupe's band started playing some mariachi music, and Mama and Papa got up to dance. I was about to point them out, but she was shaking her head. “Bad enough the damn wetbacks live here,” she said. “I don't see why they have to encourage them.”
I was stunned, and she was on a roll. “Stupidest thing the junta did was to let 'em stay —”
“Hey,” I said. “Those are my parents! And I'm one of those 'damn wetbacks' who took the army's bargain, if you hadn't figured it out. Does 'Cardenas' sound like a gringo name to you?”
“I'm sorry — I — but you —”
“Save it,” I told her. “I don't think I want to see you anymore,” and walked off.
Of course, she went crying to her family, and a couple “representatives” came by our tent shortly after supper. “Who's the beaner that's been messing with our sister?” Bubba One demanded.
I was still mad about the whole thing, especially not listening to Farf-Mom. I stood up and faced 'em — two big lugs, slow and not too bright looking. “That's Señor Beaner to you, Billy Bob,” I said. “And I never asked her to hang all over me, by the way.”
They swelled up at that, but next thing I knew Kim was on my right, Papa on my left, Farf-Dad had my back, and Serena walked up behind them. She’d volunteered to work security for the week, and just happened to be on duty. I know that she learned some tae kwan do when she was little, and got a refresher course with her MP training, so I don’t doubt she could have taken them both herself if it came to that.
“What seems to be the problem here?” she said. They turned and sized her up in her security blazer — she nodded at them like they were dropping by for a friendly chat, but at the same time you knew she wouldn't take any crap off them. The MPs in Dooby were like that — it didn't matter what your rank was, or how big you were; if they had to take you in, it was going to happen. Respectful and authoritative at the same time.
“Ain't no problem,” Bubba One said. “We just came to tell this —”
“Good,” she interrupted. “Because I'd hate to see you guys get hurt. This guy took on three Iranian tanks in Saudi Arabia; I don't think he'd have much trouble with two rednecks.”
I opened my mouth to say something like “Your move, bubba,” but Serena gave me one of those looks and I kept quiet. She does that authority thing pretty well, did I mention that?
“Stay away from Amber, y'hear?” said Bubba Two, already moving off.
“No problemo, niños,” I said. Bubba One paused, but Bubba Two nudged him and they kept moving. Serena shook her head at me and went back to her rounds, and she had a few words for me when she finished up for the night. She took her volunteer job seriously.
After she finished lecturing me, she, Kim, and I set night watches for the rest of the week in case they wanted to try to surprise us, but we didn’t see any of them (especially Amber, gracias a Dios) for the rest of the week. I think they just cleared out. Farf-Dad took the motorcycle back to the manor to make sure they hadn’t tried anything at home, but either they don’t know where we live or they wised up.
Such is life on Planet Georgia. I hope Rene doesn’t have to re-up just to find a girlfriend.