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THE CONNOISSEUR

Story ID:1107
Written by:Kathe M. Campbell (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Family Memories
Location:Spokane Wa. USA
Year:1963
Person:Maurice
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THE CONNOISSEUR


The Connoisseur
by Kathe Campbell

It must have been the very first thing he spotted while sizing up weight and placement of our belongings. My last gallon of peach chardonnay perking away in a corner of the garage.

"If you can get to the huckleberries before the bears do, ma'am, they make mighty fine wine," he touted more than once.

Maurice never allowed his yen for the bubbly to interfere with his bon vivant or derelict lifestyles. He mingled comfortably at glitzy charity wine tasting parties or sprawled on a park bench, blathering with sack-sipping derelicts. Trusting in God's mercy, he never missed a Sunday at our church, always seated in the balcony, isolated within his own brand of spirits.

Blush nosed, ruddy faced Maurice perceived himself a wine aficionado. "A glass or two of the white or red before dinner heightens the appetite and allows for nice uninhibited conversation around any table," he discerned. Trouble was, where there was a wine bottle, there was Maurice rejuvenating his refined palate to excess.

A whopping dose of after shave hung heavy as he set the packing crew to work directing our departure to Montana. The odd combination permeated the house, glazing over an alcohol stench that seemed to exit from every pore.

"Now your mom tells me you've been good kids this summer, so here's a lollipop. Oops, and lookie here what I found in the other pocket, a biscuit for the dog," charming his way into the hearts and taste buds of my children.

I hauled the kids and dog to the park, or farewells in the neighborhood after Molly's raucous comments about the smell. I even left a pot of coffee for the guys each morning. In the end, our connoisseur had seen to it that not only was my garbage neatly packaged and taped, but the coffee grounds as well.

The Frenchman bird dogged his way to the very jugs in which my neighbors and I had brewed vintage berry and fruit wines three years prior. It was a fun fad for we young marrieds with little money. If a cork fit, any vessel qualified while tubing gurgled away in laundry rooms, garages and basements up and down our street. We celebrated New Year's with popping corks and sparkling secondary fermentation that produced perfect spume.

Unhappily, most of us had trouble taming our big jugs of the reds. Despite hours of poring over "how to" manuals, there surfaced a glitch in the process. Instead of fermenting gracefully and sipping like nectar of the gods, the liquor became the stuff of lacquer. Rip-roarin' headaches caused near blindness and next morning distempers with anyone who dared speak. Even the dog was shushed up.

"No, no, no," Ken barked when I threatened to dump the awful stuff. "We worked hard picking the berries and fruit. Besides, it's very tasty and the guys don't get headaches on poker night."

Across the street, Gladys, dispensed her supply into teenage trick or treat bags. The police never darkened her door, so we assumed a bunch of mum kids had a big night somewhere.

Georgie sent her fancy bottles incognito to the annual Fireman's Ball at the Elks's Lodge.

Betsy had the nerve to ask Father Andrew if he could use her bitter burgundy at mass. The gracious Father snapped up her three gallon jugs of crimson offertory, hopefully watered down for communion.

All was packed and trucked, little left besides outdoor furniture and bikes. But there on the garage shelves languished the anvil chorus of red jugs, the things I hoped would mysteriously disappear.

"So long, Campbells," Maurice shouted after us as we drove off to a motel for the night. "Have a wonderful life in Montana and don't forget those huckleberries and Flathead cherries, Mrs."

"God Almighty," yelled Ken while squinting through the rear view mirror. "I'd know that shock of white hair anywhere. I think Maurice is loading up his pickup with those jugs of wine from the garage! Didn't they get on the van, Kath?"

"Nothing to worry about, dear," assuring him our perfect sparkly was wired tightly and stowed by me personally. "Let Maurice have the headaches and we'll start fresh with Montana's huckleberries and Flathead cherries."

"Sure hope the stuff doesn't kill that nice old man," Ken murmured beneath a devilish grin.

*******

Am waiting to see if Chicken Soup For The Wine Lover's Soul likes this one. Meantime, come raise a glass of the bubbly with me at Broken Tree Ranch!