A Kentucky Love Story
Kentucky Fried Loveby Kathy Coogan
Margaret Peggy Osborne only used her full name when she was back home in Ketchum, Kentucky. She had been named for both of her mother’s twin sisters, Margaret and Peggy Hunnicut. Twins were common in Ketchum and it wasn’t unusual for twins to be simultaneously honored as namesakes of a single newborn.
Karen Sharon Pettigrew had been her best friend since infancy so her own name, Margaret Peggy, didn’t seem weird till she went to Chicago after high school. She hadn’t even known that Peggy was a nickname for Margaret and still couldn’t figure where the derivation came from, and evidently neither had her grandmother who started it all.
Margaret Peggy left Ketchum after being discovered biding her time working in a Waffle House on I-75 at the Walton-Verona exit. A P&G advertising guy in the Hand Care Division had stopped in for coffee on his way back to Cincinnati from Keeneland, took one look at her extraordinary hands and the rest is history. Margaret Peggy wasn’t all that surprised. A psychic at the State Fair had told her that she had a big future in the city. Margaret Peggy was anticipating excelling at beauty school in Covington.
Ketchum is a town where time often stands still, so much so, that the “Welcome to Ketchum, KY!” sign had read “Welcome to Ketchup, KY!” for years, until just recently, after the election of the new mayor, Loyal “Woody” Backus, who claimed to be a second cousin, twice removed, of Jim Backus, the actor who voiced Mr. Magoo and who also starred on Gilligan’s Island (God rest his soul).
Mayor Woody had never lived outside of Humble, County, Kentucky and he was sure that this was the plus that had gotten him elected (in addition to his blood connection to Mr. Magoo.). His slogan in the mayoral campaign was “Loyal, that’s our Woody.” His permanence, which was so associated with his name, had served him well.
His first act as Mayor was to change the P in Ketchup to an M in Ketchum. He did this at an election night victory party even though he was jumping the gun before inauguration. It was quite dramatic. The sheriff handed Woody a ceremonial paintbrush and Woody X’d out the P and painted in an M, announcing that he was keeping his election promises, the first of which was to “Take the P out of Ketchum;” though the sign now read, “Welcome to KetchuXM, KY!”
Margaret Peggy, was known as MP now, on the advice of her first agent who chuckled when he heard her name. She lived in Chicago but had been lured back home for the mayoral election by her daddy, who was the current Mayor, Bull Osborne. MP had become the star hand model for JoolzRUs on the Home Shopping Network, seen coast-to-coast, and in Ketchum, every single night, actually morning, from one to three a.m. It was arduous but lucrative work, and had enabled MP to put away almost enough money to buy a Earz Pierced While U Wait franchise when the time was right. MP was feeling ready to retire her hands and settle down..
Her daddy had hoped her appearance in town would remind folks that he had fathered a celebrity and was therefore worthy of another term, even though it hadn’t worked for fellow Kentuckian, Nick Clooney who had son George going for him. His plan failed further when MP refused to shake hands or distribute “Keep Our Bull” flyers outside the Post Office and Meekin’s Market, though she was willing to stand there and wave, wearing gloves, of course.
MP thought her father should have understood her limitations. She had to protect her hands which were her livelihood and which were insured by Lowell’s of London, a lesser known division of Lloyd’s. Bull held her responsible for his defeat. On the one hand, so to speak, it was a feather in his cap to have a world-famous daughter, at least from the wrist down, but what good did it do if she wasn’t willing to press the flesh for votes. It made her look arrogant and him too, evidently, if the vote count was any measure.
MP was sorry her daddy hadn’t been re-elected but didn’t consider it her fault. After all, he had been Mayor all those years with that P in Ketchum and it was her private, personal opinion that he could have done something about it. Anyway, the election was just MP’s ulterior motive for coming back home.
She had heard through the grapevine, actually a phone call from Karen Sharon that Will Walter Waller, (his dad, Will, twin to Walter, couldn’t abide a son named Junior) had moved back to Ketchum, after all these years and the torch she carried for him had not been extinguished. Though she had had her share of famous men ( the popular weatherman at “WGN First at Five” and a stocky short-reliever for the Cubs for example) she could never get Will Walter Waller out of her mind, even though she had been the one to leave him hanging.
He had offered to follow her to Cincinnati, where she was hired by P&G to demonstrate hand lotions. But she got the big head after hearing P&G sing her hands’ praises, especially her right one. She became a liberated woman, gonna take care of her own self. And she had, moving up the hand modeling echelon to the agency in Chicago. Why she’d even met Oprah when Oprah selected a perfume-filled ring like the one Cleopatra had worn, from JoolzRUS to pass out as a Christmas gift on her show, which she, MP, modeled. They liked to never filled the orders for the demand after that episode.
The men in Chicago left MP cold as Lake Shore Drive in January or April, even. If she really examined her feelings, something she started to do after she read parts of Eat, Pray, Love (or was it Eat, Love, Pray?) she realized that she was lonely and had been thinking of Will Walter Waller more and more. He had left Ketchum when she did, saying there were too many reminders of them as a couple there, the Tuckered-Out Drive-In not the least.
He had come back to town with the road crew provided by Stimulus Money to rebuild the new exit connecting Ketchum to the interstate highway. The six hundred residents had wanted that funding so bad they had been willing to provide the paper ballots from the last Presidential election to prove that they supported the President but had been embarrassed that only seventy-three had voted, though those all had voted democrat. Needing jobs, they were on pins and needles till their town was picked to benefit as a Shovel-Ready project, a feat organized by Loyal Woody who had political connections even before he was elected Mayor.
Will Walter had bettered himself away from Ketchum, getting his associates degree at UK. His hard-hat was bright yellow like all the other men’s (and two women’s) on the crew but his had his name printed on the back above the strap that hugged his head. It read WW Waller, Road Boss. Some comedians, after they had a few beers, liked to ask him if he stuttered, pointing to the series of W’s on his hat. One college boy co-oping as part of his engineering major, told him all he needed was one more W and he’d be a walking Waller website. Others, when he introduced himself with an outstretched hand as “Will Walter,” replied, “Will Walter do what?” These were union men so calling him Dubya for short was out of the question. None of the name-games lasted long though, so, a calm man, Will Walter waited them out, used to it, finally becoming just Will.
While MP knew that Will was in town, he was unaware that she had come home, having missed the election doings, being out on the road and all. The election day festivities had been cancelled, Bull’s defeat sending people home early from campaign headquarters in the front of Harley’s Cut and Clip, now unisex. When Will spied her climbing into her daddy’s pickup, he stopped on the sidewalk, temporarily flummoxed by the vision of her.
Rather than chasing the pickup down he gave himself a grace period to gather his senses then drove on over to Bull’s house where a few cars and pickups were parked in the yard. The somber event would still have free, though illegal, long-necks (hidden in a cooler marked Soft Drinks Only) and Betty’s fried chicken, reason enough for constituents to show up to console Bull.
Will walked up onto the porch and saw MP holding court. The clustered ladies were asking about Oprah, wondering if she was as nice as she seemed on the TV. And was she fatter or skinnier? MP was gracious, telling how Oprah just went on and on about MP’s perfect hands, begging to know MP’s secret. “Why, I just told her that my hands were a blessing from the Lord and that I never once chewed my cuticles.” All the women nodded reverently and hid their hands in their apron or blue-jean pockets.
MP looked up and saw Will Walter and took a step toward him, nearly knocking over Mrs. Pettigrew, Karen Sharon’s mama.
“Hello, Will Walter,” said MP.
“Hello, Margaret Peggy,” he said back.
Many remembered the simmering fireworks that Will Walter and Margaret Peggy used to throw off, kind of like Johnny Cash and June Carter in the early days, without the drugs and alcohol, this being a mostly dry county. The folks let them pass through, watching respectfully out of the corners of their eyes. Time seemed to stand still but then it always had in Ketchum, KY.
Another Story Where "Place" plays a Character
Leave Kentucky Return to Home Page