In This Mountain
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Father Tim and Cynthia have been at home in Mitford for three years since returning from Whitecap Island."I got to do somethin' to rake in business."
In the little town that's home-away-from-home to millions of readers, life hums along as usual. Dooley looks toward his career as a vet; Joe Ivey and Fancy Skinner fight a haircut price war that takes no prisoners; and Percy steps out on a limb with a risky new menu item at the Main Street Grill.
Though Father Tim dislikes change, he dislikes retirement even more. As he and Cynthia gear up for a year-long ministry across the state line, a series of events sends shock waves through his faith-and the whole town of Mitford.
In her seventh novel in the bestselling Mitford Years series, Jan Karon delivers surprises of every kind, including the return of the man in the attic and an ending that no one in Mitford will ever forget.
Percy slid into the booth, looking...Father Tim pondered what Percy was looking...Percy was looking old, that's what; about like the rest of the crowd in the rear booth. He sucked up his double chin.
"Maybe I ought t' mess around with th' menu," said Percy, "an' come up with a special I could run th' same day ever' week."
"Gizzards!" said Mule.
"What about gizzards?"
"I've told you for years that gizzards is th' answer to linin' your pockets."
"Don't talk to me about gizzards, dadgummit! They're in th' same category as what goes over th' fence last. You'll never see me sellin' gizzards."
"To make it in th' restaurant business," said Mule, "you got to set your personal preferences aside. Gizzards are a big draw."
"He's right," said J.C. "You can sell gizzards in this town. This is a gizzard kind of town."
Mule swigged his coffee. "All you got to do is put out a sign and see what happens."
Percy looked skeptical. "What kind of sign?"
"Just a plain, ordinary sign. Write it up yourself an' put it in th' window, no big deal."
"When me an' Velma retire at th' end of th' year, I want to go out in th' black, maybe send 'er to Washington to see th' cherry blossoms, she's never seen th' cherry blossoms."
"That's what gizzards are about," said Mule.
"What d'you mean?"
"Gizzards'll get some cash flow in this place."
"Seem like chicken livers would draw a better crowd," said Percy.
"Livers tie up too much capital." J.C. was hammering down on country ham, eggs over easy, and a side of yogurt. "Too much cost involved with livers. You want to go where the investment's low and the profit's high."
Mule looked at J.C. with some admiration. "You been readin' th' Wall Street Journal again."
"What would I put on th' sign?" asked Percy.
"Here's what I'd put," said Mule. "Gizzards Today."
"That's it? Gizzards Today?"
"That says it all right there. Like you say, run your gizzard special once a week, maybe on..." Mule drummed his fingers on the table, thinking. "Let's see..."
"Tuesday!" said J.C. "Tuesday would be good for gizzards. You wouldn't want to start out on Monday with gizzards, that'd be too early in th' week. And Wednesday you'd want something..."
"More upbeat," said Mule.
Father Tim buttered the last of his toast. "Right!"
"Wednesday could be your lasagna day," said J.C. "I'd pay good money for some lasagna in this town."
There was a long, pondering silence, broken only by a belch. Everyone looked at Mule. "'Scuse me," he said.
"Do y'all eat gizzards?" Percy inquired of the table.
"Not in this lifetime," said J.C.
"No way," said Mule.
"I pass," said Father Tim. "I ate a gizzard in first grade, that was enough for me."
Percy frowned. "I don't get it. You're some of my best reg'lars-why should I go to sellin' somethin' y'all won't eat?"
"We're a different demographic," said J.C.
"Oh," said Percy. "So how many gizzards would go in a servin,' do you think?"
"How many chicken tenders d'you put in a serving?"
"Six," said Percy. "Which is one too many for th' price."
"So, OK, as gizzards are way less meat than tenders, I'd offer fifteen, sixteen gizzards, minimum."
J.C. sopped his egg yolk with a microwave biscuit. "Be sure you batter 'em good, fry 'em crisp, an' serve with a side of dippin' sauce."
Percy looked sober for a moment, then suddenly brightened. "Fifteen gizzards, two bucks. What d'you think?"
"I think Velma's going to D.C.," said Father Tim.
A brief silence was filled with the sound of the dishwasher running full throttle behind the rear booth. Accustomed to its gyrations, the occupants of the booth no longer noticed that the wash cycle occasioned a rhythmic tremor in the floorboards.
"So how do you think your jewel thief will go over?" asked J.C.
"He's not my jewel thief," snapped Father Tim.
"It was your church attic he hid out in," said Percy.
"I think he'll go over just fine. He's paid his debt to society in full, but better than that, he's a redeemed man with a strong faith."
"I hope," said Father Tim, "that you'll extend the hand of fellowship to him." There. That's all he had to say about it.
Mule nodded. "No problem. It's th' right thing to do."
"So how come you're not goin' to Rwanda or someplace like that?" asked Percy.
"Hoppy wouldn't allow it." Hoppy would never have considered such a thing. Father Tim knew his limitations and they were nu- merous.
"What about th' kids in your own backyard? You ever thought of doin' somethin' for them?"
The fact that he'd supported the Children's Hospital in Wesley for twenty years was his own business; he never talked about it. "Tennessee is our own backyard." How he ever ended up with this bunch of turkeys was more than he could fathom.
"We'll miss you," said Mule, clapping him on the shoulder. "I won't hardly know what to order around here."
Father Tim laughed, suddenly forgiving. He thought he might miss them, too, though the possibility seemed a tad on the remote side.
"Here comes Hamp Floyd," said J.C. "Hide your wallet."
"Th' town needs a new fire truck."
"Seems like a good cause," said Father Tim. He took out his billfold and removed a ten.
"Th' town's got th' money for a standard truck, but Hamp wants a few bells an' whistles."
"Plus, he won't have anything to do with a red truck," said J.C.
"Seems like a fire chief would like red. Besides, what other color is there?"
"Yellow. He's holdin' out for yellow."
A yellow fire truck? Father Tim put the ten back in his billfold and pulled out a five.
--from In This Mountain by Jan Karon, Copyright © June 2002, Viking Press, a member of Penguin Putnam, Inc., used by permission.
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