The Kingfish, Calhoun, and Andy
by Laury A. Egan
The Kingfish, Calhoun, and Andy hunched up their backs trying to ignore the cold wind gusting from the northeast. Most everything the three friends did, they did together, particularly when they were sitting side by side chatting, as they were now.
“My, my,” said Calhoun. “I don’t rightly recall such weather for March.”
“It is indeed unconscionable.” The Kingfish was fond of five-dollar words. They had a nice way of rolling around in his mouth.
“Look at those whitecaps out there, Andy,” Calhoun observed.
“Yeah, look at ’em.”
“Makes me positively frigid staring at that ocean. I say positively frigid.” In addition to a sumptuous vocabulary, the Kingfish had long ago ascertained that repeating certain phrases added to his personal gravitas.
“Spring should be here soon, don’t you think?” Calhoun said.
“You are right, Calhoun. Temperate weather should soon be on the land,” agreed the Kingfish.
“You come down from Canada, right?” Andy asked the Kingfish.
“I did. It was time, brother, it was time. Sapphire insisted we get here and start fixing things up. She’s in the family way, I reckon.”
“Oh, I know how that goes,” Andy said, rolling his eyes. “You got a heap of work to do, then, don’t you?”
“Deluxe, that’s what Sapphire insists upon. She says it’s in her contract.”
“Ha!” laughed Calhoun. “You better get cracking.”
“Absolutely,” the Kingfish nodded, and Calhoun and Andy followed suit. “I have a lot of construction on the proverbial docket. Yes, a lot of construction.”
No one stirred. They stared out to sea. By and by, Calhoun turned his head and regarded a bird flying below them.
“One of those red-tailed hawks over there.”
“I see. You got sharp eyes, Calhoun. He’s aviating nicely, don’t you think?” The Kingfish appreciated flight patterns of distinction.
“Got the thermals down for sure.” Calhoun nodded and so did the Kingfish and Andy.
“Cuts a fine ornithological figure. Yes, a fine ornithological figure. Splendid tail feathers.” The Kingfish watched the bird as it flew over the trees.
Calhoun and Andy nodded. So did the Kingfish. They sat there, surveying the bay and river.
After a while, Calhoun said, “Had me some escargot last week.”
“Delectable, was it? I do have a fondness for escargot,” the Kingfish agreed.
“What’s that?” Andy asked.
“Snails,” Calhoun explained.
“That’s what I thought.” Andy was not above a fib now and then.
“Now, shrimp? I think I have a gustatory preference for shrimp.” The Kingfish was pleased with “gustatory” and repeated the phrase once more.
“Gusthickory? Is that some kind of nut? I like nuts…” Andy knew about them.
“I don’t think the word translates,” replied Kingfish grandly. Sometimes it was no use explaining things to Andy. He was not the pointiest head among them.
“Mm,” Calhoun considered, “Which do I like best? That’s a tough one. Shrimp or snails…”
The three thought on this for some time, nodding here and there, as if the conversation was still in process.
Calhoun finally changed the forgotten subject. “I was over at one of those landfills the other day.”
“Yeah? They still dumping garbage?”
“Yep, Kingfish, they are.”
“I hear they’re building personal establishments on top of those dumps,” the Kingfish told his friends.
Andy chuckled. “Who’d be dumb enough to do that?”
“Some people,” the Kingfish replied. “Cognitively challenged individuals.”
“What you say?” Andy asked.
“Cognitively challenged,” the Kingfish repeated, pleased at Andy’s consternation. “In other words, my dear friend, they’re not very bright.”
“Ah, I see. Yes, that’s exactly what I thought you meant.”
Calhoun craned his neck around. “I heard Lightnin’ died last year after working on one of those landfills.”
“He did?” Andy was concerned.
“West Nile virus.”
“That’s most importune.” The Kingfish looked every inch the sage.
Calhoun paused, wondering what “importune” meant, thinking that perhaps it was the wrong word or one that shaded on the far side of accurate. Not wanting to appear uneducated, however, he let it pass. “Yes, poor old Lightnin’ was dead in a week. Nothing they could do for him.”
“How did his missus take it?” Andy inquired.
“Pretty bad. Had a young one, too.”
“Amos? Was that his appellation?” the Kingfish asked.
“Appellation? Oh, you mean his name? Yes. Amos. Such a handsome little thing. The apple of his daddy’s eye.” Calhoun shook his head.
“Tragic. Positively tragic. I hope this season won’t be so pernicious.”
“Huh?” Andy was lost in vocabulary hell.
“Dangerous,” Calhoun put in.
“I hope it won’t be so pursnickous, either.” Andy didn’t get the best of the word.
The Kingfish stared at Calhoun and chuckled. Sometimes it was best to leave Andy with the wrong end of the stick.
“Damned mosquitoes!” Andy was vehement. “Why’d the good Lord have to make mosquitoes?”
For a change, the Kingfish didn’t have an answer, so he nodded his head gravely. Calhoun observed this and did the same. Andy did, too.
“So, Kingfish, where’re you going to build your mansion?” Calhoun asked.
“I have been examining the local topography and geography, my dear Calhoun, and I have appropriated that fine piece of real estate over there.” He indicated a plot furry with tall green trees.
“In that pine grove?”
“A beauty, isn’t it?”
“She has acquiesced to my judgment in these matters. Yes, indeed, acquiesced.”
“I wish my Queenie was like that,” Andy commented.
“You have to lay down the law. It’s only natural.”
“Hm. I see what you mean there, Kingfish. But Queenie is likely to henpeck me good if I don’t listen to her.”
“That’s the way with some of them. You have my utmost and profound sympathy.” The Kingfish always believed that using two adjectives were better than one. “And how about you, Calhoun?”
“Oh, I found me an older place.”
“Yeah. This morning, Jemima said I got to get busy. Or else,” Calhoun didn’t look overly worried. “And what about you, Andy?”
“We’s just sprucin’ up a little.”
“That establishment down the hill?” the Kingfish asked.
“Yeah. It’ll do. I still have work to do on it. I should be gettin’ started right now, as a matter of fact.”
The Kingfish dipped his head a few times in agreement. No one moved.
“Hey, there goes one of those snowy egrets.” Calhoun followed the bird’s flight.
“I’m not overly enamored of white birds,” the Kingfish disapproved. “No, give me a nice black bird any day of the week. Far better looking to my way of thinking.”
“Well, now, that’s what they call rascist, Kingfish. I’m surprised at you!”
“Rascist or not, I don’t cotton to them. I call it like I see it, Calhoun. Maybe I’m just too old to change. Besides, those egrets are maladroit clunkers, aren’t they? With those spindly legs.”
“Mal-a-what?” Andy’s eyes grew large with puzzlement.
“Clumsy, my dear friend. Yes, indeed.” They nodded at this.
“Oh, oh. We got trouble comin’…” Calhoun cautioned.
“What? Ah, Sapphire. My beloved! Nice to see you.. Now just settle yourself down here beside us and relax,” the Kingfish said in his most unctuous voice.
“Relax?” retorted Sapphire. “That’s what the three of you do all day! Me and Jemima and Madame Queen are working ourselves to the bone, and you laze around in the sun, gabbing away like three fat and sassy blue jays in a cherry tree.”
“Now, hold on there, Sapphire. No need for name-calling! We’re just planning, that’s all,” the Kingfish replied.
“Yes, planning, that’s what we’re doing,” Calhoun contributed. “Lots of planning and thinking.”
“Lazy! That’s more like it!”
“Now don’t get yourself in a flap. Calhoun and I have got everything calculated. Haven’t we, Calhoun?”
“Calculated? I should say so! Yes, Kingfish, you are correct in that.” Calhoun nodded and so did the Kingfish and Andy.
“Well, I don’t have all day to set around jawing. You better get to work!” And with this, Sapphire took off in a fit of pique.
“She’s mighty angry with you,” Andy commented.
“Old Sapphire’s like that, she is. A nice take-out dinner will smooth her ruffled feathers.”
The three chuckled in agreement.
“You certainly know how to handle females,” Calhoun said admiringly.
“The trick is to cogitate like they do. It’s mighty hard to slow my mental mechanizations to their speed, but that’s what has to be done,” the Kingfish explained.
“I see.” Andy thought this over.
After a few minutes of comfortable silence, Calhoun turned to the Kingfish. “What names are you and Sapphire thinking about for any newcomers?”
“Ah, well, that’s easy. We have a long and august tradition of Sapphires and Kingfishes. Yes, a long and august tradition. And you?”
“Identical situation here. Lots of Calhouns. I’ve lost track what number I am.”
“Me, too,” agreed the Kingfish. “In our family there’s no need to be snooty by assigning numbers, even if we do come from a proud and distinguished lineage.”
Andy squinted at this but didn’t ask for clarification. Sometimes it was best to let old Kingfish blather on. “We got lots of Andrews.”
“Andrew—a good solid name,” the Kingfish said with a trace of condescension.
“I couldn’t agree more.” Calhoun dipped his head, and the Kingfish did, too. “Started back with that TV show, Amos ’n Andy.”
“That’s what I heard.” Andy knew about this.
They sat for a bit, and then Calhoun gave the Kingfish a nudge on the shoulder. “I think you’re in for it now.”
“Oh, I see what you mean. Sapphire is making a return visit. She’s worse than some godforsaken boomerang.”
“Yeah, and here comes Madam Queen. We’re in hot water for sure!” Andy replied.
“Now just calm yourself. There’s no need for a contretemps this afternoon.”
“A what?” Andy furrowed his forehead.
“A contretemps. That’s a French word, Andy. I’d explain it more fully, but we got to deal with the incoming.”
Sapphire was in a fluff. “You three should be ashamed of yourselves!”
“Now, honey chop…” the Kingfish began.
“Don’t you honey chop me! Queenie and Jemima and I have been slaving away, and you have done nothing!”
“Au contraire,” the Kingfish said grandly. “Andy and Calhoun and I are thinking things through so we don’t make no mistakes.”
“Don’t give me any of that French malarkey! Let’s go, pal.”
The Kingfish plumped up his chest. “Now there’s no call to get persnickety with me, Sapphire.”
Madame Queen sat down next to them. “Persnickety? We’ll give you loafers persnickety! Come on!”
Calhoun looked sadly at Andy and the Kingfish. “I guess work calls.”
The three nodded at the same time. No one stirred.
“Now, Kingfish!” Sapphire was irate.
The Kingfish glanced at his friends and then back at Sapphire. “Well, perhaps a little repast is in order before we hurry off.”
“Repast?” Andy asked.
“Luncheon,” the Kingfish explained.
“Oh, why didn’t you say that in the first place?”
Sapphire gave the Kingfish a push.
“Easy does it, my dear,” he chided her. “You must acquire more patience!”
In response, Sapphire banged him on the head.
“Ouch! Now that was positively uncivilized!”
“Come on!” Sapphire shouted.
The Kingfish gave Andy a doleful look. “I guess our goose is cooked.”
“I thought you didn’t like those white birds, Kingfish,” Andy said.
“Holy mackerel!” He rolled his eyes to the heavens. “It’s only an expression.” He was about to explain its derivation when Sapphire let him have it. Then Madame Queen whacked Andy.
“Now don’t get your feathers in a twist, sweetie pie!” the Kingfish protested, but he knew when he was outflanked. “Calhoun, Andy…it’s been a singular pleasure visiting with you boys.” Sapphire gave him a good shove, and he fell off his perch. Instantly, he flapped his long black wings and flew off with his spouse bringing up the rear.
Andy watched them go. “Calhoun, like I always say, it’s a crow’s life…” And he swooped out of the oak tree with Madam Queen alongside him.
“It is indeed,” Calhoun agreed, nodding to himself.
Bio: Laury A. Egan's work has received a Pushcart Prize nomination and a Notable Story award and has appeared in The Ledge, The Battered Suitcase, In the Mist, Paradigm, Leaf Garden, The Maynard, and is forthcoming in Tryst, Four Branches Press, Lame Goat Press, and Sephyrus’s Afterlife Anthology. Her full-length poetry collection, Snow, Shadows, a Stranger, was issued by FootHills Publishing in 2009. In addition to writing prose and poetry, she is a fine arts photographer. Web site: www.lauryaegan.com