The Art of Tetman Callis That Side of Paradise

That Side of Paradise

First published in Queen Mob’s Teahouse, January 26, 2022. Copyright 2022 by Tetman Callis.

          We are so pleased when we get visitors, makes us want to roll that red carpet right out, give you a twenty-one gun salute and a big parade—maybe set aside an entire special day to celebrate your coming here.

          That sounds so nice, I think we should do that.

          Won’t be any trouble at all. It would be a shame for you just to run right through on your way to someplace else. There isn’t any better place anyway, you can ask anyone. Fact is, I’m surprised the whole world isn’t here, it’s so nice. You’ll want to stay as long as you like? That would be just grand, we’d love to have you.

          Now, I’m not just saying that—anyone would agree. You can walk down Main Street and anyone you see, just ask them how they feel about your coming here to visit us and maybe staying a while and they’ll tell you—and they’ll all tell you the same—we think it’s grand you’re here. You couldn’t have come to a better place.

          You wash up and rest first before you do anything else, you look like you’ve been on the road a while. Just get freshened up and take a little rest and you’ll be right as rain.


          I got your clothes all hung up right there in the big walk-in closet with the full-length mirror on the door. There’s a clothes brush there on the bureau in case you’d like to give any of your clothes a brush-down before you put them on. You have nice clothes, all clean and neat. You probably won’t need to brush them at all, but just in case. And if you have any dirty laundry, just leave it in the wicker basket at the back of the closet, someone will be by to take care of it, you won’t even notice except to notice that you have nice fresh laundry in the morning.

          You’ll like your room, we had it aired out and freshened up when we heard you might be coming by; turned the mattress and plumped all the pillows after we beat them outside in the sunlight and fresh air. Joey was a big help with that.  He’s a good boy, and strong, too. You’ll get to meet him and all the rest of the gang.

          Let’s open these curtains.

          There, isn’t that the best view? This room has the best view in the house, right out over the river valley. Those fields are where we grow some of the most wonderful corn and melons you could imagine. And look at the orchards. We grow apples and peaches and pecans. They’re delicious. Just you wait, the pies they make, let me tell you—one bite of peach pie and you will think you’ve died and gone to heaven.

          You would swear you could almost see it from those mountains. They’re always snowcapped this time of year, but don’t you worry, the weather’s been great. Just a little nip early in the morning before dawn, only enough to make you want to cuddle up under the blanket a little while longer. Then in the daytime the sun rises up so bright and warm, it melts all the cold away before you’re through with breakfast, and it never gets too hot and never windy, either. We get a gentle breeze off the river in the afternoon, just enough to rustle the leaves. We’re expecting more of the same right on through the week.


          We can go fishing if you like, we have the most beautiful rainbow trout running in the river. Big, too—we might catch ourselves a ten-pounder. But even if we don’t catch a thing, there’s not many better ways to spend a day than down along the banks of the river, poles propped against the rocks and lines dangling in the water while the insects buzz and the big white clouds float by overhead.

          Oh, they’re biting, don’t get me wrong. You won’t have to do hardly more than drop a hook and line and in two minutes you might get yourself a strike. Let me tell you, Joey caught six of the biggest rainbows just last Saturday. We had ourselves a nice fish fry, must have been fifty people showed up—fish so sweet and clean. We had potato salad and fresh green beans and apple cobbler with home-made vanilla ice cream.

          Our Joey’s quite the angler; he has all the tackle, rods and reels and doo-dads and gimcrack and all sorts of little gadgets I wouldn’t know what to call. Has a nice little hand-crafted tackle box, too. Made it himself out of some beautiful cherry wood in crafts class down at the school. Ties his own flies. He’ll be by in a little while and I’ll let him tell you all about it. Town thinks the world of him. Lost his family when he was just a little boy—terrible tragedy—whole town just more or less adopted him after that. Now he’s grown into a fine young man everyone is proud of.

          Come have a seat. Right there’s fine, that old stuffed chair has done some fine service in its day. Best in the house. Sit, sit, it’s got your name written all over it. Put your feet up, don’t be shy. Here, I made you some iced tea, sweetened it with a touch of honey and added just a dash of fresh lemon. Sip on that and soak up the day.


          There’s someone special you’re going to want to meet. Soon as the first time you see her you’ll be saying to yourself, Who is that young lady? Well, you’ll be finding out—she’ll be at the dance tonight. We’re all going down to the Legion hall after supper to have ourselves a grand old time dancing to the fiddle tunes. You’ll get to meet her there and dance with her, too, if you like. Once you see her, you’ll like. Even if you’ve never danced a lick you’ll be dancing tonight like you were born to it.

          Oh, she’s a sweetheart, that’s for sure—be seventeen come Sunday and the twinkle in her blue eyes, it could light up the darkest night. You’re all she’s talked about since she first heard you might be coming by. Ever since then it seemed like there was nothing else in the world that could matter half as much. Her daddy owns the mill but everybody just loves her to death. None of her good fortune has ever gone to her head and made her think herself superior. Why, when Joey first came here after he’d lost everything and didn’t have a friend in the world, she was the first one to come up to him and tell him we all would take care of him. She was just a little girl then. Such a sweet thing.


          No, I insist. It’s fully insured and runs like a dream. Seems almost all you have to do is think of where you’re going and it will take you there on the smoothest, quietest ride you’ve ever enjoyed. Spotless inside and out. Joey takes real good care of it, details it every weekend. Full tank of gas and there’s a full moon tonight. It couldn’t it be a more beautiful night to take a drive down by the lake. It would be the perfect place to sit and talk with someone who couldn’t be more fond of you. You look like you might be a little sweet on her yourself.

          Yes, it shows, and I think that’s wonderful. Everyone saw it at the dance tonight and we’re all happy for you. There’s no need for you to be blushing about it. You two make the perfect couple, like you were cut out for her and she for you. You couldn’t do any better, let me tell you—not only is she cute as a button and a delight to the eye, her beauty is more than skin deep. I’m sure you know that already. Don’t you know, she can cook and sew and smart, let me tell you, she puts the lie to that old wives’ tale about how someone so beautiful can’t have a brain in her head. She can tell you how fuel injection works, how many subatomic particles there are, and even what their names are, and how a gnat flies. Just you wait—you’re in for a real treat.


          Good morning! You’re looking mighty fine this morning. Shining like the morning star. Say, have we got a treat, you came down right on time, just look—Virginia ham scrubbed down by Joey just this morning. He got up real early to do that for us, get the meat ready for me to fry up here and serve with Grandma’s buttermilk biscuits and red-eye gravy. Then we have eggs gathered this morning and scrambled in sweet cream butter, thick slabs of back bacon, buttered whole-grain toast with the blueberry jam I put up myself, fresh-ground coffee, fresh-squeezed orange juice, fresh-picked strawberries, German potato pancakes with Grandpa’s maple syrup. Help yourself. As much as you like. Eat eat eat—you don’t eat yourself silly Aunt Bea’s feelings will be hurt.


          Oh, don’t worry about that, Grandma loves to clean up. More coffee? Here, we have some wonderful rich cream to go in it. Cinnamon and cardamom to sprinkle on top, too, if you like. After we’re done we’ll go for a walk. It’ll be the best thing after such a hearty breakfast. We’ll take a little stroll around town, say hello to people.


          Listen to that. What could be better to hear on such a morning? You’ll never hear a lovelier song, not in your life. Why, it almost sounds as if they’re all talking to each other in long twittery whistley sentences. Probably telling tales and giving reports, talking about the fat juicy worm the early bird got or what the weather’s going to be like or where the best grounds are for pecking up small seeds and bugs. They might even be talking among themselves about our goings on, though probably not very much. Maybe just to say, Good heavens, look at those big foolish critters, what on earth are they up to now? Ever since they got up on their hind legs, there’s just been no stopping them.

          They do have a marvelous way of putting it, whatever it is they’re saying.


          Smell that. Get your nose in real close. You’ll never run across a sweeter bloom than that. That’s one of Aunt Bea’s lilacs. She also has roses, four o’clocks, marigolds, mums, daisies, and those little purple blossoms there I can’t remember what they’re called.

          All the ladies in town love to plant flowers. Just look around, every house you see, wonderful flower beds and bushes and vines, morning glories and snowballs and irises and all kinds of what-not, a rainbow of every color. Most mornings and evenings you can see the little ladies out in their gardens, straw hats on their heads and pruning shears in their hands while they putter around their flowers. Get here early enough and they’ll be glad to share their cuttings with you, maybe even invite you to sit and have a cup of tea with them while they talk about their gardens, share some secrets with you about the best time to plant bulbs and how to keep the pests away without poison.

          No, don’t worry about the bees, the bees we have here, they don’t sting and probably wouldn’t if they could. You hear about angry bees in other places but you won’t find that kind around here. Never had them and never will. You could even pet the bumblebees. One comes by, I’ll show you.


          Let’s go on across Saunders’ field and look at the way the sun sparkles off the dew. Being in the middle of the woods like it is, the dew stays on till later in the morning, when the sun finally tops the trees and begins to warm the clover and the grass. We have eight different kinds of grass here including the one that gets little yellow blossoms in the summer, and another that sets tiny black seeds.

          I hear children. Yes, they’re over there, coming out of the woods on the other side of the field. They’re carrying little straw baskets—must be going on a berry-picking expedition. What fun! Let’s go join them, they’re always such a joy, all smiles and giggles and laughter. Maybe they’ll let us pick berries with them. Then we can sit in the shade and nibble on berries and take a nap, sleep as long as we like. Might not ever wake up again, if we’d rather not.