Just last month, Idgie had read in the Farmers' Almanac that there was to be a huge meteor shower the following Tuesday. That night, they were sitting on the back steps watching all the falling stars streaking across the sky, when Idgie suddenly pulled out her baseball glove, jumped up, and ran out in the yard. After a long moment, she yelled out, "I caught one!" and then ran back and handed it to Buddy.
"Look, Buddy, I've caught you a lucky star. You know what that means, don't ya? You've got a lot of good luck coming your way, kiddo."
Of course, it was just a rock she had scooped up off the ground, but Buddy was delighted with it. And he couldn't wait to find out what good luck the future would bring.
Twenty-Five Years Later
December 21, 1964
At one time Whistle Stop had been a bustling little railroad town, ten miles from Birmingham, employing over two hundred railroad workers. But as passenger train travel slowly declined, and the big railroad switching yard shut down and moved, people started to find jobs elsewhere, and the town's population declined too. With so many people leaving, Dot's weekly newsletters became smaller as the weeks and months went by. People in Whistle Stop tried to hang on as long as they could, but the real beginning of the end was when Idgie Threadgoode suddenly closed down the cafe and moved to Florida. For weeks afterward, old men and little boys kept peeking through the wooden slats on the cafe window, hoping it wasn't true. But it was. And with the beauty shop and the cafe gone, and then later, when the U.S. Post Office disbanded their Whistle Stop office, what had once been a busy street and the hub of the community was now just one long, empty block. With no real town left, the ones who stayed found themselves stranded out in the country, in the middle of nowhere, with no jobs or places to shop. Eventually, even some of the old diehards like Dot and Wilbur Weems were finally forced to accept the inevitable and leave.
Dot and Wilbur Weems were now living in the little town of Fairhope in south Alabama in a small white house across the street from the Mobile Bay. Dot liked where they had moved, but she still missed her old friends and neighbors from Whistle Stop, all the people that she had grown up with, or the ones she had watched grow up. And even though most had moved somewhere else, Dot had stayed in touch with them. And they had all stayed in touch with her, either by phone or letter, keeping her informed of what they had been up to. Although she no longer published The Weems Weekly, Dot began to send a Christmas letter each year, to try to keep the old Whistle Stop community connected.
And so as usual at this time of year, Dot was sitting with a pencil behind her ear at her kitchen table, piled with stacks of papers, letters, photos, erasers, and notebooks. She had cleared out a spot for her old Royal typewriter and placed it in the middle of the mess. She was just about to start writing when her husband, Wilbur, wearing a brown-checked bathrobe, floated through, poured himself a cup of coffee, and then floated back out. He knew not to talk to her when she was working. As soon as he left, she began typing.
Believe it or not, another year has come and almost gone. And I ask you, is it just me, or is December the twenty-fifth coming around sooner than it used to? Wasn't it just the Fourth of July a week ago? Christmas slipped up on me so fast this year, I barely had time to get all my notes together, but here goes.
News from My Home Front: I am pleased to report that after his fall off the back porch, Wilbur is finally off his walker, and as of this writing not yet "off his rocker." He says to tell you all hello from him. We so appreciated all the get-well cards and letters you sent him. They sure helped cheer the grumpy old guy up.
As usual, Idgie Threadgoode has gotten our holiday season off to a good start with the arrival of her jars of homemade honey and a big box of oranges from Florida. Idgie says the sun is shining and business is good! She also says her brother Julian is now sporting a brand-new set of teeth and is busy smiling at everyone he sees.
Gladys Kilgore wrote us from Tennessee, and says that Sheriff Grady Kilgore is finally retiring in May, and they plan a trip to Florida to visit Julian and Idgie, and maybe a stop by here on the way back. Here's hoping.
On a sad note: So sorry to report that Ninny and Cleo Threadgoode's son, Albert, left us this year. Never met a sweeter boy. I am also sorry to report that Jessie Ray Scroggins's wife has filed for divorce, again. Too bad. Hopefully they will work it out. Just had word that Sipsey Peavey is not doing well and is now living with her son, Big George, and his wife, Onzell. Sipsey turns ninety-eight on February 11, so be sure and send a card if you can. How many years did Sipsey work at the cafe with Idgie and Ruth? At least twenty-five. And what would you give to have a plate of Sipsey's fried green tomatoes? I'd give a million, if I had it.
News Flash: Opal Butts has moved her beauty shop again, so write her at her new address in Birmingham, c/o The Capri Apartments, 2012 Highland Ave. Opal says it's a brand-new swinging singles complex, and although she is no spring chicken, she is still having a lot of fun. I am also pleased to report that her daughter, Jewel Ann, is following in her mother's footsteps and is attending beauty school. Opal says that Jewel plans to specialize in body waves and eyebrow shaping. Never heard of eyebrow shaping, but it must be the latest thing. I myself am still doing pin curls, and letting my eyebrows do what they want to.
Gosh dang it all, gang, I don't know why, but this year Christmas is making me just a little homesick. Do any of you remember all the wonderful Christmases we used to spend at the cafe, the whole town showing up, cats and dogs included? Sheriff Grady all dressed up as Santa Claus, handing out all the presents? And all the big red shiny balls Idgie hung on that old deer head over the counter? I have so many sweet memories of those days. Remember little Buddy Threadgoode's special Christmas gift that one year? I do. Who could ever forget the look on his little face?
Of course I'm glad I'm alive now, but sometimes don't you wish you could just take a magic carpet ride back and relive some of the good old times in Whistle Stop? Are any of you old enough to remember when Idgie Threadgoode was seven years old, and marched in the Fourth of July parade dressed up as Uncle Sam? Never saw a cuter Uncle Sam or prouder parents than Momma and Poppa Threadgoode that day. Or remember the Dill Pickle Club, of which my other half and Idgie were members, and all the mischief they used to pull? Who do you think put the nanny goat on top of Reverend Scroggins's house? I don't know for sure but I can guess it was Idgie and her pals. And the "womanless wedding" the club put on for charity, when six-foot-four Sheriff Grady came prissing down the aisle dressed as the lovely bride? Oh my, those are just a few memories of mine. I sure would appreciate your sending me some of your favorite memories of Whistle Stop for next year's letter.
This excerpt ends on page 21 of the hardcover edition.
Monday we begin the book The Brideship Wife by Kylie Logan.