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Buttered Side Down Edna Ferber

That Home-Town Feeling

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A slow, grim smile overspread the features of the man. "You tell yours first," he said.

"Well," began she, "in the first place, my name's Mercedes Meron, of the Morning Glory Burlesquers, formerly Sadie Hayes of Kewaskum, Wisconsin. I went home next day, like I said I would. Say, Mr. Peel (you said Peel, didn't you? Guy Peel. Nice, neat name), to this day, when I eat lobster late at night, and have dreams, it's always about that visit home."

"How long did you stay?"

"I'm coming to that. Or maybe you can figure it out yourself when I tell you I've been back eleven months. I wired the folks I was coming, and then I came before they had a chance to answer. When the train reached Kewaskum I stepped off into the arms of a dowd in a home-made-made-over-year-before-last suit, and a hat that would have been funny if it hadn't been so pathetic. I grabbed her by the shoulders, and I held her off, and looked--looked at the wrinkles, and the sallow complexion, and the coat with the sleeves in wrong, and the mashed hat (I told you Lil used to be the village peach, didn't I?) and I says:

"`For Gawd's sakes, Lil, does your husband beat you?'

"`Steve!' she shrieks, `beat me! You must be crazy!'

"`Well, if he don't, he ought to. Those clothes are grounds for divorce,' I says.

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"Mr. Guy Peel, it took me just four weeks to get wise to the fact that the way to cure homesickness is to go home. I spent those four weeks trying to revolutionize my sister-in-law's house, dress, kids, husband, wall paper and parlor carpet. I took all the doilies from under the ornaments and spoke my mind on the subject of the hand-painted lamp, and Lil hates me for it yet, and will to her dying day. I fitted three dresses for her, and made her get some corsets that she'll never wear. They have roast pork for dinner on Sundays, and they never go to the theater, and they like bread pudding, and they're happy. I wasn't. They treated me fine, and it was home, all right, but not my home. It was the same, but I was different. Eleven years away from anything makes it shrink, if you know what I mean. I guess maybe you do. I remember that I used to think that the Grand View Hotel was a regular little oriental palace that was almost too luxurious to be respectable, and that the traveling men who stopped there were gods, and just to prance past the hotel after supper had the Atlantic City board walk looking like a back alley on a rainy night. Well, everything had sort of shriveled up just like that. The popcorn gave me indigestion, and I burned the skin off my nose popping it. Kneading bread gave me the backache, and the blamed stuff wouldn't raise right. I got so I was crazy to hear the roar of an L train, and the sound of a crossing policeman's whistle. I got to thinking how Michigan Avenue looks, downtown, with the lights shining down on the asphalt, and all those people eating in the swell hotels, and the autos, and the theater crowds and the windows, and--well, I'm back. Glad I went? You said it. Because it made me so darned glad to get back. I've found out one thing, and it's a great little lesson when you get it learned. Most of us are where we are because we belong there, and if we didn't, we wouldn't be. Say, that does sound mixed, don't it? But it's straight. Now you tell yours."

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Buttered Side Down
Edna Ferber

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