ome is where the eart is
(Originally posted 2/5/202. My contribution to The Shitlist Pure Slush Vol. 16 – Euphoria Rivers, Quonsettville’s Chief Librarian, has left town for good. Announcing her departure, she posted a letter to the editor of the local paper, ‘The Quonsettville Quacker’. On the back of the letter, Euphoria included a shitlist of all the people in town she believes drove her away. Small towns face many problems, but when one of their own turns on the rest, watch the fur and the books fly!)
Orville Hanson didn’t think it was that big of a deal. Euphoria Rivers, Quonsettville’s Chief Librarian, disagreed. It should have been a minor issue but over the years it grew into something bigger.
It started with Orville, both big and dumb, and his former career choice. Like so many residents of this quiet Vermont community, he was retired. He spent his days evenly split between sitting at the local café telling tall tales about his former life as an Elvis impersonator and sitting quietly reading in the library. Now pushing seventy, he still sported big muttonchops and lived by the credo “Taking care of business.”
Or, as he would often say, “Taking care hof business”, but more on that later.
If you’re getting the idea that he dwelled on his past you would not be wrong, which rubbed some folks the wrong way. If you’re wondering why he said “hof” you’re obviously itching for this story to get going, which sort of rubs me the wrong way… but I’m going to suppress my righteous indignation, you certainly wouldn’t be nudging Dan Brown to get to the point already, and get to the point already.
Orville had a problem with the letter H. It began when was young and has continued his entire life.
The problem? He refused to start a word that began with the letter H with the letter H. He would simply omit the letter. To balance the cosmic scales he would start any word that began with the letter O with an H.
When introducing himself he would say “Horville. Horville Anson.”
This annoyed a lot of people, including a boatload of Elvis fans over the years and, more relevant to the story, one Chief Librarian.
Luckily there was little talking tolerated at the library but it occasionally would flare up when the two of them bumped into each other in town. Particularly when Orville was holding court at the café, the very same café that Euphoria frequented for lunch due to its close proximity to the library. Having traveled a lot more than most residents, he would spin endless yarns about his time in Vegas and the debauchery that transpired during his many cross-country tours.
“Hello, Horville” she would begin.
“The name is Horville” he would reply, sounding an awful lot like The King.
Everyone braced themselves for what was sure to follow.
“Are you telling everyone about the glory days of singing Eartbreak Otel?” she would start in.
“Are you making fun of my speech impediment?” he would counter.
“It’s not a speech impediment Horville. It’s a decision to misuse the English language” she would recounter. “A conscious decision.”
“Since I was a kid?” he would thunder.
“According to you!” she would rethunder.
“Do you really think I enjoyed singing Ound Dog and Awaiian Sunset? It cost me gigs! I could ave been uge” he would say in a houtraged tone (crap, now he has me doing it).
“Huge. You could have been huge, Orville.”
There would typically be a pause while both parties debated continuing the exchange. Typically they would decide to continue the exchange. Typically people were happy they did as it usually got better after the opening salvos.
There would be personal attacks and nasty inferences made. In a small town this passed for entertainment. But then, one fateful day, a light suddenly shone in Euphoria Rivers’ eyes. She looked, unironically, euphoric.
“Orville… did you ever play in Horegon?” she inquired.
He nodded to the affirmative, pushing down his anger at her slight.
“What’s your point Mrs. Rivers?” he asked.
“When you played these places, did you sing Heartbreak Hotel and Hound Dog?”
“You know I did” he replied, wondering what she was getting at.
“But you sang them as Eartbreak Otel and Ound Dog correct?”
“That is correct” he finally said.
“But you say things that begin with an O with an H don’t you?” she said and a small smile crept across her face. “You say things that begin with an O with an H when you’re singing honstage in Horlando? Correct?”
Orville, as big and dumb as advertised, still didn’t know what she was driving at. Those around him had put the pieces together and began to shift in their seats uncomfortably.
Finally she came out with it. “Orville… otel and ound begin with an O. Thus you should pronounce them hotel and hound.”
Orville Hanson mulled it over awhile with an I-never-thought-of-it-like-that expression then attempted to say either word. Unsuccessfully.
“Don’t mess with my language.” Euphoria finally stated, breaking the tension. Then she swiveled her hips, twitched her upper lip as Presley-esque as she could muster, and said “Thank you. Thank you very much” before walking out the front door.
“Well… that was really mean” whispered Gary, owner of the café, to nobody in particular.