Act Like Somebody
Characters of the Andy Griffith Show Lovingly Reimagined
The Andy Griffith show was created by Sheldon Leonard, Aaron Rubin, and Danny Thomas
This is a work of Fan Fiction by Jody Bailey Day
As it appeared in the Fort Stockton Pioneer Newspaper, Summer 2015
As it appeared in the Fort Stockton Pioneer Newspaper, Summer 2015
Opie Taylor left the Law Office of Ernest Theodore Bass, Jr. with an envelope stuffed in his pocket. He liked what Ernie had done with Walker's old drug store, but he couldn’t think about that now. His cell phone buzzed,
“Hey, Eunice.” He managed to keep his emotions at bay as long as people weren’t around talking about his Pa.
“Opie, are you coming back to the house? Tons of people here. They came straight from the funeral. I want you to eat something.”
“Ernie gave me a letter from Pa. I think I”m gonna take a drive and I”ll be back in a while. You’ll be all right with Andrew and Kathy?”
“We're fine. Our new daughter-in-law has everything under control. She's presiding over a mountain of food in Aunt Bee's kitchen. Her wish is Andrew’s command. Newlyweds, still, those two.”
“She’s lying down, and Thelma Lou is hovering over her like a mother hen. It must be hard on her, with Barney gone only a couple of months,” Eunice said.
“I reckon so. I’ll be back soon.” Mayberry without Barney Fife was one thing, but without his pa?
"OK," she said, but it sounded like a stifled giggle.
"What?" That wife of his found the oddest things funny. He sure didn't feel like laughing just then.
"You reckon? Haven't heard you use that term in ages. I'm sorry, just tickled me. You come on home and eat something soon as you can. All these people want to see you, anyway."
His staff at the New York Times wouldn’t believe how country he sounded when he’d been home a few days.
He and Pa would never sing together, skip rocks on Meyer's Lake, or fish together again. He'd miss their daily phone conversations, albeit brief since his pa never could understand the concept of unlimited cell phone minutes. "Nothin's free or unlimited, Ope, but love." Pa’s unique perspective often showed up in his opinion pieces at the paper.
His mind wandered back to that morning long ago on the Lake after they'd fished. Pa had praised Opie for his catch, and then they fried it up for breakfast. Opie wanted to be blood brothers like he’d seen on TV. He wanted to make a pact by slicing their wrists and rubbing them together. His Pa had played along but instead drew a mark on their wrists with a charred rock from the cook fire and led them in an "oath".
Right hands raised, Pa led Opie in a chant that went something like, "In the name of Boojum Snark, Spirit of the Fire...” How did it go? It ended with a declaration of blood brothers forever. What had all those things meant? He'd planned to look that up and never had. Was it a southern thing, or something Pa made up? He'd tried to sabotage Pa's efforts to date after that, until Pa sat him down and told him how much he loved him.
If he had to put a finger on his Pa's greatest quality it would be just that. He loved and cared for people. What would life look like for the Taylors without Pa? How would Mayberry go on without their loving patriarch?
Now it seemed like Mayberry looked to Opie for some kind of strength, for guidance. He felt the weight of it. Shoot, he didn't even live here anymore. He could hear his father's voice in his head, “Act like somebody.” But somebody who? Somebody who gives up his dream job at the New York Times to come home and take care of Helen, the whole town for that matter? He could never take his father’s place as counselor and encourager. Why couldn't Helen move to New York with Opie and Eunice and Mayberry take care of itself?
Go on up to Myer's Lake. The sight of his pa's chicken scratch on the envelope caused the lump to rise again, and tears stung his eyes. They'd said everything there was to say. What could Pa have written to him and wanted delivered posthumously? Would he ask Opie to move back to Mayberry?
He sat down on the ground at the edge of the lake where he and his pa cast off countless times. He thought of the coniption Aunt Bee would have because he was fooling around at the lake in his best suit. He missed her. He could almost taste the sandwiches she always sent along, thick slices of homemade white bread, slathered with mayonaise and piled with sliced bologny from Foley's.
He opened the letter. Spicy aftershave scent took him by surprise. He imagined his pa shaving and applying his "smellum", and then sitting down to write.
“Dear Opie, if you’re reading this then I”m gone. Think of me sittin' on a heavenly porch having coffee with Aunt Bee, Barney, Brisco Darling and all the others who went before me. I hope you’ll think of us that way, all a talkin' about how proud we are of you and your family.
“There something I want you to know. I couldn't tell you while I was there. Maybe it's because I'm not too proud of it. It's why I am the way I am (was, ha). It all started when your grandma died...”
Andy Taylor sat on the side of Meyer’s Lake with his fishin’ pole stuck in the mud. He skipped flat, smooth rocks across the water. “One, two, three, four,” he counted aloud as the rocks pinged across, then plunked in. He wished he could make it skip all the way to ten to celebrate his birthday coming up. He probably wouldn’t get a bite on his line as long as he threw rocks in the water, but better than going home.
Andy felt as bad about his ma’s passin’ as anybody, maybe more, but he couldn’t just sit in the house staring up the stairs like she was gonna come down smilin’ and singin’ the way she used to. That’s what Pa did.
Andy had to be outside where it was quiet and green with something to do like fish, make a fort, climb trees, or chunk rocks. He’d held a soft, wiggly little baby cousin after Ma’s funeral. It made him miss her soft hands. He missed her the most at night when she used to reach down and kiss his cheeks and stroke his forehead. If he wanted to cry out at the lake, then so what.
Pa seems mad at me. Sometimes Pa would get mad over little things and yell. He’d go in his room and shut the door. Sounded like he was crying in there. That hurt worse than anything.
Then there was Barney. His cousin from Raleigh showed up with Aunt Carol and Uncle Duncan when Andy’s ma was really sick at the last. Would they ever leave? Andy feared he might be stuck with Barney Fife.
Aunt Carol never let Barney do anything. No wonder that mewly squirt was only good at getting nose bleeds, stumped toes, and rashes. At least out here Andy didn’t have to play with him because his ma wouldn’t let Barney anywhere near the lake. The sooner the Fife’s went back to Raleigh the better. Andy didn’t want to babysit Barney when school started.
He chunked another rock into the water. As his eyes followed the ripples he spotted something on the other side. Barney’s legs stuck out of his shorts like chopsticks and white as store bought eggs. Andy’s brand new boat, Gertrude, was tied to a tree, and Barney sat next to her, pushing his toes into the mud.
Maybe he hasn’t seen me. He backed away from the water’s edge and bicycled back to town. I’ll get him later for playin’ with my boat. Barney was for sure not supposed to be at the lake, and Andy didn’t want to get the blame for him being there. Trouble meant a yellin’ from Pa, and then the sad part. Seemed like the only way to help Pa was to be good all the time.
“Catch anything?” Pa asked, not looking up from his plate as Andy got home.
“No, Pa, not a bite.” He ran upstairs to wash. The smell of fried chicken made him come down as fast as he could, his mouth watering. If it weren’t for Aunt Bee and Aunt Lucy, he didn’t know what they’d ever have to eat.
Here came Barney’s parents in the front door, without knocking, and just at dinner time as usual. Andy’s mashed potatoes wouldn’t go down when he saw that Barney wasn’t with them.
“Come on in. We were just having supper, would you like —“ Aunt Bee said.
“Have you seen Barney?” Aunt Carol wrung her hands together and scrunched her face up like she’d been eatin’ pickles. “He hasn’t been home for hours. I told him he could come by here and see Andy for a little while. Has he been here?”
“Why, no, Carol, and I’ve been here all day, “ Bee said, turning to Andy. “Have you seen Barney today?”
“No, Ma’am,” he said, his mouth full of food. He nearly choked, and his stomach turned at the lie, but no way he’d get in trouble for that weasly little Barney. It added up to a row with Pa no matter how you looked at it.
“He keeps asking to go to the lake, but he can’t swim. I bet that’s where he is. He’s drowned,” Aunt Carol wailed, and had to be led to a chair.
“Now, now, Mother, the boy isn’t drowned,” said Uncle Duncan. “Boys have always loved roaming those woods and playing by the lake. Barney’s no different. Calvin and I will go out and find him,” he said as he looked over at Pa.
“Let’s go get him. Carol, you stay here with Bee,” Pa said with a look that convinced Andy he better come along, too.
They didn’t find Barney at the lake. Only Gertrude, half sunk in the water.
Previously on Act Like Somebody, ten year old Barney Fife is missing, and his cousin Andy Taylor has lied about his whereabouts.
They dragged the lake all night. Andy sat under a tree and watched. Every gust of wind brought a spicy smell. The lake looked kinda like magic in the moonlight. The wind in the trees sounded like the ocean, but the men shouting back and forth across the lake made Andy’s stomach feel funny. They’d still be looking for Barn if he’d told the truth so what difference did it make?
Something bounced off the top of his head. A stick landed in the dirt beside him.
“Ange, don’t look up, they’ll see me.”
“Barney Fife! What in tarnation?”
“I run Gertrude up on a rock and she sprung a leak. I got scared and climbed up here, and I’m gonna run away. Come with me Ange.”
“You sissy little beanpole, I a’int goin’ nowhere with you.”
“Then I’ll go by myself”
“You’ll get eat up by bears, and your ma’ll never get over it. Get down, or I’m gonna tell.”
“No. I’d rather get eat up than go to Mayberry school.”
“What? You ain’t goin’ back to Raleigh?” This nightmare just got worse.
“We’re movin’ here for good. Nobody liked me in my school, but at least I’m used to it there. It’ll be worse here, especially after this.”
How dare that pipsqueak run down Mayberry school? He’d just show that chicken leg Barney Fife a thing or two when he got him down from that tree.
“What are you talkin’ about? My school’s as good as yours.”
“Yeah, but I ain’t too good in school. Cain’t keep up with the great Andrew Jackson Taylor.”
“That’s stupid, Barn.” It was, but the mousy little squirt had a point since his ma wouldn’t let him play baseball or anything. Something about a delicate disposition, whatever that meant. The big boys would probably make fun of him.
Maybe Barney should run away. They could have a funeral like they did for Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. No. One thought of Aunt Carol and Uncle Duncan sufferin’ like Pa and everybody put a stop to that idea.
A loud crack sounded in the tree above, and two seconds later Barney sprawled across Andy’s lap. He stared at Barney’s saucer eyes for a half a minute until the shock wore off.
“Get offa me, Barn. They’ll see you.” Trouble was a mountin’ like potatoes at harvest time. Barney kept starin’, and his mouth hung slack.
“Barney, is that you?” Andy’s pa appeared out of nowhere, the sheriff following. Pa pulled Barney to a stand and looked him over. “Are you all right?”
“Yes, Sir,” Barney squeaked out. “I broke Andy’s boat, and hid in this here tree.”
“He’s fine, Sheriff. Please call Duncan over here.”
Uncle Duncan ran over, grabbed Barney up and squeezed the stuffing out of him. He carried him off like a baby, which seemed right since Barney was cryin’ like one.
Pa looked at Andy like he’d been up in that tree too. Andy’s throat went dry.
“Did you know Barney was up in that tree?” Pa gripped his shoulders, his face red and his eyes flashed like lightening.
“Yes, but,” Andy said, but couldn’t think of how to explain.
His pa dropped to his knees, his hands sliding down to Andy’s elbows. “Don’t you care how upset your Aunt Carol is? She thought Barney was drowned. Look at all these volunteers out here all night, away from their families, not to mention your Uncle Duncan fearing the worst.” He looked to the ground and shook his head.
“Honest, Pa, I did see him this afternoon and lied about it. But I didn’t know where he was until a few minutes ago.”
“Don’t you understand how serious this is? You’ll have to be punished.” Pa stood to his feet, leaned over with both hands on his knees, his head dropped and shaking.
“Punish me, Pa, anything you want, but please don’t go in your room and shut the door and cry. Anything but that.” Andy felt months of pushed down tears crack and spew like Old Faithful.
Pa turned, his shoulders slumped. He stooped in front of Andy and wrapped his arms around him.
“Is that why you lied to me, Andy?”
“Yes, Pa, when you get real sad it makes me feel really bad down inside.”
Andy leaned into his pa’s strong arms. It was just the two of them now, closin’ in around the big hole in their hearts. He reached up and whispered into Pa’s ear.
“Pa, let’s run away.”
“All right, boy.”
Opie Taylor’s posthumously delivered letter from his father continues.
“…that’s how Barney and I come to work for Sheriff Peveto. It cost the city $148 to run that drag search that night, and Pa and Uncle Duncan made us work off every cent. That’s when my real education began…”
“But Pa, seems awful cruel for a boy to spend the last 3 weeks of vacation workin’ from daylight ‘til dusk, and with Barney hanging on my shirttail too.”
“You remember our talk on our ‘runnin’ away’ fishin’ trip? How we have to do what’s right even when it hurts?”
“Yes, Pa.” The summer began with the death of his ma, the arrival of an annoying and trouble-making cousin, and now hard work.
“The sheriff is expecting you boys, so finish up your breakfast and get to town.”
Barney waited at the end of the walk, dressed for Sunday school, not chores.
“You’re gonna fry in that long sleeve shirt.”
“Ma says a man’s got to look his best, ‘specially on his first day of a new job.” He pulled on either end of his little black bow tie, then stuck his finger under his collar like it was too tight.
“You know we ain’t getting’ paid, Barn. This is all to pay back the town for the trouble you caused. Let’s go.”
Andy wasn’t really mad at Barney anymore. If it hadn’t happened, then Pa might not have taken him on that fishin’ trip, where they talked man to man.
Otis Campbell sat on the concrete by the front door of the court house, his knees pulled up to his chubby stomach, and his head in his hands. He blubbered like a two-year-old.
“What’s the matter, Otis?” Andy asked.
Otis looked up, dried his eyes with his dirty undershirt, and jumped to his feet. “Nothin’.” He ran down the street.
Didn’t take two minutes to figure out what made Otis cry. As soon as he walked in he saw Otis’ pa, Arthur Campbell, on a cot in the second of the two jail cells.
“I ain’t gonna pay for it. I wasn’t aimin’ for the mirror, I was aimin’ for Ben Weaver. Make Ben pay for it!” Mr. Campbell hollered.
Sheriff Peveto sat at his desk. “It don’t matter who you were aiming for. You threw a liquor bottle that crashed into the front window of Weavers Department Store. Ben’s pa won’t press charges if you’ll just pay for the damage.”
“Ben Weaver was flirtin’ with my wife, Sheriff. Now a man can’t let that go.” Mr. Campbell slunk to his cot and sat down. “Anyway, I ain’t got no money. I drunk it up.”
“Arthur Campbell, your force me, as Justice of the Peace, to fine you $40 for the price of the glass and sentence you to a week in jail.” Sheriff Peveto picked up his gavel and slammed it down.
“Aw, Sheriff, I promised to take Otis fishin’ before school starts, and I’ll have to ask Earlene for her egg money to start payin’ for that mirror. She was plannin’ to get Otis some school clothes with that.” Mr. Campbell rubbed his head like he had a powerful headache.
“You shoulda thought o’ that before you got into this mess.” Sheriff Peveto pulled his wallet out of his back pocket as he walked over to the cell. He took 2 bills from the wallet and pushed them through the bars.
“Aw, Sheriff, I can’t take your money.” Mr. Campbell’s eyes widened out like saucers.
“The McCallister’s are lookin’ for someone to help ‘em dig up taters. I can get you on there if you promise to give the money to Earline and not blow it on ‘shine. Then we’ll call it even.”
“Aw, shucks, Sheriff.”
“I don’t want to see you in here drunk and in trouble again, Arthur. You gotta think about that boy.”
Mr. Campbell dropped his head into his hands. “Yes, Sir.”
Sheriff Peveto unlocked the jail cell and let Mr. Campbell out. "Now go settle up with Mr. Weaver and I'll take you over to McCallister's."
Barney and Andy watched all this from the door. A half hour later Mr. Campbell, Barney, Andy and Sheriff Peveto were at the McCalister’s grubbin’ up potatoes.
Pa came for Andy and Barney in his jalopy just as Barney was tryin’ to pull a stuck potato from the dirt. He pulled with all his might and the potato gave way. Barn shot backward into a blackberry bush, dirt flyin’ in his face and all over that Sunday shirt.
Pa laughed. He slapped his leg and laughed some more. “Barney’s the only youngun who can get whipped by a field of produce.”
“That’s the day ole Barn found his way into my heart. He made my pa laugh, and things started getting better. That is, until Aunt Bee got jilted….”
That fall Aunt Bee, Aunt Lucy, and their friend Clara spent a lot of hours talking about Aunt Bee’s wedding. Pa explained to Andy how she wouldn’t be living with them anymore. The parsonage was only a few blocks away and Aunt Lucy cooked almost as well as Aunt Bee.
“It’s more than her cookin’, Pa.” Nobody could take his mother’s place, but Aunt Bee made him feel less like he was left out in the cold. She made the house warm again.
“I know it, Andy. We’ll get used to it.” Pa’s voice didn’t sound like he was sure about that.
Aunt Bee’s beau was all right, as far as preachers go. He made Andy laugh by the way he always pulled at his collar. Pa said it was because it was too big for him, which didn’t make sense to Andy. The best thing about him was that when he got to hollerin’ he’d slam the Good Book down on the podium which always woke up Barney. He’d jump with a holler and Andy’d have to bite his tongue to keep from laughin’ out loud.
A few weeks before the wedding, the Reverend Willard Porterfield made an announcement in church that pulled the rug out from under Andy again.
“I’ve taken a church in Greenfield. After our wedding, Miss Taylor and I will be leaving. We appreciate your prayers as we set out on this new journey together.” He pulled at his collar and cleared his throat as he looked directly at Andy.
Reverend Porterfield kept on talking some kind of words about thanks and a new preacher, but Andy only heard static. He looked up at his Aunt Bee. She reached for his hand.
A scary, panicky kind of feeling rose up in his throat. He wanted to run, and he did. He flew out of the church and ran to the only place where things never changed. He threw so many rocks in the lake that he was surprised they didn’t fill it up completely.
Aunt Bee leaving Mayberry? The big hole in his heart that had started to feel a little better ripped wide open again. Why did he feel so scared? He cried and threw rocks until he felt like he’d been rung through the Maytag, with Aunt Bee turning the handle. He knew he’d better get home before his pa came looking for him, or worse, sent Barney to bring him home.
He spotted Rev. Porterfield and Aunt Bee sittin’ on the front porch, so he darted into the bushes and sneaked up the side of the house. He could see them through the azalea bush and hear them talking.
“Bee, I can’t believe you’d put that boy ahead of our plans.” He pulled at his collar and scooted a few inches away from Aunt Bee.
“It’s just a year, Will. Can’t you talk to the committee in Greenfield, explain the situation? I just can’t leave them now. I should have known how Andy would feel about it.” She wrung her handkerchief into a knot and sniffled.
“It doesn’t work that way. If I don’t go, they’ll just get somebody else.”
“Then stay. I thought you were happy here,” Aunt Bee said. “You’d think a minister would care about how this family’s been torn apart. Andy and Calvin need me.”
“I need you, Bee. This move is a step up for me. Don’t you see that?” He stood to his feet.
Aunt Bee dabbed at her eyes with the wadded up hanky. “I can’t leave, Will. Not for at least a year. You saw how he reacted this morning. His heart’s been broken. I can’t add to that. You’ll just have to take your “step up” without me.” She stood and rushed into the house, slamming the door.
The reverend jammed his hands into his pockets and stormed down the steps.
Mayberry 2012: “Now Opie, she’d chosen pa and me over her own happiness. Aunt Bee never heard from that preacher again. Pa said the reverend chose himself over her, and he was dang glad she found out how selfish he was before they got married. I know now what he meant by that collar not fitting the man. I learned about unselfish love by watching Aunt Bee.
She always set me the greatest example, except for maybe that time she nearly scratched out Clara Edwards’ eyes…”
Christmastime came and Andy tried not to think about what it would be like without Ma. Aunt Bee kept him busy, that’s for sure. One night he and Barney, along with Aunt Bee and Pa sat on the front porch shelling pecans.
“It’s a mite nippy tonight, Calvin. The Almanac says we’re in for a pretty cold winter. Barney, quit eating those pecans, you’ll get a belly ache,” Aunt Bee warned.
“That it is, Bee. Speaking of ‘nip’, wasn’t Clara down here this afternoon talking about the Mayberry Temperance Tea?” He winked at Andy.
“You know it’s not called that any more. The Ladies Aid Society used to be the Temperance League. We have the Tea to fund the Christmas Missionary Charity collection.”
“If it were up to Clara Edwards, it would still be the Temperance League. She seemed real sad when Prohibition ended.” Pa grinned like a Cheshire cat.
Aunt Bee ignored him. “I can’t decide what cookie I’ll make for the sale. It has to be something worthy of the Ladies Aid tea, yet economical enough to make large amounts for the sale. I think I’ll go in and look at my recipes.”
“The ladies are gonna have a tea party?” Barney’s words garbled around a mouthful of pecans.
“They put on their best duds, make all kinds of cookies, and have a big tea party. They vote on the best cookie, then make mountains of them and sell them to make sure the missionary children all have a good Christmas,” Pa said.
He laughed and shook his head. “I think Bee ought to make Rum Balls. It’d serve that Clara Edwards right, the way she brow beats anybody that takes a nip for the holidays.”
Poor Aunt Bee didn’t even get to go to her tea party because she stayed and helped Aunt Carol take care of Barney. He’d gotten a belly ache, just like Aunt Bee said.
The day after the tea Aunt Bee looked forward to the write up in the Mayberry Gazette. “I’m surprised Clara hasn’t called me to tell me she won. She usually does.”
Pa had just sat down for breakfast when Barney rushed in with the newspaper. He set it in front of Aunt Bee and then stepped back like he might need to avoid an explosion.
“Sit down, Barney. Have a piece of dry toast. You still look a little pale.” She picked up the paper. “Here, Andy, you read it. I’m too nervous.”
Pa stood up. “I’ve got to get to work.”
“Don’t you want to hear who won the contest?” Aunt Bee cut a piece of toast in half for Barney.
“I’ll read it over coffee at work.” He rushed out like he might be late.
“Andy, go ahead. I can’t stand the suspense.”
“‘A good time was had by all’ doesn’t fully describe the annual Ladies Aid Tea. This reporter hasn’t seen a gaggle of geese in such good spirits since Myrtle Clarington spiked the punch at her sister’s wedding shower. Laughter and good will reigned, as the winner of the best cookie was presented to Bee Taylor for her Rousing Rum Balls. Miss Taylor was not in attendance due to an illness in the family. President Clara Edwards left the event early, and could not be reached for comment. Congratulations, Miss Taylor, for your accomplishment on so many levels. This reporter would like to order a few dozen of those cookies. The Christmas Missionary Charity stands to have a banner year.’”
“Give me that. You’re joking, Andy Taylor.” She took the paper and read it for herself. Her face went as pale as Barney’s.
“But, I sent Powdered Lemon Drops. There must be some mistake.” She laid her head on the kitchen table and cried.
Mayberry, 2012…”Now Aunt Bee tried to explain to Clara that she didn’t send the rum balls. But Clara wouldn’t speak to her, which made Aunt Bee mad. She just held her head up high and made fifty dozen rum balls by herself, sold them all and gave the money to the charity. Pa confessed to Aunt Bee that he’d been the culprit that switched the cookies. They had a good laugh over it. Aunt Bee and Clara eventually became friends again, but they competed with each other in everything, from clothes to music to county fairs. Sometimes Aunt Bee won, sometimes she didn’t. No doubt you remember her kerosene cucumbers. I think it was Christmas Eve that year that Aunt Lucy came home with that baby.”
“I don’t wanna go over and play with Barney, Aunt Bee. I’m afraid I’ll let it slip that there ain't no Santy Claus.”
“You better not spoil it for him, Andy. He’ll catch on soon enough.” Aunt Bee wiped flour covered hands on her poinsettia print apron.
“When’s Aunt Lucy comin’ home from her trip up mountain?” Andy reached for a cherry thumbprint cookie. He missed Aunt Lucy, and wondered what it was like to be a teacher to hillbillies.
“Tonight, which is why I want you to scoot along to the Fife's and let me get things in order. Christmas dinner’s don’t cook themselves.”
The sound of a squeal in the living room sent Andy and Aunt Bee running out of the kitchen. Aunt Lucy stood in the front doorway, her hair standing out on all sides like a scarecrow. A small child jumped off the couch, clapped his hands, and laughed like a hyena.
He climbed up on the couch again, lunged toward the side table and knocked the lamp to the floor, smashing it to smithereens. He catapulted off the couch toward the Christmas tree. Aunt Bee managed to grab him before he toppled it. The child erupted in giggles.
“Close your mouth, Andy, and pick up all this glass.” Aunt Lucy fell onto the couch. She panted like she’d run all the way home from the mountains.
“For the love of Pete, Lucy, who is this little hellion and why did you bring him here?” Aunt Bee held on tight to the little boy who kicked his legs hard against her knees.
“What could I do? He wandered into the school all by himself, turning over everything that wasn’t nailed down. Those dwellings are so far apart up there, but still I went from door to door and looked everywhere. I couldn’t just leave him. I left a note on the school door if anyone came looking.”
“We’ll let Sheriff Peveto know. May as well settle him in here until the sheriff gets to the bottom of it.” Aunt Bee let the child down on the floor. He jumped back up into her lap, and then pulled her earring right off and popped it into his mouth.
Barney came in the front door just then. "Hey, Ange, I thought you were comin' over to pull taffy with me," he said, but as soon as he saw the little boy, his mouth dropped the same way Andy’s did. The little fella took one look at him, scrunched up his little face, and started wailing. Aunt Bee’s earring perched on the end of his tongue, and she grabbed for it. He bit down hard.
“Ouch!” Aunt Bee cried. She handed the scamp to Andy. “Don’t let him break anything else.”
He didn't cotton to wrangling that tornado while the aunts prepared Christmas Dinner. Barney tried to help, but every time the child looked at him, he cried. Andy tried to distract him with a toy train, but the baby stomped on it. The broken toy seemed to delight him. He laughed with his whole face, and clapped his hands until they blushed red.
“That kid’s nuts, that what he is.” Barney pronounced his judgment and then left Andy alone with the wild little boy. He dubbed him Little Elf because of his pointed ears and turned up nose. He couldn’t have been more than two years old.
During dinner Little Elf liked to bounce on Pa's knees. He almost managed to feed him a bite of dressing, but a frantic knock on the front door halted dinner. Andy pulled the door open and a young, dark haired girl stepped inside. The baby took one look at her and screamed “Mama!” She ran to pick him up and he buried his head in her neck.
“I thought you were lost forever. How am I ever going to keep track of you?” Tears streamed down her face.
After a good five minutes of questions, explanations, and introductions, it became clear that the baby was a definite mischief-maker. His poor mama was ragged out from trying to keep up with him.
“Please stay and have Christmas dinner with us,” everyone said to the girl, who said her name was Daisy.
Aunt Lucy gave Daisy a small, white New Testament for a Christmas present. We all signed our names in the front cover, and Aunt Lucy wrote the date, “Christmas, 1936.”
Little Elf was a wild thing, but Andy kind of hated to see him go.
Mayberry 2012…”Now Opie, we never forgot Little Elf, but imagine our surprise at Ernest T’s funeral when we saw that little white Bible in his hands. Ernest T. Bass and our Little Elf were one and the same. He sure didn't change much, did he?"
Mayberry, 1936 - Mayberry buzzed like a disturbed hive at the news Floyd Lawson, the town barber, brought home a wife. Mrs. Melba Lawson and her older sister, Eula Arbuckle, took up housekeeping for Floyd. Aunt Bee sent Andy for a haircut in hopes he'd hear some information about Melba and Eula. He waited his turn as Floyd finished up on Arthur Campbell.
“I hope I look spiffy, Floyd. Earlene will be mad that I spent the night in jail again. A cut and shave may make her go easy on me.” Arthur’s words muffled under the hot towel Floyd wrapped around his face.
“Oh, well, yes, my, my, my,” Floyd said. He splashed Mr. Campbell’s neck with lavender water.
The bell on the door dinged as a tall woman, all edges and elbows, walked in. She let the door slam shut behind her.
“What is the meaning of this note you left in my room? What could you possibly have to say that my sister can’t hear?” She took off her black gloves and shoved them into her black purse.
“Hello, Eula, I, well…” Floyd choked on his words. Mr. Campbell peeked out from under the towel.
“Speak up, man. Melba and I are up to our ears cleaning your filthy house.” She crossed her arms and tapped her black, pointy shoes.
“I have a surprise for Melba I want to run by you. You’re an educated woman and, well, um..” Floyd coughed as he pulled a folded piece of paper from the pocket of his white coat.
“A surprise for Melba? Well then.” She looked daggers at Andy, who scooted down the row of waitin’ chairs so she could sit down.
“I’ve, um, written a poem for Melba. I’m going to have it printed in the Mayberry Gazette to honor our marriage.” The mention of his wife made him stand a little taller. He unfolded the paper.
Eula’s eyebrows raised an inch above her glaring eyes. Her lips flattened into a line and she stared at Floyd like he’d grown another head.
Floyd cleared his throat and read from the paper.
Andy thought it a fine poem. Short and to the point. He smiled and nodded at Floyd. Mr. Campbell coughed underneath the towel.
Eula stood to her feet and stomped her way to the door. “Floyd Lawson, if you print that ridiculous piece of trash I will take my sister back to Raleigh. She doesn’t have the strength of mind to withstand a public, embarrassing scandal. I never!” She slammed the door behind her.
Floyd deflated like a circus balloon. His shoulders slumped and his mouth twitched. “Excuse me for a moment.” He crumpled up the poem and threw it in the trash as he walked to the back room.
Mr. Campbell tossed off the towel, put 2-bits on the counter and walked out laughing. Andy retrieved the poem from the trash and shoved it into his pocket.
Floyd returned to the chair, red faced and quiet.
Andy thought a nice man like Floyd Lawson should be able to do something sweet for his wife if he wanted to. So he smoothed out that wadded up piece of paper and delivered it to the Mayberry Gazette.
He hid in the bushes across the street from the Lawson’s the morning the paper came. Floyd, Melba, and Eula sat on the porch having their coffee.
It happened that Melba read the paper first. Andy held his breath as she turned to page 2. Directly a big smile spanned her face.
“Oh, Floyd, how perfectly sweet!” She jumped up and threw herself into his lap, pushed his glasses to the top of his head, and smothered his face with kisses.
“What in the world?” Floyd managed to say between kisses.
By this time Eula snatched the paper from Melba’s chair. From clear across the street Andy could see the veins popping out of her neck. He ran for his life.
Back home Aunt Bee read the poem aloud over breakfast. She could barely get through it without giggling. Why did Pa and Aunt Lucy think it was so funny?
I think that I shall never see
A wife as blithe and sweet as thee
You’re the brine in my pickle
The lump in my tea
The brine in my pickle
The lump in my tea
Aunt Bee came home from the grocery store later with the news that Eula moved back to Raleigh that very afternoon.
Andy saw Mr. And Mrs. Lawson in church the next Sunday, smiling and holding hands. He decided that in matters of the heart, it doesn't matter what other people think. Everybody starting calling Floyd The Barber Bard of Mayberry.
Andy's letter to Opie in 1912 - "It was because of Miss Melba that Barney dressed up like a girl, and I got my very first kiss..."
Floyd Lawson’s new wife got herself appointed director of the 5th Grade play. Now playin’ Lone Ranger with Barney was one thing, but play actin’ in front of the whole town was another thing entirely.
“I’ve got a plan, Ange. We sign up for understudy. That way we get our grade, and we don’t have to go on stage.” Barney tossed a baseball to Andy after school.
Andy had to search for the ball in the bushes that bordered Mayberry Primary School. Would Barn ever learn to throw straight? He found the ball and yelled to Barney as he ran back to his pitchin’ spot. “Good plan ‘til somebody gets sick. I dunno.”
“Oh, come on. You know Beavis McGee and Sharon Desplain ain’t gonna miss the chance to be Romeo and Juliet, I don’t care how sick they get.”
Made sense. Sharon flipped her blond curls his way every day, plain as plain tryin’ to get attention. She’d get plenty as Juliet. Girls, sheesh.
So he and Barn signed up to be understudies. Andy got Romeo, which made him feel pretty secure he wouldn’t have to perform. After the teasing wore off that Barney got third alternate understudy to Juliet, they both settled down to learn their lines.
Sunday afternoon before the play was to be performed, Sharon Desplain knocked on the Taylor’s door.
“Mrs. Lawson said I needed to practice with all the understudies, just in case.” She flipped her hair and batted long eyelashes.
“Funny, she didn’t say anything to me about it.” Andy tried to shut the door.
“Andy Taylor. You let that girl in the house this minute. It will do you good to practice, just in case.” Aunt Bee came out of nowhere, fussing and fuming. “No need to be rude.”
Andy found himself sitting on the couch with Sharon, rehearsing their lines. Sharon scooted closer to him, and he scooted away until he was trapped at the end of the couch. Whew. He wished Aunt Bee would come in the room and open a window, because even though it was January, it felt like August.
When they got to the end of the first act, Sharon Desplain planted a kiss on Andy’s lips. She bounced off the couch and skipped to the front door, flipped her hair and winked.
“I hope you get to be Romeo,” she said, and walked out the door.
First he was mad she did it, and then he was mad he couldn’t stop thinking about it. He decided she wasn’t so bad, for a girl, but he still didn’t want to be Romeo when Beavis McGee came down with the stomach virus.
“‘Sign up for understudy,’ he says. ‘No way we’ll have to perform, he says,’” Andy ranted against Barney as he pulled up the ridiculous costume tights. Sharon better not try that kissin’ stunt in front of everybody. It wasn’t in the play anyway.
The curtain came up and the applause gave him a little courage. Somehow he got through it, but he knew he sounded stiff and scared. He was glad Sharon wore a veil over her face. If he saw her wink or something he’d totally forget his lines. Her voice sounded high-pitched and shaky.
The last moment finally arrived. Mrs. Lawson had wiggled the script around so that they didn’t do the whole play, but just scenes. She figured the balcony scene made a good ending. His part was almost over, except for dropping to his knees.
Sharon’s nervous falsetto voice began the last words. “O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo? Deny thy father and refuse thy name; Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love, And I'll no longer be a Capulet.”
Andy laid his hand over his heart, and as the knelt down, she lifted her veil.
“Pucker up, Ange,” Barney’s mug appeared, eyes closed and lips smooched out.
Andy stumbled backward in surprise. Barney leaned too far forward against the makeshift balcony and fell over. The skirt of his Juliet costume flew up over his head showing his gym socks and sneakers. He landed next to Andy in the middle of the stage.
The curtain quickly closed, and when it opened again for the cast to take their bows, Andy was on top of Barney getting ready to punch him. He thought better of it as the audience roared with laughter. Andy knew it wasn’t Barney’s fault that the flu took out most of the play cast, but he wasn’t exactly sorry when Barn came down with the flu the next day.
Andy’s letter to Opie continues…”Barney swore ‘til the day he died that Floyd always cut his sideburns crooked after that, because he’d ruined Mrs. Lawson’s play. Did I ever tell you about the time Gomer went missing?”
Andy finished mopping the courthouse just as Mrs. Heathrow Pyle ran in. She slipped on the wet floor and landed right on her fanny. She burst into tears.
“I’m so sorry, Mrs. Pyle. Are you all right?” Andy knelt and helped her up.
“I’m fine,” she said, but started wailing again. “No, I’m not. It’s Gomer. I can’t find him anywhere.” She slammed both hands down on Sheriff Peveto’s desk and tried to catch her breath.
“Where’s the Sheriff?” she asked between sobs.
“He and my Pa are down at the Diner.”
“Run and get him, Andy! My boy’s missin’.”
Andy ran to the diner, burst in and relayed Mrs. Pyle’s story.
“I bet I can find him Pa,” Andy said between gasps of breath. He had a very strong hunch where Gomer was.
“Where? We’ll go pick him up.” Calvin Taylor wiped the tomato soup from his chin with a large, white napkin.
Sheriff Peveto stood, pulled a dollar from his pocket and slapped in on the luncheon counter. “Well?”
“I can’t tell you, Pa. But I know where he is and I’ll go get him.” He bent to tie his sneakers.
“Have you lost your mind? If you know where that boy is, you better tell us now.” Andy’s father grasped him by the shoulders and pulled him to a stand.
“I can’t, Pa. Will you trust me? It’s really important.” He looked up at his father. How could he make him understand?
Calvin Taylor looked at his son and then to Sheriff Peveto. The two men shrugged.
“I’m going to talk to Mrs. Pyle and see what information I can get and start looking. It’s my job,” the sheriff said.
“I’ll come with you.” Calvin looked at Andy. “If you don’t beat all, Son. If you know where he is then go get him, but in the meantime, the sheriff and I have to look for him.”
Andy extended his hand to his father, who looked at him in surprise. He shook his son’s hand.
Andy ran to the Mayberry Mount Zion Holiness Church. Jedidiah Thomas met him at the door.
“I cain’t let you in here, Mr. Andy. You and me both’ll get in trouble.” He slipped out the double doors of the small, whitewashed building.
“Mr. Thomas, my friend Moses Breed told me yesterday, when we was playin’ ball, that Gomer’s been sneaking in here to listen to the Gospel Singin’ Convention. He says y’all are afraid to make him go home, cuz he’s gettin’ the Holy Ghost. Says you’re more afraid of the Good Lord than the white sheets.”
Mr. Thomas looked from side to side. “Cain’t make him go home. He just won’t, and it would be bad for one of us to try and carry him home, you understand. I’m surprised his ma ain’t missed him before now. The singin’ school is just a week. Sunday’s the last day.”
The singing inside shook the rafters. Andy reached for the door.
“Now, Mr. Andy, you know what happened when your Aunt Bee suggested to the Ladies Aid that the Mayberry All Souls Church and Mount Zion have the singin’ convention all together. You best git on home. You can tell your Pa about this. Maybe he can figure it out so we don’t get in a mess o’ trouble.”
Andy thought about the mean things some people said to Aunt Bee at her idea that the two churches come together. She’d cried for two days. Andy squared his shoulders, raised his head and opened the door.
“I’m goin’ in, Mr. Thomas.”
The music lagged a bit as he entered, like a radio with the tubes goin’ out. He slipped into a seat on the back row, and the music revved up again.
Gomer stood right up at the front with the choir, just clappin’ and singin’ and swayin’. Andy couldn’t help it. He joined right in. Directly he felt better than he had since his ma died. When it was over, he walked Gomer to the courthouse. He spilled the beans to everyone.
Mrs. Pyle knelt before her little son, her eyes wide as saucers. “You’ve been goin’ to the singin’ at the Mount Zion church?”
“Surprise, surprise, surprise! And I even got a solo.” He wrapped his arms around his mother’s neck.
Andy’s letter to Opie: “The whole Taylor, Peveto, and Pyle families went to the Mount Zion Church to hear Gomer sing that Sunday. Of course it was a more jazzed up version of Rock of Ages, but everyone loved it. Mrs. Pyle cried like a baby. It caused quite the scandal in Mayberry for awhile. Pa said he was proud that I didn’t seem to see color. I think it’s because he taught me to see people by their actions first. But I was sure wrong about Ben Weaver…”
“Ben Weaver is the meanest man in Mayberry.” Andy set his fork and knife across his breakfast plate and tossed his napkin on top.
“Watch your mouth, Andy Taylor. You know better than to speak of adults that way. Besides, you know his pa just passed away and he’s got the store and his mother to look after now.” Aunt Bee took Andy’s plate.
“But he is, Aunt Bee. Barney and I were playing ball in front of the courthouse yesterday. Barney missed my pitch, as usual, and the ball rolled down the street and stopped in front of Ben outside his store. He picked up my ball and put it in his pants pocket. He wouldn’t let us have it back. Said we’d break his storefront window glass.”
“He’s warned you about that many times. Besides, there’s all kind of storefront glass you boys might break. Play somewhere else.” Aunt Bee took the dishes into the kitchen.
Andy still had Ben on his mind as he and Barney walked to school.
“I heard his house is full of baseballs and toys that he’s yanked away from us kids.” Barney tripped over his shoelaces in front of the courthouse.
Andy stopped to wait for Barn to tie his shoes. “He’s so mean. He always picks a fight with Mr. Campbell by flirtin’ with his wife. Mr. Campbell always ends up in jail because of it.”
“Mr. Campbell gets in jail because he drinks too much. He and Ben Weaver fight because Mrs. Campbell was Ben’s girlfriend but then she married Mr. Campbell instead. He was already a drunk. I guess better a drunk than a mean old miser,” Barney said.
Sheriff Peveto came out of the courthouse. “I can hear you two old ladies gossipin’ clear inside. Stop actin’ like the Ladies Aid and get yourselves to school.”
“Yes Sir,” both boys said, and then ran the rest of the way.
“I’m getting my baseball back,” Andy thought. He devised a plan instead of listening to his history lesson.
That afternoon Andy walked a different way home. He hid behind a large oak tree on the side of Ben Weaver’s house. He’d find a way in, recover his baseball, and then get home before Ben got there. He tiptoed to the back of the house and peeked in the windows.
It looked like it must be Mrs. Weaver’s bedroom, for she sat in a wheelchair next to the bed, clutching a framed picture to her chest. He wondered if Aunt Bee knew Mrs. Weaver had a white chenille bedspread just like hers, with lines and curlicues running all up and down it.
Andy nearly yelped aloud when Ben Weaver entered the room. He didn’t expect to see him since the store didn’t close for another hour. Andy scrunched down as far as he could, but couldn’t stop watching.
“Hello, Mother o’ mine. How are you?” Ben, or someone who stole the body of Ben Weaver, smiled, picked up a hairbrush from the night stand, and tenderly brushed Mrs. Weaver’s hair.
“Feelin’ poorly, Son.” She hugged the frame closer to herself.
“Do you need the doctor?” Ben set the brush down and rushed to kneel before his mother. He took the picture from her and put it on the nightstand, then took both her hands in his.
“No. This old body is the same as usual. I mean poor in spirit. I miss your pa, and I feel bad that you will have the store now, as well as your old invalid mother to care for. Not what my boy’s dreams were, I know.” She reached to stroke Ben’s hair, and he set his head into her lap.
“Your first little wife died, taking the baby along with her, and then later Earlene Smith jilts you for Arthur Campbell.” She continued to stroke his head. “I’m sorry your pa was always so hard on you. I don’t know how you keep your sweet disposition.”
Andy swallowed a gasp. Sweet disposition?
“All I ever wanted was a family, a wife and lots of kids. I confess the sight of children that could have been mine hurts me to the core. Makes me downright mean sometimes. It just wasn’t meant to be.” He heaved a heavy sigh, but then lifted his head.
“Now, sweet mother, what do you want for supper?” He blinked tears from his eyes, placed his hand on his mother’s cheek, and smiled.
Andy’s letter to Opie: “Now at ten years old, I couldn’t quite comprehend the full measure of what I’d just heard, but I forgot all about my baseball. I began to understand what Aunt Bee meant when she often said, “Things are not always what they seem.” Bless Aunt Bee. I needed her more than ever with what happened next.”
Andy watched the clock on his classroom wall. His pa promised to pick him up after school and take him fishing. The minutes passed like a snail, slow as Christmas, tick tock, tick tock. The bell rang and he nearly tripped as he bolted from his desk.
He’d asked Barney to take his turn cleaning erasers, but felt a little guilty knowing the chalk dust made him cough. On top of that, he didn’t get to go fishing because he still hadn’t memorized the Preamble to the Constitution.
Before long Andy and Pa were floating on Meyer’s Lake in his little boat. Gertrude was newly repaired from when Barney sunk her early in the summer. They cast their rods and munched on Aunt Bee’s bologny sandwiches. Small circles in the water indicated they’d picked a good fishin’ spot.
“Your Aunt Bee and I are real proud of the way you been helpin’ out Barney get adjusted to Mayberry school.” Pa reeled in his line and cast it out again.
Andy just nodded. His pa’s nice words kept him from sayin’ what he’d like to say. Barney was a pain in the rear end, but they were becoming fast friends. Andy’d been in a few scrapes defending Barney’s silly ways, and his pa had looked the other way.
“Not only that, but I know it’s been hard on you since your ma passed. You’ve kinda had to grow up quicker than other boys your age. Ain’t no prouder father in Mayberry than me.” He took one hand off his fishin’ rod and squeezed Andy’s shoulder. “I love you, Son.”
A lump rose up in Andy’s chest. He tried to say it back, but how much he loved his pa was so big it stuck in his throat. He smiled at his father, but looked away. His eyes stung with unshed tears. He couldn’t speak. He made up his mind he’d say it out loud one day soon, on a day he wouldn’t cry.
“So, boy, wanna hear a joke?” He launched right into it without waiting for an answer. “A farmer and his wife went to a fair. The farmer was fascinated by the airplanes and asked a pilot how much a ride would cost."$10 for 3 minutes," replied the pilot. "That's too much," said the farmer. The pilot thought for a second and then said, "I'll make you a deal. If you and your wife ride for 3 minutes without uttering a sound, the ride will be free. But if you make a sound, you'll have to pay $10." The farmer and his wife agreed and went for a wild ride. After they landed, the pilot said to the farmer, "I want to congratulate you for not making a sound. You are a brave man." "Maybe so," said the farmer, "But I gotta tell ya, I almost screamed when my wife fell out."
He slapped his leg and guffawed at his own joke. Andy laughed too, rocking the boat. “We may as well go on home to supper. We’ve scared the fish away.”
Andy and his father laughed over that joke again at breakfast. He looked at his pa before he left for school, but still couldn’t get the words out. “Tonight after supper,” he thought.
Just before lunchtime Principal Kirk came and called Andy out of class. “Andy, you need to go home right away. Come on, I’ll drive you.”
Principal Kirk’s face was gray and scary, but he tried to smile. Something must be wrong. The lump in Andy’s chest grew until it nearly choked him.
Cars were parked all over the street, even in the front yard of the Taylor’s home. Aunt Bee sat on the front porch, crying into a handkerchief. Clara Edwards sat beside her. Sheriff Peveto stood in the doorway, his hat in his hands.
“What’s wrong, Aunt Bee?” He dropped to his knees in front of her.
She looked up and held her arms out. “Oh, Andy. I’m so sorry. Your pa has passed away. My dear brother has died.”
He felt her arms around him. His eyes blinked fast and hard beyond his control. He swallowed to try and keep his stomach from coming up. The people on the porch started spinning around and around. Everything went black.
The Mayberry Funeral Parlor set Calvin Taylor up in the front room of the house in a plain pine box. Andy ventured down the stairs once, but when he saw his pa laid out in a suit and tie he’d never seen before he couldn’t take it.
Barney had been his shadow. Andy was tired of Barn looking all pitiful at him, but somehow he didn’t want him to leave. Barney slept on the floor next to Andy’s bed. His parents tried to make him come home.
“I have to stay with Ange, Mother, you understand,” Barney said. Mrs. Fife only nodded and left him alone.
Groups of folks from Mayberry All Souls Church took turns sitting with the casket. Andy tried to go down again in the night, but sat at the top of the stairs, listening to Clara Edwards and Melba Lawson. Barney sat next to him.
“The poor boy hasn’t said a word since he woke up from passing out.” “Poor Bee, she’ll be doomed to taking care of that child the rest of her life.” “Cal never got over losing his wife, it’s no wonder he succumbed.” “He’ll have to grow up without a father, he’ll never amount to anything now.” “Poor little orphan.”
Andy hung his head. Why wouldn’t the tears come? A numb coldness gripped his chest. He knew the ocean of tears was frozen in there somewhere and if it ever broke, well, he hoped he’d be alone.
“You know what they’s sayin’ ain’t true, Ange. You ain’t no orphan. You got Aunt Bee and Aunt Lucy, and my ma and pa, and well, you got me, Ange. More than cousins, we’re brothers now. And you’ll be just as good a man as your pa. Don’t you worry none about what them old biddies say.” Barney put his arm around Andy.
“I got somethin’ I need to say to Pa. But I want to be alone with him. They’ve got people sittin’ up with him round the clock.
“Ask Aunt Bee to make ‘em leave,” Barney whispered.
“I don’t want to bother her. She is so sad and staying in her room. It’ll all start back up again when Aunt Lucy gets home from the mountains tonight. I don’t know what I’ll do without Pa, Barney, but I have to talk to him alone. You know, before they put him in the ground next to my Ma.” Could he say what burned in his heart? Could Pa hear from heaven?
Barney stood and jumped from the top of the stairs to the bottom. He held his stomach and rolled from side to side, whimpering like a sick cat. He winked at Andy.
“What is wrong with you, child? You’ll wake Bee from what little sleep she’ll be getting these next few days.” Clara Edwards knelt beside him.
“Oh, oh, oh, oooooo,” Barney wailed. He screwed up into a ball.
“We better get him home, Melba. I think he’s sick. What’s more he’ll disturb Bee.” Clara picked Barney up and carried him out the door like a baby, Melba following behind.
Andy didn’t waste a second. He tiptoed down the stairs and walked over to his father’s casket. The tightness in his stomach and constriction in his throat threatened to stop him, but he laid his hand on his pa’s folded arms.
“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you when we were fishin’. I tried but Ma’s face kept coming to my mind and I didn’t want to cry. We’d all just about stopped cryin’ by then. But I love you, Pa. I love you very much. And I’m gonna act like somebody, all my life, just like you told me to. Don’t you worry none, cuz I’m gonna take care of Aunt Bee and Aunt Lucy, and Barney, too. I’m glad you’re gonna be with Ma, but I’m gonna miss you, Pa. I love you.”
Andy let the frozen tears thaw out and flow. He cried until he heard Clara and Melba coming up the walk.
Andy’s letter to Opie: “That was the hardest day for me and Aunt Bee. It was almost too much for me when your Ma died, Opie. I’m glad you were so little when she passed. You are a good son and you have always made me proud. I hope you’ve enjoyed these stories from my bringin’ up. Barney beat all, didn’t he? But you can see why he was always my best friend. I know it looked like I was taking care of him, but he always had my back. That old boy loved me, and I loved him. Now just one more thing…”
“Opie, I found out that Aunt Bee was at the top of the stairs when I was talking to my pa. On her deathbed she held my hand and said, "You kept your promise." I have to say that I had a good life, and I knew deep down that my Mayberry family and friends were my life's work. I tried to do right by them, but I got so much more in return. Love is a mighty powerful thing, Son.
I guess I better sign off now. This letter is getting’ to be more like a book. It’s just a few things I wanted you to know. The people of Mayberry taught me how to find creative ways to do the right thing and yet preserve dignity. I learned how to balance the law with mercy, how to forgive and give people the benefit of the doubt. They taught me about family, loss, and how to have a little fun.
My calling was to devote myself to my family and the people of our town. It was hard to see you go off and work for city folk, but I couldn’t stand in the way of your calling. You put together words that reach many more than the readership of the Mayberry Gazette, and I couldn’t be more proud. I’m so glad we got the chance to say what needed to be said between us, so I won’t go over that again. I can go on to Glory knowing that you know how I feel, and I appreciate the things you said to me.
Now I won’t ask you to move back to Mayberry. Helen’s a pretty independent woman and can most likely get along by herself for a good while yet. I am hoping that you’ll put in a book all the stories I’ve told you, as well as the ones we experienced together. I always said “act like somebody”. Opie, you certainly have.
Opie folded the letter and stuck it in his pocket. He’d laughed and cried all through that letter. He felt under a spell, like his pa was right there with him. He’d blocked out the entire world as he stepped back in time with Pa. Maybe it was time to partially retire. He could send his articles to the Times via internet, and start on that book his pa mentioned. Eunice still had family in Mayberry and had often expressed wanting to move back. So much to think about, but he needed to get back to the house.
Plunk. A rock landed in the water just in front of him. Plunk, plunk, splash. Then another and another. He stood to find all of Mayberry gathering at the lake and tossing rocks in to the water. Helen walked up and slipped her arm through his. A lump stuck in his throat but he didn’t need to talk, nobody did.
Someone started humming one of Pa’s favorite hymns, and before long the words started floating across the lake.
Brightly beams our Father’s mercy from His lighthouse evermore,
But to us He gives the keeping of the lights along the shore.
Let the lower lights be burning! Send a gleam across the wave!
For to us He gives the keeping of the lights along the shore.
But to us He gives the keeping of the lights along the shore.
Let the lower lights be burning! Send a gleam across the wave!
For to us He gives the keeping of the lights along the shore.
It was just Myers Lake, but all along the shore the folks of Mayberry kept a flame burning inside for their beloved Sheriff, Andy Taylor.
The Andy Griffith Show was created by Sheldon Leonard, Danny Thomas, and Aaron Rubin. The sitcom aired between 1960 and 1968, and has been in syndication since that time. The entire eight seasons are available on Netflix. Mayberry Days are held yearly in Mount Airy, North Carolina, Andy Griffith’s home town. The Andy Griffith Show Rerun Watchers Club is a popular forum for die hard fans.
Thanks for the opportunity to have fun with some of my all time favorite characters. A young friend of mine recently stated that she’d never watched The Andy Griffith Show, to which I felt like replying “Citizen’s arrest, citizen’s arrest! Child, your education is incomplete.” You can’t learn much about what was really going on in the 1960s from the Andy Griffith Show, but its homespun principles and humor is part of the fabric of the baby boomer generation.Jody Bailey Day