The Best Place – the story of two women who grew up in Marquette’s Holy Family Orphanage and their lifelong friendship.
So on the Fourth of July, Bel comes over for breakfast, and I have to admit she tries really hard. I tell her when she gets there that I’m making scrambled eggs, but she says, “No, that ain’t festive enough for the Fourth of July.” Then she sticks in a video of this silly musical called 1776 that has that bad film look like most of those movies made in the ’60s and ’70s. And it seems like it’s all about Thomas Jefferson’s sex life from what little bit of it I actually pay attention to—and she tells me just to sit there and have my coffee and enjoy myself while she makes pancakes. So I says, “Okay,” to make her happy, and I drink two cups of coffee and pretend to watch half the movie, and I’m just about ready to keel over from hunger when she finally tells me she’s done.
So I drag myself out of the chair and go over to the table and I think, “What the hell did she bake a cake for?” Only, it’s not a cake. It’s a stack of pancakes, and she’s covered the top one in strawberry and blueberry jam and whipping cream so it looks all red, white, and blue, and then she’s got a little American flag on a toothpick attached to it. “I wanted to put in a sparkler,” she says, “but I was afraid it would set off the fire alarm, and I didn’t think we’d use a whole box of them—they don’t sell them separately,” she says.
“It’s pretty, Bel,” I says, “but I don’t like whipping cream, you know.”
“That’s okay. I’ll eat the top one—oh, I forgot the candle I bought to replace the sparkler.”
And then she grabs two giant birthday candles off the cupboard of the numbers “7” and “6.” They’re the same ones she used for my birthday cake last year.
“What’s that for?” I asks.
“It’s America’s birthday today,” she says. “It’s the Spirit of ’76. Don’t you remember that from history class?”
I remember birthday cakes have candles to represent a person’s age, not the year they were born, but I s’pose she couldn’t do the math to figure it out—two hundred and…and…twenty-nine it would be—2005 minus 1776.
“Let’s eat,” I says, but first I have to use the bathroom from drinking all that coffee while I waited.
I go in the bathroom and sit down, and can’t help laughing to myself about the pancakes covered in jam with “76” sticking out of them. That’d be one to take a picture of if my Kodak disc camera hadn’t broken. I haven’t bought a new one—those new digital things are just too expensive as far as I’m concerned. And I don’t have a computer to read them on.
Well, we have a nice breakfast. I eat far more pancakes than I normally would, but Bel says we need to eat extra to keep up our strength for walking to the parade. It’s on Washington Street, just two blocks from Snowberry, but whatever.
After breakfast, I wash up the dishes while she watches the rest of 1776. For the rest of the day, I’ll hear her humming that song about Jefferson playing the violin.
“We can watch Yankee Doodle Dandy tonight, Lyla,” she says.
“Great,” I think, but I just says, “Okay.” Maybe I’ll be lucky and fall asleep by then.
“While we wait for the fireworks,” she says.
I’d forgotten about the fireworks, but I can see them great where they shoot them off over the old ore dock right from my window. It’s one of the few advantages of living high up in a skyscraper—well, at least the closest thing to a skyscraper that Marquette’s got.
When it’s time for the parade, we . . . (Read the rest of this section here.)