Isn’t that the craziest thing you ever heard?

“A good writer is always a people watcher and eavesdropper.”

— I overheard that somewhere.

– – – – – –

It was simply awful.

How could such a terrible thing have occurred right here in our town?

Last week, I was hardly settled at my table in a local eatery when I overheard a conversation nearby. Now I wasn’t eavesdropping, you understand, I just couldn’t help but hear what the two were talking about.

In my defense, they were talking loudly, and well … I’m a trained journalist. Supposed to “keep my ear to the ground.” Right?

“You just don’t know,” one said to the other. “He may very well be hospitalized for months.”

“In the wrong place at the wrong time,” said the second conversationalist. “And he paid the price for it.”

Who had fallen victim to this terrible tragedy, and what was it? I had to find out but keeping up with the conversation was challenging. Especially while I was trying to decide between chicken salad or a hamburger for lunch.

“Well,” I overheard, “I guess you know his wife is seeing her attorney. And I don’t mean professionally … if you get my drift.”

A scandal as well. What a juicy story. Curiosity was killing me. How could someone be in the news business in this community and not have a clue who these two were talking about?

I had to find out.

Maybe I could hear better if I went back to the salad bar one more time. I just wasn’t sure how many plates of lettuce, tomatoes and honey Dijon might look suspiciously frequent. And if the waitress decided to tack on an extra charge for multiple salad bar trips, this could be expensive information.

The lunch hour chatter made details difficult to understand, even as I stood next to the pair and filled my plate with more bean salad. “I realize,” one of them continued, “There was some question as to who his secretary married after she left town following the accident, but I don’t believe the two incidents were related at all. Do you?”

“Then there’s that thing about Jamie confronting Marley about her scheme to adopt Olivia’s baby. Not to mention, Jake trying to enlist Hannah in his plan to win back Paulina.”

To get closer, I thought about searching the floor pretending to look for a lost contact lens before I remembered. I’m wearing glasses today.

“You know who his first wife is, don’t you?”

“Who? Who,” I thought, leaning over so far I nearly fell out of my chair?

“She works for the CIA and lives in the same town. She’s married to the stepson of the doctor that’s treating him at the hospital, and no one suspects a thing. Can you believe it?”

“Wow,” I thought. I never realized anything like this was going on. All this time, I thought the buzz about getting ready for the Poultry Festival and the new traffic light at Walmart were the hot topics.

The waitress asked softly, “Sir,” are you all right? You have three plates of salad, and you haven’t taken the first bite. You seem to be in another world.”

“Another World,” I repeated aloud?

“Yes,” one of the conversationalists turned toward me and exclaimed. “I’ve been trying to catch up on old soap opera reruns on one of those new streaming channels. So … do you happen to know anything about what’s happening on ‘As the World Turns?'”

“No,” I replied politely. “I wouldn’t know anything about that.”

“I’m fine,” I whispered to the waitress as I shook my napkin, placed it in my lap, and continued. “Have you ever noticed how some folks get caught up in those silly soap operas,” I asked her? “My grandmother used to watch them. Always called it ‘watching her stories.’ I think she believed they were real people,” I added with a chuckle.

“Isn’t that the craziest thing you’ve ever heard?”

—Leon Aldridge

– – – – – – –

Aldridge columns are published in these Texas newspapers: The Center Light and Champion, the Mount Pleasant Tribune,  the Rosenberg Fort Bend Herald, the Taylor Press, the Alpine Avalanche, and The Fort Stockton Pioneer.

© Leon Aldridge and A Story Worth Telling 2022. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Leon Aldridge and A Story Worth Telling with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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