Welcome to What-A-Burger # Unknown
"Seldom, very seldom, does complete truth belong to any human disclosure; seldom can it happen that something is not a little disguised or a little mistaken."
― Jane Austen
The Housatonic River wraps and winds itself around a small village within the shadows of the Berkshires. Cradled within its green and showy depths, lies Haworth Adams; a small liberal arts college for men.
Haworth Adams, or Old Howie as the boys refer to it, has been 'Making history in Western Massachusetts since 1801.'
(I didn't coin this expression; I borrowed it from the school's glossy catalog.)
However, the history mentioned above, in its two hundred plus years of existence, was never meant to be the sensational type that I will personally leave.
Although in years to come I sincerely doubt Howie will advertise my name in connection with its slogan.
It is at Haworth-Adams where my story first begins; however, where this story ends is a matter of great debate.
Still, as Julie Andrews once sang, 'Let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.'
Thus, I will begin this tale with a simple truth.
Every school in the United States, and most likely, in the world, has a beloved educator, bar none.
From the smallest elementary school to the largest university, there is that one teacher, counselor, professor, or college Dean, to whom everyone gravitates. It's almost as if they have within their very beings, a magnet that draws students inside their offices for deep discussions about deteriorating grades, or for a nonsensical discourse about the questionable entrées dished up weekly in the student dining hall.
His students (for it is most often a position filled by a man) simply adore, no, revere him.
He is the man about campus, the person you want to be, or failing that, wish to be with; a true legend in the making.
His colleagues attempt in vain to emulate his style, and pattern themselves after his character, but unfortunately for them, they fall short, abominably.
He is in a class of his own.
He has that certain something, which the French call Joie de vivre, a joy of living, an exultation of spirit, if you will. It can never be imitated or learned regardless the effort one employs.
It is simply innate.
At Haworth-Adams, where I am a Professor of Literature, we had James Witherdale.
I'd heard of him, of course. The faculty lounge in a college or university setting is much the same as the ones in public schools; a meeting place where colleagues have the opportunity to bitch, moan, and gossip. Albeit, all conducted under the guise of communicating; we are an institute of higher learning, after all.
I was sitting at the table nearest to the door when he blew into the lounge one rainy Thursday at the beginning of spring semester. He entered the room with a group of upperclassmen and Stuart Berty, the Dean of Admissions, at his heels.
I had just returned from taking a sabbatical in England and my head was still full of lonely moors, high teas, and tweeds.
There he stood, a perfect mess, clad in heavy, wax cloth Barbour, a proper pair of Wellies, and a patina of rain.
He shook himself as he entered the room, and the rain flew into the air like a magical mist that hung midair for a moment and then fell with tiny plops all around us.
His entourage, for that's what they were, cackled loudly. No one seemed to mind that they were now also covered in the wet outdoors–not even the Dean, who was a fussy old codger on the cusp of retirement.
I took a casual sip of tea, brushed the rain off my shoulders, and gave him an appraising look over my dog-eared copy of Pride and Prejudice, which was now sprinkled liberally with dew.
The first thing I noticed about James Witherdale was his eyes. They were the exact color of Windex; clear, unadulterated blue, without a hint of guile. They were the kind of eyes that looked happy and innocent, with long lashes that framed them spectacularly, and the tiniest crinkles around the corners, which should have made him appear to be older, yet only served to make him all the more boyish.
The second thing I noticed about him was his laugh; he had the best laugh of anyone I had ever known; jolly, carefree, and exuberant. The man practically brayed when he was filled with mirth, which, as previously stated, was his natural countenance. Writing this description makes him sounds rather obnoxious, I know, but I assure you nothing could be further from the truth; his laughter was both contagious and intoxicating.
The third thing I noticed about him was his kindness. As I continued to glance at him over Mrs. Bennett's lamentations regarding her erstwhile husband's lack of interest in her nerves, I saw him fish some change from his pockets. He gave each student a pile of coins so they could buy themselves a treat.
As they happily began to feed the vending machines, he asked that they buy a pack of Nabs for the Dean, who grinned openly like a fool, and a Bit-O-Honey for his secretary, Mrs. Pickler; "A sweet for the sweet," he laughed.
Everyone knew that Mrs. Pickler was about as sweet as a pickle barrel.
He looked over at me and grinned, cheekily.
"What is your pleasure, madam? Let me guess … a bar of chocolate to match your eyes or would you prefer something a bit fruity to match your scent?" He asked, in a charming British accent.
You are no doubt wondering why anyone would admire a man whose pickup lines sound like something out of an Edwardian novel. But what you can't hear was the manner in which he delivered these words; he was self-deprecating, teasing, and sincere, all at once.
I blushed into my mug; I was wearing a new body lotion that I had purchased from Crabtree and Evelyn only a mere week ago, Pear and Pink Magnolia.
Dean Berty chuckled over his crackers and introduced us. I watched in amusement as the crumbs fought to cling to his salt and pepper beard, then fell onto his cravat, which he dismissed with a brush of his beefy paw.
James Witherdale gave me a small wink and the tiniest of smiles that soon morphed into a full on grin. I found myself smiling in return.
"Dr. Swan, I don't believe you have had the pleasure of meeting the college's most successful recruiter, James Witherdale? James will be taking my place as the new Dean of Admissions. I am retiring at the end of term."
I offered my hand to James Witherdale and a feeling of warmth enveloped me.
"James, this is Isabella Swan, the youngest professor of Literature that Old Howie has ever employed. She just returned from taking a sabbatical in your native country."
"Aha … I see that you are reluctant to take leave of merry old England …. a cuppa, a tweed jacket, and Mr. Darcy? Perhaps our meeting will help fill the terrible void," he teased. My face heated at his jest.
"Mm, and you're just as pink as an English Rose. Ooh, I am going to enjoy getting to know you!" He declared as he released my hand; a feeling I was reluctant to lose. He carefully placed his belongings on the floor and sat down in the seat beside me.
He leaned over and tucked a loose tendril of hair that had escaped from my chignon, behind my ear. I jumped, startled at his unexpected touch.
"Sorry, I hope you don't mind."
His apology was laced with humor, which made me certain that he wasn't sorry at all.
For some reason, his audacity amused me. I chuckled at his woebegone expression and shook my head.
His demeanor was so effusive that the space was alight with cheerfulness and washed with sunshine, even though it was pouring outside the long windows that flanked both sides of the room.
We spent a happy hour at this table and James soon had all of us laughing and joking along with him. Even the old librarian, Miss Charlotte, who rarely cracked anything other than a book, was giggling like a school girl.
To know James, was to love him.
And within six weeks of our first encounter,
And six weeks later,
I killed him.
Welcome to What-A-Burger # Unknown!
For those of you who have been following facebook discussions about this story, you might have the idea that this is a humorous spoof on Southern culture, cuisine, and its people.
I am married to a Southern man, have Southern children, and I have lived down South for over 25 years. However, as Southerners are wont to say:
"Just because their kids were born here, it don't make them Southern. My dog sleeps in the garage, it don't make him a truck."
Therefore, I will treat this story with the utmost respect. Besides, if I disrespected The South my sister-in-law, Pookie, would kick my ass into next Thursday. ( It will, however, be sprinkled liberally with colorful sayings, and sometimes, rather bawdy, expressions. I mean ... it's the South, not Regency England.)
At the heart, this is a story about friendship, love, and self-discovery. There will be moments of angst, hurt-comfort, friendship, romance, and humor, through-out. Since FF does not have "LIFE" as an option, I have elected to categorize it as Drama.
I hope you will join me on this journey; I am very excited to share it with you!
The first chapter will be posted soon.
Thank you for your support!
PS: I would like to thank Southern Charm and Oldenuf2knobeta for pre-reading, and of course, to Sunflower Fran, my fic Sis, for beta-ing! xxoo
Also a BIG thank you to Cared for the fantastic banner! You can check it out on my fb profile. I am Jayne Withay.