1. At this time of the year they and the earth collide
  2. A chain of little blue flowers
  3. Better than reality


When, against all prognostications, Chet Thurber survived to see his eightieth birthday, his neighbors decided to throw a birthday bash for him. You might assume that this was because of their great fondness for the old man, but you’d be wrong. People in that part of town just liked to party.

It was Thurber’s own fault if he was somewhat lacking in truly warm and sympathetic companionship. He was a surly fellow, with a tendency toward loud and obnoxious airings of his own opinions while showing a stubborn indifference to anyone else’s thoughts. The common assumption was that old Chester’s nose sat permanently off-center simply because he got it out of joint so often.

Mrs. Bernard was the first one to bring up the birthday party.

“There’s nothing else to do the rest of the summer anyway, and Chester’s not such a bad old coot once you get to know him,” she told her neighbor Dave. “Besides, I have bushels of tomatoes that will all be ripe by then. We could picnic at Schindler Park and I can bring chips and fresh tomato salsa.”

Dave, who’d tasted Mrs. Bernard’s salsa, was a bit less enthusiastic. He certainly didn’t mind the idea of a get together, but was more inclined toward a little music and a lot of booze.

“You know, Betty,” he said carefully, “it’s been a long time since we had a bluegrass night. How about combining the two things?”

Betty Bernard sniffed and stared somewhere past his left ear. “I suppose we could,” she finally agreed. ” After all, she could still bring her famous salsa along. “Chet Thurber hasn’t played with the group for over a year, though, ever since he got that wart on his string finger. The mandolin part never sounded right after that. Maybe the others won’t want to invite him back. He’ll want to play, you know.”

“Well,” Dave said. “If we round up all the groups we could just play right over the top of him. If everyone showed, we’d have maybe a hundred pickers, not just the eight in our own branch of the club. We could get the word out and make it two weeks from Saturday. There’s time.”

Dave was getting into the spirit. The festivals they’d put together in the past had been great.