Al Ainsworth.com

Writing stories to pass values from one generation to the next

Abercrombie Jumps on the Grill

Abercrombie

Abercrombie“Abercrombie Jumps on the Grill” is an excerpt from my book Lines in the Gravel (and 52 Other Re-Told Childhood Tales). The book promotes generational legacy through story by telling the story of one Mississippi family.

Though no animals were (permanently) harmed in the telling or re-telling of this story, jumping on top of a grill in the throes of cooking burgers is still not advisable for your pets. So please advise them accordingly…for their own safety.

Click here to read the title chapter: “Lines in the Gravel”

Purchase a signed copy of Lines in the Gravel (and 52 Other Re-Told Childhood Tales).

AbercrombieAbercrombie Jumps on the Grill

My sisters were terrible at naming animals. They named a cat Kiki – because, you know, cats come when you call, “Ki ki ki ki ki.” We had a dog named Jobo, which my brother and I claimed was short for Joseph Beauregard – maybe that’s why he growled and tried to attack us every time we approached my sisters’ room. Jobo was not a bad name itself; however, while we had Jobo, we got a cat that they named. . . Bo. Oh, that was creative. As usual, my brother and I took to renaming the cat to something more appropriate.

Bo was ultimately renamed Abercrombie. No, not after the clothing company; that didn’t exist then. After the former Baylor University running back who was then playing for the Pittsburg Steelers, Walter Abercrombie. The cat didn’t remind us of Walter Abercrombie in the least; Andy and I just liked the unusual name. So Bo became Abercrombie, at least to my brother and me.

Abercrombie provided the most indistinguishable moment between real life and cartoon life that I have ever experienced. The setting was on our back porch on a Friday night. I know it was a Friday night because Mom was grilling hamburgers, and we ate hamburgers almost every Friday night of my growing-up years. Dad and Andy and I were sitting outside talking while Mom was putting the hamburgers on the grill. The grill was located near the edge of the concrete so that the grease drippings that weren’t caught by the drip can would fall on the ground. All of our animals – dogs and cats alike – were scavengers who eagerly awaited the grease drippings. On this particular Friday night, Abercrombie was first in line.

Maybe he thought he would get bumped in line later by one of the dogs. Maybe he had a heightened sense of adventure on this particular night. Maybe he just wasn’t thinking because he was a dumb cat (and, yes, I do realize that dumb cat is a redundant term). Regardless of the reason, as the pleasant aroma of grilling burgers began to permeate our immediate area, Abercrombie’s curiosity was aroused. The time came for Mom to flip the burgers, and when she raised the top to the grill, the pleasant Friday night aroma exploded into a pungent combination of sizzle, smoke, and smell of perfectly seasoned beef. This was more than Abercrombie could stand, so much so that all of us took notice. All of us, that is, except Mom – and she was the only one who could have stopped what happened next.

As Mom flipped the last burger and closed the grill as she turned away, Abercrombie seized his opportunity to skip from sumptuous grease drippings to their source. He glanced left, quickly scanned back to the right, and leapt. I’m not sure what he expected at the apex of his jump, perhaps a table set for curious cats who skip steps to secure culinary shortcuts, but what he landed on was a grill lid that was hotter than his little paws were prepared to handle.

The following moment – though it spanned maybe three seconds – was a collision of real life with super slow mo. The reality of the scorching grill did not strike Abercrombie until he had stood still for a full second, and then the scene that I had seen many times in various Saturday morning cartoons came alive on our back porch on a Friday night. Four paws went four directions with Abercrombie’s tail extended due south. Hair all over his terrified body stood straight up as he pronounced his panic from this startling turn of events.

And just like that, the scene was over. Mom turned around to see what this ruckus was behind her, a ruckus that had Andy, Dad, and I doubled over, clutching our sides. To her, it was a quick little commotion; to us, it was a moment that has now been frozen for over 30 years, an unexpected comic relief on an otherwise humdrum hamburger Friday night.

AbercrombieThere are chapters of my book that have stood out to people who didn’t grow up in my hometown because the stories are so universal (at least the part of the universe in the South…and to some points beyond). I have heard from others who rummaged through the church closets to find something to make into a ball and something to hit it with after family night suppers. I have laughed as others have recounted their first-time experiences with smokeless tobacco. Though readers find my family’s cat-naming techniques a little unique, there is no shortage of funny animal stories in the South!

Order Lines in the Gravel (and 52 Other Re-Told Childhood Tales) and start connecting with some of your own stories that you may have forgotten:

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About Al Ainsworth

Al Ainsworth is a values storyteller. He works with individuals, businesses, churches, and other organizations to pass along their values through the stories they tell…and re-tell.

Al is the author of Lines in the Gravel, Stories from the Roller Coaster (of a Faith Life), and the Coach Dave series. Subscribe to his email list for more values storying.

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