Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Rusty Pails #17
A Trip to Florida

by Rocky Macy

Bachelors have to ford some streams that married men never even see. Leastways, that’s the way it seems to me.

I was sitting on the radiator in the back of the room watching the auctioneer work his way through a stack of bed linens and bath towels when the first signs of trouble hit. The nausea and sudden desire to fight my way outside and into the fresh air told me that a major flu bug had just set up camp in my innards.

Esther Pearl caught up with me as I stumbled out the door and onto the lawn. She asked, in a sisterly sort of way, where I was headed. “Florida,” I said. “Should be gone about a week.” Esther would know what to do.

That night and the entire next day I stayed under the covers. ‘Long about afternoon the phone began ringing, but I was too sick – and too smart – to answer. At dusk, just after I’d let Baker out for her constitutional, a car pulled up the drive. The solid pounding at the old door told me the visitor was either Sprung Hinge’s most aggressive – and annoying – politician, Judge Rufus T. Redbone, or Ermine’s mother, The Duke. I pulled the covers up over my head and waited for the intruder to despair and leave.

It was an hour or so later when the next visitor arrived. This time there was no pounding at the door, only the insistent tapping on my bedroom window pane and the soothing voice of Esther. “Rusty Pails, get your carcass out of bed and let me in!” Not wanting to complicate stomach flu with bodily injury, I did as I was told.

Esther waxed philosophic as we sat in the darkened living room eating the chicken soup and saltines that she had brought. “You’re paranoid, Rusty, plain and simple.”

“Having you park your car behind the house ain’t paranoia, Esther. It’s just a necessary precaution.”

“And you’re an egotist to boot!” She poured a second round of soup and continued. “The single ladies of Sprung Hinge lost interest in assaulting your bachelorhood a long time ago. They’ve all moved on to greener pastures.”

“Not all,” I said, peering through the curtains. A car had shut off its lights down at the end of the lane, and the occupant was getting out. “You did tell folks that I’d gone to Florida?” I whispered as Esther and I each watched the nocturnal visitor come stealing to the house carrying what looked suspiciously like a picnic basket. “You know, Esther, there ain’t no easier mark for a sinister spinster than a sick bachelor.”

My latest visitor sat the bundle down gently on the front porch and retreated to the shadows of the old shed. It only took seconds for my cabin to become saturated with the heavenly aroma of fried chicken and hot apple pie.

Esther clamped onto my arm. Her tight grip might have been a result of sudden hunger pangs, but I suspect she wanted to keep me from going for my gun and trying to liberate the basket in a hail of bullets!

Before I could think of a new plan, the night exploded with a scream. “Bad dog!” yelled Gladys Clench, heading toward the porch at full throttle. “Bad dog! Bad dog!” Baker, old but foolish, took off lickety-split for points unknown with Gladys in hot pursuit. When the dust had settled, Baker had the chicken, Esther and I had the pie, Gladys had the gate, and I got to stay in Florida!

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