Thursday, July 24, 2008

Rusty Pails #44:
The Return of the King

by Rocky Macy

Shadetree Mike is home!

The boys and I were sitting under the big oak across the road from Ermine’s Coffee Bar, enjoying an afternoon game of dominoes, when a big rig pulled up and ejected the Dean of Dominoes and his claptrap suitcase. The trucker didn’t even come to a complete stop. We watched as Mike dusted himself off and picked up his suitcase. He took a long look at the new sign on his old “Pump and Git”, studied the lacy curtains in the clean windows, and then marched inside like he owned the place.

Our interest in dominoes was suddenly put on hold. Heck suggested that we start a pool on how long it would take Ermine to show Mike the door. We each pitched in a dollar, and Truman, who had only pitched in an I.O.U., took the pot with his guess of seven minutes. (My dollar was on two minutes, so I was sorely disappointed when Ermine cut him some slack!)

We were back into the game by the time Mike ambled across the road, empty-handed, to fill the air with gaseous tales about his trip to California. Heck was the first to acknowledge him. “Hey, Buddy, did the little woman forget to throw your suitcase out with you?”

“She’s going to wash my vacation clothes.”

“Yeah, so she can take them down to Esther’s place and sell them!” The Judge interjected. Shadetree Mike wasn’t going to get much slack from us!

“What do you think about what she’s done to the place?” I ventured as Mike seated himself at the table.

“Well, I’ll tell you this, Rusty…there must be twenty or more Sprung Hinge females in there sipping coffee and munching on pastry. I suspect that she’s making good money.”

“But she’s destroyed our cultural heritage!” Heck blustered. “We can’t let her get away with that!”

“Doesn’t seem to be much we can do about it.” Mike said, much too passively for our liking. “Back when we bought the place her mother, The Duke, put up the cash and insisted that the deed be put in Ermine’s name.”

“You mean the place is really her’s!” I sputtered.

"Lock, stock, and frilly curtains," he admitted. "But she says I can still live there if I earn my keep." We all shook our heads sadly 'cause we knew that work wasn't Shadetree Mike's strong suit. I guess he read our minds and agreed with our conclusion, because the next thing he said was, "Say, Rusty, I don't guess you'd mind making room for me at your place - just til I get things sorted out with Ermine?"

"Yes," I admitted, "I guess I would mind. If you moved in, Baker would move out - and I'd miss her something fierce!"

"If push comes to shove," Heck volunteered, "we can set up our tents down at the creek and fish until the weather turns cold. I can wait until spring to finish painting my barn." That made sense. He had already waited several springs to finish that little chore. "That would give you a couple of months to worm your way back into her good graces."

"That's right!" I chimed in. "A worm like you ought to be able to move a ton of dirt in two months!"

"Good plan!" Mike declared as he jumped to his feet. "We can start by moving my domino table and chairs to the campsite."

"Your table!" Judge Redbone exploded. "The table and the chairs will be yours when you cough up the two-hundred-and-ninety-nine dollars and ten cents that we paid for them!"

"You boys paid three hundred dollars for this pile of junk!" Mike said in disbelief. "Now I know she's gonna be successful in business!" And he laughed and laughed, but the rest of us didn't join in. It's hard to laugh at a joke when you're the punch line!

Leastways, that's how I see it!

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