Somebody slid the fancy envelope under my front door during the night, or leastways before noon today. It was expensive stationery, leading me to wonder why the sender had resorted to hand-delivery. But then I thought about the price of stamps - and our nosy postmistress, Eula Merry Lickspittle, and decided there were advantages to doing it this way.
I wasn't sure what to expect as I ran the blade of my well-worn pocket knife along the edge of the envelope, but I suspected that it was an announcement from somebody begging a gift for graduation, a wedding, or a baby shower. Around these parts it ain't unheard of for all three of those announcements to arrive in the same envelope!
But the engraved card that I pulled from the envelope wasn't about any of that stuff. It was something totally unexpected - an invite to Shadetree Mike's 60th birthday bash. It was to be held this Saturday night at the home of his "special" friend, Gladys Clench, and Mr. Rusty Pails "and guest" were invited.
Well, the thought of Shadetree Mike having a birthday wasn't so surprising. Birthdays happen. And I guess I wasn't too surprised at Gladys throwing him him a party. She had spent the last couple of months scrubbing him up and teaching him some manners, and now she wanted to show him off. The surprising aspect of the invite was that it was honoring Mike's 60th birthday, an event that I clearly remembered celebrating down on the creek bank several years ago!
Shadetree Mike has been my best friend for many years - if you don't count Esther Pearl, Heck Frye, Truman Treetopper, Judge Rufus T. Redbone, and Baker my faithful dog - but I hadn't had many opportunities to be around him since Ermine pitched him out and Gladys pulled him in. We had to move our domino game from the Pump and Git after Ermine turned it into a biscuit boutique, and after we got the new game going at Esther's Pearls and Swine, Mike couldn't ever seem to fit it into his schedule. One day while we were sitting up by the front window of Esther's shop playing dominoes, Gladys walked by with Mike following meekly behind carting their groceries. He gazed in as they went by, and it looked to me as if he was going to cry.
"Well, did you see that?" Heck lamented. "He didn't even slow down."
"He wanted to," said the Judge rising to Mike's defense, "but Gladys kept jerking his leash!"
The first thing that I had to do to get ready for the big party was come up with a gift for the birthday boy. Fortunately, since I never miss an auction, I have a shed packed with lots of great stuff to choose from. I wanted the perfect gift for my buddy, something that would let him assert his manhood and drive Gladys crazy in the process.
I considered a slightly used whoopee cushion, but decided that it might be looked at as a trifle on the cheap side. Then I pulled out a wobbly lawn stool that was a metal tractor seat connected to a base by a really big spring. It was comfortable, but Mike would probably fall off of it and break his danged neck. The trash (treasure, I mean!) was beginning to pile up in front of the shed by the time I found the perfect birthday gift - a big, plaid, Scottish bagpipe! I gave it a blow to make sure it worked, and the racket that came out of the thing set Baker to howling and the emu's running for cover. Just danged perfect! Now I wished that I had bought the kilt, too!
And I would take the whoopee cushion along for entertainment!
The next thing I had to do was come up with a "guest." This was going to be too much fun to enjoy all by myself. My first call was to Esther Pearl who said that she couldn't go because she had plans to get the corns on her feet sanded that night. I told her that sounded painful, and she shot back that it would not be nearly as painful as spending an evening in the same room with Gladys Clench. She had me there!
Heck Frye was next on my list. He wanted to know would I be getting him a corsage if he was my date for the evening, and I told him no corsage, but I might fix him up with a cauliflower ear! Turns out Heck had his own invite anyway and was taking the new waitress from the Spit and Whittle Cafe. Then I called Judge Redbone and Truman Treetopper, in that order, and learned that both of them also had their own invites. Gladys had covered all the bases!
I considered going by myself, or truck-pooling with the other bachelors, but there is something about me that is too frugal to let "and guest" go to waste. Who did I know that would enjoy going and probably didn't get invited? And then it hit me. I knew just who to bring along that would guarantee to make the party one for the books and set all the tongues to wagging.
I had one more call to make.
"Hello, Ermine? This here's Rusty Pails. Are you up for a little fun on Saturday night?"