Saturday, November 1, 2014
Rusty Pails #54: Trick or Treat!
by Rocky Macy
I hadn’t intended to spend Halloween night in jail.
In fact, I hadn’t been in jail since the time a group of us broke into Gladys Clench’s hen house to kidnap her prize hen, Ruby Bee. We would have gotten away with the caper, too, if Truman Treetopper hadn’t started shaking when all the hens woke up and began making a racket. That’s when he dropped the lantern and burned the danged place down!
Now the sheriff has the same four of us locked up again – me, Heck Frye, Judge Rufus T. Redbone, and Truman, of course. Shadetree Mike was helping Ermine hand out candy to the little axe murderers and hobgoblins, or he would probably be cluttering up our cell, too.
The story began at a sale, that’s my specialty, after all. Raquel Rainwater was selling off her mama’s things so she could put the family home on the market and move into the empty apartment above Esther Pearl’s junk store, “Esther’s Pearls and Swine.”
Raquel showed up in town just after her mama’s funeral, and oddly enough, her twin brother, Rupert, who had always lived in Sprung Hinge up until that time, disappeared that same day. Raquel said he moved to the coast and enrolled in art school. She made herself at home in her mama’s house and took over running the mail route for Rupert. But now, several months later, she was ready to move into an apartment and enjoy the conveniences of living in town.
Don’t ask me what those conveniences are!
I got to the sale early because there was something that I hoped would be on the auction block. Years ago when I stopped by the Rainwater place to ask Rupert’s advice on mixing catfish bait, I noticed an old ornate trunk in the shed where he kept his fishing gear. Being more than just mildly nosy, I asked him about it. Rupert said it was full of his late father’s antique hand tools. When I asked if I could see them, he acted very suspicious and said that the trunk was locked and he didn’t know where the key was. It was a nice trunk, Rupert said, and he didn’t want to bust the lock off.
When I got to the sale I scouted around and found the old trunk sitting up on a couple of sawhorses beneath a spreading oak. Esther Pearl was leaning on it eating a ham sandwich and listening to Raquel’s memories of some of the items that were going to be in the sale. (Esther had been a bit put off by Raquel when she first showed up in Sprung Hinge, but now those two gals were tighter than Shadetree Mike’s grip on a dollar.)
The trunk caused a bit of a stir when it’s turn came. The auctioneer tried to fan the fires of curiosity by talking about how heavy it was and how there was no key so whoever bought it would have to bust it open to see what they had purchased. It was going to go high, but I was ready. I had cashed out my change jars, called in a couple of loans, and sold a some of my old treasures. I was going to have me those vintage hand tools – or someone else was going to pay dearly for the pleasure of keeping me from them.
I held back as the bidding got under way so that I could see which way the sale wind was blowing. The bidders weren’t as curious as the auctioneer hoped they would be, and most quickly lost interest as the bid inched upward, dollar by dollar. Finally my buddy, Esther, jumped the bid twenty dollars and everybody else backed off. That’s when I stepped in and jumped it another twenty.
The auctioneer looked at Esther and asked if she wanted to go another twenty. No, she snapped – obviously angry that I had gotten in the way of her purchase – I’ll go fifty more! The auctioneer was flabbergasted. He turned to me to see if I was as crazy as Esther, and I was. I jumped the bid by another fifty dollars, and Esther turned on her heel and marched off in a huff – or was it a snit?
After the boys and I got the old trunk to my house, we tried several buckets of rusted keys that we had collected among ourselves over the years, but none would open the trunk. Finally we gave up and busted the lock open with a hammer and chisel. Everyone stepped back and stared in sober silence as I lifted the lid to reveal my treasure trove of antique hand tools.
As the lid opened wide, I saw several ladies dresses nicely folded over the top of my collection of old tools. I carefully removed that strange packing and set them aside – only to reveal more dresses! Now I started pitching the dresses aside as fast as I could. Dresses! More dresses! And not just any dresses – old dresses – stuff my grandmother would have worn if she hadn’t preferred overalls!
The whole danged trunk was filled with ladies wearing apparel – mostly dresses, with the odd assortment of silk blouses, old coats, hats, and some dime store jewelry.
It was going to make my next yard sale interesting!
Then Heck and Judge Redbone went on a root beer run and I made a big platter of Rustwiches. It wasn’t until after the third root beer run that we began playing dress up, and one more beer run after that when we all headed out to Gladys Clench’s place to trick-or-treat. If she would have been more pleasant and put some treats in our gunny sacks, we would have never backed over her old outhouse, and she probably would not have called the sheriff.
Now Gladys had filed an injunction, the sheriff won’t let us change out of our costumes, and Esther won’t go our bail unless I give her the trunk of vintage women’s wear. Half of the town has been by to laugh at us and take pictures, and the sheriff says if we haven’t been bailed out by tomorrow morning, he is going to put us on a chain gang to pull weeds and pick up trash along the highway – in our party dresses!
And Esther, Raquel, and even Gladys Clench are all acting pretty smug about our predicament.
That’s the trouble with Halloween in Sprung Hinge – too many danged witches!