You caught me!
Well, I confess that sometimes I sit a spell thinking back on older days and folk dead and gone. But tell you what – their stories walk around in my mind like a rooster in a henhouse. Pull up a chair and I’ll tell you one or two – mostly true.
You’ll be glad you did, I guarantee it!
Find a Wise Ass Before It’s Too Late!
(Apologies to William Goldman and Moshe – sort of)
So, way back, there was a prophet that hurled deadly curses for a living. If you had the money, he had the spell that could knock the eyes out of the damned at forty feet.
One day, after some slick bargaining that enhanced his profits and prestige, he hired out to a king who wanted to curse a crowd of hungry immigrants about to cross the border. He was worried being how he didn’t have a wall to stop them since Mexico didn’t exist yet and wouldn’t have paid for it if it had. Rumor had it that God liked those folks and told the curser to keep his arsenal to himself. But being how he was a prophet of profits, he decided to curse away.
He hopped on his little ass and headed for a high spot so he could doom the whole crowd with a single shot. After he rode for a bit, the ass suddenly swerved off the road, stumbled across a ditch, and came to a dead stop in a field. He tried to get her back on the road, but the ass wouldn’t budge. So, the prophet took a big stick and beat the little critter with enough abuse to earn the disgusted denunciator an orange suit and a room full of bearded girlfriends.
“Get your dumb ass moving,” he shouted.
“Why are you beating me?” asked the ass thereby belying the assertion it was dumb.
“Because you’re making me late! Shoot fire! If I had a sword, I’d slice you into, uh, into, hmmm, ah! Into donkey delmonicos!” He laughed. “Glory be! ‘Donkey delmonicos.’ Sometimes, I just crack myself up,” said the prophet thereby affirming the impression he was a smartass.
“Excuse me for interrupting your reverie,” she replied “Just let me point out that I am your ass – not mine.”
“You know what I meant.”
“Perhaps. This ESL thing is incredibly new to me. That brings up a second point. In all the years you’ve ridden me, have I ever spoken a single time? I mean, is it not strange to you that we’re talking right now but you haven’t expressed surprise at this wonderment? Obviously, that proves that I am not the ‘dumb’ one here.”
“Watch it! Don’t be letting this newly found verbalization ability give you an attitude. Me ‘dumb?’” He paused and reading the future when a fictional Sicilian would get in a battle of wits with a fictional Black Pirate, he stole the perfect retort and said, “Inconceivable!”
“Uh huh. So, being how you’re such a smart…” the prophet eyeballed her now as though she was already delmonicos on a grill. “… uh … person, have you given any thought as to why I swerved off the road? I mean, why would I suddenly find myself struggling over irregular verbs? Don’t you think you might ought to be extrapolating … Great balls of fire! Did I just say ‘extrapolating?’” Wowie Zowie! I’m getting hooked on phonics!”
“Uh, sorry.” She looked toward the road. “So, what about him?”
“Him. The reason I swerved? The reason I’m speaking? The reason I won’t move?” She nodded toward the road. “Him.”
He cast a glance in the same direction. Behold! Right there in the middle of the road stood an angel with a whopping big sword. They stared at each other for a second, and then the angel tapped the ground a couple of times with the tip of the gleaming blade.
“Here.” The prophet hesitated. “Now.” Tap. Tap.
The shaking seer ran up to within a smidgen more than a sword’s length and then hit the dirt facedown.
After a long silence, the angel spoke. “Why wert thou beating yon ass?”
“Uh … O divine one, uh,” his mind was losing the race to figure out the proper way to respond. While in prophet’s school, he had slept through Divine Dialect 101 being how he never thought he’d actually meet a heavenly messenger. “Ah, the yon ass, um, wast maketh me late.”
“You suck at this as much as you do paying attention.”
“You speak regular,” the prophet drily mumbled.
“Yeah. We prefer poetic grandeur, but for your type, sublimity is wasted.”
“My type?” he started to get up, but the angel stepped on his back.
“Yes. The smartass type that thinks the show down here is all about himself. The type that sacrifices principles for profit, prestige, and power regardless of the consequences to others.”
“That sounds awfully like a sermon – all alliterated and such.”
“We do that sometimes,” the angel said, “Especially when plain speech fails. You were told to leave the immigrants alone.”
“I was told not to ‘curse’ them. Nobody said I couldn’t redirect their fate.”
“Cute. Hiding behind semantics. Typical smartass strategy. In your case, a fatal one.”
“Now wait a minute. It wasn’t nothing personal – it was just business.”
“We hear that a lot – usually last words.” The angel changed his voice to sound like the dusty diviner beneath his foot. “Shoot fire! If I had a sword, I’d slice you into, uh, into, hmmm, ah! Into prophet porterhouses!” He laughed. “Glory be! ‘Prophet porterhouses!’ Sometimes, I just crack myself up.”
“You’re mocking me.”
“You think?” The angel nodded toward the little ass. “She saved your life. While you were thinking about your profits, Prophet, she was watching the road. If she hadn’t been wise enough to swerve, I’d have cut you up into, uh, into, hmmm, ah! Into sorcerer salamis! Glory be! ‘Sorcerer salamis!’” The angel laughed. “Sometimes …”
The prophet moaned. “Please. Enough already. Can I get up?”
He stood and dusted himself off. “Now what?”
“Simple. When you hear a wise ass speak, listen. Good for you – good for everybody else.”
How to Get a Leg Up on a Crooked Politician
So, way back, Pete crawled under the farmhouse and died. Likely, the old dog was hunting some shade since it was the middle of summer and so hot that down on the two-lane, a possum smashed flatter than a fritter was cooked to well done before the buzzards showed up. The kids cried when Pete went missing, but their daddy was secretly happy. He’d planned to take care of the ailing pet but worried the gunshot would’ve caused a fuss. The next day, he brought them a puppy. Pete began to fade out of memory but came back to mind late one night as the stench of his rotting body seeped up through the floor.
“What’s that smell, Daddy?” the kids asked at breakfast.
“Must be the … septic tank gone bad,” he lied. “Hurry now. You’ll miss the school bus. I’ll fix it before you come back home.”
After they left, he thought a spell about what to do. It was plain as the wart on his wife’s nose that the dog had to come out from under the house, but Farmer Tom had a weak stomach when it came to dead things. The notion of touching Pete’s overripe carcass made him puke right there on the floor. As he wiped the drizzle on his sleeve, he suddenly remembered Chey, a young cowboy come from out west and staying at his parent’s house while studying about marrying their daughter. It crossed his mind that he’d heard a country song once about cowboys and dogies, so he called over to his mother’s and asked Chey if he’d mind coming over to help some. His sister dropped her prospective groom off a bit later. They shook hands, and after a short walk around the barn up to the house, he got down to business.
“My old dog has gone and died under the house. Mind getting him out from ‘neath there for me?”
“Sure. We doing it now?”
“I’d of done it myself,” he said with a straight face, “but I’m hurrying to town to get a lynch pin for my tractor. Need you to do it for me and bury it before my kids get back.”
“Show me where to get under there. I’ll handle it.”
Farmer Tom pointed toward a small door in the latticework below the porch. “Might be messy. Been there for a bit.”
“No problem. Not my first time,” Chey said. “About a month ago at the ranch, a coyote got horse-stomped in the corral — dragged itself into the haystack before it died. We smelled it for a week before …”
“Uh, I have to go. Tools in the barn. Key in the tractor.” He ran to his truck, hopped in with his retching stomach and tore down the dirt driveway as Chey stepped to the door and crawled under the house.
He didn’t go but a few feet when he found Pete stiff-legged, bloated and covered with flies. Seeing that the dog was big, he decided to fetch a rope, tie it around one of the legs and use the tractor to pull the body out. He found a rope hanging in the barn and went back under the house then looped the rope around a front leg which wiggled more than he expected as he tied the knot. He trailed the length of the rope behind him as he came out from under the porch, and after pulling out the slack, he went to get the tractor.
It wouldn’t start. Not even click. Which made sense when he saw the battery was missing. Being somewhat confident, he walked back to the house and held the rope as he stood pondering about a good way to snake Pete out. Lost in thought, he didn’t hear the brown Cadillac come up the drive behind him until its gleaming bumper gently nudged the back of his leg.
“Glory, son!” said the short man in a tan suit that stepped out of the driver’s door as another man in a gray suit stepped out the other side. “You ought to be glad it’s me driving instead of old Morgan. He’d run over a stranger like yourself and ask questions later.” He stuck out his hand. “Ray Grunden. You?”
The man’s hand felt like a boiled ham hock as he shook it. “Chey,” he replied.
“Well, Mr. Chey, I’m the head of our local party and the unofficial mayor of this community. Runs to the top of Moriah there,” he pointed to the large mountain in the distance, “and all the way down until you come to Chandler Town.”
“Yes. Folk around here think so.” Grunden smiled, but his tone reminded Chey of a snake swallowing eggs in a henhouse as the hen squawked. “Election for county commissioner is coming up. I’m driving Mr. Metcalf here to meet the folks that are going to put him on the board.” Gray suit nodded at Chey.
Chey nodded back.
“You staying in these parts, Mr. Chey?”
“Get registered. Voting takes place at the schoolhouse.” He stepped closer. “I’ll be there handing out voting lists as people go in. Easy way to make five dollars.”
“You buy votes?”
“That’s illegal.” Grunden’s voice changed like he was about to swallow the hen. “Just helping them do their civic duty. You’d like helped, wouldn’t you, son?”
“Well, sir, I don’t need five dollars.” Grunden’s face hardened as Chey spoke. “But I could use your help.”
The smile came back. “That’s what we’re here for! What do you need?”
“Could you gentlemen pull this rope?”
Well sir, they still laugh down at Davis’s store about how Chey got a leg up on them crooked politicians when they gave a mighty pull on that rope and Pete’s maggot loosened limb came flying out and covered them with bits of rotten dog meat and white worms. When old Morgan heard about it, he laughed, “That boy’s gonna fit right in, sure ‘nuf.”