Well, Sally Rae and I were off on a new year. She sat a bowl of her best brownies under a glass pie cover, on the counter, right next to our cash register. They were marked “$1 Each,” big and bold. Enough people bought them that it helped. Our Waterin’ Hole Café made money, but it didn’t mint it. Heartbreak Texas is just not big enough to provide too much trade, but at least we aren’t reduced to selling raw fish, like those poor, degenerate sushi bars 50 or 500 miles back east of here.
If you set a trap for others, you will get caught in it yourself. If you push a boulder down on others, it will crush you instead. — Proverbs 26:27
To keep our special son, Li’l’ Billy, out from under our feet, I had dug out some old 45 rpm records and a record player. I found some of my favorites: “Monster Mash,” the immortal “Crimson & Clover” (the world’s all-time best make-out music), and “One-Eyed, One-Horned Flying Purple People Eater.”
Of course, he fixed on my least favorite, “The Little Blue Man,”* and he played it over and over.
“For weeks after that I was haunted,
Though no one could see him but me
Right by my side was the little blue man
Wherever I happened to be.”
I wuv you, I wuv you
Said the little blue man ...
He finally irritates the singer, Betty Johnson, I think, until she gets down-right radical with him, pushing him off a building.
Most women have to put up with something like this, especially in their teenage years, but most of the boys are just harmless and twitterpated. They usually get over it in time to go on and repeat the process until some poor girl gets twitterpated right back.
Of course, Mother Nature is pulling ALL the strings, right up to the time somebody has to get up and change the baby’s diaper. Old, old story.
A couple of things happened about that time that were less funny. First off, brownies started to disappear without any payment.
Now if there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s a brownie thief.
Sally Rae complained that she might as well quit making them, the way they just disappeared. I told her not to worry about it, all she had to do was make a new batch. When she was about half-finished with the batter, I poured a dozen or so chocolate Ex-Lax into her mix. Next to these, I put a sign that said, “Display Only. Ask for the Fresh Ones,” which we kept behind the counter.
The day after, I walked into the men’s room. I saw a pair of men’s black dress trousers crumpled at the bottom of the stall, and I heard a man experiencing, well, significant distress.
I changed my voice to an high Irish brogue, so we could later on pretend not to recognize each other, and I said, “What profit it a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul. But for a brownie, Rev. Hollis, for a brownie?”
The brownie thieving stopped.
The next thing was funny, except the parts that are irritating. My Sally Rae isn’t any longer in her first bloom of youth, but she’s a fine-looking woman, and I love her dearly. Unfortunately, half-wit Joey Lasker, from down in Quick Fix, decided the same thing.
The Lasker tribe as a whole are a bunch of in-bred Helots as one could find walking around anywhere, any time. The smartest one of those Laskers was dumber than a bag of hammers, and Joey was nowhere near the top. The only points I’ll give him is his good taste (after all, it was my Sally Rae he fixed on), and at least he decided to try to breed outside of his own family, a sort of social experiment most of them dumb Laskers never aspired to.
Anyway, Joey was full-on twitterpated about Sally Rae. He ate breakfast with us, then lunch and dinner, too. In between he spent most of the next two weeks contrived to stop in for a Coke and a piece of vinegar pie. In short, he turned into a full-time pest.
Now, I count on some slack times to sweep and clean. Sally Rae has her hands full doing dishes and cooking. Sometimes we reverse jobs to keep down the tedium, but Joey was so under-foot she took to trying to hide in the kitchen. Any time she emerged, Joey was there, cow-eyed and moonstruck.
Occasionally he tried to string a few words together, but Sally Rae interrupted him by saying stuff like, “Husband, when are you going to carry out the trash?”
One night I asked her, “Darlin,’ you want me to run him off? He is getting on my nerves, and I’m not the one he’s making google eyes at.”
“Most men seem to get over it in a week or 10 days. Give him a little longer. If I have to, I’ll take care of him. It won’t be much good if he just gets mad at you.”
Then she cut those green-bluish eyes up at me, eyes with gold flecks, eyes that reminded me when I had been where poor Joey was now.
“It’s not like this is the first time this has ever happened to me. Truth be told, there’s worse places for a woman to be. Honest, I pity the poor woman who never had it happen to her, at least once.”
From Li’l’ Billy’s room we heard:
“I wuv you, I wuv you,
Said the little blue man
I wuv you to bits …”
And we both burst out laughing. It is good to lie in bed at light with your honey and still laugh after a hard day of work.
The next day, I turned out of the kitchen with a chicken-fried steak platter just in time to see something I really didn’t like. A scrungy, wanna-be biker type with prison tattoos all over his arms came out of our private, living quarter doors.
I knew the type all too well. I marched right up to him and said, nice and loud, “You got nothing of yours back in there!”
He was a cool one. He looked me right in the eye and said, “I just needed to wash my hands. No law against that, is there?”
I pointed behind me with a steak knife, “Go where it says, ‘MEN.’ Stay out of my house.”
He sort of smirked and walked back outside, but I knew the type, and I knew we weren’t finished.
As soon as I could get a break, I ran upstairs to my bathroom. Sure enough, the medicine cabinet mirror was half-open. I checked my painkillers, doing a little math against the refill date. Yep, I was about a dozen short — no surprise.
I know his type, and I knew I had a bigger problem than a shortfall in pain relievers. What Mr. Scuzzy didn’t know was that I had taught chemistry for several years.
I brought out my bisacodyl and began a titraite. It’s a simple process, if you know what you’re doing. Then I boiled the liquid down to concentrate it. Once I had a super-concentrate, I sanded the identifiers off a half-dozen aspirin, and put a few drops on each of them. As soon as they dried, I put them back in my painkiller prescription bottle and back on my shelf.
Some folks might think I was mean, but I was pretty sure that the latest wave of the opioid abuse crime wave had touched our family. It doesn’t do any good to warn off a real addict. Life had already done worse things to him than I had any intention of doing.
It would take an object lesson. Once one of these guys thinks they see an easy mark, they just don’t walk off on their own.
Things sort came to a head after that. Joey wandered up to the kitchen door just as Sally Rae rushed out with two plates of sizzling fajitas. He managed to trip her, and they ended up in a tangled pile on the floor. Sally Rae leaned over and whispered something in his ear, and Joey jumped up and ran out.
Seconds later, Mr. Scuzzy Biker dude wandered out of my private quarters again. I walked over to him and whispered, “Next time it will be rat poison, not laxative concentrate. Now get out!”
As he ran out the door I thought I could already see him gripping his mid-section.
A little later I asked Sally Rae what she had whispered to Joey that made him leave so fast.
“Why, I just said that it was time for him to go. Of course, I had my sizzling fajita plate pinning his hand to the floor when I told him. I think he heard me.”
Another week started to run down at The Waterin’ Hole Café. As I tucked Li’l’ Billy into bed that night, I spotted a brownie on his bedside. He’s been getting too many sweets lately, so I just popped it in my mouth as I walked out.
“Oh, no, Daddy Dave,” he said. “That was one of your ‘display only’ brownies. I was taking it to school for a joke!”
* Frank Ebb, Paul Klein, c. 1957 BMG Rights Mgt., CARLINAMERICA INC. Sung by Betty Johnson.