Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Higher ED: A Wally Crankset Tale

(1FEB2007 via Bogus News Service)

The University of Northeastern Oklahoma announced a startling breakthrough in erectile dysfunction (ED) research that was recently completed at the extension campus in Broken Elbow. Doctor Walter Crankset conducted a longevity study involving a large group of local cyclists in an effort to discover if bicycle saddles did indeed cause erectile difficulty.

Dr. Crankset was surprised to discover that many other common objects may contribute to ED, not just bicycle saddles. Many of the subjects took piano lessons as children, and Dr. Crankset speculated that those hours sitting on a hard piano stool contributed to ED later in life. Likewise, a significant majority of the test group spent long hours sitting on barstools and hard church pews, and they too may have been factors.

The full results of Dr. Crankset's study will be released in the April edition of the Oklahoma Medical and Veterinary Review.

It was a bleak winter afternoon as I leaned my bike up against the wall and entered Larry's Cafe. I was glad to get out of the wind and cold. There was an arrow stuck in the front door, which struck me as slightly odd since it wasn't hunting season. Wally occupied his usual spot at the bar. "They've cut my funding for next year!" he moaned. "What am I gonna do?"

Larry just rolled his eyes. He spotted me in the doorway, and felt it was safe to leave Wally in my care. Besides, Wally was feeling sorry for himself and Larry probably wanted to get away. Had he been a muskrat, Larry would have gladly chewed off a leg. I settled onto the barstool next to Wally.

"What am I gonna do?" he wailed again.

"Wally", I said, "Tell me what happened."

He alternated between telling me about the university's inquiry into his work and some gentle sobbing on his own behalf. But I managed to glean the thread of the story. It seems the faculty committee in charge of Wally's research concluded that his work was not only unprofessional, it was unethical as well. The meeting was heated, with charges of misconduct and malfeasance on one side, and accusations of idiocy, retardation, and sexual inadequacy on the other. Wally reveled in hurling insults. The word "felony" even came up a few times. But the faculty finally dropped the bomb and reduced his research funds to zero.

With Wally, all this is merely a normal day. It's a rare week that doesn't include some confrontation with an authority figure, whether it's police, the military, or one of his former spouses or girlfriends.

"They even looked into my academic credentials and claimed some of them were fraudulent", Wally complained.

He'd showed me his degree once, and although it was an impressive bit of printing technology, I was very doubtful that the Universidad de Jose Cuervo existed on this planet outside Wally's imagination. Worse, "Mexico" was spelled wrong.

"Where's 'Mixico'? " I'd asked, but Wally never answered. It didn't speak well for the university since they'd accepted his ginned-up transcript and degree without any serious questions.

I'd warned him that a recruiting poster featuring "hookers, guns, and firetrucks" was probably not the most professional way to go about attracting volunteers for his test study. It turned into a 4 day party that could have gone much longer except for the arrival of all those state troopers. "Yeah", Wally said, "It was a great weekend!" His gaze was unfocused as he recalled some especially sordid moment. He'd blown most of the budget on this dubious 'study'. The mini baby boom in Broken Elbow nine months later would make his conclusions highly suspect.

The cops hauled the party-goers to the Broken Elbow jail which was far too small to contain the crowd. Most of them made a jail break by the simple expedient of leaving through the back door and going down the alley to Larry's. The troopers caught us almost immediately, of course, but decided to leave us inside the cafe because it was bigger than the jail and had fewer breakables. Besides, Larry could keep the crowd orderly between mild threats of turning off the juke box, or resorting to the 'death penalty' - refusing to serve any more drinks. We toed the line.

A thought occurred to me. I turned to Wally and asked, “How did the study results get in the newspaper?”

“Oh, that was Suzie. She's the department secretary and she's really a sweet girl”, Wally replied. “And she REALLY hates the department chairman!” His eyes got that far-away look again. I knew better than to ask why.

Wally re-joined the present and started in on a tale involving some of his ex-wives and ex-girlfriends who carried well-deserved grudges against him. Fortunately, only a few of them were proficient with firearms. But in a small town like Broken Elbow, it was inevitable that they'd know one another, and eventually they coalesced into a loosely organized club devoted to making Wally's life miserable without actually killing him. They decided to try archery since it's more sporting and less likely to inflict lethal wounds.

That explained the arrow stuck in Larry's front door. Actually, in Larry's' on a Saturday night during hunting season, stray bullets and arrows weren't uncommon. Sammy-The-One-Eyed-Mule-Deer could testify to that - if he were alive. He was a trophy from one of Larry's hunting trips. Sammy's head hung on the end wall surrounded by well-aimed pockmarks from well-aimed misses. No one wanted to deliberately scar Larry's magnificent mule deer, until some out-of-towner shot out Sammy's left eye. The poor unfortunate was forever banned from the premises. Since he was deep in his cups, the local crowd removed his cars keys and rifle. And for good measure, they removed most of his clothing except for his boots and a pair of bright green "Kiss me - I'm Irish" boxer shorts the guys thought were highly amusing. They've always been kinda sentimental about shamrock prints. The city slicker was thrown out the front door where he promptly vanished into the night.

Wally gave Sammy a long, thoughtful stare and started speaking very slowly, his thoughts progressing along with his words. “You know, that guy we tossed out of here in his boxers. There's a rumor of a wild man up along Fiddler's Elbow Road, who rushes out of the woods at night shouting at passing cars, and he wears only a tattered pair of Kelly green boxer shorts. He's almost a legendary figure, like the Loch Ness monster, or Big Foot, or the Abominable Snowman. I bet we could get funding from the university to investigate that!”

I was skeptical, but the longer he talked, the more persuasive he became. Finally, I was convinced.

“Hell, if those pencil-necked nimrods believe there's a Jose Cuervo University, they'll believe nearly any damn-fool thing!" Wally fairly shouted. We planned long into the evening and did our best to reduce Larry's inventory, but when Wally started playing air accordion and singing 'Lady of Spain' at the top of his lungs, it was time to go.

I borrowed Larry's truck and drove Wally home, dodging a group of lipstick-smeared Apaches on the way.

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