The Return of Wally Crankset!
A soul-piercing screech came from the front of the house. Wally was still missing after the collapse of his campaign to be our next vice president. I hadn't heard his ancient Mafac brakes for months.
So it was likely that Eric and Samantha, the snake cultists next door, were sacrificing another pig. I was OK with the occasional noise because Eric and Sam made some tasty barbecue, and the snake cultists always chased that with ample quantities of beer. The dancing girls were a plus too. In fact, I'd had such a good time at one of their parties that Mary had forbidden me from attending another one. Last month, both of Broken Elbow's cops showed up to quell the noise and their cruiser sat out front with all the flashing lights on for nearly three hours until the state cops arrived. Fred and Ethel were 'cavorting' with the party guests and it took some time to retrieve all the various parts of their uniforms. Theres a rumor that Ethel's wife started divorce proceedings against him. It was a great party.
The front door banged open. It wasn't a terrified pig looking for sanctuary under our kitchen table again. No, it was Wally!
“Where have you been?” I asked.
Mary stepped into the room, gave him a withering glare, and did a quick u-turn back toward the bedroom, probably out of solidarity with every woman Wally had wronged over the years. It was a long list.
“Well, my security detail kind of fell apart after I proposed,” he said.
“Proposed?” I asked. Repeating the last word as a question was a trick I'd learned from She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed because it almost always lead to more information, at least until I'd caught on to it.
“Yeah, I proposed, and it caused some dissension. You know how women are, they'll get riled up over nothing.”
“Well, yeah, it was almost nothing. I proposed to Lynda, and she gabbed about it to some of the others. As it turns out, I'd proposed to three or four of them. Like I said, it caused some dissent, but they eventually decided to bury the hatchet....and bury me along with it. I decided to withdraw from the campaign at that point and take a vacation.”
He described the aftermath of that meeting as dispassionately as someone reading a grocery list. The angry group of women pursued him outside, where he jumped on his bike and pedaled off as fast as possible. They chased on their own bikes and it looked like some impromptu alley cat race careening through town, except for all the thrown bottles, knives brandished in the air, and screamed threats to remove important body parts - preferably with the dullest knife.
“They commandeered a car and forced me into a ditch! Before they could come to a stop, I ran into the woods. When they gave up looking for me, I found my bike and rode to my Aunt Suzie's in Acme. She owns the Southern Style Sushi bar over there and I worked in the kitchen for a couple of weeks.”
Everyone in the area knows Suzie's Southern Style Sushi and if you're ever traveling on Interstate 99 through Oklahoma, you can't miss the signs for the restaurant. Somewhere in the mists of time, Suzie read about sushi and was captivated by the thought of making some herself. Remember, though, Oklahoma is technically part of the south, so the idea of serving up raw fish just never seriously entered her mind. As all good southerners know, fish are meant to be deep fried, so her version of sushi was deep-fried fish rolled in rice and nori. Of course, Suzie included the other staples of southern fried cuisine: chicken, okra, cornbread, hush puppies, and black eyed peas. She had grits too, but no one in their right mind eats Aunt Suzie's grits - except for demented tourists from up north. It's great fun watching their faces as they realize their mouths are full of what polite people say tastes like elementary school paste. Impolite folks use earthier expressions. Still, her grits are a popular item because locals use it for spackling, plugging radiator leaks, and killing insects. "Ball O'Ants", a sticky mass of grits sweetened with honey, is a favorite catfish bait.
“Let's go have a beer, Wally,” I said. “There's some cold ones down in the cellar.” I could hear Mary on the phone with her mother and her tone was getting increasingly angry. It would be a good idea to put some space between her and Wally. We decamped to the basement.
He immediately spotted the pen in one corner and asked, “Is that a pig?”
I was expecting it. “No, according to Mary, that's a cat. His name is George.” Actually, she'd named him Wally, but I insisted on the change.
He looked at me in disbelief. “It sure looks like a pig.”
“George escaped from last month's barbecue over at Eric and Samantha's place, where he was about to be the the guest of honor. He decided to avoid being the main course and lit out looking for a place to hide. He ended up here. I was gonna return him to Eric, but Mary doesn't allow me to go over there anymore. Then she declared that from now on, George is a cat.”
Wally gave me a commiserating look. “He's a nice fat one. I bet he'd make for some good barbecue although I've never had cat.”
The 'cat' grunted while eyeing Wally with apparent misgivings, then went back to rooting around in the dirt. Wally fished a lint-covered Ball O'Ants out of his pocket and tossed it in George's pen. The
pig cat was delighted to have something new in the way of food, and he snapped it up. Immediately afterward, he looked at us balefully, his eyes conveying that there were fates worse than barbecue and that if he ever got out of his pen, we could look forward to serious payback. Who knew that cats could be that expressive?
Feeling guilty, I gave George the last bottle of beer. He accepted it graciously. Then Wally and I left for the safety of Larry's Café.