9/6/2012 r v
Tony Shelton shut his eyes. He didn't want to believe what he saw.
Waking up in a strange place was nothing new. Waking up with a raging hangover was not an unusual occurrence. Waking up in a strange place with a raging hangover in the presence an angry female was not unheard of.
But waking up in a strange place, with a raging hangover, in the presence of a angry female holding a double barrel shotgun two inches from his nose – That was an uncommon occurrence!
“Don’t you dare move. One wiggle out of you will make your day, Dirtbag.”
Something in her voice, the inflection perhaps, the re-arranged Eastwood line, the way she said ‘Dirtbag’ like a reluctant obscenity somehow gave Tony comfort.
Whoever she is, she sounds like a lady and not some biker mama, Tony thought. He unsquinted his eyes just enough for a peep.
No biker mama, this one. Whoever she is, she is a lady and a fine looking one at that. And no stranger to that scatter gun either. Aiming that thing with both eyes open, rock steady straight at my nose. Geeze!
Tony re-shut his eyes.
“I can’t believe the mess you made in my kitchen you – you lowdown burglar. If it wouldn't ruin my new couch I would shoot you right now. I ought to shoot you right now anyway. I can buy another couch. Do you think I ought to make you get off my couch before I shoot you?”
Sometimes, the best answer to a question is no answer at all. Tony kept his mouth shut.
He tried to reconstruct the events that led to his predicament. Yesterday had been a nightmare. With a one connection, breakfast flight he expected to arrive before noon. The soiree did not start until four pm so he would have plenty of time to look over the room and review his script.
The sponsors were not necessarily his usual audience but a payday is a payday and with a free trip to the beach to boot, it couldn't be all bad. A speech is a speech.
The nightmare started after the passengers boarded on schedule only to sit on the tarmac for hours. When the plane finally took off, rough weather made cabin service impossible. No breakfast.
The flight diverted to an alternate airport and another long tarmac sit ensued. The un-served breakfast meals were off loaded and lunch meals delivered while ground crews refueled the plane. The pilot promised food service as soon as the plane took off. Tony’s stomach growled in anticipation.
Rough weather once again intervened and no cabin service. Diverted again, delayed again, no food again - what a day! His stomach growl became a pitiful whine.
His cell phone quit working. He had no way of letting the people expecting him know his problems. The time for his performance came and went while he bounced around in the sky several hundred miles away.
When the plane finally landed in Atlanta, he made a mad dash to concourse D to catch the last flight to Panama City. It made three stops and didn’t arrive until after midnight but any port in a storm. Still no food but the ASA stew gave him a handful of bags of peanuts.
Exhausted and famished, Tony crumpled into his seat thinking, This is the worst day of my life.
The little old lady in the window seat tapped him on the arm. “You look terrible young man. Are you having a hard time?”
“You would not believe the trouble I’ve had traveling today.”
“Oh yes I would, I travel all the time and that’s why I’ve got Baggie Boo.”
“What‘s Baggie Boo?”
“My crochet bag – the big one here with all my cross-stitch stuff in it. It goes where I go. They never bother me about carrying it onto the plane.”
“That’s nice. I'm sure you enjoy cross stitching.”
“Yes I do, but not nearly as much as I enjoy the built in bladder that holds a liter of Puerto Rican rum - anejo, gold.”
She unscrewed the handles of her crochet bag turning them into shot cups which she filled, handing one to Tony.
“Down the hatch and bottoms up. Chug a lug.”
The rum hit Tony’s stomach like napalm and burned all the way to his toes. He dropped his cup and looked down to see if his socks were on fire.
The little old lady picked up his cup and re-filled it.
“Drink another one real quick and they'll mellow out after that.”
He did and they did – a whole bunch of them.
In fact, he got so mellow that everything after the third chug went fuzzy.
Not aware of the circumstances, his sponsors, perturbed over his ‘no show’ canceled his reservation. The hotel had no rooms left nor did any other the night clerk could think of.
Finally, Tony remembered a fraternity brother from years ago who lived at the beach. The clerk helped him make the call and a cabbie delivered him. Somebody let him in and poured him on the sofa.
Now he was going to get shot.
“You are not from around here, are you? What are you doing here?”
“No, I'm from New York City. I‘m here to help raise money for the Obama campaign.”
“Well – that’s strike one and strike two. Just keep talking, Mr. Burglar, because I shoot on three.”
Tony shut up.
“What gave you the idea that making a mess in my kitchen is some kind of a political fund raiser? Don’t answer that. I‘ll just get madder and make a mess in here, too. Get up. You are going in the kitchen right now. If I shoot you in there at least all the mess will be in one place. Go through that door.”
Tony walked in the direction indicated by the shotgun. The kitchen looked like a food fight from hell. Dirty pots and mixing bowls were all over the counters. Something, looking every bit like mud, had boiled over on the stovetop and down onto the floor. The place was indeed a mess but Tony had no memory whatsoever of taking part in the destruction.
He had no memory of even being in that kitchen. He certainly had not eaten there. He had not eaten anywhere for more than 24 hours, unless you count six bags of peanuts and a quart of rum as supper.
“I know what you are going to do – you vandal – you are going to clean up my kitchen. And you better put it back just like I left it or else. Get busy,”
She pulled a chair into the doorway and sat there glaring, shotgun at the ready.
Tony, grateful for the reprieve, started cleaning.
Better to have soapsuds in my eyes than buckshot in my hide.
He soon became so absorbed in his work that he didn’t notice when Barbara left the room.
“Where have you been?” she whispered to her husband when she noticed him standing in the living room.
“Watch out with that shotgun – that thing might be loaded,”
“It is loaded. Now tell me where you've been or I'll shoot you too.”
“Whoa, there! I have been next door talking to Bob - he told me what’s been going on around here.”
“I know what’s been going on. I caught him. He’s in there cleaning up my kitchen and he'd better do a good job or I'm going to shoot him and tell the Sheriff to put him under the jail. You won't believe what a mess he made in my kitchen.”
“Calm down. Watch out where you are pointing that shotgun. You ought to put that thing up. The kids were here. They expected us the day after tomorrow. They didn't know we were coming back early. Bob didn't either. Along, with the rest of our friends, they were planning a ‘Welcome Home’ party for us.
In the process of fixing enough food to feed fifty people, the chilli boiled over at about the same time an emergency call came in telling them to come home right away. Our daughter-in law’s mom had an accident- she’s o k – but she couldn't continue to baby sit the grandkids without help. They put the food in the freezer and left their house key with Bob. They asked him to call Mini - Maids out to clean up the kitchen before we got home and send them the bill.
He thought he had plenty of time.
An old friend of his – a fraternity brother from college – called him in the middle of the night. The guy is some kind of a famous writer from New York. He was stranded at the airport and drunker than a hoot owl. The cabbie stopped at our house instead of Bob’s and managed to half carry the fellow up to our front door. Bob came over when he saw the taxi at the wrong house. Then the ol’ boy passed out cold. Bob had our key in his pocket so they just brought him in here and put him on the sofa. Bob knows that he is all right and didn't think we would mind. Besides, we were out of town and never would have known unless he told us.”
“Wait a minute,” Barbara said. She turned and walked into the kitchen still holding her shotgun. She stood there for a long moment surveying the room. Slowly she backed into the living room motioning for her husband to join her at the far end.
“He has finished washing all the pots and the dishes and he did a good job of cleaning the stove top and counters. He is working on the floor now and appears to be doing a good job there too.”
“Don’t you think you ought to go in there and tell him that you are sorry and that you are not going to shoot him?”
“Well, yes and no. I'm going to wait until he finishes mopping the floor. He is doing such a nice job that it would be unfair to interrupt him right now. Then I will apologize for calling him a burglar.”
“Aren't you going to apologize for saying that you were going to shoot him?”
“No, why should I? I didn't and he ought to be proud of that. He’s not exactly an invited guest. He nearly scared me slap to death when I came in and found him all sprawled out on my new sofa – with his shoes on!
Granted, he may not be a burglar but he is a Yankee and a democrat - that’s worse than being a burglar. That alone ought to be reason enough to shoot him but I know it’s not.
I certainly will not apologize but I will compliment him on how well he mops.”
Wayne Garrett grew up on buttermilk, sweet tea and South Georgia sunshine. A retired resident of Panama City, FL, he is a member of the Panama City Writers Association and is one of the Bay Storytellers. His work has been published in The Sea Oats Review, Sand Scripts, The West Florida Literary Federation‘s Emerald Coast Review, City Limits and other panhandle publications. Humor is his genre; a laugh or a smile his reward.