Monday, February 23, 2009

A Lucky Find

When I got in about 5:30 this mornin, there was a message waitin on the machine for me. It was sheriff Tom, who's the sheriff around these parts, that's why we call him Sheriff Tom. We used to call him officer Tom, before that, he was cadet Tom and, before that, Tom. He always seemed to us like a man who needed a title. Even when we was kids, we would refer to him as ...Tom. There was just somethin about that guy that made you leave space for the title. I remember when we was in high school, and he was two years ahead of me, a lot of kids, and even a couple of the teachers, called him The Tom, sensing that he would take a big title some day, but satisfying themselves in the meantime with a definite article, which is almost as good as a title. Anyway, sheriff Tom left a message sayin that there was a delivery van down on van Buren street that'd been parked for a full day in a two hour zone and asked if me and Douggy would come down and tow it. He passes the tow jobs around to all the trucks in town. He's got a right straight sense of fairness, that sheriff Tom.

I gave him a call back and told him that we had to wait until Douggy got in, but we'd be pleased as passionfruit in punch to go down and tow that sucker outta there. Them tow jobs pay fifty buck each, and Douggy and I were runnin low on beer money. We was playin this new drinkin game last night, it's called "drinkin beer". Douggy explained the rules to me and they was pretty easy; step 1 drink a beer; step 2 you win. I won that game a half dozen times in the last couple of days. It's a lot easier of a game than 'chase the greased pig' or 'Mr. Widget goes to Washington and comes back embittered and wearing a stocking hat oh by the way that's not Washington DC but Washington state'. I can't remember most of the rules for either of those games, but there's something about drawing a king that makes you drink. I usually just drew trees and the like when I was playin. Where am I? Oh, right, Douggy and I wanted to win that game a couple dozen more times, so I agreed to go on down to van Buren and tow that delivery van.

By the time Douggy got in, he was pretty excitable. He said he had a little bit of a hangover this mornin combined with a lot of yellin wife, which is usually a bad combination. I would think she'd be happy about all the times he was able to win, but she wasn't. She just asked him why we had to go to a conference in California last week, which is what we told her when we went to the Antarctic volcano base. She's no dummy, though, and saw that a convention of donut baking mechanics wouldn't be a big meeting. I told her there were people all over the world that had those particular talents that they'd combined but she didn't buy it. Ever since then, she's been asking for proof that he attended the conference and he's had the squimonk working on forging passes and laminated cards and t-shirts and stuff. They're pretty busy goin over Amelia Earhart's information, so they've done a really half baked job of it. By that I mean that, instead of laminating the convention pass, they covered it in plastic wrap and put it in the over for a couple of minutes. Douggy tried to play it off like he'd left his badge in the sun the day we went to Disneyland, but she wasn't havin none of it. So now, she thinks he and I went fishin and left her behind and she's angry about it because she loves to fish. I tell ya, Douggy got a good one.

After his fightin and yellin at home, Douggy came in on the wrong side of bitter with a touch of business end of a headache he was dealin with. He seemed to get a little better when I told him about the tow job. I think that's mostly because Douggy likes drivin around in that tow truck a lot more since we threw that ninja into the black hole. He feels like he knows how the truck handles and how to get the most out of it. Now when we get in the tow truck, it's like drivin around with a 16 year old, except he's got a big ol' rough grey beard, he's wearin Carharts and smokin a cigar that smells like used gym socks soaked in week old milk and then wrapped up in soft used records.

We tear out of the parking lot, throwin gravel all over the front of my shed, and by the time we make it to the main road, we've got to be going somewhere near the speed of sound. I don't remember sayin nothin on the drive over there, but I'm pretty sure we were singin along to the radio. Ever since Douggy got that truck, there's been a Jim Croce tape stuck in the tape player and the volume knob's broken off. Neither of us really likes Jim Croce that much, but we sure as heck seem to know all the words to "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" who is, if you didn't know, the baddest man in the whole damn town. He is also badder than old king kong along with being meaner than a junkyard dog. We was on "Time in a Bottle" by the time we got to the van, and it seemed like Douggy might have been over his bein yelled at, but he was still a little jumpy.

We got out of the truck and started chainin up the van. Just before we lift it up, this guy comes runnin out of the building yellin "No, wait!" This guy was thin and pale, with pimples all over and no teeth. It looked like someone had built a human skeleton out of leftover wood and was plannin on coverin it all over with burlap, but just didn't have enough to go around so they tried to pull it real tight and staple it in the back, then they left that out in the sun for a few weeks while their kid shot it with red paintballs and then, when all that was done, they slapped a ripped up Skynard t-shirt onto it and threw in a ratty mullet to boot. I swear, if that guy had turned to the side, he woulda disappeared. He made up for his thinness with energy, I tell you.

He runs out, barefoot in the snow, wearin nothin but a t-shirt and some ripped up shorts yellin, "Hey, hey hey hey hey! Hey, man! Hey! Hey! Man! Hey! I mean, man, hey, I mean, what're ya doin man! Huh? Hey! Huh? Woah." Then he stood there shiverin, or was it twitchin, in the snow waitin for a response like he'd said somethin we could follow.

"Well, sir," I told him, "we're towin this here van."

He looked quickly back and forth between me and Douggy. "We? We man? I ain't towin this van! There's no 'we' here! Man, the van, man! Why you towin the van? You can't just, you know, fascists do that, man, you know, towin vans. Are you a fascist, man? Van man! Man! The van! Wait! No! You can't tow that van, man!"

I looked over at Douggy, but he just shrugged. "Listen, sir," I tried bein calm, "this van has been in a two hour parking zone for over a day now, and we're under orders from the sheriff to tow it."

"Wait! What?! A day? You're crazy, man, you're crazy! I just went in to know, like, art supplies and stuff to this guy in here and we got know, like, painting! I swear it was just five minutes, there man! You can't take that van! Man! Not the van! I need that van!"

"Art supplies, huh?" I ask, looking at the building he came out of. It didn't look like a place art was made unless your idea of art is standin around burnin drums and peein on the wall. "Well, sir, if you need the van, you can come down to the impound and get it out for $100."

He exploded. "A hundred dollars!? What?! Man! What?! A Hundred?! What?! You can't do this man! This is, like, woah, man, like, no, man, like...woah man, no man...woah! WOAH! I need this van man! It's, like, not even my van, man! It' bosses van! I just deliver and he pays me later!"

"Well then," I explained, "your boss can come down and pick it up from the impound. Either way, we're towin this van."

"Oh, man, man! He can't, you know, go, man! He's, like, disabled man! He's, like, not able! You know? Like, man!"

Douggy cut in. "He's disabled, huh? Is he in a wheelchair or something?"

"Nah!" The guy was jumping around by now. "He's like, I dunno man! Like, I can tell you, man, but, like, it's between us and the van. He's, like, a lobster, man! A LOBSTERMAN! Don't let lobsterman get me, man! Without the van, I'm, like, without a head, man! MAN!"

He tried clawing at Douggy and me, but, despite being as energetic as a small kitten, he had the strength of a small kitten. Douggy finished hoistin the van and we got in the cab while the guy was still yellin at us. As we drove away, I looked in the rearview mirror to see him chasin us for a block or so before he just fell to his knees in the snow and let loose a primal scream.

I turned to Douggy, "What was that all about?"

He kept his eyes on the road. "Meth," he said, "that guy was seriously messed up on meth. I'd guess he's a delivery guy for McClawenstein and this here's a delivery van. Pretty lucky find."

"Yeah," I said settling back into the seat, "lucky until the lobster man has to come get it out of impound. What are we gonna do then?"

"Well be ready, Pat. We'll be ready."


Anonymous said...

I've been clicking on those add, hopefully giving you a cool 60 cents each time I visit your site, and gotta say I am a little curious as to whether you were able to get the misses a sparkly or not?

Pat O'Neil said...

I thank ya for doin that, and the missus will as well. I ain't got her a shiny yet. Google cuts you a check when you get to $100, and so far, I'm almost at $50. Her birthday's far enough away that, if it maintains the same pace, she'll get something nice for it.