(an old friend SWEARS this really happened)
by Sandra S. Corona
Wylie McGillicutty, having had a severe case of the whooping cough when he was but a wee lad, was slightly bug-eyed. The eyeballs nearly popped out of their sockets but his vision was perfect. Therefore, being the depression and all, his family decided to ignore medical advice and have his eyes pushed back. Not only was it out of their range financially, but why mess with perfect vision?
The boy, however, put up with a lot of teasing in school and picked up a no-nonsense attitude to survive. Lean, lanky and a mess of scratches, cuts, bruises and what-nots, he appeared much older than his years and, in truth, much wiser than his peers.
Reared in hand-me-down coveralls with patches on the knees, rear end, and God knows where else, the youth seldom wore a shirt without frayed cuffs. ‘Tweren’t the only younguns dressed thus. His cousins were no better off than he was.
Po, short for poor boy, and Brady, substitutin’ for Bartholomew, his cousins were near twins (born just ten months apart). They all lived in the same lop-sided shanty in the hills o’ Kentuc. Work was scarce, food scarcer. The rest of the brood was either older guys (who’d left the nest) or darn females so the boys ran together creating mischief of a sorts.
Stingy Jones, the town miser, was as ancient as the hills around him though not nearly as lush or enjoyable. He didn’t have the decency to mend his tears and rips lessen he was going to church so decent women avoided him. Besides, Stingy was too cheap to heat water in the winter (oil being so expensive and all) and went months without bathing. To say he stank was an understatement, he was RANK!
Needless to say, some things have to be kept up … more or less … and an outhouse falls in that category. To old to maneuver the shack, Stingy had no choice but to appeal to the McGillicutty boys for labor. Work went out that he needed them and, sure as shootin’, they showed up at his place ready and willing to work in exchange for taters (which Stingy was known to horde).
“Youse, Stringbeans,” Stingy yelled as soon as the boys came over the rise near the miser’s porch. He sat widdlin’ a wooden whistle that they sold in the five and dime down town. “Dig me a new pot hole and I’ll give ya each a bag o’ taters.”
“Ya got chickens?” Wiley hollered … itching for scramble eggs.
“How ‘bouts a layin’ hen and a bag o’ taters each?”
“Ya need a rooster fur eggs!”
“’Kay, two hens, a rooster and three bags o’ taters.”
“Ain’t gonna be much in taters if ya take two hens and a rooster.”
“Ya need the hole or not?” Wylie shuffled the dust swinging his right foot back and forth. He was the brains of the trio, made all the deals, decisions, and whatever. It was hard but he made do.
“’Kay, do it!” Stingy spat a mouthful of chew ‘baccy into the dust. “I can’t wait all day, Stringbeans! Hop to it!” Brown sluice ran from the right corner of the wrinkled prunes’ neck. He paid it no mind, just kept carving away.
It was a hot, humid Indian summer day in October and leaves no longer hung on the trees to filter out the sun. Not exactly the best day to dig … ‘specially with the ground packed hard as nails. Stingy brought his shovels out but a six foot hole three feet across doesn’t come easy.
The boys, as needed, dipped their hats into the swirling creek behind the outhouse to drink the refreshing, clear water that ran off the nearby mountains. After swallowing their fill, they’d throw the hat back on to cool their bodies down. Many a lass loved watching working guys … even those ruddy and worn like these kids tended to be. Alas, there were no prying eyes other than the old man on the dirt-floor porch.
“Howsit goin’, Stringbeans?” He’d yell now and agin. “Ya goin’ for an all nighter?” The high-pitch, witch-like cackles egged them on. They were tired of list’n.
Soon enough the boys--filthier than a sty with a dozen wet hogs—moved the moon house over the new hole and shoveled the earth piles into the old one.
“Dagnabbit! It’s finished!” Wiley whooped along with his co-horts. “Pay us man! We’s done!”
Afore Stingy to get to the trio, they each plummeted into the water to wash off their sweat and grim.
“Dang it, boys!” Stingy loosed a couple more ‘choice’ words. “Dat’s me drinkin’ water! Get out o’ dat water right now! Ya here me?”
Laughin’ themselves silly, the stringbean trio climbed out and stood sobbin’ wet in front o’ old Stingy.
“Dis what ya git!” Stingy thrust a fist out with two eggs, offered a string around the neck of a struggling old git of a rooster, and then pushed off three scrawny bags. “Ya fiddled around all day, messed up the creek bed and had the indecency to bathe in my drinkin’ water.”
Wiley stared hard at the two eggs, the rooster and then opened one of de bags.
“Des ain’t taters, Stingy! Des seeders with eyes! Ain’t no flesh under the peels.” Wiley spat at the old mans feet. “We’s had a deal. Ya got a hole but we’s got took!” He shook his finger at da grinnin’ possum. “You’ll git yours. I promise!”
“Dhey’s chicks in dem eggs.” Stingy laughed. “Ya sit on ‘em till dey hatch and hope de rooster lives ta see dat day.”
Dem boys, seething, wandered off knowin’ Stingy wouldn’t do better so long as they stood there.
Day turned into night and Stingy feared naught. Keeping his usual habits, the old man went out to place a glass in a secure ‘hold’ where the water tumbled over, then went to the outhouse. Night was ebony, without a ray of moonlight, and though he thought the new outhouse a ‘bit off’ he, nonetheless, went inside, shut the door, pulled down his overalls and attempted to sit. His ‘business’ slipped out though there was nothing where the seat ought to be and he nearly fell into the pit. Grabbing hold of the sidewalls, struggling to pull up his pants, Stingy felt a cool, damp draft and heard surging water. Britches held up, zipper sliding, Stingy sprang out, ran down to the cup and, without thinking, put it to his lips.
“Sppppptttttt! Dang! Spppppttttt!” All night long Stingy spat but even the chaw ‘baccy couldn’t get the taste out of his mouth.
In the morning, seeing the house teetering over the creek, Stingy dressed for church knowing the Stringbeans attended dutifully every Sunday. Besides, there was a Harvest Fest following the service today----all the women in town would bring a dish to share and there were good cooks here abouts.
First off, Stingy planned to eat heartily. Only then would he approach the boys who always stayed till the last crumbs were gone.
Meantime the preacher had ‘crossed’ the boys afore Stingy did. He’d ‘hired’ the young teens to bring in all the apples from the orchard across the way. They worked hard and long … each expecting a ½ peck of apples for their labor … but the ½ peck was mostly bad apples. Preacher had given the choice apples to those who contributed more to the church.
Sneaking out during prayer, Po (the skinniest) got in Preachers’ car to steer it backwards while Brady and Wiley pushed. They staked the rear wheels of the vehicle up on a pair of bricks (well hidden by the weeds), shoved one of the brick, seed taters up the exhaust pipe and then found their pew back inside.
It was a beautiful amber day that meandered slowly. With enchanting scenery and superb food superb, everyone filled their bellies before lingering around to gossip. When the topic of Preacher’s new car came up, he noticed it was ‘out of place,’ went to start it but couldn’t get the engine to turn over. He tried repeatedly.
“Think it’s flooded, Preacher.” Several men offered.
“No, I don’t think so.” He tried again with still no luck.
Finally a nosy dog fiddled around the weeds where the bricks were, revealing the reason. Everyone laughed. Members of the parish helped Preacher put the car back on firm ground and stood anxiously waiting to hear it start up.
Meanwhile, Zelda Westling, an excessively broad lady, stood with her legs apart leaning over the end of a picnic table talking to some of the other women.
Again the engine churned but didn’t turn, then, suddenly, something zoomed out of the exhaust, slammed in between Zelda’s sprawled cheeks and her false teeth flew out!
“LORD HAVE MERCY!” Zelda screamed as her fanny burned.
Her teeth, flung whirling into the wind, wound up in the mouth of a donkey put to pasture by Preacher. The ass brayed, kicked the fence down and ran, bucking, into the creek in front of the church.
“Fetch my teeth!” Zelda yelled (still rubbing her hind-end). “Fetch my teeth!”
Wiley jumped in, clothes and all, punched the donkey’s left cheek. “Grab his legs, boys!” the youth shouted as Po and Brady followed him into the creek. Suddenly the ass kicked Po out of the water.
Next Brady flew.
Wiley, however, hung on and kicked the underbelly of the bucking animal. Stunned, he promptly spat out the teeth, flopped over and died.
Proudly Wiley held up those pearly whites. Everyone clapped wildly as he ambled out of the water, strolled up to Miss Zelda, wiped those ‘gems’ on his coveralls and then handed them over.
Shortly after, the Harvest Fest over, Stingy decided to visit the McGillicutty’s. He took along two laying hens and three bags of newly harvested taters. It was ‘owed’ the boys anyway and, since he couldn’t move the out house, perhaps they’d see fit to put it back in its rightful place.
Wiley, seeing him comin’, leaned against the house, took out a knife and began whittlin’ on a wee piece of wood. “What brings youse hereabouts?”
“A tettering house without a place to sit ain’t a finished job, ya know?”
“Two eggs ain’t two hens either.”
“Don’t cha forgit about the seed taters.”
“Ain’t about ta.”
“Reckon ya could sit da john on solid ground for two hens and three bags o’ taters?”
“Ya let dat kind o’ riff-raft sit on yorn john?” Wiley joked.
“Ya know wat I mean.”
“No more eggs and seeds?”
“Nah,” Stingy weakly smiled. “I saw how ya kilt dat ass dis mornin’ … better his’n dan mine.”
“Yeah, I do.”
Wiley yelled loudly. “Po! Brady! We got ta put dis man’s john right!”
As they began the short journey to Stingy’s place, the old man sprouted a quizzical look. “About dos eggs … ya still go ‘em?”
“Na,” Wiley shook his head, “split ‘em seven ways dis morning and not a bone in either one. Runniest chicken I ever ‘et!”
The four men jostled along merrily, laughing all the way.