Ruminations From An Old Goat
By Ed Stuart
Editor’s note: This is the second of a three-part column.
When last we saw Truman approaching Maidie Belle’s humble abode, his old pickup was slowly rolling to a stop because he had subconsciously eased up on the accelerator to the point that the engine was barely wheezing along on the remaining fumes in the carburetor. Beulah Bess was riding her brakes to keep from rear-ending him.
Maidie Belle had a rare day off from the grocery store so she was trying to catch up on the ironing. She routed Ruthie out of bed at nine that morning; and although he protested piteously, she told him there would be no breakfast until he had mowed the yard. Mumbling to himself about the unreasonable demands made by an ungrateful wife, he stumbled out into the yard, barefooted and wearing only a pair of cutoff jeans. Grabbing the mower by the handle, he yanked it out into the yard and started to mow. At least, he thought resentfully, they could have furnished him something with an engine and a seat on it.
At the precise moment that Truman’s old pickup rolled to a stop, Beulah Bess was startled by an unearthly scream. Forgetting Truman in front of her, she stared in disbelief at a half naked wild man dancing around in the yard. Then before her scandalized eyes, he shucked off his jeans and ran up onto the front porch, yanking at the screen door. The big shiny black Cadillac rolled into the back of Truman’s pickup. A length of rebar protruding out of the open tail gate punched through the big black shiny grill and into the radiator.
Poor Ruthie had plowed through the tall grass and onto a big fire ant mound. Off balance, he planted one bare foot right on the center of the mound. Four battalions of fire ant shock troops assaulted him simultaneously from the front, rear, and both flanks. He tried to get in the front door, but Maidie Belle had hooked the screen door and gone to the back room to watch Oprah on TV while she ironed. Ruthie, wearing nothing now but one thousand rabid fire ants, jumped off the porch and fled howling around the house to the back door.
When Beulah Bess had run into the back of Truman’s pickup, it jolted him out of his reverie. Totally unaware of the commotion taking place behind him, he cranked up and drove off. When Beulah Bess finally looked back around, he was already across a little rise in the road and out of sight.
Maidie Belle swept the ants off the whimpering Ruthie and put him in a tub of ice-cold water. There was an old bottle of bluing on a shelf over the tub. She didn’t really know what it was for, except that her mother had used it to put the white back in the whites or something like that. She did vaguely remembered her mother using it to doctor her for insect bites when she was little. Thinking it couldn’t hurt, she poured the entire bottle in the tub with Ruthie.
Ruthie finally quieted down a little and settled into a miserable stupor. In his enfeebled state, he wondered if this was a preview of the eternity he was doomed to spend if he didn’t mend his ways,
Beulah Bess, totally confused by now, got out and walked to the front of her car to check for any scratches or dents on her shiny bumper. The sight of the rusty rebar sticking out of the radiator like a harpoon in a big black whale left her feeling faint. A puddle of water was forming under it like its life blood was slowly draining away. Completely unhinged, Beulah Bess sat down in the middle of the road and wept.
Folks, we can’t end the story here. We’ve got to get Beulah Bess out of the road before the fire ants find her; Ruthie, after the stress of his ordeal, has gone to sleep sitting up to his ears in the tub of water and rapidly turning an indelible shade of blue. Maidie Belle didn’t know what else to do for him so she went back to Oprah and her ironing.
The narrator apologizes to his patient readers. He really does have an idea of how to wrap this up, but it’s going to take another issue next week. Please don’t miss it.