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The Book of Calvin
A Collection of Humorous Essays
Copyright 2002 by Bobby Matherne
Click to Read the Glossary of The Book of Calvin
The White Mule
Wag was sitting at a table in the rear of Shoney's eating heartily when Calvin approached his table. In a rare display of sartorial splendor, Calvin was wearing a suit and tie. He and Wag were heading for Hattiesburg to do a Total Quality Management seminar for their company's Mississippi branch and their boss told them to wear their best business suits. Calvin looked at the large array of dishes from the luncheon buffet in front of Wag.
“Look at you, Big Boy! You're gonna go into a dietetic coma if you eat all that.”
“Guess I'm a sucker for those all-you-can-eat specials, Calvin. You sure look sharp in your Brooks Brothers suit.”
“Yep I'm vivid and vibrant! But it's actually my brother James's Preemypress suit. I had to borrow it, since I don't own one. I threw my last suit away because it reminded me of Katrina, my third wife. That was the last time I wore it, when we got married.”
“Well, I'll bet you like getting off of night shift to come on this road trip. Must be lonesome, being up all night by yourself.”
“At least when I talk to myself I understand everything I say.”
“You got a point, there, Cal.” Wag chuckled as he recalled Calvin propensity for using words in a unique fashion that often brought gales of laughter. Some days Calvin's buddies were glad for the end of the day to come so they could rest their stomach muscles from laughing. If “he who laughs, lasts” Calvin and his friends will last a long time.
Their favorite waitress, Cindy, came by to take Calvin's order. “Would you like the luncheon buffet, Calvin?”
“No, Cindy Baby, I'm on a diet. I think I'll have a late breakfast. Bring me some of them porch eggs and hash browns.”
“OK. Anything else?”
“I sure hate passing up that dynamite lasagna. You oughta try some, Cindy. It'll put hair on your chest.”
“Thanks. I'll keep that in mind, Calvin. I'll get your order for you.”
“You're running a little late. Traffic?” Wag asked Calvin.
“No, Big Boy. I had to pick up my cleaning in Bayou Couch.”
“You mean Bayou Gauche?”
“Yeah. It was just a slip of the error.”
“Do you know the seminar leader for tomorrow's meeting?”
“It's a Mr. whoever G. Thompson is.”
After lunch Wag and Cal were driving up Interstate 59 and passed a large tank truck with the big letters LPG on its side. Wag looked over at the tank and wondered aloud as to what the letters stood for.
“Oh, I know,” Calvin said, “that's Louis, Powell, and Clark, the famous Pony Express riders.”
Before Wag could respond, the traffic began slowing down. All he could see were brake lights ahead. “Looks like the Interstate is completely blocked. Maybe we'd better get off right now so we can keep our appointment. I know a short cut.”
“Go ahead,” Calvin said, “I think the person who's driving should dedicate where he wants to go.”
Wag veered off immediately at the next exit and took several lefts and rights until they were heading down a red dirt road in the general direction of Hattiesburg at a high speed. Calvin held onto the armrest and the seat as the car flew over the dips in the road and bounced each time it returned to the roadbed. On they went for many miles, slowing only slightly for turns and at the top of steep hills. Suddenly Wag slammed the brakes on and the car shuttered and swerved to a dead stop in the middle of the red dust cloud it raised around the car.
“What happened?” Calvin yelled, opening quickly his eyes that he had kept tightly shut during the high speed bouncing ride.
“There's a huge object blocking the middle of the road. We almost hit it. It came out of nowhere after that last turn. Didn't you see it?”
“No, Moi did not see anything,” Calvin said, too embarrassed to admit he had his eyes closed.
“I'll be damned,” Wag said, as he got out of the car. “Look at that, Calvin! It's a dead white mule.”
“Oooh, grossify,” Calvin said. “It's just lying there like a lump on a log.”
The two friends walked over to the large mass of the mule's body trying to find a way around it, to no avail. The one lane red dirt road had ditches on each side, and unless they could remove the mule from the road, they would have to retrace their route back to the blocked Interstate. They took off their coats, rolled up their sleeves and began tugging on the mule's rear feet, but it refused to budge. Its bloated body was just beginning to smell and, in the humidity of the hot summer day, they could smell every nuance of its decaying flesh. Wag brushed away several buzzing flies from his face and looked through the break in the trees to small shotgun house about fifty feet away. On the porch was a young man in overalls, who had been watching them try to move the mule.
“Hey, Cal, maybe that guy can help us. He looks like a farm boy. Maybe he knows what to do. Let's go talk to him.”
They walked in the hot sun over to the porch. As they approached the porch, the young man kept rocking back and forth, his thumbs hooked in his denim overall straps. His long, angular face and reddish hair gave him a youthful appearance that made him seem younger than his chronological age of twenty-three. His eyes moved furtively back and forth as though he were hatching some secret plot.
“Say, Bud,” Wag said as they stepped up on the porch, “could you give us a hand with that dead mule? We're late for a big meeting in Hattiesburg and the Interstate is all backed up.”
“Sure. I’ll help you out if you’ll help me,” the youth said, as he skipped off the porch. Within minutes, the three had pulled the stinking white mule's carcass from the road onto the yard in front of the house.
Wag reached into his pocket and opened his wallet to give the youth some money. “Here take this twenty for helping us.”
The youth was offended. He talked with a lisp and moved his mouth in exaggerated movements as he talked. “I don't want your money. I helped you out and now you can help me out.”
“Well, we're in a hurry, but it's only fair, I guess. What do you think, Calvin?”
“Tell us what we gotta do, Big Pilgrim,” Calvin said to the youth.
“Well, I been watching that dead mule all morning and I want you to help me drag that white mule and set it up on the john in the back of my house.”
“You what?” Wag asked.
“Look, I didn't ask you why you wanted to move the dead mule, did I? I helped you out, now you can help me out.”
“You're right. I guess we owe it to you. You ready, Cal?”
“Yep, I guess. Let's get it over with.”
The three dragged the smelly carcass across the yard, up the porch, through the long hallway to the very back of the house, and set it up on the toilet in the small bathroom. Hot and sweaty they walked back to the front porch. Wag was wiping his hands with his handkerchief when he commented to Calvin, “Boy, they're not going to believe this back at the office, huh, Cal?”
“Yea, we'll have to tell every Tom, Dick, else Harry what we saw.”
The youth overheard their conversation and was incensed. “You're not going to tell anybody about this, are you? You big city guys don't know anything about me. I live here with my brother who works in the big town of Picayune at the T.G. &Y. He puts up the stock for them. He got me a job there once, but they let me go after a week, because they said I talk funny. You think I talk funny?” Wag and Calvin shook their heads, trying hard to suppress a smile.
“Well, my brother thinks he's so smart, that he knows everything. When he comes home, he sits on the porch in that rocker over there and every time I tell him something he says, ‘I know that. I know that.’ I told him the other day that Farmer Brown's barn burnt down, and he said, 'I know that.' He thinks he knows everything, you know, like his stuff don’t stink.
"The other morning I told him that the school bus didn't pick up the little children down the road, and he said, 'I know that.' It wasn't even true! I just made it up. Well, everyday after work, he stops to drink a couple of beers. When he gets home the first thing he does is head straight to the john.
"Today when he comes home, he's gonna head for the john and when he sees that dead white mule sitting there looking at him, he's gonna come running to the front porch where I'll be sitting a-rocking away. He's gonna slam open the screen door and say, 'Do you know there a dead mule sitting on the toilet?' And I'm gonna say, 'I know that! I know that!'”
Wag and Cal looked at each other and began laughing. They were both still laughing when they said goodbye. As they drove off, the youth smiled and waved at them from his rocker. He was going to have himself some fun and he knew that. Wag and Calvin were silent for a long time until Wag finally broke the silence just as they pulled into the outskirts of Hattiesburg.
“I’m still sure the guys at the office won’t believe this story, but I hope I did the right thing back there.”
“Wag, you were the cake -- a mild-mannered Clerk Kent.”
“I guess we were fortunate that funny talking kid was around, huh?”
“I'd say we lucked our butts out real good, Wag,” Calvin said. “We could have spent all day grappling and gaffling with that smelly old mule if that kid hadn't helped us.”
“I don't know, Cal. Maybe if we had tried one more time.”
“No way, Big Boy, don't give me that harky-dorrey. We couldn't budge it till that kid helped us. Then it was wham, bam, shamalamb, and we were done.”
“Can you imagine his brother's face when he sees that white mule on the john?” Wag asked.
“That'll get him off of Cloud #8, for sure. I'd sure like to be there to see him fumigate.”
“How's the time? Can we make the seminar?”
“Better speed up a bit, we're threading on thin ice here,” Calvin said.
Wag pressed on the accelerator sped around a corner. They heard a muffled sound and the car began to swerve wildly. “I think we just had a blow-out,” Wag said as he pulled the car up to the curb. Off came the suit coats again as they proceeded to change the tire. Wag was trying to pull the hubcap off but it wouldn't budge.
“If you're gonna do that, don't do it,” Calvin said.
“What do you mean?” Wag asked.
“Here, hand me the chism.”
Calvin inserted the chiseled end of the tire iron behind the hubcap and it popped right off.
“See,” he said proudly, “I knew I had some good nature in me.” With the hubcap off, Wag wrestled with the lug wrench till finally all the lugs were off and they mounted the spare. Calvin noticed that Wag's hands were all red and gave him a bottle of lotion from the glove compartment.
“Use this Vaseline Expensive Care lotion, Wag. That friction leaves burn marks. This is the same stuff the proctologist used when he bent me over his table to prosecute me. It’s good stuff.”
Within ten minutes they pulled up in front of the building where their seminar was just starting. Getting out of the car, Wag asked Calvin if he wanted to leave the car window open.
“No, close it, but leave it open,” Calvin said.
“Okay, Calvin, now remember, nothing about the white mule episode. Tim and Danny will never believe us.”
“Never believe what?” Tim and Danny, who had just walked up behind them, asked at exactly the same time.
“Oops,” Calvin said, “I heard that in stereo. Them wandering ears came out of the woodwork, Wag. They have extended themselves.”
“Alright, what's this about a white mule, Cal?” Tim asked.
“Well, you might say Wag and I were victims of our own circumstances, Big Boy. You see, on the way here, we mis-strayed off the Interstate and were stopped by a white mule in the middle of the road.”
“You killed a white mule?” Danny asked incredulously.
“No, we just put it up on the john,” Calvin said.
“It's a long story,” Wag said, “I'll tell you about it after the seminar.” Calvin swung his coat open over his shoulders with an assured air, but missed the sleeve hole completely as the coat swung all the way around. "Wow, Suave Bollah strikes again," he said.
“More like Suave Bollah misses again,” Tim said.
“You hurt me to the heart, Tim,” Calvin said.
“Sorry, Cal. Look, guys, Danny and I have to go to the other meeting room. We'll see you at lunch and I want to hear all about that white mule.”
“Okay,” Wag said. After Tim and Danny left, he turned to Calvin. “Lunch might not be a good time to tell them, huh, Cal? Could lose their appetite.”
“I don't think Tim could ever lose his appetite. I've never seen him let his meat loaf.”
“There's our room. It's been an interesting day, hasn't it? Did you learn anything today, Cal?”
“Yep, never try to tie your shoe in a drawer, Big Boy.”
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