Wednesday, April 11, 2012

In Service to Humankind - an Almost True Tale

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
I knew we'd done hit the jackpot just as soon as we rounded the corner and caught sight of her standing by her Mercedes sedan. I let out a little chuckle and elbowed Bobbie Jean whilst winking at Charlene's reflection in the rear view mirror. “We gonna eat good tonight, girls,” I say. “Poof up your hair some. Higher the hair, closer to Heaven,” I added reminding my apprentices that we was on pious ground and needed to look the part.

Nothing I liked better than gettin' a call to come to the grounds of this here conference center to rescue some tourist in distress. Rescuing was my specialty. I had recently rescued my apprentices from the drudgery of waiting tables where it was a known fact that sinners was preferred over saints as customers because of the chintzy way the latter tipped.

Up here at the resort they called a conference center, they was most too polite to cough, much less offer a strenuous objection, when we popped them with the bill for popping the lock on their car. Given the circumstance, they couldn't plop down a few dollars and slink on out of the place when they thought we wasn't looking. No sirree. Truth be told, most time when they heard the ransom, I mean fee for services rendered, they felt like they been popped too hard to breathe much less object.

Once I know'd she seen us, I slowed down the van to draw out her agonized expectation long as I could. Ain't nothing gonna grease the palm of some city slickin', out-of-towner than coolin' they heels in ninety degree heat and humidity. Allowing for my calculated approach, I hit the speed bump between us as hard as I could, so my rattletrap van would let out some extra pitiful squeaks and moans.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
I know'd what I was doin'. This ole van and me knows how to work a captive audience. It ain't hard to do neither since there's more duct tape and wire holding it together than original bolts. The look of horror on Miss High-and-Mighty's face woulda made me roll on outta the van laughin', but I had to present that I was concerned in a kind and dignified sorta way. I'd save the laughin' till we was on the way back down the mountain with her cash in my grubby hand.

I pulled up just a little bit short of where she was a-standin'. I know'd I'd worked her right when she came stumblin' over her own feet in a rush to the van. I thought she had to restrain herself to keep from yankin' the door open. She caught herself, tho', and took a step back remembering how repulsed she was at the sight of us when it dawned on her we was, in fact, her knights in shining armor.

Right on cue my rig backfired when I switched off the engine. I choked back another laugh when Miss Lady 'near bout jumped outta her skin. I could tell she was worked up the appropriate amount when she went to twistin' the diamond danglin' at the end of a gold chain hanging 'round her neck. Ha. She keep wringin' it like a wet rag, we gonna be down on all fours looking for it before we can even start to unlock the door of her fancy MerSAYdeez.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Well, good afternoon, Miss. Sorry you had to wait so long. (I tried not to laugh up my sleeve on that one.) Been a right busy day in these parts. Lawd, it's hot! Sorry you had to stand out here in the heat. You up here on business? Well, don't you worry. We'll have you opened up and on your way in just a second. What brings you to these parts?”

I kept up the chatter not givin' her a chance to answer one question before I posed another. It helped keep her off kilter. You talk fast enough, they get so overwhelmed trying to keep up that they can't concentrate on what you doin', or NOT doin', on they behalf.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Oh! I'm so glad you're here. Yes, I'm here on business. My meeting starts in just under an hour, and all my files are locked in the car. Thank you so much for coming. I got here early thinking I could ease into the day. I guess I blew that plan to bits. Do you really think you'll be done in a few minutes?”

Awww, now, don't you worry.” I was making a big show of going through an industrial sized ring of keys as if any minute the next one was gonna be the right one. Truth be told, which I don't make a habit of doin', this operation was gonna eat up every little minute to spare between Miss Lady and her meeting. What she didn't know wasn't gonna hurt me and was only gonna make her more willing to pay. And by pay – I mean till it hurts.

These nice ladies are my apprentices. Between the three of us, we'll have you fixed up in no time. Charlene, hand me that other ring of keys. I don't know what in the world it is with this one. Don't seem to have the right one on it.”

Charlene had apprenticed right nice in the short time since I'd delivered her from slinging hash to ungrateful tourists. She already know'd to pull out the ring of keys that was big enough to choke a prize winning wild hog.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Miss Lady's eyes grew wide with realization as she noted this ring was even bigger than the first. She paced a little bit and went to worrying on that necklace again. I wished her on just a hoping she'd pop that chain in two and send that diamond a-flying. It'd take us forever to find it, and I'd charge her for that time too. I tried not to hum, “I'm in the money....” and forced a hymn in its place.

Sweat had begun to bead up on her lip which was a sure sign her anxiety was rising right long with her body temperature. She checked the time on her cell phone. I took my cue. “Blessed Jesus, help us, Lord. Help us get this nice lady on to her meetin' in time. Help us, Lord.”

Oh my. I guess I'll miss the first meeting,” her forehead wrinkled up with worry just enough to show she hadn't had no Botox injections. Huh. You'd think with this fancy car and them fancy diamonds and clothes, she'd be just a little more concerned about the crow's feet walking across her face.

Courtesy A. Hughes
She stepped away and pulled out her phone to call her boss and advise him of her idea that I might not have this situation under control. I expect Hollywood to come callin' any day now, I do. If I don't deserve an Oscar statue, I don't know who does. Her idea of 'under control' and mine was two direct opposites. Believe you me, me and the girls had things under control, if you know what I mean.

I gave her a wink and nod and hummed the first line of “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” as if to assure her that we was all on the same team. Bobbie Jean and Charlene chatted her up as they swung into action with my excuse for a Slim Jim. Far be it from me to invest in professional grade tools of the trade when I can make do with something that's gonna make gaining entry into your car look just a little harder than you thought it ought to.

Between the three of us, we fussed and fumed and sweated enough that I thought Miss Lady might just offer to lend a hand. She looked like that take charge kinda person. You know. The kind what if you can't git it done fast enough to suit 'em, they'll just go on and do it for you rather than wait on you.

Bobbie Jean patted Miss Lady on the arm in a motherly sort of way. “Don't you fret now. We gonna have you in there any minute. That's some unusual lock you got there. I can't remember when it took us this long to pop a lock like this here one.” Of course, Bobbie Jean's history with me went back all of two weeks, but she sure was convincing. I know how to pick 'em.

I raised things to the fevered finale when we went to trying to pry the door open just a bit. The trick here was to do it just enough to suggest the imminent danger of the window popping right out of the door without actually breaking it. Miss Lady, she start to pace with her back to us because it was all too much for her to bear if we did bust that window.

Courtesy J. Swett
I glanced down at my watch, Timex not Rolex mind you, and figured we'd milked Miss Lady just about dry. Time is money, you know. The girls were watching for my high sign, so it didn't take much of a nod for them to see it. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Miss Lady chewing on her thumbnail looking like she done missed Jesus on Resurrection Day. Just when it looked like all hope was lost, I did what I coulda done did at least fourty-five minutes ago.

POP. At the sound of that lock opening up, Miss Lady jumped clear of the earth by about two feet. “Oh, thank you!” she rejoiced. “Thank you! I can't believe it. I was afraid you weren't going to get it open. I have just enough time to get to my meeting if I run! I don't know how to thank you.” Lucky for her, I had the answer to that uncertainty.

Me and the girls exchanged a look and, with what might have seemed like rehearsed precision, we each threw our arms up in the air. “Hallelujah! Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, Lord. Praise you, Jesus! Thank you for helping us get this lady on about her business.”

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
How much do I owe you?” Miss Lady asks. The look in her eyes tells me she hopes she don't see what's coming like she thinks she does. I name my price and see fire start to flicker in her eyes. But, I got her right where I want her...right here on the grounds of this here religious retreat where she gotta be on her best spiritual behavior. Shooting fish in a barrel ain't no easier if you ask me.

No ma'am. I'm sorry ma'am. I don't take credit or out-of-town checks. I tell you what most people do, they make a cash withdrawal from a bank. I can lead you down the mountain into town to the closest one if you want.” I meet her eye to eye even tho' the intensity of the fire in hers is ramping up by the second.

She lets out a resignated sigh. She opens the car door, unlocks the glove compartment, and pulls out a little folder. Even tho' her back is to me, I can tell by the motion of her elbows that she's counting out cold hard cash. She turns around and counts four crisp bills into my palm with tight little snaps. The kinda snaps that tell you she's clinching her teeth so hard they might break in half.

The girls have already jumped in the van. Charlene done cranked it and revs it so that blue smoke coughs out the tailpipe giving the suggestion that we might not make it all the way down the mountain. I turn and hop aboard. As we pull away, I wave out the window. “Thank you, ma'am. You have a blessed day, you hear?” 

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creavtive
I wink at the girls as Miss Lady fades outta sight in the side view mirror. “I tell you: nothing I love better than being of service to humankind. Sweeter than honey. Yes sir. Ain't that right, girls?”


  1. Ahhh...bless your got yoself a winner here.

  2. It made me want to run for a mess of greens and some grits!! I hope you win so I can see you have to travel to NYC! That will probably be worth a year of fraidy cat material right there... So, it would be a win/win!
    Sounds pretty accurate to me....they might not count it as fiction! Great job.

  3. LOL...I've already thought of that aspect of the trip. I wanna start a blog called "Fraidy Cat Wanderings" that deals w/ my overcoming my fear of travel! Maybe I'll start with that project. If I recall, winners will be announced on Friday, the 19th of October. So, pray for my entry every Friday? Or the 19th of every month. When all 3 fellas were laughing out loud less than half way thru, I kinda thought it might make a good entry. I try not to think about it too much.