This Is a Dog-Eat-Dog World . . . So Don’t Come Around Wearin’ No Milk-Bone Underwear
Momma always told me that if you eat one live toad first thing in the morning when you wake, nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day. I think she was right.
One Saturday morning, me and Jason woke up just before daylight, and it didn’t take us more than fifteen minutes to be bored and looking for something mischievous to get into. Now, many of you have met boys like me and Jason before—but you probably had to pay admission. See, we’ve always been of the understanding that you shouldn’t take life too seriously. Heck, no one gets out alive anyway. So we ventured outside to the shed to see what we could develop or destroy.
Now, Jason never was the brightest crayon in the box. I remember one time he took an IQ test and the results came back negative. But that boy was sure gifted with his hands. He could build or fly most anything I could think up, so I decided, since he was so useful, I’d keep him around. Well, we went to rumbling and somehow ended up with some bottle rockets, an old stuffed toy dog, and a pair of broken roller skates. Jason was talking about making some bottle rocket–propelled skates, but I was more interested in making a skate-propelled dog. I figured we could put some wheels on the mutt, strap the rockets to his hindquarters, get up in the curve on the road, and shoot him across when a car was coming around the bend.
Jason said we’d have a better chance of freezing moon-shine in a woodstove than pulling this off without Momma or Pops catching us. But I could sell ketchup to a tomato farmer. And I knew Jason.
“You’d rather drink five gallons of gas and then piss on a forest fire than not go along,” I told him. He quickly agreed and we went to work.
For about two hours, we were busier than a stump full of termites in a flash flood. Then, when Jason attached the last bottle rocket, I knew even Einstein would have been impressed. So we grabbed our new invention, hopped on our bicycles, and headed down the road. We hid the bikes in the tree line and set up our new four-legged friend, whom we named Run Over Rover. Then we waited for our first victim.
Just as we saw a big blue Pontiac top the hill, I lit the fuses and eased Rover to the white line. About the time the car entered the curve, ol’ Rover launched right out in front of it. We heard the brakes lock up. White smoke went rolling. And that car turned sideways right there in the middle of that curve.
Jason was as nervous as a pit bull crapping thumbtacks on a balloon ride, but I was rolling in the ditch laughing like a clown on crack—until I heard the car door slam. I looked up and standing over me was one of the biggest women I’d ever seen. It wasn’t just the fact that she looked mean enough to scare the balls off a low-flying duck; you could tell she was wound up tighter than a minister’s wife’s girdle at an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast. She started in on me and Jason about how we could have got that poor dog killed by running him out in the road like that, not to mention that someone could damage their car trying to avoid him. I ran over, picked up Rover, and said, “Calm down, lady. He ain’t even real—see?” And I showed her the fake dog and the wheels, thinking this would calm her down a little. But I could see the fire light up in her eyes and could tell she was getting ready to slap me so hard that when I woke up my clothes would be back in style. So I did what any self-respecting older brother would do: I blamed it on Jason . . . ’cause I knew he could run faster!
“Lady, I was just out here watching! That guy built it and brought it out here.” As soon as she turned to Jason, I became as scarce as hens’ teeth. Poor ol’ Jason was pinned down by that woman, stuck there like a bumblebee in a bucket of tar.
Now, apart from not being too bright, Jason was also known to have a mouth big enough to stick a hook in. As I ran by, I heard him yelling, “Lady, if I wanted to hear from a butthole, I’d fart!”
Before I knew it he was passing me, running across that field. And when we got to the tree line we stopped, looked back, and saw that lady standing in that curve waving her arms at us and looking meaner than a skillet full of snakes. We couldn’t make out much of what she was saying; but after all the hand gestures, I am pretty sure she figured me and Jason were the reason God gave people their middle finger.
We spent the next few hours lighting bottle rockets, watching cars slide off the road, and running into the woods. We were having more fun than a Texas tornado in a trailer park, but we were getting low on propulsion fuel and needed breakfast, so we figured we would get us one more and call it a day.
As a black truck topped the hill, Jason lit Rover and we got ready to run. About the time the truck hit the curve and Rover hit the line, we had already started laughing, just waiting for the brakes to lock and the white smoke to roll. Instead, I heard that truck motor rev up and kick into passing gear. The driver had floored that mug and was swerving directly toward Rover. Next thing I know, Rover had taken flight and exploded on impact. Pieces of him were flying everywhere. Me and Jason just looked at each other in disbelief, not even realizing the truck had stopped until I heard both doors slam. Right then my rear drew up tighter than a mosquito’s butt in a nosedive, and I looked up to see the same lady from earlier in the day. Only this time, she had brought her husband back—and he wasn’t none too happy.
This ol’ boy looked like he got left in the outhouse when lightning had struck. He reached down and yanked us both up by our earlobes. I don’t know what he was madder about: running over Rover in front of his wife, or the way Jason had spoken to her that morning. But I knew we had to get out of there before he took us to Momma and Pops, and it appeared that was gonna be harder than herding heartless chickens.
Well, he was holding us, and the lady was scolding us like sinners at a prayer meeting, when I noticed Jason sliding the rest of the bottle rockets into the back pocket of that man’s overalls. I looked up at the man and told him, “You’d rather shove a wet noodle up a wildcat’s butt with a hot poker than not let us go.” But he just snatched up on our ears a little harder and told us to pay attention while his wife screamed at us some more.
I watched Jason ease the lighter toward the fuses, and the woman’s voice just seemed to fade away as me and Jason both started laughing. Well, of course, this just aggravated the man that much more. He looked down at me and said, “At what point are you gonna realize that I’m the big dog here and you’re gonna respect my wife and listen to what she’s saying?”
It was about then that those rockets went to screaming and popping and exploding. That guy let go of us and started running around more confused than a five-legged cat trying to cover crap on a marble floor. Jason and I broke free and were outta there faster than a blind dog in a dodgeball game. We looked back and saw the man’s overalls had caught fire and he was on his butt, sliding across the ground, trying to put out the flames.
When we got halfway across the field, we couldn’t run anymore, ’cause we were laughing so hard watching him. He finally got back to his feet and was hog-tied and pigeon-toed all at the same time. It was obvious he was hotter than the hinges of hell on a Halloween night, and he was yelling for us to come back. He was picking up parts of Run Over Rover and slinging them toward us. I yelled back at him, “Next Saturday—same time, same place. But remember: this is a dog-eat-dog world, so don’t come around here wearin’ no Milk-Bone underwear!”
Me and Jason grabbed our bikes and ducked into the woods, knowing that next Saturday we were definitely sleeping in.
[ Ronosophy ]
1.It’s hard to have a battle of wits with an unarmed person. 2.If life was fair, the horse would get to ride half the time. 3.There’s a big difference between dancing with the devil . . . and sleeping with him. 4.Beating a dead horse don’t make it taste any better. 5.No matter how you dress a pig, it’s still a pig. 6.Remember: the Ark was built by amateurs; the Titanic was built by professionals. 7.Men are like bank accounts: if they ain’t got no money, they don’t get much interest. 8.You have to be 10 percent smarter than the equipment you’re driving. 9.Even a blind hog can find an acorn every now and then. 10.Some days you’re the dog that caught the car. 11.You go to hell as fast for lying as you do for stealing chickens. 12.Opinions are like buttholes: some are just louder and smellier than others. 13.A day without sunshine is like . . . night. 14.A bumblebee is always faster than the tractor you’re driving. 15.If there’s one rat you can see, there’s fifty you can’t. 16.When you plant a tater, you’ll only get a tater.
Letting the Cat Out of the Bag . . . Is a Whole Lot Easier Than Putting Him Back In
When we were coming along, my pops took great pleasure in being more aggravating than an army of jock-itch ants. He was one of the few people I’ve ever met who could drive a wooden Indian out of his mind. He especially got a thrill out of annoying my younger sister, Sandy.
Since we never did have money to buy pets, we caught or dug up everything we ever raised. One Easter, Sandy wanted a pet rabbit more than anything in the world. And even though Sandy is usually diagonally parked in a parallel universe, me and Jason wanted to make her Easter wish come true. So we spent every afternoon for a week after school building homemade rabbit boxes. We were busier than a stump full of smoked ants. We figured we’d put them out Friday night, then take Sandy with us Easter Sunday morning to check them, in the hopes we’d catch one and she’d be happier than a horsefly trapped in an outhouse.
Well, as Pops was prone to do, he found a way to throw a wrench into our plans. We didn’t know it at the time, but Pops had caught an old, wild tomcat in the barn earlier in the week. Now, he knew me and Jason and Sandy would be checking those traps Sunday morning, so he went out Saturday night and loaded one up with that ol’ tomcat. I guess he figured we’d open it up right there on the spot and that crazy cat would be on us faster than a crackhead on his pipe. He knew that ol’ cat would be wilder than a two-mouth bass at an earthworm family reunion.
Now, our momma always told us the early bird gets the worm, but the persistent bird finds the feeder. So after a whole week of building traps, we knew Easter morning we’d get Sandy her rabbit. Me and Jason and Sandy got up before church and went to see if God had answered our prayers. Now, I’ve learned that God is sometimes slicker than hot snot on a goat’s glass eyeball, and though we don’t understand why, He always gives us what we need—even if it’s not exactly what we want.
So there we were, heading to the rabbit boxes with about as much gracefulness as three blind Rottweilers at a china factory. All of a sudden, Sandy started screaming like her hair was on fire and her tail was catching. She’d noticed that the door on one of the boxes was down, which meant we had caught ourselves Peter Cottontail. Luggin’ the box between us, we high-tailed it back to the shed behind the house faster than a jackrabbit on moonshine. We got inside, locked the door, and went over to the makeshift cage we had built for Sandy’s little Easter bunny. Then we pulled the door of the rabbit box open so he could hop on in.
When that ol’ tomcat shot out of that box, we were more surprised than a blind dog under a treed raccoon! That ol’ cat went to hissing and showing his teeth, his hair standing up on his back like he’d just been blow-dried by a Hoover. Thinking the cat was rabid, I told Jason to sit tight while I ran to get my gun to smoke that ol’ cat like wet pine straw at a trash burning.
It was about then that Sandy went to screaming and crying and begging us not to put that ol’ stray out of his misery. She looked sadder than a sow that had just lost her slop trough, so me and Jason agreed we wouldn’t hurt him. She even talked us into helping her try to tame that yellow fur ball, because she said everybody gets Easter bunnies but she was the only girl around with an Easter cat-bunny!
We devised a plan to keep him in the shed and sneak him table scraps every chance we got. Now, we should’ve caught on pretty quick when Pops kept asking us what we caught. We told him “Nothing,” but he wouldn’t let it go.
I guess at that age the intellect is rivaled only by garden tools, and Pops kept saying, “Did you check the trap by the big rock? I know there are rabbits around there.”
Finally, after the entire ride to church and we hadn’t let on we had us a cat-bunny, Pops said, “What did y’all do with that cat I slipped in that trap?”
Excerpted from Lizard Tales by Ron Shirley. Copyright © 2012 by Ron Shirley. Excerpted by permission of Three Rivers Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.