It was Wednesday, and the back table of the Alpine Tavern was covered with empties, and a couple bags of bar-b-q pork rinds.
Normally a rabid Ducks football fan, Alvin Taylor wasn’t crowin’ about the Fighting Ducks recent second place finish win.
Farley McVee nudged Al, and said, “What’s got your panties in a knot?”
“I got ‘er bad, boys. Bad. I ain’t too sure how much time I got left,” mumbled the subdued Quacker Backer. A single tear wound its way down his craggy cheek, complemented by a small droplet of snot, gleaming in the sunlight, peeked out of his right nostril.
Dexter Green leaned back in his chair, took a long pull on his beer, raised an eyebrow and in the gentlest voice, said, “ Damn, Al, what the hell are you damn-well talking about? Yer sitting here weeping like you’re some damn little sissy-girl, and you ain’t makin’ no damn sense. Spit it out. What’s goin’ on? You ain’t contagious, are you?”
Al pulled a permanently crusted, red handkerchief from his back pocket, and blew his nose. The sound he produced launched the several thousand Canadian Geese waddling around in the field out behind the Tavern, into an all-out, free-form, oh-crap-it’s-every-goose-for-themselves, skyward stampede. Inside the Tavern, tables shook, pictures tilted and milk soured. As the echoes subsided, Scooter James and the Dabney Twins crawled out from under the table, picked up their chairs, and sat down.
Al dabbed his eyes with the hanky, and crammed it back into his pocket. He sniffed twice, wiped his nose on his sleeve and cleared his throat.
“It’s bad, boys. I first heared about it after watching Leno last Tuesday. He had some feller on who wrote a book about some kinda paper folding art. Feller made a swan, a tree and a dog with 3 legs. Well, I think it were a dog. Then he had this city woman on who took pictures of folks wearin’ clothes. They’s some pretty skinny women in them pictures, and none of the fellers in the pictures was wearin’ socks. It were pretty odd.”
Dexter burped. “You got a damn point to this damn story, Al?”
“After Leno, I wasa' workin’ on my toenails a’fore I went to bed. I just finished with the belt sander when I heared this real serious city feller with a deep voice come on the TV talking about this new disease what’s goin’ around, and offerin’ to send some stuff to them that’s sufferin’ from it.
“I started listenin,’ and sure as hell, boys, I figure I already got it. Pure and simple,
I got it.”
Five grown men leaned farther back in their chairs, and my dog, Snorp, hauled himself upright, and headed for the back door. He almost made it, but decided to slip into the men’s room for a cool refreshing drink, before wandering outside.
“The city feller on TV was asking questions. He said the more ‘yes’ answers you gave, the worse the sickness had a hold of you.
‘Does Congress make you sick?’ Yes
‘Do you feel bad when you see commercials of homeless young ‘uns? Yes
‘Do them starvin’, abused animals commercials make you queasy?’ Yup
“Do Liberals piss you off?’ Yes
‘Do you ever itch?’ Hell, yes
‘Do you think recycling is a communist plot to divert our attention
away from the rebuilding of the Berlin Wall? Yup
“Do you ever get to feelin’ a little frisky when watchin’ HBO?’ Oh, yes
“Do you believe there’s a conspiracy afoot?’ Hell, yes
‘Do you think Rush Limbaugh might be confused
on a couple issues?’ Stomp-down yup
“Boys, it went on for an hour. This city feller in a suit askin’ questions what I had to say yes to. I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you it made me a little a’feared. When I couldn’t take no more, I went to the kitchen for a glass of buttermilk and Alka-Seltzer. Listening to that city feller riled my stomach up real bad.”
Five grown men swallowed hard and tried not to think about what buttermilk and Alka-Seltzer would taste like. Each knew, first-hand the tragedy Al’s riled up digestive tract produced, and were desperately hoping the Alka-Seltzer had worked.
“Anyway, at the end of the program, the city feller said he could send you this here copper bracelet and a necklace thingie that would help turn a lot of your yeses, into nos. I figured they was a little on the high side, being $59.99 plus $19.99 shipping and handling. They were right friendly folks, and said they was gonna double my order for free, if I just paid the additional shipping and handling. Hell, I knew I had it bad, so I figured doubling up on them bracelets and necklaces an’ stuff, just might help me make it through. I got on the phone, and placed my order. Seeing how I was the 10,000th caller, they gave me a free set of cookin’ pans. All I had to do was pay the $79.99 shipping and handling charges. They say them pans is a $500 value, and they ain’t available in no stores.”
Finally able to derail his mind from the buttermilk and Alka-Seltzer train of thought, Dexter asked, “Damn, Al, that seems to be a lot of damn money. Does this disease have a name?”
“It do. They call it the Acquired Anxiety Disorder. Seems those of us afflicted with it absorb the stress other folks feel. We’re just anxiety sponges, and we slurp it up like big dogs eatin’ okra.”
Ten eyeballs blinked, wondering why in the hell big dogs would want to slurp okra.
“Like I said, boys, I got it bad. I may not be long for this world, but I aim to fight it. I ain’t goin’ down without puttin’ up a tussle.”
“How you gonna fight it, Al,” asked Scooter James.
Al snorkeled down half his beer, tossed a ten on the table, and said, “Information, Scoots. Information. Information is the most powerful weapon we gots, and I figure I’ll arm myownself to the teeth.
“I figure there ain’t but two sources of true wisdom available to us today—Oprah and Ellen. If them womens ain’t talkin’ about it, it ain’t important. Theys the ones I’ll be depending on to get more information.
“Boys, I got me 15 minutes to coax my old truck back home. Ellen’s supposed to be giving some stuff away today, and I want to watch and see if I can use any of it for my cure.”
Al wandered out the front door and fired up his rig. As the parking lot disappeared melted into a cloud of blue smoke, Derby Brown spoke for the first time today. “Damn, fellers, I think I answered yep to all them questions, too. I was afraid he’d ask a question about thinking Hillary Clinton being hot.
“Did he say that show came on after Leno?”