Shootin' the Breeze

by "Bummer"

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October 2006

    OK kids, it’s time for our annual Halloween story. The reason I’m making this absolutely clear is a few years ago I received a very indignant and angry letter demanding that I apologize for writing about a gang of vampire bikers who attacked people and drank their blood. It was sorta like “The Lost Boys”, but I told the story in the first person and apparently this particular reader thought I was confessing to horrible acts of a diabolical nature.
    So, gather ‘round the fireside children. There’s a cold wind blowing and the night is dark…….........

    Stumpy sat on his bike waiting for his woman to get off work. She’d been working the afternoon shift at this low paying factory job for months and they still couldn’t seem to get ahead of the game. He’s been a mechanic his whole life and it wasn’t his fault that the old man who owned the garage he worked in croaked of a heart attack leaving his few employees without jobs. The little town they lived in needed another freelance auto mechanic about as much as it needed another pizza parlor [there were seven of ‘em] and keeping their friends cars running wasn’t paying off too well. For the time being they’d just have to put up with living off her meager income.

    Wanda came walkin’ out in a few minutes and tiredly threw her arms around Stumpy with a sigh. “Oh baby. I’m so damned tired. That press is gonna take off one of my fingers unless they get the sucker fixed!” She then climbed on the back of Stump’s old Shovelhead and they headed home through a light misty rain. Their only car had a blown head gasket and Stump hadn’t managed to get his tools home from the shop before the owner’s daughter and son in law locked everything up following their attorney’s advise. Over dark, shiny wet streets they rode as Stump thought about this latest turn of events and wondered when or even if they’d ever get a break.

    When they got home he shut down the bike and realized Wanda was fast asleep as she clutched him around the waist. He just sat there on the bike for minutes silently agonizing over the helplessness he felt. Lately neither one of them even wanted to get the mail out of the box for fear it might [and usually did] contain final notices from creditors. Eventually he gently caressed her crossed wrists over his stomach and urged her awake as he turned his head to her and quietly said, “C’mon Wanda. We’re home.”

    They entered the house and she headed straight to the bathroom to clean off the sweat, dirt and grime with a hot shower. He began to make a pot of coffee and realized he actually looked forward to what had become their nightly routine of sitting at the little kitchen table and talking as she unwound. In a short while she emerged from the bath all scrubbed up and smelling of baby powder. Her strawberry blonde hair was tied in a ponytail and she wore a comfortable short wrap around cotton robe.

    As she poured herself a cup she said over her shoulder, “Remember my work buddy Julie, the girl I told ya I went to school with?” Then she glanced at him as he nodded. “Well, I don’t think I ever told ya this, but her granny reads palms and stuff. They’re Hungarian and Julie says they used to be Gypsies. I guess her grandma used to actually travel around the country with a whole bunch of ‘em before she moved in and settled down with Julie and her parents.” Stump just nodded again waiting for her to continue. “Anyway, she was telling me that maybe I should go see her and get myself read.”

    “Get yerself read?”

    “Yeah. You know….have my palm read and see what she has to say. Now, don’t look at me like that! It might be fun. I don’t really believe in all that hocus pocus, but I’ve never been to one and at least she’s a real Gypsy.”

    Stump smiled and thought, ‘If she wants to go get her palm read then I’m not gonna spoil it for her. Lord knows she deserves any little pleasures she can get these days.’

    “Maybe I’ll go tomorrow morning just for the Hell of it. Whatcha think?”

    Stump smiled again and encircled her with his arms as he told her, “Sure. Go for it baby girl.” Then they kissed before heading to bed.

    The next morning after breakfast Wanda called Julie and giggled like a school girl as they made plans. Soon Julie’s old El Camino pulled in the drive and Wanda gave Stump a peck on the cheek before climbing in and leaving.

    Julie’s grandmother lived in a small apartment over her parent’s garage. As they climbed the stairs Wanda felt a strange foreboding, as if something bad was going to happen. Kinda like the time Stump left for work on his scoot and Wanda just KNEW things weren’t right. Within mere minutes of leaving he got T boned by a car running a red light and was in the hospital for weeks with numerous broken bones.

    It was a sunny morning, but inside the musty apartment heavy drapes were drawn and Wanda had to squint through the darkness to see a very small wrinkled old lady sitting in a huge overstuffed chair. As they entered the ancient old woman slowly rose and stood hunched over a twisted wooden cane, her withered left hand clutching the jeweled golden handle.

    “GRANDMA, THIS IS WANDA.” Then she turned and said, “Her name is Ursula, but everyone has always called her Grandma ever since I can remember. Ya gotta speak slow and loud ‘cause she’s kinda deaf.”

    The old woman motioned Julie to sit at a small table, seated herself opposite and thrust out an open hand.

    “Ya gotta give her anything made of silver or gold. Got a dime?” and Wanda fished through her purse to produce one and gave it to her. Grandma then cleared her raspy throat and grabbed for Wanda’s hand.

    Peering at the palm for a moment she raised her cloudy eyes to Wanda and rasped, “I see many things here. I see a problem with money. I see a dark man calling to you and reaching out hees arms.”

    “That would be my husband. He has black hair and I guess he’s considered dark. I SAID, THAT WOULD BE MY HUSBAND!”

    She bent to squint at Wanda’s palm again and continued, “Yesss. Your hoosband. I see a bad thing turns into a good thing. I see a piece of paper hidden in a metal box. Your man is angry…..No! …. He’s laughing now. Your troubles will soon be over, but first you must find the metal box and the piece of paper. That’s all I can see now. Go home.” Then she abruptly released Wanda’s hand and slowly stood.

    Wanda didn’t know what to say or do next, but Julie gently urged her to stand and said, “Let’s go. BYE GRANDMA! SEE YA LATER!” and they left.

    Later as she got ready to go to work she turned to Stumpy and said, “I still can’t get over what she said Stump. ‘Find the metal box and the piece of paper.’ Wonder what THAT’S supposed to mean?”

    “Well the important thing is ya didn’t find out anything terrible. If ya woulda, you‘d probably be freaking out right now. After ya left this morning I thought of that and started to worry. We sure don’t need any weird Gypsy hoo doo stuff right now the way things have been going!”

    They left to drop off Wanda at the plant, then Stump rode past his shop on the way home just for the Hell of it. Numerous cars were in the little parking lot and he cruised on in to check out what was happening about his tools.

    The daughter and son in law were there with their attorney and a few others to inventory the garage. After Stump finally got the OK to come back later and get his personal belongings he was walking out the door of the office when he heard someone say, “Hey what’s this metal box? It was in the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet.” and Stump stopped cold remembering Wanda’s Gypsy and what she said.

    The box was handed to the attorney and he opened it to find a few keys, a pocket watch and a piece of paper. When he unfolded the paper he began to read, “‘This, the last will and testament of Myron Brumbaker, witnessed by the following people and pursuant to the laws of the State of Ohio’ then it’s goes on and is witnessed by some people and a notary public.”

    “Well what the Hell does it say??!” screamed the daughter.

    “It says your father left the shop and all it contains to somebody named John ‘Stumpy’ Harding….’In appreciation of his dedicated service and with the hope he’ll continue to employ…’ then he lists the names of everyone who worked here.”

    “WHAT ABOUT US??!!”

    “Obviously his home, his substantial bank account, his Florida house, his rental properties and all his other holdings still go to you. This just concerns the garage. It looks absolutely legal to me.”

    Stump was speechless. All he could think to himself was, ‘I didn’t even think the old fart liked me. He used to sit watching me and all he seemed to do was to bitch about everything I did wrong.’

    Two years later found Stump and Wanda’s lives completely turned around. He began an advertising campaign that promised quality and more importantly, honest work and reasonable rates to customers that brought in so many NEW customers he had to add on three other bays and more mechanics just to keep up. Wanda quit her job [with all her fingers] and one evening informed Stump they were pregnant. Stump always wanted a kid, but used to be worried how they could afford one. Now money [for the first time in both of their lives] wasn’t an issue.

    Five years after that, when Stump was sitting with his son on his knee one day, the boy pulled the pocket watch out of his father’s pants pocket. When the attorney said ‘The shop and all it contains…’, that included the watch. While fiddling with it the kid managed to open the back of the watch and discovered an inscription: “To Stumpy for being the son I never had……Myron”

    I bet y’all thought this was gonna be all spooky and full of blood and guts huh? Well, obviously so did I. Them damned voices! Never know what they’re gonna tell me to do next.

            Happy Halloween,             Bummer

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