Triumphant Tea Bags
After the exciting reality show of Gulf War II signed off, a few of us had traces of buyer's remorse.
late June 2003.
Well, it's pretty much summer now, but I've been a bit too preoccupied to pay much attention to what's going on around town. We all spent way too much time following the Third Division on TV. Our county is actually split by Fort Stewart, so all this mess is right close to home. The yellow ribbons around here have real names on 'em.
Still, I did pull over to see what was happening at Leroy's trailer last week. The sheriff was there, along with a couple of deputies, and they were giving Leroy a real hard time.
"C'mon, Leroy! Just tell us where you hid the drug lab and it'll save us all a lot of trouble!"
"But I ain't got no drug lab! I can't even afford aspirin! And I flunked chemistry twice in high school! What makes you think I got a drug lab?"
"We got us a secret informalent who says you're a major organized crime kingpin, mixin' up batches of methelamphetamites right here!" said the Sheriff.
As usual, Mr. Henry had showed up to watch. He poked me and said, "That's prob'ly the only time in history the concepts of speed and organization was mentioned in the same breath as Leroy!"
I went down to talk to one of the deputies.
"Are y'all sure about this? Leroy's pretty flaky, but running a drug lab seems pretty much out of his league."
The deputy turned and looked at me for a few seconds, then he hollered out, "Hey Sheriff, I think we got us another drug dealer here!"
Well, I sure didn't like the idea of being called a drug dealer, so I headed back up to my truck real quick so as to stay out of trouble.
By this time the Sheriff was tired of Leroy not providing the desired answer, so they put Leroy in the back of a deputy's car, and got out a couple of sledge hammers from the trunk.
You could hear 'em going through the trailer, opening and slamming doors, and turning things upside down. Then they started in with the sledges, knocking holes in the walls, ceiling and floor. One mighty swing even came all the way through the outside wall, causing a big laugh inside. It only took a few minutes, and then the deputies came out and gathered back around the sheriff, He didn't seem all that surprised at their lack of success in finding any drug stuff.
They were putting the hammers back in the trunk when we all heard a strange sort of creaking sound from the trailer. Everybody turned to watch as the whole trailer just sort of shook itself like a wet dog and slowly collapsed, winding up flatter than a highway 'possum.
Well, this caused a lot of general hilarity and high-fiveing among the deputies, and they only quieted down when the TV news truck arrived a few minutes later. The news people got the whole tour, and interviewed. the sheriff standing on what used to be Leroy's trailer. They were packing up when the sheriff called them back and there was a little discussion with a lot of pointing down the road. Then the sheriff got in his car and drove away, while the TV crew set up their cameras again. Nobody seemed to be paying any attention to Leroy anymore, so I snuck down and let him out of the car.
We had just got back to my truck when we heard a lot of commotion from the road. The sheriff had returned, with siren blaring, lights flashing, and tires squealing. He slid off the road sideways right in front of the camera, and jumped out, waving his pistol. and shouting, "THE EVILDOERS IS IRRADIATED!!" Then he turned around and showed his other profile and did the same little dance again. One of the deputies held up a big poster that said "MISSING ACCOMPLICE", and another one put a "RE-ELECTRIFY the SHERIFF" bumper sticker on the TV truck.
Once the camera lights went off, the whole law enforcement contingent headed out. But the excitement wasn't over, since they passed another little parade as they left. There was a big white Lincoln, a county dump truck, and a church bus with signs saying "Summer Challenge '03".
I recognized Miss Pearl Wolff in the Lincoln. She heads up the local garden club. Actually, she pretty much IS the local garden club. All the other members quit when she took over and started telling everybody what to do, without bothering to ask anybody else's opinion first. Only her cousin Miss Toni still comes to the meetings, since she always does what Miss Pearl wants.
The dump truck drove up next to the pile of rubble, and the bus spit out a flock of college kids. They were all wearing T-shirts that said "Cleanin' for Jesus", and carrying rakes and shovels. They attacked the remains of Leroy's trailer and the surrounding jungle, and had the whole lot cleaned up in about an hour. Then they went over and sang a few verses of "Kum Ba Yah" to Miss Pearl and got back on the bus. The county driver got out a clipboard, checked his schedule, and headed out as well.
As the diesel clatter and dust settled, it got real quiet. Leroy hadn't said a word since I rescued him, he was too much in shock. Mr. Henry was watching after him, but even he was strangely silent.
After looking up and down the road to make sure the law was still gone, I got a bit braver and went over to confront Miss Pearl.
"Miss Pearl, you set this whole thing up, didn't you?"
She turned and smiled at me, obviously thinking I was paying her a compliment. But I was getting a bit hostile, and pushed a little harder.
"Why'd you tell the sheriff all those mean stories about Leroy?"
I should probably point out that in my town, when somebody of high social standing says something that obviously ain't true, we don't accuse them of lying, That's just too crude and disrespectful. We try to find different, less confrontational words.
"I didn't tell any stories! It was all a matter of emphasis; proposing my own interpretation of the evidence!" she replied. "And besides, it doesn't matter anyway. Don't you think the block looks a lot nicer with Leroy's ugly old trailer gone?"
I looked around and had to admit to myself that things were a lot more neat and tidy after today's cleanup. But I figured the weeds would grow back soon enough.
"But what about Leroy?," I said.
She looked at me, beginning to suspect that I wasn't really on her side. "Well, I'm sure he's grateful, but he doesn't have to thank me," she said. "I do for others because of what The Lord has done for me."
"Well," I said, "Why don't you just step over there and explain that to him?"
Well, this pretty well confirmed her suspicions about me. "You know I don't associate with trash like that!" she hissed. "And you shouldn't either!" With that, she popped the Lincoln in drive and pressed the gas a little harder than necessary, scattering a bit of gravel in my direction.
But that wasn't her last word. About thirty yards down the road, she slammed on the brakes and I saw the backup lights flash on. She roared back in reverse and I had to dodge a bit to avoid being run over. The window whirred down and she said, "You know, you might ought to quit worrying about Leroy and look after your own affairs. Your garage is getting to look pretty shabby!" She didn't wait for an answer, but sent another gravel shower my way.
I walked back to my truck. Leroy was still catatonic, but Mr. Henry punched him in the shoulder and said, "Come on, Leroy. Danny has been after me to move into the main house anyway. You can stay in my old room over the garage for a while, if you behave yourself."
That sounded good to me, since I didn't want to face my wife's reaction if I invited Leroy to my house. But I was still a bit surprised at Mr. Henry's silence all day.
"Mr. Henry", I said, "Why didn't you say something? You know this whole deal was bogus!"
"Professional Courtesy," said Mr. Henry. "You're always calling me a con man, but I can’t play in the same league with these neo-con men. They can sell you a horse, deliver a goat, and make you think that was what you wanted in the first place.
Come on, Leroy, let's go home."
As they left, Mr. Henry
turned back to me and said, "You comin'?"
I thought a minute, and said, "No, you just go on. I have to head to Wal-Mart and get some house paint."