‘DID I EVER tell you about the time that …” Doc began.
“Yes,” we answered in unison.
I think we may have hurt his feelings. He frowned at his empty plate. “I was just thinking about the first time I saw Mandy work birds.”
“She’d run up to a thicket, stick her head in and listen for birds,” Wrong Willie finished for him. “Then if they were running out the other side she’d hurry around and cut them off.”
Doc stared at Willie like pigeons had just flown out of his ears.
The Hunting Club was killing a rainy Saturday afternoon in Doreen’s 24 HR Eat Gas Now Café. It wasn’t a pretty sight. Most of us have been together for so long that we’ve heard our same stories over and over again.
Doreen did what she does best. She simply poured coffee and watched us wallow in a mire of familiarity. We didn’t even have Trixie to look at. She was off on a weekend in Cozumel with her twin sister Dixie.
We just knew she and Dixie were laying on the beach in their new bikini bathing suits somewhere, sipping on drinks with umbrellas in them.
It wasn’t good for us.
In contrast, I idly wondered what kind of wax Doreen uses on her mustache. “Did I ever tell you guys about the time that the War Department and I hired a guide on the White River in Arkansas and for three days we caught nothing but two little bitty trout?”
I was kinda pleased that I’d finished the sentence before someone cut me off.
“Yeah, and it rained all the time you were up there and she threatened to throw your guide in the river,” Wrong Willie said.
Youngster was quietly tying flies at the far end of the counter. Doreen had finally given in and allowed him to keep his tying vise at the café. Delbert P. Axelrod, our own version of Quasimoto, joined him at the counter.
“Look,” Delbert said. “Horny toad.”
Doreen nearly slapped his head off.
“Ow! Let me show you what I have!”
In desperation, he quickly placed the little reptile on the counter. It did a few push-ups and glared at the café’s occupants.
I thought for a minute that we were going to have a fight. But Doreen quickly realized what was going on. “Get that reptile off my counter!” Doreen ordered by way way of apology.
I put my hand against Delbert’s chest and pushed him back.
“I mean the lizard.”
Delbert rescued the lizard and put it in his pocket. Big Roger, who was sitting next to Youngster, didn’t even blink, but then again he’s worked with us for the past fifteen years and nothing surprises him.
“I woke up one morning on the lease, swung my legs over the side of the cot and stepped on a horny toad in my bare feet…” Jerry Wayne began.
“And it hurt so bad that you fell backward onto Doc’s cot and woke everyone up,” Woodrow finished.
Everyone returned to their coffee cups.
“Anyone want to go to my house and help me clean out my tackle box?” I asked.
“I cleaned out my box last year, put it on the dock and…”
“One of the kids knocked it off and you lost most of your lures,” I finished.
Thunder rumbled outside.
“Hud and I were catching sandies off the boat ramp one day when it was thundering like this…”
“And it was lightning so y’all were casting sideways to keep from frying yourselves,” Wrong Willie said. “We’ve heard it.”
“I haven’t,” Big Roger said.
There was a shocked silence in the café. We stared at him. A two-headed space alien couldn’t have gotten a better reaction.
“Did you hear about the time I was gigging frogs with my Cousin and a lizard fell down his neck in the dark?” I asked hopefully.
“Nope,” Big Roger answered.
“What about the pheasant hunt in the panhandle when it was so cold we couldn’t feel our fingers on the trigger?”
“Nope,” Big Roger answered, again.
The café lit up like the sun had just peeked through the storm clouds. Someone who hadn’t heard all our stories was in our midst.
“What about,” Doc began cautiously, “the dove hunt when we had to stay in the room where a man had died the night before and the pool water was so green that something was alive in there but no one had the courage to get close enough to find out what it was???”
We waited breathlessly.
Big Roger thought for a moment. “Nope.”
“Huzzah!!!” We high-fived, pulled chairs around the counter to surround Big Roger. Doreen got her raincoat and left.
She’d heard them all before.
Email Reavis Wortham at [email protected]