Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Tale of Four Mowers

Friday night was Gil Milan’s going away party. Milan was in the Tennessee National Guard and had been called up, due to ship out the next day. It had been an all-guy kind of party. Lots of beer. Lots of talk about war. Talk about cars. Talk about girls. And talk about goodbyes. His buddies knew the score, as did Gil Milan, and while they wished him well, they were glad they weren’t going.

Peep Peppers, Van Cornell, Art Shoun, Pauly Black, and Timmons Dawson stayed to the last the drop. Last call. Midnight. All five had grown up in the roughly the same neighborhood. Graduated from high school and despite being separated by family and career had formed one of those rare groups that stayed in touch, knew each other’s lives, attached to each other, detached for awhile, and re-attached and renewed randomly. Timmons Dawson drove home not just because he drove to the party and not just because he was the designated driver but because Madams Peppers, Cornell, Shoun and Black conspired to see he drove and that Messrs. Peep, Van, Art, and Pauly didn’t drive. The four wives knew their husbands. And it was Dawson’s van, anyway.

The cinco amigos didn’t exactly depart the premises at midnight. Only Gil Milan left on time. Uncle Sam wanted him at 9:30 at the bus station and he darn well better be there on time. The party itself carried on for an hour or so. And then slowly dissolved. Peppers, Cornell, Shoun, Black, and Dawson, not the last ones out, crowded in the Dawson’s mini-van, sans three car seats and struck out down through Johnson City towards the south end of town. A fifteen minute trip to Shoun’s house was first.

The business district up by the mall was dead to the world at 2:00 in the morning as they entered it.

“You know,” said Dawson, “I’ve always wondered what it might be like to be the night watchman and not see anyone all night.”

“What brought that on,” asked Art Shoun. “Were you watching Back to the Future?”

“No, I just noticed the guy key his code by the lawn mowers and drive off to some other spot. How boring.”

“Somebody’s got to do it.”

“You know,” nobody remembered afterwards who spoke, “what would happen if those lawn mowers were to go missing?”

“You’re kidding,” somebody, also not remembered, answered. Timmons Dawson, who ran a profitable printing business and a rent-a-storage operation, peeled off to an empty parking lot across from the mall. The cafe was closed--permenantly--and he pulled up even with the building, turned off his lights.

“What are you doing,” said Art Shoun. They were all kind of giddy from too much beer and probably needing to relieve themselves so any delay was not welcome.
“Look,” said Timmons Dawson. And they looked.

The night watchman, a rent-a-cop, and security, all wrapped up in one young human male, drove up to the tire store that sits apart from the mall itself. In front of the tire store were four lawn mowers, undoubtedly chained together.

“I wonder how long it takes for him to make his rounds?” No one seemed to be too interested but no one seemed to object watching. Twenty minutes later the security man was back to his check-in box mounted on the light pole.

“Let’s do it,” someone said.

And they did.

The four darted across the road. They didn’t know if the riding mowers were chained to the light post or to the building or if they had gasoline or spark plugs or anything. For being drunk, the boys cranked ‘em up in a moment, and discovering the mowers were only chained to each other, formed a single file line and entered the street. Luck was with them. Not only was this end of town magically empty of people and cops, the rent-a-cop, coming back in twenty minutes failed to even notice the mowers were missing. In the forty minute gap, the men were miles from the mall, running wide open, headlights on, four abreast.

Four guys, sat upright in the warm summer air, smiling, looking around. Each mower ran at a different speed. Each one jumped differently over the tar strips. Each mower was a different height. A lone passing motorist could only stare at the spectacle.

The cops, the real ones, weren’t alerted until mall security called them. The streets were that deserted in the morning, and the police were off in another part of town. And since no one else had called dispatch, the police had not clue which direction the mower-thieves had gone. They assumed the mowers had been loaded onto a flat bed and carted off. So no chase was given.
Peppers, Cornell, Shoun, and Black, third to first, puttered up the highway past millions of dollars of cars, all lit up and shiny at too-gawd-awful in the morning. There was no end game. No exit plan. Surely, soon, one would run out of gasoline. Or, the cops would show. Or, some citizen would call in this comic spectacle on the city streets. Or take their picture. They’d be world famous--sort of--by sun up.

But oddly, a tear was developing on each face. They might have sobered a bit with the realization that but for the grace of God one of their own was on his way to war. Perhaps to come back less a person, if he came back at all. The night, the prank, were a foolish last hurrah for a friend. For a pal. To mark the moment.

Pauly Black was the first to run out of fuel. When he quickly lost speed the others were yanked up short and stopped, too. Now, in the middle of the street, out on the edge of town, they started to walk back home. Timmons Dawson had had enough sense to not go straight home and soon found them. Nobody said much on the drive back to town. The cops would find the mowers, perhaps find fingerprints, come talk to the four gents in the next morning much to the chagrin of their wives. But, at this point, they almost--almost!--didn’t care. It had been a rousing send off.
It was worth it.


Post a Comment

Comments are always welcome. Thanks. If in doubt about which profile to choose from, use "anonymous."

<< Home