May 02, 2009

Quicklube: A Fable

By Milton T. Burton © 2009

It's turning out to be an A-number-one-fine day for C.C. Chumly. He and several of his like-minded buddies are quaffing a few Tall Toad Pilsners at the Belly-Up Bar, a truly classy place in beautiful downtown Midland, Texas. Early that morning Chumly, a Midland City Councilman, was asked on a local live radio talk show just what he thinks of the allegations of torture of the Iraqi prisoners. His reply prompted his ejection from the studio, but earned him thunderous applause from the audience. "If hooking up an Iraqi prisoner's gonads to a car's battery cables will save one Texas GI's life," he said, "then I have just three things to say: "Red is positive. Black is negative. And make sure his gonads are wet."

Still basking in the warm glow of his friends' backslapping approval of that morning's escapade, C.C. is working on his third brew and wondering if the young punk will show up like he promised. Suddenly the door opens and a pudgy kid in his late 20s slides into the room, a Quicklube gimmie cap pulled low over his face, his movements jerky and nervous. He pushes his cap back and his eyes dart anxiously around the room. "Is C.C. Chum...." he begins hesitantly.

The bartender, Jean The Ex-Porn Queen, nods toward the group of older men gathered at the end of the bar. Chumly notices the new arrival and grins broadly. "I'll be back in a few minutes," he tells his companions with a knowing wink. "Me and this young whipper-snapper got some MAN BUSINESS to tend to back yonder in the gents' room."

The others snicker. Oil operator Stub Martindale holds up his empty glass. "How 'bout some service here?" he asks Jean.

She pops the cap on another Tall Toad and sets it down on the bar in front of the hulking, red-faced oilman. "You want service, then you better follow them two," she tells him. "I ain't in that line o' work no more."

This brings a nasty giggle from the assembled men. Stub watches Jean as she oscillates back down toward her end of the bar. "Wouldn't mind gettin' me a little of that," he says to nobody in particular.

"You kiddin'?" one of the men asks.

Stub turns toward the man and shakes his head gravely. "This is Midland, Texas, boys. And in Midland, it don't pay a man to cull none of 'em."

"You're sure right about that," says fellow oilman Clifford Snark. "It's different in Odessa. Why, one time me and ole Chester Hoot went to one of them cat houses up there and..."

Outside the West Texas sun beats down hot and relentless, while inside the men pointedly ignore the pig-like squeals coming from the restroom. "Nope," Stub muses philosophically, "in Midland nothing ever changes."

Milton T. Burton was born and raised in East Texas. He has been variously, a college history teacher, a political consultant, and a cattleman. He have published two crime novels with St. Martin's Press, NY titled "The Rogues' Game" and "The Sweet and The Dead."

No comments: