I was minding my own business when a shiny black Dodge roared up to the house. Before the dust settled an earnest, well dressed, youngish fellow jumped out. He was apparently in a hurry. He hoofed it for my door.
It is my long standing practice to greet all newcomers in a relatively menacing manner. They came to my house. It only seems natural to make them question their logic.
I grabbed my dog and slipped out the back door. I like to get a good look at anyone venturing on to Curmudgeon Compound before engaging in the dreaded yet inevitable misery of human interaction. Also I’ve found that people who suddenly discover that a dog the size of Philadelphia and I are precisely where they weren’t expecting… well lets just say it has a wondrous effect on their personality. Salesmen, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and politicians alike suddenly wish they’d stayed in their natural habitat of the suburbs. (I note that folks arrive to take my money, save my soul, or tell me they’re saving my soul by spending my money. It’s nice that people are looking out for my soul but have you ever noticed that nobody ever shows up to hand you a beer and talk about fishing. There’s a lesson in that.)
As usual, the guy didn’t see me until I got a good look at him. Just one guy. (No compatriot in the truck or elsewhere.) Well dressed. Driving a righteous truck. A newish 4×4 clearly owned by someone with the presence of mind not to turn it into a chrome mess. (It’s fleetingly rare to see a good truck withoutout gobs of ill fitting fluffery bolted to it. It was aesthetically marred by the fact that it was a shortbox but other than that a fine machine.) The guy looked as shiny and nondescript as his truck.
Coming alone meant he wasn’t there to convert me to a religion. God’s self selected chosen ones travel in pairs, for entirely logical reasons. Also, for logical reasons they tend to drive rustbuckets. Similarly, salesmen drive pieces of shit. This is all you need to know if you consider selling anything door to door as a career. Tellingly, politicians drive nice cars. On the other hand they tend to drive trendy abominations like a Prius or hybrid SUV. (Any citizen who’ll change his vote based on the carbon footprint of a leased machine deserves what they get.) There were no signs on the truck so it wasn’t a utility worker. Also no tools.
He looked like he was in a huge rush. Like virtually everyone, he had no idea I was there.
I crossed my arms and adapted my body language to radiate hate. (Which, even when I’m in a good mood, seems to come naturally.) My dog, apparently a better judge of character than me, sat happily and showed no inclination to do one of her patented growls. (Such a shame! I love her growl. It should be recorded and incorporated into heavy metal. It’s low and dark and tells you that something from the deepest pit of hell has awoken. It makes you really really wish you weren’t in her territory. It makes you wish you weren’t even in the same time zone. It tells you that demons, wraiths, and the spirit of the Navy SEALS are considering a course of action from which there is no return. Should she turn the growl into action I’m pretty sure the ensuing mayhem would be exciting and short for whomever is on the receiving end.)
Alas she growls when she wants and doesn’t when she doesn’t want to. The only one to growl today would apparently be me. Bummer.
I cleared my throat; “AH HEM!”
Usually at this point people whirl around, decide they’re going to die, and shorten their sales pitch by 95% while sidling toward their car. This guy, apparently a lunatic, stuck out his hand and tromped right over to me. His smile was a foot wide. More like a lottery winner than a normal person. My dog started wagging its tail. Damn dog was ruining my theatrics! All the while the guy was talking.
Whoa, slow down there auctioneer. It took me a minute to process that many words. Meanwhile I’d shaken his hand and he was petting the dog.
Obviously he was looking for .243 ammo. (A side note: there are people to whom “two forty three” means rifle ammunition and those to whom it means nothing. It tells you plenty about who you’re talking to. He had not mentioned that he was talking about ammo and I hadn’t asked. It was obvious.) My only question was why he thought my house was a good place to go to get it?
I took a deep breath. So today’s was the day. Haven’t we all been waiting? It had finally happened. The zombie apocalypse had gone down and the looters were coming from the cities to the country; intent on stealing our supplies. I’d never expected them to be well dressed and smile so much. Kinda’ a letdown. What happened to the rioters from central casting? But life is like that. If the zombies are friendly and talk fast, so be it.
I took a deep breath and prepared to launch into a soliloquy: “Sure you’d like some of my ammo but I’m afraid you’re going to die alone in a snowbank. You should have read ‘The Road’ when you had the chance. Being a sporting man I’m going to give you three steps toward the truck before me and my dog get Medieval on your ass…”
But it wasn’t to be. He was talking again. Fast. So many words…
Following a suitable lag time while I processed his words I got the point. He had consulted with Mrs. Curmudgeon about my ammo supply. Why would the lovely and intelligent Mrs. Curmudgeon be giving out OPSEC on the phone? For that matter she probably doesn’t even remember the calibers I (we!) stock. (She’s mostly interested in pistols, beyond that it’s all up to me). As far as she’s concerned, I might kill deer with either a cannon or a deathray. So long as I get it to the freezer the matter of caliber is irrelevant to her. How could she know how much .243 I’d stashed? Why would she offer it up to some schmuck with a shortbox and freshly pressed shirt?
He was talking again. Fast. How many cups of coffee had this guy drank?
Slowly the truth dawned. He was still talking but I’d given up on parsing out independent words. I interrupted him.
“Wait. You called my wife on the phone?”
He nodded. He was still petting my dog, who was in ecstasy.
“Did my wife sound like a sweet grandmotherly type who might bake you oatmeal cookies?”
His foot wide smile got even bigger.
“You were talking to my neighbor’s wife.” (Note: sorry for the sexist connotation. Obviously my neighbor’s wife is also my neighbor. But I wasn’t about to get into semantics with a guy that talked like he needed to switch to decaf.) Meanwhile the guy was practically jumping up and down; happy that he was getting through to the rube with the pretty dog.
“You’re at the wrong house. Madge and her husband Frank run a gunshop out of their house. I’m sure they’ve got .243.”
He beamed. Then, regrettably, opened his huge mouth.
“It was wrong.” I interrupted. “But you’re close.” I proceeded to give directions. Contrary to common opinion, country folk will sometimes give simple directions that aren’t intended to get you lost in the hinterlands for our own amusement.
With that he stopped petting the dog (to the dog’s immense disappointment) and started jogging toward his truck.
He paused in mid stride.
“Take your time. They live there. It’s not like they close at five or something.”
He slowed a bit; still smiling. My dog wanted to follow him.
“Tell ’em I said ‘hi’. They’re good people.”
His smile, already epic, expanded to galactic.
“Good luck with your deer hunt.”
The smile got broader; started forming it’s own gravitational pull.
Then, in what must have been a particularly difficult effort for him, he pulled out slowly and carefully. My dog whined, disappointed to be stuck with me. (There are cookies to be had at the neighbors and I’m convinced she’d telepathically bonded with the visitor.)
For once I’d met someone who didn’t make me want to shout “get off my lawn”. I guess I’m getting soft.