Tales from Exit 22 by Al Batt
It was a beautiful day for a morning.
I was sauntering down a gravel road when a pickup truck towing a boat pulled up. The brakes squeaked in protest.
The driver turned off the engine of his dented and duct-taped vehicle. It dieseled for a minute before ending in a loud backfire.
The driver of that rusty steed was my neighbor Crandall, who said through an open window that was no longer capable of being rolled up, “Just three more payments and this baby is all mine.”
The boat was in great shape. I’ve never owned a boat. I don’t think I’ve ever owned even a toy boat. I do remember stopping at a neighbor’s when I saw a “boat for sale” sign at the end of his drive. I didn’t think he’d ever owned a boat either. There were two things stationed by the sign: a bicycle missing a back wheel and a push lawnmower that had been pushed too far. I asked the neighbor about the false advertising. He replied, “Well, dere boat fer sale, ain’t dey.”
Another neighbor told me that the two best days in his life were when he bought a boat and when he sold that boat. Boats are handy if you don’t want to get wet while you’re sitting on a lake and fishing. Some claim a boat is nothing more than a hole in the water that you pour money into. A cousin painstakingly built a boat. Each inch of wood was perfection until he backed his truck out of the garage and over his perfect boat. The sound that made was so soul-crushing, he never built another boat.
Three payments later, Crandall broke his piggy bank and purchased a brand spanking new truck. He likes pickups because the box gives him a place to throw any parts that fall off it. He said pulling a boat with a new pickup gives a fellow a chance to smash up two things he hadn’t paid for.
Despite having new wheels and a nifty boat, Crandall began to feel like something still for sale on the third day of a rummage sale. Something was missing in his life. So his daughter-in-law got him onto an online dating service. She asked him what his comfort level was. He had none, but allowed himself to become involved in the dating process.
It wasn’t long before he was hooked. He’d met someone. She was dang near perfect, but she and her first husband had divorced because he loved his boat more than he loved her. Crandall had come to a fork in the lake. He figured it was the boat or her. He put up a “boat for sale” sign and sold it to the guy who had purchased the neighbor’s bicycle missing a back wheel and the push lawnmower that had been pushed too far.
He spruced up his place as if he were in contention for the yard of the week honors. There were no more than three used tires on his lawn at any one time. He was going to ask the new woman in his life to marry him. He needed a wife because he couldn’t keep track of all his mistakes by himself. His first marriage had ended in a split decision. He bought an engagement ring.
On the day he planned to ask for her hand in marriage, he put on his best bib and tucker, including his favorite cargo pants covered in pockets. He picked her up and drove his brand-new pickup to the Eat Around It Cafe, where the motto is “If you don’t like it, eat around it.”
His cheeks were flushed and his stomach was churning. He’d wanted to put the ring into a burlap bag, but his daughter-in-law told him that was seriously lacking in the romance department. Instead, he’d put the ring into the bread pudding he’d ordered for his sweetie pie. She liked the dessert so much, she snarfed it down, ring and all.
He nearly choked on his tapioca. She nearly choked him after he told her what he’d done. She was outraged or at least slightly miffed. Crandall suggested it was possible that in some cultures, they’d be considered married. There was a flurry of activity. Most of it was her trying to find someone else to give her a ride home.
He’s not sure if he’ll get the ring back or if he wants it back.
Al Batt’s columns appear