Adventure with Baby Ben

Hello? Hey Myrtle, you doin' okay? Glad to hear it. Why? Well, considering all the indispositions going around. You know. Under the weathers? Stomach aches, Myrtle, stomach aches, the runs been going around. You ain't got ‘em, have you? Okay then, like I said, glad you doing okay in that regard.

Me? Doing well, course `cept for that little adventure Baby Ben and me had last Thursday. Didn't you see the write-up in the weekly, Myrtle? Thought that's what you were ringing me about. Well it was a time, that's for sure, it was a real time.

You know that antiques, used furniture, what-nots and general store they got out there at Effingham? Yeah, the old barn-looking building next to the railroad tracks, where I got the leaf-shaped silverplate serving bowl that time, the one where the silver was mostly worn off and the edges rusted a little. I just painted it up with a bit of that sparkly fingernail polish and you'd think it was brand new, looked so fine.

That's the place. Well, no I don't suppose it was silver all the way through, Myrtle, else why would I cover it up with sparkles? That's not the point of the write-up anyway, so listen up.

They was supposed to have this big clearance sale and I had a hankering for something else leafy-shaped, so I just figured I'd take a gander at the offerings down there Thursday morning, just in case. Cause it was going to be over Friday and I didn't want everything to be picked over, that's why Thursday, Myrtle. Anything wrong with shopping on Thursday? Yes, everything supposed to be half off or less. Less is best, you know me, bargains are us, that's what I always say. Thrifty, Myrtle, not cheap. Thrifty.

Anyhow, I figured I could always use another platter and put it underneath that bowl, you know, sparkle it up to match and it'd be good for pot lucks and the such. They are? When's that? Oh well, I'm going to be a mite busy Monday evening, don't think I can make that one, maybe the next, somebody's always having a benefit pot luck for something or other. Can we get back to the story, Myrtle?

So anyway, Thursday morning bright as a penny I was up and at ‘em by 8:00 and on the road, but naturally I needed to be back home by 11:00 for Bob, had not missed a day of Bob in a year and wasn't planning on starting now. Yes, I did see the 85 year old lady from Peaceful Valley Rest Home on there that time, yes, she sounded somewhat excited when she won the hot tub, would you let me tell this thing? Much as I love Bob it ain't about Bob, so listen up.

Well, wouldn't you just know it, my Bulova up and died on me and there was nothing for it but to stow Baby Ben in my handbag, it's pretty small and the handbag is pretty roomy so that wasn't a problem. For the alarm, of course, had to allow time to get back to turn on Bob, didn't I? Set Baby Ben for thirty minutes before 11:00, figured I could settle up and be back with fresh coffee by then, it's only twelve miles as the crow flies, the Merc's pretty swift.

Yes, I know I can't get home from Effingham like a crow flies, Myrtle, have to go by way of Elim and cut across the back way but twenty-five minutes is ample, always has been and always will be, pay attention why don't you?

Well, the sale was well attended by some of the sheriff's crew from down at the jail, guess everybody likes a good deal so the crowd was fairly thick in the old place by the time I got there. Naturally them mobile phones was in evidence too, plus all them pagers and walkies and such, never seen such a bunch of hardware, plus all of them uniforms got guns, some of them plain-clothes types probably had ‘em too, don't they all? No, it wasn't time for them to be at work yet, I reckon they was on the way when they saw the sale sign, shotgun shells half-off probably's what done it. Yeah, in the what-not department. I don't know, Myrtle, I don't purchase shotgun shells myself, where else would you lump ‘em for a sale?

I knew all them deputies and such would soon be on their way to jail — No, Myrtle, not to be in jail, to work at the jail. And I figured it'd soon be cleared out some in there and I could spot it if they did happen to have any leaf shaped silverplated serving platters, you know?

In the meantime I would just browse around the edges, make me a mental note of where stuff was over somebody's shoulder, see what else good I could snap up while I was there, maybe some printed hand towels or something.

What? How would I know if they sold out of shotgun shells, Myrtle, you in the market for some? Oh, your nephew is, well I got no idea, I wasn't interested in shotgun shells at the time, and even if they did have some left over there's no telling where they might be nowadays, probably in the lock-up down at the jail. Well, if you'll let me get on with it I'll tell you, Myrtle.

Well, what with the teensy aisles they have in there and the shelves stacked to the ceiling, it was kind of hard to spot the silverplated serving stuff, which is what I was mainly after as I said, so I was having to elbow a little here and there to get me some wiggle room. Plus I needed me someplace to plug in Baby Ben, see, he don't run on batteries seeing as how I had him since 1950 something, so I spotted me a little outlet near the front window, yeah the one with the neon lights and all the wanted posters. I turned his hands on over to 10:30 pretty as you please and pulled out his little metal doo-dad on the back to set the alarm. No, he's not too loud, nobody would have minded, that's not the point, is it? And then I just stuck his little plug right in that socket and that's when all heck broke out, Myrtle.

Well, how was I to know Baby Ben had a short in him? I hadn't had to use him for nigh on to a coon's age, always wake myself up with the roosters, proud of that fact too, don't lay-abed like some I could name — I'm getting there. Well, see, the alarm system was run off that circuit. Circuit. Outlet? Where Baby Ben got plugged in to, Myrtle. And when Baby Ben went haywire, all them alarms went haywire too, and the front door locked and wouldn't unlock, and the siren blared and wouldn't stop blaring, it was loud enough to wake the dead if we'd had any dead among us, and all them deputies and such went bananas. Bananas. Crazy, Myrtle, upset is what they all were, mighty upset. There was fussing and cussing from every direction, I never heard such perturbed speech so early in the morning in all my born days.

And about that time a couple of sirens came speeding up the road lickety split, just adding to the general upsetness, and the proprietor was attempting to pull the plug out of the wall socket and the cabinet underneath the window started smoking and they had to use a crowbar to pry it open and we all thought we were going to smoke to death before it was over, Myrtle.

No, I didn't get arrested or anything. Awarded is what I got. A commendation, they said it was going to be. All them deputies and the sheriff too, they said. Next Monday evening about 6:00 o'clock in the sheriff's office, you ought to come, Myrtle, they gonna have coffee and little finger sandwiches, maybe sweet rolls too, probably be a blast.

Well see, that cabinet is where the proprietor — the old man that ran the store, Myrtle — he was stashing Saturday night specials in there, that's what they call them but why is anybody's guess, I sure don't know - huh? Stolen guns, Myrtle. And bullets and what-not. Yeah, they really were what-nots, that's a good one, Myrtle. Right dab under the sheriff's nose nearly, too, guess the old man figured none of them would ever suspect him of nothing underhanded, being right down from the jail house and all.

Yep, Baby Ben's done for, sorry to say, but he sure did a good job that morning. Of course, whole place'll have to be re-wired if they ever let folks use that old building again for a store, that wiring was from the 30's I think they said, fried but good, caused black smoke like I never saw smoke, smelled to high heaven too and sizzled just like bacon in the pan, you know?

No, I didn't find me a platter, I didn't get no chance to browse through after the firemen made us all exit the premises - probably could have got a real good deal on one if they'd had it, what with all that smoke and water. No, not from any fire hose, from the sprinklers, Myrtle, all them sprinklers went to pouring to beat the band, wet up everything and everybody cause we couldn't get out with the doors all locked up tight. You should have seen them deputies trying to hunker down under the display tables, it was a real hoot, ‘till that cabinet started in to smoking.

I missed Bob, too, durn it, first time I missed Price is Right in a year. Have to start me up another year, I guess. Kind of looking forward to that commendation, Myrtle, want to come? It'll kind of make up for having to miss Bob and all.

Copyright 2007, Elizabeth G. Cox. All Rights Reserved.

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