Experiment #380

Wipple Gang: Prospect Part 1

“I’d give her three days,” I said, “till this stink hole breaks her.” But I was wrong, it took a lot longer’n that. 

Lots a lost souls flew out here to strike it rich in the Plaskar deposits that were “everywhere.” Only problem was any vein big enough for a rumor to travel back to Earth was twice bled dry by the time the dreamers got here.

Beyond the fortune hunters. no one came here ‘less they had to. No motel to speak of. No natural curiosities or festivals. In fact, most people who came only stayed cuz they’d spent their last dime getting here. A few struck it rich, but only enough to keep the rumor mill running, never enough to make a difference.

“I’d give her a whole week,” Stank Foreman said. His real name was Pete, but no one could remember the last time he’d bathed, not even him. He’d be hard company to keep if I could remember the last time I’d bathed. 

“See that crinkle in her nose,” I said as she stepped further into the room and learned what B.O. really meant. “Three days max.”

“I’ll see that and raise you two days,” Stank said. I was about to call his bluff and raise him another four days when I heard some yammerin’.

Johnny Fox, a lecherous old duffer if ever there was one, sprang to his feet to offer her a seat. She thanked him, but stopped when she saw the state of the chair and the marks Johnny’d left there. 

“There’s that crinkle again,” I said. “I’ll raise ya a week.”

Stank laughed, but stopped short. Johnny Fox had put his hand where it didn’t belong. Many a young lady had suffered more from fools such as Johnny, but crinkle or no, this one punched him in the jaw and brought her knee up where Johnny didn’t think it belonged. He howled and fell to the ground, one hand on his face and the other on his crotch. 

Experiment #381

Wipple Gang: Prospect Part 2

She stood over him for a minute prepared to teach him another lesson. Just then Jimmy Fox, Johnny’s oaf of a brother walked in the saloon. 

“What’s this here?” he roared.

I looked at Stank. “Raise ya a stint in the cooler,” he said and winked at me. I nodded back. The bar fight that followed was one for the record books. They, Stank and I, still talk about the great brawl of ‘41 as if the whole quadrant was involved, though it wasn’t much more than Jimmy, us and the lady. When all was said and done, Stank and I and the lady stood there with most of our teeth and all of our pride. 

We didn’t win the fight by any stretch, and we all got kicked out of the saloon, but the Fox brothers would think twice before winning a fight with us again.

The lady’s hair had fallen out of its tight bun and blood and dirt crusted on each cheek and knuckle. But she was no worse for wear than Stank or I. In fact she’d even hit Jimmy with a bar stool and a well placed fifth of Martian whiskey. It didn’t do any damage or slow him down, but it was something. to. see!

Stank and I mostly succeeded in punching each other when Jimmy ducked.

“Pleased to meet you, ma’am,” I said standing, doffing my cap and extending my hand to help her up. “I’m Clem Alban. If you don’t mind the stench, this is my buddy, Stank Foreman,” I said pointing to him. 

“I’m Mavis,” she said. “Mavis Wipple.”

And thems was the humble beginnings of the notoriously overestimated Wipple Gang.

Experiment #382

Wipple Gang: Gold Rush

We called ourselves the Wipple gang cuz Mavis said we should. Me and Stank had had our name on plenty of fool’s errands before so we were right fine with her taking this one. Well that and the fact that she could beat us up one side of the spaceport and down the other. 

When we looked at the state of our finances, which was to say we had none, Mavis got it in her head to pull a heist. She crinkled her nose, which I later learned was what she did when she was “fixin’ to think.” She worked out all the plans and presented it to us one night in the clubhouse, which was just another way of saying the shack we were squatting in. 

Mavis laid it out end-to-end and Stank, who’d done a maglev train heist or two, repeated it back to her. “So your plan is to get some guns, get on the maglev train, make them give us the money and then get off the train.”

“You got it,” Mavis said. 

“Sounds like a plan to me,” I said. It was pretty similar to the plan I’d come up with except I’d forgotten about the getting on the train part. 

“Where do we get the guns?” Stank asked. 

Mavis crinkled her nose and I kicked Stank for screwin up Mavis’s plan.

“How bout the armory?” I asked. 

Mavis nodded. She crinkled her nose for a few more hours and then presented the new plan to us. 

“You’re saying we get some laser guns,” Stank repeated, “break into the armory, steal their guns and then go pull the maglev heist?”

“Sounds like a plan to me,” I said again.  

“Where we gonna get the laser guns?” Stank asked. 

I was thinking on that till Mavis started crying. I punched Stank and said, “What’re you doin’?”

“We can get laser guns from the constable’s station,” Stank said. 

Mavis brightened at that. She went thinkin’ again and when she came back, Stank repeated it. “You wanna get an experimental gun that’ll blow a hole in the constable’s station wall. Then we run in and get what we need?”

“Sounds like a—” Stank cut me off before I could finish. 

“Where do we get the experimental weapon?” he asked. 

“Easy,” she said, “from the maglev heist.”

Stank and I both thought about this for a long moment. 

“So,” Stank said, “we pull the maglev heist to get an experimental weapon so that we can rob the constable station of its lasers so that we can steal guns from the armory and then pull the maglev heist?”

“You got it!” she said, proud as a peach in Patagonia.

I looked at Stank expectantly. He nodded approvingly. 

“Sounds like a plan to me!” I said. 

Experiment #383

Wipple Gang: Klondike Part 1

After the train job went South, both in the direction that maglev train went and in the cash that never left it, the Wipple Gang, me, “Stank” Foreman, and Mavis Wipple went on a “cleansing fast,” least that’s what Mavis called it. Stank called it rebelling against the “Food Czar” …whoever that was. I always just called it being too broke to eat. 

So we was hungry for work and for food when Mavis came to Stank and me with a plan. “I have it on good authority,” here she nodded at Stank, “that there’s whole lots a tech in Old Man Cooter’s barn. Word is that the black-market value’d be high enough to get a one-way ticket off this rock and back to a place where baths’re regular.”

“Hey, speak for your own hygene,” Stank said with a smile.

“You in particular,” Mavis said and winked at him. She pulled out a laser gun some miscreant had left by the old playground. “This should be ‘nough to stop Old Man Cooter. How much of a fight could ‘Old Man’ Cooter put up anyways?”

Mavis put the laser gun in her waist band, since she didn’t have a holster and hopped in the back of the beat up truck we’d freed from its previous owner. Stank and I hopped in beside her.

“Why ain’t one of you drivin’ the truck?” she asked.

“Just followin’ your lead, Boss Lady,” I said. 

Stank got out of the back and into the driver’s seat. He drove us out to Old Man Cooter’s property. We parked across the street from his driveway and ran toward the house. We didn’t realize it meant running a mile in the freezing cold. ‘Bout a quarter of a mile in, Stank and I were huffing and puffing and I got a stitch in my side so sharp I could’ve cut cheese with it. At a third of a mile, Stank and I both fell over.

Mavis yelled and questioned our heritage with a space sailor’s skill. That was just about the time Old Man Cooter drove up on his way to the flea market. 

Experiment #384

Wipple Gang: Klondike Part 2

“Can I help you?” he asked. 

“Old Man Cooter! So good to see you…” Mavis said trailing off as if he knew what she were talking about.

“Okay. Uh, what can I do for you?”

“How’s the weather?”

“I’d say rather cold.”

Having finished everything she could think to say, she just stared at him. 

“You three okay?” he asked. “Those two boys look like a coyote rung the life out of ‘em. You need a hot meal or something?”

Stank and I both perked up at the mention of food. Old Man Cooter chuckled when he saw our puppy dog eyes. “I’d say that’s a ‘Yes.’”

“We’re fine,” Mavis said. 

If I weren’t all gentleman-like and she weren’t stronger and smarter than me, I would have punched her out right there. 

“We were just heading up to a farmhouse we heard was thissa way,” she said. 

“Well, there’s no one out here, but me,” Old Man Cooter said. 

“What?” Mavis asked.

“My house is the only one down this road.”

“Oh,” she said, then looked thoughtful. “Would you take us there, please?”

“Ummm—”

Mavis pulled out the laser gun and shook it at Old Man Cooter. “Cuz I asked nicely.”

“Am I supposed to be scared?”

Mavis nodded and put both hands on the gun. “Sure as a Pollywog eats fish.”

“That’s pretty sure,” Old Man Cooter said with a laugh.

“No, it’s sure as a Pollywog marries a fish,” I said demonstrating my sophis-ti-cation.

“They don’t do that neither,” Stank said being helpful like.

“Shut it!” Mavis yelled, then to Old Man Cooter, “Put them hands up or I’ll knock that head off your shoulders.”

Old Man Cooter sighed. “You know what that is, right?” he pointed to the gun in Mavis’s hands.

“Yeah, it’s our ticket outta this place,” she said and Stank and I backed her up with “Yeah”s of our own. 

Experiment #385

Wipple Gang: Klondike Part 3

Old Man Cooter shook his head. “What do you want from me?”

“To go see your house,” she said

“And what’s in your barn!” I added. 

“Okay,” Old Man Cooter said, “hop in.” 

Stank and I smiled and hopped in the back of the truck. Mavis sat shotgun and kept the laser gun on him at all times. 

He took us back to his house and put some soup on to boil. 

“Now let’s see that barn,” Mavis said.

“Follow me,” Old Man Cooter said. 

Stank and me were so excited, we started imagining what it’d be like to have clean sheets and to see our natural skin color.

When he opened up the barn, we all gaped at what was inside, or rather, wasn’t inside. The whole barn was empty except for Patoolla the Cow. There was no tech and nothing we could sell. 

“Where’s the tech?” Mavis shouted, whirling on the old man with the laser gun trained on him.

“What tech?” he asked holding up his hands for the first time. 

Mavis turned to Stank, “you said there was tech here we could sell.”

“Don’t look at me,” he said, “I heard that from Clem.” He pointed at me. 

“Well, I made that up,” I said.

“What? Why???” Mavis shouted. 

“Sorry, Boss Lady, after the last job went south with the moolah, I thought you could use a easy win.”

Mavis screamed. She pointed the laser gun at me and fired. Nothing but a little spark came out.

“That’s a kid’s toy,” Old Man Cooter said. “A replica of one of the Stigian models.”

“You knew?” Mavis asked him. 

“Yeah!” I shouted, “I knew!” hoping no one would notice the yellow puddle at my feet. 

Old Man Cooter shrugged. “The orange cap on the muzzle gave it away.”

Mavis crumbled to her knees.

“Well this’s a big box of turd fungus,” she said.

Experiment #386

Wipple Gang: Klondike Part 4

The old man belted out a laugh. “Ha! She used to say that too.”

“Who?” Stank asked.

“My daughter,” the old man replied. “Your friend here reminds me a lot of her.” His eyes shone with memory. “A few more moments with someone like her. Well… It’s done me good.”

“What’re we gonna do now?” I asked maturely and not at all whiney-like.

“Your call, Mavis,” Stank said.

Mavis dropped the gun. “That meal still a possibility?” she asked. 

“Planning a robbery sure makes a feller hungry,” I said stepping away from my personal puddle. 

Old Man Cooter looked at each of us in turn, sizing us up, then made up his mind. “For Zarah’s sake, Yes,” he said. “A meal and a good night’s sleep looks like it’ll do you all some good.”

Stank got contemplative for a second, “Why you helping us? We just held you at laser point and tried to steal your stuff.”

“I’m not your daughter,” Mavis said. “And I won’t be.”

“I’m not askin’ you to be,” Old Man Cooter said, “but you’re somebody’s daughter. And if my little girl showed up like you done, I’d want her taken care of too.” 

“My Pa’s been dead a long time.”

He smiled a warm invitation.  “If you want to stay, you’re welcome.”

“What about Stank and me, Sir?” I asked. “We wouldn’t know what to do without Mavis, Sir.”

He smiled like a grandfather at his teenage grandson. “On one condition.”

“What’s that, Sir?” Stank asked. 

“Baths.”

Experiment #387

Wipple Gang: 49 Part 1

Mavis got itchy if she stayed in one place too long. We’d been staying with Old Man Cooter for almost a month and Mavis was acting like she had hives. Though that also could have been an allergy to the soap that had heretofore been a distant memory to each of us. 

Old Man Cooter required us to bath regularly. And when me and Stank had first done it the water was as black as ashes at dusk. But after three or four more dunks and a change of clothes we were both looking prettier than a Posey on Sunday in the summer. I thought about calling Stank by his real name, but who knew if this would last, plus “Pete” just sounded wrong when I tried it out. 

Anyways Mavis was getting itchier’n a mosquito bite in July and one night she called Stank and me to her room and laid out her plan. “Old Man Cooter’s been good to us, but we can’t loaf on him forever. We needs a paying job that’ll get us back to Earth and give him something for retirement.”

“Ain’t he already retired?” Stank asked. 

I elbowed him for interrupting. 

“Well we can’t just let him spend it all on us can we?” Mavis continued, “We—”

“No?” I asked, thinking the question weren’t rhetorn-ical. 

“That’s right, Clem. He’s taken care a us, now we needs to take care a him.”

“Whadda ya propose we do now?” Stank asked. 

“Land speculation.”

“What in tarnation’s that?” Stank asked. 

I kicked him in the shin for such a tone with Mavis.

“We buy some land cheap and turn around and sell it for a profit.” She said. 

“We don’t have any money to buy it with,” Stank said. This time I knew he were right so I didn’t kick him er nothin’.

“Can’t we just rob a bank?” I asked.

“I’m glad you asked, Clem, and you too, Pete,” when she said my name it fell flat but when she said Stank’s there was music in her mouth and a twinkle in her eye. “We’re gonna rob the Bank Of 49.”

Experiment #388

Wipple Gang: 49 Part 2

“Can’t we rob some other bank?” I asked. “That place is tighter’n a muskrat’s death grip.”

“Ain’t no other bank gonna give us a payday that’ll get all three of us back to Earth,” Stank said. “And Old Man Cooter a retirement.”

“Well wouldn’t that mean we’d get stopped soon as we tried to buy tickets?” I asked. “They’d knows the money didn’t pop out of Stank’s tuchus.”

“Stop worrying, Clem.” Stank said. 

“We’ll be fine,” Mavis said. She batted those big hazel eyes at me, and well, I ain’t proud of it, but in that moment I woulda called green “blue” if she’d asked me to and even if it weren’t turquoise-y at all neither. So I dropped it and we went on with her plan. 

She’d gotten a lot better at planning since the maglev in-so-dent, but when she were done, I looked over at Stank to see what he thought. “I like it,” Stank said, “but where we gonna get a chicken suit this side of Orion’s belt?”

Mavis’ face got all scrunched up like she were gonna cry and I thought I was gonna have tah kick Stank again, when her face relaxed and she said, “You’re right, Stank. Want to work on a plan together?”

         I never seen Stank’s face light up like a Christmas tree before, but it sure did then. They hold up in Mavis’ room for hours after that. All I could hear was laughing and giggling and not so much as a strategical word. They finally came out when Old Man Cooter rang the dinner bell. 

Experiment #389

Wipple Gang: 49 Part 3

They chomped and giggled all through dinner without a word or a nod at me or Cooter. Then after they ate, lickety split they ran right back to Mavis’ room. It went on like this for a few days till I couldn’t take it no more. I pounded on the door and shouted, “Open up in there!”

Stank opened the door with a half-smile on his face. “What’s going on here?” I asked tryin’ to keep the pained tones out of my voice. 

“I’m glad you’re here, Clem, I gots something to ask ya,” Stank said. 

“You knows you can say anything to me,” I said. 

“Okay, fine then,” he said puffing up to his full height. “Will you be my best man?”

“What?”

“Mavis and I… we’re getting married!

“What about the job?! What about the land spec-u-lotion and getting back to Earth and taking care of Old Man Cooter?”

“You’re not losing a gang member, you’re gaining a brother.”

“I thought we already was brothers.”

“Nonsense, now it’ll be official.”

“What about the bank of ‘49?”

“We’ll do that soon as my fiancé’s finishes her calculations. No need to rush.”

“So what have you two been doing this whole durn time?”

“Well we started planning the bank job, then I said something intelligent-like about if we rob the bank and buy tickets everybody would know where we gots the money. And then she said, ‘You so smart, Stank—”

“Wait that’s exactly what I said before and you told me to stop worrying.”

“Maybe you didn’t say it right or loud enough.”

“You took my ideas and my woman!”

“She ain’t your woman,” Stank said. “And—”

“I ain’t nobody’s woman, but my own self,” Mavis said.