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. 

Experiment #390

Wipple Gang: 49 Part 4

“Sorry, Mavis,” I said automatically. 

“Don’t be sorry, Clem. Stand up for yourself. I like Stank cuz he’s honest, handsome as the day is long and don’t take lip from nobody, not even me.”

“Sorry, Mavis,” I said again. 

She shook her head. 

“But, Mavis, I—”

“Clem,” she said. “I’m with Peter and that’s final.”

I hung my head and sauntered toward the door. As I passed Stank, I looked up at him. He didn’t meet my eyes.

I wandered outside and collapsed into a heap on the dirt. I’d lost my best friend, my gang, and my lady in the space between a Sparry bird’s ears. 

That’s where I was when Old Man Cooter found me. “So you’re the broken part of the triangle?” He asked. 

I nodded. 

“Come on, son,” he said. “Let’s get you some ice cream. Ain’t nothing heal a broken heart like ice cream.”

We walked inside and poured chocolate syrup and hot fudge on our Sundaeas.

Mavis and Stank took off a few days later. I think they tried one of their plans. It went about as well as all their other plans. I send them money for the commissary every now and then when the crops are good.

Old Man Cooter and I got along like chickpeas in a chicken beak. He taught me everything he knew about farming, and I didn’t leave. When he died, I was the only one of his kids to show up to the funeral. It was on a remote planet, in a dreary town where arriving would likely mean staying forever, but still. 

Since taking over the farm, I’ve bathed regularly, just about every month since.