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.”