I’m in Hattiesburg, my old stomping grounds. It’s where I spent my childhood and teenaged years. It’s the setting of my story Scalawags, Outlaws and Big Fish.
The pond where I caught the monster bass is just over yonder hill. Mule sits on the couch partially covered by an egg-white blanket; I sit on the loveseat covered by a plaid blanket. In the back room our mother snores lightly.
It’s just after three in the morning.
The old man that owned the pond recently passed away. The woods Mule and I stomped through on our way to catch the old man’s fish are gone. Entire patches of trees were removed to open the area around the pond. I assume to catch tow-headed boys who snuck into his pond.
I smile and continue to remember.
Some of my family resided in New Orleans. They would often come to visit much to the chagrin of everyone in the area. These two cousins were loud and boisterous, not to mention a bit annoying.
“Y’all stay in the yard,” my mom would tell us. “Don’t be out there running the roads.”
We never listened. God only knows how many gray hairs we gave our mother. In the distance you could hear the cousins yelling.
It wouldn’t be long before their loud mouths invaded our home. Long before you ever saw them, you heard them.
“We’re headed to Possum and Mule’s. We will be back,” they would yell.
I swear people in Hattiesburg got the announcement, and it was twenty miles away.
And here they’d come.
One day they came over and Mule and I had worked out some hand signals. We had an electric fence put up around a section of the yard. It hummed like a hornet’s nest and stung almost as bad as any hornet.
“When I give you the signal, you turn off the fence. When they come over and do the thing I do, you turn the fence on. The signal is me moving my fingers on my right hand.”
Looking back, I’m surprised things went as well as they did. Without fail, our cousins soon showed up, and soon, the boasting began.
“I can do anything you can do. I ain’t scared,” they yelled.
“Oh yeah,” I said, chomping at the bit for some action.
“Yeah,” the older of the two said.
“Well, I can take this piece of metal and put it on the electric fence, and nothing will happen!”
“No, you can’t. Metal is a conductor for electricity.”
I gave Mule the signal and put the metal on the electric fence. The cousins’ eyes grew large as I ran up and down the fence.
“Wow. I can do that.”
“No, you can’t. Only real men can do what I just did.”
“Give me the metal…”
I gave Mule the signal. The electric fence started to hum. My cousin put the metal to it. Sparks flew and my poor cousin couldn’t turn loose of it.
Mule killed the juice to the fence, and my cousin fell to the ground.
“Guess you ain’t a real man,” I said.
Mule leaned against our mobile home laughing. The youngest cousin shook his head.
“Pathetic. I can do anything you can do.”
I grinned. They say a sucker is born every minute. I looked toward Mule, and he nodded laughing.
“Well, if you think so.”
I gave him the signal and peed on the electric fence. My cousin watched astonished. I finished and zipped up.
Then, it was his turn. The electric fence hummed and sizzled. My cousin never noticed.
He started his turn and the current shot up the stream of pee. To say the results were shocking is an understatement.
I could hear my mother laughing. The kitchen window gave a wide view of the backyard. Mom was doubled over with laughter at the sink. My cousin was laid out next to his brother.
And silence fell over the backyard. All was right in the world. After we got our cousins up and helped home, it was a while before they visited again.
It was a true case of ‘mess around and find out.’ Time has moved on, rather rapidly in fact, but the memories last a lifetime.