by Chatty Philly…
I met her in Topeka. No, it was Emporia. No, it was Wichita. Doesn’t matter. What I do remember is that I met her in a saloon.
I was working the i35 circuit at the time, making the Kansas tornado run on my way to Oklahoma. I remember she was standing there up against the bar, just minding her own business. When I asked her if she wanted a beer, she nodded her head Yes.
She wasn’t beautiful, but she wasn’t ugly. She was kind of cute, but then again she was kind of homely. It was hard to pin her down exactly, but one thing I did know: something about her drew me to her. Now I remember. It was those eyes. Those puppy dog eyes.
She came home with me that night, if you can call my van a home, and that was that: from that day on she was in my life.
She was the perfect partner. When you live in a van, boundaries are essential. But you couldn’t have asked for a better van-mate. She never raised her voice, she never talked back, she never even said a word when we were breaking in the mattress. It wasn’t until a few days later I realized: she couldn’t speak at all.
That’s right; she was a mute. I’d never actually met a mute before. But gosh darn if she wasn’t the cutest little mute I ever did see. I was about to find out, she made a great partner in crime as well.
You see, I’m a roofer. Well, not really a roofer, that’s just what my business card says. Sure, I have a toolbox, a hammer and nails too; but the last time I actually did an honest day’s work was… Come to think of it, I never did an honest day’s work in my whole life. Interesting.
Truth is, I’m a storm chaser. A roofing scammer. I follow tornadoes all over the Midwest.
We make a great team, me and the twisters. After they do their thing, I swoop in and con old ladies out of their social security checks, then skip town before they ever knew what hit them. If you want to know the truth, by that point I’m actually doing these old biddies a favor. The last thing they’d want is me up on their roof, fiddling about. I’d only make things worse.
So there I was in Wellington, Kansas, working the i35 circuit, not having much luck at all (these Kansas grannies can be real wranglers), when up comes my girl on the porch. She hands the old blue-hair a note and the old lady says, “Why of course, dear. Of course you can use my bathroom.”
All of a sudden this granny hardass turns into an old softy, and a partnership is born. Through a series of notes, my girl tells the old battleaxe that she’s my sister, that we were orphaned as children, and that our parents were killed in a twister. It was the perfect scam. With a mug like hers, these old spinsters were handing over cash by the fistful. I never had it so good.
We were together that whole spring and into the early summer (tornado season). We made the complete i35 run from Kansas though Oklahoma and into Texas, then back up north to i40, all the way west into New Mexico. It was a gold mine.
Those eyes. Those puppy dog eyes. They could get to anyone. She was so good, in fact, I started feeling like I was doing these old widows a favor. What if someone even worse than me came along? What if they took these old wrinklies for their life’s savings? Me, I only cleaned out what they had in their checking accounts. I didn’t charge nearly what some of my competitors did. I even made a coupon.
But time wore on, and just like with anyone or anything, I grew tired of my lovable little mute. I had more money than I could shake a fist at, and anyway, the van was getting a little too crowded by now.
Then one day we were at this bar in Elk City. I came out of the restroom and saw my little dumb girl standing there with Tony Turnipseed, one of my competitors. He was doing all the talking while she stood staring at him with those eyes. Those puppy dog eyes. I was about to grab her and get out of there when I realized: this was my big chance. If I didn’t get out of there now, I may never be rid of her.
As I started up the van and headed out of there, however, it dawned on me that I’d been Had. Duped. Me! By a mute. Lordy be.
She was a groupie. A storm-chaser groupie. I didn’t even know there was such a thing.
I never even knew her name, and that more than likely the way I came about her was probably the same way all of her fellas came about her. She probably bounced around from town to town, changing owners like a lost dog. She was a gold mine though, that one. Those eyes. Those puppy dog eyes. And never a need to say even one word.
About the Author
Philip Loyd loves fat chicks and cheap beer, though not necessarily in that order. His first novel, You Lucky Bastard, is represented by New York Literary Agent Jan Kardys. Loyd lives in Dumbass, Texas. Find out more about Loyd at PhilipLoyd.com
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