by: Wes Ishmael

Part II

Funny how things work out, Hooter thought.

If LeRoy Norvis Underwood hadn't of betrayed his twin brother, then that other twin, Norvis LeRoy, likely would never have found his entrepreneurial spirit. There wouldn't be any such thing as Underwood's Wonder Balm—“For sore udders, chapped skin and other such ailments.”

If Hooter had entered the exhibit hall by any other door, he never would have walked by Norvis' booth and seen him for the first time in years, ever since LeRoy had tried to frame his brother in what was known in Apache Flats as the Great Weed Whacking Incident of 1999.

For that matter, if it wasn't for an unquenchable hankering for cotton candy, Hooter never would have ventured into the trade show to start with.

And, if he'd left by any other door, he wouldn't have seen the spitting image of Norvis, strutting through the door he'd exited only moments before.

As he watched the door close, Hooter could have sworn it was Norvis. But he'd just seen him at the booth. And, this Norvis was wearing faded overalls and carrying a purple umbrella, striding along with the confident gait of a wannabe bull rider.

“LeRoy,” Hooter said under his breath. It had to be. And, judging by Norvis' reaction when Hooter had mentioned his twin brother, Norvis wasn't expecting him. Hooter dropped what was left of his cotton candy and headed back into the trade show.


Ill-conceived Plans

By the time Hooter made it to the end of the aisle that was home to the Underwood's Wonder Balm booth, Hooter could tell LeRoy had already landed. There was the purple umbrella, after all, and Norvis' face, which couldn't have been paler dipped in a bucket of whitewash.

On his way to the booth, Hooter spied one of Norvis' groupies, one Hooter had seen making moon eyes at Norvis before. She was lost in concentration, obviously trying to square the arrival of another Wonder Balm founder who looked identical except for his shabbier attire.

Hooter squeezed her arm gently. “See the one with the umbrella?” he whispered. “That's the baby of the family, the twin, the evil twin in this case. Unless I miss my guess, he's here to make all kinds of trouble for Mr. Underwood, which could mean the end of Wonder Balm.”

Hooter got the reaction he expected. The lady stiffened, took a tighter grip on her cane and said simply, “We'll see about that.”

“First,” Hooter said, “If he's got other fans here, gather them up. I'll intervene in the meantime.”

The blue-haired angel took off at such a pace that Hooter had to wonder why she used a cane at all.

Hooter crept up in time to hear LeRoy inform Norvis, “You cut me in on your newfound fame or I call the authorities and tell them they need to check your licenses and such.”

Between confusion and rage, Norvis couldn't get a word out.

Hooter stepped up beside LeRoy and leaned on his shoulder, just in case LeRoy got cocky with that umbrella. He said with a smile, “There's only a couple of problems with that, LeRoy. First off, if you'd done your homework you'd know that your brother here has got every credential, approval and license in the book, from the FDA on down.”

It was LeRoy who was flummoxed into silence now. His single eyebrow was scrunched in concentration and then began to recede as he recognized Hooter. Then, like a startled caterpillar, it balled up again in fear.

“Plus,” Hooter continued, “If you'd paid just a little attention, you'd know that your big brother here has developed quite a following among one of the most influential sets there is in our great nation—family matriarchs who find that Norvis' miracle goo is good for all sorts of ailments. Let's just say some of them have a real soft spot for Norvis, too.”

LeRoy had just sucked in a breath to say something when a cane from nowhere came cracking down on top of his head.

“Shoo, you pole cat, shoo!” It was the one Hooter had sought for assistance.

“You heard her, beat it, Spanky!” It was the other lady Hooter had seen making moon eyes at Norvis earlier. Since he'd seen her last, this one had acquired a sorting stick. She swung it at LeRoy like a slugger in the eighth inning with no strikes, no outs and a comfortable lead. She was unconcerned if anyone or anything else was blocking her swing.

Hooter ducked and rolled out of the way. As he got his feet he glanced down the aisle. There was a whole gaggle of Underwood fans making haste to the Wonder Balm booth.

No Beating Fate

“The Granny Grapevine,” Hooter said to himself. It was one of those infallible, unexplainable forces of nature, raw experience and intuition trumping anything the male persuasion could throw at it.

Any lingering doubts Hooter might have had about the outcome disappeared when he spied Aunt Pinky and Nelda Isselfrick at the back of the pack, jaws set and eyes blazing. He had no idea they were even at the show. They weren't fans of Norvis; they were avowed enemies of LeRoy. It was their flowers swept away by LeRoy's weed whacking carnage so many years ago. They hadn't forgotten.

And there was LeRoy, running against the tide of the angry mob, running as if his life depended on it, which it likely did. The ladies shifted directions toward the exit door LeRoy had cleared.

When Hooter and Norvis got through the door, Hooter said, “It's just like old times, Norvis, look.”

Instead of Norvis leaning into the throttle of a rusty Ford 8N, as was the case when he'd tried to escape years before, it was LeRoy trying to will a golf cart up a hill as fast as gravity and one foot madly paddling the pavement would carry him. It seems the first cart he spied needed a new battery. Heading down the hill, gravity was on his side; now it was against him.

Aunt Pinky and Nelda Isselfrick had spied golf carts, too, ones that had a full charge. They had LeRoy hemmed in on either side. Nelda was swinging her purse at LeRoy like a buzz saw. Aunt Pinky was throwing little jars of Miracle Balm at him like Orel Hershiser fastballs. On both counts, Hooter knew from experience the damage they could inflict.

It was a whole lot like watching a cartoon. Gravity would slow LeRoy to a stop on one side of the hill, bring him back down and back up the other side of the hill a shorter distance, then forward to start all over again. All along the way, Pinky and Nelda would have made a champion bulldogger proud; they hazed him head-to-head every inch of the way, both forward and backward, never missing a beat with their barrage or their outcries. “That's for my African Jasmine you sloth-eyed half-wit…this one's for my heirloom tulips you no-count idgit…”

Through it all, the wail of a siren drawing nearer played in the background.

Hooter slapped Norvis on the back: “Sometimes déjà vu ain't all bad.”

Don't forget to BOOKMARK  
Cattle Today Online!