by: Wes Ishmael

It likely had something to do with Hooter's debit card being frozen again when he was trying to fill up with gas. It still irked him that his choices while on the road were either using a card to pay at the pump or go inside and pay cash, guessing how much it would take to fill up without having to take another trip back inside to get his change. Out of spite, when he went inside and they asked, no matter how full or empty his tank, he'd tell them $29.76 on the button, then wait for the bead sliding and his change out of two twenties.

A different figure might have demanded a larger number of bills and coins in change, but the number yielded the fumbling results Hooter intended.

So, Hooter's card wouldn't work at the pump. He went inside to give it a try.

With what Hooter thought was a superior look, the kid at the register informed Hooter in a loud voice, “Your card has been declined.”

It didn't matter how much cash Hooter had in the bank, hearing that always made him feel about knee-high to a flea, even if it was a technical glitch. There was no use explaining. He pulled out two twenties: “Ring me up for $29.76.”

As Hooter suspected, the card was frozen because some cyber scum somewhere in the world had hacked into his account yet again.

It might even have been the surprising pang of jealousy Hooter felt when Eunice Nickelcock—unbeknownst to her, and engineered by Hooter and some clandestine pals—was able to just stroll off the grid.

It could have stemmed from trying to maneuver Bugsy through the carnival crowd at the fair two counties away, while also toting two snow cones and three funnel cakes.

It seemed as if everyone Hooter saw was wandering and meandering zombie-like, punching at their so-called smart phones, oblivious to the sights and sounds around them.

"If all you're going to do is play with that phone and run into people trying to get somewhere, stay home," growled Hooter when a man broadsided him in reverse, apparently in a hurry to take a picture of something he was spying with his camera phone.

The collision toppled a snow cone and funnel cake from atop Hooter's precisely balanced pile of concessions.

"Why bother even paying admission,” Hooter said as he brushed the coconut-grape flavored ice from the front of his shirt.

“This is supposed to take the pictures mister." Hooter said, pointing at his head. "They're called memories."

The flustered photographer apologized and asked how much he owed him.

Hooter didn't even have to think: "$29.76 on the button."

It might have been being forced to see part of the circus called the Republican presidential debate, waiting to get a tire patched on his way back home from a trip west of Tucumcari.

"I've been a Republican for as long as I can remember," said the old man sitting across from Hooter, somberly puffing on a cigarette and eyeing the rerun. "Most of them don't have enough sense or responsibility to be voted milk monitor. And don't even talk to me about the other side."

About the second time Trump puffed up his chest to bluster nothing of consequence, the old man got up and turned off the set. "A bully and a blowhard; I'd rather listen to that wind whistling out yonder; at least it's doing something."

It could have been a recent iced tea break with the gang at Lonnie Johnson's feed store.

Cousin Charlie was perusing the most recent paper. There was a story about the U.S. and Cuba renewing diplomatic relationships. There were pictures of the newest cars in that country from about the 1950s.

"Remember when were kids," Cousin Charlie said to no one in particular. "Blow a fuse and you could use a gum wrapper to get you by."

"That's when gum wrappers were foil," Lonnie said wistfully.

"And you didn't have to carry an extra computer board in your tool box in case you broke down mowing hay," Peetie said.

Lonnie drilled a hapless June Bug with a stream of tobacco juice.

"It don't matter about that one outfit saying they didn't sell tractors so much as lease the software to producers,” Lonnie growled. “You don't own this stuff leaking computer chips out of the carburetor, they own you." He dipped a meaty thumb and fingers into his bag of Mail Pouch for more ammo.

It could have been all the recent news about folks losing jobs, scholarships and ways of life for speaking their minds, while others were celebrated for their courage to be diverse, though it meant breaking the local law and a couple of commandments.

"How is it that you get kicked out of school for carrying a jack knife or for telling a joke, no matter how tasteless, but it's just fine to run roughshod over common sense and decency,” Aunt Pinky said over coffee one recent morning as she wadded up the morning paper. “I'd say it's about time the dog got back to wagging the tail, or getting it bobbed.”

She tried crushing the wad of paper into an even smaller ball. “The only thing this is good for is bird scratch.” She hurled it into the trashcan.

"Uh oh, Pinkie's on the warpath,” squawked the replacement parrot Doc Bulger had given her a couple years back. "Uh oh, Aunt Pinky..."

The shoe Aunt Pinky aimed at the cage was fast and accurate. "You watch it, bird," she seethed. “I heard the bobcats crying last night. Might be a good day to set you and that cage our for airing.”

Pretty Boy Floyd Jr. didn't say another word.

Whatever single reason or combination of events, after Hooter had been expecting an important phone call, but was instead summoned from his mechanics project three times in two hours by sales calls, despite supposedly being placed on the no-call list, he knew he'd had enough.

Hooter may change his mind from time to time, but in between, he's all in.

He cancelled his Internet service. He cancelled his cable TV subscription. He looked at his cell phone and thought about the satisfaction he could have using it for practice with welding rods, cutting torch and vices. If people wanted him bad enough, they could leave a message on the land-line or write a letter.

Unusually calm enough to remain practical, though, Hooter made a final call with his smart phone.

“Charlie, you want to buy that cell phone of mine.”

Charlie knew better than to ask for details. “How much?”


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