“All right, Hubert, come on up here.”
“Well fellas, looks like my time is come. Nice jawin’ with y’all.” His voice, sweet and raspy like sawdust in honey, falls upon their exhausted ears in merciful closure. The old men sitting in proximity to Hubert glance at each other in silent gratitude to his emigration, each with big eyes rolling and white heads shaking.
“What’ll it be today, Hubert?”
“Oh, just a lil’ bit off the ears there, Ottis. Freshen her up.”
“Sure thang, Hubert.”
“Say Ottis, I ever tell you ‘bout the time when I was in the war and done shot two men with one bullet?”
“Reckon you have, Hubert.”
“Oh, well, I ever tell you ‘bout the time the fire station was burnin’ down and I ran in and saved all them fire fighters?”
“Yup, reckon you done enlightened me on that as well.”
“Oh, well how ‘bout the time I won the heart of the county’s beauty queen?”
“Nope, Hubert, I ain’t reckon I heard that tale afore.”
“Well, Ottis, you may wonder how I’ve remained such an eligible bachelor all these years. Time was I was quite the lady’s catch. You see, back when you was too young to remember, Miss Belle Mae Struthers was crowned Hope County’s reignin’ queen of beauty and all the single fellers was competin’ for her affections. They brought her flowers and verse, but I knew the key to that gal’s heart was her appetite. Poor thang hadn’t eaten in weeks on account of her worryin’ ‘bout her figure in that contest. Her ma was an eater though and I knew deep down, Miss Belle was too.
One day, I invited her out feastin’ and Cupid closed the deal. Come sundown, we was moved in together! Problem was, once she got relaxed around me, her great appetite extended to her oration. That gal talked so much, she chewed through my ear like a termite on a wood pie. It got to be I could only get a moment’s quiet when she had food in her mouth and so of course, I ended up feedin’ her and feedin’ her some more. It was the only way I could enlighten her on my own ways of the world. It’s a fella’s obligation, you know.
Well, the more she ate, the bigger she became and the followin’ year, she wasn’t Miss Hope County no more. Doctor’s got around to tellin’ her, she was ‘unhealthy’. She’s got to diet… DIET?! Well, I ain’t got no more defense against her feminine chit-chatter if I can’t stuff food in her maw. What’s a feller to do?”
“Dunno. What’d you do then, Hubert?”
“Well, after all day of hearin’ her talk the hind leg off a one-leg mule, I went right out and bought her the biggest pack of chewin’ gum you never seen. I told Miss Belle the key to any successful diet was to chew on gum all day and the more the better. That ways, your mouth is foolin’ your stomach. I got her chewin’ so much gum, she coulda blown a bubble big enough to carry a man cross four continents. Yessir, I was slappin’ my own back over that one. She couldn’t rattle on her soapbox no more and I got the word in edgewise for a change. Did I tell you, she talked so much she could start a conversation in an empty house?”
“I sure figured that out, Hubert.”
“Well, the followin’ year Miss Belle gets a visit from the dentist, or ‘old man trouble’ as I call him. Those pearly whites of hers were startin’ to look like they caught on fire and every tooth tried to escape in a different direction. In hindsight, I suppose I should have got her chewin’ on that sugar-free gum. Anywhos, I’m back at square number one now that she ain’t allowed to chew on gum no more. There’s no stoppin’ her mouth and she’s got a lot of words for me by now… she called me everything ‘cept tall, slim, and cute. What’s a feller to do?”
“Dunno. What’d you do then, Hubert?”
“Well, I struck on a diller of an idear. Chewin’ tobacco! I can get her to fill her mouth with that. Ain’t no calories to make her fat or sugar to rot her teeth in ‘bacco, right?”
“That’s true, Hubert.”
“Well, I went down to the apoth’cary and bought out his stock and brought home my shoppin’ to Miss Belle. Only problem was, I arrived home and she weren’t there no more. Seems my Miss Belle went and eloped with some other feller. She soon thereafter lost all her weight and got her teeth fixed and reigned Miss Hope County once again.
Well, was I relieved! She near ruined my very essence of manhood, ne’er puttin’ her ears afore her mouth. But I sure felt a mighty sadness for that other feller she ran off with… she was more full of wind than a corn-eatin’ horse… I mean, her tongue was tied in the middle and loose at both ends… I tell you, if you was to ask her a nickel question, you got a fifty cent answer… she could talk the ears off an elephant… that gal rambled on so much, she—”
Ottis snaps the scissors shut with a distinct click and briefly envisions plunging them through his customer’s unrelenting tongue. Instead he composedly brushes a few loose stray hairs off the exasperating man’s robust shoulders. “All right then, Hubert. Reckon you look like a new man.”
“Sure as sherbet, I do. Thank ya kindly. What’s the damages today, Ottis?”
“I figure about five dollars should cover it.”
“A bargain every time. Say, Ottis, remind me the next time I stop by here to tell you ‘bout the time I swam the Nile and tamed them local piranhas.”
“Sure will, Hubert.”
Eric J. Guignard is a 35-year-old author living in Southern California, USA. He writes fiction short stories in the genres of horror, speculative fiction, and young adult. He also writes research and knowledge-base articles in genealogy research, woodworking, and ecology. Eric holds a Bachelor Degree in Advertising and a Master Degree in Public Administration. Eric is married and father to an adventuresome infant son.