MODINE GUNCH: A YULE DUEl
This Christmas, I don’t have to worry about what to buy for the person who has everything. Everybody I knows got nothing.
My mother-in-law, Ms. Larda, says she could use a sack of grout and some roofing nails, and her sons, Leech and Lurch, who are working on her house that got flooded, want a lot of Blistex and some Thermacare back pain wraps.
Ms. Larda is going stir crazy in the wide open spaces of the Northshore countryside, where she’s staying with my daughter Gumdrop; but she can’t come home until her house is fixed. It’s a double, and Leech and Lurch live there too.
Anyway, the Gunches decided to exchange presents a little early, so I drove up there last week with all their packages gift-wrapped from Home Depot, including some Shake-a-Way urine-based raccoon repellent for Gumdrop, since she’s a country girl now.
But for my grandbaby, Lollipop, I scored a Tickle Me Extreme Elmo – the little Sesame Street doll that giggles out loud. Gumdrop says this is the must-have gift for every two-year-old that’s got a TV.
It’s almost dark when I pull up in the driveway that leads to their cabin in the woods, but I see Gumdrop’s husband, Slime, and my brothers-in-law Leech and Lurch, sitting in lawn chairs arranged in a circle next to the tool shed. They look like a prayer group, except they all got beers in their hands and shotguns across their laps. Whatever they’re doing, I don’t want to be no part of, so I just quietly walk across the yard toward the house.
Then I hear Leech ask if anybody wants another beer while he’s up, and he sets down his shotgun and comes my way, so I ask him what’s going on. He says they’re guarding a skunk hole and they’re going to shoot this skunk as soon as it shows its face. Now, I don’t know nothing about guns and less about skunks, but this don’t seem too smart to me. City boys got no business trying to act like country boys. Of course, none of them three are the sharpest tacks in the tire, if you get what I mean.
I decide to tell Gumdrop about it, but as soon as I open the door, her cat, Rocky, bolts outside. Now, Rocky is an indoor cat, because he don’t got no claws. But every now and then he dashes for freedom. He also has long black fur, like a skunk.
I call “Rocky’s out!” Leech, who is a few steps behind me, says “There he is! There he is! There he is!” and rushes into the tool shed – which is strange, being as I have already scooped up Rocky.
A second later, Leech come tearing back out of there, bellowing “Skunnnk!”
This causes Lurch and Slime to jump up real quick, spilling their beers, and fire into the hole.
Maybe that’s where the expression “fire in the hole” comes from. I guess the shotgun pellets bounced back at them. Next thing I know, Lurch and Slime are jumping around clutching various parts of their legs. A skunk – I notice he does look like Rocky, a little – is streaking off toward the woods, and Leech is rolling around in the grass. I guess he got sprayed.
At least Leech isn’t hurt, thank God, because the ambulance attendants won’t let him anywhere near when they come to take Lurch and Slime away. One of them tells him to mix up hydrogen peroxide and baking soda and dishwashing soap and soak in it for about a year.
After they drive away, with Gumdrop following in her car, Ms. Larda mixes up a batch of what they said and brings it out in a bucket. Leech slinks into the tool shed to wash off and throws his clothes out the window. Afterwards, Ms. Larda goes out to smell him. She decides he ain’t ready for the house yet, so she brings him a beanbag chair to sleep in. It’s really Rocky’s beanbag chair, but he’ll settle for the couch tonight.
Finally Gumdrop comes home with the other two, all patched up. They’ll be all right, but they been better. Slime goes right to bed and Lurch goes to the blow-up mattress in the spare room.
Gumdrop looks ready to cry. Some Christmas celebration: she just spent three hours in the emergency room and her uncle Leech is stinking up the tool shed. She could use a glass of wine, or three, but she can’t have any because she’s pregnant.
Pregnant or not, she needs some heavy-duty stuff. So I throw caution to the winds. I bring out the TMX Elmo for Lollipop. He starts giggling, and Lollipop starts giggling along with him. Then I got to snicker, and Ms. Larda gets to cackling, and finally Gumdrop’s laughing too. When Ms. Larda gets her breath back, she says that this skunk obviously has more brains than all three of them Elmer Fudd wannabes, because he expanded his hole up through the tool shed and was on his way out when Leech mistook him for Rocky, which causes us to guffaw for another 10 minutes.
Then Ms. Larda remembers something. She goes outside and pokes Leech’s clothes onto the end of a broomstick, and she marches over to the leaf pile, followed – at a distance – by me and Gumdrop, who is carrying Lollipop, who is carrying Elmo.
She drops the clothes in the leaf pile. Then she drops in a match.
We all stand upwind and watch the flames. It’s like a smaller and smellier version of them Christmas Eve fires they light on the bayou.
Elmo giggles and that starts the rest of us off again. We laugh until our sides hurt.
You don’t have to have everything to have a merry Christmas.