Monday, November 12, 2018

Cletus and Zeke in Greenville, Mississippi

Zeke was summer help at the big cemetery in town. Summer help was a bit of a misnomer. It was mid-October but the grass was still growing even though the kids were back at university or high school.

Zeke looked up at Rollie, the old-timer who was the sexton of the cemetery. "Where is the gas for the mower?"

Like many places that cut large amounts of grass, the county had purchased industrial mowers that used two-stroke gas engines. Consequently they ran on "mixed gas."

"Its in that five gallon can right next to you." Rollie said in his mush-mouthed way.

"No it ain't." Zeke said. "I started to pour some out but it is yellow gas. Mixed gas is blue."

Rollie bristled. He didn't like damnedyankees on principle and having one look him in the eye and tell him he was wrong really set him off.

"I don't care what color gas is 'up nort', but down here mixed gas is yeller just like regular." Rollie sputtered.

Zeke chewed on that for a second. Then he walked over to where the string trimmers were racked up against the wall and picked up the can of gas by them. He started to pour the tiniest trickle into the mower's tank and when he said, "Gee-golly. Look at that. This gas is blue just like the gas in the tanks of the string trimmers."

Rollie looked over at the string trimmers and it was as clear as day that the translucent tanks were filled with blue gas.

Zeke started the mower and moved off to mow the grass he had been directed to mow.

Rollie was plenty pissed off. His own son, Worthington (named after his wife's pappy) had been fired at the beginning of the season. Worthington had been smoking weed in the old part of the cemetery when the pastor and his wife from the Assembly of God caught a whiff of the smoke as they walked and prayed and hallelujahed their way between the stones. Worthington had been caught red-handed and the city manager went to one of them screaming churches. The manager wouldn't listen to reason.

Rollie figured that if he ran through enough temporary help that he might be able to get Wuffless, as he was universally known in town, hired back on.

Sixty minutes later the city manager and Rollie pulled up to where Zeke was mowing.

The city manager got right to the point. "Did you use a different gas than what Rollie here told you to use?"

Zeke nodded his head "Yes."

Zeke started to say it was because Rollie told him to use the wrong gas but the city manager cut him off impatiently.

"Rollie been sexton of this cemetery for the last thirty years and his daddy was sexton for the thirty years before that. I reckon Rollie knows what kind of gas to put in the mower." the city manager spouted.

"Ever since Rollie's boy took his vacation from work we had you temporary burn up four of these $1000 mowers." the city manager said. "You are fired."

Zeke could see that Rollie had been planning to bone him from the beginning. It didn't matter to Zeke why Rollie set him up. Rollie set a trap that Zeke avoided and then Rollie went out of his way to get him fired anyway.

"I was gonna quit anyway. The place got haints." Zeke said.

The city manager frowned. "Whaddya mean, 'haints'?"

"Evil spirits. Demon animals. Zombies." Zeke said with complete and devout certainty.

Rollie had a good chuckle at that. "There ain't no ghosts in this cemetery."

"There certainly are." Zeke said. "I can hear them scratching. You done buried them alive. Their scratchin' is to call their demon animals to come dig them out. Then they git out, they gonna be waitin' to snatch good, Christian souls before Elijah and the angels can lift them to heaven."

Rollie har, har, har-ed at that but the city manager was silent. He did not like what he was hearing. He was counting on riding a chariot with Elijah when his day came.

Later, at lunch Rollie made sure that everybody who came into the Toe-main Tavern heard about the damnyankee that he fired. "And I thought spics and jigaboos were scairty-cats." Rollie bellowed.

The patrons were uncomfortable with Rollie's language. Usually he didn't use that kind of language but Rollie had celebrated Wuffless getting promoted to  'being on vacation' rather than being fired. He had celebrated by having a couple of 'nips' from his jug in the lower right drawer of his desk. A 'nip' was a half filled water tumbler.

"Yessirree. Said they was trying to claw their way out. Smatterfact they be as dead as this dill pickle." Rollie chuckled a liquid sounding chuckle. "They ain't scratching their way out of nowhere."

Simple, church-going Christians don't like to be reminded that the state requires that they be embalmed. Christians believe they will be resurrected on the last day with a glorified body, but Jesus was pretty clear that following him involved pain and suffering. They were just hoping all that pain was gonna stop after they died. But they couldn't see how being resurrected when you were full of pickle juice could be anything but uncomfortable.

Then Rollie went through Zeke's saying that the town would know the cemetery was 'hainted' and Christian souls were getting snatched when demon animals started digging up the coffins.

Rollie had the story on a short tape loop. Most everybody of the 100 or so diners heard it at least twice before Rollie wobbled back to his shed.

---Later that night---

Zeke showed up with a bag from the hardware store and a five gallon bucket three-quarter filled with warm, liquid grease from behind the KFC. Zeke found the spud bar behind the sexton's shed and started his project at the biggest, richest looking monuments near the front of the cemetery.

He alternated driving the spud bar in deep and shallow. He would guestimate where the deceased's chest was likely to be. For the deep ones he would drive the spud bar in two or three times to get the hole 24" deep, then he would wiggle the bar to make the hole larger. Next he ladled in a big cup-full of the fragrant grease. He finished by kicking loose dirt into the hole to bring it to ground level.

Moving on to the next grave he would do a shallow one of six inches. He finished those off in the same way. He figured the shallow ones would get attention right away and the deep ones wouldn't get much attention until after the coons, possums and stray dogs had tore apart the shallow ones and pickings got scarce later in the winter.

He took great care to ensure that the plots were visible from the street.

When he ran out of grease, he went over to Rollie's work truck. Opening the driver's side door, he depressed the lock. Then he filled the body of the door with an entire can of expanding, polyurethane foam...the same kind that is used to seal cracks in houses. After slamming the door shut he pulled a fresh can out of the bag and used it to glue the door to the truck's door frame. That door wasn't ever coming open.

The city wouldn't scrap out the truck if one of the doors worked and Rollie would have to haul his fat ass over to the driver's seat from the passenger side. Zeke would have paid good money to see that, but he planned on being fifty miles away by morning.

Cletus and Zeke lived by a simple set of rules.
  • A full day's work for a full day's pay and 
  • Never go down without giving five times as much pain as you were given. 

Their interpretation of eye-for-eye comprehended the fact that most people couldn't afford to push back. It was hard enough to get another job after you were fired by a mouth-breather like Rollie. Most folks couldn't afford the additional stigma of being sent to jail.

So Cletus and Zeke figured dishing out five times as much pain was about the right amount of thumb to lay on the scale to even things out for the other little guys who couldn't kick.



  1. Expanding foam, hmmm, gives me an idea.


  2. Heh, sounds like the 'voice' of experience there...

    1. In fact I did once get "released" from a job after using the gasoline the full-timer told me to use. It was plain gas in the mixed gas container. He denied everything.

      I often wondered what his motivation could have been for doing something so underhanded. This story is my best guess.


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