Chapter Five

The Horse Tail Tale

Iwant us to be true friends, Eli. That Sharon thing might border on a secret but no one would be surprised to hear it. Let me hold one of your secrets that Jerry knows. It will be our bond of trust.” Mayme has an expression on her face that Eli finds irresistible.

“Okay, but then you will share a secret with me.” Eli pauses while he thinks. Minutes pass as he has thoughts racing through is mind but he can’t focus on one qualifying event. “Everything I can think of might sound stupid. I really didn’t have anything in mind when I said that. We just did a lot of stupid stuff as we were growing up. Can you go first?”

Mayme considers that request for a minute then admits, “I can’t think of any secrets either. I have never done anything. I went to school with Geraldine, graduated with Geraldine, then started working …. with Geraldine, of course. Boring, mundane life. Now, I just go to work every day and go home every night. I even live with Geraldine.” It appears that Mayme’s mind is full of Geraldine. “Now she has some secrets! But I guess it wouldn’t work if I told you one of her secrets.” After a half minute of silence a smile appears, then slowly grows as her

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eyes open wide and we can tell something has come to her. “Oh, I do have one that is mine, but even then it was something I did to impress Geraldine. And it is stupid so then you can comfortably tell me your secrets. Not only do I live with her, work with her and now the only stupid thing I have ever done was because of her. She is always doing silly stuff that makes me laugh. She is fun to be with. We work at this place running machines that make parts for boats. Geraldine works on the machine next to me. You can’t imagine how noisy it is in there. We have this inspector that walks around all day looking at the parts that come out of the machines. He is always flirting with me and asks me out all the time. I went out with him when I first started there but he was the usual obnoxious guy so I never did again. That doesn’t stop him from asking every single day though.” Mayme rolls her eyes and nods her head side to side with each of the three words to emphasize the monotony of the mundane daily event. “Anyway there was this woman, Mrs. Miller, an older fat lady that worked on the machine on the other side of me. Now, ordinarily I don’t use disparaging words for people’s appearance but she was so mean I call her fat because I don’t have any respect for her. She hated Geraldine because she had no sense of humor and Geraldine is always goofing around. She was always trying to get Geraldine in trouble and wanted her to get fired. Actually, nobody liked this lady, not even the boss, but she was so dense she seemed oblivious to that fact. She was always walking around snarling so everybody called her Mad Dog Miller. A few months ago when I was walking into work, I saw this piece of rope sitting on the top of the trash can. The last foot of the rope was frayed so badly, I thought it looked like a horse tail. It gave me an idea. It wasn’t an original idea because I had seen this done before but I knew it would make

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Geraldine laugh and I rarely get to do that. I grabbed it and took it into the locker room and cut the frayed end off after I wound a piece of wire around it to keep it from falling apart. I threw the rest of the rope away but kept the frayed end. Then I bent the wire to make a hook. I rolled it up, stuck it into my pocket and went out to my machine to wait for the opportunity to hang it on Mad Dog. When Buttons came by, Mad Dog had just come back from the bathroom so when she was sitting down she bumped him with her big butt from behind. She almost knocked him over so when he turned around I…”

“Wait! Wait!” Eli interrupts. “Who is Buttons? What kind of a name is that for a guy?”

“Well, that’s a whole other story. He is the inspector. Like I said, when I first started there I didn’t know he was so prurient. So when he asked me out I said OK. But as soon as he got me alone he made me feel creepy with the things he said and the way he looked at me so when dinner was over I ended the date. He is just so obvious about his focus, if you get my drift.” Mayme said the word focus with such emphasis we could see the quotes around it in the air. “Anyway, every time he comes out, he is so obvious about inspecting a lot more than just the boat parts. So as soon as Geraldine spots him she yells buttons as loud as she can. That is the signal for all the women to check their buttons on their blouses. After a few days of the inspector hearing that when he walks in he asked me why Geraldine yells buttons when he walked in.”

“Why did he ask you?”

“I think it’s because, in spite of the fact that I don’t like him, it’s my nature to be nice to him. I’m always nice to everybody, even people I don’t like.” Mayme pauses for a moment then qualifies that

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statement with, “Well, maybe except Mad Dog. Nobody else has trouble being rude to him but I can’t. Besides that he knows I am Geraldine’s best friend and he knew I would know why Geraldine says that. Also he knows I can’t tell a lie cause on the date I told him that he was just too forward and I am the kind of girl that gets disturbed by that. He thanked me for being honest because most of the girls he goes out with make up some ridiculous but obvious lie to end the date, like they have a toothache. This time though, about Geraldine and the shirt buttons, he was wrong because I did lie to him. On this occasion, my inability to be mean to anyone won out over my inability to tell a lie. One of them had to give. I told him the first thing that came to my mind that wouldn’t hurt his feelings and said Geraldine thinks he is cute as a button. Since then he has been extra friendly to Geraldine. No lie goes unpunished because it got me in trouble with Geraldine. I couldn’t win. She has no problem being mean to him but I think he even interprets that as a sign Geraldine likes him. Anyway, he thinks Geraldine named him that, and the name has stuck. Now everyone calls him Buttons to his face,” Mayme finishes with a proud grin of accomplishment.

Eli laughs as he declares, “I think I know that guy. He’s from Fayette”

“You are probably right. There is one of him in every place. Now back to my secret. When Mad Dog was sitting down at her machine her butt just about knocked Buttons over. He swung around to chew her out, I pulled the tail out of my pocket and hooked into the back belt loop on his pants. I know I had it planned for Mad Dog but he stuck his belt loop right at me. It couldn’t have worked better. He was arguing with Mad Dog and didn’t feel a thing.” Mayme is laughing as the

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memory of the next part comes back to her. “Geraldine was watching me and burst out laughing. Geraldine was laughing so loud Buttons turned to look at her. I could tell he was wondering what she was laughing about. He finally just ignored her so he must have decided she was laughing because he almost got knocked over. So anyway, Buttons walks with this funny gait. Really, I think he thinks John Wayne is attractive to women so he is copying his walk because his saunter looks like that. Now, with the tail, it looked really funny as he’s sashaying around the room doing his inspecting thing and that big tail waving back and forth with every step. Pretty soon everybody in the place is laughing. It was hilarious because he thinks he is so important when actually he’s looking ridiculous.” Mayme’s laughing has brought tears to her eyes now.

They laugh together for a minute then it occurs to Eli, “That is a very funny story Mayme but it isn’t a secret.”

“Oh, I got so carried away with the story I forgot about the secret part. Well, that’s where things ceased being funny because now Buttons stopped in his tracks. He saw everyone looking at him and laughing. He had this bewildered look and took a couple steps backward. Then he tripped over this pipe on the floor that runs between the machines. In trying to keep his balance he looked like he was running backward for about five steps until he hit the back of one of the other machines. He hit it hard enough to knock the belt guard just far enough that the tail must have gotten inside because the tail got caught in the belt driving the machine. He must have felt it get pulled off his pants because when that happened he jerked around. By then the tail was whipping around, caught the belt guard and bent it all up. Then the belt came flying off and hit Buttons in the face. This all

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happened in a fraction of a second and it clearly embarrassed him because everyone was watching him. Buttons looked at what was left of the tail on the floor, then at Mad Dog, then at Geraldine, then back at the tail again. I felt terrible that the belt hit him and I’m sure my face was red with embarrassment and guilt so I was glad he didn’t look at me. I could see he was piecing all the evidence together in is mind. Obviously he remembered Mad Dog bumping him, then turning to look at Geraldine laughing so he thought Mad Dog had put the tail on him. Everybody in the place was still staring at him and he wasn’t going to take this humiliation lying down. He took her to the office with her loudly proclaiming her innocence at him the whole way. She got fired anyway. The secret is that I never confessed that I did it. Everyone but Geraldine thinks Mad Dog did it and I let her get fired because I kept my mouth shut. Geraldine was glad it happened but it bothers me that I let someone else suffer the consequences of my actions. I told Geraldine I couldn’t live with the guilt and had to confess. She said she would choke me if I told because then Mad Dog would be back and I would be gone.”

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