Harry figured that he must be nearing the next town, due to the fact that the billboard signs were beginning to appear more frequently:
(in nearby Spankville)
Only 74 short miles!!!
“Last Chance ‘til Kokomo and Then Some!”
     The numbers on the price of the gas sign had been scratched out for some time, except for the nine-tenths tax symbols. Although he couldn’t place exactly what it was, Harold sensed that there was something curious about all of the signs he had seen on the road so far. He stroked his jaw significantly with his hand thinking about this advertising dilemma.
     “Hmmmmm? The colors…” he mumbled quizzically; but his contemplation was interrupted as he passed below some high tension wires, causing the radio signal to buzz and fade. When the reception returned, he heard the ending of a ‘Gas-Ex’ commercial featuring a quartet of Southern Belles and one male baritone singing a stanza of “Ninety-nine bottles of beans on the wall, ninety-nine bottles of beans…take one down, pass it around…ooooooooooh, WHAT A SOUND! (Loud Poop) Ninety-eight bottles of beans on the…”
     “PBPBPBPBPBPBPBPBPBPBPBPBPBTSHSHSHPPPPP-paaaaaaah!!!” Harold retorted, then continued the advertisement with his own marketing theme, “and if you’re not completely satisfied, or happen to get a little surprise when you least expected it, then just simply return the bottle with some of your butt fumes and we will gladly refund your money…no questions asked! For your bowel-burned troubles, we will even include a rainbow-colored ass-gasket for your next restaurant toilet visit! Ka’ploooey! ARF!!!” He chuckled out loud, then began to beat his free hand against the dashboard.
     “WOOOOO-boy! That’s one for ol’ Carson! WOOOOO-boy! How does it feel t’be back in the good ol’ Midwest, Johnny? Well, okie-dokie, Ed…steeeeeeeeeeee-rike one up for the boys in brown, now!” (FffffffffffffffffUMP!!!) Some rumbling noise beckoned from the location where Harold’s butt met the dirty plastic seat cover.
     As he crested the next hill, Harold stared agog at the billboard sign that appeared on the horizon. At this wee hour in the morning, it glittered like nothing else he had ever seen before. Even television specials in Technicolor about revue shows in Las Vegas paled in comparison. This particular billboard had red, yellow and blue neon fireworks; orange, green and purple lights chasing each other around the borders, and brilliant white arrows of all sizes and shapes spiraling inward toward two popping and zooming concentric circles surrounding the scarlet-colored letters that were encompassed by a fiery burning bush, which read:
Just 26½ minutes straight ahead…if you’re doin’ 63 m.p.h.
     Hand painted on the bottom of the sign, barely perceptible in the glare, was an asterisk followed by:
     ‘Mmm, I said come on over baby
      We got chicken in the barn
      Whose barn, what barn, my barn
      Come on over baby
      We got the bull by the horns
      Yeah, we ain’t fakin’
      A-whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on.
      Well, I said shake baby, shake…’[1]
     Harold’s whole body quivered when he heard the deejay play the rabid Jerry Lee Lewis number on the radio. His eyes closed and his head rolled around limply on his neck as he tried to sing along:
     “Ummmph, I said roll ‘em over gravy
      We shot chickens at the farm
      Who’s farm, what fart, my shorts
      Corn cob in the gravy…
      Welph, I said STEAK, baby…STEAK!
      STEAK…you dimwits…STEAK!
     Harold exhaled a long sigh of pleasure after the song finished. Through the smeared windshield, he could see another billboard about a quarter-of-a-mile ahead on the left and could also make out that eight cars were parked in front of the sign. Thinking that there might have been some sort of drunken-related automobile accident, Harold slowed the car down to a sputtering crawl. By the time he arrived at the scene, one of the vehicles left in a hurry, with its’ tires squealing a trail of black rubber and blue smoke. Harold parked his junk in the grass on the right side of the country highway, got out and stretched, then walked over the weathered pavement. He found a small knot of people standing outside of their cars gazing up at the informative whitewashed plaque.
     “What’s going on?” Harold asked the backs of their heads. Nobody responded. Shrugging, he soon noticed that they were all reading the sign and scribbling down its’ content on some pieces of scrap paper. He sneezed from all the debris that was scattershot into the air, then squinted up at the massive sign. The newsprint was almost completely ineligible since the entire thing was lit by a single 200-watt ‘soft yellow’ bug bulb. The marketing genius that contracted this landmark was still rolling in his tomb, Harold thought, then focused on the sign which told him this:
Come ONE…Come ALL…COME ON!!!
Straight ahead, until you pass Peabody, then turn right
to Tunker, left on FM 5, then take a right on Hwy 114 for three miles,
then a left on FM 105. Travel two miles past Bippus, take a right on
Highway 16 to State Road 13 – Urbana Exit. Keep driving
South for six more miles, until you reach Zak’s Gas Mart.
Ask the attendant for the directions to the Wabash Fairgrounds.
Don’t forget your ‘Commemorative 1879 Wabash Light Bulb’
with each purchase of ten gallons of gas and two Mega-Burritos!
     Some graffiti aficionado thoughtfully painted ‘Igmo Strikes Again!’ on the free space left at the bottom of the sign in rust-colored primer.
     Harold rolled his eyes to himself and casually thought, ‘What a sack of crock!’ He turned towards a bent-over, silver-haired, heavily-clad old lady and gave her a quizzical look. She returned his glance, smiled a quaint little grin and spoke, “Sonny…you should come and visit the tractor pull sometime when you get a chance. I’ve been going there since I was a youngin’…ummm, since I was fifty-three years old! It’s a real treat!” (You young whippersnapper!)
     “Yes, ma’am, I sure would like to. (When I’m dead, you nosy old scumbag.) But, I am on the way to school and I’d rather not be late.”
     “I understand, Sonny…but, you’re really missin’ out on somethin’ special ‘round here.” (You dope-sniffin’, butt-kissing buffoon.)
     “Yes ma’am, I’m sure it is…(wrinkled old log of hammered dog shit)…thank you for the invite. Have a nice morning!” (At your funeral, Mrs. Skinspots!)
     “Why, thank you. You, too… (Ungrateful little sphincter miner), Sonny.”
     “Lookie, ma’am…it’s Harry and…ummm…good-bye and have fun, I guess.” (Dried up crustacean poop) Harold turned away from the clump of rural humanity and muttered between his teeth, “What a load of phony baloney!” He then trotted back over the dew-dampened road and forced open the creaky car door. A cloud of rusty particles shot into the wind when he started the engine and took off. Harold couldn’t get his mind off of that old, steam-dried lady. All of those old, decrepit ladies he had grown up with around the neighborhood feeding their silly manicured Poodles or Pomeranians better food than half of the population in this country trying to afford to get anything nourishing to eat. Always making a scene. Grunting and farting, like overweight sumo wrestlers, just trying to make it across some tiny, narrow street. Harold accepted the fact that he had something of an obsession with wrinkled, antiquated genericians. This probably stemmed from his relationship with his grandmother, Ga Ga Poon, as she was always known to the inner circle of her relatives. Harold was never able to forget that one hot summer afternoon when everyone was together for the annual family reunion down at Brownlee Creek Park. Ga Ga Poon had snatched him away from a marble game in the grass with his cousins in order to show the rest of the family the proper way to pick one’s nose.
     “And don’t fa’get to watch those finga’nails,” she screeched, “or ya might make ya’brain bleed!”
     Harold let out a scream in remembered mortification as a tear fell from his soiled eye, commencing to beat the speaker grill with the hammer until all of the station numbers in the radio compartment were lying in the half-opened ash tray below.
     ‘Bye-bye love,
      Bye-bye happiness,
      Hello loneliness,
      I think I’m a’gonna cry.
      Bye-bye love,
      Bye-bye sweet solace,
      Hello emptiness,
      I feel like I could die,
      Wa’ bye-bye love, good bye…’[2]
     Harold shook his head mournfully and started to hum along with the bubble-gum gnawing Everly Brothers ensemble when he happened to spot another quirky sign that caught his attention…
Visit… TEXAS !
Where small minds even have Big Ideas!!!
Paid for by donations from the Schiedde School District of Texas
[1] Jerry Lee Lewis, “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” (Jerry Lee Lewis)
[2] The Everly Brothers, “Bye Bye Love” (Boudleaux Bryant, Felice Bryant)
Song: Ch.7-1
Song: Ch.7-2
End: Chap. 7