Dud and I had just about finished solving the problems on page one and were about to start solving sports dilemmas when Bert mumbled something. Now Bert, usually loquacious, was in one of his rare, but deadly, silent coffee mornings. Normally he’d fill the Mule Barn truck stop with his pronouncements on life, love, literature and the price of cauliflower, but not today.
I took a sip and turned to Bert. “You say something, Bert?”
“Seeds and froth,” he mumbled.
“Seeds and froth?”
“It’s not like it was my fault, you know. What did I do? Hey, sometimes seeds and froth just happen to people, and there’s no need to jump all over me about it.”
Dud and I nodded as if we understood. We assumed more would be coming. It was.
“I mean, is it a crime to own a mule? No. So I own a mule. So seeds and froth come along and the mule owner gets it? Where’s the justice in that? Ol’ Jack was hungry. Is that a crime now? And is it my fault? I don’t think so.”
“How is ol’ Jack, anyway?” We all knew and loved the stove-up old retired mule that Bert took so much pride in.
“He’s in the doghouse big time with Maizie,” Bert said. “Why shouldn’t she shoulder some responsibility for the seeds and froth? I mean, you could actually give her some of the blame for this mess, you know. She’s the one left the car window down.”
“Do I have to hurt you, Bert?”
“Huh? Oh, well, see, here’s what happened. Maizie did the shopping and drove in the yard, and you know how ol’ Jack likes to be loose and wander around the yard, right? So she took some groceries in the house, but not all of them, and Jack found the passenger window open and when she came back....”
He put his head in his hands.
“How was I supposed to know mules liked watermelon? You guys ever feed watermelon to a mule? Me neither. Who knew? By the time Maizie got back for her next load, ol’ Jack had eaten about two thirds of that watermelon on the seat. Man, there were seeds and froth all over the seat, the floor, the door and the mule. And I swear ... I swear to you ... he started grinning when he saw her coming back out of the house.”
“And I guess you had to clean it up.”
He nodded. “Dang mule has the table manners of a two-year-old. When you mix seeds and froth with mule slobber? Well ... don’t do it.”