"Well, I'll Be John Brown"

Real stories about folks who have blessed my life with the joy and fulfillment of laughter. Long may they live.

Location: Atlanta, Georgia, United States

A Southern Boy - Born In Alabama, Reared In Georgia, and Matriculated, Married & Initiated Into Manhood In Tennessee.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

"Mama Ain't Paid The Bill Yet..."

One other incident in the life of Johnny the short-tempered Mexican caused an emotional eruption not too far removed from the storied overflow of Mount St. Helens.

It all took place one Tuesday evening.

During the summer months, Johnny would moonlight doing side jobs for extra money, most of which he sent home to help feed his extended family back in Brownsville. Sound familiar?

He had been asked by a friend to make some new window screens for a rental house the friend owned. The screen frames were wooden, and in fairly decent shape. All Johnny had to do was re-cover the wood frames with screen material, and then spray paint each refurbished screen.

Piece of cake...In and out in one evening...Easy money.

When Johnny got to the house that afternoon there were children everywhere - from little kids all the way up to teenagers. The long days of summer had given them plenty of light for their play, but the oppressive heat made them as lazy as a bunch of slugs. The mom and dad of the bunch were not home when Johnny drove up that evening.

Johnny tried to talk to some of the youngsters when he first arrived, but to no avail. They weren't talking, they weren't moving, and they sure weren't about to offer to help him with the screens.

No matter...Johnny worked best by himself anyway.

He went about his business collecting the window screens, stripping the old screen off the frames, and meticulously re-screening each one. The sweat poured from his brow. The kids, lying around all over the porch, some in lawn chairs, and some even on the concrete driveway, watched with rapt attention. Johnny the master craftsman had a sizeable audience that day.

When he finished the re-screening, Johnny positioned each screen carefully, leaning them against the large water oaks in the side and back yards. He was now ready to spray paint the screens before returning them to the windows.

Johnny unloaded his brand new Sears Craftsman industrial strength air compressor off his truck, plugging it up to an outlet on the exterior of the house. He then connected the airhoses, filled the paint can with flat black Rustoleum and took his place in front of the first screen.

When Johnny pulled the trigger on the sprayer absolutely nothing happened. Dead silence! The kind of silence that fills a room after a child has said some taboo word or phrase in front of church company. The compressor was dead as a doornail.

Johnny checked to make sure the switch on the side of the compressor was turned on. It was. He tried again...Nothing! His young audience watched in silent assessment.

Johnny went up to the side of the house and made sure that the compressor plug was seated firmly in the electrical outlet. It was. He tried again. Still nothing!

"That guy down there at Sears has sold me a piece of blankety-blank crap!," he said out loud.

The children all heard this evaluation, but still no one said a word.

Johnny then pulled the compressor back over to his truck. "Could be a bad plug," he murmured. Being the well prepared professional that he was, Johnny always kept a spare everything in the tool boxes on his work truck. He rambled around in one of them for the longest, profanity streaming forth in his native tongue.

When he finally located a replacement plug, Johnny pulled out his pocketknife, sliced off the original plug, spent several minutes stripping and bending wire, turning screws, and making sure this new plug was securely attached to the power cable.

When this was done, Johnny dragged the air compressor across the yard and back into place, firmly seated the plug in the outside wall outlet, and again picked up the spray gun. With a mighty grip Johnny fired the now half-dried paint sprayer in the direction of the screens.

When no paint nor noise nor any other thing came forth from the sprayer and compressor, Johnny lost what little "christianity" he had ever possessed. Every profane Hispanic word he had ever heard came spewing forth from his gaping mouth. Wildly stomping the ground and cursing the day he ever agreed to do this blankety-blank job in the first place, Johnny violently kicked the side of the compressor, jerked the air hoses out of their sockets, and sent the paint container flying toward the street. Flat black Rustoleum went everywhere.

Johnny kicked a hole in every single window screen, and then flung each one across the yard like giant frisbees in the wind.

By now the kids were getting into it. They hadn't seen a show like this since the last big neighborhood gang fight that had taken place over a year before.

Johnny picked up his new compressor - wrestling it off the ground - and heaved it against the cab and into the back of his pick-up. He slammed the tailgate with such force that the compressor lurched toward the cab again, this time shattering the sliding rear window.

Each act only served to add another log to this amigo's already raging internal fire.

Finally, when all the toolboxes, hoses, hammers and other tools had been briskly deposited in the back of the truck, Johnny walked past each child who had been witness to this real-life demolition extravaganza.

He stopped and knelt down next to the oldest looking boy - who was still stretched out under one of the large water oaks nearby. "Son, tell your mama," Johnny began, "that I had some trouble with some of my tools. I can't get my sorry, dad-gum (Johnny was slowly and carefully cleaning up each word as he went) air compressor to work"..."Tell your folks..."

Before Johnny could complete his thought, the boy looked him straight in the eye and said incredulously: "Mama ain't paid the bill yet!"

"WHAT did you say?," Johnny asked - with eyes blaring as he raised quickly up off his haunches into an exaggeratedly erect posture. The boy repeated, "You know - da' power...Mama ain't paid the bill yet!...She said they was supposen to come out and cut it all off 'til she go down to the power company and pay it...I guess she didn't and they did!"

The next morning's headlines read: "Hispanic Handyman Charged With Mass Murder On Local Family Jobsite!"



LIB John Brown


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