Rusty Mitchum

Rusty Mitchum

You know, for a while there, I thought the phone creatures had taken me off their list. It’s been a couple of weeks, and I hadn’t had a call from one of them. I was gettin’ worried.

My wife Janet said that they probably got together and blackballed me. She said I ought to be glad, but I kind of looked forward to talkin’ to them. It’s not every day you can have an intelligent conversation with a total stranger, you know.

But, I don’t know what I was worried about, phone creatures are like bad pennies, they always turn back up. Another one finally called the other day.

“Yellow,” I said into the phone receiver. There was no answer. “Yellow,” I said again. Then I heard that click and I knew I was back in business.

“Mr. Mitchum, please,” the female creature said.

“This is Mr. Mitchum,” I replied.

“Ah, Mr. Mitchum. My name is Stacy Sandstone, and I was wondering if you might help me with a survey I’m conducting?”

“A survey?” I asked.

“Yes sir,” she replied. “You see, the company I represent is conducting an environmental survey to better develop products to help keep our environment safe.”

“Well,” I said. “I don’t know who this here Virement feller is, but if I can help keep him safe, well I guess I’m all for it.”

“Environment,” she corrected me. “You know, our surroundings.”

“If you say so,” I said.

“I just have a few questions, if you don’t mind,” she said.

“Heck no,” I said. “I don’t mind. I wasn’t doin’ nothin’ important no how.”

“Good,” she said. “Now, Mr. Mitchum, what would you consider more important, clean air or clean water?”

“Hmmmm,” I hmmmed. “Well, I guess I’d have to say neither.”

“Uh,” the creature uhhed. “You don’t think clean air and water is important?”

“Sure I do,” I said. “I just don’t think they are the most important.”

“Interesting,” she said. “And what do you consider more important than clean air and water?”

“Well, that’s easy,” I said. “Clean underwear.”

“Do what? … Uh … I mean, pardon me?”

“Yep,” I repeated, “clean underwear is more important. My momma told me so.”

“I don’t think you understand,” said the creature.

“Oh yes I do,” I said. “You see, if you’re ever in a wreck, clean air or water ain’t gonna help you a bit. But you better not be caught with no clean underwear on.”

“And why is that?” the creature said.

“Why, it would reflect badly on your momma,” I said. “I thought everybody knowed that. Of course, the last time I had a wreck; it didn’t work out that way. Oh, I had on clean underwear before I hit that train, but by the time it dragged me a half a mile, I sure didn’t.”

“Uh … I see. Uh, Mr. Mitchum, not counting underwear, just between clean air and water, which would you choose?” I had to admire her persistence.

“Let’s see,” I said. “I’d say clean water.”

“OK,” said the creature. “Moving along here. Do you now have, or ever had a water filter system on your water supply?”

“Not really,” I said. “When the slugs get in the well, they’ll get sucked up through the pump and get chewed up. But when that happens, I’ll put one of my wife’s stockin’s over the faucet.”

“Your wife’s stockings?” she said incredulously. “You think that filters the water?”

“It may not do the best job,” I said. “But it usually catches most of the big chunks. I’ve got to admit though; the water does taste a little funny. It’s got sort of a toe-jam, slug bouquet.”

“Ugh,” she ughhed. “Uh, Mr. Mitchum. What if I told you, that we could install a filtering system on your water supply that would remove over 99% of the impurities?”

“What’s that?” I said.

“Impurities?” she said. “You know, chemicals, bacteria, foreign objects.”

“Chemicals,” I said. “I don’t want to get rid of the chemicals.”

“You don’t?”

“Naw. How do you think I kill the slugs? If’n you don’t kill ‘em, they just hang there on the walls of the well makin’ them slick tracks. You gots to pour chemicals on ‘em to get ‘em off the walls into the water, so the pump can suck ‘em up. Then the stockin’s can catch ‘em, and you ain’t got no more slugs.”

“Mr. Mitchum,” the creature said. “Those chemicals will make you sick or worse.”

“It couldn’t be any worse than swallowing a slug,” I said.

“Mr. Mitchum. May I make an appointment with you to have one or our representatives come out and show you what our water filtering system can do for you?”

“Naw,” I said. “I don’t think so. We’re sittin’ purdy good on stockin’s right now. My wife goes through ‘em purdy regular like. You see, she’s got this here great big toe on her right foot. The thang’s the size of a turnip. And sometimes it’ll swell up on her, and when it does, it busts right through her stockings.”

“Mr. Mitchum,” the creature tried to interrupt.

“So you see, I got lots of stockin’s I can use. But I sure appreciate you callin’. I hoped I helped out with that Virement feller,” and I hung up.

“Heh, heh,” I laughed as I turned around. Yep, there was Janet, standin’ in her usual spot, right there in the doorway. Her arms were crossed, and she had that look on her face. You know the look. The one that says, “Why didn’t I listen to my daddy?”

“What?” I said.

“Oh nothing,” she said. “I was just thinking about planting a turnip.”

Rusty Mitchum lives in New Harmony, Texas, where he writes a regular column for The Lindale News and Times. He says the only reason he writes is to keep the voices away.