The Colonel’s First Story, pt. 2

Over the next few weeks, I am serializing Colonel Birdwhistle’s first story.  Click here to start at the beginning: Part 1 .

And now, I submit to you Part 2:

Mrs. Dobrey returned in a moment followed by a boy exactly the opposite of her slight build.  Every aspect of him was round, from his trunk to his cherry cheeks.  Rolls of fat calves punched out of short pants that were too tight for him.  His arms stuck out of his shirt sleeves like dough squeezing out of a tube.  A look at the lad, who appeared miserably confined in clothing far too small, elicited a feeling of pity.  Looking from mother to son, the Colonel found it hard to believe they were cut from the same cloth.  They just didn’t belong together.  Yet here they stood, silently looking at the Colonel and expecting something from him.

“Well…hello,” he paused trying to remember the boy’s name, but he could not.

“I’m Leon,” said the boy.

“Yes, yes.  Good day, Leon,” said the Colonel.  “A fine young lad.  I am Colonel Clarence Birdwhistle.  I had the pleasure of meeting your mother and she said you might have some interest in me.”

The boy strained his neck to look up at his mother, who smiled back down at her angel and nudged him to redirect his attention.  Leon took the correction and once again stood quietly staring at the Colonel, who had no idea how to entertain the child.  He cleared his throat, rubbed his mustache and even pretended to be occupied with caring for Oscar, who didn’t help in the ruse at all.  He had taken to dozing on the sun-warmed pavement and growled at the interruption from a good nap.  Still the boy stood and said nothing.  Finally the mother broke the silence.Colonel on bench

“Couldn’t you tell him a story from one of your adventures in Africa?” she suggested.

“I suppose I could,” replied the Colonel, uncomfortably shifting in his chair.  He cleared his throat once more and searched his memory for something to say.  The boy teetered forward and back and came to rest in a seated position with his legs crossed in a most awkward fashion.

“Well, Leon.  I can think of something that might interest a boy like you,” began the Colonel.  “Do you know what the word cannibal means?  It’s a beastly thing, Leon.  Practiced only among the low, uncivilized people of the world…”  Hearing a loud cough intended to interrupt, he looked up and saw Mrs. Dobrey standing behind the boy flailing her hands in a violent manner and mouthing the word, “NO!”

Taking the obvious cue, he changed direction.  “…But that is a tale for another day, my boy.  Let me see…. I recall an event when the local witch doctor put a spell on us…”  He stopped short as he spied the disapproving mother shaking her head once again.  He fell silent as he tried to find an appropriate memory to relay.

Part 3

Math for Boys – Virgil’s Theory of Relative Trouble

There’s lotsa things about school I don’t get.  I know I’ll never catch on to grammar.  There are way too many excepts in the “i before e” rule to keep up.  Whoever thought up English oughta be dragged out to a field somewhere and beat with a mackerel.  Ms. Singer will never give me plus marks for my handwriting.  She puts “be neater” in big red letters at the top of everything I hand in.  That makes me mad.  Teachers shouldn’t grade angry.  One time, she must have been grading real angry because she tore the page and her red ink looked like it said, “be nexter”.  So I walked it back up to her desk and asked her what “nexter” was.  She just let out a big sigh, threw up her hands, and stomped out of the classroom.  I don’t know where she went, but she was a lot calmer when she came back.   She stomps out a lot when I ask her stuff.

I might not understand grammar, but I get math.  I don’t know why, numbers just make sense to me.  Math can be useful to a boy, especially one like me who finds himself in trouble all the time.  I’ve come up with what I call my Theory of Relative Trouble and it all has to do with estimation.  Here’s how it goes: A boy’s reaction to trouble is directly proportionate to its estimated potential.  My brother Webster helped me come up with the big words, but the theory is all mine!

Example: You knock down a stack of apples at Gentry’s store, do you:

A)  Apologize and help him clean it up?

B)  Run out of the store and down the street?

C)  Knock over a display of walnuts to cause a diversion?

I can promise that A is not the answer.  Only my pal Henry would help him out and he’s got more manners than any boy I know.  He is what you call an exception, so A is out for the rest of us.  If you chose C, I like your style, but it’s really an overreaction when you go back to my theory of estimation.  You have to consider the trouble.  The correct answer is B, run, and I’ll tell ya why.  First of all, nobody really likes old Gentry, so they won’t go in to help him catch you when you run.  Second, he’s big in the belly and I’ve seen him breath heavy just from sweeping his stoop.  So he can’t chase you and if he does, it won’t be for long.  Third, if by some stroke of back luck, someone like Sheriff Whitaker happened to be outside and grabbed you by the collar, the sum of trouble wouldn’t be great.  You’d just have to clean up the apples (and walnuts if you tried that angle, heh-heh.)

So, the equation goes something like this: R ά pT, or reaction is proportionate to the potential trouble.  In order to use this equation properly, you have to plan your trouble well in advance and we all know that boys don’t plan much of anything – things just happen.  So we always have to have a back-up plan in our pocket.  I like to call my plan tearing out (AKA:  running like your backsides on fire.)  I’ll cover that the next time they let me type on this thing…if they can catch me.