[NOTE: This excerpt from Blue Rubber Pool comes from early in the book.]
Squinting in the fading light, I saw it: a big, black blob chewing on my precious banana trees again, the little patch I put in to feel at home while still homeless and scouting builders. This beast was not just an intruder, it was a connoisseur, having chosen musa bashoos from the mountains of Japan, a house warming gift from Alaska. I thought it interesting that a cow eating a banana tree sounds like I do eating celery. I enjoyed watching the big dumb beasts while they stayed in the neighbor’s field, just loafing. It relaxed me. Especially after a hard day at work, shouting into the S-Phone at some guy speeding across the desert, or at some guy shouting back under heavy fire in the jungle. Cows took the edge off the fact that good help had become hard to find, nobody willing to go out delivering duffel bags anymore.
But a cow on the loose in my yard–Scooby snacking on my plants–screamed out for countermeasures. But which ones?
I dialed in the colonel. He answered right away.
“Well, what kind of cow is it?”
“Black. Built like a tank. A boy, I suspect, stocky and close to the ground. And short tempered. Not particularly glad to meet outsiders.” Beyond that, I was clueless to the ways of cattle–I was an alien who landed amongst farmers, just there for the farmer’s daughter.
“Just shoot the damn thing and be done,” he advised. That was always the colonel’s “go to” Plan A.
“I don’t want to kill it. Just want to save my bananas.”
“Call in an air strike,” he added, screwing with me now. The colonel thinks he’s funny.
“Too over-the-top. I need a ground-level solution, something low key that won’t unnerve the natives.”
“Do you still have that cattle prod I gave you?”
“The one with the broken amperage adjuster? Yeah. How’s that guy doing anyway?”
“Never mind that. You’re sure you still have it?”
“Of course I do. But I don’t need intel. I just want the cow to go away.”
“Use the cattle prod.”
“Seriously, Colonel, what’s a friggin’ cow going to tell me?” I was on a roll. Too much bourbon, I guess. The thought of interrogating a cow still cracks me up. Who’d want to torture a cow? What’s next, waterboarding chickens?
I heard Colonel John calmly light a stogie, take a long draw, then chase it down with bourbon of his own. I could see him in my mind, shaking his head the way he does.
“Listen to me, son. Two words: cattle and prod. Do the math.”
After that, he was gone. A mirage again on the Money Trail.
Weird, I hadn’t made that connection about the prod, always assumed it was meant as a brand name–like Rhino brand truck bed liners, implying the product stands up to a rhino.
You wouldn’t actually put that on a rhino.
Hmmmm. Cattle plus prod.
Well, I’ll be damned.
Always thought it meant “More than you’ll ever need for reluctant villagers because it’s strong enough for a cow!”
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Author of Blue Rubber Pool
Surf Director at Pineapple Hill