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Last one to leave, turn out the lights

Dear Uncle Ambrose and Aunt Victoria,


“Squirt” Sprinkle hated having to own a cell phone, until he was locked up.


He always said he didn’t want to be bothered by phone calls while working as a chimney sweep and snake remover. “I need to keep my hands and my mind focused on my work.”


But when his wife Misty Sprinkle bought him a mobile phone, she said it was because she never knew whose roof or crawl space he was occupying when she needed to ask him for advice. Like, if the hot pink chiffon cami top she was trying on at the dress shop would clash with her green eyes and auburn hair.


So Misty got Squirt one of those Bluetooth phones that attach to the ear and make you look like you’ve developed an ugly growth. Squirt wore it to please Misty, not because he liked it.


Anyway, he was glad to have his new earring on last Saturday night when he was shopping at the Gopher Woods Drug & Dry Cleaners. He was looking for a pair of knee guards because, as he later said, working on his knees on somebody’s roof shingles or looking for varmints underneath a house, he was always wearing holes in his work pants.


That’s why Squirt was in a back corner of the store and concentrating so intently on choosing between nylon knee pads or a hard plastic model that he didn’t notice the lights dim.


Finally, Squirt chose a pair that he determined would offer comfort as well as ruggedness. He took his choice up to the front counter before realizing he was all alone and the store was locked up tight.


That’s when he used his Bluetooth for the first time. Well, actually, the first time he’d actually called out on it. Misty buzzed him quite frequently to reference his thoughts on high fashion and French cooking.


“I have an emergency,” Squirt told the 911 operator. “I’m locked inside the drug store but I swear I didn’t break in.”


It was a slow Saturday night, since about half of Gopher Woods was on vacation and the other half was watching the Legion team in the playoffs. That being the case, not one, not two, but three of Gopher Woods' finest pulled up to the store with swirling blue lights reflecting off the glass front.


And if they weren’t enough to accentuate Squirt’s woes, ace reporter "Scoop" Hearst of The Gopher Woods Gossip showed up with his notepad and out-sized camera. The result was a front-page photo of Squirt gesturing expansively behind the door because the thick glass made verbal communication next to impossible. Meanwhile, the photo revealed, the officers were attempting — though not excessively — to hide their amusement.


Finally, Missy Fortune, the store manager, arrived, wearing a flannel house coat, furry bunny slippers and a hairnet. She skipped up to the door, turned the key in the lock and opened the door with a flourish.


“Welcome to Gopher Woods Drug & Dry Cleaning,” she said.


Well, that seemed to hit a raw nerve of Squirt’s. “Why’d you lock me out? Don’t you check the store before closing?”


Calmly, Missy recalled that she did dim the lights before closing. But she’d had her mind on a dry cleaning problem and apparently forgot to announce over the PA system that the store would close in 10 minutes.


“Mayor Jones had an issue with a pair of trousers — a double crease,” she explained.


Despite all his mental pain, Squirt thanked Missy after she offered to let him have the knee pads free of charge.


Out in the parking lot, Scoop pursued Squirt with his camera, taking a series of angles despite the victim’s best efforts to hide his face with his shopping bag.


Scoop finally was able to get an official comment from Squirt: “From now on, I’m doing my late shopping at the Super Maxi Mart.”


Because, as everybody in Gopher Woods knows, the Super Maxi Mart is open 24 hours a day.




Your Nephew


Larry Penkava is a writer for Randolph Hub. Contact: 336-302-2189, larrypenkava@gmail.com.