Now, I would have liked to think that the old miser, when he died, would have stopped muttering, but it just wasn't in the cards. Do you know how it is? An old miser gives up the ghost and just keeps muttering on and on about whatever it was that he was talking about just before he died. Yes, that is exactly what happened. I was there. I heard it.
We were taking down the Kwanzaa bush and Clinton's Comet had just finished streaking across the sky. Clinton's Comet is not nearly as well known as Halley's Comet, but it is really well-loved. Clinton's Comet is said to have a southern accent and a penchant for cigars, blue dresses, and plump interns (whatever that means). We watched as the comet disappeared in the western sky, just behind an In-N-Out Burger. People put down their double-doubles and wept as Clinton went down on the horizon.
We got the Kwanzaa bush packed into Larry's Pinto and just then this old miser shuffled up to us, muttering something about textured vegetable protein (we knew he was a miser by the miser's union identification badge that he wore on his lanyard. Everyone wears a lanyard these days, don't they?). Larry offered to buy him a double-double (which contains absolutely NO textured vegetable protein, incidentally), but the old man shook his head and just kept muttering. Mutter, mutter, mutter. He muttered to the left. He muttered to the right. He muttered into the lapel of his second-hand Brooks Brothers suit. He removed his set of false teeth for a minute so that he would have an unobstructed path for swallowing his pride, and when he set the teeth down on the pavement they kept right on muttering by themselves. Larry expected them to chatter, he told me later, but they muttered – believe it or not.
Larry and I offered to give the man a ride somewhere in the Pinto, but he never answered. He went on to mutter something about the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Larry looked frustrated and a little perturbed. I was hungry, and got to thinking about the In-N-Out Burger. The old man was muttering about the advantages of pomade over hair oil. Then he muttered about Lyndon Baines Johnson. Then he muttered about Lady Bird Johnson. Then he muttered about Little Billy Johnson, Lithe Buttercup Johnson, Lisping Brony Johnson, and the 1963 New York Yankees. It was crazy.
I had said that the old miser gave up the ghost, and that is true. I made it sound as though it were a natural death, however. In reality, as the old miser continued to hold forth and began muttering about commemorative collectible porcelains, Larry blew a gasket and beat the old man senseless with a limb that had broken off of the Kwanzaa bush, had fallen into the gutter, and had gone unnoticed until now.
The bush-limb was made of light wire, interwoven with prickly plastic threads. It took Larry nearly a day and a half to beat the old miser to death with such a soft, light weapon.
Larry stood over the corpse, breathless. The old miser's teeth went right on muttering away about the low quality of Kwanzaa bushes these days.
“Come on, Larry,” I said, motioning to the Pinto. “Let's go get us a double-double.”
Larry just muttered something about the Battle of Leyte Gulf.