Ranching the Rubberadoes

     One night, I was supposed to meet a friend of mine at a dingy but reasonably-priced local watering hole. As it happens, my friend ended up unable to meet me due to a family emergency...or so they said, anyway. Rather than immediately go home, where there was no beer, I decided to soak up some local color and hang around for a drink or two. As I sat at the bar fiddling around with my cell phone, an elderly gentleman wearing a shirt that looked like it should be covering a picnic table sat down next to me. After some small talk about the weather and whatnot, the man blindsided me with the following story, which I transcribe here word-for-word, more or less. Naturally, I don't believe a word of it. But  the look in that elderly gentleman's eyes told me that he did.

     If I had known how much trouble it was gonna cause me, I never woulda shot Terry Merton. Now, don’t get me wrong, everybody knows old Terry had it coming. He was stealing from me left and right, and it was self-defense besides. Why, the day I was convicted of murder and sent to prison, wasn’t a single intelligent person in Texas that thought I deserved it. But what could I do? I was stuck. So I held my head up high, knowing damn well I didn’t belong in jail, and just tried my best to be a model prisoner. I guess it worked, since I got out early for good behavior, and at that point, I thought my troubles were over. I could not have been more wrong.
     Turns out that not too many people want to hire a convicted murderer. Sure, I had a few options, but none of ‘em were exactly worth considering. I don’t believe it’s right for a person to sell their body sexually, so that was out, and I made a promise to my momma on her deathbed that no matter what, I would never work at a fast food restaurant. I suppose those forty years behind the counter at McDonald’s left a bitter taste in that poor woman’s mouth, may she rest in peace. I tried and I tried, but no respectable place would hire me, and no disrespectable one neither. Got to where I was kicked out of my mobile home –not to be confused with a trailer, mind you, which is different, and quite a bit lower-class, in my estimation– and sleeping on my buddy Ned’s couch. It was a sad state of affairs, I’ll tell ya.
      So one day Ned comes up with an idea for how to make us both some money. Said he wanted to get into exotic animal ranching, and he wanted me to help. Was even willing to sell his house to put a down payment on a ranch and get some supplies and livestock. Well, I must say that this all struck me as pretty stupid, but it was his money, and I didn’t have much to lose. So I said if he wanted to risk all his savings on something like that, I wasn’t gonna stand in his way. And sure enough, old Ned up and bought himself a ranch.
     Now Ned had never told me exactly what kinda exotic animals he was fixing to raise; I was curious, sure, but I’m not exactly the nosy type, ya see. Still, when we were packing up to actually move to the ranch, I figured I’d better ask so as to know what sort of critters I was gonna be dealing with. So Ned gets this kinda weird smile and asks me if I ever heard of a rubberado. I says no, I haven’t, and ask him what the hell he’s even talking about. And Ned, he just keeps on grinning and tells me that I’m in for quite a surprise and says no more about it.
     When Ned and I got to the ranch, I was saying to him that it was about time I finally found out what sort of exotic animal I’m gonna be tending to, and Ned says to me that that’s only fair. He takes me out back into the barn, and I swear to you, he shows me a dozen of the oddest creatures I have ever seen in my life. They were about as big as beach balls, most of ‘em anyway, except for a couple that were more like tennis ball size, which I figured were probably babies. Not only that, they actually kinda looked like balls, too; they were all perfectly...spherical, with these big old headlight eyes in front and this tiny mouth, and these paws coming out right about where a normal animal’s feet would be, excepting that these things had no legs, just little paws sticking out. They had a couple of pointy cat ears coming out, and were covered over all with a thick pelt of fur, mostly black with a skunk stripe down the middle. But strangest of all, these things didn’t walk or crawl; no sir, they bounced. Just hopping like living balloons or something, bouncing around like rubber, which is, Ned explained, how they came to be called rubberadoes.
      Well, as you can imagine, the rubberadoes were a handful and a half to handle. It’s tough to herd a bunch of creatures that can just bounce over a fence, and they certainly didn’t take to learning to obey orders too well. I even got desperate and tried to shoot one as a warning to the others to behave themselves, but the bullets deflected right off the bastard. I swear it was laughing at me, but I have to admit, there’s something mighty respectable about a critter you can’t shoot down. Of course, I had to figure out another form of discipline. I ended up yelling and screaming until I was hoarse and chasing the rubberadoes all over the ranch and beyond with a big net, just doing whatever I could to contain ‘em.
     When they weren’t misbehaving, though, I guess the little guys weren’t so bad. Funny thing was, on account of all the bouncing around, they had pretty thick skin, so I could just kick ‘em around if I felt like it and it didn’t hurt ‘em one little bit. I used to watch the sun set over the hills, squinting into the amber sky while I bounced a couple rubberadoes like basketballs. I remember the way they smelled, too; like wet cedar. And they cooed, you know, like doves, except throatier, almost like a purr. Strange things, those rubberadoes.
      Well, the day came when Ned and I began to look for a buyer for our little critters, since we weren’t raising them for our own personal amusement. Should’ve been no problem, considering no one else in the world had rubberadoes for sale. Trouble was, me and Ned couldn’t quite agree on the terms of sale. He wanted to sell ‘em as food, a regular gourmet item. Plus, crazy as it sounds, anyone who ate the meat would bounce too, just like a rubberado. Ned tried it once himself, and I was there to see it. Weird as hell, that was; Ned just came out of the house one day with a bloody apron on and started hollering at me to look, look, and when I did, he was up in the air like a Mexican jumping bean. Would come down and land right on the top of his head, and just bounce back up, laughing and laughing. Of course, after a few hours, that got kinda old, and Ned got to yelling and carrying on and telling me to help him settle down and stop bouncing. His face got as red as his apron and he was calling me a lazy bastard and all, and I had to fetch him with the net and let him settle down for a while. Took about six hours total for him to get back to normal, and the whole time he was just sitting in that net and saying that maybe next time he wouldn’t eat the whole thing and then the bouncing wouldn’t last so long as to be unwelcome. Honestly, I was really hoping that there wouldn’t be a next time.
     Now me, I thought we should sell the rubberadoes as pets. We didn’t need a lawsuit from some fool bouncing himself into telephone wires or something. And besides, I just couldn’t bear the thought of someone else eating a slice of my little rubberadoes. Not again, anyway. But Ned wouldn’t hear of it; he was selling them for meat and that was final. I told him he should reconsider, that the rubberadoes were really kinda alright and there was no reason to kill ‘em when they could make us plenty of money alive. Ned told me to shut the hell up and what did I know, he was the business man and I was just cheap labor and I should leave the decisions up to him. Then he said that in fact, how about I do all the slaughtering, and if I refused, well then, how about I packed my bags and hit the road, as he had no use for a man too spineless to kill a stupid animal.
     Now of course, faced with that predicament, I did the only thing that I could do: I shot that bastard Ned and fed him to the rubberadoes. After all that nonsense, he had it coming, and wasn’t a single intelligent person in Texas could tell you otherwise.   

Bounce on over to Amazon to pick up a copy of Joey Marsilio's novel Henry Garrison: St. Dante's Savior.  


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