(05/15/2020)
By Jack Cawthon

“I thought you wuz dead,” Burvil yelled into the phone. I replied that the same rumor had been started about Mark Twain while he was very much alive, thinking that every one had read my prior column and got the joke.

“Naw, ‘ol Mark over on Blue Tick Crick croaked nigh on five years back,” Burvil replied. (No, I guess he hadn’t read my latest column, a blow, but one I had experienced many times back when alive.) “Saw him stiffern a board, but that’s the way he looked most of time when he had a bottle of Old Al Hag,” he chuckled. Good to know that Burvil was somewhat the same as when I left him!

I had tried to put a call through to Big Puf for several dayswith no luck. I finally called the phone company serving that area of the frontier, one, fortunately, that Daniel Boone hadn’t had to experience.

After listening to two or three George Jones records, interspersed with “your call is important to us,” then a couple of Hank Williams hits—who cared the wait, it was my kind of music—a female voice came on the line. I asked if she was live or a robot, and she came back, “Honey, if you have a Touch Tone phone just push the right button and you’ll see.” Just what I had always hoped : a phone company with humor!

I told her I had been trying to reach Big Puf and couldn’t get through. She called me “honey” again, a word I hate as it implies I’m old, and told me she would check. After some Marty Robbins, she was back on the line saying that she could only find a Little Huffing outside Richmond. I told her the description was close, but I was thinking Roanoke, the one in Lewis County.

She informed me that the company would place “high priority” on resolving the problem. I foolishly asked what that meant, and she replied no longer than a month as the company was having a little trouble getting parts from China.

Only a short time later, the call came from Burvil who told me he was using Arley Cleeter’s “system,” which rather verified my suspicions that Arley had connections— maybe somewhat loose ones-- with a no name government agency—and monitored my call and alerted Burvil.

I informed Burvil that I was concerned about the welfare of Big Puf and asked if he had seen any signs of the pandemic. He said that by golly he hadn’t yet but he had hoped to as he had heard it was coming from China and he could just imagine a Chinese car, probably small and cheap. “Them Chinamen make good stuff cheap” and if Trump kept sending him money he might be able to buy one, as his Dodge Dart had a busted engine.

I said “no, no” I was talking about the COVID-19 virus. That had him more excited. “A Chinese sports car! Holy ---! Never heard ‘bout one afore. What’s the 0 to sixty? Trump’ll have to send lots of money for that one! Ol’ Les Archabald, coal baron, will only be the one able to git one. Went bankrupt but has more cars than har, har lots of women. (Was Burvil just laughing or punning? Could he be smarter than I think? Two years away! I need further study!)

It suddenly dawned on me: I had lost my ability to speak Big Puf in the two years I had been absent. I blame higher education around Morgantown. I have always had an acquaintance with it but never developed a kinship before.

had to change the subject, so I asked about Granny Pratlow. That pulled Burvil down from his high cloud. He told me Granny had been a mite poorly but had gone over to see Doc Quackery on Little Wheeze and he had shot her up with a needle. He added that Doc had a lot of experience with needles as he used them on himself pretty often.

Doc said he had seen on Fox News from a top doctor that if he injected something, Burvil thought was called “disinsecton,” it would be a magic cure. I immediately became concerned about Granny, figuring she would die. Burvil laughed and said Granny was clean as a hog in a hot tub, didn’t tell dirty jokes or cuss anymore. In addition, instead of the big malt liquor bottle she generally carried, she had replaced it with a jug of Clorox. “Smells just like she came out of the wash,” he laughed.

I had to end the call before I became a bit foolish. Over the two years I had forgotten how to speak in Big Puf fashion; it’s like some kind of virus, although I didn’t want immunity as that might leave me only with higher education, a deadly disease for which there is no cure, except perhaps to enter into politics.

This is my attempt to get back on track again. It might take a spell and maybe some Clorox treatments, but I’m trying. Hope you will hang with me!


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