Vacation without Cindy

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By Ken Begley

. . . is seldom a vacation.

Cindy couldn’t go on our annual pilgrimage to Dollywood this year in Gatlinburg due to her new job.  I hated that, but she sure didn’t.
For some reason the idea of missing out on walking all day in 95-degree heat with a pack of howling kids while going from ride-to-ride that astronauts would think twice about getting on didn’t seem to bother her.  I warned her how lonely it would be in the house all by herself for five days, and her smile just seemed to get bigger.
Go figure.
It was at that point when Mr. Wiley chimed in.  He‘s my former 90 year-old financial advisor that lost all my money in the “Great Recession.”  I’m holding hostage until I recover it.
“Great Recession” my buttocks!  I don’t see anything so great about it.
Anyway, Mr. Wiley said, “Listen here, young man I’ll be glad to help you out watching those kids at Dollywood.”
“Are you sure you know what you’re getting into?”
“Well, it can’t be any worse than sitting around, chained up in your crawl space all day”
“Again, are you sure you know what you’re getting into?”
So we headed down the road to that Mecca of the South known as Dollywood.
We passed by the signs for Norris Dam on I75 when Mr. Wiley asked,
“Who is that dam named after, young man?”
“Don’t you know anything, Mr. Wiley?  It’s named after one of America’s greatest heroes.  It’s none other than Chuck Norris.  I’ve watched all those documentaries they did on him in the Texas Rangers and fighting in the Vietnam War.”
“Documentaries?  Those are movies and television shows, you dimwit. He’s a stupid B-rated movie star.”
“That can’t be true, you crazy old man.”
“Why not?”
“Because, why would they name the dam after him if that’s the case?
Besides, I heard he’s so smart that he’s counted to infinity, not once, but twice!  Beat that!”
Mr. Wiley chose not to “beat that,” and I marked it up as a win.
We all took a pit stop at the Tennessee Welcome Center.  It was there that I noticed a large fellow who appeared to be a “rest stop security guard.”  He was writing intently on a pad of paper while staring at a license plate on a truck.
We went to the restroom, and when we returned the security guard, who had the physical appearance of a turnip with extremities, still appeared to be taking notes.
“I wonder what that guy’s doing, Mr. Wiley?’
“Don’t ask me.  I’m from New York.  I’m still trying to figure you out.”
That’s Mr. Wiley.  He’s always putting us down.  No doubt, the fellow was on to an important lead in a major criminal case.  I decided to go over to see if I could assist.
“Hello officer.  I don’t mean to bother you, but was wondering if I could help you out.”
“You got a crayon?”
“I was drawing a picture of a ducky and a horsey, but I ran out of green crayon.”
Before I could answer this startling revelation, he said, “How old are you?”
“Oh, I’m 53.”
“You look awful for 53.  You should work out like I do, and not let yourself go.”
I chose not to comment, but Mr. Wiley did.
“You better get out of here boy, before “Sheriff Buford Pusser” over there decides to beat you with his big stick, all the way back to Chuck Norris Dam.  I bet it would take him all night to read a football jersey.”
We finally made it into Dollywood and I asked Mr. Wiley when it got to be around noon if he was hungry.
“Shoot yeah, I’m hungry.  I’ll bet you are too, young man, since you lost most of your breakfast on that new ‘Barn Stormer’ ride.”
“I did not lose my breakfast.  I’ll have you know that I’m a rough and tough Army reservist with over 36 years of service.”
“Well, evidently counting blankets for Uncle Sam for 36 years doesn’t make you too rough or tough.”
“That’s only been for the past 10 years.  I’ll have you know I counted mess kits for 26 years before that, and don’t let anybody kid you, that was dangerous work.”
“Speaking of mess kits, which fine eating establishment are you taking us to in Dollywood?”
“Ha, ha, ha!  You must think I’m made of money.  We’re heading out to our van in the parking lot to eat baloney sandwiches, chips and cokes.”
“Oh, come on, you old tightwad.  You’re telling me that we’re all going to have to hike back 100 miles to the car in 95 degree heat to eat some baloney that’s probably already turned green from heat, and drink fried coke?  I refuse to hike in temperature that’s as high as my age.”
Later, back at the van, everyone was eating up except for Mr. Wiley. He was looking rather dubiously at his baloney sandwich.
About that time, Mr. Wiley looked up and said, “Hey Ken, if you thought the security guard at the rest stop looked funny take a peak at what’s heading this way.  He can’t even hold his britches on.
Sure enough, this skinny, wild looking young man with tattoos all over his body was heading our way with his pants so low that his boxer shorts were showing a good four inches from his waist.  Will said it was the style now and it’s called “sagging.”
Mr. Wiley didn’t hear Will’s comment and walked right up to Mr. Wild Man with his baloney sandwich extended out to him and said “I want you to have this.”
Wild Man looked totally puzzled and said, “Why?”
“Because, young man this is America, and no one should be allowed to starve until their pants fall off.  Also, I’ve noticed that many of the words on your tattoos are misspelled.  You might want to contact the ‘body artist’ that did them and ask for a refund.”
Wild Man took great umbrage with Mr. Wiley’s remarks.
Where’s that security guard when you need him?
Better yet, where’s Chuck Norris?