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Fried Chicken, Cupcakes and Gossip
by Margie Culbertson

I was a man who needed his fingerprints taken. You see, I had a new job handling controlled substances, so I guess my hands needed to be controlled as well.

My wife and I had lived in the country for about a year, but I had never been to the little town named Coyote just up the road. I heard it was a tiny, friendly town that had its own police department, police being the operative word here in connection with fingerprints. I was hoping that "tiny and friendly" would translate into "quick and no charge" in Coyote as opposed to "all day excursion for a small fortune" in Abilene.

So I paid my first visit to Coyote. As I drove down the main street I noticed one building on the left with a sign out front. "Justice of the Peace" I thought the sign said. That sounded hopeful, so I walked in. Behind the desk sat a large woman with an enormous, greasy smile on her face. She was eating fried chicken and licking her fingers.

"Hi there, I'm Jessie. Come on in."

"Well, Jessie, I’m trying to find the police station."

"Um hm" she answered, chicken leg in hand. The noise of her eating was remarkable. Smack, crunch, slurp were accompanied by the rhythmic popping sound her mouth made off the ends of her fingers. This blended so perfectly with the sound of her voice that I didn't realize she was actually talking to me. She may have said, "Just around the corner past city hall. First building on the right". Or, "Cows can't bowl worth a damn, Thelma, so I'm settin' the armadillo on fire". However, I distinctly heard, "Help yourself to some chicken. I've got enough to feed Custer's Army."

I took a leg.

Continuing my quest, I thanked Jessie for the chicken. Leg in hand, out the door I went, around the corner and past city hall. But the first building on my right was neither the police station nor a flaming armadillo. It was Flora's Hair Care. I squinted through the windows, and smiling ladies squinted back. Unfortunately, none of them had a badge or a service revolver. No uniformed officer here.

My hunting for the police station wasn't saving me any time, but the 'free lunch' was delicious and I was having fun. So I decided to try inside city hall and see if that's where they were hiding the mysterious police station. I walked out of the sunshine into a cavernous room that was so dark I thought I'd gone blind. As soon as my eyes adjusted I saw the room contained three matronly ladies grouped around a dilapidated table. They appeared to be simultaneously smoking, eating cupcakes and gossiping.

"Hi!" said one of the ladies. Smiling must come naturally to these folks, "Can we help you?"

"I'm looking for the police station. Am I getting close?"

"Close enough. Police station's empty right now. What do ya need?"

"I've got this form and I need..."

"Fingerprints? Sure. Let me see if I can raise the police station for's Tuesday ...that would be Billy today." Then she reached above her head to a shelf where a radio and microphone sat. She tugged on the cord until the entire system came to rest on her ample bosom, which in turn rested on her ample lap. Then she pinched the left side of the microphone with her thumb and began to talk. She had obviously done this before.

"Billy, what's your twenty? We got a gentleman that needs your assistance."

"I'm at home eatin' a sandwich."

"Don't say it like that. He's standing right here."

"Oh, Louvenia, don't worry about that. Tell him I'll be down in a bit."

So I joined the ladies cupcake and gossip-fest. I was immediately included in the conversation and was duly appalled that young Eddie had run off with Miss Takstone from the high school. Not only were the parents upset, but where were they going to find a new principal at this time of the year? I learned that Ellen's baby had come out on time, "just slipped out like on a banana peel" and mother and baby were doing fine. I got awful worried when they told me that Bud had fallen off his John Deere and was gonna have to miss this year's harvest. Good grief, who's gonna bale that hay? Then Billy walked in. I was almost sorry he'd gotten there so soon--I was beginning to feel like one of the girls.

"Sorry for upsetting your lunch," I said.

"That's all right. It wasn't much of a sandwich anyway. What can I do for ya?"

"I've got this form and I need..."

"Fingerprints. Come on back and we'll fix ya' right up. You can bring your cupcakes. In fact, bring me a couple, too. "

I followed Billy down the hall, casting one last glance at my three new best friends: Louvenia, Sarah Elizabeth and Lydell. I promised myself I’d come back and catch up on the news next chance I got.


with a little help from "Coyote" Matt Dilger!

İM.C. Culbertson