Riding in the passenger seat of my truck, Doc leaned one elbow onto the console.
“Did you hear Old Bill Kramer’s not hunting anymore?”
I hung my wrist over the steering wheel.
“Says he can’t see the birds anymore.”
“That hasn’t bothered Jerry Wayne any.” Wrong Willie’s voice came over the seats where he and Jerry Wayne were driving in the back.
The object of his attack took the headphones from his ears. Jerry Wayne didn’t like the music coming through the truck’s speakers.
“What did you say?”
“He’s making fun of you,” Doc offered.
“What did you say?”
Wrong Willie leaned across the seat and spoke louder.
“I said you can’t hear squat.”
Jerry Wayne adjusted his hearing aid and inserted it into his right ear.
“Now, what was that?”
I threw a response over my shoulder.
“He says you can’t see good enough to hit the birds these days.”
“How do you know that? We haven’t started hunting yet.”
I checked my speed as we came into a small country town. I was dead on the speed limit. That’s because years earlier we’d been pulled over for being 10 miles over the posted speed. Lucky for us, the officer was a fisherman and when he heard we were on the way to Colorado to catch trout, he let us go.
Since Jerry Wayne had his hearing aid inserted, he felt it necessary to engage us for a while.
“It doesn’t matter much. My theory is that I have three shells in that shotgun back there, so I’ll use all three at a time. Volume, my friends, volume.”
“Is he talking about the radio?”
Doc leaned over and turned up the song by Gary Stewart, causing Jerry Wayne to wince and adjust his hearing device once again. In response, Wrong Willie lowered his voice, barely a mutter to us in the front seat.
“You were doing that 30 years ago.”
In the rearview mirror, I saw Jerry Wayne frown, his fingers feeling to the tiny adjustment dial.
“What? Rev, can you turn the music down? I can’t hear what he’s saying.”
I turned to respond and saw two things at once. The light ahead had changed to caution at the same time a grinning Wrong Willie lifted a Styrofoam cup to his lips. There was absolutely no traffic around us, and I couldn’t resist. I hit the brakes a little harder than necessary, and then tapped the gas immediately afterward. Willie tried to adjust for three separate incidents. Momentum pushed him forward, stalled, and then reversed direction when he tried to adjust the coffee cup, shooting liquid up his nose and down the front of his shirt, drenching it.
Jerry Wayne and Doc howled. I laughed at the same time slowing for the light which short-cycled, turning green. Taking advantage of the opportunity I pushed the gas a little harder than necessary, drenching Willie a second time. More hilarity.
Eyes watering in joy, I steered into the parking lot in front of a small-town grocery store to give Willie the opportunity to dry off. Just for fun, I steered into a cluster of open parking spaces and stopped short. This time the slosh included both legs of Willie’s jeans. Willie opened the door and abandoned the truck cab, throwing references toward my heritage back inside. I couldn’t really hear it clearly, because we were laughing so loud. It was only when I saw Wrong Willie talking to a man in uniform that I choked back the glee.
“You all right?”
A highway patrol officer near our age was standing beside Willie. As cool as a cucumber, he gave him a grin.
“Yeah, funny boy there behind the wheel made me spill my coffee.”
“I see that. What else was in there?”
“The coffee? Sugar.”
“No…medicine of any kind?”
Understanding dawned on Willie.
“Not these days, but maybe when we were younger.”
The officer named Hensley laughed.
“I understand that. You boys look familiar.”
An individual appeared at my window and I rolled it down to find a much younger highway patrol officer named Clothworth.
Minutes later Clothworth finished checking my ID and insurance, and the interior of the truck to be sure there was no mind-altering liquids present. All the while, Willie, Jerry Wayne, and Doc were on the other side, laughing and telling dove hunting stories with Hensley. When I’d finally satisfied Clothworth’s curiosities, I joined them just in time for Hensley’s eyes to widen.
“I recognize that mustache. I pulled y’all over years ago. You were going fishing.”
“Ten years,” Doc said. “Yep, and this time we’re going dove hunting.”
Hensley looked sad.
“I remember wishing I could go with y’all that first time. I’d like to go today, too.”
“They’re clear,” Clothworth said.
“You bet they are. These boys are of a certain age that has fun and is more careful these days than when we were younger.”
The Clothworth frowned, not understanding. We all shook hands with the lawman who was likely nearing retirement. Hensley grinned.
“You boys be careful, and try to act your ages.”
“Nope,” Doc said as he slid into the seat. “We don’t feel that old, yet.”
The officers were shaking their heads when I pulled onto the highway and glanced into the back. Jerry Wayne had his headphones back in, so loud I could hear Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Wrong Willie poured more coffee into his cup, and I’d bet I saw him tilt in a tiny bit of brown liquid for medicinal purposes. Doc gave me a grin.
“Let’s go shoot some dove and have some fun.”
And we did.
Reavis Z. Wortham is the author of the Red River Mystery series and the Sonny Hawke Thriller series. He lives in North Texas, where his books are set.