The Devil's Work

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“Chafing is the Devil’s work.”

That’s what Mama used to say, and you can bet your bottom dollar that Stumpwell Cardaflume believed her. Stumpy, as he was called ‘round the watering hole, covered himself in talcum powder every morning. He put it on his thighs, calves, ankles, knees, armpits – anywhere undesirable friction might occur.

One day, Stumpy coated himself as per usual, stepped out onto the porch, and read the morning paper. White motes of talcum powder puffed into the air as he sat. The cloud always pleased him, his Mama’s spirit saying, “Stumpy, you done gone did alright.”

The Catalyticville Converter concerned themselves chiefly with local matters – squabbles, gossip, and youth sports. He read about a parental brawl at the middle school football game, Mayor Fork cheating on his husband with the Comptroller, and the live penguin discovered in Ms. Consideration’s shrimp scampi. The second-to-last page was, as always, a full page ad from his cousin’s law firm.

“Gosh darn ambulance chaser,” said Stumpy. “Why ain’t that boy doin' real man’s work?”

Against his better judgement, he did not set down the paper and visit the aviary. Stumpy was endowed with great curiosity and, not being a cat, presumed nothing could go wrong from a little peek at Cousin Franderbottom’s advertisement.

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“Hogwash!” Stumpy ran a frantic five miles to his next door neighbor’s house. He snuck through their labyrinth and dove through the bedroom window. Alphonse Herdone hardly stirred as Stumpy’s landing sprayed him with glass. Stumpy curled up beside him and tried to forget the horrid affair.

It proved impossible. He left a jar of homemade tartar sauce on the counter and made his way back through the labyrinth. The sky darkened and rain poured down. White droplets dripped from Stumpy’s body and marked his course through the maze and into his abode.

Stumpy built a fire in his hearth. The flames consumed the kindling. White ash built up beneath them, mocking him. He rushed to the pantry and threw pallet upon pallet of talcum powder into the fire, burning it all in a fearful rage. Cancer could not be allowed in him.

He pulled out his cellular telephone. Sweat flung itself from his pores. Typing was near impossible. After a Herculean struggle, Stumpy found an alphabetized list of possibly carcinogenic objects. At “cellular telephone,” he hurled the demon device into the blaze and rushed from the house.

Stumpy retrieved a block of C4 from the pocket of his Dockers. The house exploded as he fled into the woods. Trees flashed by in a frantic haze until he collapsed in a soft bush. Sleep enveloped him, and he ran no further that day.

An orange sun shone into Stumpy’s eyes. Dawn. He stood up, stretched, yawned, reached for his talcum. The specter of cancer urged him onward.

Thoughts of chemo and radiation danced in his head,

And Stumpy dashed off until a ravine appeared up ahead.

He couldn’t stand the fear of another second in this perilous world,

So he bent his legs, then they unfurled.

Stumpy fell a hundred feet to the bottom,

Then bounced up when a trampoline caught him.

He flew high into the air, face in a grin,

And fell back down to do it again.

His worries drifted away up above that ravine,

But unfortunately, at the bottom, somebody moved the trampoline.

A little fear improves the prospects of any group,

But too much, and you’ll turn into soup.


Image of The Witching Hour


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