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  • Collin Fowler

The Calculator: A lost story from The Oxford Chronicles

A soaking wet Nerf football can really hurt when it nails you in the face. They get heavy and if you happen to turn and get hit in the corner of your eye, it can pretty much ruin the rest of the day. Fortunately, it missed my eye by just a hair, but that was enough to take me out of the game of tackle pool football.

It was Steve’s sixteenth birthday and he was having a party in his backyard. It had a good turnout. People were coming and going all afternoon. Steve had invited Carolina and I was hoping that she’d show up because, well, Carolina in a swimsuit. She told him that she would try to make it, which we knew meant that she absolutely was not coming, but somehow we remained hopeful.

As it got close to dusk, a handful of us stuck around. We retired to Steve’s living room to watch a stack of VHS movies that he had rented a few days before and were already overdue.

The usual group of guys was there. Bump was a giant with a mop of hair that came down over his eyes. He lived up the road and Steve had known him since elementary school. Wubbus was a husky kid who sunburned easily and it looked like he was in for a miserable next few days. I think he was Bump’s brother or cousin or parasitic twin. They were always together. Finally, there was Beady. Beady was a nice kid, kind of a jock. His claim to fame was having broken his nose three years in a row trying to catch pop-flies in little league. The fourth year, his parents invested in a pair of sunglasses.

Of course Trevor and Franky stuck around as well.

There were a few girls who I didn’t know but they were long gone by the time we decided to get out of the pool. Tracy, newly recruited to our group by Steve, wanted to stay a bit longer, but she didn’t want to be the only girl there and I couldn’t blame her.


***

A little side story about Tracy: One day when I worked at the grocery store, Tracy was standing in the freezer aisle when she saw me in the back of the store manning the seafood counter. Surprised to see me there, she excitedly trotted toward me. While we were chatting, I noticed a couple of the stock boys and the butcher peek out and watch us. I assumed that they were just surprised that a girl was talking to me.

Tracy left to finish her shopping when one of the stock boys, who always reminded me of R2-D2 because he was shaped like a bucket, wandered over.

“Dude, how do you know Chesty Mahoney?”

“Who’s Chesty Mahoney?”

“The girl you were talking to. She dances at Fuzzy Wuzzy’s.”

I knew Tracy well enough to know that she was not a topless dancer.

I felt a hand on my shoulder and turned around to see Daryl, the butcher. He had a look of awe on his face.

“Was that Chesty Mahoney?” he asked.

I don’t think that I ever ended up telling her that story…


***


Franky had arrived from his summer college class with his book bag. He dropped it by the counter under one of the chairs in the kitchen. Bump seemed to perk up when he saw this, which gave me a bad feeling, but not enough for me to think to warn Franky.

The first movie we watched was called “Wild Cat.” The only thing that I remember about the film was that there was a snake in it named “Mumba.” Otherwise, it was totally forgettable.

Most of the guys were piled on the couch and loveseat. Steve was in the recliner while Franky and I sat on the floor. Without any warning, Bump got up and farted on Franky’s head. This didn’t make Franky very happy but busted everyone else up. I felt bad for the kid. He never did anything to deserve being farted on. Most people don’t, I guess, but it did happen to Franky more than it did to the average person.

It was late when I was got my clothes and towel together to leave. Franky was rifling through his book bag. He looked annoyed.

“Where the hell is my calculator?”

He stomped back to the living room where the guys were still hanging out. His ears and the back of his neck were red, not from the sun, but from his slowly building rage.

Everyone looked at him with blank stares.

“That is a very expensive calculator and I need it for my class,” he seethed. “Just let me have it back and I won’t make a big deal out of it.”

Silence.

Franky knew that he wasn’t going to get anywhere. I’d have told him that I suspected Bump, but I didn’t have any proof and I really didn’t want to get farted on, so I stayed quiet.

“It’ll turn up,” I tried to reassure him. “I’ll let you know if I hear anything.”

As we walked out the front door, I heard some mumbling and a burst of laughter. Any one of the guys was fine when you hung out with them individually. Get them together in a group though, and it became a festival of assholes. I often felt that the only thing keeping me from being their main target was the presence of Franky.

About a week later, Franky received a package in the mail. His name and address were composed of letters cut from a newspaper and glued to the envelope. Inside was a note, also in cut out letters. It read:


“This is part one in a two-hundred part series called:

‘WHAT IS THIS OBJECT?’

The only clue is: IT’S YOURS!”


Taped to the bottom of the page was a calculator key, the number five if I recall correctly.

The culprit got bored after sending two or three more pieces and stopped. Steve and Trevor claimed to have nothing to do with it and I’m pretty sure that they would have told me if they did.

It remains a mystery to this day, but my money is still on Bump.




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