My old pal Mingo was one of those guys who have an unfortunate knack for finding trouble.
This was never more evident than the time Mingo and I visited my friend Becky.
She was living in a small town a longish drive from Duluth with her friend, Cynthia. Our plan was to drive up on Saturday, spend the night at their apartment, and have all Sunday to visit before returning home.
Becky and I had been classmates in Duluth, and our friendship endured even after her family moved out of town.
She had a head of thick brown hair, big brown eyes, and had always been comfortable hanging out with the guys.
Cynthia, on the other hand, had pale blonde hair, icy blue eyes, chiseled features, and an aloof demeanor, especially around rough young men from out of town. I won’t say she was high-strung, but if someone else said so, I wouldn’t disagree with them.
Soon after we arrived at Becky’s place we all went to the local grocery store to pick up supplies. While there, we noticed a portly fellow in a plaid suit talking to the manager.
Mingo was in charge of pushing the cart.
He was a fine athlete, as gifted on a football field as anyone, but he lost that athletic grace when he was off the field. His critics said he was as awkward as a pig in a parlor. Inanimate objects, lacking the ability to dodge, often tripped him up.
Such was the case during our shopping expedition with the girls.
The store was featuring a special offer on bathroom tissue, and a sizable display of the product was stacked on an end cap near where the stout man was having his conference.
Mingo, distracted by a passing shopper, blundered into the display with his cart, causing an avalanche of bathroom tissue to cascade down upon the egg-shaped orator.
The victim seemed angry, as if Mingo had intended the assault as an editorial comment.
We soon learned that the geezer in the plaid suit was the town’s mayor.
Mingo turned red and apologized, and after helping to clean up the mess, we finished our shopping as quickly as possible.
If Mingo had intended to make a favorable impression on Cynthia, he was falling short of the goal. She seemed embarrassed by the incident in the store.
He further damaged his case while we were in the car. Observing a woman and a small dog on the sidewalk, Mingo, desperate to change the subject, made a derogatory comment about yippy little dogs, and the people who own them. It turned out Cynthia possessed an animal fitting the description, and she seemed piqued by Mingo’s characterization of her and her dog.
Back at the apartment, we had a pleasant dinner, followed by refreshing adult beverages and stimulating conversation.
We retired amicably, the girls to their bedchambers, I to a comfortable easy chair, and Mingo to the sofa.
The silence was shattered in the small hours of the morning by a god-awful commotion with Mingo at its core.
Apparently, he had experienced a call of nature and gone to avail himself of the facilities. On his return trip, he somehow managed to tread on the dog. The dog objected, and said so.
The unexpected barking, combined with the darkness and unfamiliar surroundings, disoriented Mingo.
Veering off course, he collided with a chair, a lamp, and an occasional table in the order named, upsetting a vase of fresh flowers and a framed portrait of the dog, and sending them crashing to the floor.
The effect, in the middle of an otherwise silent night, was dramatic, and brought the girls what-the-helling out of their bedrooms.
Someone found a light switch, and in the scene thus illuminated, Cynthia looked especially peevish and accused Mingo of attacking her dog.
We got things cleaned up, and everyone retired once again.
In the morning, we drank coffee, and carefully avoided the subject of Mingo’s nocturnal misadventures.
The girls gave us a tour of the town, which didn’t take long, there not being much to see.
We assembled a picnic lunch, and took it to the park to enjoy in the shade of a large tree.
The park was impressive. It featured a veterans memorial, walking paths, and plenty of grand old trees. The focal point was a large duck pond surrounded by benches, hedges, and ornamental flower beds. In the center of the pond was a fountain.
We threw around a Frisbee for awhile, and then settled down on a blanket to have our lunch.
Things had been going smoothly. Perhaps this emboldened Mingo to resume his usual clowning. He was known among the lads in our neighborhood for his ability toss things into the air and catch them in his mouth like a trained seal.
He had started with peanuts, but had expanded to other snack items, such as olives and cocktail onions. He practiced frequently.
During our picnic, it must have occurred to Mingo that impressing the girls with his special skill might make up for the unfortunate gaffs he had committed.
We hadn’t any peanuts. The best option Mingo could find was a jar of those tiny pickles. He selected one and flung it up in the air with a flourish, intending to catch it in his mouth.
Unfortunately, perhaps due to its irregular shape, the projectile went off course. Cynthia was leaning slightly forward opening a container of potato salad when the wayward pickle dropped down the front of her shirt and became lodged in her brassiere.
The introduction of a cold cucumber into her blouse caught Cynthia off guard and seemed to provoke her.
Being unfamiliar with Mingo’s reputation regarding food sports, she mis-interpreted his intentions and initiated an immediate counter offensive. With a hard look in her eye, she grabbed the first thing that came to hand, which happened to be a bottle of riesling, and advanced on Mingo brandishing it like a club.
Making a quick assessment of Cynthia’s intentions, he determined it was pointless to try to explain, and opted instead for a hasty retreat.
Mingo put his head down and attempted to put as much distance as possible between himself and Cynthia.
Luck was not with Mingo that day.
He charged down the path toward the duck pond, his form resembling his glory days on the gridiron. He was not tall, but he was solidly built. Passing through a gap in the ornamental hedge, he looked up just in time to see a portly figure in a plaid suit in his path.
The figure raised its hands in a defensive posture, but it was too late. Mingo had been glancing back to check on his pursuer, and the next thing he knew, he was cannoning into a wall of plaid.
The impact sent the rotund mayor sailing base-over-apex down the small slope leading to the pond, where he landed unceremoniously with a splash.
In a sputtering rage, the mayor accused Mingo of trying to kill him, and called into question his assailant’s mental stability.
Mingo wavered between his natural desire to help the mayor, and his instinct for self-preservation. Cynthia had paused in her pursuit when Mingo collided with the mayor, but she still had her bottle, and Mingo decided not to wait to find out what she intended to do with it. He quickly made himself scarce.
We cut our visit short that day, and it was a long time before we visited Becky again.