Zeke and Haywood were ready.

At long last, after spending a week’s worth of eternity waiting, Friday afternoon had finally come. And if the fuse was lit just right that evening, then Friday night was guaranteed to be a blast.

This meant everything — the selecting of clothes, the shining of shoes, the combing of hair and a generous splash of strong cologne — had to be perfect. Otherwise, the women folks downtown would fancy some other hotshots.

The fellas pulled off perfection in record time.

All was going well, at least until it finally came time to give a good excuse for heading out and leaving their wives at home. In fact, their wives might have believed them.

Except no one goes fishin’ dressed in their Sunday best on Friday evening.

I reckon it’s true when folks say not all excuses are created equal. Some can certainly be shot down much easier than others.

My great-aunt, Juanita, or “Nita” as her siblings affectionately called her, learned this the hard way long ago, back in the mid-1940s when she was around 16 years old.

At the time, she’d gone on a date with a fella who drove a little ol’ car, one that was at least capable of carrying them back and forth to downtown Gordo.

No need for any fancy ride. As long as it rolled and got her out of the house, Nita was happy.

If the driver was handsome, that was a bonus.

On this particular day, Nita deemed her date irresistibly good-lookin’, and so they made plans to celebrate their puppy love under the moonlight. Only problem was Nita’s daddy, Pawpaw Lee Makelin Huffman, expected her home by nightfall.

No doubt, she made it home in time. But now she needed a good excuse to go back outside to her date’s car. Its engine rattling and trunk facing the front of the house, the car shared the driver’s itch to head back down the driveway.

Nita didn’t waste time.

Her excuse groomed and ready, she opened the door to Pawpaw Lee Make’s bedroom and called to him. The old man was lying on his bed, getting ready to drift off to sleep.

But Nita had his attention.

She told him she and her date needed to ride back into town to pick up her older brother, Cecil. She said they’d seen him earlier, and it would certainly be a shame if poor Cecil was unable to hitch a ride and had to walk home so late.

Her bleeding-heart date reckoned going back was the right thing to do, too.

Pawpaw Lee Make listened to all this, soaking it in. And when his darling Nita finished, he raised up out of bed and walked to the front door, where he reached for his shotgun that hung over it.

Nita stood behind her daddy, eyes now wide open, fear squashing all of her new dialogue to gibberish. She thought she’d done a good job delivering her excuse. It was definitely one of her best performances.

What she didn’t know was Cecil had already come home about an hour or so earlier and went on to bed.

Now their daddy was standing in the open doorway, his shotgun aimed at the back of the waiting car. Slinging gravel like sparks, the old ride launched down the driveway the moment the buckshot hit it, vanishing in a thick cloud of dust.

Poor Nita. If only her brother hadn’t given her away.

Keith Huffman can be reached at kmhuffman86@gmail.com.

Keith Huffman can be reached at

kmhuffman86@gmail.com.

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