Small Town News

As the string of hot days in Wisconsin lengthens, even the heartiest among us suffer. Though we love our brief summer, temperatures have hovered near ninety for weeks on end, and the humidity wilts our good humor. Even the black-eyed Susans droop, avoiding eye contact. Tensions rise, giving way to dramatic events.

Last week, for example, Herman and Evelyn heard an interesting incident reported over their police scanner. Herman had been out to water the tomatoes, and Evelyn was drinking her third cup of coffee, elbows resting on the oiled tablecloth bearing rooster icons.

From what she could tell, a mother and son tangled in the parking lot of a local discount store. This piqued her interest, as it had been a slow news week. “Hermie, listen ta this!”

Apparently, the ruckus began inside. Witnesses reported seeing the duo waiting in line at the pharmacy for the son’s steroid cream. It seems the mother knew enough to refrain from referring to his situation as “prickly heat,” but could not help but suggest a tepid bath with Epsom salts. Sullen behavior gave way to dirty looks.

Evie and Hermie watched for the city beat column in the newspaper for more details. By Tuesday it appeared, near the end of the publication, page 3. Other shoppers reported that the culprits may have been planning a day at the lake. Items in their shopping cart included sunscreen, a Styrofoam cooler, and sandwich bags.

It’s unclear who first spotted the bright display of water toys, but it seems their attraction to the fluorescent-colored water noodles was mutual. At ninety-nine cents each, those water toys were flying off the shelf, said Erv Schrufnagel, store manager. The son protested his mother’s initial choice. “Not the pink floral,” he was overheard to complain in a whiney voice. They ultimately agreed on two green and one yellow.

The malcontents then proceeded to the check out line, where another wait ensued. It may have been accidental, no one is sure, but when their shopping cartwheels skinned the woman’s shins, a minor scuffle, characterized by verbal exchange, broke out. The mother, described as middle aged, suggested her son proceed to their car. Perhaps neither anticipated the angst which befell the son when he realized the car keys were in his mother’s purse. He was seen waiting in the bright oven-heat of the asphalt parking lot, hands stuffed in his pockets, kicking at loose gravel. At one point a fellow shopper witnessed a crude utterance from the direction of the car, after the young man in question leaned onto the side mirror, possibly burning the tender skin of his underarm.

When the mother appeared, Al Wehner from gardening noted that the son violently exhibited his impatience by snatching the shopping bag, which tore to bits, sending the contents across the parking lot, some spilling under the car. Their eyes met in an angry gaze, and the son crawled onto the melting asphalt to retrieve various items, braising his knees.

Witnesses say a bottle of Epsom salts and a jar of Noxzema face cream rolled from under the car, causing the mother to lose her footing. Legs became entangled. When the two sweaty figures got to their feet, a melee broke out. The mother grabbed a yellow noodle and began to beat the son about his head. The son returned her aggression. Sweat flew. Insults were exchanged.

Security was notified, which triggered the call to authorities. By the time local police arrived, the scene was subdued. The melee had fortunately broken out near the hose display, and a water source was available. “Hosed ‘em down, officer. Won’t be no more trouble from them two,” store security reported.

The weather forecast on page four reported more of the same. Security detail has been redoubled, in the hopes of thwarting such future incidents.

Featured in The Mad as Hell Club online journal