Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Saving Mule Days

It’s Wednesday, January 26, 2011. I am anchoring a couch in Bishop California, letting my skin heal from climbing on the granite boulders of the Buttermilks. I am here for the climbing. I am also here for the job.

I wake up on hump day with a list. Statistically speaking, suicides occur most often in the middle of the week. Shots in the head and a planted gun, a suicide note and a push off the building, and the old “accidental overdose” happen on Wednesdays because assassination attempts in the middle of the week often look like suicides. The list of lives to save, of “suicides” to stop, begins and ends with one person: Neal McCoy.

On Wednesdays, I work my part time job as a secret agent. Wednesdays are busy days.

This is what I look like in uniform.

I tussle my hair in the bathroom mirror. Secret agents have a casual clean look. Think James Bond. They also have good oral hygiene so I brush my teeth. My contact wants to meet at Schatz, a busy and buttery local bakery. I do a few pull ups on a bar hanging above the bathroom door to make room for an apple fritter and walk down to meet the CIA spook.

Practicing my shooting at a Bishop firing range.

I pretend to examine the rows of danishes. Really, I am watching the reflection of people walking into the bakery in the glass display. I am also counting the number of apples in the fritters two rows down. Secret agents are good at multi-tasking. My contact doesn’t recognize me. I am disguised as a derelict rock climber. I blend in to the environment of the East Side of the Sierras. That’s why the CIA hired me; I can blend in. I watch the contact pretend to read the news paper. I sit at the table next to him and eat an apple fritter. I should have flossed. The contact looks around the room suspiciously, glances at his watch, then leaves. He doesn’t bring his suitcase.

Secret agents love apple fritters. You should too.

On Memorial Day Weekend in Bishop, more than 700 mules compete in 181 events at the Tri-County fairgrounds for the Mule Days Celebrations. Thursday night, a couple days before the longest ever running non-motorized parade, more than 30,000 people pack into the stands of the fair to see the show’s headliner. This year Neal McCoy, a 52 year old Irish Filipino country musician from Texas, will be starring the show. McCoy’s Billboard hits include “No Doubt About It,” “Wink,” and “Billy’s Got His Beer Goggles On.” He’s a perfect crowd pleaser for the desert town. He’s also a perfect candidate for a highly publicized suicide.

The target: Country crooner Neal McCoy

My contact’s briefcase include McCoy’s itinerary for a day reconnaissance to Bishop for a Mule Day's publicity shoot. It also includes information about the assassination attempt. A crazed member of the Bishop Chamber of Commerce decided that the death of McCoy would bring more tourism to the town than an actual show. Bishop will be the next Graceland, a place thriving on the memorabilia of a dead star. A suicide would look best- at the very least people would go to the Thunderbird Inn to see where McCoy died.

Orange juice is good. Lots of Vitamin C. Lots of antioxidants. Lots of good good stuff. For McCoy the morning orange juice would contain heavy amounts of hydrocodone bitartrate and acetaminophen, or Vicodin, an opiod that in heavy amounts is lethal. Cue pun about pulp in the orange juice.

Drink Milk cause OJ will kill you. That's right. Secret Agents make bad jokes. The difference is if you don't laugh, I'll kill you.

McCoy required that there be good old fashion oj at his hotel room for his 9 am continental breakfast. The Thunderbird Inn imports their Minute Maid from the nearby Vons. From there it hits the kitchen, and then McCoy’s room. Room service would be dropping dissolvable pills in and then housekeeping would be staging the “suicide”. My Wednesday mission was to stop that orange juice.

After finishing my apple fritter, I tussled my hair again. Look good Be good- that’s the motto they taught me at my old alma mater HBSAS (Handsome Boy Secret Agent School). I headed down the street as the innkeeper stepped out of his Dodge Dakota with a gallon of Minute Maid. At the back door, I karate chopped the room service man in the neck as he was taking a cigarette break. After changing into his uniform, I ran inside and grabbed the already poured oj. The innkeeper yelled behind his back, “Smitty, go to room 211 before you hit McCoy at 200. There’s something the Mule Days chairman needs you to deliver down the hall.”

“Room service,” I knocked shave and a haircut-two bits on the door. The chairman brought me in, double checking the hallway. He pulled out a wad of bills. It was a hundred wrapped around a dozen ones. He pulled from the middle of the pile, and stuffed the bills into my pocket. It amounted to $6. Cheap bastard.

“McCoy needs his sleeping pills in his breakfast,” he cracked a dozen Viocidins onto a piece of paper on the nightstand and brought the powder over to my tray.

The Thunderbird: free continental breakfast, lots of bed bugs, and home of an assassination attempt.

“Not on your life Chairman!” I did a flying crane kick, knocking the powder out of his hands and drop kicking him on the head. “I bet you didn’t know that there were bad-ass handsome secret agents around Bishop did you!? Well, the CIA will be having words with you!” I cuffed him to the bed and texted the Spook that the mission was accomplished.

I delivered the oj to McCoy’s room. I didn’t ask for an autograph, though I should have. I saved his life.

I headed home. The dog needed to be walked. It was 10:00. I had a busy day. The couch still needed to be anchored.

Thank God I saved McCoy. He'll be playing Bishop's favorite song at Mule Days

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