Forty Ounce Feller
My name's Carroll and I'm a guy. I say that up front so there's no confusion. This is a story about Forty Ounce Feller. Forty's birth name is Bobby, but only his momma calls him that. You'll probably figure out the nickname as the story goes on.
I am not on good terms with Forty. We were friendly for a while and then he ripped me off. The old saying, No good deed goes unpunished? I did him a good turn and he payed me back by stealing my lap top, my TV and a few other items he thought might turn a buck. I can't prove it, but I know he done it. Oh, one thing he took was a good looking Seiko watch. That didn't work.
Forty drinks a crap-ton of beer, mostly Old Milwaukee, and always the 40 ounce bottles. He's a screw-up and a ne'er-do-well. Petty thievery and BS schemes. A few years back, he got caught for ripping copper pipe out of an empty house and selling it to some salvage place. He got less than 50 bucks for the copper, The repair cost some landlord over a thousand. Forty got probation.
How did he get caught, you might ask? He left two clues behind. Two empty forties.
Forty's mom lives across the road from me and Forty lives in her garage. He has one semi-redeeming thing about him and that is playing bass guitar. He's incredible. Good enough to play at any level, but being the shit-head that he is, he's lucky he got to play with a local band.
They're a pretty decent band. Good guys too, except Forty. The band's name is Hammer & Tongs. The singer/guitar player is a carpenter and the drummer is a cook. They have one or two gigs most weekends. They would round up Forty before a gig and kind of baby-sit him till they took him home after the gig.
Where I first came into the story is that I make license plate guitars. I gave one to Jason, the guitar player in the band. He used it at some gigs and I was pretty happy about that. Then Forty thought it would be cool if he played a license plate bass. I was up for that, but it turned out Forty wanted to make his own bass and do it in my shop with my help.
I agreed and then regretted it. Forty got a good playing bass with a California license plate. He let me do most of the build. Then he took it to gigs and told people he made it.
We got friendly building the bass together. And man, it was fun the few times we played music together. I don't have anybody around here to play with and Forty made me sound pretty good. Then he rips me off. I confronted him and talked to the sheriff. But like I said, I couldn't prove it.
Not long after that, things changed for Forty. He usually didn't have a car. Or sometimes he'd get a five hundred dollar piece of crap and drive it til' the wheels fell off. He was pretty much unemployable. Then all of a sudden, he was driving a better kind of car. Pretty soon that car was gone and he had a nice Dodge pickup. Talk around town was that Forty had money.
Jimmy at the Kwik Stop told me Forty was mowing grass at the new cemetery east of town. And digging graves with a back hoe. Not a full time job, but making some money.
A new funeral home, Rose Vista, had come into the county seat. It was part of a small chain. I heard later on they had four places. The old funeral home, Paulson's, has been around a long time and is pretty well thought of. But the new place had a nice building and seemed to do good work. And they were much cheaper than Paulson's. So they did pretty good. And right away, they bought ground and started the new cemetery east of the piss-ant little town I live in.
One Friday morning in April, I was up early and went to the Kwik Stop to get a newspaper, breakfast burrito and a 32 ounce Diet Pepsi. It was just after six AM and Forty was in there bleary eyed, covered with dirt. He was in there buying two guess whats.
I recalled getting up to pee around midnight and looking out the window and noticing Forty's pickup was home at that time. I put two and two together and came up with 'What the hell?'
A couple weeks later I was up at two thirty in the morning. As usual, I looked out the window as I peed. There was Forty leaving in the Dodge and heading east. At two thirty on a Tuesday morning.
I went back to bed and couldn't sleep. The worst thing I can do at night is to think about stuff. I was wondering what Forty was up to. I pulled on some clothes, grabbed my cell phone and drove out east.
That new cemetery is in a nice secluded spot. It's surrounded by a game preserve and timber on three sides. You can't really see in there from the road. But it was dark with low clouds and it looked like headlights were bouncing off the clouds.
I got out of my truck, climbed over the gate and walked up the cemetery lane. Forty's Dodge and an old van were in there with the motors running and the lights on. I snuck in there and Forty was running a back-hoe and digging. Another guy was by a grave, giving directions to Forty. I couldn't believe it.
I went back to my truck, called the 911, and asked them to send a deputy with no lights or sirens. He got there in nine minutes and we went up the lane and got in close. There was Forty and another guy loading a casket into the van. The deputy grabbed the other guy and Forty took off running. I can't run fast or far, but I can outrun Forty.
~ ~ ~
Forty is in jail. He'll do around two years. It's dumb, but I feel kinda bad about it. The Omaha paper quoted him during the trial as saying, “I am not a body snatcher.”
Well, he was and he wasn't. The scam was to recover and re-sell the coffins and concrete vault liners. Pretty good money in it too. How many times can you sell and use a five thousand dollar casket?
They would put the corpse back in the grave, refill the dirt and tried to hide any sign of disturbance. Forty's lawyer tried to call the whole thing a 'victimless crime.' Ha. I was there that day and the jury laughed out loud at that one.
The guy they brought in as the local funeral director was the brains behind the whole thing. He took the biggest hit. Forty months in the state pen.
The whole thing was a big scandal. The grave those guys got caught on, that was the third time they had done it.
Forty's mom does not seem to blame me. I spend a lot of time in the wood shop and think of Forty sometimes. I suspect that cold 40 ounce Old Milwaukees are scarce for him right now. Life goes on.