There was a time back then, a long time after Buzz’s pappy had left for somewhere down south, that Buzz took to lyin’ to make himself feel better. Well maybe not lyin’ exactly, more exaggeratin’ usin’ stories that weren’t the whole truth and nothin’ but the truth.
I mean I knew his pappy was long gone but I heard Buzz tellin’ the new teacher – the one with the crooked eye – that Buzz’s pappy was away being King of England. It was a story that probably made my buddy feel a little better and that’s all that mattered.
The teacher kinda smiled at him, as if Buzz was the class idiot (which sometimes he was), and then told him she’d hear all about it later and that perhaps Buzz could take his seat, ‘If his majesty feels like it, that is’. You see Buzz had forgotten that if his pappy was the King then that made him the Prince.
“It does?” he said in a real high voice. “It does,” he said again in a real butch low voice.
It sure did and he spent that summer askin’ folks to call him the Prince. Not everyone took kindly to that – one day when I was in Marty’s Barbers, I heard one of the new guys sayin’ ‘There goes the Prince of Fools’ and when I look out the window to see what he’s talkin’ about, all I could see was Buzz crossin’ the street.
Sometimes Buzz and his exaggeratin’ could get a little out of control. Like the time, one July, a man from the Centerville Times came over to our town to look for ukulele players for some competition in the newspaper. Buzz wasn’t interested until he heard that the prize was fifty bucks. I think Buzz thought the money would get him to find his paw and bring him home, on account that his maw spent most nights crying through the wall of their home.
“Step right up here, ladies and gents and sign up for the most prestigious prize this side of Two Forks River. Step right up. Here’s a fine gentleman ready to put his John Hancock on the paper.”
When I look up I’m already too late ‘cause Buzz has put his signature on the competition entry. I tried to grab the pen off of him but he just looked at me and said that I owed the man one buck entry fee on account that his pockets were empty. Apparently royal people, like princes, don’t carry money. Now, I did not know that.
“You can’t play the ukulele, “ I reminded Buzz, later.
“It’s two weeks to the competition. I can learn it, in that time.
Anyway, what’s got into your breeches?”
Maybe I was being a bit stupid and perhaps Buzz actually could learn to play the ukulele in fourteen days. There was probably a book somewhere called ‘Play The Ukulele in Two Weeks’. A buck fifty for the book and a big load of money in return.
Except there weren’t no book, Buzz had no intention of learnin’.
“Why would I want to learn the banjo?” Asked Buzz
I reminded him it wasn’t a banjo but the ukulele.
“What’s that?” He asked me, and right then was the point that I gave up on my friend. I ain’t proud of it, but I thought there goes my buck down the river. I ain’t goin’ to see that again.
“What’s grittin’ your panties?” Asked Buzz who could see I was a bit disconcerted.
“You ain’t gonna win the money Buzz on account that you don’t know what a ukulele is.”
“Is it a quiz? I don’t think so. I ain’t goin’ to play the thing.”
“You ain’t?” I said wonderin’ what was comin’ next.
“No, I ain’t. Becky Smallhousen is going to play the thing.”
So I can hear you thinkin’, just like I’m thinkin’ at this point, just exactly who is Becky Smallhousen and how is she gonna play the ukulele and make folks think it’s Buzz?
When Buzz told me the plan, I actually thought that it might work. What he hadn’t bargained on was Becky Smallhousen hittin’ a load of poison Ivy on the mornin’ of the competition and her head blowin’ up to three times its normal size. At least that’s what Buzz said.
Becky was meant to hide in a bush behind Buzz and when he stamped his foot three times she would start playin’ the ukulele while Buzz pretended to strum her old one. So they got to practisin’ and Becky happened to hide in the only bush that contained poison Ivy for miles around.
“I ain’t doing it,” I said to Buzz when he said he’d share the prize money with me.
“All you need to do is hide in the bush and play the thing, just like Becky.”
“I can’t play the ukulele,” I told Buzz.
“I’m not askin’ you to, I’m askin’ you to play the banjo,” said Buzz still confused as to what stringed instrument he was meant to be playin’.
So that was the plan, I would hide in the bush and attempt to play the ukulele while Buzz stood out front. I say it was a plan – ‘cause that was what is was, until Buzz bumped into the Smith Twins who could play any kinda instrument. There was a story that they could blow air up any animals’ be-hind and get a tune from it.
There was also the fact that the Smith Twins would accept only five bucks from the prize money – they undercut me.
It started real good, The man from the Centerville Times introduced Prince Buzz, son of the King of England. Buzz stamped his feet and a beautiful ukulele tune came from what seemed like Buzz. The trouble was that as one twin played the ukulele the other twin couldn’t resist joinin’ in on the spoons and it kinda gave the game away.
I mean you can say what you like about Prince Buzz – but playin’ a ukulele and the spoons at the same time ain’t one of them.
The Centerville Times ran a big story on the competition.
Royal man caught cheating it read.
Buzz was famous in three counties for a few days. And me? Well I never did get my buck back.
bobby stevenson 2016