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Urban Legends Thrive in Cowburg

Chauncey is a victim of good mental health. If not for that, he might now be a legend in the big eastern city where his name used to be a household word.

Instead, he is the unwilling victim of a growing “urban legend” in a small Arizona town.

Chauncey was a star in his market. But he got sick of the community of critics clamoring in his head. He found psychiatric help, and a good antidepressant drug.

That ruined his career in talk radio. Chauncey was fired for encouraging reasonable call-ins. His wife, who liked being married to a celebrity, divorced him.

Looking for a new life, he made his way to a small Arizona town. We’ll call it Cowburg, just so it will have a name.

Now, a few short years later, Chauncey is vice president of The Bank Of Cowburg, and a deacon at the First Church Of Wholesome Engagement.

Chauncey moonlights as Cowburg’s elevator safety inspector, a prestigious title, but an easy job. Cowburg has only two passenger elevators and one freight elevator, accessing a total of seven floors.

He sings baritone in the church choir, and it was there that Chauncey met Mary Elizabeth, a shapely alto several years younger than he. They recently married. Not long after, the rumors began, an urban legend in the making.

The first “urban legend” I heard, more than 50 years ago, was about the guy who parks his new Cadillac convertible, top down, outside his girlfriend’s house. His girlfriend’s husband, who just happens to drive a ready-mix cement truck, just happens to drive by and fill the Caddy with concrete.

Why do so many “urban legends” happen in small towns? The only explanation I’ve found for this contradiction is on a website devoted to urban legends. It says “urban legends” are really “contemporary legends,” and it’s easier to say “urban” than it is to say “contemporary.” That’s lame, but it’s the best I can do.

The thing about an urban legend is, you couldn’t prove one if you tried. It usually happens to a friend of a friend, in the next town down the road. I’m not sure why this one attached itself to Chauncey.

It is said that one night when Mary Elizabeth was out with the girls, Chauncey decided to visit a XXX porno site on the Internet. He felt guilty and unclean, but he had an e-mail message offering forbidden delights, and he was compelled to check it out.

On that site, the shocked Chauncey found a picture of Mary Elizabeth. He tried to tell himself that any number of women could look like Mary Elizabeth. But he had never met anyone with those angular good looks, or that mole in a peculiar spot.

What she was doing in that lurid photo varies from teller to teller, as the story is whispered around town. I have heard that several people, some of them women, have been surfing the web, looking for that photo.

Chauncey dares not confront Mary Elizabeth. How would the vice president of the bank, the church deacon, the man responsible for elevator safety in an entire town–how would such a man explain why he was looking at a nasty website?

And how would any of us know if he really had? That’s thepart I can’t figure out.

Nevertheless, much of Cowburg is intrigued by Chauncey’s supposed dilemma. The only thing that is going to divert attention from the story is a new legend. And there’s one story growing that just may do the trick.

DuWayne Sharbling claims the desert sun got so hot the other day that it welded him inside his ancient Subaru station wagon. He barely had enough strength to kick the windshield out before he would have passed out from the heat.

Folks want to believe that unlikely story, because stuff does happen to DuWayne.

He affects western dress, so most of his shirts have snaps on them, in place of buttons. When he’s coming on to his wife, Eula, DuWayne likes to grab both sides of his shirt and rip the snaps open, baring his hairy chest.

One night recently, DuWayne and Eula came home from a dinner dance at the Elks Club. DuWayne was feeling amorous, but he forgot he was wearing a shirt with real buttons. As he ripped it open, buttons flew everywhere, and one hit Eula in the eye.

Reflexively, Eula hit him across the nose with the hairbrush she happened to be holding, breaking his nose. At least, that’s the story they told in the emergency room.

Folks were still telling that story around Cowburg when DuWayne claimed he got welded inside his Subaru. It wasparked outside the New Millenium Auto Recycling Center, where DuWayne is assistant manager.

He got in his car to go home one hot afternoon. The car wouldn’t start. As he tried to get out to go for help, he couldn’t get the door open.

His coworker Larry saw DuWayne come out through the shattered windshield. He said DuWayne’s face was red, his eyes were bugged out and he was panting for air.

Roy, who owns the recycling yard, said he didn’t know you could weld rust to rust. He also pointed out that it was only 111 degrees in Cowburg that afternooon.

But Roy, who’s strong as a fork lift, tugged at all the Subaru’s doors and couldn’t get them open.

By the following morning, the story was all over town. Cowburg’s business and civic leaders gather at the Krispy Korral Kafe every morning for coffee. A lot of civic issues are solved there, and it’s a natural forum for the day’s gossip. Roy told the guys in his booth about DuWayne being welded into his Subaru.

Some expressed skepticism, but they agreed that if such a thing was going to happen, it would happen to DuWayne.

George, who manages an economy motel, said, “Hey, do you know what I heard about DuWayne? I probably shouldn’t be repeating this….but I heard he found his wife’s picture on a porno site on the Internet.”

In the next booth, Chauncey turned pale. His hand began to shake, and he spilled coffee down his shirt front.

Last 5 posts by Jim Cook

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