Two little boys who grew up in Saskatchewan spend a typical summer trying to entertain themselves.
Here is another episode of The Adventures of Muck and Finn, by guest writer, Lorne Finlayson.
Muck and Finn were bored. It was summer holidays and it seemed like all the other kids had left town. The boys thought if they found enough kids they could get a game of scrub softball going. They rode their bikes all over town but no one was to be found.
“Well, what are we going to do,” asked Muck, “’cause if I go home my mom will make me work and I don’t feel like pulling weeds.”
“The only things I can think of right now is playing catch or going to the lake,” said Finn.
“ Swimming! Ha! You swim like that big rock over there,” taunted Muck.
“Better than you. All you can do is dog paddle. I’ll bet you don’t dare go out over your head.” Finn laughed.
“Betcha I would!”
“Betcha you’d be too chicken!”
Muck glared at Finn. No one called him chicken, not even Finn. Not even his big sisters. Not even the big kids because he would just beat them up.
“OK, Finn. Let’s go down to the lake and I’ll show you who’s chicken—and it ain’t me.”
“Big talk, Muck. I’m going home to get my trunks and towel and then I”m going down to the lake. Come along if you’re brave enough. Dog paddler! Ha, ha.” Finn laughed as he jumped on his bike and pedaled home fast, keeping ahead of Muck.
At the lake, they changed clothes and ran to the shore to dive in, but the adults there told them not to go in. There was “itch” in the water. The itch came in late summer. It would make little red dots on a kid’s skin that were so itchy that they almost drove a person crazy. No one really knew where the itch came from but once it was in the lake, well, that was the end of swimming for that year. By the time the itch went away school was about to start and the kids figured it was too cold to go swimming anyway.
All that tough talk about who could swim the best was forgotten when they tried making sandcastles. The sand was so dry it couldn’t be sculpted into anything. Neither of the boys had thought of bringing a pail to haul water from the lake to wet the sand piles. Reluctantly they took off their swimming trunks, got dressed and then sat down in the shack that was used as a change room. What could they do for the rest of the day?
They parted company a few minutes later and each went home to see if their moms had made lunch. They were in luck. It was just lunch time and each of the moms had made a plate of sandwiches; some salmon, some baloney and some deviled egg and the boys ate their fill, then polished the feast off with cookies and cold milk.
After they had helped to clean off the table they sat down and waited for the orders. Weed the garden was the worst, but cleaning up ones room came close. In his house, Muck thought he would have to sweep all the floors and dust the many porcelain ornaments that his mom had collected and displayed.
Meanwhile, over at his house, Finn awaited his fate. If it did not include toiling in the boiling afternoon sun pulling weeds it would probably be something worse like shelling peas. First, one had to go out and pick the peas off the vines, then bring them into the house, open each pod, and push out the peas. Finn liked peas, but that job seemed to take forever. Moms were great at finding horrible chores to keep little boys out of trouble when they were bored during those last days of summer holidays.
But, to their great surprise, each of the moms said, “Okay, now that you’ve helped clean up the kitchen you can go back outside and play.”
What! No weeding! No dusting! No pea shelling! They couldn’t believe their good fortune and hightailed it out of the house just in case a mom changed her mind. Muck ran over to Finn’s house and they sat down in the cool shade on the north side of the house. The boys reached into their pockets to see how much money they had so they could go to the café and have an ice cream sundae.
When they put all the nickels and dimes together they had over a whole dollar. As they walked down to get some ice cream the thought struck them. “Let’s get some cigarettes and have a smoke. All the cool older kids smoked so why not them?’
The problem was to get someone to go into the Pool Hall and get a pack. Muck and Finn were too little to be allowed into the Pool Hall. That was for older kids and adults because parents knew that in the Pool Hall billiards was played, not for fun, but for real money. Sometimes rude words could be heard from inside the Pool Hall if one held an ear to the windows.
The boys hung around the Pool Hall waiting for a big kid to show up who would buy the cigarettes.
One big kid to come along was known only as Nimbo Stratus. “Hey, Nimbo,” said Muck, “how about getting us a pack of Black Cat Cork Tips if we give you the money?”
“You guys are too young to smoke,” said Nimbo. “That’s for grownups, like me.”
“We smoke all the time,” said the boys. Neither had ever so much as taken a puff.
“OK, then,” said Nimbo.“Do you have the 50 cents for a pack?”
“Of course,” they said, reaching into their pockets for the money.
“And,” Nimbo added, “another 50 cents for my trouble.”
“What!!” they cried. “That’s highway robbery!!”
“Suit yourself,” said Nimbo, turning to go into the Pool Hall.
“Well, OK then,” they conceded, giving him the whole dollar.
Nimbo was in and out of the Pool Hall in a flash. He brought out the pack of Black Cat Cork Tip cigarettes and a packet of penny matches, just to show what a good guy he was.
Muck and Finn ran to Muck’s place and hid behind the outhouse. Muck opened the pack of cigarettes and each boy took one. Oh, those cigarettes smelled so fragrant, so rich and musky. But when they lit up it was a different story. The smoke got into their noses and made them sneeze. To really smoke they had to inhale, like real grownup smokers. That made them cough and wheeze. After a few minutes of that each boy felt like the world was going around in circles. Then their stomachs rebelled!
“I have to go, really go!” said Muck. He dove into the outhouse and sat on the seat just in time.
“Oooh, me too,” whined Finn and he took off to his own outhouse across the street. He got there in time, but it was a close call.
The boys felt ill for the rest of the day. Their moms figured it was just a one-day summer flu until they got close and smelled the unmistakable odour of tobacco smoke. Then each got a lecture about the evils of smoking and were marched off to their rooms for the rest of the afternoon.
The next day they searched around until they found Nimbo. They told him they had decided to quit smoking, and asked if he wanted to buy the rest of the pack of Black Cat Cork Tip cigarettes. Nimbo had a great laugh at their expense, but gave them their 50 cents for the smokes.
That was 25 cents each, just enough for an ice cream sundae. They ran to the café and in no time were enjoying the cold treat. After that, they decided that smoking was not all that great. Ice cream was much better!