Hypatia was driving too fast as usual, much to her passagenger's dismay. The dirt road was filled with ruts and pot holes, causing both Jodan and Herkhimer What'sittoyou to bounce up and down on the seats of the old DeSoto.
'I think I'm going to be sick,' Jodan remarked.
'Stop whining,' Hypatia replied. 'We're nearly there.'
'That's what you said twenty minutes ago.' He looked at his Pulsar, top of the line Mickey Mouse watch for the hundredth time. It was a gift from Hypatia and matched the Minnie Mouse watch she was wearing.
Herkhimer leaned forward from the back seat and tapped Jodan on the shoulder.'Excuse me, sir, but I'd like to get out.'
Jodan looked at Hypatia and frowned. He lowered his voice so the passenger in the back seat wouldn't hear him. 'Exactly who is that guy, anyway?'
'Hanklefoos Whatchamacallit, or something like that,' she whispered back. 'He's a Newbie.......a potential v-o-t-e-r.'
'It's Herkhimer, sir, and I'd like to go home now, please.'
Hypatia swerved sharply to avoid an elk in the road then screeched to a stop. 'Look around you gentlemen. This is the Mark Twain National Forest. Magnificent, isn't it?' She reached into the back seat and patted Herkheimer on the arm. 'Is this what you had in mind, Hank?'
Jodan gave Herkheimer a withering look. 'Is this your fault? You asked to visit a national forest?'
Herkheimer, eyeing the 800 pound elk who was slowly approaching the car, appeared to be on the verge of panic. 'Not exactly, sir.'
'Then what exactly?' Jodan demanded.
'I was at my Personal Space, minding my own business, when this lady stopped by and asked me how I was doing.'
'Well, I said I was fine, but I needed to go get a can of Fixit for my Escort.....I didn't say, can I visit a forest? Honest.'
Hypatia beamed in that annoying grandmotherly way she has. 'And here we are. The most beautiful forest on earth. In the Missouri Ozarks. There's a fire tower down the road a bit if you'd like to climb it.'
Herkheimer frowned at Jodan. 'She's a bit hard of hearing, isn't she, sir?'
'Well, just a bit. But she'll make a fine President anyway.' Both men were keeping a wary eye on the elk.
Just then the sound of gunfire drifted across the hills. Two quick shots, a pause, and two more quick shots. Hypatia smiled and opened the door of the car. 'Cousin Clancy has spotted us. Everyone out.'
Jodan and Herkheimer looked at the slowly approaching elk, shook their heads no and stayed where they were.
'You said you wanted out, now get out!' The bushes near the road began rustling and an ancient bloodhound poked first his nose out, and then his head. 'See, he's sent Arnold to fetch us.'
The short librarian climbed out of the DeSoto and immediately the bloodhound trotted to the car and waited for her to scratch his ears. The elk came close enough to get his ears scratched as well. 'Meet Arnold and Dave.'
Jodan had had about as much as he could take. 'What the hell are we doing here?' he shrilly demanded.
'I don't want to meet Arnold. Or Dave!' Herkheimer wailed. 'I want to go home, please.'
Hypatia pushed her glasses down the bridge of her nose and glared at the fearless duo. 'Don't panic, Badge-Boy, we're here to pick up some more cider to give to all the nice folks who stop by our campaign headquarters. I can't carry it down that hill all by myself.'
'It's getting up the hill that I'm worried about,' Jodan remarked.
'You mean to tell me that a man with more badges on his personal space than god can't figure out how to climb a hill?'
A tall, burly man wearing overalls and carrying a wooden box containing quart mason jars filled with an amber colored liquid stepped out of the woods onto the road. He was followed by two other men who looked exactly like him.
'Jodan, Hank, get out of the damn car!' Hypatia hissed under her breath.
'Howdy, Cousin Hyp.'
'Howdy, Cousin Clancy.'
'Howdy, Cousin Hyp.'
'Howdy, Cousin Clem.'
'Howdy Cousin Hyp.'
'Howdy, Cousin Clyde.'
Jodan had finally exited the DeSoto. The three burly hillbillies walked toward the car carrying their boxes of cider. 'Don't just stand there, open the fool door!' Clem exclaimed. Jodan gulped, turned a little pale, but hurried to the opposite side of the car to open the door to the back seat.
Herkheimer, firmly entrenched inside, scooted as far away as he could and began to whimper. Clem stuck his head inside the car and boomed, 'Who you, Boy? You the one with the extra nipple and the sheep?'
Jodan drew himself up to his full 6'4'', glared at Hypatia, swallowed nervously then said, 'No, I'm the one with the third nipple.'
Clem carefully slid his box of mason jars onto the car seat then put his arm around Jodan's shoulder. “'t's this one here what's got the nubbin and the Kaintuck relations.'
Clancy and Clyde deposited their boxes of cider in the DeSoto and gave Jodan the once over. 'Then whars his uneeform and his badges?' Clancy asked.
'And the sheep? Whars the sheep?' Clyde demanded.
'He's tall enough to be a vice presdent,' Clancy observed. 'Hyp's a little short in that department,' he snickered.
Clem quickly pocketed the folded notes that Hypatia had handed him in payment for the cider. 'So, who's the little pissant in the back seat? The one what just wet hisself. He comin to the meet next summer Hyp?'
'Well, I don't know yet if...'
'Cause iffn he comes, we'll need to get him a box for the outhouse, so's his little winkie ......'
'Clem, that's enough. He's just a little nervous because he's a newbie and doesn't know who to vote for in the election.'
Herkheimer finally found his voice. 'I was kidnapped and brought here...'
'Now you know that isn't true, Hank,' Hypatia interrupted. 'The Ozark Party platform clearly states that we oppose kidnappings and murders. And you did ask to visit the forest.'
The Cousins Three jerked open the door to the DeSoto against which Herkheimer was crouching and pulled him, shrieking, out of the car. Clancy held his right arm and Clem held his left. Otherwise he would have collapsed onto the road.
'What them other candeedates offere you to vote for them, boy?' Clyde asked.
'Mainly sex and alcohol,' Herkheimer mumbled. 'And something about money if I broke down a hedge of some kind.'
'What kind of alkeehol?” Clem demanded. “Store bought alkeehol? Pah!'
Clyde picked Herkheimer up like a rag doll and sat him on the fender of the DeSoto. 'Here's what you're gonna do. First you' re gonna forget about the sex. We cain't offer you no sex with none of our cousins. We may be hillbillies, but we ain't pimps. It ain't dignified. You're in no fit state for sex anyways. Lessen you know the sheep better'n you let on.'
Herkheimer gulped and nodded.
'Next, you're gonna go over to the Ozark Party Headquarters and read the party deck so's I don't have to tell you all of it here. It's a mighty fine deck and there's no reason for you to......'
Hypatia sighed deeply. 'That's platform, Clyde. A platform, not a deck.'
'Then you're gonna mark next July on you're calendar so's you can come to the Hillbilly Meet Hyp is throwing for everone. Not a pretend party with pretend alkeehol. A real party with real alkeehol and barbeecue and music and fireworks. Here in the Ozarks so's everone can see for themselves what a purty place this is.'
Herkheimer nodded furiously.
'And finally, you're gonna vote for my cousin and her friend here in October cause Hyp's gonna take care of everone when she's elected - cause she's a natural take care of everone kind of person. And cause no other party has a candeedate with a third nubbin. And cause I want to be related to a presdent. And finally cause if she's elected then maybe the Hillbilly meet will get official standin and the folks in them towers will spring for souvenirs. I want one of them tee shirts with the squiggledly h's and g's on it.'
Jodan and Herkheimer got back in the DeSoto while Hypatia hugged her cousins goodby and gave Arnold and Dave another scratch behind their ears. She got behind the wheel, made a U-turn and headed back east to deliver the cider to party headquarters. The cousins waved from the middle of the road until the car crested a hill and disappeared from sight. Then Clem took a stick and wrote a message in the dirt.