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MEAN MISTER MUSTER

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Are you kidding me? What are you, one of those knotheads who wants to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony?

Of course, this tag-team free-for-all is what made America great. This is a country rich in the tradition of hair-pulling, thumbing the eye and the knee-drop delivered to soft tissue. Democracies shake it up, baby; they twist and shout.

Every tub at the muster had a tale of intrigue similar to the "Oko's." The ligaments that hold every political campaign together are the connective gristle of incessant feuds and backbiting. Our neighborhoods are collections of spite fences. The water cooler is where we gather to argue over which boss is the biggest jerk.

And when the rolling dust cloud of combatants gets out of hand, we depend upon law enforcement to blow the whistle. We don't expect the police to put the various factions against a wall and pull the trigger--as they have in Prescott--just to restore law and order. We expect an officer to reach in, extract the primary knucklehead and say in an authoritative voice, "We think it's time you had a cup of tea."

Which is exactly what finally happened in Marblehead.
Following the parade, seventeen teams gathered in an Elks Club field. Rock bands performed on a stage off to the side, families spread blankets, vendors grilled Italian sausage, kids made themselves sick on hot dogs and hamburgers, while adults caused the price of beer stocks on Wall Street to rise dramatically.

Doliber was crazed with anticipation.
When it was time for his tub to pump, a cheer went up. "Here we go `Oko's,' here we go." Suddenly there were dozens of loyalists in the tub's red tee shirts fighting for a grip on the bar. Things quickly got out of control. Doliber was on top of the tub trying to yell encouragement and directions, but there was too much noise.

Then the Big Bopper himself joined Doliber astride the "Oko's" and two sets of directions rang out.

It was a sad day for the Okommakamesit. The machine's stream was barely that of an ancient mariner with prostate troubles.

Doliber was beside himself before he climbed down from the "Oko's." Immediately, everyone turned on him and blamed Doliber for the tub's miserable showing. The comments were not subtle asides.

Rita Goodwin approached and told Doliber that the gorillas had elbowed the lesbians away from the "Oko's," refusing to allow the women to pump. What did he intend to do about the situation?

Doliber slowly edged away from the mob, never turning his back. By the time he sat down next to Elvis and me, he was apoplectic, disgraced in front of the hometown crowd.

At that precise moment, Danny Jr., the youngest of the Big Bopper's kids, approached us. Approximately twenty years old, Danny Jr. favors the type of shaved-head haircut worn by those about to be electrocuted. Despite the appearance created by eyelids that are at constant half-mast, Danny Jr. is actually pretty fair companionship until he takes out his plate to eat, at which point most folks abandon their bowls of chowder.

Danny Jr. started to address Doliber but was cut off.
Forgetting every single lesson his mother had taught him, Doliber bellowed, "I don't want to hear it from you, you moron, unless you've got something constructive to say!"

While Elvis and I were shocked at this breach in etiquette, Danny Jr. was nonplused. He simply turned on his heel and walked out.

As he went through the door, he called back, "Thanks to you, Larry, we only got third. Thanks to you, Larry."

Of course, the "Oko's" didn't finish anywhere near third; in fact, it ended up two slots from the bottom. But that wasn't the point. With his Shavian rejoinder, Danny Jr. demonstrated that at the Marblehead muster, he was one of the few people who was not as dumb as he looked.

Being topped by the final, rambling issue of the Big Bopper put Doliber beyond the fringe. I thought he would come out of his skin. Elvis and I attempted to comfort our friend and promised never to discuss the embarrassing moment in public. Our pledge did not help. Clearly, Doliber intended to bury a marlin spike in the young man's chimneylike forehead.

Calmer words intervened.
A Marblehead police officer stopped by and informed Doliber that he'd been keeping his eye on Larry.

"I watched you up on that tub, Mr. Doliber. My advice to you is to relax. It's only a muster."

The spell was broken.
Every time Doliber replayed in his mind the slurred comeback that began "Thanks to you, Larry . . . " his mind also heard the police officer's caution, "It's only a muster."

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Michael Lacey
Contact: Michael Lacey