The Pest Cowboy

Submitted into Contest #138 in response to: Write a story about an afternoon picnic gone wrong.... view prompt

29 comments

Fiction American Funny

“Here kitty, kitty, kitty,” Norman breathed to the wide-eyed racoon gaping at him from across the crawl space. “Daddy’s not gonna hurt ya,” he muttered calmly as he army-crawled towards the creature, hoping it was not rabid. He’d had one rabies scare in his nineteen years of pest management. He didn’t want to have to go to the ER today to deal with a coon bite; it was 75-degrees out and he wanted to go fishing when he got off work. The racoon rubbed its paws over its eyes anxiously, darting its little beady orbs back and forth.

“Don’t hurt it!” Ms. Gambles yelled from behind him.

“Shh,” Norman hushed her. “What kind of woman yells into an empty crawl space while a possible rabid animal is loose?” he speculated. He scooted closer towards the racoon, holding out a spoonful of peanut butter, his secret bait. Raccoons always liked peanut butter. He strained his neck up and watched as the racoon sniffed and started to inch towards him, smelling the gooey indulgence.  

“Gotcha!” he hollered as he threw a net over the raccoon and dragged it into the cage next to him. He began to snake backwards out of the crawl space while carefully holding the caged animal in front of him.

“You got him!” Ms. Gambles cheered as Norman rose from under the deck and revealed the coon to his customer.

“Of course, I got him,” Norman replied proudly, holding up the cage. “They don’t call me the Pest Cowboy for nothin’,” He grinned and put the cage down. “That’ll be a hundred even. I take cash or check,” he stated as he watched the old lady scramble in her wallet for money.

“Thank you do much, dear,” she beamed as she took out two crisp fifty-dollar bills from her wallet. “That raccoon has been scaring my little chihuahua for weeks.” Norman looked behind Ms. Gambles towards her house and saw a geriatric chihuahua asleep on the windowsill. He couldn’t imagine it could even see him, let alone a little raccoon.

“He’s safe now, Ma’am,” Norman assured her as he placed the bills in his shirt pocket and picked up the caged coon to put in his truck. “Call me if you need any more pest removal in the future. I’m here for any of your pest removal needs.” He tipped his Stetson hat and began to walk towards his truck, tossing the raccoon cage in his cargo bed.

As he sat down in the front seat, his phone beeped and he looked down at a text from Marge, his assistant: Pest Cowboy needed ASAP at 14 Bent Rd. Sybil Francis. Can you do it or should I txt Rick?

Norman sighed. He really wanted to go to the reservoir near his house. There were striped bass calling his name and he had a new fishing lure to try out. He sighed again and texted Marge back: On it. “Hopefully this will be a quick one,” he thought. He never dreamed in a million years his business would become what it was today. Back in high school he was bullied for being scrawny and a dweeb. His teachers told his mother to check him for learning disabilities. His crush had laughed at him when he asked her out. He swore one day to prove them all wrong. “If they could see me now,” he thought, “A business owner saving citizens in the community from vermin. The Pest Cowboy. A local hero.”

As he pulled up to 14 Bent Road, he saw pink balloons decorated on the mailbox and about fifteen cars parked outside of the old farmhouse. He parked his truck behind the last car and noticed a frantic young woman wearing a pink, frilly dress running towards his truck.

“You’re here!” the young woman yelled as she flailed her arms and motioned for him to come out of the truck. “Hurry, please!” she pleaded as Norman got out of the truck and walked towards her.

“You Sybil Francis? What seems to be the problem, Ma’am?” he asked her, looking around for any indication of a pest.

“Yes, I’m Sybil,” Sybil said, leaning over on her knees as if out of breath. “It’s my daughter’s third birthday party and we were all outside having a picnic and right when she was blowing out the candles on her cake, a ginormous snake slithered out from the shed! My 95-year-old grandmother practically fainted and my niece soiled herself all over her new dress! You have to get rid of that snake! The whole party has been ruined!” she shrieked as she pointed towards her back yard.

“A snake you say?” he questioned as he walked towards his cargo bed and pulled out his bag of supplies needed for reptiles.  

“Yes, a huge black snake!” she yelled wildly as she led him towards the back of the farmhouse. Norman followed Sybil towards the back yard and examined the abandoned picnic: pink blankets with sparkly looking wands scattered across them, tiaras thrown on the grass, and a tray of cupcakes facedown on the ground. He nodded his head in empathy for the ruined party and then heard a little girl’s voice crying from behind him. He turned around to see a group of little girls, all wearing tutus, standing on the large, wrap around deck; their mothers all standing behind them protectively as if Godzilla had come to their picnic. He tipped his hat to the group of spectators and made his way over to the shed. Not to fear, the Pest Cowboy was here. He walked around the shed and inspected the exterior, not seeing a sign of any snakes. He placed down his bag and pulled out a long pole, his tool of choice for snake catching. Some pest companies set up traps for vermin, but not Norman. Norman caught pests the same day he was at a job. That was his guarantee. He opened up the shed door slowly and peeked inside. It smelled of gasoline and mildew and contained a lawn mower and some yard tools. He stepped inside cautiously.

“Here kitty, kitty, kitty,” he whispered to the snake. “Come out, come out wherever you are.”

He kicked an old ceramic plant pot over, hoping to scare the snake out of wherever it was hiding, but didn’t see any movement. He pushed on the mower and from the corner of his eye, saw something slither from the corner of the shed: a small, black garden snake. It couldn’t have been more than a foot and a half long, a harmless little guy; Norman wouldn’t even need his pole. He crept over to the snake, picked it up, and placed it in his sack. It practically allowed Norman to capture it. No fuss at all.

He walked out of the shed and held up the sack, showing the ladies that he had captured their villain.  

“You got it?” Sybil yelled from across the lawn. He nodded and shook the bag, letting the snake wiggle inside. “I always do,” he winked. It felt nice to win again.

“He got the snake!” Sybil yelled to the group of ladies on the porch. He heard a scream of little cheers and saw tiny feet begin to run towards him. He puffed out his chest in pride as the girls began to surround him in a circle with their mothers following closely behind.

“Was it big?” a little girl wearing a sparkly, purple tutu asked him.

“Sure was, darlin’,” he said as he swung the sack over his shoulder.

“But the Pest Cowboy isn’t scared of a big ole’ snake,” he winked at the little girl and began to walk towards Sybil.

“He saved the party!” another little girl shouted, and he heard music come on from inside of the house.

“That’ll be a hundred even,” he told the woman, “I take cash or check.”

“You’re amazing! I can’t believe you already caught it!” Sybil said as she took a check out of her pocket and unfolded it.

Norman smiled. “Just doin my job, Ma’am, you need a pen?” he asked as he reached into his flannel shirt pocket and pulled out a pen.

“Oh yes, thank you!” she said, taking the pen from him. “Who do I make it out to?” she asked as she began scribbling on the check.

“Make it out to Pest Cowboy,” he said proudly as he looked back at the little girls, all singing and dancing on their little blankets. All because of him.

“Pest Cowboy,” the lady said as she sounded out the words while she wrote out the check. She handed the check over to him along with the pen and Norman took it from her and nodded his head in departure.

“Thanks again! You’re a life saver!” Sybil shouted as she watched him walk to his truck and toss the sack in the cargo bed. He tipped his hat as he got into his truck and sped off into the sunset. It was never a dull day for the Pest Cowboy. The Pest Cowboy had saved the day again. 

March 23, 2022 00:15

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29 comments

Vijay Likhite
00:32 Mar 31, 2022

Very well narrated story. Dragging the reader along with the protagonist. As the reader moves further, he gets curious more and more. But alas, there is no climax. The interesting event falls flat as it ends. A griping tale loses its hold.

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Kathleen Fine
22:59 May 22, 2022

Thanks Vijay!

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Michał Przywara
21:23 Mar 26, 2022

I think the strength of this piece is in the character. I particularly like his "here kitty, kitty, kitty" regardless of animal, and the actual size of the snake was funny. Thanks for sharing!

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Kathleen Fine
11:29 Mar 28, 2022

Thanks Michael!

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Graham Kinross
12:32 Apr 25, 2022

I thought that the little snake was going to be the baby of a bigger snake. Sometimes not having a twist is a twist. I feel like a girl who would laugh at him in high school is still going to be the sort to look down her nose at him for working with animals. It’s nice that he played along and said the snake was huge.

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Kathleen Fine
22:59 May 22, 2022

Thanks Graham!

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Becca Ward
08:18 Mar 27, 2022

Thanks for sharing this! The back story and/or motivation behind the character’s actions is my reading fascination. I think there’s loads here, and the irony is also interesting: a hero of vermin? Has he really changed in the eyes of his past bullying classmates? I wonder what they call him now… Perhaps developing a past-to-presentelement subtly would give us more empathy for this guy? Like the mom at the party was a past popular girl who was mean to him? He turns up and she accidentally calls him the rude nickname from high school, then ...

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Kathleen Fine
11:30 Mar 28, 2022

Becca I love that suggestion about the mom being from high school- great feedback! Thanks!

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Kate Winchester
18:26 Apr 04, 2022

This was a fun read and I liked your take on the prompt. I love how the pest cowboy turned into a hero. The geriatric chihuahua bit was funny and I laughed at the here kitty kitty too. The fact that everyone was afraid of a garden snake was a nice touch. Especially with the pest cowboy saying it was big. 🤣

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Kathleen Fine
22:59 May 22, 2022

Thanks Kate!

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Kate Winchester
23:00 May 23, 2022

Welcome!

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Sharon Hancock
18:59 Mar 29, 2022

I adore this pest cowboy! Actually I might be related to him cause it sounds like he’s from the south. I love this and I always like to watch those people on tv catch things like gators and snakes. Such a unique story. I enjoyed this a lot!😻

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Kathleen Fine
22:59 May 22, 2022

Thank you Sharon!

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Aeris Walker
14:51 Mar 28, 2022

“Geriatric chihuahua” made me laugh :)

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Kathleen Fine
19:51 Mar 28, 2022

Thanks Aeris! :)

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J.C. Lovero
23:50 Mar 27, 2022

Hi Kathleen, Such a wholesome story. I find the narrator very endearing. You hinted at his past and how he went from zero to hero. Love it! Also enjoyed how he really embraced the cowboy thing with tipping his hat. Added more character to him!

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Kathleen Fine
11:29 Mar 28, 2022

Thanks JC!

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M. Dalin Douglas
17:47 Mar 27, 2022

The lead up to the children's party was very engaging and fun to read; Norman was a great character and you did an awesome job of writing him. The context clues about Norman's character were great like Norman tossing the racoon cage and the snake into the truck, which let me see a bit of Norman's personality without the narrator telling me. You lost me a bit with the descriptions of things like peanut butter, or telling me the details of what's in the shed (unless it's a mood setting or engaging - a lawnmower was not, and I can deduce what...

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Kathleen Fine
11:28 Mar 28, 2022

Thank you for the feedback M. Dalin!

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L.M. Lydon
17:43 Mar 27, 2022

I like your POV character. "Pest Cowboy" is a great concept.

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Kathleen Fine
11:29 Mar 28, 2022

Thank you L.M.!

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Abi Black
15:36 Mar 27, 2022

I really liked this! You gave the character great background in such a short amount of time. Though that picnic is my worst nightmare I thought the story was great!

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Kathleen Fine
11:29 Mar 28, 2022

Thanks Abi!

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Michael Regan
16:16 Mar 23, 2022

LOL - Loved the scene with the snake.

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Kathleen Fine
14:44 Mar 25, 2022

:)

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Bruce Friedman
14:54 Mar 23, 2022

Well written engaging narrative. One huge paragraph needs to be broken up. Agree with others that it need some backstory and/or tension.

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Kathleen Fine
14:44 Mar 25, 2022

I agree about the paragraph- thanks for the feedback!

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Lavonne H.
03:22 Mar 23, 2022

I love your characters! I can visually see them as I read your story. Even, er, the pests (yuck, I hate snakes)! And your dialogue flows well. Kathleen, I felt I needed more -- maybe some background history or another capture/miss or where he took the possum and snake or possibly an ending with Norman catching fish and returning them? I hope to read more about The Pest Cowboy in the future! And to catch up on your other stories :) Yours in writing, Lavonne

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Kathleen Fine
12:58 Mar 23, 2022

Hi Lavonne! Thanks for the feedback- I agree. I need to add more back story/flashbacks I think of Norman’s past.

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