Of Mice and Mumbles

Arian Knops

Of Mice and Mumbles

3 mins
May 25, 2021

It is always sickening to see someone berate another, especially when the person doing the berating is wrong.  Also, it is great fortune when the berated person has a chance to strike back without fear of reprisals. 

This is about two Navy officers; one a Commander, whom I will stick with the moniker, ‘Hognose’ and the other a Lieutenant Junior Grade who was affectionately called ‘Mumbles’.  

Hognose, the Commanding Officer of an Aviation Squadron, was from New York City and therefore a jerk, and nicknamed Hognose because his nostrils flared up and you didn’t want to talk to him face to face because his nostrils were cavernous.  Not exactly as big as cave entrances but big enough that if you could have packed them full of nickels you’d have enough money to take your sweetie out for a night on the town.  That, plus he had a god-awful Bronx accent that made the edges of the nostrils shudder every time he spoke.  His underlings didn’t like him.

Okay, it was the 1960s, and a nickel went further than it does today.  Mumbles on the other hand was the station meteorologist, young, bright, slovenly most of the time and in the Navy only because his draft deferment had expired.  But he was a good guy who did his job well.  He got the moniker Mumbles from this writer because he talked to himself aloud while poring over his maps and guessing the weather.

A day came when Mumbles wasn’t dressed as neatly as Hognose thought he should be mainly because it was inspection day, something his squadron did monthly whilst the other squadron on the base did only one inspection or so a year.  Mumbles fortunately was assigned to the squadron that was a little less military than Hognose’s.

The Navy base was in a rural area and mice and snakes were seen in or near the airplane hanger on a daily basis.  The offices for both squadrons were built above the hanger.  An area that was easily accessible to the mice while the snakes had to stay on the ground level.

The offices weren’t real offices, but just areas separated by semi-permanent dividers that were about three inches thick and open at the top to allow air to circulate.  Mice loved to find the top of the dividers and used the tops of those walls as their own personal highways to torment the men working in the building.

Every morning one office in each squadron was assigned the duty to collect the mice in their areas that had made a left or right turn at an inopportune time and ended up falling into a solid metal wastebasket.  This usually amounted to two or three and all the furry little critters were released on the edge of the tarmac parking area.  

The day of the inspection coincided with Mumble’s office having the task of disposing of the unfortunate mice from the previous night’s meanderings.  Mumble’s underling, a kid named Kinderhook was even less military proper than his boss. Kinderhook collected four mice and was told by Mumbles that he’d have to wait to do the disposal of the mice for an hour or two until Hognose had finished the inspection of his men out on the tarmac.

Kinderhook said, “I’ll be right back”.  In less than five minutes he was back with the now empty metal wastebasket.

Where the hell did you put them?” asked Mumbles.

Well sir, it’s like this, you know that guy Hamby, he’s good at picking locks, so I asked him to open Hognose’s office and I left Micky, Minnie and friends in Hognose’s trash can.  He’ll be flaming pissed and some poor bugger over in his squadron will get an earful after the inspection that he has mice in his trashcan. But since the Commanding Officers and Execs are the only ones with offices with doors that lock, he’ll just think he had an unlucky day.  Or maybe an omen, except he wouldn’t be bright enough to know that.  You’re free and clear.”

“Kinderhook, remind me never to piss you off and I can tell you that there is enough sunshine today to last me until mid-night.  And I didn’t even see you today.  Is that okay with you?” said the Lieutenant.

Roger that, sir,” replied Kinderhook.

The next morning when Kinderhook arrived at his office there was a paper grocery bag containing a six pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon and a carton of Old Gold filter cigarettes on the top of his desk. 

This article was orginally reported by
Arian Knops

Arian is a short story contributor to the Sentinel & Rural News. Arian has written two full-length thrillers which have received critical and popular acclaim. Arian lives in Bruce, WI, with his charming wife, Arlene.