A Wrenching Problem

by Beth Green

Part of the Pun Stories collection.

Author's Note: He'd never gone hunting, but decided to give it a shot.

Chris Larabee's fellow ATF agents were well aware of all the time and effort needed to maintain his ranch. The difficult job was made even more so by the frequent overtime demanded by the ATF agents' assignments. The few hours of free time Chris was left with were used to attend to the basic chores. Consequently, some much needed repairs and improvements were left undone. As a means of getting the work completed, Chris had worked out an equitable barter system with his team members. For example, for replacing a portion of the east fence Buck and JD had earned the privilege of access to Chris' garage and, more importantly, the large collection of tools it housed.

Buck had recently purchased a new tool chest for his classic truck. His current job involved anchoring the large container to the bed of the truck. Buck was in an extremely good mood. With JD accompanying him, he'd be able to get the tool chest installed in no time. That would leave them the rest of the day for leisure pursuits. Buck sang as he approached the garage, "Oh, what a beautiful morning . . ." To JD's relief, Buck stopped singing to comment, "It's too nice a day to do this in the garage. I'll just leave the truck out here and get a few tools from inside."

JD could not help but agree with Buck's assessment of the day. The sun was out, the sky was blue, and a gentle breeze kept things from getting too uncomfortably warm. The reason JD had agreed to give up his Saturday afternoon to help Buck with his truck was the reward that they intended to give themselves once the job was done: a nice long trail ride.

Buck walked out of the garage, tools in hand. JD's eyes grew wide as he spotted one particular item. "Buck, tell me that's not Chris' $37.00 Craftsman combination wrench."

Buck carelessly set the wrench in question on the truck's tailgate. "Now, JD, why do you want me to go and tell you something that isn't true?"

JD shook his head. "You know what Chris said last time you borrowed it. It was something along the lines of, "Never, ever touch my wrench again.'"

Buck waved off JD's concern. "Chris was only upset on account of it was the second time he had to replace the wrench."

JD offered a correction. "It was the third, and Chris had that 'I'm gonna shoot somebody' look in his eye when he said it."

Buck nodded. "You're right, it was the third time. I forgot that Chris' wrench was in Vin's jeep when somebody broke in and stole his tool box. Vin should've known better than to leave the tools in the truck."

JD defended his teammate. "Vin was only gone for the time it took to pay for gas. It wasn't his fault there was a line inside the store. You don't have nearly as good of an excuse."

Buck grumbled at the comment, not wanting to admit the truth. Buck recalled the last time he'd borrowed Chris' favorite wrench. In what he later referred to as a 'brain fart,' Buck had thoughtlessly left Chris' beloved wrench sitting in the bed of his pickup truck. By the time he remembered days later what he'd done, the wrench was nowhere to be found.

What Buck had thought would be a half hour job dragged on into the afternoon. Due to the advanced age of Buck's truck, the bed was not a standard size in comparison to the tool chest. It took some creativity on Buck's part to secure the container the way he wanted to, not to mention a lot of sweat and effort. Buck was grateful for a distraction when it offered itself in the form of four feet and a deep-voiced, "Woof."

Buck tossed aside the wrench, greeting his visitor. "Mace, you old dog!"

While the animal in question was not old, it was, in fact, a dog. Mace stood on his hind legs to enthusiastically lick Buck's face. JD stood back, staring at the huge dog. He asked, "When did Chris get another dog?"

Buck explained, "Mace isn't Chris' dog. He belongs to the Andersons, the next ranch over." Buck began to mock wrestle with the dog as he continued, "Mace isn't much good for anything except for getting out of his own back yard." Buck rubbed Mace's head affectionately, as he enthused, "Yeah, Mace is about the dumbest dog you'll ever meet." Mace waved his tail in response. Buck's voiced level of enthusiasm increased as he stated, "Isn't that right, boy?" The dog butted his head into Buck's hand, begging for attention. Buck obliged as he began to sing, "You ain't nothing but a hound dog, you're dumber than dirt." Mace's tail began to wave faster, the dog's entire butt wriggling in illustration of his pleasure. Buck's voice still had a sing-song quality as he added, "Yes, you're dumb, and ugly, too." Mace rolled in the tall grass beside the truck, begging for a belly scratch. Buck obliged. "That's the thing about dogs. You can say the most outrageous things, and they'll just drool and lick your face, all the while looking at you like you're the cleverest person in the world."

JD quipped, "Sounds a lot like your last girlfriend."

Buck chose to ignore JD's comment. He gave Mace one last affectionate pat before he stood to resume his work. He looked around the truck, his face changing from amusement to concern as his searching became more frantic. Buck turned to JD, his face reflecting worry edged with a growing panic. "Hey, JD, you seen Chris' wrench?"

JD stared at Buck, hoping he hadn't heard Buck correctly. His voice raised an octave as he echoed, "Chris' wrench?" A quick search of the truck itself proved fruitless. JD and Buck stared at the tall grass that surrounded them. It was at least a foot high. Buck dropped to his hands and knees and began painstakingly searching the ground. JD hesitantly offered a suggestion. "Maybe if we cut the grass?"

Buck shook his head. "No good. If we cut it with a mower, we'd wreck the mower blade if we hit the wrench. I don't expect it'd do the wrench much good, either. If we use a scythe, we'd probably end up burying the wrench under the grass we cut. Nope, we gotta do this like a regular forensic search. We gotta go through every inch of ground, starting next to the truck and working our way on out." Buck waved a hand toward the opposite side of the truck. "Go on, you start looking over there."

JD stood a minute longer, watching Buck. "We? We? I seem to remember it was me that told you not to use Chris' precious wrench." While the two men had been talking, Mace returned. When he saw Buck down on his hands and knees, the dog took Buck's position as an offer to play. Buck never saw him coming. With one tremendous pounce, the over-eager hound sent Buck tumbling ass over teakettle.

Buck sat up cursing, spitting grass out of his mouth. Mace paced a few steps away, just out of reach. "Yeah, you'd better run, you dumb-ass dog. When I get my hands on you . . ."

JD couldn't help the laugh that escaped. Buck looked a sight, with grass sticking out of his hair and clothing. JD was unaffected by the glare Buck sent his way. He teased, "Seems maybe Mace might've understood a little of what you said before. Maybe he's not as dumb as you think."

"Dumb or not, I'm gonna kill that dog." Buck made a quick grab for the animal in question. Mace easily ducked out of the way. Buck cursed. The chase was on.

JD leaned against the truck, watching his roommate make a fool of himself. JD reasoned that the wrench couldn't have gone too far. He felt under no obligation to crawl around in the tall grass trying to find the thing. He decided to sit back and enjoy the show. Mace seemed to know just how close to let Buck approach while still remaining out of reach. The dog would run a few feet, wait for Buck to catch up, then repeat the maneuver. The two were gradually circling their way back around to the truck. Mace was maybe five feet away from JD when he abruptly sat down in the tall grass with a low-voiced "Woof."

Buck approached, crowing, "I've got you now, you long-eared son of a bitch." It was Buck's turn to pounce. Mace barely moved, turning his head around to look at Buck nose to nose. Buck winced at the overpowering close up smell of doggie breath. The tall man rolled off the dog and flopped onto his back. He turned his head to look at his opponent. "Okay, you win." Head now at ground level, Buck noticed something shiny tucked beneath the hound's front paws. He slowly reached out a hand, not quite believing what he was seeing. "Well, I'll be." He slid the wrench out from under the dog, holding it aloft as he announced, "Hey, JD, look what we found!" He gave Mace a friendly pat, letting the dog know that all was forgiven. "Mace, I owe you a nice, big, fat, juicy steak."

Buck and Mace both shook themselves free of the grass. Buck returned to the truck, the dog happily trotting by his side. He began to sing, "Amazing Mace, how sweet the hound, that saved a wrench for me."