Man put acid in coworker’s shoe

Whatever happened to itching powder? We had some real laughs with that stuff. We didn’t put it in shoes. We put it in a fellow’s drawers.

You don’t see the good old pranks these days. Acid in a shoe? How about the hot foot? I’d tell a guy a joke while my buddy snuck up behind him and slipped a couple of kitchen matches between the sole and last of his shoe and lit another match with his thumbnail and touched off the matches in the shoe. I’d try to time my punch line with the moment the flames reached the shoe and set the guy to hopping. What a hoot.

We never lit shoelaces. That would be stupid.

Acid has a place in the world of pranks, but not in some  guy’s loafer. We would put a little hydrochloric or sulfuric acid, I don’t recall which, in an atomizer and sneak into the girl’s locker room and spray squirts of it over the front of a blouse in two spots. Later in the day, the cloth would crumble away and the girl’s two bra cups would poke out. You could split your sides laughing at that.

Where have all the pranks gone? It’s sad. You used to could walk into a classroom and there would be old spitwads stuck to the walls all over. How can kids go through their youth without shooting spitballs at each other. It don’t make sense.

Our classroom was next to a field with sheep in it. The flies through the open windows were awful. We’d spend hours during boring grammar and economics and arithmetic lessons, killing flies with rubber bands. That’s not a prank, but it’s something I miss just as much.

We had so much energy when we got to school. There was nothing better than running around like maniacs pulling down a guy’s pants and underpants to his ankles in front of some girls. We did that with one wimpy kid and by the end of the day he had made three dates.

You know what’s crazy? Not only is it impossible to find an exploding cigar, you’re lucky these days to smoke a regular one.

I’m  going to burn a bag of  dog poop on my neighbor’s porch tonight, just for old time’s sake.

PHOTO: Giant Man Spotted At Kim Jong Il Funeral

[Headline, Huffington Post, 12/30/11)

I was at Abe Goldschmidt’s funeral, the indoor part, and there was a lady with a big hat sitting in front of me. I couldn’t see a thing. If I were this giant man, I could have looked over the hat. Overlooked the hat. Or, being a giant, I could have asked her in a nice way to remove the hat and she would probably have done it. But as it is, she would have just laughed at me.

Let me make this clear. At 4′ 10″ I am by no means a midget. You never saw a headline, “Midget Spotted at Kim Jong Il’s Funeral.” I’m not saying the malnourished North Koreans are midgets. They compete in international soccer and badminton, and they’ve got all those nukes.

The thing is, if you study the picture, it appears that the giant man is actually a woman, and she is giant. I’m trying to text or tweet her with a contract from Hollywood. Nobody wants delicate Asian beauties anymore. They want Asian women who kick butt, pardon my French. Grace Park of BSG fame? 5′ 9″ Not bad. She was a tough cookie in that show. Several tough cookie clones, actually. But this woman at the funeral? She could step on Grace.

The guys at MGM claim that this giantess is “spotted” and that I’m nuts to throw money at her. So typical. What if she is, well, marred, complectionwise? The studio is going to get her to the plastic surgeon first thing anyway. She can get de-spotted while they’re building up her cheekbones, making those eyes just a little less Korean – there is a limit – and taking stock of that momumental chest area of hers.

There will be giants. And I will be their agent. I will stand on their shoulders. I will take a giant step for Mankind, or at least those who go to the movies. I see a Giant remake, with this babe taking the Rock Hudson role. I see her appearing at the funerals of all the world leaders. What a stunt! Have they buried that Arab in Libya yet? How tall is Big Bird? Is Big Bird a guy or a gal? These days, it don’t matter!

I see a movie with Tom Cruise. They shoot it right, the shrimp looks taller than she is. They can do that.

Thank you!


If you’ve received this email, I owe you a big Thank You!

As part of my RA (Rudeness Anonymous) 12-step program, I am apologizing to you now for my past rude behavior, and thanking you for all that you’ve done for me. Or to me. Or is that the rudeness speaking?

If I’ve said something to hurt or offend you, I didn’t mean it. Well, I meant it, but I don’t mean it now, if you know what I mean. If what I said rang a bell or struck a nerve, I apologize. It’s hard enough being ugly or dumb or an ass without someone like me rubbing it in.

To taunt me, instead of the other way around, simply reply to this email, although RA does not approve of taunting. RA considers taunting to be rude. I myself have  given up taunting, except at sporting events and in arguments with my children.

Remember Jane Smith? That kind-of-shaky, mousy little thing in Accounting? My group called that bullying, what I did. Jane is past all human caring now, but I’m thanking her in my heart. Bully me back if you want to. I spend Friday nights at Budd’s Bar. I’ll be sitting on the last stool to the right. I encourage those I’ve bullied to stop by and give it back to me in spades, from 10 P.M. to 11 P.M. After that, I’ll be too drunk to appreciate what you’re doing and to thank you. In fact, better come between 9 P.M. and 10 P.M. Or earlier.

A special shout-out to those to whom I was obstreperous. I’ve come to hate obstreperosity. I wouldn’t want someone to become noisily aggressive with me, for sure. I laughed at first when the RA group pointed out that I was a very obstreperous person. I thought that they were talking about a disease of my private parts or something! But the joke was on me. Everyone in the group turned on me that night and had me in tears. Tears of laughter at what a bunch of clowns they were, but still!

Mom and Dad: It’s true, what you told me a thousand times. I was born rude. Born with the family rude gene. Lucky for you, that it skipped your generation. You did the right thing, sending me off to “private school” in Wasilla at the age of two, the second you recognized that I had it. But not too soon for me to get in a few zingers before you shipped me out, ha ha! But I’m sorry.

Myrtle Smith: Hi. I’ve been reading over the minutes from your first RA meeting.

   You: Hello, I’m Myrtle. I’m a rude person.

   All: Hello, Myrtle!

   You: I don’t really want to be here. The judge made it a condition of my parole. Looking out over your faces, I see… Hey, that guy is sticking his tongue out at me!

   Me: No, I wasn’t.

   You: How long have you been in this program? Did you just get here, too? Because you’re very ru… Hey, I heard that!

   Moderator: Can we just let Myrtle introduce herself, please?

   You: That little twerp. I thought I was rude. Who’s his sponsor?

   Moderator: I was going to ask you to do that.

   You: The first thing I’ll do is punch him in the face.

   Moderator: Sounds like a good start.

I guess you could call that a “meet cute,” huh, Myrtle? Anyway, I want to thank you for that first punch, and all the punches that followed. Thank you for being there for me at my sister’s wedding, when you knocked me out before I could respond to that “Speak now, or forever hold your peace”  thing. Thanks too for that shot to the head you gave me at my Dad’s funeral. I wasn’t at my best that day. They still won’t let me back in the cemetery to visit Pop’s grave.

To the doctors and nurses who participated in my rude-gene replacement therapy, hey, it was a long, hard road, during which, yes, I harassed a few of you, and nagged, and waxed vituperative, and lacked restraint with respect to raspberries and derogatory, racist, sexist, ageist, and anti-religious remarks, together with generally awesomely bad behavior, but I guess we can look back on it all now and laugh, huh? I’ve only been able to cadge the email addresses for three of you. Please pass these thoughts along to the other forty-eight involved in the project. Getting that damned gene out of every strand of DNA in my body, especially from all those billions of neurons in my brain, what a slog! Oh, and I want to thank the thousands of rude rats and mice who gave up their lives in our nation’s top laboratories to make the procedure possible. And remember: if I hadn’t been as rude as I was, I might not have accumulated the billions of dollars required to cure me. So cut me a little damn slack! Especially you, Nurse Ratchett, you know who you are. Take off that uniform and go find a job as a domatrix somewhere. Just kidding.  🙂

To all my RA friends, thank you and goodbye. Now that I’ve been cured of my rudeness, I’m off to CSNA (Can’t Say No Anonymous), which meets upstairs in the church rec hall.

And finally, a reminder to all of you that annoying is not the same thing as rude.

My Life As A Mime

We lived in Flatfield, Iowa, next to a grain elevator. I was playing in the backyard with my mom when Silo #67 blew. It was one of those corn-dust explosions. The concussion ruptured my mom’s’ eardrums. My dad was standing outside the company headquarters at the time. He lost his eardrums too. In that moment, my parents were rendered deaf as a couple of scarecrows (as we used to say there in Flatfield).

My drums were spared because at the critical moment, I had my fingers stuck hard in my ears, to block out my mom’s scolding after I had soiled the sandbox. Unfortunately for me, whirling metal flak from the silo removed both of my hands at the wrists, which were cocked up in a way to support my fingers in my ear holes but which also inadvertently presented clean targets for the bladelike projectiles.

My fingers remained in my ears, but I could still hear my mother’s cries of dismay, even if she couldn’t.

Being a tough farming family, bred over the years from hardy immigrant stock, my mom and pop and I healed up and went on with our lives. Flatfield was set out on the plains where every farm had someone on it missing a digit or a limb, the toll taken by harvesters, axes, and the like. My parents learned signing for the deaf; I learned to use my new hooks. As I could not sign without articulated fingers,  I took up charade-like gesticulating as a way of communicating with my folks.

Thus began my lifelong career as a mime. Through mime grammar school, mime middle school, mime high school, mime summer programs and tutoring, mime college, and mime graduate school, all paid for with state and federal disability scholarships, as well as a few shekels chipped in by our local Lutheran church, I took as my major “Make ‘Em Laugh.” Counselors urged me time and again to consider the dramatic side of miming, but I felt that my greatest challenge lay in generating giggles and guffaws using only my hooks, my stumps, my wits, and my God-given talent. My parents supported me fully in this, although they were rarely able to figure out just what it was that I was trying to tell them.

Throughout school and thence out onto the street as a busker, I faced one relentless enemy, the mercy laugh. It was always present, merciless (as opposed to merciful), a specter that haunted me. Or does that metaphor even make sense? I credit my strength of character for my early successes as I struggled at school against those awful sympathetic titters. Children can be cruel.

Out on the street with my diploma in my hooks, I took up professional busking at the top, on 12th Street and 3rd Avenue. Few mimes, even the best of them, dared face those stoney financial faces heading to and from their labors in mahogany-lined offices, those investment bankers so used to screwing their fellow Americans (pardon my French) for a living.

I could handle the flinty hearts, but I couldn’t take the sympathy. Even those fiscal gnomes bathed me in it. In no time, I found myself retreating to 42 Street and then, as the weather grew colder, to 75th. Finally, I reached rock-bottom, miming on 102nd and Baldwin for a couple of homeless winos and a bankrupt dope fiend. The authorities found me in the gutter, covered with the Style and Home & Garden sections of the Sunday paper.

I began my rehab at the center on Soldiers Island. The staff fitted me out, at taxpayers’ expense, with the latest in new and improved hooks. I performed for the vets there, who were returning from the war in pieces. Amputees of every description. No need to worry about sympathy from this group.

And among them, an Army babe missing both her arms. Helicopter crash. She had a great laugh and a great body, what was left of it. I couldn’t wait to get my forearms around it. Plus, she discovered that she had a little thing for mimes. A lot of the servicemen around were hitting on her, but in addition to my profession, I had my proficiency with prosthetics going for me. After all, I’d been using hooks all my life. Inez (for that was her name) had further to go, needing arms as well as hooks, but she was a trouper, always ready for a laugh and a little bump and tickle.

Rehab complete, we moved in together, on the other side of the river. Inez  went back to law school and I started working the terminal-children wards at hospitals around the city. I got a lot of laughs from the kids and the staff with my hook-and-balloon act. Hooks popping balloons by accident never gets old. Neither does accidentally sitting on your hook, or a little innocent toilet humor, wiping with the hook.

We married, Inez and me. We had a couple of kids and as they grew up, it was good to have someone with hands around the house.

Tea Party vs Occupy

My dad is worth several billion  dollars. He keeps his money to himself. On Sunday nights after sex, he gives my mom a belly pack stuffed with large bills. That constitutes her working budget for the week.

My mom hates this arrangement. She hates that my dad is so rich. He didn’t earn it. The money lay in a bank waiting for him to be born.

My dad’s mom, on the other hand, is glad that he has the money, even though he won’t let her get near it. He gives her a small pack of it every week. Not after sex, of course. As far as she’s concerned, he desrves it and has every right to keep it to himself as much as he wants.

What my dad’s mom doesn’t like is how my mom runs the family and spends her weekly share of the money. My dad’s mom believes that my mom wastes her money. On organic food. On concerts. On donations to charity. My dad’s mom would reduce this spending by more than one half. She would cut off the allowances to my sister and myself. She believes that the two of us should get jobs at McDonald’s after school and work our way up to the top of leading financial institutions.

My sister ignores all of this. She hangs out with a group of recent college graduates that does a lot of drugs and sex and, according to her, creative art projects.

I spend most of my time online in an anonymous hackers group. Our goal is to crash the Internet in its totality and end Western Civilization as we know it.

I meet my congressman

I noticed in the news the other day that congress is in session for only 109 days out of 365. I realized that this meant my congressman must be very accessible, being in his office working for us voters all that extra time.

I headed right down to see him, but his receptionist told me that he was out sick.

He was sick the next day, too. Google provided his home address and I sent a get-well card. No response. My favorite online poker site mentioned that Representative Smith was in Vegas for the week. Unwise, to be out working for a better nation while ill like that, especially in a venue where crowds of people are present, many from the congressman’s state, all anxious to press their private political concerns upon him.

Finally, on Monday, he was well enough to return to his office. As I entered, another of his constituents was just leaving. Representative Smith is truly a man of all the people, not just the rich and influential, for I recognized this woman on her way out, rather washed out in daylight, as one of my favorite strippers at a local club.

“Did he listen to your concerns?” I asked her in passing.

She laughed.

“He’s always a sweetheart,” she said.

A man of the people.

Unfortunately, the receptionist told me that he wasn’t able to meet with me, as he was on an important call. I told her I’d come back when he was free. She smiled at the word “free.” Patriotic.

There were still weeks left before Representative Smith was to return to Washington. I saw in the paper that he was scheduled to visit a ladies’ tea in Upper Brockton. I drove over to that tree-shaded community of mansions. Valets were handling the automobiles of arriving matrons. They wouldn’t touch mine, calling it a “rattletrap.” I pointed out that I was a voter. They pointed out that they were working strictly for tips, that I was in their way, and that there wasn’t one actual American citizen among them. I thought about warning the representative that a bunch of rude illegals were working the tea, or about calling the INS, but I don’t have a cell phone and none of the valets would lend me theirs. They might be working for tips, but I saw more than one of these handsome young men drive off with the old bag still in the car, so I have a hunch they were parking more than the automobiles. Depriving women of the chance to exchange views with their man in Congress. A shame.

Tired of my fruitless attempts to meet Representative Smith, I parked down the street from his mansion the next evening and waited and waited until his limo pulled out through the iron gates in the wall surrounding his grounds, and followed him down to the Lampligher on Broadway. His limo parked in an alley behind the restaurant and two big lugs, probably secret service agents, waited beside it while he entered the restaurant through the kitchen with a briefcase in his hand. Another limo arrived and an Asian gentleman got out, again with two muscular dudes, and went in through the kitchen with a small duffle in his hand, while his men waited outside. A third limo arrived and a Mexican gentleman emerged from it, along with two mean-looking greasers. He went in too, with a stuffed backpack in his hand. A fourth and final limo arrived, this one with a Pakastani or Afgan fellow in it, with his bodyguards. He carried in a picnic basket. After a while, all four men came out again. The Asian, Mexican, and Afgani were empty-handed, though their pockets were bulging with envelopes. Representative Smith was wearing the backpack on, the duffle in one hand, picnic basket in the other, a big smile on his face, and with a white nose. His men ran to help him. All four limos took off. I followed the congressman.

I know that he sits on several important sub-committees pertaining to international commerce and drug enforcement. Even on his evenings off, he is on the job, working with the representatives of our allies in other countries for justice and the American way. What a guy.

I followed the limo back to his mansion. When it stopped to wait for the gates to open, I pulled in behind, jumped out, and ran up and tapped on his tinted window.

“Congressman! Open up!”

The window slid down.

“I’ve been trying to meet you all week,” I said. “I’m a big fan.”

“Good evening,” he said. Both of his men were out of the car and behind me by now. “How can I help you?”

“I just wanted to tell you how much I admire you and all the work that you do,” I said.

“I appreciate that,” he said. “It’s citizens like you that make my work worthwhile. I’ll remember you in my prayers.”

The window slid up.

“Me, too,” I said. “I haven’t been saying my prayers lately, but I’ll start tonight.”

“Good idea,” said one of the men behind me.

I become a presidential caucus delegate

I was contacted recently and recruited to the state presidential caucus. Amazing! My vote, on one single night, will help determine who runs for President of the United States next year. What a responsibility!

Of course I knew when I got the call that I was being mistaken for another, real political guy with my same name, who lives about $10 million down the block from me. No car up on blocks in his front yard! (If he has a front yard, down at the end of that winding drive behind those stone walls.)

The candidate campaigns began contacting me immediately and I soon had met a number of famous people:

Somebody Cain (I forget his first name. Starts with an H) – As soon as this guy grabbed my hand and pulled me towards him, staring into my eyes, I knew that he could make me buy a car or vacuum cleaner, or anything else he wanted. I pray that he never knocks on my door right after I’ve got paid on a Friday. How come there are more Cains than Ables around?

Rush Limbaugh – I’m pretty sure he’s not running for anything. That’s a good thing because he don’t look healthy to me. Fat, red faced, sweaty, big cigar in his mouth, cute little thing hanging on his arm. If he hasn’t had a heart attack already, he’s due, and if he has, he’s due for another.

Somebody Bachmann – This woman is wound tighter than a $2 watch. I was afraid for a second that she wasn’t going to let go of my hand until I promised her something I’d regret.

Sarah Palin – Yes, I met her. Shook her hand. She looked into my eyes and I saw something hard come over her face. I felt like one of those wolves running on the tundra with her helicopter gaining on me from behind.

Rick Perry – He was made up a little, not like a woman but like a TV news reporter. He was lively. Jovial. His handler told me that he got like that before an execution. So it happened a lot.

Mitt Romney – I was a little drunk when I met Mr. Romney. He opened his mouth and I said, “Don’t even start, Mr. Romney. I can tell you’re going to lie like a rug before you even start.” Of course I regretted that later.

I never met Newt, who they tell me is still running. Newt. Newt. What the hell were his parents thinking? Unless they’re named Salamander and Gecko, that is.

Eventually, the caucus folks discovered their mistake, but not before I had attended many a cocktail party and rubbed elbows, or shoulders, or whatever you rub, with the rich and famous. I guess it was my 15 minutes of fame.

My time as a monk

When I was in my 20s, I renounced the materialism of the Western world. I got a job on a freighter after obtaining my seaman’s ticket, and worked on the high seas until taking my accumulated pay and debarking for good at the port of Chittagong. I could have lived like a king for a year in Bangladesh but instead I secreted my money on my person and made my way north on foot, depending upon the kindness of strangers for my biryani and llish.

In time, I passed through the hills of Meghalaya (the Scotland of India) and crossed into Assam. I endured rain, sat and watched the one-horned Indian rhinoceros, and eventually progressed into Bhutan. Here, in the deep valleys, as I approached the mighty Himalayas, I began sitting with the Vajrayana monks whom I encountered. Finally, in the company of these monks, I began the long, long tramp to Cona in Tibet, at 14,000 feet, and eventually, as the seasons passed,  to Gonggar. I was tempted to apply for membership in the Sakyapa school of Tibetan Buddhism at the Gonggar Dzong or the Gonggar Choede Monastery, but I craved to leave the valleys and trek up into the wild and rocky Himalaya hinterlands, which I did, feet wrapped in burlap. I could feel myself leaving the world behind and approaching true understanding on the edge of the great voids of thin air that fill the spaces between the mountain peaks up there.

I arrived finally in a small and nameless village on the stoney gray flank of a gigantic mountain. A woman, Chomo-Lung-Ma (Godess Mother of the Universe), took me in. There were no monks in the village but she explained by gesture that this was a good thing – that I could best advance my own personal monkhood in solitary fashion.

It developed that she had six children. She kept me busy with chores, which seemed good for a newbie monk. I never figured out where the village’s food came from. The goats would wander off over the flinty slopes; they must have found something to eat somewhere back there because they came back sated. Chomo-Lung-Ma gave me sustenance sufficient to keep me alive and able to work, no more.

When Spring arrived, she gathered the family’s meager belongings and the kids and prodded me out onto the track through the village. It seemed as if we walked for months after that. Walked and walked. In fact, we did walk for months. We walked until we arrived on the ocean shore at the harbor of Beihai in Guangxi province. Chomo-Lung-Ma took my money stash, which had remained intact since my final day on the freighter, and she and I and her children crossed the Pacific and were smuggled ashore south of L.A. We caught a succession of buses north to a furnished bungalow in Canoga Park. Five bedrooms, three baths, red-tile roof, full landscaping. We took up residence as a happy, middle-class married couple. She worked with a gang smuggling Far Eastern drugs; I was in charge of the kids, the pets we acquired, and the Escalade. Two housemaids came in on Tuesdays and Fridays.

I would have done some yard work, but a Mexican crew showed up every Thursday to take care of that.

I join the 1%

I was moaning and groaning about money and how I didn’t have any and how unfair it was.

“Go see that young fellow David Dollhouse. He’s rich as Croesus. Maybe he’ll share,” my mom said.

I had first met David Dollhouse (of the Rhode Island Dollhouses) out in the woods. Money’s no good in the woods. Me and David were equals in the woods and we got along fine, because I was always careful to recognize his special interest. David believed (and still believes)  that every insect used to be a human being.

He’s a member of the 1%, or even the 0.1% or 0.01%. He lives in a room in a Motel 6 on the outskirts – the outer outskirts – of Curtoe, Oklahoma. He spends most of his time out in the fields behind his room.

“See that ant?” he would say to me. “That ant was a Jew. See him scurry around like that? It’s pathetic.”

He told me I could share his room. He gave me a credit card and told me to use it for anything I needed in Curtoe. The first time I went into town, I had to walk. I checked the credit limit on the card at the local bank. There was no limit. I drove back to the motel in a spanking new used Honda Civic that I bought outright from a lot in town. It had a good AM/FM radio and new retreads.

“I want to introduce you to a snake,” David said to me. “She used to be my piano teacher – the one who charged a lot and put her hand in my fly to bribe me into practicing Hanon, which I hated. So now she’s a snake.”

“Snakes aren’t bugs,” I said.

David snorted.

“Snakes are bugs,” he said. “You have a lot to learn, Grasshopper. There are people who are bugs.”

“Confusing,” I said.

“This snake tried to crawl into my fly. That’s how I know it’s Mrs. O’Dowd. Never trust an Irish piano teacher.”

The next time I was in town, I bought a Boeing 777. They told me that it was impossible to ride it back to the motel. It turns out, no matter how rich you are, there are some things you can’t buy.

“You can’t buy happiness,” said Mrs. Smith, who ran the motel, but she seemed pretty happy. Once David had moved in, she closed all the other rooms.  She doubled the cleaning staff, though, mostly family members, all for David’s room. He tipped with his credit card. The maids put bugs in his bed.

I helped David organized a bug parade on Veteran’s Day. Then I went into town to test Mrs. Smith’s theory. First, I needed to be unhappy, so I went into the hardware store and hit my thumb with a hammer. It hurt like the dickins. I was unhappy. I complained to Mr. Jones, the owner. He told me that I had only myself to blame.

“Oh, yeah?” I said, and I bought the store, lock, stock, and barrel on the spot. Mr. Jones and his clerks and bookkeeper all left and the next thing I knew, customers were pestering me to find items and check them out at the register, wanting to return purchases, wanting gift wrap, and me with a sore thumb. A sore right thumb. I didn’t have the sense to hit my left one instead. So Mrs. Smith proved right. Money could not buy happiness.

My idyll with the rich came to an abrupt end when David caught me with a bucket of KFC. He claimed that chickens were bugs and I was in fact a cannibal, and I was out on my ear. My new Civic pooped out before I reached the state line and when I tried to get it fixed, my credit card had expired.

My big break as a reporter

Folks ask me how I became successful in the field of newspaper reporting. Hard work, I answer. However, I did get one big break.

I was just starting out as a cub reporter on the Parings Journal in northern Mississippi. I was walking down Main Street one evening at dusk and I came to John Brown lounging outside Parings Drug Store, smoking a cigarette. John wasn’t no older than me, but he was already sheriff, because his daddy was mayor. I asked him if he had anything newsworthy to report.

“Just that I’m busting up a robbery,” he said, gesturing toward the darkened drug store.

“Who’s in there?”

“Lanny Smith. Stealing drugs.”

I pulled out my notepad.

“How come you’re out here then?” I said.

“I called WREB over in Leesville. They’re dispatching a crew with a camera. I’m going to be on the news tonight.”

“Who’s around back?”

“Billy, of course. We’ve got Lanny surrounded.”

Billy Brown was John’s little brother. He was a bigger hothead than John, but not half as smart.

“You think Billy will wait for the news crew?” I said. “What’s your plan when they get here?”

“Once they get all set up, I’m going to go in there and shoot Lanny.”

“His daddy won’t like that,” I said.

John gave that some thought. Lanny’s daddy was not a man to trifle with.

“I’ll shoot him in the foot,” John said. “I’ve got to shoot him somewhere.”

“Can I go in first and interview him?” I said.

“No, I don’t want you rocking the boat. Go around back and tell Billy to be patient. I don’t want the little piss ant messing things up.”

“I’ll go tell Billy, if I can get my interview.”

John nodded and I hurried around to the back of the store. Billy was just reaching for the handle of the screen door. He had his gun in his hand. He and John both carried those old long-barreled Colt Peacemakers.

“Hold on, Billy” I said. “John told me I could go in and get an interview. He says you should be patient.”

“He don’t always get his own way. Let him be patient if he wants.”

“I know, Billy, but you want to be wrote up in the newspaper, don’t you? I can’t do it if you shoot Lanny before I talk to him. Hold off and I’ll put your picture on the front page.”

Billy pulled open the screen door and held it for me. I opened the back door and stepped in.

“Lanny,” I said. “I’ve come to interview you for the Parings Journal.”

“Come on in, then,” he said from the gloom.

Billy and I went in and found Lanny sitting on a stool behind the register at the pharmacy counter. He was drinking a coke.

“What have you stole so far?” Billy said.

“Let me ask the questions, if you please,” I said.

“You little piss ant,” Billy said.

“That’s what your brother just called you,” I said.

I had to grab Billy then to keep him from stepping out front and shooting his brother on the spot.

“Calm down,” I told him. “You’re an officer of the law, Billy. Now Lanny, what have you stole?”

Lanny gestured back at the shelves full of pill bottles and lotion bottles and bottles of powders that lined the walls.

“Nobody told me they’d be so many,” he said. “How am I supposed to know what to steal?”

“What have you got there?” I said. He had a big brown bottle of capsules in front of him.

“They’re bright yellow,” Lanny said. “What do you think?”

“I think they’ll speed you up,” I said.

“Well, hell, I’ll take some of that,” Billy said.

He stuck his gun in his belt, opened the jar, and pulled out a handful of capsules, which he stuffed into his mouth and chewed and swallowed.

“If these work,” he said, “I’m going out there and punch Mr. Big Britches right in his damned eye.”

We did not have long to wait before Billy’s pupils shrank down to the point of invisability. His face hardened up in a peculiar way and he began to speak slowly and thoughtfully in a language that Lanny and I could not understand. He walked to the front door of the store, gun in hand. I heard the news van pull up outside.

“Go on home now,” I told Lanny. “I’ll leave your name out of my story. Mostly it won’t be about you, anyway.”