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HARD BOILED HEADLINE
(Chapter # 1) Hard Boiled Headline
(Chapter # 2) Meet Sanch, My Friend
(Chapter # 3) The Proposition
(Chapter # 4) Iconoclast, Skeptic, Muckraker0
(Chapter # 5) Tilting At Windmills? I think Not
(Chapter # 6) Planning and Strategy, The First Steps
(Chapter # 7) First, Make Them Love You
(Chapter # 8) Learn To Think
(Chapter # 9) A Brief Vacation
(Chapter # 10) Joie De Vivre: French for 'More Please'
(Chapter # 11) Behavior Unbecoming of a Serious News Source
(Chapter # 12) The Roster
(Chapter # 13) Caught Between Two Rocks
(Chapter # 14) Setting the Hook (Chapter # 15) The Meeting
(Chapter # 16) The Cocaine Shuffle
(Chapter # 17) Hatchet Job (Chapter # 18) Down, But Not Out
(Chapter # 19) Special Edition
(Chapter # 20) A Twisted Development
(Chapter # 21) Don't Miss the Fish Fry (Chapter # 22) On the Stump
(Chapter # 23) The Jungly Knoll
(Chapter # 24) Give Us Dirty Laundry
(Chapter # 25) Get Well Soon
(Chapter # 26) The Confession
(Chapter # 27) A News Quagmire
(Chapter # 28) Tainted Evidence
(Chapter # 29) The Shooting
(Chapter # 30) The Great American Novel?
A close friend once asked me, ‘How would you want to die’? It took aboutthree seconds for me to answer; ‘In bed, asleep, with a raging hard-on tenting the sheet like a Viagra commercial for Necrophiliacs.
She left me after she looked up necrophiliac in the dictionary, but that’s beside the point.
The real point is, it looks like I’m about to die. Not in bed; but duct taped to an antique golf cart and sunk to the bottom of a nasty water hazard on the eleventh hole of Cypress Willows Golf Course. Which is about the last answer I would have dredged up to describe my final wish for a final exit.
It all began simply enough, like a million other stories, the headline would read; Man Seeks Cash, Gets Killed. The newspaper’s never run that headline, but if you read between the lines, it happens every day.
I’ll open up with a little bit about myself, my name is Reb, and don’t start making fun of it; it’s my name. I was born in the hills of Tennessee, moved down to North Florida the week after graduating high school, and made a living as a fishing guide. I got married, got divorced, went to prison.
Maybe I skimmed over a few things there, let me start over. I got married, got talked into becoming a police officer, caught my wife with another officer, both of them naked, humping and giggling. The man attacked me, I shot him, she maligned me in court and I spent six years in prison.
I get the feeling I am still going too fast, but I’m experiencing the pressure of being duct taped to this golf cart. I guess I need to make sure you know, I shot him in the leg. He’s still limping around, and last time I saw him, he was still scared to death of me. The second thing that has a bearing on this part, the prison part, is, I am five-feet-six inches tall in shoes, and weigh one-hundred and thirty-five pounds after eating a hearty breakfast of pancakes and bacon. The man I shot, the one who was piston’ing my wife like an out of control jackhammer, the wife whom I had the mistaken impression loved me like a big diamond, well, he was in excess of six-feet tall, and a bushel of apples over two-hundred pounds.
So, I sneak off for lunch after a hot morning of emptying parking meters; my boss didn’t like me, but I’ll get to that. Anyway, I go into my kitchen, grab the carton of milk from the refrigerator and walk into the bedroom with a white mustache and a smile. I see a pale white ass, four legs and our damn wedding picture, which usually sat upright on the night table, now turned face-down.
The crooked, brain-dead, hundred-year-old judge who looked like a raisin left out in the sun for a century, let the prosecutor ask me how I felt? Was I mad? This was at my trial! My lawyer, an idiot whose finger and nostril were on intimate terms, never made a squeak. Of course I was mad! What kind of ignorant question is that?
I remember standing there looking at the two, rutting like barnyard animals out in the pasture, and I said, “Hey, you two, stop that, get dressed and let’s talk this out.” Honest to God, those were my exact words. But, was I mad? Yeah, I was mad as a cornered water moccasin being poked with a stick. But, I walked out of the bedroom.
I had about a thousand things running through my mind at the very moment I walked in and first saw them tangled up in the two-hundred thread count Egyptian cotton sheets, my wife, Mazy, said we simply had to have. And she was right about that, they were cooler in the Florida heat; felt considerably better than the cheap sheets. But that was only one thing that flitted through my mind—the sheets, I wondered how long they been going at it? Was this guy better than I am? Did I need lessons? How big is his tool? What the hell has happened to my life? And about an untold score of other crap I was wondering about; like a college kid staring at the stars after a hard day of philosophy class and a hard night of weed smoking.
But, honestly, I had no thoughts of shooting either one of them, I just wanted to have a talk, get it straight, and go kill myself; or find my best friend who was guaranteed to talk me into a better mood, whichever came first.
The damn fool comes charging out and attacked me. Like I said, I am what is affectionately referred to as pint-sized. I probably could have kicked his ass, because when it’s all said and done; I am a tough little bastard. I could have taken out my baton and beat the ratshit out of him, but I didn’t carry one. Which was always a bone of contention with my boss, who said it was against regulations. I am five-foot-six, and I go in to breakup a bar fight with some giant, corn-fed drunks, I ain’t taking out no little stick and trying to look menacing. I tell them to quit or I will guaran-Goddamn-tee I will shoot them in their drunken ass. It worked every time for five years. But not this time.
This time he came at me, and I am quick, real quick; if you want to outrun me, you better have four legs. But I was cornered, and yeah, the idea of him attacking me, in my house, because I was taking a drink of my milk and interrupted his porking of my wife; well, it did not help his case when I made the decision to pull my standard issue .38 caliber and shoot him in the thigh. He was lucky, for a fleeting instant I was looking just a bit northward.
My wife, Mazy, did not back me up. She went all crazy and thought I was going to shoot her. When, actually, after I shot the asshole, I walked straight to my squad car and called it in. I never said a word to her.
How did I get screwed, you ask? Just poor luck. Mazy was the Chief of Police’, Elwin Stocker’s, daughter. He got me hired in there, and he was sixty-six years old. By the time he hit seventy, he never came in and had no idea what was going on at the station, or sometimes, what his name was.
A crooked, grizzly bear of a low-life varmint had taken control of the operation, and was set to win the Sheriff election that November. Now this area was rough and tumble back then. It sat right on the East coast of Florida and had about a thousand miles of brackish, back-water canals that a man could easily get lost in, or just as easily plant a million dollars worth of reefer in. An aerial photo of the county looked like an ant farm that had been under construction since the Dark Ages. Every officer in the department was as crooked as a corkscrew, except me.
That’s right, I said, except me. I was raised to never second guess my first impression of what was the right thing to do when dealing with your fellow man. My father, a dirt-poor hog farmer, always said, ‘you can rationalize and ponder alternatives for machines, farming, digging a hole, or contemplating life, but your first impression for right and wrong better be the one you go with, when dealing with people'.
So I stayed clear of all the crooked business going on. I ignored it. Which, went against my first impression to do something about it, because it was wrong. The city and county police were involved in every crooked operation you could conceive of to pad their pockets with extra cash. I refused to involve myself, and all my fellow ‘law officers’ hated me.
That’s one reason why I was emptying parking meters at the port authority. I forgot to mention that, the place was large in area, small in population, large in swamp, had a major port for shipping, and a number of championship-quality golf courses. The only people who lived there were well off or pre-civilized swampers who lived back in the jungles no sane man would travel to, let alone live. But the Port Authority, now there was a den of iniquity.
Again, I am off on a tangent, but you may as well get used to it, because this is how I tell a story and somehow it all becomes relevant and it all comes together, sooner or later.
Anyway, the local authorities wasted no time in railroading my ass off to Raiford, and even less time replacing me and that Gomer I shot with two, more ruthless and agreeable specimens of reptile.
Prison changed me in many ways, like me using that word, necrophiliac at the beginning. I would not have known that word before, now I know quite a few words. Plus, my daddy’s advice about ‘your first impression for right and wrong better be the one you go with, when dealing with people’, I still believe that. Although, my definition of people no longer includes everyone on two legs with opposable thumbs.
My friend, Sanch, who I’ll talk about later, he kept me sane, and put me to work in the newspaper business when I got out. I owed him, and getting him in the middle of this is how I repaid him.
As to how I got right here, at this very moment, duct taped to this golf cart; listening to two complete backwoods imbeciles discuss removing the batteries first so as not to kill the fish, and arguing over who was going to put on the scuba suit and float me out to the middle, it was grappling.
Did I mention I am the Tennessee Grappling champion for the last three years? Grappling is where you go along the river and stick your hand in a hole or a log along the bank during catfish birthing season and let a big ole catfish clamp his mouth full of spiny little teeth down on your hand, and you pull him out. I got a fifty-four pounder last year. I was headed to Tennessee to narrate a documentary on Grappling when I got sidelined into this underwater golf excursion.
Copyright 2006 Greg Crites
No, You Can’t Have It