Sure, it was funny to everyone and their brother-in-law, but I had to absorb the humiliation of waking up on the courthouse steps without pants on, surrounded by townspeople. Bill came. I asked if he wanted to lock me up for this, but he ruled it unintentional. He shouted that the looky-loos should go on about their business. Bill is a pretty good guy for a cop.
Some auteur filmed me like that. It went viral on the internet. The Town Drunk, my boss, called me in to his office (the pool hall). There was a write-up I had to sign that stated further public nudity would lead to dismissal. Did I remember how it happened? To make the meeting end sooner, I said no.
You never want those meetings to last a moment longer than necessary.
That evening I was on-shift, so I spread my presence between three bars out by the freeway interchange. I rotate through all of them as I can.
In the Rooster’s Roost the bartender said, “Your drink is half off. The bottom half.” Everyone cracked up. I got the hell out.
The Tool Shed seemed better initially, but ten minutes after my umbrella drink arrived people were telling each other to check the television. One patron said, “Look, they blurred it or we’d see his gear.” So yeah, up yours too, Action Seven News.
They must’ve known about that at the third bar too, but they had the decency to leave off it. I stuck around and charged a fairly stout tab to the city. Sometimes all you need do to earn a handsome tip and friendly goodwill is not be the next persecutor to ride a guy into the ground about a mistake.
By then I was finally hungry. Went to Waffle House for a light repast before retiring for the night. Of course it’s tacky to rave about national chains, but my particular Waffle House operates on telepathy. I picked a booth and sat maybe two minutes. Gladys set a plate in front of me of exactly what I wanted: a triple order of Hash Browns, scattered, smothered and covered, topped and chunked. I didn’t even say hello before that. They just knew.
The following morning I walked down to the corner for a donut and a newspaper. Yes, I read. I can drink and read too.
Coming in while I was leaving, a little kid asked, “Mommy? Isn’t that the man from TV who lost his clothes?” She said it was, but don’t point.
I had a message on the world’s oldest operating answering machine when I got home. It was the Town Drunk. The Mayor was asking to see me. It looked grim. He would put in a word but I should update my resume.
Now I’ve let people down before. Disappointed my parents. Alienated my siblings. Teachers. I let my first probation officer who believed in me down. All the girlfriends. Wives one through four. Various employers before the city. But the Assistant Town Drunk position has been manageable for over three years without anyone complaining that I let them down. Guess this is saying it sideways, but I have a lot of love for this city. I will not be laughed out of this job.
Called the Mayor. She asked could we meet at lunch time on the courthouse green instead of her office? She eats her lunches out there on a bench in good weather.
I have exactly one friend who gets me, thinks my ideas are good ideas, is down for whatever is up, etc. That’s Benny. I called to tell him what we needed to do. Benny said, “Absolutely.”
Noon hit. I was waiting on the courthouse lawn, a hundred feet from where I became famous. The Mayor emerged from City Hall across the street, holding her dependable tuna sandwich. She saw me and waved. Her uncharacteristically blank face indicated she was about to terminate me.
When the Mayor was mid-street, a pickup truck squealed around the corner. It bore down on her at high speed. That blank face changed to an I’m Going to Die face. I reached way back to my glory days as a fourth-string bench-warming linebacker on the J.V. team, lowered my shoulder and push-tackled the Mayor clear of the dangerous vehicle.
After she caught her breath and moved past the shock, she showered me with grateful thanks. The area was packed with people. One person shouted, “Did you see that? This guy saved the Mayor’s life!”
Someone else called out, “I caught it on video!”
The Mayor said, “Bless you.” She even kissed my stubbly cheek, which I’m not sure how I feel about. She’s my boss’s boss, but a real looker though.
I was holding almost that much affection for Benny. This is the maximum mileage anyone’s ever managed off twenty bucks and a case of Miller Genuine Draft.
She said, “I almost fired you, but damn it, you’re one of this town’s true treasures.”
The turnaround was more dramatic than I’d hoped for. The Mayor was alive by a miracle. People patted me on the back and praised me.
The euphoria of the moment swept me away, the adrenaline rush.
I made a deeply questionable decision. Pulled down my pants. Just boom, no pants. Hell, I don’t know. It seemed like the thing. Some might blame alcohol. Now I can’t figure what I was thinking.
If I had it to do again, I wouldn’t do that.