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Todd Dills

The day Dewey Dilbert graduated college he lost his cap-pistol, wallet, and noose to a shitkicker at a saloon on the Joliet Road who had a slippery hand. Dewey liked to play SHOOT THE HORSE FROM UNDER THE HANGED HORSE-THIEF, so this was near a tragedy. He vowed, Someday, he would get them back.

He cried the next day over the phone to his Yankee mother. She sat at her home 12 hours due south, newly divorced, and told Dewey in gruff syllables he better get a job, she couldn't well afford to be bailing him out of every damn... later that day he caught an advert- in the Sun-Times requesting a white clown, one that could cull real belly-laughs at Heights Rodeo in East Chicago, which he knew for a black one. Next day, he drove his '76 Corvette Stingray to the rodeo with nothing -- a business card his Casualty-Adjusting father had given him the last time he saw him, likewise a watch-chain without a watch but with a can of black shoepolish hung to the end of it. 'I'm in shit,' Dewey said, deliberately, checked his white face in the rearview. Pasty and sallow. Dark bags hung under his eyes from the crying.

He buckled himself in his parking space, watched, over the Corvette's high wheel wells, the rowdy crowd of black men and women that filled two bleacher-rows each side of the rodeo-ring. They loomed loud and respectable, families dressed like they were in church, bitching and screaming. They chanted for the riders, who rode so furious, Dewey knew, they bucked mules two feet higher than any comparable horse. He blacked his face with the shoepolish, tucked the can and chain into the inner pocket of his vest and rose from the Corvette. He trotted down along the line in front of the bleachers. An extremely tall, large man in a tophat and with a wide, white-tooth grin introduced himself as Booker T. Washington. 'Identification please,' Booker said, smiling furiously. He must be the leader, Dewey's head ran on. A leader will smile like that when he asks for your soul. 'Identification,' he said again. He smiled like he was making a sick joke about you, like the degrading damn shoepolish all over your face wasn't enough.

'I got nothing,' Dewey said. He threw his arms out, palms up. He remembered his father's card and offered that, but quickly made sure the tall, smiling man knew that this was not he. 'My father,' Dewey said. He looked up then into the man's smiling face looking down, in turn, at himself with the happy scorn of someone who doesn't understand your English. Dewey inhaled a deep breath, bucked up, setting his arms akimbo and jutting out his scrawny chest respectably. Booker T. nodded down approvingly. 'I am Mambo!' Dewey proclaimed. 'King of clowns.' And he knew it, knew he must be, recalled stars and corkscrew slurs from his childhood and flung them and his right hand into Booker T.'s cheek. An uproarious guffaw blew from the bleachers. Dewey looked up, then back to Booker, who frowned, adjusted his necktie. Dewey took on a smirk. 'Now that's more like it,' Booker T. said, tipping his tophat and wagging his head, smiling. Dewey bounded over the rail and into the ring.


For a week he gave it as much brazen pathos as did the riders. The mules threw them, invariably. You'd figure mules would shamble like old mutts, cross-breeds as they are, good for nothing but packing up and moving along, or being packed up, diddled by farm retards. The riders customized them to their needs; the big black men with gold chains and creative hairdos sat snug in the near-U's of their barebacks. Without even saddles they rode them, horsewhip-leather reins simply tied in knots around the brutes' necks like to choke them into submission. But the men's spurs worked well, and Dewey got many a guffaw getting trampled by these flailing mules, nostrils flared and eyes rolling, bucking Dewey in his proffered, padded ass or getting jumped by his bounds. Mambo sat in any place he liked, lorded over afternoons and nights at Heights.

But he had no hope of living off the 25 cents they paid him an hour. There wasn't a Union anywhere outside of the Texas borders, if there. He thought of calling his father in St. Louis, but he'd chastise him for spending his inheritance on college only to.... He called his Mother in that decrepit Mississippi town, and she talked of how white and fat she had gotten, spread over her recliner days on end. Good God look at the fleshrolls around her hips! They jiggled like Jello! Heehee! Jeez she hadn't left the house in near a year but for the paper, some cigarettes. Though there was this nice Southern policeman named Norb who came by now and again and stuck his thing....

'Jesus Mother, Jesus please!' Dewey said, spent the next three days gagging at the mental image of blubbery bags of flesh jiggling on her inner thighs. He'd determined in time to flex his Criminology degree. He bought a new wallet, a pair of hornrimmed spectacles to replace his expensive contacts, and he drove the Corvette into an up-and-coming city neighborhood. The first night he was there someone stole it right off the street. Thinking it an act of Divine Intervention, he didn't cry; he rented an apartment and got a job downtown as a Surveillance Analyst. He sat daily watching videos of the comings and goings of State Departments' employees. Svelte C.S. Rep for the Illinois division of Waste Management -- Angelica -- smoked cigarettes in the back stairwell on break while talking of the things Jesse did to her last night. She talked to a lady from the other side of the building who, while Angelica smoked and talked, twirled the beauty's own hair into braids day after day after day. Dewey rode this movie out for weeks until the two were blocking the doors to the stairwell and straddling each other naked, black-rubber dildos strapped into place and thrust into the appropriate openings. Dewey nearly swooned right there in his cublicle. His forehead lolled and tapped the aluminum shelf of his desk. Then, recovering, he looked on with outrage and a painful hard-on that flushed his face and tightened his throat. He got them both fired.

Billy, a male receptionist with a cubicle formerly kitty-corner to Angelica, heard about the local pornography and approached Dewey one day with a quick intro and shake of the hand. 'I want to see that shit,' Billy said.

'Do you work here?' Dewey said.

Billy shot him a sideways look and promptly whisked Dewey's silvery nameplate from the side of his cubicle, set it up in his own.

Billy became the main object of Dewey's analysis and a ceaseless source of entertainment. His shaggy-headed defiance of the hygiene-code Dewey recorded daily in a three-ring log-book devoted to the finger-wagging Southerner. He clipped a Confederate Flag image from a biker magazine and glued it to the front, wrote 'BILLY' in white CAPs under it.

Billy's specialty -- aside from stealing Dewey's nameplate -- was claiming how much he wanted Dewey's job, what with the free pornography and all. This he claimed, but Dewey knew he came round to see himself on the big screen, a 10" X 10" monitor that sat on the aluminum shelf of Dewey's desk.


'My greatest hit,' Billy said. He referred to a surveillance tape of the day he perched under the eye of the camera and seduced it. 'The play is rather convincing,' Dewey said. He swiveled around to face the man, Billy, standing as usual one elbow propped on the cubicle wall, just barely inside. Dewey crossed his legs and leant his own elbow back on his desk. 'Hell,' Dewey went on, 'If I was chick I'd go for it.'

'Really?' Billy seemed genuinely in shock, his expression resembling somehow the shocked look on the Ole Miss Rebel mascot emblazoned on his T-shirt. Dewey's phone rang before he replied. His phone seldom rang. Billy listened to Dewey's measured grunts and thought on this little man here, with his nerd glasses and fraidycat air. Billy stared at him, hunched around the phone like he was hiding it, not saying a word but for those low grunts. Billy's big, shaggy head nodded slowly, figuring finally Dewey was a good man, in spite of his job, which he saw as the work of, say, the most disloyal dog in a man's pen. Dewey was stand-up, a nice guy, good enough surely.

'Mississippi State Police,' Dewey said, the phone hung in its cradle. 'My mother has been killed.'

Billy didn't have a word for the feeling that ran through him. Like ice-cream with a lightning-quick melt quotient, dumped on your head. He looked to his own T-shirt. 'Your Mother in Mississippi?' he said.

'Yes,' Dewey said. 'Mississippi.'

Billy stood incredulous, half-in, half-out of the cubicle. 'Well, I'll be hanged by my ears,' he muttered. 'Christ, man. What's she doing there?' At a loss for anything else to do, he whisked Dewey's nameplate from it's cradle, held it way out in front of him and squinted his eyes like to appraise it. Billy stuffed the thing in his back pocket, flung his head back then to get the curls away from his eyes, and strode off. Later in the day, when Billy in a blind rage called the Boss a 'dwarf-turd' and marched out of the office without another word, Dewey nearly hung on his heels. He figured he'd never survive a day in his cubicle without this man's antics to keep him entertained. So he quit.

He didn't go to the funeral. Now Former Surveillance Analyst, he rather took to the windswept battery of his up-and-coming neighborhood's streets. A Monday morning. It had been a long, bitter winter. He inquired with the Record Shop first, where he figured his hornrimmed specs might endear him to the faux-nerd crowd behind the counter. Dewey asked one of the geeks whether a position was open. The boy replied by duly slapping Dewey in the face with a false British accent, saying 'Position for you? Well I'm afraid not, sire...', and Dewey rode the force of the slap back outside among the roaring motorbikes, the women in short skirts and with carefully sculpted or pinned hairdos, brilliantly white arms bared and ablaze in new-summer sunlight. Dewey went on with himself, Woe is me ! woe is me!... I can't even make an impression on vapid shop-clerks, which is to say nothing of my truly pathetic self! Though he did not shed a tear.

Brenda Longstocking stood in the doorway of the windswept street's hip café. She watched Dewey trundle up the street. Her heart spun in a violent pang of pity for the boy. His head bent down, hornrims inching down the bridge of his nose just a little further with each step. When Dewey pushed the hornrims forlornly back up into position -- without, however, allowing his eyes to rise from the pavement -- Brenda simply couldn't resist herself and wheeled out from the café's doorway, squared onto the sidewalk to face him. He stopped at the sight of her Keds-clad feet. He stopped, hitched rather, in which quick hitch his eyes rose up the form and took in the full effect of Ms. Longstocking's shape... muscular calves rising to thighs which disappeared under frayed cutoffs, loose-fists stuck under grapefruit-sized breasts, the deep-tanned, Jackie-O-shades-clad face of a Mississippi schoolgirl. She looked like the peach Dewey fell in love with outside of a hardware store the only time he'd been down to see his mother since her move to Vicksburg. His head dropped to the ground in front of her, though he smiled, falling full in love with her and automatically avoiding the face-off such missteps demanded. He turned into the hip café and applied as a waiter. He was promptly refused, thrown out again on his crumpling Former Surveillance Analyst's legs into the windswept street-battery. Bits of paper and half-intact plastic bags flew in circles about his ankles, occasionally rising to shoulder-level. His love had disappeared. A Harley guzzled by. Dewey flung his face now into the café's facade, thought of his Yankee mother killed dead by a deep-tanned cop gone crazy over being flouted blind by her brilliant white body. She was scattered over a reservoir outside of Vicksburg. The trial was not over. He received word his father testified an adjusted $20,000 value on her life in a wrongful death suit engineered by himself. Dewey figured it was low enough to be just about right. He closed his eyes, pressed his nose into the café's glass front. He thought of human fatrolls, folly, felt bile rise in his throat. Then, pressing his nose harder into the glass, he felt something pass out of his chest in a gentle sucking there, body fully forgoing the job-search in favor of something better, lighter, perhaps an ice cream cone or a beer; Dewey opened his eyes and looked straight into the face and blatantly-direct stare of one of the Record-Shop clerks poised mannequin-like over a latte at the café's windowtable. The clerk spooned his drink, shook his head then like a disapproving old man. Dewey moved over and pressed his nose into the porous brick of the building's facade. Crotch-rockets whiz-banged behind him. Carhorns ripped through the Rockets' tinny statures. Dewey ground his forehead into the brick, the force of an anger unparalleled in human history fixing his flesh into the brick's pores like that of a schoolkid pranked sweating into a frozen window or playground pole. Brenda Longstocking watched him pull back from the wall and winced at the pull and pop of loose flesh released. She'd moved up the street to the front step of her workplace, the lately-annexed, infamous corporate coffeeshop. Annexed to the nines -- the neighborhood's denizens pled for their savior and said savior bubbled and farted steamed milk and hissed through fresh-ground espresso, palpitating the hearts and hardening the arteries of the would-be rich and destitute alike, apparently without discrimination. Brenda never ate anything there, on principle, though the quality of the coffee she thought unparalleled in human history. "We're hiring," she said as Dewey passed her, her elbow, in turn, passing lightly along the outer handhold of the infamous corporate coffeeshop's pushdoor, body shuttling into the space.

'Yeh?' Dewey said. Brenda passed full into the space. He had to follow. 'You think I could hang?' he said. His nose pricked in disgust at the infamous interior. Brenda turned round and grabbed his hand, dragged him through the shop by it. A mute, docile clerk wearing a visorcap, a white knit shirt, a nametag pinned to the left breast pocket which read 'Truman Whitey', stood in the empty, open (apparently), infamously franchised coffeeshop, his face devoid of expression, drool slipping from the right corner of his open mouth. Brenda pulled Dewey behind the counter.

'What is your name?' she asked, both of them standing, facing at 45-degree angles a cuttingboard platform just this side of the counter. Spread over its hard-plastic surface were all manner of vacuum-packed aluminum-foil-wrapped blocks of beans. 'Guatemala Antigua,' Brenda pointed, indicating a particularly large block. 'One of our best sellers,' she said, then turning, her deep-tanned, bare arm brushing Dewey's own. She poured herself a stiff 100% post-consumer-waste-made cup of coffee. 'You didn't answer my question,' she said, sipping, passing the cup to Dewey, who still didn't answer the question, one of nomenclature, putting restraints on a face, on a body. And he couldn't remember the name of the God of Pathos, if there was one, so:

'We have plenty of time for that,' he said. She, fists on hips, 'And what do you mean by that?' Dewey standing there just as mute as the clerk drooling by the register. 'Hey now Truman!' Dewey launched the clerk's way and thrust a hand out like to grab him, to which Mr. Truman Whitey reacted instinctively by simply shifting his body a bit, inching robotically closer to the little shelf behind the register. Dewey thus missed, teetered, spun, banged his head on the way down on the coffeeshop's gigantic espresso machine. He sprawled out unconscious behind the counter.

Brenda Longstocking and her subordinate Mr. Whitey stood above him and commented on the unexpected nature of the event; they stood then lips pursed, mute and clinical, staring down at his form, his splayed legs, torso at a slight angle with the natural set of his hips. But Brenda's heart fluttered again for the boy. She bent ninety degrees at the waist and nearly kissed him. His hornrims had flown up on his forehead. His eyes stood wide open like he were dead, soft blue prey to the fluorescent light that lit the infamous corporate coffee shop. His abdomen rose and fell quietly. Brenda sucked in a breath and softly inched the hornrims down into position. She motioned the hangdog Truman Whitey to help her; they lifted him and carted him slowly to the back room, where they made a bed from the _selfs of two huge 100% post-consumer-waste-made cardboard boxes, a large pile of black-plastic trash bags. 'Truman, scat,' Brenda blurted; an outrageous wail for service issued from the main body of the infamous corporate coffeeshop. Mr. Whitey shuffled automatically off.

Brenda straddled the boy supine on the bed of plastic, her crotch a mere inch or two from his own. She bent forward, reached up to the top of her head and undid the ponytail there, hair falling around the boy's face in soft, long folds. She violently pressed her mouth against his own, which wouldn't respond no matter how far her tongue fell into it. She thought he'd never wake, he'd die here and she'd die of heartbreak. If he woke, she'd make him Assistant Manager of the infamous corporate coffeeshop just to keep him. Then he woke, and Brenda Longstocking flung the door to the back room shut, turned the bolt, threw off her little yellow tube-top and came four times in the next thirty minutes, thinking the boy had reciprocated with his own explosions thrice, a miracle for any man, really, let alone a boy ! though Dewey knew it was only twice and by now he was in fact near a quarter-century old.... She granted him the A.M.'s position and Dewey was grateful for their now-mutual savior, which savior kept threatening to go out of business... they all waited -- the neighborhood, the bearded proprietors at the hip café, the record-store clerks, the denizens young and old and rich and poor whose collective eyes nearly teared up just at the thought of the impending doom -- for the day the savior closed its doors (the neighborhood was returning to its former non-up-and-coming state, yuppies fleeing, crime rate plummeting, properties drying up). The savior would leave the both of them jobless, closing its doors years later, though none of it really mattered to Dewey. Brenda Longstocking held none of her Mississippi-schoolgirl charm after she gave it up. He'd stayed, gone through the working motions three years running out of a perpetual cash-need.

And the job had done nothing for him with the art-school girls he met at the up-and-coming neighborhood's bars, who sent him bucking a mule back home the minute they found out where he worked. Brenda witnessed the denouement time and again and had to agree with the girls. If she thought anything more of Dewey, she never acknowledged it.


Soon after the coffeeshop threw its patrons and employees both back to their stable neighborhoods and newly renovated, worthless real estate, Dewey ventured far South to the origin of his careering. Booker T. Washington welcomed him with closed fists, his wide shoulders darkening the doorway to his old East Chicago A-frame. Dewey hung back on the street while Booker T. stood tall and menacing atop porch steps; Dewey removed his hornrims, got down on his knees and pled with the big Master of Ceremonies for his recognition. He reached back for his wallet and ID and realized he'd left them at home. Booker strode down the steps and grasped Dewey's shirt collar, pulling him to his feet. Booker's hot breath blew six times before he said, 'I do know you.'

'Yes, yes you do!' Dewey said in a near-whisper.

Booker T. dropped him in a pile there on the street and backed up onto his porch. A crowd of neighborhood boys began to gather round the pastyfaced young man. Booker then remembered him as Mambo the rodeo clown and rushed through the crowd, sweeping from his path boy by startled boy. Dewey rose, ecstatic tears in his eyes, shuffling his way toward the tall, smiling Booker... over stewed turnip greens, Dewey asked him how the rodeo was getting on. Booker said fine, just fine, though they'd been going with a black clown of late, ever since the shakedown the Lay It Up had engineered. 'The Lay It What?' Dewey said.

'Lay it Up,' Booker said. 'The Local Association for the Advancement of Uncolored People.'

'Are you serious?'

'Quite serious.'

'Where's the IT come in?'

'Half shit, I suppose.'


They located two weeks later a '76 Stingray almost identical to Dewey's last one in a Gary junkyard, fiberglass body miraculously intact. Booker gave it a working over, Dewey then assisting in various factional, mercantile dealings in the offtime, a big score eventually that won each of them five thousand, Dewey a sparkling new Winchester shotgun to top it off. Dewey gave over the bulk of his for the repairs, and in less than a month's time he had a ride again.

He found himself back in Joliet, snooping around his childhood home under cover of dark, suburban night. There was an odd couple living in it, two gay men with too much money to be renting the dilapidated, counterfeit farm-house. They drove big Lexus rides, wore health-club physiques. Dewey bought a corduroy suit and posed as a real-estate agent; he sold them on half the rent of his own apartment back in the city, convincing the couple of the false value of the neighborhood with the craft of only someone who'd ever lived there. He would quietly pay the other half of the rent by way of a deal brokered with his landlord, a thickheaded German immigrant with a penchant for drink and extreme good-will toward Dewey Dilbert, who took the man out on the town twice a month or so and got him bitterly drunk. Dewey gave him an audience to stories of the homeland, contributing himself with tall tales of German prostitutes the man thought amazingly humorous for their incoherence and irrelevance. Only when drunk would Dewey think of his mother, or of the General Manager Brenda Longstocking.

He gave up quick on real-estate, settled in with Booker T.'s deal more lucrative gig. He rode around wildly romantic with the Winchester propped in the Corvette's passenger seat. He was deep into Joliet, where he attempted to forget them all.

Dewey picked up Booker T. for a round at a saloon on the Joliet Road, figuring there were certain things that forever called to be remembered, like the dive's name, Cat's Alley. It brought to mind something nostalgic-sweet and surreptitious, pussy or garden manure, retribution. Dewey packed his shotgun behind the Corvette's seats; Booker commandeered two pistols, one in a concealed holster under his trenchcoat, the other tucked in his belt.

Dewey led them in, proud; something familiar about the bartender's pointed gray beard, his mustache, the longhaired, likewise mustachioed patrons, mean white-ass smirks to their lips as they turned their heads in unison upon the two's arrival. 'Howdy,' Dewey said, adjusted his hornrims and old leather vest quick.

He and Booker laid their elbows on the old bar and had three beers and three Scotch, respectively, without saying a word to each other. Men played poker off in a dim corner across the stool-littered gloom of the place. 'I've lost something, hear?' Dewey said, after procuring the fourth round. 'Here.' Dewey laid his pointer-finger into the bar to bring home the point.

Booker nodded. A mustachioed man on the other side of Booker from Dewey perked up and pointed out Will the bartender, whose pointed beard jabbed his own chest repeatedly with his head-nodding. 'Will keeps the lost and found behind the counter there,' the man said. 'Ahh,' Dewey said, motioning Will and the old cardboard box over and then rifling through the contents. Dewey pocketed one of the four rusted Zippo lighters therein. 'I was thinking more like in a card game,' Dewey said, pushing the box back across the bar. He turned round and nodded to the men in the corner. Two hanging lights over the bar barely reached the men spread round their smoky table. 'I lost something in a card game.' Dewey said. 'Watch it,' the mustachioed man said. 'Those boys are carrying.' Dewey shrugged like he hadn't even heard. 'Why Booker T. Washington?' Dewey said. 'Why not Martin Luther King or Richard Wright? Hell, even Du Bois? Booker T.'s got a reputation for, well, you know...'.

'Yeh,' Booker T. said. 'You might tell mother Martha and father George the same. Wasn't like I had much of a choice in the matter.' He rattled the ice around in his Scotch-glass. Will the bartender supplied another.

'Well hell,' Dewey said and shrugged. Such was the way. He'd wished he could change his own name, though his guts would have never forgiven him had he. This he knew. Like he knew this place. The cardplayers in the corner were feline-quiet. He recalled a cheat with white hair, mustachioed black, who slipped aces out his ass and who refused to be named as a cheat, even after the bald-ass appearance of five aces on the table from the other cardplayers' respective measly two-pair hands.

Dewey rose from his stool with a certain determination in mind, leaving Booker T. in the meantime nodding a long day off at the bar, man at his side who, immediately upon Dewey's departure, began spinning through American history like it was a lighthearted little story. He blew in with the American Revolution, a topic which quickly morphed into the Civil War, the federal prison down South Side Chicago for captured Confederate soldiers that was so violently rundown.... Booker T. drew in his lips and ordered yet another Scotch, pondered the prospect of a name change and figured he'd go with Maynard Jackson, Atlanta's first black mayor, or Harold. Harold Washington, only a minor change there, which his own conscience could likely justify. But when the man got up to the sixties and desegregation of the schools, Booker T. could take no more, turned to him and proffered his hand, introduced himself as Marcus Garvey. The man only smiled back, took Booker T.'s hand in his own and said, 'George. George Wallace. Nice to meet you. I live over in Romeoville, if it happens you're interested...'.


Dewey circled the boys at the card table slowly, thumbs stuck in his beltloops for effect, before pulling up a chair next to the whitehaired old man whom he recognized, without doubt. 'Mind if I sit in on a few,' he said. The crowd did not respond. He watched five players fold in succession to the outrageous $200, crisp-billed raise the white-haired bastard then laid down. Only another guy nearly as old as the whitehaired one had the gall to see him, then promptly call the hand. Dewey pegged him for a newcomer, which he was. The whitehaired man threw down a full house, three aces and two 10-cards. Two of the aces were of hearts. 'This old man's a fluke,' Dewey said. 'You boys know that don't you?' The table remained silent, but for the old newcomer who took the moment to very deliberately point out the fact of the cheat's two aces of hearts. A few men reached under the table and made like to hitch their pants. 'No need to pull the guns now,' Dewey said. 'My man Booker T. Washington's got the drop on the lot of you anyway.' Dewey nodded toward the bar and the men's heads turned slowly across the room, where sat poised on his stool under a hanging light the big trenchcoated black man, pistols drawn and trained on the shadowy figures at the table. Dewey stood, stepped wide around the outer edge of the table, and motioned Booker T. closer.

'Now,' Dewey said, Booker standing, pistols aimed, at his left, 'I figure I'm owed something.' The men darted suspicious glances around the table at one another. 'You,' Dewey pointed out the old whitehaired cheat. A groan issued forth from the men as he stood. 'They're not so quick to upbraid you, now, are they?' Dewey said. A younger sort with his back to Booker's pair of pistols went quick for his own. Booker T. plugged a shot from the righthand gun to the back of the man's neck before he even turned, the bullet's exit splattering the remainder of the boys with gummy bits of trachea.

'Well maybe they are,' Dewey said, 'but you'll play hell getting around Booker T. here.' No one moved. There was a clatter of glasses back by the bar, prompting Booker to yell, 'George, you there?' 'Yeh,' came the reply. The freckled, mustachioed Mr. Wallace was halfway to the door. 'You stay where you are and you will be just fine, okay?' Booker said.

Dewey reiterated Booker's sentiment, hitched his pants, and turned back to the table. The bartender announced that he had called the cops. Dewey ignored him. 'Yes I figure I'm owed something,' Dewey said to the whitehaired man. 'I figured it as the interest of what you stole from me in five years is equal now to at least double what it was. That'd be two wallets packed three hundred strong, two cap pistols, and two nooses, one of which I figure I could use to string you up like you deserve, cheating these boys.'

The man simply nodded.

'Can you produce them?' Dewey said. 'The originals, minus the interest, will be just fine, despite what I'm owed.' The man nodded again, and Booker and Dewey led him out to the Corvette, tied his hands and squeezed his bulbous butt into the rear. Dewey laid the Winchester in his lap as he drove, the old man leading them to a warehouse in a Chicago West-Side ghetto; the exchange was made, and they packed him in again, drove down to 35th and State and gave him over to a crowd of teenage boys. It was a Friday night so Booker and Dewey figured they'd made the boys' day.


Afterward, Dewey strung the noose from the old basketball hoop in his backyard, fired high shots with his cap pistol, days on end. He missed his mother and Brenda and even Booker T., when the two weren't meeting to plan the next item of business. He got bored with SHOOT THE HORSE FROM UNDER THE HANGED HORSE-THIEF, quickly. He got fat, figuring his mother's genes didn't help at all.

Booker T. Washington was caught. They tried him for the slaying of one Maynard Caldwell, of Joliet. He would've been sentenced and probably killed outright by a mob had it not been for Dewey. Dewey was fed up with being fat and lazy, likewise of having been protected divinely by Booker's silence regarding his identity and connection to the matter.

The jury was out only time enough for you to smoke a cigarette, if you wanted. When they were about to issue the verdict, Dewey oozed fat and flatulent into the courtroom with the Winchester raised high and trained on the judge. He waddled, farting, toward the bench up the middle aisle, shotgun raised to the gasping awe of the large crowd on hand, the masses either side of him shrinking back from his figure in waves as he crept forward. 'I wish to die for this man,' he proclaimed. The judge quivered, the barrel of Dewey's Winchester now a simple foot from the old man's nose. The judge then attempted a shrug to the bailiff, which came off more like a seizure. Dewey farted. The bailiff didn't know what the hell to do, so he dropped his gunbelt to the floor and ran screaming from the courtroom. 'Okay then,' the judge said.

'My father didn't teach me shit,' Dewey said. 'I am tired and fat and lazy, and I want to die. And if he did teach me anything, he taught me that human life has a clear value.' He delivered the words down the Winchester's long barrel, directly to the judge, who shook his head like he didn't understand. 'He's a claims adjuster,' Dewey said, 'Casualty claims. So that he don't get a thing for my life, I wish to be hanged, to die honorably. And I want you to pronounce it, in exchange for Booker T. here's freedom. It'll go like so: we sentence Mr. Dewey Dilbert, of Joliet, IL, me, to be hanged by the neck till he be dead, dead...'. The hall filled with the sound of cannon fire; Dewey fell. The crowd gasped and wheeled around to catch sight of the city Sheriff standing back by the entrance to the courtroom, smiling and blowing the tip of his pistol. The Sheriff tipped his hat and the crowd exploded. Though the judge didn't look pleased. He reminded the Sheriff that he was in a court of law, and best lay his hat by the way like all the others, out of respect. When the Judge was finished he passed out cold from shock. The Sheriff promptly complied with this request, Dewey's body was removed, the Judge resuscitated, and the trial went on.


Booker got life in prison. Dewey was scattered in a high lake wind over the rodeo ring at Heights. His father sued the city of Joliet for the wrongful death of his son and was compensated the full $100,000-plus value he himself had adjusted. He quit his job, bought a villa on the Mississippi gulf coast and regularly played the Biloxi tables, where he became known as Confederate Yank, scourge of the Southlands. He was good, he won.

Hang Me by My Danged Ears was published in OCT 2001 as part of limited half-installment of THE2NDHAND, part of a new series of longer broadside stories planned for future issues. Writers, if you are interested in publishing your longer work via THE2NDHAND's Broadsides, direct correspondence here: todd@the2ndhand.com.

The publication of this half-installment coincided with a tour of the Midwest and Southeast taken by the author with Jim Munroe, author of Angry Young Spaceman: www.NoMediaKings.org.