All hail the king


Jerry turned over on his back, scratched his neck, reached down and felt his nut sack. No
work Sunday. No having to deal with his fatass boss, Benny. No having to drive around
town in a rusting shitty old pickup delivering spark plugs, fan belts, and rebuilt
alternators. Tonight he’d get a bucket of chicken, rent a movie with Rosie, and sit and eat
and watch the movie and have some laughs.

Sometimes he would really like to brain Benny. With a tire iron. Brain him good.
Especially when he called him ‘Gretchen’ instead of ‘Gretch,’ his real name. And that
idiot laugh of his, the fat man’s laugh sounding like Pavarotti falling down a flight of
stairs. Fat slob. The only time he got his ass up off the chair was to use the toilet or go
waddling next door for big greasy sacks of food.

But enough of that. It’s Sunday morning and he’ll read the paper and see what’s going
on and get himself ready for tonight, for Rosie.

He went to the bathroom, relieved himself, looked in the mirror. He looked like a rubber
chicken. He pulled at his arms, his cheeks, his belly. He pulled in his gut, puffed out his
chest but the result was ludicrous. He wondered what Rosie saw in him.

He pulled back his lips and looked at his teeth and gums and tongue. Turned on the hot
water, let it run a while, rubbed his hands in it. The middle finger of his right hand fell
into the sink. It twitched an involuntary farewell then was still.

“SHIT,” Jerry said, looking at the finger, at the empty place on his hand. It was pink and
moist and raw-looking but didn’t bleed. He sniffed it and it smelled salty like a fresh
wound. He picked the finger up and tried putting it back onto his hand but it was no
good, it wouldn’t stay. That fat fuck Benny wouldn’t give him health insurance; having a
doctor sew it back on would cost a fortune. Maybe some masking tape? Until he could
find something better? He might have some in a tool box he kept in a closet.

Jerry turned to go to the hallway and fell down, knocking over a spindly chair. He
looked down. His left leg ended at the ankle and the foot was a foot behind pointing in a
different direction.

“WHAT THE FUCK?” Jerry said. He blinked, not knowing how he could lose a finger
and a foot. The finger was no longer that important. How was he going to get around on
only one foot? Jerry got scared. What was going to fall off next?

Without thinking too much about it he hobbled over to his dresser, took a pair of briefs
out and sat on the bed while he pulled them on. He’d be damned if his dick fell off and
rolled under the bed or something. At least now the briefs would catch it.

He looked at the ankle that ended in a raw pink stump. He looked over at the foot on the
floor, still pointing into the bedroom. Ridiculous.

There was some kind of commotion outside, a crowd, the sound of vehicles.

Jerry leaned over, picked up the phone, dialed 9-1-1. It rang a couple times and a woman

“Nine one one emergency, how may I assist you?” she said.
“I think I’m having a heart attack!” Jerry said.
“Your address is forty-one-eleven Dakota, Apartment three B, is that correct?” she said.
“Yeah, yeah, forty-one-eleven Dakota, when can you get here?” he said.

A brass band began playing “Stars and Stripes Forever.”

“The paramedics will be there in a few minutes. You’re having chest pains?” she said.
“Yeah, chest pains,” Jerry said.
“I’m sorry, there’s some noise on your end. Can you repeat?” she said.
“Yeah, I’m having chest pains, terrible chest pains, get someone over here before I
fuckin’ die!” he said.
“Please stay on the line with me until the paramedics arrive, okay?” she said.
“Yeah, yeah, that’s fine…” he said.
“Are you having trouble breathing?” she said.
He scratched his left ear nervously. It came off in his hand. He looked at it.
“AAAAAAGH!” he yelled.
“Sir, are you all right?” she said.
“No, I’m not all right! I’m havin’ a fuckin’ heart attack!” he said.

The music outside stopped. A cheer went up. It sounded like it was right by the
apartment. Murmurs in the crowd. Some commotion. He hoped to Christ the ambulance
was there. Some noise downstairs, in the hallway. Someone banging on the door.

“Someone’s here, I’m gonna hang up!” Jerry said into the phone.

Jerry hopped over to the door and opened up. Twenty or thirty people out there. A cop,
some Shriners, a fireman… The cop shouted, “Here he is!” and they all cheered.

“Whaaa…..?” Jerry said, “You don’t… you don’t….”

But it was too late. The cop and a clown hoisted him onto their shoulders and he was
carried rapidly downstairs. Something was wrong… he looked down and his left leg was
gone from the knee down. He didn’t know where it went. He felt ready to puke.

They got downstairs and left the building. When they came out the crowd cheered.

“No…. No…,” Jerry said.
The crowd took up the chant:

They carried him down the block and around the corner. A majorette twirled a baton,
men in kilts played bagpipes. Shriners drove little cars, high school beauty queens waved
from floats.

Someone stumbled. Jerry lurched and his head came off, hitting the pavement with a
painful thud. Nobody noticed. From the pavement he saw them carrying his headless
body away. He got dreamy and floaty from lack of oxygen. A knock from behind sent
him rolling down the gutter like a bowling ball; before his vision went, he came to rest
three inches from a bottle, which said:
“King of Beers.”

John Papiewski is nearing fifty. He lives with his wife and a zooful of animals in a
house in Chicago.

© 2007 Underground Voices