A Ramblin' Gamblin' Willie story by Greg Swann
He was sucking on a quart bottle of Colt 45 and wolfing down Doritos, but he wasn't an ordinary drunk.
This is a tip. I don't recommend talking to crazy people at all, but if you do as I do and not as I say, it's a good time to beat it when a crazy person starts talking about his sex organ.
"That's who we are, Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia, and y'all think we're just another sitcom, Bubba and the Blonde. And the best joke of all is, she ain't no more blonde than I'm honest!"
"You know, I don't get it. People can be so hard to figure. They'll let
you slide and let you slide and let you slide, and then out of nowhere
they get all worked up over nothin'. I mean--hey!--it's not like this
is the first time I took money from a commie dictatorship."
The Bubba-in-Chief said that. I didn't make up the name, he did. I found him sitting on a curbstone in front of a convenience store near The Mall in Our Nation's Capital. He was sucking on a quart bottle of Colt 45 and wolfing down Doritos, but he wasn't an ordinary drunk. For one thing he was recently bathed. Not fastidiously clean, mind you, but without that layer of ground-in grime that forms the armor of the streets. For another he was wearing a pink chenille bathrobe, embroidered with the initials 'HRC', that he must have snatched from a laundromat. For another he had no shoes, just starchy white tube socks. Do you know what that means? He'd escaped from a hospital, probably. Maybe a real hospital, but more likely a detox center or a mental home.
As if to confirm my suspicions, he stretched his arms high over his head and said, "Man! It sure is good to sneak out ever' once in a while! I might be the Bubba-in-Chief pullin' the strings, but I'm just as much a puppet in that fancy dress-up show." I had a hard time picturing him in a fancy dress-up show. His Bubbaness carried an ungainly amount of fat on his body, endless expanses of gray flab that looked like something the federal government hands out for free in poor neighborhoods. He had a bouffant pile of gray hair, and from his fat to his hair to his demeanor to his diet to his wardrobe he looked like nothing so much as the Zombie of the Undead Elvis. He even sounded like Elvis if you can imagine The King belching around beer and corn chips--and I'm sure you can.
"You wanna know the truth? I envy the folks that can live like this ever' day. I truly do. 'Course, they gotta be lookin' over their shoulders all the time to make sure my wife ain't runnin' 'em down. Face a tax audit if they say so much as one word about it. But at least they ain't gotta live with her, flamin' rage all day and freezin' rage all night. Chuckin' one body after the next off the train, coverin' her own big ass as much as mine. A man with a conscience might begin to feel bad about it." He looked at me for a moment to see how much of this I was buying, then a sly grin spread across his face. "But I ain't never been a man with a conscience."
I said nothing, which is the perfect bait for bullshitters.
"Now we gotta plant the Tree Hugger. Can you imagine that? Can you just picture that? A man spends his whole life accumulatin' power, but it ain't never quite enough. He's got to fall on his sword even if I have to give him a little shove. I like to sing to him, I do. You know what I like to sing?"
I said nothing.
"I like to sing like this: 'Ron Brown's body lies a-molderin' in the grave'! There's worse places than the penitentiary, and that's a fact. I say the same thing to that ol' Granny Goodlaces lookin' over my shoulder all the time. I tell her, 'Don't you go walkin' down in Fort Marcy Park. And if you do, don't leave no footprints. And if you should happen to shoot yourself down there, don't leave no blood behind to confuse the press.' I'm just sayin' that to be her friend, you understand. Because when Bubba's your friend, he's your friend 'til the day you die." He chuckled. It might have redeemed him somewhat to say he cackled, but he didn't.
"Same deal for ever'body. We'll smear you and slime you, and if that don't work--" he slashed his own throat with an index finger "--Arkancide. And behind me a chorus of brayin' jackasses to say it's all a coincidence that people die just before they're about to testify. When them old mafia dons pulled stunts like that, they didn't fool nobody. But we got a whole different kind of fool in Washington today, don't we?"
He took a long pull on his bottle and watched the cars whizzing past us. "Can't shake loose of that ol' gal from Little Rock, though. She was a sweet little number--unlike what I got at home. Big ol' hair and pouty little lips. Couldn't conjugate a verb to save her life, but who'd want her to? Now she's gone and told the whole world about the distinguishing mark on my private parts. You know what it is?"
This is a tip. I don't recommend talking to crazy people at all, but if you do as I do and not as I say, it's a good time to beat it when a crazy person starts talking about his sex organ. Certain topics of conversation should arise--no pun intended--only among those with whom you are completely familiar. I didn't heed my own advice, of course, but you should.
"I got me a tattoo, that's what. Right on the end, right above where I smile, you might say."
I winced despite myself, the involuntary grimace of masculine solidarity.
"Boy, you ain't got no idea what a bruise is until you had a tattoo put on in that particular spot. I got me some Polaroids of the swelling, I'll tell you. Prob'ly I should get it taken off, but I can't bear that pain a second time. So now that ol' gal is gonna tell the whole world what I got tattooed on my private parts..."
Bullshitter bait cast back my way. No takers.
"Aw hell, ain't you gonna ask? I'll give you a little hint. Book of Revelations, onliest book of the Bible I ever liked. Chapter 13, very last verse. You know that one?"
"You just watch. One day before long you're gonna pick up the Washington Post, and on the front page they're gonna have a picture of my private parts. And when you see that tattoo, you'll know I was tellin' you true."
A new high water mark for megalomania, imagining that your penis is front page news...
"I tell you, boy, I been all over the world, and there ain't no place like this 'un. Only in America. Can a moron get the job? Hell, yes. A bastard son of a wife-beater? You betcha. A coke-snortin' draft-dodger? Surely can. A lyin', slimin', cheatin', stealin', murderin', two-timin' low-life? Why the hell not?"
I didn't want to say anything, but I was hopelessly lost. "I have no idea what you're talking about."
"I'm talkin' about America, boy! Who better to run this country than the worst of the worst? Not some small-time grafter. Not some greasy mafioso. Hell, no! We got a man who likes to make believe he's the anti-christ, and he's married to a woman who likes to pretend she's Morgana le Fay or Madame LaFarge or Lady Macbeth or Lucrezia Borgia. That's who we are, Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia, and y'all think we're just another sitcom, Bubba and the Blonde. And the best joke of all is, she ain't no more blonde than I'm honest!"
That was a real knee-slapper, judging by the way he pounded the flab on his thigh.
"Bubba Borgia, that's me. They say if you can fake sincerity, you can fake anything. I did 'em one better. I can fake insincerity, and I can get all the press and half the country to swear I'm as pure as cherry blossoms. I told that ol' gal to kiss it. She wasn't the first and she wasn't the last. Anybody else'd be in prison ten times over for what I done. But all I gotta do is say, 'Kiss it'. That's my little joke on ever'body, now ain't it?"