Earle Edgar Nekk, also known to those around him (not close, mind you, but around him, at any rate) by his childhood nickname Red, staggered his way across his darkened bedroom, and opened a can of malt liquor. He managed to raise it to his mouth. It was warm, but because it tasted like old fermented fuzz; it didn’t matter. He swallowed twice before it spilled from his retching mouth and splattered to the floor. He choked and gagged, then turned and tried to set the beer down again. The can dropped to the floor because he had missed the table, and beer foamed out of it. He had a blinding headache from drinking at The Blind Funnel Tavern with his acquaintances until the wee hours that morning. The Funnel was the place where they hung out most every night after their shift at the hunting rifle assembly plant was over. He had known them since before he had dropped out of school in the 10th grade. He knew that he needed a little hair of the dog to clear his head enough to make it into work. Work! What time was it? He must be late! He walked over and groped on his bedside table for the alarm clock; the alarm clock that was supposed to awaken him at 6:00 am. He’d had a little trouble with it after he got home earlier, and dropped it. His eyes seemed to be crossed, and he was having trouble making then focus. At last his searching hand found it, and he pulled it to where he could see the time. His blurry vision slowly came into focus. It was 9:15; he was late! He went to replace the clock on his nightstand and dropped it again. He managed to pick it up and glanced again at the time. Wait just a minute, now the clock said it was 3:45! What? Then he looked at the writing on the clock face. It was right side up. His alcohol-addled brain struggled to make sense of the information, when all at once the truth hit him; the clock had been upside down when he had first read it and it was now 3.45 pm! He had slept clear through most of the day.
He stumbled to his bedroom door, and somehow managed to get dressed; went to the bathroom to brush his teeth and the crap out of his hair, and gazed at the tortured image staring back at him from his full-length mirror. He looked like some Creature from the Black Lagoon. His short reddish-brown hair, despite his attempts to fix it, was sticking straight up in spots, his balding head shone through the tufts of sparse, unruly hair, and the dried food stains that covered his shirt seemed to have a life of their own. He did not make a pretty sight! Then he ran, at least ran as fast as his pounding headache would allow him, and reeled across the street to The Firearm Factory, where he worked. He had purposely rented a one-bedroom house right across the street from both the factory and The Blind Funnel, so as there to be no need of his driving anywhere after getting off work and hitting the tavern. As he spent almost all of his time working or drinking, there was little need for driving. As he slammed open the front door to The Firearm Factory, he heard a voice yell,
“Well, so good of you to join us, Mr. Nekk!” It was the angry voice of his boss, Edward Sheets.
“Eyma sory Mr Shets, Eyea donut knoww wat hapened. Mi alarum fayeled ta wak mi.”
“Well, we tried to call you, but the phone just kept ringing and ringing. It really doesn’t matter why you didn’t answer. Save your pathetic excuses; whatever happened, happened, and we can’t have it. With all of your other problems, we probably should have done this a long time ago; you’re fired!”
“Sheit!” he exclaimed, “Plese Mistar Shets, itt wont hapin agane.”
“You bet you’re ass it won’t happen again, because you’re no longer employed here.”
Earle Edgar looked around his tiny house and felt nothing but cold despair. As he slumped down into the taped-up bean bag chair that served as his only furniture, he thought about his next step. He had been fired from The Firearm Factory, and needed new employment or he wouldn’t be able to pay the rent on this place, and would lose it, too. He had stolen the afternoon newspaper from outside his neighbor’s door, because he himself had little reason to waste his money on them, and opened it to the help wanted section. As he searched through it, he swilled the last of his malt liquor. He had reheated the last of his chicken noodle soup and finished it. Now he had no job, soon he might have no place to live, and was out of food and beer. He could feel the vice of poverty closing on him.
There just had to be something in here. He scanned over the ads with mounting despair. They all wanted at least a high school education, or experience. He had worked at The Firearm Factory since he had dropped out, and no other gun manufacturer was hiring. What was he going to do? To help him pass the time, and to distract himself from the dissolution of the fruitless search through the help wanted ads, he flipped on the television. Some inane sitcom was running. He was paying little attention, when he heard an advertisement,
“My friends, if you elect me sheriff, I promise you I’ll clean up the streets of this town.”
“Yaw, wit an brume maybe!” he muttered to himself. ‘Luk att dis clowen! 'Iff sumbuddy dat luks dat stuped kan cawl himsef an polutiton, den Eyma won to!’ What a joke, politics, he thought.
The laughter filled The Blind Funnel Tavern, located in the beautiful heart of downtown Jimmyville, Alabama. Red (a nickname lovingly bestowed upon him by his parents) Knekk was holding court. “Sew Eye thot too myselfe, ‘Ifn an clowen dat stoopuid kan runn fer hyer ofice, den, dam itt, sew kan Eye.’ Kan yew gis imagen?”
His acquaintances dissolved into red-faced laughter. Earle Edgar laughed too at first, but then he thought of all the money to be made from bribes, and a whole range of devious political activities, and the laughter slowly faded from his face. He desperately needed another job; why not go for it? All he would have to do was make it look like he was working, while on the side he’d be taking bribe money hand-over-fist. He knew he would have no legitimate chance of winning, so the first thing he would have to do is find someone who knew how to rig the election.
At first, when he had announced he was running, his acquaintances all thought he was joking.
“Yeah, right, it’s kind of not funny anymore!” said Herman Plopp.
“Noo, yew giys, Eyem serius; thinc abowt itt. Wat betor wayet ta mak uss sum biggtyme muny? Eyel bee da guvner, an yew gies wil bee mi staf. Toogethar, wee kan rak itt inn.”
They looked at each other, and Larry Dicer said, “Sure, on the surface it sounds good, but Earle, you need a lot of supporters, and aside from us, you don’t have any. You’ll lose badly.”
“Eye kno dat; dats whi Eyema goen ta cheet; Eyma goen ta git sumone whoo knowes howw da voten macheens werk, an fixx dem sew dat Eyel winn.”
Today, he was meeting with Merle Slaw, a computer expert he’d been put in touch with by his acquaintances, a technician who, along with his associates, was going to break into the place where all the voting machines were kept and rig them so that, no matter who the voter had voted for, their vote would be cast for Earle Edgar Nekk. Election day was still weeks away, but Earle Edgar had been assured that once he registered, and was on the ballot, all the machines would be rigged to cast a vote for him. Today, he was meeting with the guy who would make it happen. Just then, a tall, painfully-thin man, swathed in what looked to Earle Edgar to be clothes that a man living under a bridge might wear, came through the door of the coffee house where they had agreed to meet.
“Helo, yew muss bee Meral Slaww. Pleesed too mak yer qunnatance.”
“Yeah, whatever there, man. Do you have my payment?”
Whoa, a real friendly fellow; “Yeaya, I gott yer paymint riet heer,” and he handed the guy a briefcase full of money; counterfeit money, that his acquaintance had printed for him. Yes, it was good to have a network of people with less to no morals surrounding him. “Ther ya goe, 3 milyon dolars, juss lik wee agread.”
“Okay man, my friends and I will rig all the machines by voting day.”
Earle Edgar had used some of the rest of his counterfeit money to register with the State of Alabama to run for governor, and now he was hitting the campaign trail. He needed some more of it to buy several pitchers of beer at The Blind Funnel for all his acquaintances who would make up his campaign staff, because before they left by train to crisscross the state, they were all gathered at The Funnel for a farewell party.
“Mi frends, tuday wee leeve forr wat wee awl hopee iz an suksesful capane too git mi elekted guvner!” He paused while he took a few gulps of his beer, which he had poured himself from one of the many pitchers on each table. “Eye juss wanto tel yual Eye culdnt of mountid dis campane wi—holi sheit, takel dat basterd!” He was yelling at the big screen television in the corner of the tavern, which was showing the football game. “Awa, tuchowen. Wel, dis gam iz ovor. Dam! Noww ware wuz Eye? O yez, Eye culdnt hav mountid dis campane witoutt yer helpp, sew tank yew! Noww, drinc upp, beecaus tomorow wee awl ar goen too hav too bee sobur ass an juge too meat ann grete da peeple. Amembor, wee nede ta mak itt luk gud, otterwize da athoretees wil becume suspectin, an luuk inta dis elektion, ann wee kant hav dat. Sew injoy tonit an bee redy too bee awl smils tumorow.”
They were abound the special train, which had been paid for out of Earle Edgar’s supply of fake money, and were pulling into the first stop of many stops, where Candidate Nekk would be making a short speech before leaving for the next town. The thought of the many speeches he would be making to people who wouldn’t be voting for him anyway depressed him, but he had to at least make it look like he was following the usual pattern for a candidate; he wished he could just sit at The Funnel and drink until election day, but…
The train rolled to a stop on a sidetrack, and the crowd of people, who had been lured there from the tavern where they had been drinking, and who had rounded up all their friends, not out of curiosity, but by the promise of free beer, swarmed around the caboose where Candidate Nekk would give his speech. They expected free beer, and when Earle Edgar emerged and began his speech,
“Frends, Eyes Candedate Earel Edger Nekk, an Eyema runin fer guvn---”
“Shut up clown! Where’s our free beer?” a voice shouted.
“Whoo saed dat?”
No one spoke up, and Earle Edgar, visibly upset, had to be restrained by members of his staff from leaping over the railing, and attempting to find the person responsible for the insult.
“No, Earle Edgar, you can’t be acting like that. You need to be seen as a level-headed guy,” whispered Herman Plopp.
Earle Edgar answered softly, “Yeya, Eyema calmd dowen noww,” and he continued in a louder voice, “Eyes Candedate Earle Edgar Nekk, an eye nede yer vot com ilection dayy.”
The same voice who had called him a clown yelled, “Who gives a shit? Beer!”
This time Earle Edgar had seen the man yelling, and before anyone could stop him, vaulted off the caboose’s platform, and grabbed the heckler by the throat, screaming, “Awl riet, yew heklin basterd, Eyeva hadd abowet enuf ov yer lipen offe!” and he pounded the hapless guy over and over in the face, screaming, “Ya stil tink itts funy, ya pis-pore exguse fer an mann?”
The rest of the audience quickly left, fearing they’d be the next target of this crazy bastard’s rage. Earle Edgar saw them leaving and dropped the bloody, bruised head of the now-unconscious heckler on the pavement, where it struck with a sickening sound.
“Wayet, ware yewal goen?”
The fleeing crowd didn’t even turn around.
“Fyen, bee dat wa, cee iff Eye kare, butt wen Eyma lectid guvner, an mak noo mistak abowet itt, Eye wil bee, Eyema cumen bak too yer pathetik lital towen, an Eyel mak awl yer livs a liven hel!”
Then he stormed back aboard the train and screamed, “Kumon, wats da holddup? Git dis dam trane friken muvin, huhh?”
As the train rolled away from their first stop towards the next, Herman Plopp, who had become his manager by default, said,
“That didn’t go very well; Red, you need to control your anger if you’re to be governor.”
Earle Edgar responded angrily, “Wel, wuz Eye appsed too juss tak da guis sheit?”
“Yes; it doesn’t look good for a candidate for governor to beat the hell out of an ordinary citizen.”
“Wel, dew day wantt dare guvner too bee an pasi? Butt Eyea supos yer rite, Itts juss dat da basterd pisd mi offe.”
As the train pulled into the next town up the line, Candidate Earle Edgar Nekk looked out the window and said, “Luk att dis rejekt towen! Herbart, wats da nam ov dis lusor towen agan?”
Herbert Plopp replied, “Ah, I think this is Carpville.”
“Sheit, itt sur luuks liek an towen fer moor ons!”
“Sir, be nice and don’t let it show that you don’t think much of their town. Remember, we need to make them feel like you really care about them.”
“Thate Eye reeli kare abowt dem, shur.”
He began to talk to the crowd, who’d once again been lured here by the promise of free beer,
“Frens, Eyes Earlal Edger Nekk, an Eyes an candedayt fer Guvner of Alibama. Iff yu cee fitt ta cass ter vot fere mi, Eyell mak sur yuall git 350 dolars!”
There was a whispered oath from Herbert Plopp, who frantically waved him over to where he was standing on the rear platform of the caboose.
“Ah, juss an momint, laydees an gentalmen, mie campane maneger iss waven att mi lik an bich. Eyea ned ta talc wit hym afore Eye ceep talken ta yew. Plese exkuse mi fer an minut.”
Earle Edgar angrily stormed away from the microphone, and shot daggers at Herbert Plopp. “Oaka, Herbart, dis dam wel bettor bee importent!”
“You can’t be promising them 350 dollars to vote for you.”
“Whi da hel nott?”
“Because that’s bribery.”
“Fiyen!” He walked back to the microphone and said, “Wel, Eyea wuz juss informd dat ofuren yew 350 bucs iz ellegal, sew hersa wat Eyll dew. Eyll lowar da emount ta 35 bucs pur famely. Howws dat?”
Again, Herbert Plopp waved for him to come over.
'Awe hel'! Once again he excused himself to the crowd, and stomped his way over to Plop. “Noww wat?”
“Ah, any amount of money is considered a bribe.”
Angrily, Earle Edgar stormed back to the microphone. “Eyesa bein tolde dat Eye kant ofur yew peepal aniting, sew yull juss hav ta tak mi wurd fer itt. Ifn yewal vot fer mie, Eye promst yewall a chiklet inn evary pott!”
There, he had promised them all something without being specific, and in such unique language. Something always popped into his head when he needed to say it in a unique fashion. Then he noticed Plop frantically gesturing to him.
“Oww, fer Krist sak; wat?”
“Ah, sir, that was somebody’s campaign slogan years ago,” Herbert Plopp whispered.
“Bulsheit; Eye juss cam upp withh itt.”
“Sir, the crowd can hear you. You forgot to step away from the microphone.”
“Wat? Wel fer Krists sak, wil sumbuddy ples tern dis bich offe sew da moronns kant heer mi?”
Earle Edgar had decided to cut the whistle-stop tour short. He was tired of kissing the backsides of idiot voters who weren’t going to vote for him just to make it look like his election was above board. He was sitting with his staff, watching a local television reporter reporting on what he was calling the “disastrous” train tour of his campaign. “…and after just two stops, stops in which the candidate managed only to insult everyone, one has to wonder, is this idiot serious?”
Earle Edgar shot off the couch and grabbed a full bottle of beer he had been planning to drink, and hurled it at the television. Instantly, the thing exploded, sending shards of glass and beer everywhere. The shocked staff sat there in silence, checking themselves over for cuts.
“Woo dew dos basterds tink day ar? Ov corse Eyema serius; hel, iff Eye wernt serius, wi wuud Eye puet miselff owt dar ta puwet upp wid dare abueas?”
Everyone appeared to have come through with all their limbs and, although shaken, unscathed. The boss’ temper was becoming dangerous to be around lately. Each of them was terrified of the future. What would he do if he lost?
As the election drew closer, his campaign staffers tiptoed around Earle Edgar like he had the plague. He was getting unbearable. He worried constantly about everything. Why was the press hounding him? Was the rigging of the voting machines, which had been completed, going to go undetected? If so, and he won, was there enough champagne for everyone? He himself hated champagne, and he had a case of beer ready for himself, but all of his supporters would expect it. Had he done enough to make it appear that the election looked legitimate? The more he thought about it, the more he thought he should move his victory party from his campaign headquarters to The Blind Funnel. If everything went according to plan, what better place to celebrate? If it didn’t, what better place to cry into his beer while surrounded by his acquaintances than the place where he was most comfortable? In the end, he decided move the party’s location.
The Blind Funnel Tavern was very noisy, with all of his supporters andcompletestrangers yelling to make themselves heard above the din. Earle Edgar Nekk was straining to hear the election results on thebig screen television. His supporters and the others had gathered at The Funnel to watch the returns. Smoke from cigarettes drifted lazily in blue clouds across the screen. Raucous laughter from revelers filled the air. The Blind Funnel’s owner sat and watched the party atmosphere with glee. He was going to rake it in! Earle Edgar tore his gaze from the screen and looked around at the jam-packed tavern. He didn’t know most of the people packed inside, but they had been gathered by the “Free Beer” signs placed in the window. He had decided he would pay with the last of his fake money for all the beer tonight. He wanted the tavern to be full of his supporters and others for the television news to capture with their cameras. Only the expected television cameras had yet to arrive. Apparently, they were convinced he was a joke of a candidate and decided it wasn’t worth their time to cover him. Well, screw them, they’d soon be sorry!
The announcer cut into the television coverage, and Earle Edgar yelled for quiet.
“…and we can now announce definitively that Earle Edgar Nekk will be, against all odds and logic, the next governor of the State of Alabama!” The announcement of the election results continued, but no one inside The Blind Funnel heard. The place exploded with delirium. Along with his supporters, those who had been lured in by the promise of free beer were also looped that they, too, and were caught up in the excitement. Everyone was slapping Earle Edgar on the back in congratulations; so much and so hard that he couldn’t catch his breath, and soon slumped to the floor unconscious. The people were all celebrating so much that at first no one noticed his body on the floor. Then at last someone did, and hauled him up to a sitting position.
“Hey Earle Edgar, you okay?”
He sat there unmoving, propped against the bar, and didn’t stir. When at last someone came up with the brilliant idea that he might be severely injured and maybe they had better call the fire department, Earle Edgar stirred.
The gathered crowd gave a sigh of relief, then someone answered: “You passed out!”
“Owa, knoww Eye amembor. Eyema da nu guvner, an yew basterds beet da liven sheit owt ov mi, sew Eyea culd nott katch mi breth.”
“Sorry man, we were too excited I guess,” someone replied.
“Ow dat iz alrite. Yew probly diddnt meen itt. Eye gues itts kinde ov exiten fer yewall two.”
The champagne was brought out that Earle had given to The Funnel’s owner for the victory toast. He was a little pissed that he’d had to give the owner another thousand bucks to look the other way, but then it wasn’t real money. Everyone had grabbed a glass, except Earle Edgar of course, as he was drinking yet another beer, and he signaled for quiet.
“Mi frens, Eyea koud nott hav dun itt witowt yew!” Inside he was thinking he’d sure like to have tried. “Noww dat Eyema da guvner, Eyel mak sur yewal git a pece ov da pi! Hears ta fore, an hopfuly ate, mor yers ov mi leedarship!”
Everyone cheered and took a drink from their champagne while Earle Edgar hoisted his beer and guzzled until it was empty.