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Rod P. Radford

Date of Birth: 7/7/71
Location: Syracuse, NY
Previous Publications: The Salamander


The name’s Bill Roman. About four years ago, I won two $200 playing cow chip bingo at my in-laws’ Baptist church in Northern Maine. Ever since then, everybody stopped calling me Bill and starting calling me Dungs. This is my story.

It begins as I come home from work, on what I think was a Wednesday, at my usual time (circa 5:30 PM), through my usual door (the back one). I was about to usher my usual yell (hello) when I noticed all sorts of teeny-weeny tools all over my off-white linoleum kitchen floor. I remember seeing a hammer that would have made Tom Thumb squint, a table saw that only a Lilliputian surgeon could have used to cut a toothpick, and a jackhammer about the size of one of my multivitamins, which I try to take every morning because my mother says that the flavanoids or anti-oxy something or whatever are good for me. I think that I mainly need potassium (K) because I have these deep circles under my eyes but I hate bananas, and orange juice gives me heartburn. Scattered throughout this hodgepodge were mini little cans of Miller High Life. Immediately, I raced to one brilliant thought, and my mind started speaking to me in its typical high prose: "What the hell is going on…what are these things, these little things. I don’t understand. Maybe she’ll kn-"

"Honey?!?" A voice, my wife, who has the remarkable talent for knowing, always, exactly what is spinning around in my complex mind. She has figured me out entirely…mapped out every corner of my being. I am her New World and she is my Amerigo Vesp-

"Honey? Is that you? Honey?" again, but this time in a slightly higher pitch.

I looked up and around. The voice was inside, outside, bouncing round the room.

A few moments passed and a thousand magnificent ideas swirled in my mind.

"Uh…yeah." I replied.

"Honey, you’d better go to the hardware store… I think we’ve got carpenter ants."

I looked down, stunned at the small tools. I could feel some odd kind of dread, one mixed with a fear and topped with some abstract ability to trigger my memory into immediate action and my body to a halt. I recalled my three-week war with the carpenter bees last summer - undulating rises and falls and battles that nearly cost me my life. One day I was confident, striding across my driveway - the next paralyzed by fear and then moved by despair. They brought me to all the extremes I was capable of and then tried to push me beyond. Most of my energy went to those bees. The carcasses piled up on the driveway, slowly at first, then…seventeen at one point, dropping from their nest in the rotting wood of my landlord’s garage under the pressure of my super duper guaranteed to kill bee spray. It was supposed to be a blowout. It was supposed to be easy. Slowly, steadily, the bees battled back from sure defeat. They began strategic attacks at my wife’s tanned, half-naked body as she lay, soaking in some sun on a Sunday afternoon. They bore new holes into the lip of the garage, free from my spray. They ambushed all travelers in and out of the garage. For awhile, it looked as if we may have to close down the car-hold entirely and run our risks with the hoodlum-car-window-smashers-in-the-middle-of-the-nighters. Then, as they began to get the upper hand, the parties and loud music began. Seems carpenter bees work hard and play hard, as a group.

Puddles of bee vomit; bees passed out with little bottles of Wild Turkey in their hands; drunken, tired bees having sex; bees pissing all over; bees holding each other singing "I’m Getting Married in the Morning" (God, they loved that song…every single day…day in, day out). From sundown to sunup, they drank and sang and pissed and sexed and puked until their little bodies exhausted themselves. These were the things that faced my wife; my sweet, innocent wife every morning as she tried to get to the garage to start her car and go to work. I couldn’t let it happen. In my single days perhaps, I would have adopted a "live and let live", laissez-faire kind of foreign policy and, who knows, I might have even joined them. But now, no way, not now…I was married and married guys don’t let bees get drunk and sing and piss around their wives. So that was it. There was no alternative. Our two cultures clashed and sure enough we went to war. I did eventually prevail, but only after a long and exhausting war where casualties piled up on both sides. I squashed two of my wife’s fresh, young tomato plants, hot prospects for our dinner table, at one particular retreat. I bruised my shin. I got bee stuff in my eyes. I nearly lost my sight. Yes, I won, but the cost of freedom…

Much like Earl Weaver, I stuck with a relatively simple strategy and never ever bunted. Every evening at dusk, I would creep to their nest, buried somewhere deep within the wood of my garage, when they were all home getting ready for their nightly debauchery. Soft as the rain, I would float towards the garage and then WHAMMO! I would coat every exit and entrance port with my chemical weapons and watch those suckers fall dead to the pavement. Then, I would play a little cat and mouse game with those who did make-

"Honey?!?" the voice said again.

"Honey? Are you still here or did you go?"

"I’m here…I’ll, uh, I’ll go now."

And I was off again, whether I liked it or not, to fulfill my duty, to fight another war.


I hopped back into my blue Dodge Caravan with wood-grain on the sides and drove straight to Hank and Sons’ Hardware, one of the last stores that didn’t need a directory and departmental heads and gigantic, glowing, 24 hour letters in front of it like those other hardware/department/grocery/pharmacy stores that that guy from Texas or somewhere invented. Hank was grumpy 50% of the time, friendly 20% of the time, and spent the other 30% completely apathetic. He never used my name or wore a name tag, and all kinds of guys, either very fat and sweaty or very thin and wormy, were always hanging around by Hank and his cash register, talking about mechanical stuff and staring out the window into the busy street, getting fatter or thinner with each minute, bored out of their own personalities. The thin guys always wore black concert shirts and bandanas over their hats that were turned backward, mesh side front. The fat guys always wore V-necked white/yellow tee shirts and sweat pants with docksider type shoes with the sides worn way way way down. A sign hung out front: "We Buy Old Guns/Swords/Knives/Weapons of Any Kind".

I had a theory that Hank was in some kind of militia thingy with some kind of a McVeigh/Waco slant on it. He was always bitching about everybody that wasn’t in his store and always beginning and ending his sentences with "The reason this country’s so messed up is…" He closed at 5:00 p.m. everyday and for every holiday, except for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. He’d scowl at you if you walked in at 4:55. I don’t know if he was married and or if any of those Laurel and Hardy guys were his sons or if he even had any sons, but when I reasoned quietly to myself in the silent still hours of the night, I figured he must be married and probably unhappily. This was the one assumption that I then based my whole Hankian theory upon. Hank seemed like the kind of guy that would only have sons if he was married and then if he got married would never ever divorce his wife even if they were tremendously miserable together. Hank would stick it out. As I fiddled with different sized toggle bolts once, I heard him, leaning on a new bird feeder display, rail angrily against the fact that nobody in this country sticks with anything anymore. I figured that that must have been the main reason Hank was so ornery all the time…nobody stuck with the stuff he forced himself to stick with. Everybody else had all the fun.

Whatever Hank’s views, he had been a trusted ally in my war with the bees and seemed a logical choice for my next war. As I stepped from the van, I noticed a group of short, fat women pacing in front of my ally’s store. They seemed to be carrying signs and singing. My mind instantly leapt from conclusion to conclusion, each growing dumber and dumber, as I pounced all over this sudden break in my normal life: "Was it some kind of convention? Did Hank’s wife divorce him? Was my ally really not such a nice guy? Maybe he had daughters and these were they. Some kind of special sale? Maybe it was on ant stuff. Those carpenters were pretty damn big. A sale would be grr-"

"Hey Pal of mine, my dear friend.

Are things with your lady on the mend?

I heard about your big, bad fight.

I had one myself the other night.

You better not go over to Hank’s store.

I think they caught him with a …prostitute."

My friend Chip was heading towards me and trying to rhyme. He was a thin guy who jogged all the time. His face was weather beaten, sculptured, and handsome. He liked sailing. He worked for one of those businesses downtown that never quite seemed to reveal exactly what they did. It had some name like Netsar or Nextar or something "tar" or something "sar" and I think it had something to do with some kind of computer thing but I was never sure. He always wore bright colored Gore-Tex jackets and tee shirts plastered with races he’d run. He wore expensive sunglasses with a strap on them so that when he was inside, he could hang them around his tanned neck. He talked rather slowly and made obvious efforts to pronounce every syllable of every word. I had never heard him make a funny joke in the four years that I’d known him. He also owned two golden retrievers named Molly and Megan or Casey and Reilly or something like that. He had been to Ireland and had one of those stickers on the back of his car that told everyone driving behind him that he was of Irish ancestry. He met his wife, whose name was also Megan, I think, at an Indigo Girls concert while they were both at The University of Rochester and they hiked and camped a lot before they got married. She was a grammar school teacher at some suburban school. They bought a house together before they were married but didn’t live in it until afterwards. Nobody I knew could afford more than one plate of "The Fitzgerald Collection" china pattern they picked out. They waited five years to have any kids and then had two in a hurry. He drove a forest green Eddie Bauer or Gap or Old Navy edition Ford Explorer type car. He only drank beers I had never heard of.

"Hey Chip, I’m going to see Hank. I’ve got a war on. The ants…carpenters…just attacked today."

"Bummer. I’ve never had them."

"What’s up with Hank’s over there anyway?"

"A women’s group is protesting at all local hardware stores. It’s in this morning’s paper."

"Protesting against what?"

"The unfairness of the male-centered hardware store…Megan might be coming down later to help out, you know, passing out lemonade and getting signatures."

"What do they want to do... close him down?"

"I dunno… gonna hit the lake tomorrow… taking the kids… it's gonna be a great day for a sail… winds out of the west... oughta be a good chop… some knots and salt and fathoms and other stuff going on out there… you and the lady wanna come along?… sea air’s good for what ails you."

The only things ailing me now were Chip’s new "Run for Life" tee shirt, displaying some charity race for HIV, the ants that were, at this very moment, remodeling my house into some kind of insect night club, and the vague notion, which was always gnawing at me, that I needed to go see a chiropractor.

"What was that about a prostitute?"

"Oh…something about one of those women going in there and not being treated right by Hank."

"What women…a prostitute?"

"No, one of those women from the group over there."

"So, what about a prostitute?"

"Nothing, I guess. But they are speculating that Hank has probably been with one before. I guess they’re trying to build a case against him."

"Well, I gotta get some ant stuff. They’re tough. I don’t want a repeat of last year."

"You sure you and the lady won’t join us? Come on. What’d ya say? What the hell else are you going to do? Sit around the house, get high and watch the tube? Come on and cut loose with us."

"Alright. Sounds good. I’ll call you when I get home."


I was lying. I always lied to Chip. I wouldn’t have to lie, but every time I saw him, he was always trying to set something up for us to do. He always made me feel like I did nothing and that I was a complete bore. One weekend, he’s heading off to whitewater raft, the next he’s hiking up some mountain because the fall colors are "at peak", the next, he’s going to see a Yankees game. He doesn’t even like the Yankees. He describes Bernie Williams as "the centerfielder there, what’s his name". He also loved blues music and played the guitar, but he’d never really been sad for all I could tell. His life had always done whatever he told it to do. One time, I asked him if he knew any Muddy Waters and he went on a 10-minute spiel about the Black River in the springtime and white water rafting.

"Listen I gotta get in to see Hank. I’ll call you. I promise."

"Okay. Good luck buddy. Watch out for those feminist dykes."

I laughed because I didn’t know what the hell he was talking about. I was simply glad to be on my way and told him again that I would call him later.

"Okay. I’ll be there. Better yet, I’ve gotta get a slip for my nautiknot thingamajig on the boat. I’ll go with you. Then, we can both head back to my place. I’ll show you the boat. I picked up this great new microbrew at Heller’s - cherry apple pumpkinseed bock - the stuff is great."

He slammed the door of his mega-family mobile, large enough to completely demolish any Hyundai that dared to get in its way and solid enough to drive over and through a recently bombed out government building, all with GAP painted on the door.

"Great," I mumbled, "that’d be great."

Normally, I would have dodged any outing with Chip by belting out about six thousand excuses, all with multiple parts and back up plans, interchanging connections, and a maze so thick and lush that only the bravest could sniff through it, but, if I may be frank, the little, short, fat women all dressed in purple were now holding hands, standing in a circle, singing Kumbaya, and swaying back and forth like the hoos in hooville. I was afraid of them. I needed Chip to get by them. I made sure that I was talking to him as we approached their camp. They stopped singing and started yelling when we got about 20 feet away.

Their little eyes darted back and forth in their sockets and their pale cheeks turned red and their little, chubby fingers pointed at me and their mouths said really mean things. One called me a phallus patriarchal something or other. When her mouth said it, a ball of spit leapt from it and hit Chip’s forehead and her glasses bounced up and down as her face shook.

Chip wiped his face.

"Dale," he said, "relax. He’s got ant problems."

Like she had just been awaken by a fire drill, her face came out of her anger trance and assumed a normal appearance.

"Oh…hi Chip. Is Megan coming down later?"

"Yessiree Bob."

"You’re a good husband Chip." She turned back to the rest of her short group, all poised behind her like pissed off cats. "They’re alright. They’re with us."

Chip grabbed the brim of his fly - fishing hat.

"Thanks guys."

I noticed one of the little women held a white and purple sign that read:



Seeing that we were okay, the short fat purple women went back to their circle.

I was behind Chip as we entered the store.

"What the hell," I asked him, "do they mean by NO. NO MORES!?"

He took his Sunglass Hut sunglasses off and let them fall softly onto his chest, rescued by the deep brown band around his neck as we crossed the threshold into Hank’s place.

"No," he said, "not mores. I think they just mean mores because it rhymes with whores."

My brain started its careful analysis of external data again, turning over every rock in a focused, amazing attempt to understand the world around it. Is mores even a word? Or did they mean mores? Mores would have made sense but you’d think that they wouldn’t want any more mores because they wanted social change and acceptance and all that stuff and Hank was probably a guy that liked the mores now more anyway. I don’t know if they did mean mores although it did rhyme with whores but I don’t think that it’s a word. It’s already plural. It’s more. You can’t have more more. You can’t say cardss or antss. I don’t know if Chip was right about this thing. I should have been a copy editor and worked for Scribner or some big company or a newspaper in Key West or Washington, D.C. like Mark Twain. What the hell am I doing working at an insurance company, analyzing how people fell on the ice and trying to find out who’s at fault it? But I’m not a career-type guy anyway. I’m a family-type guy. People with careers that they love always spend way too much time talking and thinking about work. It's work. Go do it. Then have fun. People that actually have careers instead of jobs take themselves way too seriously. Like Chip. He’s got a career. Now this microbrew come see my boat issue. Now that I’m in here, how the hell am I going to get out of drinking some Kool-Aid special hops malt thing and listening to how things are down at Norcomm or Nexpute or wherever the hell he works and his special Old Navy Eddie Bauer sailboat. Its beer and its work and its a goddamn boat. Shut up about it. Why am I such a chicken shit? I just can’t say what I mean. I can’t take a stand on anything. I mean, why can’t I just say what I mean? I don’t really care if Chip likes -

"Oh," Chip said, "they’ve got those new Gore-Tex bones for Casey and Dublin."

"Dublin," I said aloud, remembering the name.



Hank wasn’t at his usual perch behind the old push button register. No one was. As far as I could tell, the store was completely deserted. No thin guys with Dale Earnhardt or Chad Little hats and old tight jeans with generic untied high top sneakers, smoking Newports. No fat guys itching their greasy hair and using two hands to pull up their elastic banded pants with stains all over the front of them, eating bags of salt and vinegar chips or Hostess Cupcakes, licking their fat, dirty fingers afterwards only to put their hands back in the chip bag, and talking about how nothing really does beat a John Deere and about how the Japs are going to put us out of business and how NAFTA is ruining this country.

I grabbed the bug spray.

"BUGINATOR" was painted across the front of its black can in yellow old superhero comic block letters with the trails behind them. There were three dead bugs on their backs. Their little eyes were "x" s. They were the same color yellow as the letters. Under the bugs it read "DIE BUGS DIE" in yellow.

That was it. No little writing on the back. No warnings from that overprotective mother Surgeon General about using it inside or in well-ventilated areas. No directions for use. No numbers for customer complaints or problems. No addresses or little trademark symbols. No nothing. Just black. Hard core, bootleg bug spray.

Hank was the only guy that carried BUGINATOR. I once asked a guy at Wal-Mart, with some button pinned on his red polo shirt with Wal-Mart on the corner that displayed his name, title, and how long he had worked there, about the stuff. He ran from me mumbling something about The Clean Air Act and Ronald Reagan. Must have been a movie he saw.

BUGINATOR. I didn’t really get the name. I guess it could have come from sandwiching bug and incinerator or eliminator or disintegrator. It just didn’t make much sense. All I really knew about it was that Hank said it worked and it did.

I grabbed four cans.

Chip was still in front of the Gore - Tex dog bones, tossing one up and down softly in his right hand while reading a display sign whose title was printed in white letters against a red background. It read: "TIRED OF ROVER DUMPING HIS WET BONES ON YOUR NEW FLOORS?" There was a cartoon picture of a hound type dog with a rawhide bone in his mouth and puddles of drool at his feet. He was wagging his tail. It then went on to list a bunch of health reasons and explained how Gore-Tex (with one of those little TM signs next to it) was actually better for dog’s teeth and gave them a shiny coat and helped them fight off worms.

"Boy," he said, "I bet Casey and Dublin would love these."

"Where the hell is Hank?" I said, dropping my four cans on the counter, "Hank!? Wooooohoooo?! HAAAAAAANNNNKK!"

Chip was now chewing on the bone.

"Why, they really do taste like fish."

I walked to the back of the store, checking every tiny aisle for any sign of Hank. In the rear, by the plumbing supplies, I let out another "woooohoooo?!"

"Psssssssssst," a noise said, "pssssssssst…over here…in the wall."

Out of a tiny slit in the white wall peered a couple of large, hyperactive eyes.

"You," they whispered, "you alone in here?"

"Yeah. Well, I mean … kinda. I got this other guy. He probably won’t buy anything, although he might want some of those new waterproof dog bones. I just got ants and I gotta get some of that bug stuff like I used on the bees last time. If it’s not cool now, I can come ---"

"Go over by the toilets."

And the slit snapped shut. I went to the toilets. The door opened and the eyes whispered for me to "get in here." I was afraid, so I did exactly what they said. They shut the door behind me. It was very dark and I couldn’t see them anymore.

"Those feminist dykes still out there?"

I was trying to determine just what the hell was going on and I guess I let a few awkward moments pass by without answering which is really unlike me usually. I hate silence. It scares me. The eyes got nervous.

"Well," they said in a stronger voice, "are they or what?"

"Uhhhhh … no. I didn’t see any. I mean, there’s some kiddie pools out there but they don’t have any water in them. I was actually thinking about getting the one with the little dolphins on it. Uh … I didn’t see any dikes at all. I don’t know. I didn’t check the gardening section at all. The ladies outside mentioned something about them. Is that why they’re upset?"

"So they are out there."

The eyes pushed me along a corridor for a few seconds.

"Light it," they said.

And then there was light and three thin guys and two fat guys and Hank. They were all wearing these Davy Crockett type outfits with Indian coats with those hanging suede strips all over them and raccoon hats. They had those high top moccasins on that tied up to their knees. Everything was made out of some kind of animal skin. They were all holding really long guns. One of the guys was loading his. He had a long rod and was shoving it down into the barrel. He looked at Hank.

"Who the hell is this?" he asked.

"He’s," Hank began, "he’s a customer of mine and a loyalist."

The guy with the rod started telling me all about the history of his gun and how it was a Revolutionary War musket and how he got a hold of it and how he got the bayonet on the end in Saudi Arabia when he was there in the Army.

They all asked me about the water channels again and then started talking jovially about the time one of the fat guys shot a deer and had to drag it for 100 yards or something by himself and he was so drunk that he kept falling down and ended up breaking his nose so bad and freezing his fingers so badly that he couldn’t breathe out of the right side of his nostril and had to have his pinky finger chopped off on his left hand. They were all laughing and sticking their rods in their guns. When they laughed the little tails on their hats bobbed up and down and made me want to giggle.

"Hank," I spit out, "I … I … uh just need some of that bug spray stuff that you gave me last time."

"Fine," he said, "but I can’t ring you out. Leave the money at the front."

Then he smiled. It was the first time that I had ever seen him smile and I had been shopping at his store for 10 years. He usually just sat behind the cash register, letting his Pall-Malls slowly burn into the ashtray, mounded with tiny butts, and frowned and complained about the state of the country. Most times, it seemed that it took all of his energy just for him to tell you, in a low, monotonous, gruff voice, just exactly how much you owed him for the two cans of WD40 that you were buying to fix your wife’s car door. He never moved much. Now, he was hopping around, loading his musket, laughing a breathy, throaty, hearty laugh that sounded like air rushing from a full tire. He was talking excitedly and raising his voice about beer and deer and little irrigation ditches. Hank was happy.

One of the thin guys kissed the barrel of his own musket.

"Hey," he said in a whiney voice, nodding his head towards his beloved gun, "a little dyke spray."

They all laughed. I asked Hank to walk me back out and he came back with a "sure, buddy" and put his arm around me. As I walked out the door towards the toilets, he slapped me on the back playfully.

"Hey," he said, "you know what? How long you been comin’ in here? You know what? Just take the bug shit today. It’s on me."

I thanked him. Chip was now standing in front of the dog bone display reading the advertising sign to his wife on his digital phone.

"Yeah," he said, "Gore - Tex. They’re good for their teeth and for worms. I’m gonna get a couple … Okay … Okay … Alright … I’ll tell her … Yup … Okay … Yeah, Gore - Tex … Yup … Okay. I’ll see you soon. Love ya lots wubble. Bye bye."

"You ready Chip?"

Yeah, where’s Hank?"

"Uh… he said its okay."

"What do you mean?"

"The bones … grab a couple … they’re on Hank. I gotta go."

I walked out with my four cans of bug spray. The short, fat, purple women were all drinking some kind of neon tea while one of them read aloud from a book. I walked right by them without looking up. When I reached the van, Chip was still on the sidewalk, talking to the women.

"CHIP," I yelled, "I gotta go!"

He ran over to me with one of those cool-guy, don’t bend your back, hardly lift your feet sort of jogs. He had already put his sunglasses back on his sharp, pointed, tan nose. His Gore - Tex coat sounded like he was wearing a tent.

"You coming over later?" he asked.

"Yeah … listen … Hank is … What do you think about that … uh … situation … who … uh," I itched my neck, "who are those women?"

"Them?" he said "Oh, they’re with the FDA."

"The government?"

"No. No. I don’t think they ever got government funding."

"Huh. But Hank doesn’t even sell food."



"Anyway, I did some work for them a couple months ago - trouble with their LAN and JAVA script. I think they had some syntax … yeah, that’s right … they had some nasty syntax trouble with the server and MS-DOS. Quite a project. I brought them in too. I bring in more accounts than any other unisystems analyst does. I had one of my folks do their letterhead - it took two meetings for us just to make sure we were on the same page. They’ve got a nice, red FDA and then they’ve got Feminist Dykes of America along the bottom and sort of slanted. Real nice stuff. You know, you guys over there oughta look into us. I could strike a deal for you -"

"They dig canals?"



"What are you talking about canals for?"

"Well, I’m just trying to -"

"That’s funny because I’m organizing a canal trip from here to Oswego on The Erie Canal. I want to do it for charity - maybe the FDA or the Vera House or AIDS research. Would your folks over at the company be interested in some kind of sponsorship?"

"Uh … I don’t know," I said, "Hank … errrrr, I mean, Chip, I really gotta go."

"Okay … yeah, let’s do something this weekend!"

"Ummm … I’ll call you."

I drove away.


The next morning, I parked in my usual spot in my parking garage (third spot on right hand side of last wing of the sub-basement) and entered my office from the usual door (Salina Street) and stopped at my usual coffee shop (Christos’ Café) for my usual coffee (medium coffee - Irish Cream - light and sweet) about the usual time (7:45am) and uttered my usual greeting to my cube partners ("Mornin’ fellas") when I spotted the little red voice mail light on my white phone flashing on and off, notifying me that I have a new message. No one ever called me overnight.

I immediately assumed that one of the lazy, give me something for nothing, idiots that had fallen on some ice and snow at one of my insured’s locations had died of cancer overnight and was somehow connecting it to us, exclaiming in angry tones that the ice had been poisoned and full of cancer cells and the fall had given them the opportunity to hop into the injured idiot’s body. This meant I would have to transfer the claim and things would get sticky. I would have to go over everything I did with my boss, talking away, watching him judge every decision I made, every note I input into the file. I dialed into my voice mail and kept thinking. I didn’t like this job anyway. I mean, what the hell was I doing analyzing ice spots and broken ankles? Why was I stuck in this odd world where everyone was falling and blaming me and asking for money and being pissed when they didn’t get it? I’d never get on the cover of Time this way. I oughta be writing or editing or something else. I’d like to be a chef. Just come into work and cook and create and be crazy and drink beer while I work and get dirty and get burned and yell at the bus boys. That was a life for me. Start at noon and finish and 10 at night and then rent a couple flicks and stay up until 3 in the morning and get up about 10 in the morning. That was the life for me. Enough of this suit and tie, get up early and kiss-ass crap for me. I wondered if I still had that chef school application somewhere. I think, somewhere, it was near the fridge by the recipes I got off tele -

"Dungs," Chip’s voice said out of my voice mail, "Dungs, its me…Chip. You wouldn’t believe what the hell happened last night. After you left, I went back to the dykes and started discussing some LAN problems they were having at the FDA and giving them some advice. They’ve really got some bad class system viruses running around that place. You guys oughta have me in there to do a viral search. Anyway, I’m running back to my Yukon to get a brochure on call viruses when I hear these loud firecrackers, or what I thought was firecrackers. Turns out, they weren’t. Anyway, I whip around to see Hank and a bunch of those weird looking guys that are always hanging around the store, all dressed in pioneer outfits, shooting the dykes down. Right there on the sidewalk. Can you get over it? They shot a few of them and then they tried had to reload their muskets. By the time they reloaded them, the dykes had all fled the scene, except for the three dead ones. They were just lying there bleeding. Anyhoo, the cops came and took everybody’s names and statements and arrested most of those guys. Some of them got away in this old gray van. They got me as a witness for the trial already. The D.A. talked to me and all these federal guys were out there too. I got to go down to the Public Safety Building. I’m just getting back now. It’s about 5 in the morning. Anyway, turns out I’m going into that Witness Protection Program for awhile. I’m going to be the star witness at the trial, and I guess Hank was in some big-time militia with like 4000 men in it. They’re like a combo political, religious, men’s group called The Promise Keepin’, Waco Rememberin’, Deer Huntin’, Church Goin’ Mens Group of the Americas. They call themselves PKWRDHCGMGOA for short. I think I might have done a little work for them. I definitely didn’t do their letterhead though. I saw it. The Feds had a letter from them. No flair. Looks like something anyone could do with a 133 Pentium and Office 95. Anyway, so I’m going in the Witness Protection thing and that starts on Monday, so Jen and I want to have you and the lady and the kids over for a little barbecue before then. So, anyway, give me a call. I’ll be around."

And it ended. There was a second message. Voice call received at 5:05 am.

"Dungs," it said, "Chip again. Listen, I didn’t tell them that you were there. I figured with you stealing those illegal cans of bug spray, you didn’t want them to know. Alright, gimme a call. See you this weekend."

And then it ended. I didn’t have to transfer any of my files. There would be no judging boss or chef school. I sipped my coffee and took my lunch out of my gym bag.