Fifteen Weeks of Toilet Gator Sundays

So much gator, so little time…

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Toilet Gator – Chapter 67

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Adult Buford laid on the motel bed and put on his headset. He adjusted the attached microphone, raising it to his lips.

“Skippy,” Buford said. “You got your ears on? Over.”

Silence.

“Skipford J. Dufresne,” Buford said. “I know you can here me, over.”

More silence.

“Fine,” Buford said. “Then I’ll talk, Skippy, and you listen. Look, I get it. You had a good reason to hate Momma. She didn’t realize how kind and sweet and sensitive and intelligent you are. She thought you were just a dumb man eating animal, so she flushed you. And you ate her, so now you’re even. Do you really feel any better about it?”

Silence.

“I was angry about what happened to me on prom night for years,” Buford said. “I thought Sally would be my special lady, that we’d be together forever on account of how neither of us were much to look at, that she was just some kind of evil bitch for choosing Chad’s looks over my brains and I wanted to make everyone pay for hurting me, even Mr. Hogan. But you know how I’ve felt ever since you ate them?”

Silence.

“Worse than ever,” Buford said. “You know Skip, they say a man who goes in search of revenge should dig two graves because, you know, I don’t know, he’s going to get himself killed while he’s in the process of killing whoever done him wrong.”

Silence.

“This is just how life is,” Buford said. “People are mean. People are rude. People are shitty. People hurt each other. It took a gigantic prehistoric sized alligator devouring my enemies to make me realize that I’m not the only person in this world, that my feelings and emotions don’t matter more than anyone else’s.”

Silence for a moment and then….”Raarga.”

“What do you mean I sound like I should get a shrink?” Buford said. “Shit. Momma said that too.”

“Raarga.”

“Skip,” Buford said. “All I’m trying to say is that sometimes we see a bad side of a person and when that’s the only side we see, it’s easy to think there’s no good in that person but there is. There’s good in everyone. Even the worst, most awful people have some good parts about them.”

“Raarga,” Skippy said.

“I thought Sally was a bad person for rejecting me for a man that made fun of her weight,” Skippy said. “But who knows? Maybe that fumble she had with Chad out in the football bleachers gave her the confidence she needed to lose weight and get eye surgery and finish her orthodontia treatments so she could become Countess Cucamonga, who brought joy to the world with her big butt songs.”

“Raarga,” Skippy said.

“It was fake?” Buford said.

“Raarga,” Skippy said.

“Huh,” Buford said. “She lost more weight than I thought then. But see what I mean? She was bad to me but she was good to the world. She donated to charity and visited sick kids in hospitals and made people happy so you know, she didn’t deserve to end up in your belly just because she hurt me.”

“Raarga,” Skippy said.

“I know it was my bright idea,” Buford said. “No one’s blaming you.”

“Raarga,” Skippy said.

“And Chad was a dick,” Buford said. “But then he ended up spending ten years on a two year degree than even I finished in a year and a half so honestly, now that I think about it, I feel sorry for the guy. Maybe he beat me up because he knew right then and there that he had peaked in high school and it was all downhill from there. He was just venting his frustration.”

“Raarga,” Skippy said.

“Yeah, I know,” Buford said. “Mr. Hogan should have helped me but he was getting old and close to retirement. After teaching kids for forty years, he just stopped caring. But is it right to judge him for the one kid he did not help when he helped so many over the years?”

“Raarga,” Skippy said.

“Was it right to eat Momma when she was just worried that one day you’d eat me?” Skippy asked. “Or her shirtless wrassling customers?”

“Raarga, raarga,” Skippy said.

“Yeah,” Buford said. “I know they weren’t really there to wrassle. I put two and two together last year when I rented a film starring Julia Roberts as a prostitute with a heart of gold. But still, Momma let those men do unspeakable things to her so that I could have all the video games and potato chips I wanted and so I don’t think it was fair that you ate her, young man.”

“Raarga,” Skippy said.

“So listen,” Buford said. “It’s time to stop.”

“Raarga?” Skippy said.

“That’s right,” Buford said. “Cold turkey. No more eating humans.”

“Raarga,” Skippy said.

“Hell yeah I understand it’s gonna be hard to get you on the wagon but I’ll be with you every step of the way, buddy,” Buford said.

“Raarga,” Skippy said.

Buford sighed. “Skippy, do you realize what you’ve done?”

“Raarga,” Skippy said.

“You brought the heat down on me,” Buford said. “Sally. Chad. Mr. Hogan. No one would have ever begun thinking about me until you went and ate Momma. By doing that, you got the coppers taking a look at me.”

“Raarga,” Skippy said.

“I know no one told me to go to Momma’s house but I was trying to save her,” Buford said. “And those cops, they grilled me all night.”

“Raarga,” Skippy said.

“Snitches get stitches?” Buford said. “What a way to talk to your best friend.”

“Raarga,” Skippy said.

“Oh whatever,” Buford said. “If you can find anyone willing to befriend a gator the size of a truck then be my guest.”

“Raarga, raarga, raarga,” Skippy said.

“Skippy, here’s the thing,” Buford said. “Daddy got me off the hook. The cops have hit a wall. You relax, stop eating people, and this whole thing will just blow over. We’ll get away with it. Scot free.”

“Raarga,” Skippy said.

“But if you keep eating people,” Buford said. “You’re eventually gonna slip up and lead the police back to us. You need to come to your senses, quit while we’re ahead, and get your ass back here and lie low with me in this sweet ass, slightly busted up motel room while we rent pay per view porno and charge it off on this credit card I stole from Daddy three months ago and he still hasn’t figured it out yet.”

Silence.

“Skippy,” Buford said. “You do realize that if you eat Daddy, that’ll be two victims with a clear, obvious connection to me, right?”

Silence.

“And then it’ll just be a matter of time before even a bunch of dumb cops start asking around and finds out about the prom incident, connecting me to the other victims?” Buford asked.

Silence.

“If you eat Daddy, then that’s it,” Buford said. “Game over. Prison for me and I dunno…alligator prison for you I suppose.

Silence.

Buford sighed and popped open a bag of potato chips. “Kids. They never listen.”

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Toilet Gator – Chapter 66

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Buford picked himself up, limped to the men’s room, and locked himself in an extra roomy handicapped stall. There he stood with his head against the wall, dabbing the various parts of himself that were bleeding with a piece of wadded up toilet paper.

He turned and caught site of the toilet. “Awww, Skippy,” Buford said. “Been a long time, man.”

Buford paced back and forth. “I thought we were gonna keep in touch but then you never came back, boy. I’ve been waiting for so long that I guess I figured, I don’t know…maybe you found a new best friend.”

The young man dabbed some blood off of his cheek. “If you’re out there, Skip, I sure could use a friend right now.”

Buford stared at the toilet for a few minutes and then after realizing the futility of the exercise, he stepped out of the stall and ran the sink faucet.

“Stop being stupid,” Buford said to the reflection of himself in the mirror. “It’s been ten years. The idea that gator would come back now is….”

The sound of a rumbling toilet stopped Buford in his tracks. He stepped back, inching his way toward the door. “Skippy?”

The toilet exploded, sending porcelain shards. The stall walls collapsed and water chugged out of a busted pipe as a wondrous sight appeared before Buford’s eyes.

“Skippy!”

Skippy had grown to an enormous size and weight, practically a dinosaur.

Skippy emitted a fierce roar, then looked at Buford. The beast began to pant like a happy puppy as Buford wrapped his arms around his long lost reptile pile.

“Skippy!” Buford said as he planted kisses all over Skippy’s head. “Where have you been?”

“Raarga!” Skippy said.

“Mexico?” Buford asked.

“Raarga, raarga,” Skippy said.

“Panama?” Buford said.

“Raarga,” Skippy said.

“You’re a man of the world?”

Skippy nodded. “Raarga.”

“Oh Skippy,” Buford said. “I thought I’d lost you forever but now we can be best friends again!”

“Raarga,” Skippy said.

“You can just keep living in the sewer and come visit me,” Buford said.

“Raarga,” Skippy said.

“And I’ll make us a fancy way to talk to each other,” Buford said. “I’ve been getting really good with computers you know.”

“Raarga,” Skippy said.

A fist pounded on the bathroom door. “Buford!” Mr. Hogan shouted. “What are you doing in there?”

“Nothing, sir,” Buford said.

“You better not be masterbating in there,” Mr. Hogan said.

“I’m not sir,” Buford said. “I swear.”

“I got my eye on you, Buford,” Mr. Hogan said through the door. “There’s something about you that tells me you’re no good.”

“OK then sir,” Buford said before mumbling under his breath. “Crusty old bastard.”

Buford looked around the room, taking in the mess his companion had made.

“Damn, boy,” Buford said. “You better get outta here before someone sees you.”

Mr. Hogan knocked on the door again. “Buford!”

Buford looked to an open window. It was small, but he was sure he could squeeze through it.

“And I better get outta here before this gets blamed on me,” Buford said.

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Toilet Gator – Chapter 65

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Ten years later, an eighteen year old Buford was attending the senior prom in the Sitwell High School gymnasium, clad in a hand me down baby blue tuxedo that had once belonged to his father. He was manning the punch bowl because he felt that gave him an actual, legitimate reason to be there.

“Date?” Buford said as he ladled some punch into a glass for Bernice Fuller. She wore a black dress and her hair had been died a fresh coat of pink. “Psssh. Please. I aint got no time for dates, what with me being here, performing a much needed community service by making sure no one here goes thirsty.”

Bernice smiled. “That’s mighty nice of you, Buford.”

“Don’t I know it,” Buford said. “Someone’s gotta set an example for our nation’s youth, what with the Paris Hiltons and Lindsey Lohans of the world getting themselves arrested and all.”

“OK then Buford,” Bernice said as she slinked away. “I have to go be…anywhere but here now.”

“Oh sure, sure,” Buford said. “That’s cool. Go gut a rug. Maybe later when I’m done serving all this punch we’ll boogie down to some T-Pain or some Maroon 5 or something.”

“What?” Bernice said as she tapped her ear. “Sorry! Can’t hear you! Music’s too loud.”

As the sounds of the late 2000s filled the gym, Buford look across the sea of dancing teens to find a young, overweight girl with glasses and braces sobbing alone, up high in the bleachers.

Buford spit into the palm of his hand, used it to wipe down a cow lick, then ladled out two glasses of punch. He took one more look at the young lady, then took a deep breath.

“Just what I need,” Buford said. “Someone as hard up as I am. Thank you, Jesus.”

Buford mustered up all of his courage, marched up the bleachers and handed the girl a cup. She looked up, confused.

“Sorry to bother you, Sally,” Buford said. “But as this social function’s duly designation punch monitor it came to my attention that all this crying you’re doing has most likely left you dehydrated and therefore it is my duty to help you replenish your fluids.”

Sally took the cup and sipped. “It’s good.”

“Made it myself,” Buford said as he took a seat next to Sally. “The key ingredient is extra fruit punch powder.”

Sally laughed and dried her eyes. “OK.”

“Sally,” Buford said. “Might I be so bold as to inquire why you’re up here, looking so forlorn while all the action is down there on the dance floor?”

“I could ask you the same question,” Sally said.

“Oh, you know,” Buford said. “I had many offers to dance but my duties as a punch monitor comes first.”

Sally giggled. Buford was confused by this because he was only being funny on an unintentional level.

“I was making out with Chad Becker…”

“Ugh,” Buford said. “That cro-magnon?”

“Whatever,” Sally said. “He’s Chad Becker. He’s Captain of the football team. He’s hot.”

Buford sighed. “I must admit that if I were the owner and proprietor of a vagina, the sight of him would probably make it tingle or…do whatever vaginas do. I don’t know. I’m not well versed in the gynecological sciences.”

“We were out on the football field,” Sally said. “Behind the bleachers there and we got to talking, sharing our dreams. He told me he wants to be an NFL football player.”

“He’ll be lucky if he gets accepted at Sitwell Community college,” Buford said.

“I told him about my dream to become a pop star,” Sally said.

“You sing?” Buford said. “I had no idea.”

“Mostly in the shower,” Sally said. “I never had the guts to go out for the school chorus or anything.”

“I bet you’re really good,” Buford said.

“I think so,” Sally said. “But Chad laughed at me and called me a whale and told me that no one with a butt as big as mine would ever be accepted as an internationally beloved singing sensation.”

Sally broke out into tears and buried her face into Buford’s shoulder. Buford took full advantage of the situation, rubbing his hand up and down Sally’s back and saying, “There, there” as he sniffed her perfume.

“I’m sorry,” Sally said. “I don’t mean to put all my problems on you.”

“That’s ok,” Buford said, enjoying the first snuggle of his entire lifetime. “Put them all on me.”

“It’s just that,” Sally said. “I’m worried because he’s probably right. I mean, look at me. I’m fat and I have glasses and braces. The world would never love me. I don’t even think any man could ever love me.”

Buford felt his body getting all warm and fuzzy. He pulled out his collar for some air. “Oh, I don’t know about all that. I bet there’s a man out there for you.”

“You think so?” Sally asked.

“I know so,” Buford said. “Maybe closer than you think.”

Sally took the hint. The youngsters pursed their lips and were about to press them together when Buford found himself being unceremoniously cock-blocked by a young, more studly than ever Chad Becker.

“Turdford!” Chad said, using the nickname that he’d saddled Buford with years earlier. “What the hell, bro? You’re reeling in Sally the Whale? Avast, matey! Thar she blows!”

Throughout his entire existence in the Sitwell public school system, Buford had taken Chad’s abuse without offering the slightest amount of a struggle. However, something about this situation was different. Sally’s honor had been slighted, and the young nerd did not care for it one bit.

“Take that back,” Buford said.

Chad began making garbled up whale calls. “What you gonna do, Turdford? Take your date out for a night on the ocean and a side of krill?”

Sally cried. Buford balled up his fist and seethed with rage as Chad dumped the contents of a little nip bottle into a glass of punch.

“Did you just perform an unapproved punch spike?” Buford asked.

“Sure did, whale lover,” Chad said. “What are you gonna do about it?”

Buford took a swing, one that Chad easily sidestepped. This caused Buford to lose his balance and he tumbled down the bleachers, rolling down the steps over and over again until he landed on the gym floor.

The music stopped. All the kids watched as Sally ran down the steps to check on Buford.

“Are you okay?” Sally asked.

“Yeah,” Buford said as he rubbed his aching head. “I think so.”

Chad passed his drink to Sally. “Hold this.”

The football star proceeded to grab Buford by the underpants, which he then pulled and pulled and pulled until the elastic waistband snapped. Kids, teachers, everyone laughed.

A much younger Mr. Hogan walked over. “Break it up, break it up!”

“Mr. Hogan!” Buford said. “Thank God, you’re here.”

Mr. Hogan adjusted his glasses and looked down at Buford. “Oh it’s you.”

“What?” Buford asked.

“You always were a creepy little shit,” Mr. Hogan said. He looked to Chad. “As you were.”

Mr. Hogan walked away as Chad kicked Buford in the gut repeatedly.

“Think you can stand up to me nerd?” Chad asked as he continued his Rockette impression.

“Chad!” Sally said as she grabbed Chad’s arm. “That’s enough.”

Chad stopped kicking Buford. He took his drink back and guzzled it, then threw the empty cup at Buford’s head.

“You wanna get outta here?” Chad asked.

Sally looked around. “Me?”

“Yeah, you,” Chad said. “Unless there’s someone standing behind you, which is possible, because you know, you’re super fat.”

“But you called me a whale,” Sally said.

“Yeah,” Chad said. “But then I got to thinking, I’ve banged every girl in the senior class but you so I might as well complete the whole set, you know?”

Sally took Chad’s hand.

Ever so weakly, Buford held up his hand. “Sally…”

“I’m sorry, Buford,” Sally said as she walked away with the football star. “But he’s Chad Becker!”

“Aw yeah,” Chad said. “I’m Chad Becker, baby!” I’m gonna be awesome forever!”

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Toilet Gator – Chapter 64

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“Arrrgh!”

Little Buford was used to all sorts of bizarre sounds coming from his Momma’s bedroom. This one was louder and angrier than usual, but that didn’t stop Buford from concentrating on his tenth hour of Karate Fighter 7 of the day.

A shirtless, portly man with a dirty beard stumbled out Roxy’s bedroom with blood gushing from his arm. He jumped about the room as he pulled his pants on.

“Who the hell keeps an alligator in the house?” the man shouted. “Honestly!”

Roxy stepped out of the bedroom, clad in leather lingerie with a leather hat on her head and a riding crop in her hand. “I’m sorry! Buford!”

Buford paused the game. “What Momma?”

“I thought I told you to keep that monster chained up in the yard!” Momma said.

Fear washed over the little boy as he realized the mistake he made. Skippy waddled out into the sitting room with a few drips of blood trickling from his mouth.

“I’m sorry, Momma!” Buford said. “I plumb forgot.”

“I’m outta here,” the random man said.

“You still owe me a hundred for the uh…” Roxy looked at Buford and censored herself. “Additional activities.”

“A hundred?” the man asked. “You know much I’m gonna have to shell out when I go to the emergency room to get shots for this bullshit? You know how much money I’m going to lose by taking a day off of work? I’m never going to patronize your vagina ever again, Roxy!”

“Aw come on,” Roxy said. “It was a freak accident.”

“I’ll be taking my business elsewhere!” the random man said as he stormed out of the trailer.

Buford attached a leash to a collar around the gator’s neck and yanked on it. “You’ve been a bad boy, Skippy!”

Skippy hanged his head low. “Raarga.”

“Come on,” Buford said. “You’re gonna sit out in the yard and think about what you’ve done.”

Roxy looked at the gator and sneered. She grabbed the leash out of the boy’s hand.

“Momma?” Buford asked.

“This thing has got to go, Buford,” Roxy said.

“But he didn’t mean to…”

“Oh yes he did,” Roxy said as she dragged the gator into the bathroom.

“Momma!” Buford cried. “Don’t hurt him! Skippy’s my best friend in the whole wide world!”

“Then I feel sorry for you, Buford,” Roxy said. “I really do. But that’s the forth customer this little shit has bitten in a week and Momma isn’t about to let her career suffer because of your pitiful social life.”

“Raarga!” Skippy struggled as Roxy picked him up. He snapped at Roxy, but she managed to avoid his jaws long enough to hurl him into the toilet.

“What are you doing?!” Buford cried.

“What I should have done a long time ago!” Roxy replied. She pulled off a high heel shoe and whacked little Skippy in the head repeatedly, over and over again until his tiny frame was stuck firmly in the toilet.

Buford felt sick as he saw his mother’s hand reach for the flusher. “No Momma!”

“You’ll thank me for this one day, son,” Momma said. “You aren’t gonna be right in the head if you spend all your time with this scaly little prick.”

Mother and son battled it out over the flush handle, the woman continuing to reach for it and the boy continuing to swat her hand away.

“I love him, Momma!” Buford shouted.

“It’s either him or us, baby!” Roxy said. “Alligators are nothing but man eating machines. Sure, he’s cute now but I swear, one day he’ll devour us whole.”

“He’ll never do that!” Buford said. “Skippy’s a good boy! Tell her, Skippy!”

“Raarga!” Skippy shouted as he wiggled his front flippers, desperately trying to escape from the bowl.

Roxy pushed the boy away and pulled the flush handle. The toilet instantly overflowed and filled the bathroom floor with water.

“Damn it!” Roxy said as she looked around the room. “Where the hell is my plunger?”

The prostitute wagged a finger at her son. “You stay put! I’m going to the neighbor’s to borrow a plunger and don’t you dare help that little varmint escape, do you hear me?”

Buford cried. “I hear you, Momma.”

“I swear, Buford, if that little monster isn’t still in that shitter when I come back I will tan your hide something fierce!”

Roxy left. Buford ignored his mother’s commands and grabbed Skippy’s front legs. He pulled and pulled.

“Come on, Skippy!” Buford said.

“Raarga,” Skippy said.

“We gotta get you outta here, Skip!” Buford said.

Skippy struggled, splashing water everywhere. Buford pulled and pulled but his pet would not budge.

“Skippy, please!” Buford shouted. “Push with all you got! I can’t live without you!”

A minute later, Roxy returned with a big black toilet plunger. She pushed the boy aside and plopped the rubber business end of the tool squarely on Skippy’s head.

“Raarga!”

“Get down there!” Roxy said as she plunged the gator.

“Momma!” Buford shouted. “Please!”

“Buford,” Roxy said. “I’m sorry you had to figure this out so soon but the world is a rough place and sometimes people gotta make tough decisions. I know you love this little son of a bitch but he has got to go!”

“Raarga, raarga, raarga!” Skippy flailed about wildly as each plunge pushed him lower and lower into the bowl. Finally, Roxy pulled the flush lever and presto! The gator was gone, delivered to the grimy depths of the sewer system below.

Buford sat on the edge of the bath tub, balling his eyes out. “Skippy! Noo! Why, God, why?!”

Roxy set the plunger down and attempted to hug the boy.

“Get away from me!” Buford shouted. “Murderer! You killed my best friend!”

Roxy sighed. “Son, sometimes I think you might need some help, like a counselor or something to help you with your issues.”

Mother and son waited in silence for a moment. “But then I figure it would be way too much work to drive your ass to a counselor and honestly who’s got the money to pay for it so come on, just assume that a counselor would tell you to stop being a creepy little shit and then just follow that advice and stop being a creepy little shit, OK?”

“I hate you,” Buford mumbled.

“Aww now,” Roxy said. “Is that a nice thing to say to your Momma?”

“I wish you were dead,” Buford said.

Roxy teared up. “You don’t mean that.”

“I do!” Buford shouted. “And I wish I was never born! Go away.”

“Buford,” Roxy said. “Honey, I just…”

“Go away!” Buford screeched.

Roxy abided and left. Buford sat there crying for a half hour before he finally peered down the empty toilet bowl.

“Skippy? Hey, Skippy? You down there?”

Buford sniffed and dried his eyes. “Skippy. I just want you to know I didn’t want Momma to do that and I hope you’re ok. Are you ok?”

The boy sat in silence for awhile until a feint sound echoed its way up the pipe and out of the toilet bowl. “Raarga.”

Buford smiled with elation. “Skippy! You’re alive!”

“Raarga.”

“What’s it like down there?” Buford asked.

“Raarga,” Skippy said.

“That doesn’t sound too bad,” Buford said.

“Raarga, raarga,” Skippy replied.

“Oh,” Buford said. “That does sound bad.”

“Raarga, raarga, raarga, raarga!” Skippy said.

“No boy,” Buford said. “You can’t come back up. If you do, Momma will just flush you again.”

“Raarga,” Skippy said.

“What?” Buford asked. “No, you can’t eat Momma.”

“Raarga.”

“Because she’s my Momma! Plus, if you do, I won’t have no one to take care of me and make me macaroni and cheese with cut up hot dog bits.”

“Raarga, raarga,” Skippy said.

Buford smiled. “Yeah, I suppose I can flush some of that down for you once in awhile.”

“Raarga,” Skippy said.

“I’m glad you’re alive, Skippy,” Buford said. “I guess you’ll just have to live down there for awhile. We won’t be able to see each other for now but one day I’ll be a grown man and I’ll be real professional and responsible. I’ll make a lot of money and buy my own place, a great big spread where you’ll be able to roam free and we can be together forever and ever.”

“Raarga,” Skippy said.

“What do you mean you won’t hold your breath?” Buford asked.

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Movie Review – War Machine (2017)

War!  Bureaucracy!  Red tape!

BQB here with a review of Netflix’s new film, War Machine.

Based on the book, “The Operators” by Michael Hastings, this film is a dark comedy, satirizing the sheer absurdity modern warfare, not to mention the unenviable positions of those whose efforts to win are backseat driven every step of the way.

Brad Pitt plays General Glenn McMahon, a fictionalized version of General Stanley McChrystal, whose own efforts to cut through a sea of red tape eventually culminated in a Rolling Stone article that proved to be his undoing.

In 2009, McMahon is put in charge of Afghanistan.  The dirty secret no one speaks about or is even willing to admit is that he is expected to maintain the status quo and lose gracefully.  In fact, at the start of the film, McMahon is brought into a room of DC bigwigs who urge him to do a tour of the country and provide them with an assessment of what is needed but then within the same breath, they tell him he’d better not find that he needs more troops.

In other words, the days when great warriors like Eisenhower and Patton could write a check that DC would cash are over.  The warriors aren’t really in charge now.  The whole operation is second and third guessed by bureaucratic bean counting civilians who’ve never seen a battlefield in their entire lives.

With an almost Colombo-esque style of disarming charm, McMahon attempts to cut through the red tape that is slowing him and his team down.  Along the way, he steps on many a toe, but comes across as so humble and down to earth that the bigwigs whose toes were stepped on aren’t sure it was unintentional.  McMahon tapping aimlessly on his keyboard, feigning incompetence with technology in order to avoid listening to a DC bureaucrat’s orders via Skype come to mind.

This is a big role for Brad Pitt.  Hollywood’s quintessential leading man, an actor that has spent his life maintaining a top of the line physical appearance, playing parts that make the ladies swoon, gets a douse of McMahon style humility himself.

This is the first time I’ve seen him play someone with gray hair, someone who is admittedly older and too busy to hide the fact with an army of stylists.  Pitt plays McMahon as a gruff and grizzled old soldier, a man with a hand that has been mangled, who walks as though his body is in pain from years of being pushed to the limit.

Even more surprisingly, Pitt’s character has an age appropriate wife, Jeannie (Meg Tilly). Seeing Pitt snuggle up to a gray haired woman who is light years from looking like Angelina Jolie is nothing I thought I’d ever see on film.  Yet, in doing so, Pitt pulls off some of the best acting of his career, namely, convincing us that he could love a woman his age.

This is also a big film for Netflix.  The Internet streaming service spent $60 million on this film and it shows.  The result is a movie that could have been screened in movie theaters across the country had they chosen to go that route.  Brad Pitt is, by my best estimate, the biggest star Netflix has ever recruited for one of its original productions, thus proving that this company is in the movie game to win it, and the future of film is streaming.

For me, that’s a dubious prospect as I love the experience of going to see a film in a theater, though lately I wonder if saving cinema is not a cause as lost as Afghanistan.

Overall, the film asks a lot of questions and paints modern warfare in a not so rose colored light.  Bottomline – these days it sucks to be a man in uniform.  You’re expected to win, but you’re also told by bureaucrats to lose, except they don’t use the “l” word.  They won’t come right out and tell you they want you to lose, just that you should not ask for all the things you need to win.  You should essentially rubber stamp their losing plans and act like you can’t tell their plans are going to lose.

Meanwhile on the battlefield, soldiers are torn between their inner need to, you know, shoot at people who are shooting at them in order to live another day.  Yet, DC has made it clear that screw-ups (i.e. accidentally shooting a civilian) will not be tolerated and punished severely.

Ultimately, the film lampoons the idea of counter-insurgency, or the idea that men from a foreign land with guns can somehow talk the locals into siding with them against the bad man with guns that are already there.  In one heartbreaking scene, McMahon addresses residents of a territory that US forces have taken control of that he’s there to help build roads, build jobs, to protect them and so on.  A villager informs the General that all sounds great, but he has no doubt the US will eventually cut and run and when they do, the bad guys will destroy all the infrastructure that was built and punish the villagers for cooperating with the US troops.

Between desk jockeys trying to manage something they can’t comprehend, the media turning real stories of war into trashy tabloid TV and a clash of cultures (is it really wise for America to assume that they can turn third world wastelands into smaller versions of America?), the film leaves the viewer with the sad feeling that modern wars may, in fact, may never be winnable again.

STATUS:  Shelf-worthy.  Stream it on Netflix.

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Toilet Gator – Chapter 64

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“Fetch the stick boy! Fetch the stick!”

Three months later, skippy had grown to the size of a bulldog. He and found Buford had become fast friends, frolicking throughout the trailer park courtyard, playing fetch the stick.

With a retrieved stick between his jaws, Skippy waddled back to the steps leading up to Roxy’s trailer, where Buford was sitting next to his father, who was enjoying an ice cold beer.

“Damn, that thing is growing like a weed,” Beaumont said.

“He sure is,” Buford said. “I’ve been feeding him tacos and soda pop and ice cream and frozen pizzas and rats and I think he might of ate the neighbor’s cat, Daddy. Either that or Fluffy got one look at Skippy, got scared and decided to not come around here no more.”

“Well,” Beaumont said. “Your Momma’s been ragging me about it. Saying he’s been eating all her furniture and biting her…uh…customers.”

“Aww, I’m still training him, Daddy,” Buford said. “But he’s a good alligator. Really, he is.”

“Whatever, boy,” Beaumont said as he swigged his beer. “Just be sure to whack it in the head with a shovel if it ever gets outta control.”

Buford scratched Skippy’s scaly head, causing the creature to emit a joyous, “Raarga, raarga.”

The young man pulled the stick out of Skippy’s mouth and tossed it into the courtyard. “Fetch, boy! Fetch!”

Skippy waddled after the stick once more in hot pursuit, going as fast as his little green legs would carry him.

“Daddy,” Buford said. “Can I come live with you?”

Beaumont crushed his beer can and popped the top of another. “The hell would you wanna do that for? You don’t like your Momma?”

“Oh, I love Momma alright,” Buford replied. “It’s just that, well, she’s always bringing all these fellas over for shirtless wrasslin’ classes.”

“Yeah,” Beaumont said. “I imagine that could be annoying.”

“And I know women are like empowered now and all and I should support her career as a shirtless wrasslin coach, especially ‘cuz without her all those men will never how to wrassle without their shirts on…”

“God damn, boy,” Beaumont said. “You sure do talk a lot.”
“It’s just whenever all those wrasslers come over, Momma makes me go to my room and stay there all night listening to music on my headphones and I don’t even like music all that much,” Buford said.

“Probably to drown out all the noise from all that wrassling going on,” Beaumont said.

“I know,” Buford said. “But I don’t mind wrasslin sounds. I watch wrasslin on the TV all the time. The Rock is my favorite wrassler. He’s gonna be a big superstar one day.”

“Son,” Beaumont said. “If anyone ever hands over a red cent to see that giant lummox in a feature film I will eat a whole heaping helping of crow.”

“Anyway Daddy,” Buford said. “Momma says you got a big ole fancy house and I bet it would be real nice to live there.”

Beaumont blew a raspberry. “Pbbbht. Boy you gotta be kidding me. Sorry son, but your daddy is an important man. I got all kinds of deals and hustles going on. I can’t just drop my business to change your diapers and feed you and do all that woman’s work your Momma should be doing.”

“I’m toilet trained, Daddy,” Buford said. “Like, for years now!”

“Bah,” Beaumont said as he swigged the beer. “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

Skippy returned and dropped the stick at Buford’s feet. “Raarga.”

“Belly rub time!” Buford shouted.

Skippy rolled over on his back. Buford tickled the beast’s slimy undercarriage all the while saying in a tone that adults usually reserve for their babies, “Who’s a good boy? Who wants a belly rub?”

“Sakes alive, son,” Beaumont said. “I honest to God thought you’d of killed that thing by forgetting to feed it or stepping on it or sitting on it or accidentally dropping it down the garbage disposal or casting upon it one of the fates you bestowed upon your other pets but damn it, maybe you’re starting to grow up and get some wits about you.”

“I love Skippy, Daddy,” Buford said. “I love him to much to forget to take care of him and he’s so big now I could accidentally step on him and he wouldn’t mind.”

Buford swigged some more beer. “Tell you what, boy. If you still don’t like living with your Momma by the time you start high school, then you can come live with me.”

“You mean it?” Buford asked.

“That’s a better guarantee than I’ll ever give any of my customers down at the Slightly Used Car Emporium.”

“Why do I have to wait until high school?” Buford asked. “‘Cuz Momma will be lonely if I don’t stay awhile longer?”

“Nah,” Beaumont said. “I just figure by then I won’t have to clean up after you or do any of that child rearing shit.”

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Toilet Gator – Chapter 62

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The year was 1997. Chumbawumba was Tubthumping all over the music charts. The English Patient won best picture despite boring the ever loving shit out of audiences everywhere. Bill Clinton was running around the Oval Office with his pants around his ankles, shtupping everything that moved.

Meanwhile, a perpetually picked on, completely unpopular, chubby little eight year old boy named Buford sat on the floor of his Momma’s trailer playing video games while stuffing potato chips into his face hole.

“Buford,” said a younger, somewhat hotter Roxy. “Quit yanking your joystick stick and go outside. Run around the park a few times and blow the stink off ya.’”

“Can’t, Momma,” Buford said. “I’m about to beat the high score on Karate Fighter 7.”

Roxy blew cigarette smoke all over the room with little concern for the safety of her son’s lungs. “I told your daddy not to get you that machine. You’re going to rot your brain! Go outside and make some friends!”

“But no one likes me, Momma!” Buford said.

“Because you don’t got nothing interesting to say, son,” Roxy said. “Maybe if you’d stop being a little doofus and…”

Ding dong. An excited Buford turned off his game and ran to the door. He opened it only to find…

“Daddy!”

In his pre-mayor days, Beaumont Dufresne was younger and more physically fit, but he still had a cigar in his mouth and a martini in hand. He set a small cardboard box down on the coffee table and picked up his young son.

“Well howdy, boy,” Beaumont said. “Gee whiz, you’re gettin’ bigger than a bull elephant. What’s your Momma feeding you?”

“Chips!” Buford proudly declared as his father put him down.

“Boy, you know I only try to feed you good food,” Roxy said. “You’re the one whose always rootin’ through your Momma’s purse, takin’ all my money to go to that Burp N’Blow store on the corner to buy junk.”

Beaumont took Roxy’s hand and smooched it. “My sweet.”

Roxy took her hand away. “Don’t you ‘my sweet,’ me. Your check was late.”

“Yeah, well, I doubled it, didn’t I?” Beaumont asked.

Beaumont took a seat on the couch next to Roxy as Buford stared at the cardboard box on the table.

“Can I open it, Daddy?” Buford asked.

“Why, sure you can,” Beaumont said.

“Beaumont,” Roxy said. “You’re spoiling the boy. All he does is wreck his brain on that video-ma-jig you got him and now what?”

The boy picked up the box. He could feel something moving around inside. His eyes lit up. “Is it a puppy?”

“Maybe,” Beaumont said. “Maybe something better.”

Buford shook the box. Whatever was inside, it let out a high pitched, “Raarga!”

The boy was beside himself with eagerness and anticipation.

“Go on now,” Beaumont said.

Buford set the box down on the table and lifted the lid. Inside, a teeny, tiny baby alligator scurried around. It was no bigger than an average lizard.

Roxy shrieked. “You have got to be shitting me, Beaumont!”

“What?” Beaumont replied. “You said the boy doesn’t have any friends!”

“And you think that thing is gonna get him any?” Roxy asked.

“Oh my God,” Buford cried as he picked the little beast up. The baby gator fit easily into the palm of the boy’s hand. “I love him so much, Daddy!”

“I’m glad, son,” Beaumont said.

“Where in the hell did you even get that thing?” Roxy asked.

“I stopped at a red light,” Beaumont said. “There was a guy on the corner with a bucket of them, selling them for a dollar a pop. They seemed cute. Figured the boy would like one.”

Roxy puffed on her cigarette. “You ever think about what will happen when that thing grows up? It’ll be too big to live in the trailer!”

Buford playfully wagged a finger near the baby gator’s mouth. The baby gator snapped at it to no avail.

“I don’t know, Roxy,” Beaumont said. “If he becomes too much of a pain in the ass then flush him down the toilet. Do I have to think of everything?”

“Oh sure,” Roxy said. “I gotta be the parent around here. I gotta be the one who’s the bad guy, making all the tough decisions to raise him, putting my career to the side while you’re out there selling cars, raking in money hand over fist.”

“Your career?” Beaumont asked.

“I could be pulling a double shift at Big Ray-Ray’s right now if I didn’t have to watch him,” Roxy said.

Beaumont stood up. “Roxy, I swear, that trip to champagne room with you was the worst mistake I made in 1989, even worse than when I went to see Turner and Hooch because some idiot told me it was a good movie. It wasn’t. It was two goddamn hours of Tom Hanks and a dog that was smarter than he was.”

“You don’t mean that,” Roxy said.

“About Turner and Hooch?” Beaumont said. “I surely do. Tom Hanks is a hack and his film career is destined to fizzle out any day now.”

“I meant the champagne room,” Roxy said. “You know it was nice and…”

Roxy patted Beaumont’s knee. “…it’s not too late for us to be a family.”

Beaumont headed for the door. “You know I’m a free bird, baby! Stop tryin’ to clip my wings!”

As the door slammed, Roxy turned her attention to Buford. The boy was gently stroking the baby gator’s tiny head with his finger.

“Buford,” Roxy said. “I don’t think you ought to get too attached to that little critter.”

“I love him, Momma,” Buford said as he kissed the baby gator. “Every day I’m going to love him and hug him and kiss him and feed him bugs and snakes and rats and whatever else baby gators eat and I’m gonna call him Skippy.”

Roxy sat back on the couch. “Aw shit.”

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Toilet Gator – Chapter 61

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Buford was back in his hotel room, snacking on chips and playing video games. He paused the action to call his father.

“Daddy?” Buford asked.

“Whaddya want, boy?” the Mayor asked. “I’m about to do another commercial and I’ve already spent enough time bailing out your sorry ass. If you’d been any kind of a real man you would have been able to have handled those cops on your own.”

“I know, Daddy,” Buford said. “I’m sorry.”

“The hell were you doing out at your Momma’s trailer at that ungodly hour anyway?” the Mayor asked. “Trying to move in with her instead of becoming a damn adult like I told you?”

Buford figured in this instance, a lie was better than the truth. “Yeah, Daddy. That’s it.”

“Yeah, well,” the Mayor said. “I know Roxy was your Momma and hell, out of all Big Ray-Ray’s strippers, I always found her to be the most fun so I know this is a painful time for the both of us. But don’t go thinking that means I’m gonna let you back into the house so you can postpone adulthood. You need to stop being a man child, Buford.”

“I know,” Buford said. “I just called to tell you I love you, Daddy.”

There was a brief pause on the other end. “Well, that’s sorta gay son but alright. I suppose if there ever was a time where that should be said, it’s now. I love you too, boy.”

“Thanks Daddy,” Buford said.

“Not in a gay way, mind you but in a father-son way, mind you,” the Mayor said.

“I figured,” Buford said.

“Alright, son,” the Mayor said. “I don’t have time for any more of this touchy-feely bullshit. I got work to do.”

“OK,” Buford said. “Bye Daddy.”

Buford hanged up his phone. He laid down in bed and closed his eyes, his mind drifting off into thoughts of Skippy, the pet he’d once considered to be his one and only true blue friend, though now he was having doubts.

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Toilet Gator – Chapter 60

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Cole listened to Country Western music while he drove down the highway. Sharon played mindlessly with her phone. This carried on for a half-hour until Sharon attempted to start a conversation.

“I’m sorry about your father,” Sharon said.

“It’s been five years,” Cole said.

“Yeah,” Sharon replied. “But still…”

“People die,” Cole said.

“I wanted to come to the funeral but,” Cole said.

“I know,” Cole said.

There was a brief pause before Sharon finally blurted it out. “Do you hate me?”

Cole’s sigh was long and loud, like air escaping from a hot air balloon. “Let’s not do this.”

“Do what?” Sharon asked.

“Scratch the scab,” Cole said. “Neither of us will like the puss that oozes out, so just leave it alone.”

“We never really talked about it,” Sharon said.

“Not for lack of trying on my part,” Cole said.

“I know,” Sharon said. “That was my fault, but now I…”

“Look,” Cole said. “If there’s one thing I’ve learned in four decades it’s that everyone thinks they are right and everyone else is wrong. I think you were wrong, you think I’m wrong, let’s just skip the part where we argue about who was right and who was wrong and just think whatever the hell we want because that’s what we’ll end up doing anyway.”

“Wow,” Sharon said. “I guess you really do hate me.”

Up ahead, there was a Tasty Burger rest stop. Cole slowed down and pulled into it.

“What are you doing?” Sharon asked as Cole pulled into a parking spot.

Cole turned off the ignition. “You want to have this out? Fine. Let’s have this out.”

Sharon was quiet. She began to regret her prodding.

“You were my wife,” Cole said. “We both stood up before a minister and promised to love and cherish each other, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health and so on.”

Sharon looked away from Cole and out the passenger’s window. “I know.”

“I held up my end,” Cole said. “I took every last cent out of my paycheck to put you through law school because I loved you and I wanted you to be happy. Out of the two of us, you were the brains, so it seemed like a good investment in what was supposed to be the beginning of a happy life together.”

“I know,” Sharon said.

“And then you left me,” Cole said. “Out of the blue. No warning. No nothing. On the worst day of my life. I was in the hospital, dying. They took my leg. And your first thought wasn’t to come see me but to get the hell out of town because of…what? You were worried you’d have to take care of me?”

Sharon turned to face Cole. “That wasn’t…”

“I’ve got news for you,” Cole said. “I get along just fine without help from anyone.”

“I know,” Sharon said.

“I get along fine without you,” Cole said.

Sharon broke into tears. “I know.”

Cole felt saddened by the sight of his ex crying. “See? This is why I didn’t want to do this. It’s pointless.”

The pair sat there for awhile before Cole started up again. “Look, I don’t see any point in me shitting on you after all these years, so that’s why I think it’s stupid to rehash all of this. I don’t want to cause you any pain but if you’re expecting me to, what? Tell you that you did right by me? That what you did was great? That I was somehow the bad guy and you were the good one? That I forgive you? No. Not happening.”

Sharon wiped the tears from her eyes and sniffed. She opened the door. “You’re right. This is pointless and stupid.”

Cole watched as his ex stepped out of the car and slammed the door. He rolled his eyes as he rolled down his window.

“Sharon!” Cole shouted. “Come on!”

Sharon waved Cole off as she walked toward the Tasty Burger.

“Let me drive you the rest of the way,” Cole said.
Sharon turned and held up her phone. “I’ve got the Mobo Cab app. I’m fine. Take care of yourself, Cole.”

Cole bonked his head against the steering wheel and closed his eyes, realizing he may have just botched his one and only chance to get back together with his lady love.

“Fucking Mobo Cab app,” Cole muttered.

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