Cole, Sharon, Rusty, Moses and Felix all sat around a big table at Ruby Sue’s Barbecue, feasting on Steve’s best work.
“Oh my God,” Sharon said as she savored a mouthful of rib meat. “I forgot how good this place is.”
Cole pointed to the side of his face.
“What?” Sharon asked.
“You’ve got a little something,” Cole said.
After Sharon tried and failed to wipe a barbecue sauce smudge off her face, Cole reached across the table with a napkin and took care of business himself. “Here, let me.”
“Thanks,” Sharon said. “I can’t believe how much I missed this place.”
“Really?” Cole asked. “It was always here waiting for you.”
“Was it?” Sharon asked. “I don’t know. I guess there are sometimes you don’t realize how much you love something until its gone.”
Rusty spied Cole and Sharon trading longing looks and stuck a finger down his throat. “Gag me.”
“So Buford,” Sharon said. “What are we going to do?”
“I don’t know that there is anything we can do,” Cole said.
“Bullshit,” Rusty said. “I say we go find that little prick and pull a citizen’s arrest on his sorry ass.”
“And what’s the charge?” Cole asked. “Talking to an imaginary alligator in the first degree?”
“It wasn’t imaginary,” Rusty said.
“We could kidnap him and take him into international waters, then torture the shit out of him until he confesses,” Moses said. “That’s how the CIA got Chuck Norris to admit he’s an alien.”
“You read that on the Internet?” Sharon asked.
“So much good stuff on the Internet,” Moses said.
Moses turned to Felix. “Say something, ya’ ignoramus! It’s impolite to not participate in dinner conversation, you know.”
Felix ignored his hetero life partner’s command and stuck a forkful of baked beans into his pie hole.
“I’m sorry, people,” Moses said. “Ever since those terrorists pulled out that rusty pair of pliers, Old Felix here has never been the same.”
“Shit,” Rusty said. “Pliers? I’m sorry, Felix.”
Felix nodded graciously towards Rusty, then went to work on a piece of corn on the cob like he was working a typewriter.
“Every time you don’t talk, you let the terrorists win, F-Man,” Moses said.
Felix was too busy eating too pay attention to that remark.
The front door opened and Maude walked in with a book in her hand. She stormed over to the table, plopped down her oxygen tank, then lightly slapped Cole upside the head.
“Ow,” Cole said. “What was that for?”
“You don’t answer your phone?” Maude asked.
“I hate cell phones,” Cole said. “They’re the worst thing ever invented.”
“Oh Lord,” Sharon said. “I remember this rant from the early 2000s.”
“They are,” Cole said. “I wish we could all just go back to the days when if someone needed you, they’d just wait until you’re home to call you. No one is so important that they need to be reachable wherever they are at all times.”
“Christ on a cracker,” Maude said. “You sound older than I am. Everyone scooch over, I’m coming in.”
“Nice to see you again, Maude,” Sharon said as the old lady sat down.
Maude sighed and looked around the table. “What…what is this? Is she one of the group now? Are we supposed to be nice to her again?”
“I have no idea,” Rusty said.
“I just have no idea how to treat her,” Maude said.
“I’m right here,” Sharon said.
Maude smiled and patted Sharon on the shoulder. “Of course you are, dear, so lovely to see you too.”
The old gal held up the book. The title read, “Sitwell High School: Class of 2007. Go Fighting Platypi!”
“I thought you graduated in 1807,” Rusty said. “Wasn’t Abe Lincoln your valedictorian?”
“Bite me, ginger,” Maude said. “I’m not in the mood. I was up all night.”
“You want something to eat, Maude?” Cole asked.
“No thank you,” Maude said. “Food’s the last thing I need. I had the worst case of indigestion but enough about that.”
Maude turned to the senior class photo section. She pointed to a photo of a young, goofy looking boy with a mullet. “Look. Buford Dufresne. Voted Most Likely to Become a Serial Killer.”
Cole looked at the photo. “I mean, its creepy that out of all of the superlatives he got that one, but that doesn’t prove anything.”
“Wait,” Maude said as she turned a few pages. She pointed out the photo of a chubby girl with braces. “Sally Ann Dubawitz. Voted Most Likely to Die Alone and Have Her Corpse Removed from Her House with a Crane.”
“Kids can be cruel,” Moses said. “A little junk in the trunk never hurt no one.”
“Sally Ann Dubawitz?” Sharon asked as she seized the yearbook and looked at the photo. “Countess Cucamonga was from Sitwell?!”
“She was,” Maude said.
“Interesting,” Cole said. “But again, so what?”
Felix took no interest in the conversation whatsoever. His focus was on the restaurant’s television, which was currently playing an old episode of Dumb Dad. It was the one where the father of the family proved himself to be an incompetent buffoon while his wife and children came across as much more intelligent beings forced to put up with their patriarch’s dimwittery. So, in other words, it could have been literally any episode.
“My granddaughter Bernice and Sally used to be friends when they were little,” Maude said. “Those two would come over my house and play all the time but they went there separate ways in high school. Bernice got interested in fashion and boys and Sally got interested in, well, pizza I suppose.”
“Your granddaughter used to be Countess Cucamonga’s childhood friend and you never told us?” Rusty asked.
“I’m old,” Maude said. “At my age, everything blends together. I vaguely remembered Bernice being friends with a chubby girl. I didn’t remember that she was Sally Ann Dubawitz until I saw her picture on the news.”
“Kids are getting chubbier and chubbier,” Moses said. “It’s on account of all the bacon molecules the CIA puts in our toothpaste.”
“Here’s the deal,” Maude said. “Buford has got to be behind all this.”
“We’re way ahead of you,” Rusty said.
“Oh?” Maude said. “Well, have you figured out the motive?”
Felix chomped down on a pulled pork sandwich as he watched the TV. A commercial came on featuring the Mayor.
“I’m Mayor Beaumont Dufresne of Beaumont Dufresne’s Slightly Used Car Emporium and my prices are so low I ought to be locked up in the nut house!”
“Can’t say that we’ve put our finger on that one,” Rusty said.
Maude flipped through the yearbook until she found a photo of a balding teacher sleeping at his desk. “Herb Hogan,” Maude read. “History department. Most likely to keep phoning it in until retirement.”
“Herb was a teacher at Sitwell,” Cole said. “The school where Buford went with Sally before she became the Countess. That’s a connection.”
“It goes deeper,” Maude said. “I called up Bernice and asked her if she remembered anything about Buford and she told me a story about their senior prom. Seems that Buford was canoodling with Sally in the bleachers until Chad Becker…”
Maude flipped the pages to Chad Becker’s photo. “Chad Becker. Most likely to spend ten years on a two-year associate’s degree.”
“…cock-blocked Buford, stole his girl out from under his nose and kicked the crap out of him while Hogan did nothing to stop it.”
Everyone at the table traded glances.
Meanwhile, Felix watched the Mayor’s commercial.
“As Mayor of the fine community of Sitwell, I’m hopping mad that people aren’t sitting well these days. These toilet murders don’t sit well with me and they shouldn’t sit well with you, but y’all got to stop being afraid to go about your daily lives and more importantly, y’all gotta stop being afraid to shit.”
“Obviously,” Maude said. “This incident got stuck in Buford’s craw for years.”
“He seethed with rage about it,” Sharon said.
“Until he finally did something about it,” Cole said.
Felix continued to watch the television as the Mayor opened up the door to his office bathroom.
“Is there a slight chance that the Toilet Killer might get you while you’re on the commode? Sure. But you know what folks? There’s also a slight chance you might get hit by a bus while you’re walking down the street, or that you might get ball cancer from standing in front of a microwave for too long. We all know there’s risks involved in everything we do but we get up and do them anyway.”
The Mayor dropped his pants and took a seat on the toilet.
“If we all just keep taking shits on the toilet, the toilet killer can’t kill us all, can he?” the Mayor asked.
Everyone else at the table was oblivious to the Mayor’s commercial, too focused on Maude’s revelations.
“It all makes sense now,” Rusty said.
Felix took a sip of beer but spewed it out immediately when he saw a massive set of alligator jaws burst through the bathroom floor and grab hold of the mayor. Soon, the toilet was busted, and the entire gator could be seen on television, thrashing around wildly with the Mayor’s body in his mouth.
“Lord-a-mercy!” the Mayor shouted.
One by one, diners elsewhere in the restaurant dropped their food and watched the television in horror. Felix, on the other hand, was the only one at his table watching. The beer sprayed out of his mouth as the normally quiet man choked.
“You OK, buddy?” Moses asked without turning his head toward the TV. “Something go down the wrong pipe.”
Felix’s face turned white.
“Gotta watch what you’re eating, man,” Moses said. “You know you got that acid reflux.”
Rusty turned to Cole. “Buford spent his whole life being pissed at the people who did him wrong, so he took revenge by getting his alligator to do his dirty work for him.”
“Alligator?” Maude asked. “What alligator?”
Felix pointed at the TV and uttered the first words to come out of his mouth since the early 2000s. “That one!”
Everyone at the table turned their attention to the television just in time to watch the severed head of the Mayor get hurled at the camera with the cowboy hat still on it. Diners, waiters and waitresses all screamed as the gator charged for the cameraman. Loud crunching sounds came next, followed by the cameraman’s cries and then, the live feed cut to black.
“Do you believe me know?” Rusty asked.
“Yes,” a dumbfounded Cole said. “And I need that monster’s head on my wall.”