A Day for Floyd

It was sticky. A hot, sticky day in the down-town of Trinity, South Carolina, and what with the cicadas chir-upping and the air conditioning giving out, I can tell I'm not the only one thinkin' it might be a good time to move. 'Course, nobody will.

People tromp into the post office and back out again, pulling at sweaty t-shirts and crotches, most of 'em stripping almost the point of indecency. Well, I can't really blame 'em; this here hot spell's likely to do us all in. But like I said, nobody's goin' to leave; Trinity's got like an inertia to it... you know that law, or whatever? The one that says if you're moving you can't stop, but if you're STILL... well, it's awful damned hard to get movin'? Well, that's... kinda what Trinity is. Once you're here, you just don't get going again.

I wave, all congenial-like, at that fat-lipped officer Floyd as he comes in; never really liked him, but whose place is it to talk? Not mine, I imagine. Least he gets at the back of the line like ever'body else instead of just waltzing to the front like old Lucas.

"Yes, Mrs. Appleton," I say, taking her package from her. She's got folks outside of town, so she's kind of a regular at the office over here. "We'll have this to him in under a week, and that's my personal guarantee."

"Thank you, Sumpter," she says, the only person hereabouts who USES my first name. Well, except for Lucas; but he's exceptions all around, now ain't he?

Mrs. Appleton goes on her way, and I - what's that? Who am I? Well, I thought it was obvious; Sumpter Thames is my name - and yes, before you ask, I'm sure that was British or English or what have you at one time. It's just plain old "Th-aims" now.

I'm not anybody important in this town; I just work at the post office, fifty three years old and not even full-time employed. I'm stuck here, too, but not for the same reasons most other folks are; suffice it to say I made my deals with the Sheriff, he leaves me alone and I don't bother him, and it works out that way for the both of us. Never you mind what those deals were. That's none of your damn business.

Well, Floyd's about halfway through the line when everything just goes straight to Hell. Out of the damned blue Lucas Buck's voice is in my head, and he's saying, "don't you worry now - this is just a little morale booster for my deputy over there," and then the next second Martha Ellen Marstetter, who's been a resident here since she was too young to skiddle in her diapers, pulls a gun outa her purse and starts shootin'.

I have enough time to duck before my window goes to pieces - I guess her aim ain't that good - and people are screaming and running and there's an awful pool of blood at my feet. Dear God. She got Andrew, poor kid, and him not two months outa college.

So, I'm back here with a dead guy and trying to think of a way to get the phone, when Lucas Buck speaks up again and tells me to stay the hell where I AM. Well, shit; like I'm gonna be able to do anything NOW. I have just enough time to wonder if it's gonna get hot enough for Andrew over there to start smelling when I hear a scream. Well, I'm curious as the next man; so, I scoot over to where there isn't any blood and flop onto my stomach so I can peer out under the partition.

What do I see but Floyd holding what looks like a damned broom stick at Martha Ellen's face. And if that makes any sense to you, then maybe the next part will, too.

"Give me my CANDY BACK!" Floyd screams, like he's missed the whole show and is seriously misinterpreting the interlude.

"NO!" she screams back, and right now I'm pretty much convinced I'm the only sane person in the town of Trinity. Well, she up and does what comes natural, which means firing her gun at him - but fortunately for ol' Floyd, she's not too good at it yet. Instead of hitting him, she slices that bullet through the partition next to my head and damn near takes my ear off.

I curse a bit, but they don't mind. Nobody was really paying attention to me, anyway.

Well, Floyd must've tried to hit her with the broom, 'cause next thing I know the gun comes skittering across the floor and stops only a couple of inches from my face. And you know, I actually start to reach for the thing when Buck pipes up again and tells me in no uncertain terms just what would HAPPEN to my hand - as well as other, more tender parts of my body - if I touched that weapon. This was Floyd's day, and that was his LAST word on the subject.

Well, FINE. Let bumble-butt take care of himself.

Floyd swings his little broom again, but whatever candy it was Martha Ellen took from him musta been something damned special, because she just takes the beating and charges. They toussle back and forth for a bit, like kids in a schoolyard brawl, and - 'course, all I'm doin' is watching, because the almighty-damned-Sheriff-of-Trinity said so - she suddenly gets in a right hook fit to crown a king and Floyd goes as limp as a dead fish.

Huh. So much for a morale-booster for Floyd.

Well, up she comes over and grabs the gun that's not inches from my face, and she stands and cocks it and marches back over to Floyd. Next thing I know, she's knelt right next to him with her gun against his head, and he's only just beginning to stir. Ain't no way she's gonna miss this time.

I just have this feeling that this really isn't what Lucas Buck was aiming for; so, I do what's perhaps the brave (or stupid) thing and stand up. I grab Mrs. Appleton's package and hurl it at Martha Ellen as hard as I can.

The package - heavy with fruitcake and cookies, you know - bounces off Martha Ellen's head, and she stumbles forward and drops her gun. That's when Floyd chooses to wake up, and he finally applies some of the police training he got SOMEwhere and rolls her over, cuffing her with ease that was kinda surprising.

"You are under arrest!" he says, puffing out those words like he's wanted to say them all his life and just ran a marathon to get the privilege.

Well, the rest of it goes by pretty fast; the press shows up, Floyd takes full credit, and this whole incident gets pushed through as part of the reason Sheriff Buck needs to get re-elected. Even his STAFF is wonderful, the papers say.

Well, I don't much care. I go home, all tired out, and get all the way inside with the door locked before I see the gator somebody put inside my house.

Thanks for the help, Sumpter, Lucas says, speakin' right into my head again like it's his own private walkie-talkie. But I TOLD you to leave it alone.

Oh, well. Guess there IS a way out of Trinity after all... 'least I won't have to worry about funeral expenses.

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