Episode Fifteen

August 22, 2010

Meet the Mayor

A bright purple police tape was rolled around the scene of the incident that demolished Scurvytown’s beloved Squatter Fountain. Investigations into the derailment of the tanker were well under way. The driver was inconveniently in a coma, so all the authorities could do was wait for the toxicology reports to come back from the mainland.

Scurvytown’s police force was far too underdeveloped to perform their own testing, so all vital evidence was outsourced and took ages to come back. After all, they’d had to make their own crime scene tape out of party streamers with “Police Line: Do Not Cross” written every so often in black Sharpie. It was a menial task, but the number one deputy did so enjoy his arts and crafts that he adamantly refused to have his favorite part of the job outsourced to the handful of prisoners who roamed the rather large white-collar prison on the outskirts of town.

Such were the resources of the local Scurvytown authorities lacking that a lot of the time, in order to fulfill the right to a speedy trial, suspects were exonerated before the guilt-proving evidence made its way back to the island. Even when those findings proved the now free suspects guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, they were free to roam the streets of Scurvytown. And as a final piece of irony, justice was swift and intolerant to anyone found attacking these free-wheeling criminals. After all, proven criminals had rights, too.

It created quite the untrusting vibe throughout the town. But it was also interesting to note that most of the free and guilty were using their second chance to better their lives. It was either play the system and hope the technicalities fell in their favor again, or make amends for their past injustices. Most of them at least kept up the appearance that they had chosen the latter path.

Maybe it was saying something about his pessimistic nature, but the Captain was among those who were not falling for the turnabout. It seemed to him, once you crossed a line like that, you were in for a life of crime. It’s the way he would have rolled if the D-20’s had fallen that way, and lucked him into a life of crime.

Captain Tullis happened to be walking around the fairgrounds when the incident happened. He was fairly impressed that the spiky-haired fat kid didn’t wet his pants as the tanker barreled down on him. Maybe some people had better bladder control, he guessed. Maybe he’d ask the Doc about that on his next visit.

Hopewell bristled from his perch on the Captain’s shoulder as the scene had played out. The Captain shuddered, as he often did when he felt that he and the stuffed monkey were sharing the same thought: this was no accident.

It seemed to the Captain that the entire thing was staged. The driver looked like he was asleep at the wheel, as most of the bystanders had attested, but to the Captain, he looked like he was already in the coma at the time the tanker started to veer off the parade path. It was only a theory, though, and he was smart enough to keep tight-lipped about it, considering it had anything at all to do with the mafia-esque business dealings of the Squatter Foundation.

It didn’t really matter, after all; they’d certainly build an even more magnificent fountain next time around, the giant squid this time not manufactured out of styrofoam that held the bite marks of scores of local children, among other Scurvitans. The Captain chuckled when he remembered the outrage from the community when the Squatter Foundation had demanded the dental records of the entire population of Scurvytown so that they could fine people for biting their precious squid. It was probably less funny if you were actually one of the people who had been fined, which amazingly did not include Captain Tullis.

Throughout the course of the Asparagus Festival, the Captain kept a low profile, tossing back fewer ‘Gus and Tonics than usual, and keeping himself carbo-loaded with Asparacrust Pizza and Catty Broadside’s famous “Asparagusto Pesto Pasta.” Most years, he’d drink himself silly on Beersparagus and by the end of each night, would be chasing anything that moved in hopes it would follow him home. What made this year so different was that there was a crime to be solved.

Captain Tullis’s writing campaigns had all turned kind of stale, as he was waiting for return correspondence on each and every one of them. Waiting was always the hardest and most boring part of his favorite past -time. Other hobbies had gotten old as well. He’d already taken his weekly snapshots of the various tourist attractions for the Welcome Center’s website: Penis Henge, The Witch’s Tit, and the Bottomless Caves were all the same as they were last week and the week before that. No one had even bothered to draw phalluses on The Witch’s Tit, or boobies on Penis Henge, or even a giant butt on the entrance to the bottomless caves. The Captain always took such delight in showing the photos to Janet Tor, who of course was tasked with the thankless job of keeping the town graffiti free.

The Captain had no choice but to turn back to his original favorite past-time, which was crime scene investigations. Back on the mainland, he had even earned sort of a reputation for himself when his infamous novel, “Crime Scene Whisperer,” exalted him to pop culture status. They had even made a TV show based on the novel, for which he was a consultant. Now that he was more or less retired, he didn’t care to be reminded of his past fame, and certainly didn’t care to tap back into that mindset.

But now, with the town pretty much blowing up right in front of him, he couldn’t help himself. All those old urges to gather information, organize it, and create a solid explanation came rushing back. As if the crash wasn’t enough of a catalyst, the arrival of the Mayor of Scurvytown to the scene moments after the incident certainly was.

The first thing that struck The Captain’s asparagin-soaked noggin as odd was when the horn sounded to announce the arrival of the Mayor. The Mayor was well-known as an agoraphobic, as well as suffering from ovinophobia, but that was really more of a rumor, and a non-issue on an island where sheep were completely outlawed.

Furthermore, the Mayor posted a very strict schedule on the Welcome Center’s website, which the Captain review frequently in order to avoid the festering lunatic. He was definitely not slated to make an appearance at the Asparagus Festival until day two, when he was scheduled to crown Miss Asparagus. Even the tiniest Scurvitan knew he had a three-day process in order to gain the courage to make an appearance, so his showing up a day early didn’t compute.

A squeaky male voice on a bullhorn rang out over the din of the horns as they continued to play the same tune repetitively: “Ladies and Gentlemen, please be upstanding for the Mayor of Scurvytown!”

When the Mayor was around, the citizenry did as they were told. It was as though he were royalty instead of appointed by the town council year after year. Folks who were sitting on nearby park benches and lounging in lawn chairs, tailgating the festival grounds, stood up and kept as still as statues. In order for the Mayor to get through a bit of public speaking, he required everyone stand completely still, or else they’d pay a hefty fine. One time, during ragweed season, the Captain had gotten stuck in the middle of one of the Mayor’s speeches and had been hit with a sneezing fit. Getting fined $80 for each sneeze was only part of the reason the Captain now did his best to avoid him. Mostly, it was because he thought he was an arrogant turdface.

The Mayor walked carefully and evenly paced down his red carpet toward the podium near the crumpled Squatter Fountain. He was a short man, under five feet tall, and round, so that when he walked so specifically, he very much looked like a penguin. He stepped onto his little step ladder so he could see the crowd of human statues over the top of the podium. He waved away a few pieces of styrofoam from the fountain as they wafted through the air in front of his face.

He flicked the mic button to “on” and spoke in his tinny but booming nasal voice, “Scurvitans, I come here today in the face of tragedy.”

Hopewell seemed to twitch on the Captain’s shoulder, and he felt as though the stuffed monkey wanted to leap off his shoulder, jump onto the podium, steal the Mayor’s top hat, and dance on his toupee, but figured it was probably just that projection thing that Doc Popov had explained to him during their last session. Hopewell was much more apt to want to throw crap at folks than dance on their craniums, anyway.

The Captain shook his head to break out of his reverie and refocused on the Mayor’s speech.

“This is not the time to panic in the face of adversary. This is the time to rebuild our great town, and to really put ourselves on the map. Because, who am I, really? I mean, I may be the Mayor of Scurvytown, but I care deeply for each and every one its citizens.”

He looked straight at the Captain then, and a chill went down the retired sailor’s spine.

“Now is not the time for justice. It’s a time for community. It’s a time for rebirth. It’s time for bigger and better things. It’s time for festivals and celebrations. Anyone found participating in acts against what I had just listed it is time for will be fined, and possibly even blacklisted. There is a zero tolerance policy for vigilantism, as you all are aware.”

The Captain churned over these words in his mind. It was a much longer speech than the Mayor usually gave. He wasn’t even reading it off notecards. It was as if he was actually saying it off the top of his head. But then the Mayor turned his head, and the glint of the sun revealed the truth: the Mayor was wearing an earpiece and being fed these words, but from whom? The whole thing was getting stranger by the moment.

“This is the minorest of minor setbacks in the minorest of keys,” continued the Mayor, slamming his chubby fist on the podium.

“And without further note of it, let us not mourn our town’s loss today, but rejoice in things to come, and enjoy the thirteenth annual Asparagus Festival!”

With that, he turned off the mic, hopped off the step ladder, and practically ran back down the red carpet. When the Mayor was safely back in his limousine, one of the pages held up a sign for applause. Everyone applauded as if their life depended on it, just in case there was a fine for not complying.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, please resume your business.” The squeaky voice rang out over the bullhorn.

Folks did go about their business, but not immediately. They waited until the limousine was out of sight before whispering amongst themselves. In the end, they didn’t really give a crap about anything other than that the festival would go on as planned, and they could continue to drink into oblivion.

The Captain stood still for a bit longer, and then continued his snooping around the ruins of the fountain. The Mayor could go jump into the bottomless caves for all he cared. Now that his prying was considered verboten, there was even more reason to poke further into the situation.

This episode went live on Sunday, August 22, 2010.

Stay tuned for next week’s exciting installment of Scurvytown, assuming my first week of grad school doesn’t interfere.

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