Reuben rattled his newspaper and ignored the screams.
“Let me out!”
Sometimes it wasn’t easy being the sheriff of a small city in the middle of nowhere. Half the time the cells were empty and the rest of the time there was the odd drunk sleeping off a bender. Once in awhile, however, you got troublemakers.
Reuben got up and went to the coffee maker to pour himself a fresh cup. The room was quiet and he avoided making eye contact wit the source of the irritation. He sat back down and put his boots up on his desk and picked up his newspaper. He was taking a sip of his coffee when the air was rent by a piercing screech followed by profanity.
“You bastard! I’m innocent!”
Reuben spilled coffee down the front of his shirt and jumped up in a rage. He grabbed a napkin and dried himself then glared.
“Listen you, I’m gonna come over there and brain you if you don’t shut your damned mouth. You got that?”
His antagonist eyeballed him for several seconds without blinking and then looked away. Reuben sat down and grabbed his paper and buried his nose in it. The room was peaceful for the better part of ten minutes and Reuben was deep into a story about an upcoming tractor pull when all hell broke loose.
“You’re a joke! Let me out! You bastard! I’m innocent!”
Reuben felt his blood pressure rise and jumped out his seat, pistol drawn. He crossed the distance between them in three steps and shoved the gun in his tormentor’s face.
“You want me to blow your goddamn head off? Don’t think I won’t do it! I’ve had enough out of you!”
Grinning his satisfaction as he watched the object of his wrath cower in a corner he holstered his weapon and strode back to his seat. He made a point of turning his chair so that he was facing away and resumed reading his paper.
From behind him came a low voice. “I’m innocent.”
“Yeah, you’re innocent Fred. We’re all innocent.”
Pleased that he had finally gotten the last word he went back to reading his article. When he was finished he headed for the bathroom to take a leak. He had no more than closed the door when Fred started in again.
“Let me out damn it! You bastard! Let me out! I’m innocent! I’ll get you for this!”
Reuben shook his head and took his time washing his hands. He was going to have to have a word with his deputy when he got back from his rounds. Something had to be done.
He opened the bathroom door and gave Fred the hairy eyeball before he sat back down. Fred regarded him with a cocked head but held his tongue. Reuben cracked his neck and then pushed his paper aside and picked up the phone to call his wife. He was just saying hello when Fred went on the attack again.
“You bastard! I’ll get you for this! Let me out!”
Nancy gave a throaty laugh down the line. “Fred giving you hell again?”
“It’s not funny babe. When Andy gets back I’m gonna tell him I can’t take it anymore.”
“You’ve been through this before. You always relent.”
“Not this time. Enough is enough.”
“Well, whatever. Don’t forget to pick up some bread on your way home, you hear?”
He hung up the phone and sat there fuming. Andy came through the door a minute later.
“Hey Reuben, what’s up?”
“Get over here and sit down Andy.”
Sitting down and folding his arms over his chest Andy frowned. “Don’t tell me, Fred’s been at it again.”
As if to confirm Fred let out with a string of expletives and protested his innocence once again.
“Look, Andy, I know I agreed to give it another chance but it’s just not working out.”
“He just wants attention Reuben, he – “
“Andy, look, he’s picked up everything he’s heard from the inmates. It’s not good. He’s not going to quit repeating all that stuff. He’s a nice parrot but this is just no place for him. You’ll have to find him another home if your wife won’t let you keep him at your house.”
Andy nodded with a sigh and cast a dirty look at Fred. Fred nodded his head with vigour and danced across his perch.
“I’m innocent you bastard!”
With love and thanks to Titirangi Storyteller for the inspiration.