The Horrible Man

The Great Man was coming to town, and we were all pre-amazed. Certainly he would do wondrous things. Maybe he’d build us a rocket or herd us in some elk or make lemonade from nothing but water. It remained to be seen. We all waited at the window, knowing it was the tenth, whereas he was scheduled to arrive on the twelfth. But we couldn’t help ourselves – elk! Possibly. It could be a vegetarian tornado instead. We didn’t have a clue. But we knew one thing – it’d be marvelous. Look out the window; maybe he’s early! Maybe he wants to sneak into town and avoid a crowd before getting some sleep at our hotel. Our hotel had a picture of elk.

The twelfth came, and the man arrived. What a sight! He rode in on a large, flowery float pulled by two motorcycles, a horse, and several leaping frogs. He threw bottle caps and oranges from his pedestal. We all cheered and bought baskets from Norman’s, who was cleared out by the end of the day and retired on the thirteenth. The Great Man rode straight through town and we never heard from him again. Everyone trying to return the baskets the next day were a little miffed, but it was understandable, and people still went to visit Norman at home, promising forgiveness and invitations to parties and fires.

Unbeknownst to us at the time, another man, tall, lanky, grumpy and immaculate, had come to town riding underneath the float. He’d rolled out and joined the cheering crowd so quickly – even bought a basket from Norman’s – that no one noticed his arrival. Our town didn’t appreciate unnoticed arrivals, which deprived us of late nights at our windows dreaming of strangers and drinking hot chocolate. We didn’t know he’d come to town until he became the High School Principal. Somehow. We never quite worked that out.

He was High School Principal, he said, because any school lower than High was far too low for a tall, gaunt man. In addition to being principal, he was also our cheerleader and referee. At the same time. He cheered his own calls, mostly, with such energy you’d think we’d given a large praying mantis too much coffee. He was mean to children. He lacked courtesy at bonfires, sticking with a torch anyone who’d had more than two s’mores. He treated waitresses poorly and used other people’s cash for tips, but not before chewing on it. He was an exemplary citizen, a model of restraint, generosity, velocity, New York City, penicillin, and circumspection. He loved minimalism. Everyone loved his stories about how to draw the letter L. He lengthened his poetry by quoting tabloids.

The fantastic mishmash of unsavory and not-so-bad was, in a word, horrible. He was a horrible man. Spectacular, certainly, but horrible. One day he’d feed a puppy a carrot, and the next he’d explain politics to it. In one sitting, he would offer you an opportunity of a lifetime while eating your candy. He would drench your socks right in your shoes and called it Sockial Media.

A horrible man he was. The Horrible Man.

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