Orion Publishing Group, London 2003
"You ready for the question?"
"Are you stupid?"
"Yes, I am." He hooked his finger in his shirt collar, tugged out an ID card dangling from a short chain around his neck, and thrust it towards me with what I could have sworn was pride. "I’m registered NSS."
I craned forward. He meant it, too. NSS. Non-Specific Stupidity. It was a fairly new catch-all categorisation for people who weren’t classifiable under any of the acknowledged learning disorders or mentally diminishing diseases.
"NSS." I nodded. "I see. You’re actually officially stupid."
"Non-Specifically Stupid," he corrected me.
I signed the docket. The desk sergeant gave me a piece of paper telling me not to leave state, and which court I was to show up at. Nine o’clock, Friday morning. Right. Set your watches, people. I’ll be there.
And just in case you’re reading this and you’re American, and you’re having trouble wrapping your head around irony, I’ll add the following:
With it now?
I thanked everyone for their kind hospitality, using only one finger, too, and turned to go.
If ever I’m called upon to rewrite the classics, I’ll have a whole new list of labours for Hercules. Bringing Cerberus the Hellhound from the Kingdom of the Dead? That won’t even make the top ten. That won’t even be in the charts. Hiring a rental car from Paris? I’d like to see old Hercules try that.
I’d like to see him try.
I don’t want to undermine my tough guy image with you, but I was feeling very, very sorry for myself. I wanted to cry. I wanted my momma. But I wanted those things in a very tough guy kind of way.
We were up in some hills, and dawn was busting out all pretty and pink over the top of them. It was one of those picture-book dawns that make you wish you’d brought your camera, then realise you’re glad you didn’t, because those picturesque dawn photos really suck.