Lehrton, Mississippi. Zane Hodge was as angry as I have ever seen him, and I have seen him murderously mad at Randal Beets several times over the past few years. Big ASS Endurance had just announced the expansion of their Wikileaks, uh Wikibeets, investigation as it is now being called. Additionally, they revealed that the inquiry was "now focusing mostly on Hodge," according to President and CEO Dr. Timothy Nomann.
"Beets," Hodge kept repeating over and over. "I knew he was a low down son of a skunk, but I never thought he had either the intelligence or the spitefulness to pull this off."
"What proof have you that Randal Beets is behind this?" I asked. We were at Plate City Gym, an hour after the announcement. The gym is the one place I can usually find Hodge and get some insight into his mood and thought.
"Proof? Just look at his reaction when this first broke. He was jumping up and down like a little kid at Christmas, practically laughing out loud. He was on TV doing that. Then he posted the video of his shadenfruede on YouTube and Facebook. Isn't it obvious?"
"Yeah. That's a German word that means 'joy at someone else's misfortune.'"
"Shadenfruede is not proof," I answered him. "Some would say it's not even evidence. If you have evidence that Beets started this ball rolling, you need to reveal it."
"I don't have any evidence. Not the courtroom kind. But trust me, he did it and I will do everything in my power to prove it. And if I ever catch him walking the street, I'm going to knock him out."
"That could get you suspended from Big ASS," I informed him.
"That is where this is headed anyway. Suspension. I can see it coming like a bad car wreck. Beets has been dreaming and scheming on me for years. When Nomann snubbed me at the banquet, the writing was on the wall. And then Beets won all those awards. He's finally getting it his way. I tell you what, if I get suspended, there's no telling what I'll do. Besides beating his butt, I will most likely move back to the Fasttrack Fatties. That's an organization founded on principle not on arbitrary rules they use to hang you with. They don't have these silly reporting requirements where you can get suspended if you make a simple mistake in arithmetic, and say you swam 20,000 meters when you only swam 19,900 because you added wrong. All of this is as stupid as Randy Beets is goofy. They act like you cheated or something if there is a reporting mistake."
"I don't remember you having this reaction when Beets was suspended over misreporting his height," I reminded him.
"And we still don't know how tall he is, do we?" Hodge snapped back.
"But either reporting matters or it doesn't. Which is it? You were all for it when it hit Beets. Now you are against it when you apparently think it is going to hit you."
"OK. I'm inconsistent. Sue me. I'm for anything that's against Beets and anything that's for me. It's called being competitive."
"Some would say it's called being a hypocrite."
Hodge reacted strongly at that. His face turned red, and then he stood up and stepped towards me with his right fist balled up as if he intended to strike me around the head and shoulders. His anger was alarming and I sought to deescalate the situation as quickly as possible.
"You're a preacher, aren't you?" I asked him, appealing to his better nature
"What's that got to do with it?"
"Preachers can't be beating people up."
"Samson did, and he made Scripture."
"Well, if you pull a Samson on me, you won't make Scripture, but you will make the newspaper. The Police Docket."
That caused him to think better of things and he sat down on a bench, stewing in silence.
"What am I going to do?" he asked after a few minutes of saying nothing.
"What have you done to get into trouble?" I asked. "No charges have been filed as of now."
"Geez. When they start one of these things, they're like the IRS. They're gunna find something whether there is anything to find or not. Beets has been working on this for years. Sucking up to Nomann and sending Christmas gifts to all the secretaries at Big ASS. I thought he was over it, over all the past fights and feuds we've had. But all this time he was working behind the scenes and simmering in thoughts of revenge."
He sat a bit longer and stared at the floor. Then he got up and said, "I better go hire Tom Flanagan of Morgan Morgan and Morgan to represent me. This is going to get worse before it gets better."
So he drove away once more leaving behind a cloud of blue smoke big enough to kill the town's mosquitoes.