Aug 18, 2010

Maybe, Maybe Not

Constable Hebert Maybe left his home each morning with the silent, desperate prayer he wouldn’t have to talk to anyone.

Hebert's true calling in life was not from the constabulary. Constables are jovial men who lean on diner counters, stirring coffee and shooting the breeze. Constables help Mrs. Billing’s get her cat out of the tree. Hebert was petrified of Mrs. Billings (although, in all fairness to Hebert, most people were).

Hebert had mastered one thing in life: not being noticed. His hair wasn't even a definable color. It wasn't brown, and it wasn't blond. Most of it wasn't there. What was there his wife Mildred's whistle sharp scissors kept just long enough to comb over his dull scalp.

So off he went each day in his beige polyester uniform, praying he wouldn’t be drawn into conversation, needed, or kids wouldn't stuff a potato in the exhaust pipe of the town cruiser. But for the efforts of Mildred he might have known real success. Of course it would have been easier for Mildred to be the Constable; she would’ve preferred it (as would’ve Hebert), but it simply wasn’t done in a small New England town, so Mildred managed best she could. She was Constable De Facto. She sent Hebert out each morning while she answered the phone, made the decisions, and called Hebert on his car radio and told him what to do.

This system worked well, and the town of Flatsford (pronounced Flatsfud) enjoyed a peaceful run for most of Hebert’s career. The only tangible threat to his comfort zone was the annual town meeting. As Constable, his presence was required at the door of the school gymnasium, and the one day a year gave him anxiety-induced acid reflux. The year the budget included a controversial expenditure for dog waste receptacles at the park still tightened his chest and made his palms sweat. Most years, though, attendance was low, and he managed to avoid conversation, except for Mrs. Billings who snapped at him to stand up straight as she passed.

But all good things come to an end, and his life was about to change.

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