From his fetal position on the pavement, Garrett could the state trooper wrestling the drunk across the parking lot - though it would be several minutes before his other senses returned. For the moment, all he could do is squirm and burn and pains of flame erupted from deep within his gut. When he did pry his eyes open, he saw his station’s camera resting awkwardly on its logo - deep scratches down one side but otherwise unharmed. Though it did little to douse the fire in his loins, the site of his intact camera made his feel a little better. But that modicum of relief evaporated when he looked past his camera and saw Jani pacing back and forth in the distance, her cell phone jammed to her ear as she stole worried glances at her suddenly prone photog. Crumpled in the dust was not the impression G. Lee wanted to leave with his pretty co-worker, but he knew even then the unfortunate image would pop in her head whenever, if ever she thought of him in the future. It was this realization that kept Garrett on the ground, even as the conflagration ion his crotch slowly subsided.
“Son, stay right there, I’m callin’ an ambulance.”
The voice from above snapped Garrett from his stupor and he looked up to see the short State Trooper towering over him.
“No, don’t do that - please.” he croaked.
“You sure boy?” the trooper asked. “Looked like that guy got you right in the fruit basket.”
“He did, but I’ll be okay.” Garrett slowly rolled to a sitting position as Jani walked up with the cell phone still in her ear. The trooper didn’t acknowledge her. Instead he rolled his eyes and turned on his heel to walk back in the building. As he did, Jani hit the End button on her phone and squatted beside him.
“You okay, G. Lee?”
“Never better,” he said, trying to avoid looking her in the eye.
Jani rolled her cell phone around in one manicured hand and looked back at the state trooper’s car. “Man, I thought maybe he’d stabbed you or something, the way you went down like that.”
Garrett blew air through his gritted teeth and tried to think of a clever response. When he came up empty, he pulled his knees up to his chest and hung his head, silently willing his groin to stop throbbing. Jani sensed his unease and decided to give him some space.
“Well, I guess we’re done for the night.” she said. “I’m gonna call the desk.”
With that she walked off, leaving Garrett to slowly stand on his own. He was picking gravel out of his camera’s microphone windscreen when the trooper reappeared from the shadows.
“Here,” he said, handing him a bottled water. “If you want to press charges, I’d more than happy to start the paperwork.
At first, Garrett almost gave the trooper the go-ahead. But then he thought about how official charges would complicate matters and drag the unbearable evening out even further. A small part of him screamed for vengeance, but a larger part just wanted to hobble back to his apartment and make sure he hadn’t been rendered a eunuch. Besides, the feared his managers might latch on to any assault charges as fodder for yet another insipid ‘special report’. Not wanting his swollen testicles to be a subject of water cooler chat across the tri-city region, he dismissed the idea.
“Naaaah, I don’t wanna press charges - I just wanna go home.”
Garrett couldn’t see the trooper’s face underneath the shadows of his hat brim but he heard the lawman let out a long sigh before speaking. “All right, if you say so.” he said, looking around before leaning in close to Garrett’s face. “But let’s at least go screw with him.”
The drunk sat at the end of a concrete bench, his stringy black mullet glistening in the fluorescent lights. Whatever bravado he possessed earlier in the evening seemed to have dissipated and his shoulders slumped in defeat. When he saw the two men enter the room, he looked up with an expression that reminded Garrett of dogs at the pound awaiting execution.
The trooper stepped right in front of the shackled hulk and with the tome of a stern Sunday School teacher addressed his arrestee.
“Before we draw up assault charges on ya, is there anything you wanna say to Mr. Cameraman here?”
“I’m sorr-ee, Mr. Cameraman,” the drunken construction worker said through a stalactite of snot. “I shouldn’t a kicked you in the nuts. But me and my ole lady’s fighting and I just got too liquored up. Please don’t press charges on me.”
Garrett looked down at the man’s quivering lip and tear stained cheeks. . Were it not for the incredible heat radiating from his mid-section, he might have actually felt sorry for the guy…
“So you didn’t press charges?” the young reporter in the electric aqua suit asked.
“Nope - didn’t seem worth it,” Garrett said as he looked from one enthralled colleague to the next. “Besides, dude did me favor. Jani never gave me the time of day after that, and I realized what a self-absorbed shrew she really was. The last I heard of her, she was complaining to her agent that her face wasn’t big enough on all those billboards along Capitol Boulevard.”
With that, the clutch of news geeks gathered by the crime tape nodded solemnly - as if G. Lee’s decade old tale of being popped in the rocks was less a random act of drunken judgment and more of a cautionary tale to be handed down to a whole new generation of lenslingers.
Perhaps it is.