"Jim," he said, his voice urgent, "you've got to apologize."
"Apologize for what?" He was starting to sound like my wife. I continued clipping my nose hair.
"That humor column of yours that we printed. As it turned out, people thought you were serious."
I was honestly surprised. "Who would believe that?"
"The same people who believe in Bigfoot."
"I'm sorry, Bobby," I told him, addressing him more casually than I'm sure he would have liked. "I stand by my fake story. I'm not apologizing to anybody."
"You have to," he insisted. "It's Mr. Pittle. You never should have attributed that faux quote to him."
"Like I said, I'm not apologizing to anybody."
"He's suing you for ten million seven hundred fifty thousand dollars and 37 cents."
"You didn't let me finish. I'm not apologizing to anybody... EXCEPT Mr. Pittle. A kind, generous, forgiving individual. Does he need his shoes shined, too?"
We hung up. I needed to call in the big guns. So I called Attorney Gloria Allred. Unfortunately, since I had a legitimate grievance, she refused to take my case. Next on my list was Johnny Cochran, the lawyer who invented the famous Distract-The-Jury-With-A-Dancing-Monkey defense.
"Sorry, Jim, but I can't help you," he told me. "I'm dead."
I finally went to see local legal powerhouse Theresa Caballero.
"My eyes are up here," I told her.
The consensus was... I had to apologize.
So I made my way to the El Paso Times the following morning in Downtown El Paso. I eventually found a parking space about three miles from where I needed to be, but it was free. As I walked to, and then into, the Times building, I got the same sense of excitement I got when I brought down the Nixon administration single-handedly. "Bob Woodward" was on vacation that week. Things hadn't changed a bit.
I walked up to the receptionist. She had a glock in one hand, and was pushing the silent alarm button with the other. I guess things had changed, after all.
"Can I help you?" she asked, pleasantly.
"I'm Jim Duchene. I believe Mr. Moore's expecting me."
She smiled. "Why, yes, he is. Just go right through that door." She pointed to my left, her right.
I smiled, and nodded my thanks. I walked through the door the receptionist had pointed at... and found myself back outside.
"What the..?" I thought, and made my way back to the front entrance. It was now locked. There was a hand-printed sign hanging inside the glass door. It was still swaying slightly from side to side. "Closed For Repairs," it said.
"Can I help you?" The voice came from behind me. I turned. It was Editorial Page Editor Charles Edgren, known for his dry wit and blunt, to-the-point emails that could be mistaken for dry wit. There was a cute little dog by his feet.
"Does your dog bite?" I asked him, bending down to dog level.
"No," he answered.
I reached out to pat the cute little dog on its cute little head... AND IT BIT ME!
"I thought you said your dog didn't bite!"
"That," Mr. Edgren said, a sly hint of a smile on his face, "is not my dog."
My hand was bleeding. I had to get to the hospital. Thank God there was one only a two-hour walk away. I began walking. As I passed the employee parking lot across the street I saw a head duck behind a car.
"Mr. Muench, is that you?" I called out.
"No hablo ingles," came the reply.
"C'mon, Mr. Muench, I know that's you."
The Editorial Page Writer stood up from his hiding place.
"Oh, hi, Jim," he said. "I didn't know it was you. Who's that behind you?"
I looked, but there was no one there. I looked back, and Mr. Muench was gone. All I could see was a tiny figure running in the distance. Man, that guy's fast. I guess you had to be when you worked in a part of town that had bullets flying from across the border.
"Hey, flaco, do you need a ride?"
I looked to see who was showing me this act of kindness. I really needed it. It was Times reporter Ramon Renteria. The man comedian George Lopez goes to for material.
"Don't you know who I am?" I asked him. "I seem to be persona non gordita around here."
"Como que no? That's my job, vato. So... do you want a ride or not?"
I looked at my hand. "How 'bout a beer?"
Fifty Shades of Funny