The Ballad of Lonely Herman
Although he was born years before the Herman comic strip appeared, Herman was appropriately named. With a head like a meat bell and a surgically-attached cigarette butt on his bottom lip, Herman could’ve stepped right off the funny pages. He was a human grotesquerie, a disgrace to the tradition of cell division. And it was said that he could be smelled by phone.
Herman had few friends in this world and except for “the shiny fellows” that camped on his scalp, he had no pets. He lived alone in a house that resembled a chemical explosion with a screen door. It overlooked the town on what was once called Pleasantview Hill, but was now known as that goddamn dump.
Because of his hygiene philosophies (“odors are songs for the nose, and I am a jukebox”) Herman led a very lonesome life. He spent the bulk of his days making fishing lures with his rectal hair, and staring at pictures of Scott Baio and Hubert Humphrey, the only two he owned. He missed his friends, who didn’t come around anymore. And he missed his beloved wife Dorothy, who had died years earlier. Herman cried every day, and his tears smelled like cabbage.
Approximately once every three or four months, when the loneliness grew unbearable, Herman would walk out his back door and calmly set fire to his tool shed. Then he’d return to his house and begin preparing for visitors. He’d cut a big hunk of cheese and fill a bowl with something crunchy, usually saltines or pudding. And when he was sure that the shed wasn’t going to go out, he’d call the fire department. Then he’d lean back and wait for his company to arrive.
The fire department and most of the town knew of this rather questionable practice and while they didn’t exactly approve, they didn’t take steps to stop it from continuing either. Most had a deep-seated pity for Ol’ Herman and could tolerate his seemingly harmless actions. Besides, by allowing him to pull such stunts, it erased some of the guilt they felt for letting him suffer up on that hill all alone. They also believed that firemen were the only people qualified to enter his house.
The fire fighters would put out the blaze in the tool shed and then spend a couple of hours chatting with Herman, careful not to let on that they knew his secret. .Then they would return to town and reflect on what they had seen. They marveled at the multi-colored fungus that crept out of Herman’s dress shoes. And they wondered how much time was invested in those huge whole-grain boogers he had plugged in. And they tried and tried to describe the smell.
The new mayor of the town happened to be passing through the room when one of these discussions was taking place, and he got an idea. The senior citizen’s home was scheduled to open, and if he was able to lure Herman out of that goddamn dump and into an apartment, the town would praise him. Herman’s rather conspicuous piece of land could be cleaned up and, once in the home, Herman would never be lonely again. Everybody wins! The mayor thought himself a genius.
He put on his best persuadin’ suit and drove up Pleasantview Hill to see Herman the next morning. Of course Herman was ecstatic to have another visitor so soon. He invited the mayor in and they sat down on a moist sofa. Herman offered his guest a slice of milk, which was politely refused. The mayor immediately turned the conversation to the matter at hand.
He had plotted a strategy as to how he would present the proposal, not wanting to spook Herman before the idea could be considered. He began gingerly, by asking him if he’d ever lived anywhere else, and Herman said no. The mayor asked him, as if addressing a child, if he would ever consider moving to another location, and Herman said yeah. The mayor asked him carefully if he’d ever consider moving to a place where all the meals were prepared for him, there were plenty of people around, and activities were planned every day.
Herman said he thought he knew what the mayor was getting at and, as a matter of fact, had been considering such an arrangement for some time now. The mayor was beaming as Herman reached into the drawer of his end table and pulled out a small handgun and calmly shot the mayor in the neck. Then he began preparing for his company to arrive, to take him to his new home.