Booger was one of those guys who just never seemed to fit into anywhere on earth, but at the same time, he never really tried. Fate was not kind to Booger, and if he had a real name he wasn’t sharing, and his employer wouldn’t either. “He wants to be called Booger and that’s what you gonna call him, too!” Old Man Gandy ran the show and liked to let people know he was in charge. The turnover rate for meter readers was exceedingly high, and Old Man Gandy could never figure out that he was more of the problem than the solution.
Booger and Old Man Gandy went back a long way. Booger was a meter reader back in the day when everything was done on paper, and doing a route required a hell of a lot of time. But there were a lot fewer people back then. One day, right there in front of Blanton’s Meat Market on South Patterson, a truck overturned and hit Booger. He walked with a limp from that point on. His job was to drop meter readers off on their routes because that was all he was physically capable of doing, mostly.
The old-timers tell the story that way before the accident Booger wasn’t quite right. After the accident, he started drinking heavy, started popping pills, and actually won a settlement against the owner of the truck for thirty grand. Booger went to the nearest rest area on I-75, found his favorite hooker, a woman who charged ten bucks for ten minutes, and married her.
Mrs. Booger, yes, that is what people called her, had seven teeth, looked like she had been prematurely mummified, and screamed when she spoke. Between the two of them, the $30K disappeared like ham left in an animal shelter. All they had to show for it was a small house that needed repairs and a truck that Booger had bought for one hundred dollars. It didn’t have an engine in it.
Booger and Bride were arrested once because the truck, having been repaired, was Booger’s way to work. Mrs. Booger got mad at him one morning and tossed the keys on top of the house. Booger called the fire department to report a fire door, and once they arrived tried to talk them into getting his keys down for him. Booger was arrested once he confessed to making the call and Mrs. Booger was arrested for trying to keep the cops from arresting Booger. The fate of the keys is unknown.
Booger took a shower once, sometimes twice a week, usually on weekends and holidays. A huge hulk of a human being, Booger had a thick layer of hair springing out of every part of his body. He kept an old baseball cap on his head that had layers of oil on it. His hair looked like someone had cooked spaghetti in motor oil and glued it to Booger’s head. By Thursday, he smelled like a man with a drinking problem who lived with a part-time prostitute. They saved money by flushing their toilet once a day, usually right before bedtime. Booger, and this might have been how he got his nickname, was dropping us off one morning and pulled a booger out of his nose the size of a garden grub. He rolled it around between his thumb and forefinger while humming a Hank Williams song then tried to flick it out the window. It stuck to his fingers so he wiped it on the dashboard where in the summer sun, it petrified. Booger knew no fear of the gross things in life. He once barehanded a dead possum out of a meter box with his left hand while eating an ice cream sandwich with his right.
The morning of the wiped booger I was already in deep trouble. I had stayed out all night drinking and felt my stomach doing flips. At seven in the morning, it was already hot and muggy. Another one of the meter readers had been at the same party and she was looking green after Booger’s booger binge. It was Friday and Booger hadn’t yet bathed that week. The smell of that man was worse than death, for at least in death decomposition will eventually end. With Booger, it could, and did, get worse and worse. I knew I was going to puke, I just didn’t know how long I could last.
The truck stopped and just as I got out Booger said, “I ain’t got no idea who’s gonna pick ya’ll up cuz I got a doctor’s appointment.”
“You sick Booger?” Terri, the female meter reader asked. She looked greener, and I wondered why she asked.
“Naw, I ain’t ailing none,” Booger grinned, the chewing tobacco stained teeth, those remaining anyway, glowing yellow in the sun, “the doctor got to stick his finger up my ass after lunch.”
And that was enough. The visual of someone having to perform that sort of inspection on something like Booger’s butt was more than I could stand. I stepped out of the truck and an entire night’s drinking busted out like an exorcism of beer. Terri, already as close to the edge as she could get, followed suit. The third reader with us had a weak stomach and he let loose, too.
I walked off about one hundred feet or so and tried to breathe. Terri walked to the nearest house and called a friend to come get her; she quit on the spot. I looked down the road and wondered if I was ever going to get that image out of my head, and to this day, can’t.
I can only pass it on to you.