I would rather have licked hot asphalt than devote any more words to the shameful runoff election between hairless ape Chris "SuperTalk" McDaniel and chimp-descendant Thad "Pork-Lovin" Cochran. It was a markedly stupid affair, devoid of any intellectual content, entirely unremarkable to anyone who was not a chattering bloviating blowhard, and I hadn't wanted to cause my audience (two illiterates from Alabama and a woman who may be a cyborg) to suffer any more than they already would from looking at my pictures of dead fish.
But, while I was out photographing the nicest trash I could find, my wonderful day of finding decaying litter and fish was ruined when I stumbled across a lost Clarion-Ledger editor. He was an older man, deranged, frothing at the mouth, head turning back and forth like a mad dog, his attention incapable of being held for more than a few moments. He was pacing back and forth between two dead fish. One appeared to be a shiner, desiccating in the sand of the point bar. The other was a drum, eyes and guts eaten by scavengers, or possibly, by whatever had dragged it out of the alluvial shallows in the first place.
I wandered near the man, attempting to examine the fish. He growled at me, gnashing his teeth as he hissed, speaking to the shiner but somehow also addressing me as an audience. The wildness in his eyes told me to stay a few feet back.
"This one's a McDaniel man!" He said, a bit of sand-flecked drool dropping down onto his lapel. He was indicating the shiner, the big dead eye staring up into the afternoon sun. He hopped a few feet to the dead drum, hunching over it and smiling. "And this one's a Cochran voter! We're going to get some post-election analysis here, mister! It's what the people want!"
At the last sentence he practically howled. I saw his cell phone wedged between two beaver-chewed willow branches. I opened it, hit redial as he whispered to the eviscerated remains. A woman with an annoyed voice answered. "Clarion Ledger business office."
"I've found an old man who I think is one of your editors." I said. "He's gone mad, speaking to dead fish, he's confused, angry at something. I think he needs help."
"Sir, I assure you, that's just how he is. Can you put him on the phone?" She asked. I offered the man the phone, but he batted it into the river. Seeing my camera, he grinned.
"Get some clicky clicky of the good people." He said, hand waving towards the fish. I took the pictures, keeping an eye on him.
"Now this is why people buy newspapers!" He said. "This election's about " He looked blankly at the dead fish, and I feared what might happen to the man in a moment of clarity. Then, I realized that he was listening to something only he could hear, or was, perhaps getting something from the buzzing housefly he'd disturbed as she was laying eggs.
"...about a political outsider! A newcomer!" He was frothing mad, dancing like a marionette held on snapping rubber bands. "...people of Mississippi." He knelt down next to the drum, the scales of which were scattered on the sand.
"The REAL people of Mississippi. REAL Mississippians. Authenticity." He said to the drum. "It's about authenticity."
I briefly wondered if there were pseudo-citizens out there amongst us, but figured I'd need hard liquor to wrap my mind around the concept. I took a swig out of my flask and watched.
"The issues?!" He shrieked, jumping up from the drum as though the dead fish had bitten him. "Nobody cares about issues!"
"You trampled turtle tracks!" I shouted while pointing at his erratic scuffling footprints where they'd crossed
"They were contributing the debt! Money!" He shrieked, pointing an accusing finger at the decaying fish. "We can't afford to save the turtles! It's costing a fortune! Tax cuts! Tax cuts! Tax cuts!" He fell into the sand.
I briefly considered putting him out of his misery, but a dead Clarion Ledger editor wasn't something I wanted to explain to the police. I left him rolling around in the sand, and when I reached the levee, a couple of haggard interns were climbing the far side.
"Did you see..." One of them began. He smelled of coffee and stale fear.
"He's at the river." I said, pointing to the sand bar. "What the hell is going on with him?"
"This is how we generate the editorials."