Goofus, Gallant, Rashomon.
BY JIM STALLARD
[Originally published March 11, 2005.]
Ted, co-worker of Gallant:
That freak belonged to the cult of manners. Talk about a true believer. I rode on an airplane with him once, and he wouldn’t start eating his meal until everyone was served.
Sheila, Goofus’s high-school classmate:
My memory of Goofus is that people saw what they wanted to. I was drawn to him because I sensed he was hurting inside. That’s why he put up that wall and was “rude,” but who’s to say which way is right? It’s just a social construct. Is there some cosmic, universal book of manners? I knew they’d find a way to make him pay, though. They always do.
Ronald, middle-school classmate of both:
It was weird; they started at our school at the exact same time. Eighth grade. Everyone thought they were brothers, but it turns out their fathers were just transferred at the same time to the cereal plant in town. Gallant sits down in the front row and starts sucking up to Mr. Anderson, the English teacher. Volunteers for everything, like our literary journal, Chrysalis — all that gay stuff.
Shawn, high-school classmate of Goofus:
Goofus—my God, what a bad-boy poseur. I could tell he had picked up his Nietzscheism from a comic book. He would talk about the “Will to Power.” But there was also some G. Gordon Liddy mixed in there. He loved doing the candle trick, moving his hand through the flame and pretending he didn’t mind the pain. Then I did the same thing with my finger, showing him how full of shit he was.
Natalie, Gallant’s high-school friend:
Gallant was one of the few mature guys in our high school. Sensitive. We used to talk about James Taylor during lunch. I thought him the perfect gentleman, and of course my parents loved him. But when someone is polite to the point of having that Moonie quality, it gets to you. Finally it dawned on me that he used that politeness as a way of controlling me. That was what it was all about—he followed the rules because it gave him the advantage.
Alex, high-school teacher of Goofus:
Goofus had a top-notch bullshit detector. Most teenagers think they have one, but his was the real thing, and I’m one of the few teachers who can relate to it. I introduced him to Kerouac, Bukowski, Burroughs. He acted enthusiastic about writing a paper in which they interacted. But it turned out to be seven pages of … well, I was one of the characters in the scene, which was extremely graphic and not what we agreed on.
Paul, Gallant’s college acquaintance:
Gallant just didn’t get it when it came to relating to people. He would say words the “proper” way that no one normal ever does—you know, “Don’t act immatoor.” Always the authority. One night I’m walking to dinner with him and another student, a friend from England, and we’re ragging on each other—he’s calling me Yank and I’m calling him Limey. Gallant breaks in to inform us that “Limey” comes from the British navy, eating limes to avoid scurvy, blah, blah, blah. Gee, thanks, Gallant. Dork.
Brandon, junior-college classmate of Goofus:
Was Goofus a rebel? He sure liked to think so. He cultivated that tousled-hair thing. He wouldn’t go out unless he thought it was prominent enough. I sat in his living room for 45 minutes once waiting for him to sculpt it into the perfect unkempt shape. But that roughness was skin deep. I knew he’d be easy pickings in a real fight.
Dan, Gallant’s college acquaintance:
Gallant would walk into a party and suck all the air out of the room. He would pretend not to be disapproving but he always made a point of commenting on what you were drinking, or how many you had. “You must really like that kind of beer”—until you edged away.
Darlene, ex-wife of Goofus:
I thought I could change Goofus. Remember, I’m a town girl who’s never gone anywhere, and I was looking for some excitement. I had a lot to learn about men. With that electronic ankle bracelet, he couldn’t leave the house after dark, so it was always me doing the shopping and running last-minute errands. And through all that he was always talking about how oppressed he was. Try raising three kids when your husband won’t get off his ass.
Steve, Gallant’s college acquaintance:
Gallant’s attempts to seem cool were just painful. One time after making some incredibly lame joke he said, “I’m just breaking your balls,” and the rest of us almost died laughing.
Shane, Goofus’s army buddy:
Goofus loved Jack Daniels. And Yukon Jack. He always wanted to do snakebites even though I don’t think he liked them—just the name. He would do two and then switch to something else.
Brad, Gallant’s co-worker:
Gallant was the total company man. There’s not a buzzword he didn’t use to death. We’re at a strategy meeting one day and he actually says, “If you fail to plan you plan to fail.” I had to avoid making eye contact with Tony, another co-worker, because I knew we would both lose it and get in trouble.
Reverend John Swafford, Gallant’s minister:
Gallant was a wonderful addition to our church. He always showed tremendous concern for the members, making inquiries and then letting me know which ones seemed to be having personal problems. If he had just had a little more concern for himself, things would not have turned out the way they did.
Harold, charity-event organizer:
What happened was a disgrace. I put together nice events with the right kinds of people attending. I don’t need this kind of publicity.
David, Gallant’s co-worker:
I don’t really understand what pushed Gallant over the edge. Serving from the right rather than the left—who even pays attention to that stuff? Especially at a fundraiser. I think Gallant must have been on something. There’s a side of him nobody knows. It’s weird how everything came full circle, though. It was fate Goofus got assigned to serve that table.
Dean, fellow waiter with Goofus:
Goofus told me in the kitchen he had a bad feeling about that night. It was weird because he’s not usually superstitious. I was still in there putting garnishes on the plates when I heard the altercation—I just thought someone was getting chewed out for dropping a tray.
David, deputy mayor:
I was at the next table. Everything is normal. The waiters are bringing the entrees out and whisking the salads away. Suddenly, this nice-looking man at their table explodes in rage. He screams out, “Right is wrong!” several times at this poor server who’s looking at him in shock. Before anyone can move he puts one hand on top of the server’s head, the other on his jaw, and just snaps his neck, Delta Force-style. Then he sat back down and put his napkin in his lap.
Evan, Gallant’s co-worker:
I was sitting across from Gallant. Goofus was baiting him—he was looking right at me with this smirk on his face while he set the plate down. Well, he got a reaction all right. I hope Goofus is happy wherever he is—where exactly do scum go when they die?
George, Gallant’s co-worker:
Wow—a life sentence. Normally, I’d say Gallant won’t last a week on the inside. But I definitely can imagine him being very helpful to some inmate, if you get me.
Harold, cemetery custodian:
Goofus’s tombstone is not marked well and is hard to find, but the teenage kids have started making pilgrimages to it. They go there and get drunk and weepy. I find their beer cans and wine bottles along with flowers and notes saying stuff like “You spoke the truth and they killed you for it.” I’m thinking: You want to make him out to be your hero, go crazy, I don’t care. Just don’t leave your crap all over the ground for me to clean up. Didn’t anybody ever teach these kids manners?
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