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Freedom of Speech
by Eric Bosse


The cop scowled at Charlie and said, “Shut up, you fat piece of shit.”

So I said, “Excuse me, officer, correct me if I’m wrong, but you get paid out of our hard-earned taxpayer dollars to protect and keep the peace, do you not?”

Charlie put his hand on my arm. I pulled away.

The cop slammed the lid on our cooler and stood up straight.

“Well,” I said, “the peace isn’t exactly threatened by us carrying a few beers past the park, now is it, officer? And you would probably grant that it’s not very peaceful of you to call my admittedly rotund friend here a fat piece of shit.”

I chuckled.

The cop grimaced.

Charlie flashed me an unkind look, which made the fatty wrinkles puff up on the bridge of his nose.

The cop cleared his throat.

Charlie tried to look contrite by shrugging in a way that unfortunately emphasized the fact that his stretched out British flag T-shirt covered less than the full span of his belly. The hairy patch around his navel poked out.

(“Not a good shirt for the Fourth,” I had told him, back at his apartment, but Charlie insisted that as an English-speaking American of British descent he didn’t have to be ashamed of his heritage. Besides, he told me, it was a freedom of speech issue. I said, “I beg to differ there, Charlie, it’s a T-shirt.” He pointed at the Nike swoosh on my shoes and smirked, as if
that meant anything.)

So, anyway, the cop squinted at us. “Were you planning to drink these in
the park?” he asked.

I said, “Officer, officer, before we delve too deeply into the logistical details of why we were transporting this cooler between us as we chose to traverse this inconveniently blockaded street, perhaps we could resolve my friend’s status as a person whose abundance of weight does not make him a piece of excrement.”

Charlie hit my shoulder and said, “Shut the fuck up, Pete.”

So I did. I shut up. And sure enough the officer jotted down our names and addresses and told us that if we ever again “attempted to enter the park with beer” we would be arrested and maybe even get “deported to some fuck hole country where they shoot fat pieces of shit” who wear “foreign T-shirts on the Goddamned Fourth of July.”

As Charlie and I walked away from the park, with the heavy cooler dangling
between us, Charlie said, “Lean to keep your fucking mouth shut, Pete.”

I let go of my handle and let the cooler slam to the sidewalk. “Don’t talk that way to me, fatso,” I shouted. “Not now. Not ever.”

Charlie looked around to see if anyone had heard.

I picked up the handle. We walked silently back to Charlie’s truck as red, white and blue flashes boomed over our shoulders.



About the Author

I've published stories with Exquisite Corpse, Zoetrope All-Story Extra, The Absinthe Literary Review, Linnaean Street, Nubrite, Mississippi Review and a few others. I'm also a filmmaker, a special education teacher, an occasional (bad) guitarist, and the founding editor of The God Particle.