The Grassy Knoll Pub is one of two watering holes in Mud Lick. With decor best described as “delightfully tacky conspiracy theorist,” it attracts residents and out-of-towners who enjoy the proprietor’s rants, free with every pint. Plus, the walls nearest the restrooms are usually redecorated each week with a brand new collage of photos, newspaper clippings, thumbtacks and yarn strands.
One night, the proprietor, a man named Jesse Custer, noticed a new customer in his mid sixties with graying hair and an authoritative demeanor. Even more noticeable were the men in matching black suits and earpieces who accompanied this new customer into the Knoll.
Custer, a lapsed Southern Baptist minister turned barkeep, was far less detached from the world than most of Mud Lick’s citizenry. As the graying, tired man asked for a glass of Bowmore 18, Custer politely asked him to wait a moment, then turned to the Knoll’s doorman.
“Cassidy, we’re closed. Last call, everyone!”
The pale Irishman named Cassidy immediately started hustling regular patrons through the Knoll’s doors. One of the black suits tried to pry his companion from his seat at the bar. Custer waived the suit off and shook his head.
Once the Grassy Knoll contained Cassidy, the suits, Jesse and the man at the bar, Custer poured the tired man three fingers of Jack Daniels, slid it in his direction and said, “I’m afraid this is the closest we’ve got to a Bowmore 18, sir. Figured the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court might’ve sussed that out about a small town Alabama bar.”
The man took the glass and downed it in one gulp. “I’ll take another, then. And it’s that obvious who I am?’
“Well, your face has been all over TV for the last week, and I went to the Supreme Court once when you declared the Obamacare penalty a ‘tax,’ so I know enough to know who you are. Also I figured the Chief Justice might want a drink in peace after this week. S’Why I had Cass over there close the Knoll down for you.
Roberts sighed. “After this week I’m seriously considering resigning.”
“That bad, huh? Figured the cushy gig with the lifetime guarantee might soften the blow a little, even if you’re dealing with D.C. types.”
“You have no idea what this week’s been like,” Roberts countered.
Jesse pulled a mason jar from behind the counter, unscrewed the lid, and poured two shot glasses. He slid one to Chief Justice Roberts and said, “That there’s Old Man Cocke’s Apple Pie Moonshine. Let’s share some. Then you can try and impress me with what your week’s been like.”
Roberts slammed the shot. “I got the gig as Chief Justice of the United States because I believed in calling a case right down the middle. When we hear arguments at the Supreme Court, there’s rules. People submit everything in writing before they get to oral arguments and they have time limits.”
“Then I get word I’m going to preside over the third Presidential Impeachment trial in our nation’s history. I get some foolish notion that it’s going to be a memorable moment, something worth my participation. Less than a day into the whole thing it turns into a fucking episode of the Jerry Springer show with me essentially hosting.”
“How many paternity tests you have to administer this week, Chief Justice?”
Roberts smiled. “That’s a good one, Mr…I don’t have your name.”
“Custer. Jesse Custer, Chief Justice Roberts.”
“Well, Mr. Custer, if you’ll call me John while we’re here I’d appreciate it. I’d appreciate a few moments of being treated like an average guy.”
“Sure thing, John.”
“People keep saying I’m not doing enough to “save our democracy.” They think I’m some kind of a savior that will stop our President from doing something stupid, as long as I step outside of the Constitution and do whatever some blog writer says is the morally right thing to do. None of that’s the truth, and none of that’s in my job description.”
“Indulge my curiosity, John. What would you say is actually in your job description?”
“Can I have another shot of that apple pie?”
Jesse obliged John, who downed it again with one gulp.
“At the end of the day, I’m a man who wears a black robe and says things guaranteed to upset someone no matter what. I have eight colleagues with the same job description and what we do changes the law of the land every time the assholes in the Senate and House can’t be bothered to do their jobs. I just get more heat than the rest because I have the title ‘Chief Justice.’”
“Well, John, a fella came through here once and taught me a Latin phrase I believe seems to apply to your current situation. I believe it was ‘Stercus Accidit.’”
Roberts smiled. “That’s not bad. And I thank you for your time. By the way, it’d be nice if no one knew I was ever here. Think that would be possible?”
“In my line of work, there’s a thing called “barkeep-client privilege,” John. Hope your suit wearing friends are designated drivers, by the way.”
“What’s the damage, Mr. Custer?”
Jesse waved a hand. “Talking with a Supreme Court Justice is payment enough. Plus unless you’ve got cash the purchase would be traceable, so let’s call this on the house, ok?”
“Thank you,” said Chief Justice Roberts, who exited the Grassy Knoll in the back of a Suburban driven by the two black suits.
As the Suburban sped off, Cassidy piped up from his dark corner near the door. “You didn’t bother to tell him once about the bad hangovers from George Cocke’s Apple Pie?”
Jesse smiled, lips tight. “I figure the headache will be a nice distraction when he gets back to work Monday.”