Ass Hat by Robert Stout

Ass Hat
Robert Stout

I sat in my comfy blue chair, listening to Jill Thompson’s weekly prattle. I took few notes. Then, mercifully, her hour was up. I gently guided her back to the lobby and asked Doris to make her another appointment. Doris handed me an aluminum clipboard with the next patient’s information, then opened up the appointment screen to schedule Mrs. Thompson’s next weekly dip into self aggrandizing ‘therapy’. She wasn’t really ill. Hell, she didn’t even have real issues at home. But she wanted therapy and I had a boat payment to make.

Newton Smith, read the chart. A new patient. I really dislike new patients. I have to pretend that they need my services and I care about their problems. At least with continuing patients, the story stayed the same and I didn’t really have to work. This guy was new, referred by his General Practitioner. I’m not a fan of MD referrals, either. It usually means the patient has a screwed up head from a zillion needless tests because the doctor couldn’t tell his ass from a hole in the ground.

I looked up from the chart. “Mr. Smith?” I asked.

A short man raised his hand. “I’m Newton Smith.”

“Follow me, please.”

We walked back to the therapy room. It looked like every other room, except it had my comfy chair and a worn leather couch. I directed him to the couch and asked, “Mr. Smith, what brings you in today?”

He looked at me over his cheap glasses and said, “I’m being hunted.”

“Really? By who?”

“I’m not sure. At first, I thought is was just a series of coincidences, coupled with a head cold. Now I know I’m being hunted.”

“How long have you known this?”

“Since last Tuesday. That’s when they made a mistake and I could see their plan.”

“Tuesday. But you don’t know who they are? Or is it one person?”

“It’s two. A husband and wife.”

I made a note of this on my pad. “And why would you be hunted? Are you involved with anything top secret or illegal?”

“No, nothing like that. I’m just a clerk at Rothmann’s Department Store.”

“I see. You said they made a mistake. What was that?”

“I caught his wife taking my picture at the beach.”

“Tuesday?”

“Yes. I work weekends. I have Tuesdays and Wednesdays off.”

And what else was happening when she took your picture?”

“Well, it was almost sunset. I was watching the sun go down into the ocean.”

“And she snapped a picture?”

“Yes, with an old Nikon. It made a very audible click.”

“You’re sure she wasn’t taking a picture of the sunset?”

“No sir. She had that camera pointed right at me.”

“Between her line of sight and the sunset?”

“Exactly!”

I sighed. “Now, you said that you could see their plan, What is their plan?”

“They find people like me. Nobodies that won’t be missed and hunt them.”

“Hunt, as in with a gun?”

“Yes. I think they must use a rifle.”

“And why is that?”

“They don’t get close enough to use a pistol. They keep their distance.”

“Like at the beach?”

“No, there they made a mistake and got too close. That’s how I figured it out!”

“Mr. Smith, did you actually see any guns?”

“No.”

“Did the woman try to approach you or did anyone else?”

“No.”

“Did anyone say anything to you?”

“Yeah, someone yelled ‘Get out of the way, ass hat!’ when I stood up.”

“At the beach, at sunset?”

“Yes.”

“I couldn’t be that when you stood up, you ruined a picture they were about to take?”

“No sir. It couldn’t.”

“And why is that?”

“Because I had a beret in my back pocket. How could they have known!”

“I don’t follow.”

“They called me ass hat! The only way they could have known I had a hat was to spy on me!”

“And how does that knowledge lead to your being hunted?”

“It all goes together, right? Why would they spy on a clerk at Rothmann’s? The only reason to do that is to get to know my habits and the only reason they would want to know this is because they mean to kill me!”

“I see. Anything else?”

“Well, now I’m not sleeping.”

“Because you are being hunted?”

“Yes! I’m changing my habits to mess them up!”

“So, you’re awake all night and work all day?”

“Exactly. I knew you would get it!”

“Mr. Smith, would you have come to this conclusion if they had shouted asshole instead of ass hat?”

“Of course not. Everybody has an asshole. Very few have an ass hat.”

“Had you ever heard the term ass hat before Tuesday?”

“No! And that was their mistake!”

“Ass hat?”

“Precisely!”

“Mr. Smith, are you aware that there is, in slang, the term ass hat?”

“I did not know that. What does it mean?”

“A stupid or ignorant person.” I typed the term ass hat into my computer and turned the screen so he could see the definition.

“Oh!”

“Yes, Oh. Are you a wealthy man, Mr. Smith?”

“No sir, I’m not.”

“This session is being covered by your health insurance, but future ones won’t. I could schedule you and talk to you for $500 a week for the next thirty years, or, you could realize that you jumped to a conclusion based on a misunderstanding of current slang.”

“I’m not being hunted?”

“No, Mr. Smith. You just were called a vulgar term and jumped to a conclusion based on a coincidence.”

“I can go back to sleep at night?”

“Yes, Mr. Smith, and I would recommend it. Too much sleep depravation will result in hallucinations.”

He shoved his hand at mine. I took it and he shook it hard. “Thank you, Doctor, thank you! You’re a miracle worker!”

I escorted him out to the lobby. Doris began to complete his paperwork. He was my last patient of the day. I sat down in my blue comfy chair and shook my head. I swivelled and looked out the window. Eight stories down, Mr. Smith was just walking out of the medical building. I lined him up in my scope and brought him down with a single shot. I pressed the intercom button.

“Yes doctor?”

“Get the Waverlys on the phone, please.”

A moment later, the intercom buzzed. “June Waverley on line one, doctor.”

“Thank you Doris.” I picked up the phone an punched the flashing button. “June, this is Doctor Jensen.”

“Hello Bill. Jim and I were just thinking about you!”

“I had a visit from Mr. Smith. You must be more careful in the future. He had you two completely figured out.”

“Oh my God!” she gasped. “What went wrong?”

“Jim called him ass hat.”

“So?”

“He had a hat in his back pocket. He put two and two together and got the right answer.”

I could hear her yelling at Jim. “We’re so sorry, Bill! We had no idea!”

“I dropped him outside my office, so no harm done. But in the future, you two will need to watch that sort of thing.”

“Thank you Bill, we will!”

“Oh, and June?”

“Yes?”

“It’s time to retire that old Nikon. Get a digital camera.”

“We will, Bill, we will.”

“Good. So, you’re down by 20 points due to my intervention. I suggest you draw two at the next meeting to catch up.”

“Thank you, Bill, for all you’ve done.”

“You’re welcome June. Good night.”

“Good night, Bill.”

I hung up and sat back in my chair and thought, “Ass hat. Who would believe it?”

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