Cheers to you, Killer

Published 10:17 am Saturday, May 25, 2013

I used to live in a town with a most interesting character known to locals as “Killer.”

Killer and I must have been on the same grocery-shopping schedule, as I frequently encountered him in the Winn Dixie, usually after dark. We had some great conversations. Actually, he had some great monologues. I listened and laughed.

The first time he approached me, I had no idea who he was. He knew all about me.

“Mrs. Gerlach, how you doing,” he said on the eve of that Memorial Day weekend. “You and your husband need to join us at the Sardine Yat-chet (yacht) Club this weekend. Tell ‘em Capt. Killer invited you. Y’all stop by Brantley Tires and get you some flotation devices first.”

Killer is not the kind of guy one would imagine to be patriotic, but he had some interesting warm-up plans.

“We’re gone start Friday,” he said. “We’re gone rent some war movies and think about people like my brother and Mr. Gerlach ‘cause they both went to Vietnam. That’ll get us in the mood for Memorial Day.”

For the record, Honey did go to Vietnam, but he refused to go to the yat-chet club. He’d known Killer for a long time, and fed him often. He recalled that Killer once won an oyster-eating contest he sponsored. Killer swore that as a high school athlete, he had eaten nine chickens during the team meal at Honey’s restaurant.

“I was so full, I had to ride home lying in the back of the truck,” he said.

Killer also opined on all things ‘Bama. Once, in a particularly bad season during the post-Stallings years, his grocery store monologue was about our team.

“Tell Mr. Gerlach not to worry,” he said. “We’re having a bad football season, but we’re gone be great in baseball and women’s gymnastics.”

He was right, but how he knew that is beyond me.

Some years he was a boisterous Santa in the appropriate season. The man loves to have fun.

I kind of miss bumping in to Killer, who most definitely will make the book I plan to one day write about characters I’ve known.

Last time I heard from him, he and his brother the veteran he so respected had gotten into a fight that landed both of them in the hospital. Yes, there was alcohol involved. Fortunately, Killer didn’t live up to his nickname and they didn’t need too many stitches.

When I realized Memorial Day was upon us, I couldn’t help but wonder if he spent last night watching The Green Berets, Saving Private Ryan, Patton, The Deer Hunter, or my personal favorite, The Patriot.

But I do know that Killer hasn’t lost sight of what Memorial Day is really about – honoring those who paid the horrible price of war.

Cheers to you, Killer. And thank your brother for me, too.