“Hey Kermit, what’s the word of the day?”
That’s how most of the interactions with the man sitting on the courthouse lawn would usually go. Always decked out with a military surplus jacket, no matter the temperature. Unlaced combat boots. Disheveled gray hair. Almost always with a permanent duck face expression, while smoking cigarette butts found in the grass. This was Kermit.
Everyday he would sit on the courthouse lawn, near the decretive cannon, smoking his cigarette butts. Not in a manner you might expect, but with his smoking hand held over top of his head, to the opposite side of his face, completely framing the top of his head with his arm. Everyday.
More often than not, Kermit would never engage in conversation, but only with his response of the word of the day, hogbitch. Once, I asked my teenage query, getting the usual response. However, this day I asked what the word for tomorrow would be. Kermit came the closest to looking at my face than ever before.
Breaking the habit, Kermit asked our group a question.
“Do you know what comes after that?” Kermit’s duck face expression turned into a shit eating grin.
“Spread ’em.” Followed by the most heartfelt laughter I’ve ever heard.
From the stories, Kermit was not always on the courthouse lawn. A friend’s mother was in school with him, and she always gushed about how amazing he was at football. He was the star quarterback, then after graduation was drafted to Vietnam. The story went that he was separated from his group, chased for three days through the jungle by the enemy, and made it out alive but without the mind he had before. Now, the man sat in front of the county courthouse, a shell of what he used to be.
From time to time you would see him hitch hiking along one of the state routes, and if picked up he might take a piss in your vehicle.
After I graduated, I would still see him from time to time, smoking his cigs in his trademark way. Supposedly, he passed away not too long after that, alone in an assisted living home. Hopefully he is at peace wherever he may be.