The Constitution slammed his empty shot glass on the mahogany counter. Stammered sputters gave way to slow slurred speech. “Gimme another, Joe. A double.”

“Hey, buddy, you been at it all night. How ’bout a breather?”
“Last I checked I’m still the law of this land, dammit.”
“All right, take it easy.” The bartender flipped the whiskey bottle and poured. “But I’m cutting you off after this.” He waited as the final amber drops dripped into the glass, and then he tossed the bottle into the trash.
The governing document lifted his drink. “People respected me, you know. Important people.”
He downed the booze in one swig and then twisted to glare at the table behind him where a rhino lapped from a large trough, splashing whatever it was filled with onto the floor.
“Forget him,” the bartender said. “You’re just going through a rough patch. A slump. You’re the Constitution, baby. You’ll bounce back.”
“That’s right. I’m the Constitution, dammit. I’m gonna bounce back. I’m gonna… I’m gonna…” He pushed himself off the stool and staggered. “I’m gonna… pee.”
He meandered to the dimly lit rear of the bar and began to relieve himself. “Camptown ladies sing this song, doo-da, doo-da. Camptown racetrack–
“Not again,” Joe screamed, running to the back and pushing the Constitution toward the bathroom. “In there.” He called to the front, “Someone get a mop over here.”
With business finished, the Constitution stumbled aimlessly into the corner where a young woman with face jewelry and earbuds cracked her gum. She scanned the document from top to bottom. “So, like, what’s your deal?”
“My deal? I’m a big deal. The real deal. That’s my deal.” He exposed a few lines. “See that?” Pride swelled inside him. “1933. Reprea… replealed… took away. Prohibition.”
“So?”
“Weren’t for me, this place wouldn’t even be here.”
The woman walked away. “Whatever,” she said over her shoulder.
“Think you could vote without me? Huh? Hell, no! I gave you that right. Me!”
“Don’t care,” she called back before disappearing into the darkness of an adjoining room.

 

“In my day everyone cared. They cared… they cared and…” A decorative Corona mirror stole his attention. He moved closer and found a small clear reflective section near the bottom, between images of a gold crown and a Mexican flag. The sole hanging ceiling light cast rays on his upper corner, highlighting frays and crumple lines he had never noticed before.

The young woman returned, accompanied by a large thug. He wore a tight-fitting Chicago Cubs t-shirt and held a pool cue.

“This the guy?” the thug said to the woman while glaring at the document.

The Constitution sneered. “What are you lookin’ at?”
A half-dozen more thugs came from the darkness and fell into place behind the leader.
“Take it easy, old-timer. I’ll shred you to pieces.”
“You think I’m ‘fraid a you. I been around, ya know.”
“Been around a little too long.” The thug snickered. “You’re just an irrelevant piece of paper.”
The gang laughed.
As the mockery echoed, the founding document trembled with anger. “Say that again,” he dared.
The thug handed his pool stick to one of his followers. “Irrelevant. Piece. Of. Paper.”

The Constitution lunged at the thug.

The big man slapped the document to the ground, pinning him in a half-folded position on the cold grimy floor with one hand. With the other, he dug into his pocket and pulled out a black marker, flipping off the cap with his thumb.

The Constitution twisted, struggling to pull free without ripping.

The thug touched the tip of the marker to the parchment. The ink singed as it absorbed and spread.

A heavy canter rocked the building as the rhino raced to the thug. “Listen friend, he doesn’t want any trouble. Give him a break. What do you say?”
“I’m tired of giving him a break.”
“I know, friend. Sorry about that. I’ll get him out of your way. I promise.”

The thug thought for a moment, and then freed the document and capped his marker.

The Constitution worked to an upright position and checked the damage in the mirror. The dime-sized black dot was no bigger than countless others that had partially faded through the years.

“Get this piece of scrap out of here,” the thug said.
“Sure thing, friend,” the rhino said. “No hard feelings, right?” He guided the Constitution to the front of the bar and sat him at a table. “Hey Joe,” he said to the bartender, “round of drinks for the guys in back.”
The rhino leaned into the Constitution and spoke in a low harsh tone through gritted teeth. “Those guys mean business.”
“I mean business, too.” The document looked to the rear of the bar and yelled, “I’m the Constitution, dammit.”
“Shh. Keep it down.” The rhino smiled nervously and waved to the gang. “Enjoying the drinks, fellas?” He turned back to the document. “Sit here and mind your business.”
The bartender set two cups of coffee on the table. “On the house, guys.”

The Constitution and the rhino sat in silence. The founding document grumbled and sipped his coffee. The rhino monitored the thugs with quick frequent glances.

A few minutes later, the gang approached, in single file, the leader in front. He shot a hard stare as he passed the table and continued to the door.

The rhino called after them, “Uh, you guys have a good night now.” He watched until they were all outside and had disappeared around the corner to the left, and then he faced the Constitution. “That’s the last time I’m bailing you out.”
He trotted to the door, looked left, and then turned right.
*

The Constitution cut into the park and strolled along the isolated path. Familiar hoofbeats sounded nearby, breaking the otherwise silent pre-dawn air.

Ahead, a man stepped out from behind a tree. The full moon illuminated the Cubs logo on his shirt.

The Constitution stopped.

More men appeared.

The document spun.

Thugs stood behind–scissors, hole punchers, and whiteout in their hands.

The hoofbeats sped to a gallop that retreated into the distance.

The gang closed in.
“I’m the Constitution, dammit!”
*