"MOMENT MEN’S DAY IN COURT" read the front page headline on yesterday’s Arizona Daily Sun. People were lining up outside the Coconino County Courthouse all the evening before. When the police van arrived, bearing Hiram, Cletus and Jesse Earl (Eustace is still in traction in the hospital) to answer to charges of first-degree murder for the unfortunate demise of California Blat, the crowd broke into boos and hisses and cries of "Burn in hell!"
When Judge Brenda Garcia asked how they pleaded, court-appointed defense attorney Milton Ravioli replied "Not guilty by reason of insanity," which got the crowd going again. Eventually the judge was able to get them calmed down and the District Attorney was able to lay out the case, which you had to admit was a very strong one. All that Hiram, speaking for the defendants, had to say in his defense was, "Yes, we was followin’ him, Yer Honor, but we didn’t kill him. He done turned into a vulture and flew off."
"Never mind that vulture idiocy," said the judge sternly. "Why were you following California Blat?"
The Moment Men did not answer. Jesse Earl opened his mouth but at a look from Hiram he lapsed into silence again.
"Answer me! Why were you following California Blat?"
"BECAUSE RALPH SENT THEM!" came a cry from the back of the courtroom. The crowd rose and turned - and broke into one collective gasp.
California Blat himself stood in the doorway, barefoot and unshaven, covered with a layer of dust, clad in a pair of ragged jeans, a torn tank top and a battered San Diego Padres baseball hat, but with his National Guitar still slung across his back. He now swung the guitar around, struck a chord and began to sing:
I’m alive and breathin’
So set these loonies free.
Old RALPH is on my trail
But he will never capture me
‘Cause I’m a mighty hero
(A mighty hero)
And he’s a big fat zero
Yes he is.
"You mean you’re not dead?" asked Judge Garcia rather stupidly.
"It takes more than a fall into the Grand Canyon and a week in the desert to kill California Blat," the returned hero replied. "The cloning has given me powers you can only begin to imagine. Look at this!" He took off his baseball cap and shook it, and to the amazement of the audience, coins and bills spilled out onto the floor. He picked them up, stuffed them into his pocket, and threw the cap carelessly at Hiram. "Here, take it - It’ll help pay Eustace’s hospital bills."
"It’s a miracle!" cried Jesse Earl.
"Nope," replied California Blat loftily. "It’s all in a day’s work for the Redneck Hippie. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m returning to the desert to seek the truth." And he walked out of the courtroom shouting, "MOMENT-MEN-LOVE! VULTURE-LOVE! DESERT-LOVE! CAMPAIGN-BLAT-LOVE! ALBERTO-GONZALES-LOVE!"
The Moment-Men are still sleeping off last night’s celebration, during which the baseball cap was emptied four times. Cletus did appear at around noon, looking very bleary-eyed, to make a statement to reporters. "After what done happened yesterday," he said, "we’re callin’ off the chase. How can you go harmin’ the man who saved your life? Jesse Earl thinks he’s Jesus Christ, and I’m beginnin’ to think he might be right. So I’m gonna call RALPH and tell him to find some other folks to do his dirty work. Dagnabbit, what happened to my cell phone? It won’t switch on. What do you mean, you gotta charge the battery? No, I ain’t got no battery charger. Mighta thrown it out. I threw out a lot of wires and things that came in that package. Well, whadaya know. Sumbitch."