Dan The Army Man was about the most useless man you could ever meet. He was, as his name would imply, retired army. He lived on a steady diet of Kool-Aid, incredibly old MRE’s (Meals Ready to Eat. . .things like chipped beef, mystery meat in mystery gravy, etc., cooked by popping a bag of chemicals that would heat up into a cardboard box with the food).

He would rail on and on about gooks, niggers, kikes, and spics, and how they were all in league with the Taliban to put queers in public schools, or whatever nonsense he was spouting any given week. He constantly smelled like gaping asshole and feet. He spent most of his free time in the shooting range in the abandoned wing, firing at crudely drawn targets of Muslim men in gigantic turbans, while shouting “Die, camel jockey!”

He constantly bragged about all the women he slept with. His stories ranged from Letters To Penthouse Forum (he was angry that they never published his letters, and claimed Larry Flynt was a Jew, in spite of my insistance that Larry Flynt published Hustler) to the grotesque (claiming he fucked an elderly woman in her colostomy hole while her granddaughter rimmed him).

He was a subscriber of Soldier Of Fortune, and would obsess over it like a speedfreak Dale Gribble. He worshipped Ronald Reagan, and would sit in the office watching The Gipper’s westerns with an obvious, raging hardon. And when a man wears sweatpants damn near every minute of every day, you become painfully aware of every hardon.

For example, the day Grace checked in, Dan was wearing sweatpants.

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Grace returned three days after my visit with Michaels and Robbins. She walked up to the desk, and asked if anyone had come to see her. I bit my tongue, and said no. She thanked me warmly, got a cup of coffee out of the break area, and made her way down the hall to her room.

I waited two minutes, took a deep breath, and picked up the phone.

“Dan? Joey. Hope I’m not bugging you, but it occurs to me you had a birthday two weeks ago, and I just plum forgot! Tell you what, man. . .”

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