Don’t Mess … with Travis

The following is an excerpt from Don’t Mess with Travis: A Novel by Bob Smiley. Used with permission from Thomas Dunne Books, a division of St. Martin’s Press.

Travis waited on the porch until exactly 8:04 a.m. and dialed the number. He still had it in his cell phone’s memory and it was easy to find since it was the only one that started with 212. The line was busy. He tried again. Busy. He wasn’t surprised. After twenty minutes of non-stop calling, it rang through and a woman answered.

Walt Thompson Radio Show.”

“This is Governor Ben Travis. Calling for Walt.”

“Oh … o-kay.” The call screener looked at the caller ID and saw it was coming from a cell phone in Texas, but that was hardly proof he was who he said he was. With fifteen million listeners a week, she was used to prank calls and pretty good at sniffing them out.

“Governor Travis, do you have a specific message you’d like me to pass along to Walt?”

“Sure. Tell him he got me into this mess and I’m pissed.”

She put Travis on hold, then relayed the message to Walt, who, upon hearing it, let loose a phlegmy cough-slash-laugh and snuffed out his Davidoff cigar in an official Walt Thompson Radio Show ashtray, available at waltthompsonradioshow.com for the unbeatable price of $12.99. “Put him on the board,” he said.

Walt waited until the bottom of the hour before bringing him on, then spent another five minutes building up the suspense surrounding his surprise guest before finally patching Travis through. “Welcome to the Walt Thompson Radio Show for the very first time … Governor Ben Travis. Governor, thanks for joining us.”

“You’re welcome, Walt.”

“You’ve had quite a couple days. How are you feeling?”

“Other than the Frankenstein stitches on my head, I’m doing okay. I’m still waiting for my flowers from you though.”

Huk-huk-huk,” Walt cough-laughed again. “Yes, well, Top Flowers is always my choice for the freshest bouquets at the most affordable prices. Simply enter the word ‘Walt’ in the referral box at checkout and …”

Travis couldn’t believe it. He was turning his call into a freakin’ plug? He stifled his postconcussion irritability, knowing he needed Walt right now far more than Walt needed him.

“So, Governor, you’ve been up, you’ve been down, over and now out huk-huk-huk … the question everybody wants to know is, are you in? And I guess by that I mean, is this for real? Or was the secession vote purely symbolic as some have suggested?”

Travis took a breath. There was no backpedaling from this. “It’s not symbolic, Walt. This is happening. And in a week from tomorrow, the people of Texas get to decide if they think it’s a good idea or a terrible one.”