Winter was on its way and the days were getting shorter. This particular day was a real Rhea Perlman. Darkness rolled in across the afternoon sky as prematurely as the hair had rolled off Danny DeVito’s head. Down at the far end of the sheep paddock, the old farmer lay beneath the enormous tyre of his upended tractor. Henner was his name, Leo Henner, but everybody called him Marilu. As he lay there in increasing pain, slowly sinking into the mud, he gave up hope of being found that day. In most matters the farmer was a pragmatic man; he knew he was stuck there like Tony Danza was stuck playing good-looking, slightly goofy but loveable characters. Only one area of the old farmer’s life had managed to stay hidden from his keen and rational judgment, and that was his excessive drinking. In his younger days the farmer had been strong, handsome and successful, but years on the booze had left him weak, alone and looking like Christopher Lloyd. He rested his head as comfortably as could and tried to conserve energy. Fortunately he was dressed for cold weather, so the dropping nighttime temperature wasn’t an issue. The sky was dark but clear, that at least was good news; the farmer knew a rainless night was his best hope for survival. He was already quite deep in the mud, but was no longer sinking. If the ground became too sodden though, the weight of the tractor might completely submerge him. Carefully he reached for the cigarette behind his ear. He always kept a cigarette there, like Kenickie from Grease (played wonderfully by Jeff Conaway). It was only when he placed the cigarette in his mouth that the farmer remembered his cigarette lighter was trapped beneath the mud in the back pocket of his jeans. With nothing practical to be done, and dying there in the mud being a real and nearing possibility, the old farmer reflected upon his life. He thought of his wife. She had died many years ago. He remembered her as a young lady — sweet, blonde and beautiful, like Cybill Shepherd. Wait, no. That was Taxi Driver. Forget about that — the farmer never married. No, what he really thought about was his one regret: he never went by his middle name. Yes, he always wanted to be known by his first initial, followed by his middle name, like his heroes F. Murray Abraham, L. Ron Hubbard and J. Alan Thomas. He just never had the courage to do it. To make a big change like that, a person would have to be daring and unashamed — you know, a real Andy Kaufman type. But regret was pointless, thought the farmer, and he was too old for drastic life changes. So alone, and half-buried in mud at the far end of a sheep paddock, he just lay there and waited. And waited. He heard the quiet rumble of distant thunder. Judd Hirsch.
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