I entered the conference room at the community center and strode to the podium. The soft murmur of separate conversations could be heard, like the buzzing of particularly circumspect bees. I looked out over the audience, and counted heads; it looked like most everyone was there.
Toward the back, a tall, lanky cowboy, with smiling blue eyes, was showing a rope trick to a short, rather plump, vaguely academic-looking man in a white lab coat, who studied the cowpuncher’s efforts with goggle-eyes through an antiquated pair of pince-nez. And coming in late was a troop of “good ol’ boys” from back in the hills of
The Titan of Industry turned in his chair to face Ole. “You know, my company makes a stain remover that will take that right out.”
Ole, now frowning angrily, did an about face and lifted his jacket slightly, revealing a sizable hole in the seat of his overalls, through which could be glimpsed a very becoming pair of boxer shorts decorated with a print of reindeer frolicking in a forest of conifers. “I know; I tried yur product before. See? An’ de varranty vas no gewd a’tall!”
The silver-haired executive scowled. “Whaddaya mean the warranty was no good? ‘Money cheerfully returned if not satisfied’. We stand by that!”
“Ja, but it also said dat I had to return de product to de place of manufacture, and I don’t tink dere really iss such a place as
“Well, the stuff got the stain out, didn’t it?”
I could see that this meeting was rapidly getting out of control. “Gentlemen, gentlemen, please!” Ole, I’ll kick in with a new pair of overalls. Now, let’s get on with the business at hand.”
“As you all know, Tim Blair has shut down his independent blog and moved to the Daily Telegraph’s site. (A few subdued “boos”). I’m sure we all wish Tim well, but, as a practical matter, we’re going to have to find a new venue for our skits and stories. So, I’ve called you all here to discuss an idea I’ve been mulling over: I’m thinking of starting a blog.”
A murmur of approval swept the audience, punctuated by the odd rebel yell and “hell, yeah!” from the
“This is a fairly substantial undertaking for all of us, but I believe that, working together, we can pull it off. Ah, I think I see a hand out there. Yes, Detective Paco?”
“I don’t think it’s any secret that I pulled more than my fair share of the weight over at Tim’s. What about the rest of these mugs? Are they gonna pitch in, regular-like, or just drop by with some lame new invention from time to time (giving a ferocious stare to the executive), or do a brief walk-on as Mr. Science (throws a thumb in the direction of the plump chap in the white lab coat)?
The audience erupted in incensed accusations and counter-accusations. The executive – determined to demonstrate that his inventions were anything but lame – stomped over to Detective Paco and pulled out a combination nose-hair trimmer and cigarette lighter, which, due to some unexpected glitch in the mechanism, shredded the detective’s cigarette and set his own shirtsleeve on fire. A short, stout older woman, wearing a hat somewhat suggestive of a robin’s nest in a mimosa tree, proceeded, with lowering brow and sturdy cane, to wade into the crowd, laying waste indiscriminately (yes, through some gross oversight, Sheila’s mother had, indeed, been invited to the meeting). The Professor, having borrowed the Paco Kid’s lasso for the purpose of practicing a few tricks, accidentally threw a loop around Tiny’s neck; Tiny, who once dreamed of perishing on the gallows (not an entirely unlikely scenario given some of his previous – and, for that matter, current – associations), turned an angry shade of crimson, grabbed the rope, and yanked the Professor half-way across the room, the latter leaving a trail of slide rules, pocket protectors and mechanical pencils in his wake. The Carolinians simply whooped it up, en masse, cheering all sides of the fray with little or no particular preference as to the individual combatants. Sheila demurely powdered her nose.
The fracas ended abruptly as a pistol shot got everyone’s attention. The Paco Kid blew the smoke off the end of the gun barrel, twirled his Colt Navy twice, and deftly spun it into his holster. He gave a wide smile, and said, “You can get on with your speech, now, Mr. Paco.”
“Thanks, Kid. If everyone will please return to their seats, I’d be greatly obliged. As I was saying, I’m going to start a blog, and there will be important roles and responsibilities for each of you. Now, for the first few posts, I was thinking of doing some reruns” (a groan arose from the audience). Hey, just to let folks know who you are, ok? And then maybe one or two topical items of interest. We’ll see how it goes.”
I was just getting ready to gavel the meeting to a close when the main door to the conference room opened, and a man in uniform walked slowly down the aisle. For a brief moment, I was baffled as to his identity, but my perplexity quickly changed to joy.
“Wronwright! What are you doing here? The only people I invited were my fictional characters. But you’re more than welcome, of course.”He stopped in front of the podium. “You’ve used me so frequently in your stories I might as well be fictional.”
“And…you’re in uniform! A regular security guard uniform!”
“How do you like it?”
“I have to admit, I kinda miss the epaulettes and the riding crop, but it looks fine, fine.”
“Well, with Karl on sabbatical, and Tim shutting down the old place, and tax season over, I was at loose ends, so I parlayed my experience with Detective Paco into a job with a private security company. In fact, I was assigned to watch this community center tonight.”
“Hey, that’s great!”
“Yeah, it’s not a bad gig. Oh, by the way: you’re all under arrest.”
“Haw, haw! That’s m’boy! Always kidding.”
“I’m not kidding. You and your merry band are guilty of several infractions of the law: for example, breaking and entering.”
“What are you talking about? I paid the fifty-dollar fee to rent the room. Or rather, I gave the money to Tiny, and he…”
I noticed, with no little consternation, that Tiny was fingering his collar and grinning sheepishly.
“Tiny, what did you do with the fifty bucks I paid you to rent this room?”
“Well, da ting is, boss, I know you’re always lookin’ for a sure ting, so I put da money down on Big Brown to win de Derby – which he did. I got your dough right here; I was gonna surprise you wid it after de meetin’.”
“So how did we get the room?”
“I picked de lock.”
Wronwright smirked, put his thumbs in his gun belt, and swaggered before the audience, announcing his charges in a voice reminiscent of the late Barney Fife in his prime. “All right, listen up, people! I am placing you under arrest for committing the following crimes: breaking and entering, trespassing, unauthorized use of public property”…(he happened to see Detective Paco lighting a fresh coffin nail)…”smoking in a non-smoking area”…
Sheila’s mother brandished her cane. “You’ll never take me alive, flatfoot!”
“Threatening an officer…”
I had an idea. “Pssst! Wronwright, come here a minute. Detective Paco, will you step up to the podium, please?”
Detective Paco walked to the front of the room, and the three of us had a pow-wow.
“Listen, Wronwright, you’re wasted on a night watchman job like this. How would you like to work with Detective Paco again?”
Detective Paco choked on his cigarette. “Hey, wait a minute!”
I spelled it out for him. “Look, if you get arrested, you might lose your license, right?”
“Well, yeah, I suppose so, but …”
“And Wronwright’s been helpful to you on a number of cases, hasn’t he?”
“If you insist on stretching a point like it was saltwater taffy…”
“Wronwright, don’t you miss the excitement of real crime-fighting? The thrill of the chase?”
Wronwright’s eyes gleamed. “Do I get to wear my custom-made uniform?”
Detective Paco glared at him. “Oh, all right! But you only get to wear that costume on cases where I find myself in need of a Bolivian admiral.”
Wronwright adopted a superior air. “It’s a Guatemalan field marshal’s uniform, if you please. Ok, you’ve got a deal.” He looked over his shoulder and hollered at the audience. “All right, you all can go; I’m letting you off with a warning, this time. But watch it!”I now officially closed the meeting. “Folks, that’s a wrap for today. Report for work first thing tomorrow.”