Biff Sock Pow

Finding the humor in everyday life.

Archive for the tag “Funny Short Fiction”

An Interview With the Author of the “Alistair and Alexis” Comedy Series

Biff, author of the wildly unpopular “Alistair and Alexis” series of allegedly humorous short stories was recently interviewed by Yuks and Chortles Magazine.  What follows in an unauthorized, copyright-infringing excerpt from that interview.

Y&CM:  We understand, Mr. Biff, that you consider yourself a humor writer.

Biff:  Please.  Just call me Biff.

Y&CM:  Right-o.  Biff it is, then.  And you consider yourself a humor writer?

Biff:  Not originally.  No.  I was an ordinary writer, but in college I kept getting my papers back from my professors with things written in red pen at the top of the paper like “Oh, you think you’re funny, huh?” and “Funny guy, eh?” and “Very humorous.  Please see me after class.

Y&CM:  And that led to a life of comedy writing?

Biff:  No, it led to a life of ostracism and privation.  It seems comedy writers are held in the same regard as carpetbaggers, used car salesman, and people with pinkeye.

Y&CM:  I see.  Most interesting.

Biff:  Not really, no.  But thank you for saying so.

Y&CM:  I would like to ask you about your “Alistair and Alexis” series of short humorous pieces.

Biff:  Must you?

Y&CM:  Yes.  Your check cleared the bank and so this was our agreement.

Biff:  You’ll edit this part out, right?

Y&CM:  Oh yes.  Without a doubt.

Biff:  Good.  Carry on.

Y&CM:  A lot of humor experts and analysts say that comedy very often comes from a dark place, a place of pain.  Is that true of the “Alistair and Alexis” series?

Biff:  Oh yes.  Indubitably.

Y&CM:  And what is the pain that is reflected in “Alistair and Alexis”?

Biff:  The pain and anguish that resulted from my not being born into a wealthy family.

Y&CM:  So you live vicariously through Alistair?

Biff:  No, I live precariously through myself.  Alistair and I are nothing alike.

Y&CM:  How so?

Biff:  Well, Alistair is shallow, self-centered, highly educated while not being very bright, and he tends to drink alcohol when he feels nervous and unsure of himself.

Y&CM:  And how do you differ from that?

Biff: Well, I prefer chocolate to alcohol.

Y&CM:  But you’re alike in every other way?

Biff:  No.  As I pointed out earlier, he is fabulously wealthy.

Y&CM:  And you’re not?

Biff:  Well, I’m a comedy writer …. soooooo …

Y&CM:  So, no.

Biff:  No.

Y&CM:  And what of Alexis?

Biff:  What of her?

Y&CM:  Is she symbolic of something or is she merely a foil for Alistair?  His “straight man”, as it were.

Biff:  I think the politically correct term is “straight person”.

Y&CM:  Straight person, then.

Biff:  Or Person of Straightness.

Y&CM:  As you wish.

Biff:  Or “Human of linear extension with non-curvature”.

Y&CM:  And you feel that accurately describes her?

Biff:  Who?

Y&CM:  Alexis.

Biff:  Oh!  Alexis!  No, she has curves.

Y&CM:  So if she is not merely the … er … um … foil to Alistair’s antics, then is she symbolic of something else?

Biff:  Yes.  She’s symbolic of his wife.

Y&CM:  But she actually is his wife.

Biff:  Right.

Y&CM:  So that’s not symbolic.  That is, in fact, who she is.

Biff:  Symbolic.  Symbiotic.  Semiotic.  Schmimbolic.  Potato, puh-tah-toe.  She just sort of appeared in the first story.  What was I supposed to do?  Tell her to hit the bricks?  They seemed to hit it off okay so I thought, “What they hey?”  And the rest is comedy history.

Y&CM:  Is it?

Biff:  No.  It’s not.

Y&CM:  So what’s next for the “Alistair and Alexis” franchise?

Biff:  Well, Y&CM … do you mind if I call you Y&CM?

Y&CM:  No, go right ahead.

Biff:  Well, Y&CM, I hope to write enough “Alistair and Alexis” stories to be able to mimeograph them out into a small booklet and leave it in the waiting area of Gate 32 in Terminal C of the DFW International Airport.  The plan is to have a literary agent, who might be traveling from Dallas/Fort Worth to, say, Wilmington Delaware in order to scout out a good military school for his bratty son, find the booklet and read it on the plane.

Y&CM:  And you think he will find it so good that he will publish it?

Biff:  No, I expect the mimeograph fumes will be so strong that he gets so high that he thinks it would a good idea to turn “Alistair and Alexis” into a TV series or a movie.

Y&CM:  I see.  That is actually fiendishly clever!

Biff:  Thank you!

Y&CM:  Well, Biff, I see from the time that your check for $32.50 has been consumed and so we must bring this interview to an end.

Biff:  Must we?

732cebb3b7b83804bf63995b1b4eba68_decorative-line-dividers-clip-text-divider-clipart-transparent-background_9000-2500

 

Alistair and Alexis Go to a Board Meeting

boardroom

It was time for the annual meeting of the board of directors at Gargantua Enterprises and Alexis and I wanted to get there early for the pre-meeting elbow-rubbing that always preceded the actual board meeting.  And by “we”, I mean “Alexis”.  Alexis found schmoozing to be great sport and was a big fan of anything corporate.  I, on the other hand, was just hoping there would be snacks and spirits and a motion to adjourn early.

Things were well underway as Alexis and I made our way into the board room.  We walked through the large double doors which were no doubt made of some exotic species of wood from the Amazon rainforests.  The executive board of Gargantua spared absolutely no expense in the lavishness of their board room or the compensation of their top executives.  This was in evidence even more as my leather wingtip shoes sank into the plush emerald-green carpeting of the boardroom like cinder blocks in quicksand.  I only hoped their budget for food was as lavish as their budget for boardroom accoutrements (or, as the French would call them, accoutrements).

“How do I look?” I asked Alexis, shooting my cuffs nervously.

“You look great,” she said, somewhat distractedly.  I could tell she was looking keenly at everyone in the room and cross-referencing them against the leather-bound copy of Who’s Who Among Business Titans which she keeps on her nightstand and which she has committed to memory (along with the quarterly supplements).

“Is my tie straight?” I asked, straightening it just a bit.  The haberdasher had assured me it was of the finest silk, produced by pampered mulberry silkworms in a quaint little Italian village overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea.  However, one can never be sure if that is enough in these situations.

“It’s as straight as an arrow,” she said, glancing at it for nearly half a second before resuming her field studies of our city’s industrial elite.

“Thank you, my little rose,” I said, beaming at her compliment.  “And may I say you look absolutely ravishing!”

She glanced at me sharply and held up a dissuasive finger.  “There will be no ravishing,” she said.

“It’s merely an expression, my beautiful little daisy.”

“Well, that’s what you said at the charity ball last month and as I recall, you got entirely too handsy.”

“It was a tango,” I said.  “I hardly think I was taking any liberties.”

“Well, all the same, we need to stay focused tonight and not let ourselves get distracted.”

“Oh!” I said excitedly.  “Hors d’oeuvres!”

My outburst was caused by a silver tray passing before my very eyes like a vision, being borne by a somber man in tails, striped pants, patent leather shoes, and a nametag that identified him as Ivan.  Ivan looked as if he bore the weight of the world upon his shoulders in addition to the weight of the tray of nosh he held somewhat morosely.

“Hors d’oeuvres, sir?” he said in monotone, obviously unimpressed by his own wares.

“Oh, my, yes!” I said excitedly.  It had been hours since my petite little dahlia and I had strapped on the ol’ feedbag.

However, Alexis slapped my hand lightly as I reached for an amuse-bouche which I suspected might contain wild salmon.

“We need to stay focused,” she said.

“I hardly think an amuse-bouche will make me distrait.”

“Oh?” she asked, raising an eyebrow.  “Remember the deviled eggs at League luncheon last year?  You became obsessed with them.”

“In my defense, it was the first time I’d ever had one.”

“Well, somehow your brief introduction of the League president to the assembly turned into an homage to deviled eggs.”

“Well,” I said, becoming a bit reminiscent, “They were quite amazing.”  I looked at the hangdog countenance of our present Hors d’oeuvres hander-outer.  “Do you have any deviled eggs, Ivan?”

“No, sir,” he said, sounding as if he were delivering a eulogy.  “Just assorted bruschetta, canapés, caviar, charcuterie, spanakopita, and amuse-bouche.”

“That’s a pity,” I said.  “I would give anything for a deviled egg, up to half my kingdom.”

I noticed Alexis had become distracted by someone across the room who looked important, so I quickly grabbed an amuse-bouche and popped it in my mouth.  It was absolutely heavenly, though I had no time to savor it.  I had to swallow quickly before Alexis turned her eagle-like gaze back on me.

“We should take our seats,” she said.  “I think they are about to get started.”

I quickly swallowed the flaky perfection of the amuse-bouche and said somewhat dryly as I tried to avoid choking, “Lead on, McDuff!” I grabbed a frosty goblet of white wine off of another tray as it passed by me like manna from heaven to help me clear the ol’ throat.

We took our seats down in the lower-rent section of the mammoth boardroom table.  Dear old Pops may have been a member of the board of Gargantua Enterprises, but not one of the more important ones.  That was the sole reason he trusted me to be his proxy and to cast a vote in his stead.  If it had been for one of the corporations of which he held a higher stake, he would not have let me within a hundred miles of the place.  He had resigned himself years ago to the fact that I did not have a head for business.

There were opening statements by various bald-headed, portly men who looked like they might clutch at their hearts at any moment and make gurgling noises.  At appropriate junctures in these blatherings, their fellow board members harrumphed and said “hear hear” periodically.  I suddenly realized my wine glass, though still frosty, was empty.  I made eye contact with Ivan and raised my glass slightly.  He morosely walked over and filled my glass with a fine Port wine and then resumed his post against the wall.  He looked like a man who had spent a good deal of his life standing against walls before managing to defect from his home country and make it here to America.

Alexis leaned over to me and whispered, “Lay off the sauce.  It’s almost time for the vote.”

“What vote?” I asked, also whispering, for apparently that’s what we were doing.  I sat my empty glass on the boardroom table.  There was no coaster, so I just set it on the copy of the Annual Report that was sitting in front of me.

“They’re voting on whether or not to merge with Leviathan Industries.”

“Well that certainly sounds ominous,” I said.  “Gargantua and Leviathan teaming up?  Didn’t Hobbes warn us about that sort of thing?”

“What are you babbling about?” she whispered, trying not to attract the attention of the Chairman.

I whispered back, ” … a general inclination of all mankind, a perpetual and restless desire for Power after power, that ceaseth only in Death.”

“Are you soused?” she asked in a whisper.

“After two glasses of sub-standard port?” I whispered sniffily.  “I hardly think so.  Oh, thank you, Ivan!”  My somber sommelier had refilled my glass and shimmered noiselessly back to his position against the wall.   I lifted my glass in a wordless toast to this Gunga Din.  He may be dour, but he knows a man in need when he sees one.

“It’s time for the vote,” she whispered, her voice becoming higher pitched and fraught with anxiety.  “It’s a voice vote and it’s almost around to you.  Are you ready?”

“Vote?” I asked again.  “What are we voting for?”

“I’m not voting,” she said quietly.  “You are.”

“That hardly seems fair,” I said, incensed.  “Our forefathers fought valiantly for universal suffrage.”  And then added, in the interest of fairness, “And our foremothers.”

“No,” she whispered, seeming most distraught.  “You are voting proxy for your father.  About the merger.”

“Ah, yes,” I said, suddenly remembering.  “Father was telling me something.  About something.  Or other.”

“About Leviathan.”

“Ah, yes,” I said.  “Leviathan.”

“Mr. Callington,” came a booming voice from the head of the high-rent district of the boardroom table, which seemed to be in a different zip code from the part I sat at.

“Present!” I said, standing, forgetting for the moment that I was no longer in Sister Theresa’s Latin class.  Her stentorian voice always had an effect on me not unlike a gunshot near a skittish horse.

“How do you vote, sir?”

I gazed around the august assemblage (though it was only April).

“Let me start by saying,” I said, setting my empty glass on the annual report.  “That Hobbes was an ass.”

I felt my dainty Alexis tug at my sleeve, but I patted her fondly on the shoulder to assure her that I had the matter firmly in hand.

“To whom are you referring, Sir?” asked the Chairman of the Board.  He was an intimidating chap who stood about six foot seven, had a burr haircut like he had just returned from several months at Parris Island where he tested the mettle of Marine recruits.

“I refer, sir, to Hobbes,” I said.  “He was a most colossal ass.  Are we living in a Kingdom of Darkness?  Are we Leviathan?”

There was murmuring among the board along with more tugging at my sleeve, but I extracted my arm with some difficulty.

“Sir,” said the imposing and impatient chairman, “We are Gargantua.  Are you for or against the merger with Leviathan?”

I drew myself up.  I may have pounded the table, but the presence of the Annual Report, now somewhat soggy from the perspiration from my wine glasses, dampened the results and robbed them of their effectiveness.

“Never!” I said, feeling quite strongly about it.  “We are not Leviathan!   Look at Ivan here,” I waved my hand at my old friend, who now suddenly looked less morose and more surprised.  “Does he benefit from Leviathan?  I think not.”

“Yea, or nay, Sir!” said the beet red Chairman.

“Nay!  Always nay!  We must never become Leviathan!”

732cebb3b7b83804bf63995b1b4eba68_decorative-line-dividers-clip-text-divider-clipart-transparent-background_9000-2500

The back of the limousine was very quiet on the ride home.  Alexis looked at me periodically, but mostly looked out the window at the passing scenery.  But finally, she spoke.

“Your father wanted you to vote yes on the merger with Leviathan,” she said quietly.

“Did he?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said.  “He was quite explicit about it.”

“He is always quite explicit about everything,” I replied.  “The man doesn’t have an ambiguous bone in his body.”

“Do you think he will be upset at your vote?”

“Oh, most assuredly he will be.”

“Will he cut you off?”

“Perhaps for a bit,” I said.  “But he will eventually come around.  He will say I take after my mother’s side of the family.  Apparently he has a soft spot for my mother.  And anyway, this is really his fault.”

“His fault?  How?”

“He was the one who insisted on giving me an Ivy League education.  That’s where I learned what an ass Hobbes was.”

 

Alistair and Alexis Go to an Antique Shoppe

 

vintage_silhouette_elegant_man_woman (v1)

“I say, Old Thing,” I said, addressing my better half.  “Take a look at this.”

“First off,” said Alexis (aka my better half), her hand on her hip, “Don’t ever call me Old Thing again.  And secondly, I am not going to keep reminding you that you’re not British.  You’re as American as drive-ins, monster trucks, and urban sprawl.”

“My apologies, Old … I mean, Sweetheart.  It’s British comedy week on PBS during their pledge drive and I’m afraid I immersed myself in it.”

“A bit too much, I’d say,” she said.

“Can one have too much British comedy?” I asked, stroking my van dyke beard thoughtfully.

“Given the poor quality of your faux British accent, I’d say the answer is a resounding yes.”

I drew myself up to my full height, to protest.  However, drawing myself up to my full height around Alexis is usually pointless, given her diminutive stature.  I tower over her no matter how I am standing (or even slouching).  But what she lacks in height, she makes up for in intractability and fractiousness.  In fact, it was her willful personality which first drew me to her back when we were mere fledglings on the playground at school.

◊◊◊◊◊◊◊ Wavy, out-of-focus lines indicating a flashback sequence … ◊◊◊◊◊◊◊

She walked right up to me on the playground and said, “I bet you can’t push me on the swing.”

Of course, I could not turn away from a challenge and so I drew myself up to my full height then, too, though it was much less dramatic back then than it is now, and I said, “Is that so?  Well I’ll bet you I can.”

And she said, “I bet you my milk money that you can’t.”

And I said, “You’re on” and soon I was pushing her on the swing victoriously.

She was obviously delighted that I had proven her wrong.  She gladly gave me her milk money afterwards.  Later that same day I bumped into her in the lunchroom (not surprising inasmuch as we were in the same grade and were both students of Mrs. Stern) and she asked me if I could buy her a milk since she was a bit short. I was nothing if not chivalrous and so I bit my tongue and did not utter the obvious joke and loaned her enough money to buy milk.

◊◊◊◊◊◊◊ Wavy, out-of-focus lines indicating end of the flashback sequence … ◊◊◊◊◊◊◊

I shook my head and came back to the present since nothing that was in the flashback is germane to the current story, other than to point out that over time I came to tower over her in height and she came to tower over me in treasons, stratagems and spoils.

“My accent is just fine,” I said.  “The lady who answered the phone at the pledge drive complimented me on it.”

She just looked at me dubiously and then seemed to realize something that gave her a start.  “Oh no!” she said.   “Are we about to receive a truck load of tote bags and coffee mugs and DVD sets of things you can watch online for free?”

“We may receive the odd coffee cup,” I mentioned blithely, “But I was assured they were of the highest quality.  But the really amazing part is that when you pour a hot liquid in to them they magically display the phrase ‘What ho!’, which is, I believe, something they say a lot in Britain.”

“You know what else they say a lot in Britain?” she asked.

“No,” I said.  “What?”

“Are you completely barmy!?”

“Ah, yes,” I nodded knowingly.  “I believe I have heard that uttered once or twice during the marathon.”

“Well, anyway,” she said, seeming to tire of our discussion of the subtle brilliance of British comedy, “What is it you want to show me?”  I have noticed throughout our life together, that Alexis seems to have a very short attention span when it comes to certain topics.  Apparently, British comedy is one of those things.

“Simply this,” I said with a flourish as I pulled the object from behind my back where I’d been holding it this entire time.

“What on earth is that?” she asked, plainly appalled.

“A walking stick,” I said, proudly.

“I can see it is a walking stick,” she said.  “Why are you showing it to me?”

“It’s British,” I said proudly.  She still did not seem to understand and was just staring at me like a flounder.

“Are you telling me you drug me to this dusty old antique shop to show me some beat up old walking stick?”

“But it’s British,” I said again, since she had not seemed to grasp the import of that the first time I said it.

“So’s my Uncle Bob,” she said, “But you don’t see him hobbling around on some old stick.”

“Bob’s your uncle?” I asked, a little surprised.  “I always thought he was Dutch.”

“Can we focus on this gawd-awful stick you are waving around?” she asked.  “What on earth do you need a walking stick for?  Do you have a janky knee you haven’t told me about?”

“No, my knee is fine, my dainty little delphinium.  Thank you for asking.  But this stick is more about fashion than convalescence.”

“Fashion?  That old thing?”

“Yes,” I said.  “See this?  This is black ebonized malacca.”

“Fascinating,” she said, though I could see she was far from fascinated.

“And the handle … that is genuine buffalo horn.”

“Is it?  I was thinking it was complete bull.”

“Nope.  Pure buffalo.  And this collar?  That is solid silver.  See that intricate design?  AND … it is hallmarked.  It says right on it, 1887.  Can you imagine?  This beautiful walking stick is nearly a hundred and fifty years old!”

“Amazing!” she said.  “Just think, it was built right around the time this conversation started.”

I chose to ignore her sarcasm.

“And here is the best part,” I said.

“Oh my god!” she exclaimed, putting her hands to her cheeks.  “It gets better?”

I tugged on the handle, pulling the U-channel epee blade from the malacca shaft.

This time she said “oh my god!” with much more emotion and much less sarcasm.

I nodded appreciatively at her appreciation.  “I know!” I said enthusiastically.  “Isn’t it great?”

“Great?” she said.  “It’s insane!  Why do you need a sword in a cane?”

“It’s not a sword, my petite little flower.  It is an epee.”

“I don’t care if it is a butter knife.  Why on earth would you need it in a walking stick?”

“Oh, you know,” I said, matter-of-factly.  “One never knows.  Just in case.”

“Just in case what?  A fencing competition breaks out at the theater?”

I pondered her words.  “I suppose it’s not out of the realm of ….”

“Put it back,” she said.  “I won’t have such a thing around the children.  What if Edmonton …”

“Edrington, Darling.”

“Yes, Edrington.  Of course.  What if he were to find it?”

My resolve faltered at bit.

“Or little Eveline,” she continued in order to drive her point home.

“Evangeline.”

“Yes, what if our little Evangeline were to find it?”

“Well, a walking stick is hardly appropriate with a lady’s attire.”

“I think you’re missing the point,” she said, a little perturbed.

“This point?” I asked, touching her arm ever so lightly with the blunt tip of the epee.  “Touché, eh, what?”  I smiled at my own joke.

“Oh my god,” she said, exasperated.  “You are not British!  Please put the walking stick back.”

“And the monocle, too?” I asked, somewhat crestfallen.

“Especially the monocle.”

“And the spats?”

She eyed me briefly and I could see her patience was wearing thin.  “I will wait for you in the car,” she said.  She turned and exited the store in something of a huff.

There was a moment of silence as I slowly slid the epee back into the black ebonized malacca walking stick.

“So, you won’t be purchasing the walking stick?” asked Evan, the proprietor of Evan’s English Antiques.”

“No, Evan.  I am afraid not.  The missus has quite put her foot down.”

“Or the monocle?”

“No.  I’m afraid not,” I said, a bit downheartedly.

“Or the top hat?”

I perked up.  “Oh, no.  I am definitely keeping the top hat.  I think it’s smashing.”

“And your lovely wife did not specifically say for you to put it back,” he said, picking it up off of the counter where it had been sitting.

“You are quite right, Evan,” I said.  “She did not.”

“Shall I wrap it up for you, Mr. Callington?”

“No,” I said, thoughtfully.  “Just have it shipped to my office.”

“Very good, Mr. Callington,” he said, smiling.

“What ho,” I said, and turned to go join my lovely little rose bloom in the car.

.

.

©2017 by biffsockpow.wordpress.com

Alistair and Alexis Go to a Concert

symphony-clipart

I leaned over to Alexis and whispered, “Who are we here to see?”

I thought I caught a hint of rolled eyes, but she marshaled herself admirably.  “It’s not so much who we’re here to see,” she said in a whisper.  “It’s who we’re here to hear.”

I nodded thoughtfully.  I glanced around the symphony hall that was slowly filling up with people.  The women wore nice dresses of black or regal colors.  They all glittered with jewels and precious metals and their hair was impeccably coiffed.  The men generally wore black or blue suits except for the occasional rebel that wore tweed sportscoats with patches on the sleeves.  I’m surprised such subversives were admitted.  I’m quite sure the management doesn’t care much for ruffians and vagabonds.  I couldn’t help but notice that the men in tweed were unaccompanied by the fairer sex.  Who wants to be seen with a vagrant wearing herringbone?

“So, then who are we here to hear?” I whispered to the lovely little Mrs. Callington.

“Vivaldi,” she said simply, for she was distracted by looking all around us to see if she knew anyone.  She certainly seemed more intent on seeing someone than hearing them.

I nodded, again thoughtfully.  “I am pretty sure he is dead, isn’t he?” I asked.  “It would be quite a miracle if he were to show up on time given the circumstances.”

“He’s not here in person,” she whispered in exasperation.  “They are playing his music.”

“Well, that’s wonderful,” I said, nodding my head approvingly.  “I’m sure he would like that, God rest his soul.  What a nice way to honor the deceased.”

“They play him every year,” she said.  “It is tradition.  The third concert every season is Vivaldi.  Really, Dear, I’d think you’d know that.  We have been season ticket holders for years.”

“Ah,” I said.  “I didn’t know he was part of the regular rotation.  Third concert every year, eh?  Good for him.  He deserves it.”

“Oh look,” she whispered suddenly, putting her hand on my arm just above my wrist to simultaneously get my attention and to tell me to shush.

“What am I looking at?” I asked, trying unsuccessfully to follow her gaze to see what she was looking at.  All I saw were well-dressed concert goers looking for their seats, obviously eager for a generous dose of Vivaldi.

“There is Tricia,” she whispered, and flicked her chin almost imperceptibly towards a knot of people looking for their seats.

“Oh, jolly good,” I exclaimed in an approving whisper.  I had no idea which of the 20 or 30 women who lay in the direction of Alexis’ nod was Tricia.  Or how we knew her.  But I’ve found it best in these situations to just play along.  “It’s good to see her up and about.”

“I can’t stand her,” said Alexis through clenched teeth, her grip tightening on my arm.

“Nor can I,” I said, quickly changing teams.  “Can you believe her gall at showing up here tonight?  What would Vivaldi say?”

The little woman glanced at me in what could either be exasperation or amazement that I was somewhat able to keep up with the batting lineup.

“It’s not so surprising,” she said.  “Her husband is Herb Blakely of Blakley’s Better Bitters.  They are one of the patrons of the symphony”

I perked up.

“Blakley’s?  The beer magnate?”

“Yes.  And she is insufferable about it, even though she merely married into the family.”

“How dare she!” I said with high dudgeon, for I thought that’s what the situation called for.  I’ve found it’s always best to stay on the good side of someone with a high and unpredictable temper, particularly if that person is within arm’s reach.  “Although,” I said, striking a more contemplative tone, willing to see both sides of the situation, “If one simply must get married, one could do worse than marrying a titan of the ales and spirits industry.”

“It’s not that she married into the family,” she said, still gazing with gimlet eyes at the group which contained the odious Tricia, “It’s that she lords it over everyone as if she were royalty.”

“The nerve!” I said hotly. Then, with what I considered to be an acceptable length of pause, followed with, “Do you suppose the bar in the lobby is stocked with Blakley’s since they are a patron?”

“How can you possibly be thinking about beer at a time like this?”

I drew myself up, cut to the quick.  “Hey, I am on Team Vivaldi,” I said.  “I’ll buy one of his jerseys in the lobby after the show.  I’m perfectly fine without a rejuvenating tonic.  I am perfectly content to sit and have my fill of Vivaldi for …what would you say … 20 minutes?”  I put out feelers for what she thought the duration of the concert might be.

“The concert lasts for two hours,” she said, her face in a bit of a frown.

“Two hours?” I asked, shocked.  “Just how much music did this Vivaldi fellow write?”

“He wrote hundreds of concertos and sonatas and even some operas.”

“Hundreds?” I asked, aghast.  I may have paled a bit.  “Who could possibly have had time to compose hundreds of anything back then?” I asked.  “Weren’t there plagues or wars or inquisitions that took up a lot of peoples’ time?”

But my little dimpled daffodil had other things on her mind.

“I am going to go over and talk to her,” she said.

I may have been a bit confused at this point.  “I thought you couldn’t stand her,” I said.

“I can’t.”

“Well then that makes going over to see her seem a little … well … fatuous.”

“Not at all.  Have you forgotten that I have been put in charge of the big charity fundraiser next month?”

“Of course, I haven’t forgotten,” I said, looking hurt that she would think such a thing.  “But what exactly are we raising funds for again?”

“For the Polk Inn restoration.”

“Ah, yes,” I said.  “How could I forget the ol’ Polk Inn restoration project?  If anything around here needs restoring, it is the Polk Inn.  Why, just last week I was telling Jeremy at the club that the ol’ Polk place was becoming an eyesore and in need of some major restoration.”

But I was talking to myself.  My Lovely Little Dahlia had gotten up and approached the abominable Tricia with purpose.  It was obvious she was willing to set aside her distaste of Tricia for her enthusiasm for the Polk Inn restoration.  Which, now that I think about it, just where in the heck is the Polk Inn?  I can’t say that I’ve ever seen it before.  However, this was no time to spend contemplating dilapidated old piles of brick and wood where Washington may or may not have slept.  The time had come for action.  To think was to do and, just like a hare would do if the cobra were to look away for a moment, I bolted and in a moment, I was in the lobby, one foot on the brass footrail, my forearms against the highly-polished bar.

“I’ll have a pint of Blakely’s, please, Barkeep,” I said.

“Yes, sir,” came the reply and he turned to pull the amber fluid into a pint glass.

“Oh, you like Blakely’s do you?” asked the whiskered man beside me.  He looked for all the world like a sea captain from the days of Clipper ships.  He wore a navy-blue blazer with gold buttons on it, white shirt, blue slacks, and blindingly polished black shoes.  He had a slightly nautical air about him, possibly due to his thick, gray beard.

“I must say, I do,” I said, hoisting the full glass of it in a sort of toast.  “I’ve always said that if there’s one thing that goes swimmingly with two hours of Vivaldi, it is a pint or two of Blakely’s finest.”

“I’m glad you like it,” said the nautical-aired man.  “Grandfather would be pleased.”

“Grandfather?” I asked, raising an eyebrow.  “I say, you’re not related to Vivaldi, are you?”

“Oh, goodness no,” he said.  “I’m about all Vivaldi’d up.  If the wife drags me off to one more of his operas, I think I might just become a hermit.  Last month she dragged me off to see “La verità in cimento” and I seriously contemplated jumping from our box seats and making a run for it.”

“So, no relation, then?” I asked, having picked up on his coolness towards the Vivaldi family.  Perhaps there was an old family feud still going on between his family and the Vivaldi’s.

“Not a bit.  No, the grandfather I was referring to was Grampa Blakely.”

My eyes widened.  “So …. So … you’re …”

“Yes, yes,” he sighed.  “I’m one of those Blakely’s.  Herb Blakely, to be exact.”

“Well, if you don’t mind me saying it, you sound a lot less happy about that than I would be if I were one of those Blakely’s.”

He shrugged and took a hearty drink of one of his own beers.  “People think ales and spirits is all fun and games,” he said, almost sadly.

“A common misperception,” I agreed sympathetically.

“But it is just like any other business,” he said.  “My days are filled with accountants and lawyers and marketers.”

I shuddered.  There but for the grace of God go I, I thought to myself.  I patted him sympathetically on the back.

“I’m sorry to hear that, old man,” I said sympathetically.  “A man in your position should be able to enjoy the fruits of your labors without having to deal with such things.”

He nodded and glanced at me appreciatively.    “You seem like you understand my situation.”

“I do.  I do,” I said.  “I avoid lawyers and accountants and marketers like the plague.  Of course, I am handicapped somewhat by having married one.”

“Which?  An accountant or a lawyer or a marketer?”

“I can’t really remember,” I said.  “But she is one of the three.”

We both sipped contemplatively on our Blakely’s while leaning against the bar.

“What you need,” I said finally, “Is something else to take your mind off of the unsavory characters you are forced to associate with.”

“You mean like a hobby?”

“No, something more than a hobby.  Something that will give you purpose and a sense of fulfillment.”

“What do you suggest?”

I looked around, trying to think of something.  It was at that moment I saw my diminutive daisy stalking purposefully and with pique into the lobby looking for me.  In desperation, my mind tossed me a lifesaver in the form of an idea.

“You should take on a project that will challenge you and yet fulfill you.  For instance, you could take over the restoration of the old Polk Inn project.  Now there is a project worthy of the talents and energies of a man like you.”

He stared off into space for a moment as if trying to imagine himself leading the resurrection of a moldering pile of old lumber and masonry.  I could feel Alexis’ footsteps drawing ever nearer.

“It would be just the thing to bring you back your joie de vivre,” I said, trying to push him over the edge.

“Maybe you’re right,” he said, warming to the idea.

“Buttercup!” I said brightly to Alexis now that she was in our midst.   She was about to give me a speech on temperance, but I jumped in quickly before she could build up a head of steam.  “I’d like you to meet my friend Mr. Herb Blakely.”

“Blakely?” she asked, her eyes widening and all of the ire draining out of her.  She suddenly became the solicitous flower that I had married long ago.  My stock just went up considerably in her eyes.

“Yes,” I said, as they shook hands.  “And furthermore, he has agreed to take on the Polk Inn restoration project.”

There are few things in a man’s life that fills him with a sense of accomplishment and victory like avoiding a dressing down by his petite jolie fleur.  Of course, the antidote to that feeling of warmth and happiness is two hours of Vivaldi.

Alistair and Alexis Attend an Auction

art-gallery

“I say, James,” I said, by way of addressing James, who was busy chauffeuring like nobody’s business at the moment.

“Yes, sir?” came his response from the front seat in the cool, calm, unflappable manner which has no doubt made him a legend among chauffeuring circles.

“What say we swing by The Gryphon’s Nest for a snifter?”

He glanced at me briefly in the rear view mirror and then returned his gaze to the road, a move that separates the professionals from the rookies.

“Do you think that is wise, Sir?”

“Wise?” I asked, philosophically.  “I don’t know about wise, but I think it is damned necessary.  I will leave the question regarding its wisdom to the philosophers.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Would Plato have thought it wise?  Aristotle?  Spinoza?  No doubt they would have had their doubts.  As for me, of doubts I have none.  Swing by the ol’ watering hole, if you would be so kind, James.”

“Yes, Sir,” he said.  And then after a moment’s hesitation, said, “I was only thinking …”

“Thinking of what, James?”  I asked, my mind a little distracted about what Spinoza would have thought of The Gryphon’s Nest.  No doubt he would have enjoyed their hot wings and their 100-inch ultra-high definition television.

“I was only thinking that Mrs. Callington was expecting you to meet her at the auction.”

“Which is precisely why I need the snifter, James.  One can’t just simply go to an auction without being fortified.”

“Yes, sir,” came the professional, if somewhat pointed response.

“One needs bracing.  A little gusset for the spine.”

“Yes, sir,” he said again, which was his way of saying, “It’s your funeral.”  And perhaps he was right.  What are auctions if not the funerals of the detritus we no longer want or need?  James must be in a particularly philosophical frame of mind today.

Still, when I arrived at the auction an hour later after a brief stop at The Gryphon’s Nest, I believe that my course was the best and I was gusseted and well-oiled to be able to endure the auction.  A snifter or two of Kentucky’s primary export had braced me to a considerable degree for the ordeal that was no doubt to follow.

“Where have you been?” hissed Alexis as I sauntered into the auction venue.  This was her normal greeting for me.

“I’m fine, thank you, Dear,” I said warmly, for I was full of bonhomie.  I kissed her cheek.

She eyed me for a moment with wild surmise.  “Have you been at the Crow’s Nest?”

“Gryphon’s Nest,” I corrected.  “The Crow’s Nest is a bar.”

“Well, what do you think the Gryphon’s Nest is?” she asked.

“It is a pub.”

“It’s the same thing,” she said.

I was about to correct her and explain that a pub is far more sophisticated and effete, but there was the sound of a gavel and a deep booming voice saying, “Ladies and gentlemen, if you please.  The auction is about to start, so if you could take your seats, please.  Thank you.”

“Never mind,” she said.  “Let’s go take our seats.”

She turned and walked towards the array of chairs that were nicely padded, but were still the sort of chairs one finds in a hotel banquet room.  Except that we weren’t in a hotel banquet room.  We were in the ballroom of Drimble Manor, which had been converted for the occasion.  The occasion, of course, was the dissolution of the Drimble estate, prompted by the untimely (though not entirely unexpected) passing of the senior Mr. Drimble, the founder and chief executive scoundrel of Drimble’s Kibble, the high-end dog food for snooty dog owners.

I sat next to the lovely Mrs. Callington and smiled at her.  She was looking quite lovely this evening in her prim pencil skirt and white silk blouse, black stiletto heels, and patent leather belt.  Her jet-black hair was pulled back particularly tight this evening, reflecting the lights of Drimble Manor like moonlight on an inky sea.

“You look … lovelry … lovel …ry …. level .. ree ..tonight,” I whispered, then added as an afterthought, “My dear.”  I thought it was a good save.

She suddenly rolled her eyes as if someone had stepped on her toe.

“Good god,” she whispered.  “How many bourbons did you have?”

“Just … just … the two.  Or three.”

“Well for god’s sake, don’t stand near any open flames.”

I looked around but didn’t see any flames of any sort.  “Yes, dear,” I whispered.

“And don’t bid on anything.”

On this topic, I was quite prepared to speak.  I leaned back over to her and whispered.  “Not … not … not to worry, my Delicate Cherry Blossom.  I pursued … perused … the catalog, my beer … deer … dear.  There was not a shingle … single .. splinter of furniture, not a single slosh of paint on canvas, not the first shark … sherpa … shard of glassware, that caught my eye.”  I pointed to my eye pointedly, so that she could get my point.

She put her hand on my pointing finger and lowered it back down onto my lap.  “Well just make sure you don’t bid on anything.”

I put my finger to my lips as if I were shushing myself.  “Not a single bid will I make.  Other than for your affections.”  She rolled her eyes.

At that moment, the auctioneer gestured towards a painting.  “Our first item up for bid this afternoon is a lovely painting by Amaud Desrosiers.  It is an abstract entitled, “Jolies filles à la plage”1.   The opening bid is two thousand dollars.  Do I hear a bid?”

I scrutinized the painting.  There were straight lines and garish colors, like geometric shapes run amuck.  There was no balance among either the elements nor the colors.  And, my French may be a little rusty, but I did not see either filles nor plage.  A better name for this monstrosity might have been “Boîtes mal dessinées2.  I was incensed.  What was monsieur Desrosiers trying to pull here?  Did he think we were plebeians?

Où sont les filles?3” I whispered to Alexis, my dudgeon quite high.

“Shhh!” she shushed sharply.

“Où sont les filles?!”, I repeated a little louder, for perhaps she hadn’t heard me.

“Oh my god,” she hissed at me, “You’re not even French!  How are you speaking French all of a sudden?”

“We have a bid for $2000,” said the auctioneer.  “Do I hear $3000?”

I let out a derisive little breath.  I whispered to my lovely Alexis of the beautiful scowl.  “Can you believe someone bid on this poubelle4?”

She glowered at me.  “You!  You bid on it,” she said in a sharp whisper.

“I?” I gasped, metagrabolised5.  “That’s impossible.  I would not bid on such … such … “ I gestured towards the piece of offending art looking for the correct word.  “Such rubbish.”

“We have a bid for $3000,” boomed the auctioneer.

“For god’s sake,” said my petite little Alexis of the smoldering glower.  “Stop flapping your arms.  You’ll bankrupt us.

*                                          *                                             *

Later, on the ride home, I confided in James.  “She was quite right to be so upset, James.”

I saw his eyes in the rear-view mirror glance back at me for about an eighth of a second, which is the correct amount of time for someone of his professional demeanor to look at an employer who had bid on poubelle against the better judgement of his better half.  A glance that had lasted any longer would have been untoward.

I looked around me on the rear seat of the limousine.  In addition to the execrable “Jolies filles à la plage”, there was a Schovajsa  glass vase that weighed about 20 pounds and probably would not hold a thimbleful of water, a Louis XV chair that looked as if it were upholstered in curtains salvaged from a defunct brothel, and an art deco figurine of a woman that was so exquisitely rendered that it would most likely take some additional explaining to the lovely Mrs. Callington over and above the seventeen hundred dollars I’d accidentally bid for it.

James looked back towards the road, but his eyes had said everything in that eighth of a second that the irascible Mrs. Callington had said quite verbosely over the course of the ten minutes we sat at the bursar’s desk settling up our account.

I was beginning to understand how the now-defunct Mr. Drimble had ended up with so much flotsam over the course of his 98 years.  An accidental gesture here, and intemperate wave of the hand there, and suddenly one’s ballroom is full of dubious artwork.

Perhaps we should have an auction of our own soon.

.

.

©2017 by biffsockpow.wordpress.com

 

 


  1. Pretty Girls at the Beach 
  2. Poorly drawn boxes 
  3. Where are the girls? 
  4. Trash 
  5. Mystified 

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: