I think it was Freud who said it, “Like father like son,” or something along those lines. Well, I take it Freud never met Johnny Quiver, a short, sniveling man who looked as much like his father as a weasel looks like a rhinoceros. Quiver was as unassuming as a piece of dust in a dustbin; he was just a speck of a man in an immensity that was the Zoic Nation. He walked around nervously, not wanting to be squashed. So when he rang me one day out of the blue and told me that he had got engaged, I was shocked. The world had always seemed to be relatively indifferent to Quiver, but to hear the man was now engaged meant that maybe things were finally looking up for the poor man. Last time I saw him he was a nervous wreck and I suppose I don’t know why I expected him to be anything different when he came bumbling into the diner.
“Chip?” he asked me before he took a seat. He was wearing an oversized trench coat that was an off-yellow color and carrying a small briefcase that was an off-black color. His complexion was an off-white. Everything seemed to be off about this man, and that was how I knew I was dealing with the same old Johnny Quiver.
“Yes, it’s me, Johnny,” I said.
“Good, good,” he said with chattering teeth and took a seat. “I got nervous for a second.”
“Engaged, Johnny! I must say,” I said. “I’m a little shocked and very happy for you. I thought maybe you had some bad news to spill. I assume you called me to ask me to be your bestman. And before you say anything, of course I accept.”
“No, actually. I called you to beat me up.”
“What! What?” I exclaimed. “What? What!”
“I’m in a nervous mess,” Quiver quivered.
“If I remember correctly, the last time I spoke to you you were in a nervous mess. Nervous messes seem to follow you along in life. Now, what is this about me beating you up? You aren’t going to say something about my mother, are you?”
“If I have to, I will,” he said.
“You dare not.” If there’s one thing I couldn’t stand for, it was fools like Johnny “Appleseed” Quiver saying things about the mum.
“She’s motherly,” he spat as sinisterly as he could spit.
“Yes,” I said, taking a sip of my coffee. I knew he hadn’t it in him. “What’s this all about?”
“And I love her.”
“I concluded as much.”
“She loves me.”
“I hoped as much.”
“But her father?”
“What, does he want to get married, too?”
“He hates me. Thinks I’m a nervous wreck.” He fidgeted a bit.
“Seems to sum you up pretty well, Johnny.”
“He won’t let me marry his daughter. He wants his friend, Sir Neville Williams Scott Andrew Tinkerton, to marry Beatrice.”
“Beatrice? Not Beatrice Kohl?”
“The one and only,” he said, his eyes glazing over at her very name.
“Tall kind of girl. Big ears. Long neck. Looks like an ostrich with all its feathers plucked out.”
“I don’t know about that, but that’s the girl. Isn’t she beautiful?”
“Rather,” I said.
Beatrice Kohl was one of those types of girls who never really blossomed. She was attractive at certain angles, though these were very limited. But she did have one appeal that all men couldn’t resists. She was a raving success. She was a hand model who had made a fortune posing her hands with watches and meat-cleavers. Being a hand model meant that she walked around wearing oversized mittens with bird feathers embroidered on them to protect her source of income; this made her look even more like an ostrich.
“In a few minutes her father is going to meet me outside and we’re going to some restaurant of his choosing. There, he has told me, he’s going to break it off with me and Beatrice. So what I need you to do is attack me. Take my wallet. And run.” He placed a black ski-mask on the table. “You have to do this in front of the restaurant just when Beatrice arrives so she sees the whole thing. Now, you’ve got to let me get a few hits in there. Make me look like a fallen hero who ‘gave it his best.’ That’ll win their hearts.”
“No, ‘buts.’ This must be done. Then he’ll see how cool, confident and not-nervous I am. I hope.”
“This is a terrible idea, Johnny. Things are sure to go wrong.” But he wasn’t listening.
“Since I don’t know the restaurant, you’ll have to keep some pace behind us and follow.” And his phone began to buzz. He looked at it. “It’s him. Wait a minute and then follow,” he said. And he dashed off, leaving me with the bill.
I waited, as he said, and then stepped outside into the darkness. Just ahead of me I could make Johnny and Beatrice’s father out. In the shadows they looked very similar. It was strange. As I had said before, Johnny Quiver looked nothing like his father, professional boxer Davis “Deadpan” Quiver. But Johnny and Beatrice’s dad—not only were they the same build, but they each waddled in much the same fashion.
Tailing someone in the darkness of night really gets the blood flowing, even if they know you’re tailing them. Every time I thought they’d catch a sight of me, I’d dive behind signposts or mailboxes. I even dove into a trash receptacle. It wasn’t one of my better moments.
But at last, they were standing at the restaurant, waiting for Beatrice. I was hiding in the shadows, my head sticking out of the alley, eyeing my two victims. Then she arrived, her long neck towered above her future husband and her father. Like a communications tower without any reception, she kept looking back and forth at her dad and fiancé.
“What are you waiting for?” I heard her say. “Let’s get dinner.”
Now was my chance. I jumped in and ran up to my victim. I walloped him upside the head. He fell over. His arms flailing. He was screaming. Yelling. He pulled himself up. I let him take a swing. He missed. I struck him in the stomach as gently as I could. He got me a good one in the face, knocking me to the ground. I hadn’t expected such force.
During the whole fight, Beatrice just stood there, her head craning, her eyes bugged out—she was in shock and the little man beside her stood just as petrified, like a deer that suddenly realized that stepping in front of rush-hour traffic wasn’t the best of ideas.
Another blow to his head and I grabbed his wallet. I dashed off, leaving my friend and his companions behind. I hid in the alley, cradling the wallet in my hand.
I don’t know if I said it before. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for a friend. I count myself as one of the few people in history who are as loyal as loyal can be. I am man’s best friend. As loyal as a Dutch Hound. So I waited in the alley to see my loyal handy-work. The cloud settled and I could make out what had happened. The dark figure of Father Kohl looked to be helping up the dark figure of Quiver. Lady Kohl was crying, shoving her head into her hands like an ostrich would a patch of dirt. A great argument ensued between the two men. And then in stepped a 3rd party and with the wave of his hand shoved what I suspected was Father Kohl off. The man, disengaged from the party, feverishly made their way to me. I was about to run when I felt a hand around my neck and I was pushed into the wall.
“You idiot!” my assailant said.
“What’s it?” I asked, shocked to see Quiver quivering before me, unscathed.
“You walloped the wrong guy!”
“Check the wallet.”
I pulled the wallet out and looked at the ID that was inside it. Beatrice’s father’s mug stared back.
“Oh,” I said, with shock writ on my face.
“The whole things off. Beatrice was shocked at how I didn’t defend her father. Her father was shocked at how I didn’t defend his daughter. And then, in stepped Sir Neville Williams Scott Andrew Tinkerton; promising to seek vengeance on the culprit. And he pushed me to the curb.
“Here he comes now,” I said as the tall figure of Sir Neville Williams Scott Tinkerton came darting towards us in the alley.
Both Quiver and I bolted. I tossed the wallet at the running man in hot pursuit behind us.
“Well, what do you have to say for yourself?” Quiver panted as he ran instep behind me.
“Thanks for listening.”