Short stories by the Hawk!
Short stories by the Hawk!
Paul D. Fawcett , aka The Hawk
The Hawk on The Hawk: "My stories are based 'loosely' on my own experiences & have a ring of truth to the events I wrote about. The characters are in fact real people but their names have been changed to protect the innocent. The real people are quite aware they are in my stories & they find it most entertaining that they have been chosen... I am 60, married (Marty), a blue collar worker, (lift truck operator). I live in Economy, Indiana. USA! A small Midwestern village of about 150 people. Economy, the known center of the universe, is a great place to live. Hawk, (my pen name & chess handle) came about in my chess games with Mr. Sugden & Mr. Canter. Hawk, the very name strikes fear into the hearts of chess players the world over with my swooping, attacking style!!!"
The Great Raccoon Hunt
One brisk Fall evening I was sitting over my chessboard pondering over my next move in a obscure opening I had sprung on my unsuspecting chess friend, “Manny the Mangler.” I gave Manny that name as he thrashes me on a regular basis. After looking in all my old chess opening books, I stumbled on the “Grob.” HAH! I got him now!
Manny and I have been playing chess every Monday night for.......well, I can’t remember for how long. I guess I tolerate Manny because he always brings the snacks. Tonight he'd brung potato chips, kosher pickles, canned sardines, and a large bowl of beanie wienie.
To the uninformed, beanie wienie is a truly American concoction of pork-and-beans with wienies cut up and thrown in. No wienies? Then any type of meat that’s been in the fridge fermenting for two to three weeks will do.
Just as Manny snatches my c4-pawn with a resounding “THUMP” on my chess table, the phone rings. “Hey! Wanna go coon hunting?” Even though my brain has not yet worked out the implications of Manny taking my c4 pawn, the word “hunting” has me wide-eyed and bushy tailed.
Being an avid hunter/fisherman/outdoorsman, I’m always ready for a trek into the wilderness!
“Hey, ya awake?” says Lenny. Lenny, long time comrade of many years. Lenny and I have had many memorable days afield (and some I’d rather forget). Lenny is as buggy as I am about hunting, fishing and other various outdoor sports.
“Ya, I’m awake. Gimme details. Who, what, where and when?”
Short pause. “Me, you and Gilbert. Tomorrow. Call ya later. Mavis got loose again,” says Lenny. Click! Lenny gone. He knows I still have reservations going anywhere with Gilbert, also known as “Gilbert the Gimp”.
Our last little foray with Gilbert resulted in the sinking of a $7000 bass boat, catching Big Eddie’s Bait Shop on fire and a night in the Hoosegow, sharing a cell with some large hairy guy, named “Arnie the Arm”. But, that is another story.
Waking my wife at 3 a.m., for bail money, isn’t something I relished. Even though that was years ago, I’m reminded from time to time about hanging about with Gilbert the Gimp. (He got the name “Gimp” from trying to escape the burning bait shop and tripping over a stuffed kangaroo.)
Back to Mavis. Could either be Lenny’s ever tolerant wife or his prized Blue Tick hound. After spending $1100 on Mavis (Blue Tick), he thought he could appease Mavis (ever-tolerant wife), by naming the thing after her. After three nights of sleeping with Mavis (Blue Tick), Lenny was let back in the house, but on probation.
Even though I fancy myself as an accomplished woodsman who could be dropped buck-naked in the forest, in January, no food or water and still survive quite handily living off roots, berries, grubs, tree bark and other such ilk, I still get a twitch thinking about being in a forest with Gilbert the gimp, at night.
While this has been going on we’re still playing. Manny is still a pawn up - thinks he’s doing well. Little does he know I’m playing a gambit, channeling all my woodsman’s cunning into my game strategy. AHA!! After a careless move by Manny I see the chance for a promising exchange sacrifice and go for it.
Phone rings. Lenny. “OK, me and the Gimp will pick ya up at 10 p.m., tomorrow. Be ready this time.”
"OK, I’ll be ready and don’t let the Gimp have anything that can hurt us.”
We go on with the game and before long I hit Manny with another exchange sacrifice. Eventually I come out a solid piece up. With some disgust Manny finally resigns in a completely lost position, threatening to dismantle my “Grub”, as he calls it, next time he has Black. We finish off the snacks and Manny leaves, still uttering dire threats about what he is going to do to my Grub.
Sneaking into my hunting stuff, I hear a “Huuumph! Where you off to?”
I mumble, “Coon hunting.”
“And with who?” Martha says, with one eyebrow on a slant.
"Lenny,” I said.
“Good Lord, don’t call me at 3 am, call Mavis!” (ever-tolerant wife?) Martha says.
Having never been coon hunting, what to wear? Maybe my brand new $300 LL Bean brushed cotton pants and shirt, which are guaranteed to stay as soft as a young girl’s bottom, even after a hundred washings. Of course, my layered cotton bobber hat with fast release chin strap has to go!!
OK, all ready to set off into the wilds in search of the evasive coon or any other beastie that happens to cross my path!! Hooooooo-Raaaaaaah! Male Testosterone is a wondrous thing!
Next day after work, I rush home, don me gear, and wolf down some raw meat. To fill in the time I get the chess set out and play over last night’s triumph against Manny. Boy, did I whomp him! That Grob opening sure looks good to me! Definitely part of my repertoire now.
I hear the horn blow. Out the door and into Lenny’s ‘52 Ford pick-up. I squeeze the Gimp in the middle so as to control anything he might do. I hear Mavis (Blue Tick), and Buzzard (Redbone) in the back. Off we go at a break-neck speed of 30 mph (all it can do).
Forty-five minutes later Lenny pulls off into a little clearing at the front of the woods, Mavis and Buzzard straining at the leash to get on a hot track. Lenny says I should be honored to be allowed to partake in a coon hunt, as he and the Gimp rarely take a rookie along! (Group hug.)
“Did you bring a flashlight?” asks Lenny.
“Well, no,” I said, with head hung down.
“No matter, Gimp has an extra.”
Lenny and the Gimp pull out a helmet looking thing with a large light attached to the front. I ask, “What’s those?”
Gimp responds with a grin, “Wheat lights, 10,000,000,000 candle power!” The Gimp reaches behind the seat and after extracting a month old ham-and-swiss on rye, drags out a flashlight (?) Thing is four feet long, twenty pounds, with twelve double-D batteries.
Lenny says, “Are we all ready?”
Gimp unleashes Mavis and Buzzard, who promptly hikes his leg and pees on Lenny’s pant leg. “Buzzard, you stupid dog, it’s camouflage, not a tree,” yells Lenny. I swear I saw Mavis grin.
Getting all our “possibles” ready, Lenny sets loose Mavis and Buzzard. “What now?” I ask, as I keep an eye on the Gimp.
“We start a little fire till we hear the dogs strike a track,” Lenny says. I’m thinking to myself, this coon hunting is OK!
“Got any matches, anybody?”, asks the Gimp.
“Nope,” me neither.
“No matter, I’ll get ‘er lit,” mumbled the Gimp. Before me and Lenny can jump back, the Gimp has dragged out a can of gasoline, pours some on the logs, and with an old Zippo lighter he found in Lenny’s glove box, lights a piece of paper and throws it on the gas-soaked logs. In a blinding flash of light and a thunderous “WHOOSH”, which knocked Lenny to the ground, we have fire!!
“Ugh, fire good, fire friend” laments the Gimp.
“Jeeze, Gimp,” whimpers Lenny.
I notice (after my eyes get accustomed to the dark again), Lenny is looking off into the darkness. “What’s out there, Lenny?” I ask.
“Nothing yet”, Lenny whispers.
“Ya yet,” replies the Gimp. “Think we oughta tell him?”
“Ya, better tell him,” Lenny whispers.
“Hawk” (my wilderness name) “keep on the lookout for the Fire Demon” says the Gimp.
“Fire Demon?” I ask.
The Gimp explains, “He seems to only come when we bring a new guy on a coon hunt.” “Nine feet tall, all covered in fire and runs like the wind,” says the Gimp, now shaking.
“Seen it twice, myself,” Lenny remarks.
“Humph, old wives’ tale,” says Hawk.
“You’ll see! You’ll see!” says the Gimp.
Crunch, crunch. “He’s here, he’s here!!” screams Lenny.
“Hello, the fire!” It’s old Suggers and his son, Ronnie. Farmers that live down the road. “Seen a ball-o-fire a bit ago, come to investigate. Lookee here, Ronnie, it’s Lenny, the Gimp and Hawk,” grins Suggers. “Coon hunting again, boys?”
“Yup,” replies Lenny.
“I take it the ball-o-fire was the Gimp?” inquires Suggers.
Red-faced, the Gimp confesses, “Well, kinda.”
“Come on, Ronnie, we gotta git before the Gimp does something else,” says Suggers, while backing away and keeping a sharp eye on the Gimp.
“Ok, guys, I wanna do some coon huntin’, what are we waiting for?” asks Hawk.
“We waiting for the dogs to strike a trail. Ya kin tell by their bark,” Lenny informs me rather dryly.
While we wait I tell Lenny and the Gimp about how I thrashed Manny at chess the night before. They are not impressed - they think chess is a game for sissies. Never mind that chess, like hunting, needs guile, cunning, stealth, ambushes, forward planning, deceit and even King hunts. They just don’t want to know. Their loss I guess.
About half an hour later, we hear one of the dogs let loose with a long drawn howl.
“Jeese, what was that?” asks a wild-eyed Hawk!!
“That’s Mavis!! She got a hot trail!!!”
“Put the fire out and let’s git on it!!!” screeches Lenny.
In a leap and a bound Lenny and the Gimp disappear into the darkness, leaving me to stomp out the fire. After nearly melting the soles off my also new LL Bean waterproof, blizzard proof, snakebite proof camo boots, I get it out. By this time I’m engulfed in total darkness!!! Searching for my four foot, twenty pound flashlight, I find it next to the gas can. “Nope, not a chance, I’ll go without it!!”
I take off in the direction I saw Lenny go. I can faintly hear the dogs and Lenny hollering at the Gimp to keep up. Trying to make up some time and yet picking my way thru the brush, I run as fast as I dare. Getting tangled in bushes, tree branches slapping me severely about the head and ears, my face covered in spider webs, I think, “Why am I here?” Gad, I hate spiders.
Out of the corner of my eye, I see “things”. Dark shapes, watching me. Movement on the left, faster I go. Beasties that only come out at night looking for hapless ‘coon hunters.
I pull my chinstrap tighter on my layered cotton bobber hat. Not minding the slapping branches or the spider webs, I run even faster to catch up to the guys before those horrid shadows with the long white fangs snatch me up and drag me back to their nest to feed me to their young. “I LOVE YOU, MOM!!” (just in case I don’t make it!) Tears and blood streaming down my face and sweating like a sixteen year old boy on his first date, I run faster!!!
Now I’m beginning to hack and wheeze. Damn them ciggies. Ciggie, that’s what I need!!!
Not wanting to stop for fear of the beasties with long white fangs and big red eyes catching up, I deftly unzip one of the thirty-two pockets that LL Bean so wisely attached to my $300 brushed cotton shirt. Not in that one. With my second choice, I can feel my pack of ciggies and free disposable lighter. (You get one with a carton of ciggies.) I manage to fish one out, and with a cupped hand, manage to fire that baby up!!!!! Sucking the wonderful smoke deep into my screaming lungs, I am at peace, one with nature.
I hear Lenny and the dogs closer now and not moving away from me. I can see two 10,000,000,000 candlepower lights dancing thru the trees, just up ahead and down in a gully. “Hah, bring it on, you beasties!! Hawk not afraid of man nor beast!” Hah!! I can now just make out Lenny and the Gimp up ahead and Mavis and Buzzard looking up in a tree and howling their heads off.
With my ciggie clenched in my teeth, I rush headlong down the hill into the gully. SMACK!!! A branch hits me in the face and in a shower of sparks, knocks my beloved ciggie out of my yap. Now I realize the sparks have caught my cotton bobber hat on fire! Wanting to save what little hair I have left and to keep one step ahead of the beasties, I keep running and try to undo my chinstrap and shed the hat.
Running with your head aflame is asinine. Wind whipping the burning hat into a big ball of fire, I come into sight of the Gimp. “Fire Demon, Fire Demon, run for ya life!!” screams the Gimp. Not able to yell, I keep running at them.
Buzzard spies the spectacle running down the hill and promptly pees on Lenny’s leg. “Stupid dog,” as Lenny kicks at Buzzard. “Grab the dogs, Gimp,” bellows Lenny.
“Hell with the dogs, it’s every man for himself,” says the Gimp, while picking up a large stick to try to beat the awesome fire demon to a pulp with.
As I get closer, the Gimp has a change of heart and chucks the log at Mavis. “ATTACK MAVIS!!!” Mavis (being the smarter of the bunch, including the mighty hunters) back-steps and disappears into the brush. Lenny has taken the “every man for himself” to heart and crashes thru the brush, leaving the Gimp, Mavis and Buzzard to their own devices.
Lenny figures he will gain time while the demon is mangling the Gimp. I can hear Lenny faintly saying, “Be the wind, be the wind.” Buzzard is hot on Lenny’s heels. The Gimp is crying now and saying something to the effect of, “Never again, never again.”
With me twenty yards away, the Gimp turns and follows Lenny’s trail of broken branches. For a man with a bum leg, the Gimp is cat-quick. I finally get the stupid chin strap loose and chuck the thing in the Gimp’s direction. At that very moment, he looks back and sees the “burning head” flying at him, through the air. “Lord, help me, please!” stutters the Gimp. “Lenny, Lenny, watch out for his head!!”
With the burning hat now gone, I stop, fall to the ground. I can’t run any more. Hearing a rustling in the bushes, I think, “I’m done for, come get me beasties!!”
Slowly turning my head, I spot Mavis coming out of the brush. Wagging her tail, she comes up, looks at me and sniffs twice. With a friendly lick on my beat up face, she turns, heads for Lenny and the Gimp’s trail. With one last look at me, as if to say, “Come on, fire demon, I’ll take you home!” I get up and stumble after her. I swear I saw Mavis grin.
In about an hour, Mavis leads me back to the truck, where Lenny is leaning over the truck, trying to catch his breath. The Gimp is in the truck with the windows rolled up and the doors locked.
“Hawk!! You made it!!” cries Lenny. “Did ya see it, did ya see it?"
Should I or shouldn’t I? Long live the “Great Fire Demon".
Tired and worn to a frazzle, we get in the truck and head for home. The Gimp refuses to let us roll down the windows. “That head is still out there, floatin’ around,” he says.
None of us say much on the way home, but, as I looked out the window of the truck, I swear I saw red eyes. Dropping me off at my house, Martha greets me at the door. “Huumph, told you so!”
Coon hunting! Think I’ll stick to chess. At least Manny brings snacks.Fiasco at the Park
by P.D. Fawcett (aka The Hawk)
For those of you that read the “Great Raccoon Hunt”, the lads are back!!!!!
After the fiasco that fateful night in the forest, I made up my mind to avoid Lenny and Gilbert the Gimp, at all costs. It took six months for my hair and eyebrows to grow back. Three months of Martha’s “evil eye” did have an influence also.
Lenny has called me several times to go with him to do some raspberry picking, mushroom hunting, etc. So far, I have managed to wiggle my way out by feigning broken legs, yellow jaundice, jungle rot, and a touch of the black plague.
My Monday night chess games with Manny the Mangler is all the excitement I can handle. I do yearn for the great outdoors at times, but as soon as I get that “look” in my eye, I hear that all too familiar, “Humph! Remember what happened the last time you went out with those escapees from the asylum, Baldy!” Martha reminds me.
Six months with no eyebrows can damage your psyche. If you ever lose your eyebrows, avoid malls, supermarkets and parks at all costs. If you don’t, you will be the object of vicious little children, who will point at you and run screaming like banshees for their mothers who will in turn glare at you and mumble something to the effect of “Pervert!” If you have to go out, do wear a wide brimmed hat pulled down as far as you can.
Sitting in my easy chair watching some nonsense on the TV, I suddenly remember, it’s Monday!!! Manny will be here!!! Out of my chair like I was eighteen years old and still nimble, I hobble about because one leg done went to sleep and was totally numb.
Dragging my leg behind me and looking like the Mummy on a cheap drunk, I bounce off Martha’s knick-knack shelf. (I'll glue that stuff back together later.) I notice I broke her little hand-painted figurine of St. Paul, Joe, Billy-Bob, or whoever it's supposed to be. Getting nervous, thinking I have committed some sort of sin, I cross myself for a little insurance. Not because I fear any lightning bolts, plague or swarm of locusts, it’s Martha’s wrath I fear more than the great Fire Demon himself.
Snatching open the little drawer to my chess table, I grab my chess pieces and get the board all set up. I see I have a few minutes before Manny shows up. It was my turn to provide the table fare, but Manny called on Sunday to say he would be bringing a special dish for us to try out. Hmm, better take two antacid pills.
As the door swings open, I hear Manny’s usual, “Hey Hawk, are ya ready for a bashing?”
My nostrils detect an odor akin to a hot breeze blowing through a pair of wino’s shoes. “Jeese Manny, what’s that?”
“Wilderness stew, tantalizin’, huh! We’ll eat later, let’s play chess,” Manny said, while setting the aromatic Wilderness stew down on the coffee table.
“Hey Manny, it looks awful hot, let’s set it outside on the porch to cool a little, OK?” I sneak off to the kitchen for two more antacid pills.
Sitting down at the board, I feel a little ashamed. Manny is a good guy who just tries to make people happy. Ashamed? Yes, but, not enough to eat any of that stew that burned the hair out of my nose with just one whiff!
I open with my famous Grob Attack again. As Manny ponders, he says, “I hear there is going to be a chess tournament down at the park, next to Big Eddie’s Bait Shop, wanna go?”
“I heard there was a fishing tournament at Big Eddie’s on Friday, Manny.”
“Both,” replies Manny. “Got an idea Hawk, we can take our poles and do some fishing after the chess tournament!”
“Sounds good to me Manny.”
“Hey Hawk, ya eyebrows are growing back,” Manny grins, then mumbles “Heard the Gimp and Lenny entered the fishing tournament.”
“Lord, think we better go incognito” I say.
Halfway through the game, (I’m two pawns up), Martha comes in. “Hi, Manny. Hey guys, some idiot put their garbage on our porch. I tried to give it to the dog next door, but he just sniffed it and howled.”
“My Wilderness stew!!!”
Manny gets his pawns back and the game ends in a draw. “Martha, I'm going to walk out with Manny.” I go out with Manny to retrieve his pot from the dog. Dog is still in his doghouse, whimpering.
“Hey Hawk, ya want the stew to warm up later?”
“Naaaaaaaa, I ate yesterday, Manny.”
Hearing a bloodcurdling scream and “Who smashed my knick-knacks!?!” I knew I should have sacrificed somebody. Manny, knowing Martha, drops the stew and hotfoots it down the street. I figure I better hang about outside until I deem it safe.
Sitting on the step, I notice bats circling the pot of stew. Not caring for bats, I’ll take my chances inside. I heard bats will land on your head, get tangled up in your hair, lay their eggs and then you’ll go crazy.
Eventually I creep back inside and confess to Martha. After much crawling by me and many “Humphs!” by Martha I get off the hook by promising to make her a brand new table for the lounge to atone for my sins.
Friday morning. Up at the crack of dawn to get my chess board and fishing gear ready. A man’s fishing gear is a wonder to behold. Fishermen have to be the most gullible people on earth. I am no exception. Look in any fisherman’s tackle box and you will see things not of this earth. Lures are intended to entice fishermen to yank it off the store shelf and plunk down hard earned money, not to lure a fish to snap it up as soon as it hits the water.
I have spent hours in the fishing section salivating over this week’s new and improved lure, guaranteed to catch fish as fast as you can sling it back in the water. Lures that rattle, buzz, give off sonic vibrations that will make any fish zero in on it like heat-seeking missile. They catch nothing.
Picking out a lure requires stealth and secrecy. A wise fisherman will spy that special lure hanging on the rack, look about to see if the other fishermen are watching you out of the corner of their eyes (and they are, too), snatch it off the rack, tuck it out of sight and run to the checkout with your prize. Checkout girl: “Well, tenth one we’ve sold today!”
Opening my tackle box, I notice an odor comparable to Wilderness stew. Last season’s tin of nightcrawlers. Out of the four thousand lures I have, I use two, maybe three at the most.
My tackle box is awe inspiring to any who sees it. Two hundred eighty four compartments and a beer holder. A mite heavy and carrying it all day will leave one arm three inches longer than the other.
Time to pick up Manny. Pulling up in front of Manny’s, I honk and out he comes. I see Manny is carrying another pot.
“More Wilderness stew, Manny? Jeese.”
“Naw, worms, Hawk!”
“Duck, Hawk!!” screams Manny.
Hunkering down I spot Lenny and the Gimp go whizzing by in Lenny’s truck, with that boat that’s as old as the Ark.
“Phew, that was close.”
“I got a bad feeling, Manny.”
Heading down to the park, we have to pass Big Eddie’s Bait Shop. How Manny managed to get his two hundred eighty pound bulk scrunched down to where he could just peep out the window to be on the lookout for Lenny and the Gimp, is beyond me.
We spot Lenny and Gimp in front of Big Eddie’s with Big Eddie blocking the door to his refurbished bait shop, yelling at the guys and flailing his arms like a windmill in a hurricane.
Big Eddie will never forgive the Gimp for tripping over that stuffed kangaroo and burning the joint down. You could always tell when Big Eddie is mad - he slobbers like a blind dog in a meat-house.
Snaking through the rows of cars, we come to a sign that says, “CHESS TOURNAMENT, TURN HERE”. The sign is two feet away from the turn and as I whip the wheel as hard as I can, Manny’s massive frame jolts the door open and out he goes. Hanging on to the door handle, Manny is outstretched and mowing down everything in his path.
I manage to slow down just as Manny loses his grip on the handle and rolls into Willie the Wino’s wheelchair. Willie screams as 280 pounds of Jell-O-quivering flesh knocks him and a fifth of “Thunderbird” into a heap.
Somehow the wheelchair manages to stay upright and takes off in the direction of Granny Millie. Granny Millie is quite unaware that the blueberry pie she is carrying (and has just won first place at the Country Fair with) is never going to be savored by mortal man.
With onlookers standing about with mouths agape, Granny Millie senses something and turns her head in time to see the runaway wheelchair five feet away. Now Granny Millie is ninety three, four foot nine inches, and weights ninety pounds, if she wears her big boots with the sides cut out for her corns.
At some point in her life she must have had a course in one of the martial arts. Deftly stepping aside, she lets out some sort of attack yell. “Hiiiiiiiiiii Kuuuuuuuuuuuuu!!” With a roundhouse kick that would make Bruce Lee awestruck, she wallops the wheelchair and sends it careening into Pastor Filbert’s just-paid-off Chevy Suburban.
Striding back to where Manny is flopping about like a fish out of water and Willie is sitting up lamenting over his broken fifth of Thunderbird, I get into my car to wait for poor Manny.
Granny Millie strides up to Manny who has wiped the dust from his eyes. “I knew it had to be you or that refugee from the booby hatch, where is he?”
Figuring I’m next on Granny Millie’s hit list, I open the door and slither out the opposite of Granny Millie. Duck-walking, I slink off into the crowd and hope to avoid detection.
Keeping on the lookout for Millie and Lenny and the Gimp, I make my way to the area where the chess tournament is supposed to be. Looking at the board to see who I play, I notice Manny is paired with “Ol Suggers.” Suggers is a nice enough chap, a little eccentric and the county chess champ.
As luck would have it, I got paired with his son, Ronnie. Ronnie is as good a chess player as his pop. Ronnie has always been known to have a “eye” for the ladies and has on more than one occasion left the premises of some damsel, dodging a load of No. 6 buckshot from either an irate father or hubby.
Sitting down in front of a chessboard, I await the start of the tournament. Even though it’s a chess tournament, it’s a very friendly affair. Everybody’s shootin’ the breeze, exchanging chess stories. Noticing Suggers and Ronnie making their way through the crowd, I wonder where Manny is.
The tables are set about one hundred feet from the edge of the lake with me facing the water. I figure if I sit sideways, I might not be recognized if Lenny and the Gimp go by. Suggers and Ronnie take their places while we wait for Manny to show up.
“Hey, Hawk, heard ya had a little trouble on your “coon hunt” with Lenny and the Gimp,” snickers Suggers.
“Hawk!!! What happened to your eyebrows” says Ronnie, all bug-eyed.
“Never mind, Ronnie,” I mumble.
“Awww, c’mon, Hawk, tell poor Ronnie about how ya barely escaped with your lives and how the fire demon burn’t your head all up.”
“Stuff it, Suggers.”
“Hawk, why ya sittin all whopper-jawed?” asked Suggers.
“Stuff it, Suggers.”
“Hey guys, here comes Manny,” says Ronnie.
Manny stumbles up and flops down like a man that has just run a twenty six mile marathon.
“Lord, Manny, w-w-what in the world happened to ya?” stutters Ronnie. “Looks like you got locked in a phone booth with a wildcat, look at your head!”
Suggers, sniffing, eyes Manny up and down, “You been drinkin?”
To get poor Manny off the hook, I look at Suggers and Ronnie. “Granny Millie.”
“Oh,” Suggers and Ronnie reply in unison.
Striding off to the tables, One-eye Henry shouts, “lets git this here tournament started!” Henry used to be a professional wrestler back in the early 50s. He lost the eye in the championship match with Hammerin’ Hank who Henry says gave him an illegal eye-gouge to keep from getting pinned.
After a few minutes into the game with Ronnie, I feel at ease. Chess has a way of making you oblivious to all about you. Waiting for my turn to move, I glance at the other players. Most I know as regulars, but I notice a few new ones.
Most striking is a kid about fifteen with spiked hair dyed in a rainbow of colors. Suggers notices the kid also and says, “Psssst, hey Manny, look at that kid. If I pay for it, would ya get your hair done up like that? Look better than you do now after tangling with Granny Millie.” (Chuckles all around.)
“Stuff it Suggers.”
People are gathering around the tables, kibitzing, choking down foot-long hotdogs and guzzling huge containers of soda pop called “big gulps.” Faintly, coming from some unknown direction, the word “HELP!” comes floating across the breeze. All eyes turn toward the lake.
A small dot which is growing bigger by the minute, is making it’s way toward us. A crowd is starting to gather to see what the fuss is all about. Can it be? Yes, dear readers, it’s Lenny and the Gimp. Belching fire and smoke, the “Ark” is heading straight for the beach. We can see the Gimp standing at the bow, ready to bail out as soon as the boat hits dry land.
“Outa the way!” yells Lenny.
As the boat hits the sandy beach, it seems to pick up speed. With bystanders leaping right and left, to avoid either getting crushed or set afire by the almost airborne boat, the Gimp leaps out and in a perfect swan dive, lands right in the middle of our chess tables.
Only one left at the table is the spike-haired kid who seems not to be in the least fazed by all the commotion. He looks at the Gimp who has slid across the tables and stops two feet from “Spike.” “Awesome, dude!”
As the ark comes to a stop, Lenny clambers out, burnt to a crisp. “My boat, my boat,” he cries, tears streaming down his blackened cheeks.
Manny and I run to Lenny. “What happened, Lenny?”
“The Gimp, it was the Gimp,” stutters Lenny.
“Gasoline, cigars, fire, the Gimp. It was the Gimp I tell you,” laments Lenny.
With the boat now just a smoldering heap, people are starting to drift away shaking their heads in disbelief. The chess tournament breaks up in total confusion, half the boards got knocked over and nobody’s in the mood now anyway.
Suggers and Ronnie finally stroll up to the smoking boat and look at each other.
“Looks like the work of the Gimp to me,” says Ronnie.
“Yup, fire, that’s his mark, remember Big Eddie’s” replies Suggers.
The Gimp with head hung down, slowly walks up to Lenny.
“I”m sorry, Lenny.”
“I know Gimp, I know,” says Lenny.
“Lenny, I’ll help ya build another boat and we'll make it bigger and faster and better than ever!”
“Ya, we will Gimp.”
“Still pals Lenny?” asks Gimp sheepishly.
“You got it Gimp, from womb to tomb, as always buddy.”
As me, Manny, Suggers and Ronnie watch the Gimp and Lenny walk away with arms over each other’s shoulders, we hear the Gimp say, “I really am sorry, Lenny.”
“I know Gimp, it’s OK.”
As we walk to our cars, everyone is a little quiet. I think we just saw an example of true friendship.
“Suggers, Ronnie, see ya later,” says Hawk
“Ya, see you guys later,” replies Suggers.
As Manny and I drive home, “Hey Manny!”
“How about some of that Wilderness stew?”
“Well OK Hawk, but it’s really kinda bad.”
“No matter, lets try some, Friend.”
Manns Chess Divan
by P.D. Fawcett (aka The Hawk)
Before I delve into the mysterious, mystical world of chess, perhaps it would be best to give a little background on the little known world of the chess club, its patrons and a little insight of what goes on in a “typical” chess club. This is to provide a small insight to the commoners who still envision chess players as the “grandfatherly” type with no sense of humor, weird types, or people who are delving into the black arts.
Chess clubs are thought to be places where old men go nightly to indulge their urge to play chess and commune with others of their ilk. Quiet, smoke-filled rooms where grand old men in suits taking up their cigars or a pinch of Gawith snuff and a glass of Brandy at their elbows. Chess, the game of kings.
This may be a typical scene at many or most chess clubs, but NOT at Mann’s Chess Club! I have been to the “typical” chess clubs, and grand they are indeed! A good place to enjoy the company of others of your kind, brush up on that favorite Kings Indian, or play over the old Masters games such as those by Tal, Breyer, Bronstein etc. If this is your cup of tea, then by all means, DO NOT go to Mann’s Chess Club!
Before I go into too much detail, I think it would be best to tell about the origins of Mann’s Chess club.
One evening while playing my good and dear friend, Manny the Mangler, I am trying to envision what would happen if I move my black Bishop to b4. Manny leans back and says “Hey Hawk, I think it’s time we had a real chess club, don’t you?”
“A chess club?” says Hawk “Now Manny, you know our wives would never go for that.”
“They don’t have to know” whispers Manny.
“Ya, like they won’t find out” chuckles Hawk. “How you going to keep it from them?”
“We lie like dogs” Manny remarks, “we cover for each other.”
“Hmmm, just might work.” says Hawk rubbing his chin “Think we could get enough people to join?”
“Well, let’s see, there’s me and you, Lenny, The Gimp, Ol’ Suggers and Ronnie and oh ya, remember the kid with spiked hair, he’ll join. There’s also Willie the Wino.”
“Willie? Jeese Manny.”
“Ya, Willie is a top notch player......... sober. I been checking Hawk, Paddy Mann over by Chicks Creek has a big barn out in the middle of nowhere. With a little fixin’ up, be a great hideout, er, chess club.”
To move forward in time, the next day Manny and I go to see Paddy & check out our future chess club. “Sure boys, I haven’t used that barn in years.” says Paddy. “One request, could you name it after me?”
“Sure, it’s the least we could do Paddy” says Manny!!
“Hey Paddy, how about you being our Honorary Chairman?” asks Hawk.
“Aww, you guys, sure, and if you like my wife Catty would love to be in charge of the refreshments.”
“That would be great Paddy!” exclaims Manny.
After three weeks of work, Mann’s Chess Divan was ready for business. We had a playing room, a smoking room, a bar and fine tables that Willie “borrowed” from the local rehab center.
Things at Mann’s went smooth and quiet for several months, well, kind of smooth. We were getting guys joining from the next county. The wives were none the wiser. Sneaking off a couple times a week proved to be no problem. Paddy was taking his job as Chairman very seriously.
Paddy Mann. Owner, Club Chairman, and sometime tournament organizer (and more times than not, referee). Paddy, congenial man with a knack of being able to keep the club operating in a civil manner so as to keep the local gendarmes at bay. The local authorities have been called from time to time by irate neighbors complaining of what was thought to be gunshots coming from Paddy’s digs.
The only time it has been totally quiet and orderly is when Paddy’s wife, Catty is there. Catty, (Catherine) lovely old world lady. She came by the name “Catty” from her cat-quick reflexes. Quiet and reserved, she would bring sandwiches and pop to the players, and on a good night a homemade pie! Yes, pop, as no alcoholic beverages are served at Mann’s due to past experiences. Probably where the rumors of gunshots originally started. The patrons give Catty the utmost respect and a wide berth from the “Booger Incident.”
One evening as Catty was passing out corned beef sandwiches, Booger McGee, with head down pondering a rather complicated rook and pawn ending, remarked as Catty passed by, “‘Bout time, half starved to death”. All eyes focused on Booger and Catty.
WHACK!! No one could tell if it was a right or left, but Booger’s hat sailed across three tables after the blow landed. All of Booger’s hair was laying to one side and seemed to be vibrating violently. All eyes went down and back to their respective chess games for fear of being the next victim of Catty’s wrath.
Only thing we had to fear was the Gimp. Those of you that have read the previous stories [Editor: Great Raccoon Hunt and Fiasco at the Park] know that the Gimp has a penchant for fire. Being aware of that, we installed fifty seven fire extinguishers and three fire hoses hooked up to a well with a high pressure pump.
Not having the funds to install proper sanitary facilities, we managed to “acquire” a “port-a-potty”. We are quite sure Lenny ripped it off from a construction site in the middle of the night. REAL men would use the bushes but we figured we would class it up a bit. We did have to move it three times to find the right spot to keep it .......downwind. We also learned to give Willie the Wino a good “pat down” before letting him in.
One evening as Willie was out in the port-a-potty for what seemed like an eternity, four gunshots rang out in rapid succession. Thinking we were being invaded, everybody dived under tables or whatever they could find for cover. Catty, being the bravest, hunkered down and went to investigate.
After what seemed like hours, Manny finally whispers, “Hey Paddy, ya gonna go check on Catty?”
“Nope, somebody’s gotta close up tonight. Besides, my brother wandered off into them woods ten years ago, never did turn up.”
“Really?” asks Lenny “ What did ya do Paddy?”
“I married his wife, Catty”.
“Jeese Paddy” remarks Hawk shaking his head, “That’s cold.”
“I bet the Fire Demon got the poor bugger” stutters The Gimp. “It almost got me that time with Hawk & Lenny. It was only by brute force that I was able to break free after I knew Lenny & Hawk were safe.”
“Oh Gimp, Ya ran screaming like a cissy through the brush with the rest of us” remarked Lenny.
About that time, Catty comes in. “It’s OK you big brave men, Willie just had a bout with the DT’s.” (Wino language for “delirium tremens”) To the uninformed, the DT’s make you see things that aren’t really there. We have since learned to not let Willie go into dark smelly enclosed places. From what we can gather, it was Willie who got the wives to guessing something was up. Probably from mumbling in one of his stupors, he was overheard.
Lenny’s wife Mavis was the first to suspect something was going on. At the next meeting of the WC (Womans Club), in the span of one short hour our chess club went from harmless to a “mens” club. Complete with gambling, drinking, telling off-color jokes, watching lewd movies, perusing stacks of girlie books and having table dances performed by girls from the massage parlor in the next town.
“I thought Manny was at your place Martha, with Hawk” Mavis says.
“Same here Mavis” replies Martha.
Standing up with clenched fist in the air, Granny Millie yells out, “We have been duped ladies!!”
One of the ladies stands up, “What can we do?”
Through clenched teeth, Granny Millie says, “We ATTACK! Ladies, we meet here tomorrow night for Operation....... Cleanse!”
On their way out, they chant in unison, “Dead meat, dead meat!”
The next evening, I tell Martha, “Sugar muffin, I’m gonna go over to Manny’s for some chess, OK?”
“Sure Hawk, have a good time.”
Two minutes later the phone lines all over town are buzzin’, the game’s afoot! Meeting at the Womans Club are 20 camo-clad, well armed women. Most are donning their husbands camo hunting clothes complete with camo grease all over their faces. Armed with all sorts of garden and kitchen utensils, they would make the 82nd Airborne cringe with fear.
Mavis pulls up and drags out a large baseball bat.
“Lord” exclaims Martha, “a little extreme there Mavis?”
“I catch Lenny suckin’ face with one of them hoochies, he’s gonna get knee-capped.”
“Anybody know where this “club” is at?” inquires Martha.
“I know” grins Millie, “ I caught up with Willie and choked it outa him.”
“What you got in the bag Millie?” Mavis asks.
“My .44 magnum & my bow.”
“Ya, fire arrows, we gonna burn that sucker down!”
In unison, “Burn baby, burn baby!”
“And the .44?”
“Ya, they can run, but they’ll only die tired” Millie says.
“Mount up girls, we ride in ten minutes, check your gear!” Millie yells out.
With hand and butt slaps accompanied by guttural grunts and “Hooo - raaaaaas”, they pack into their cars and follow Millie.
Meanwhile, back at the club, the men are lounging about, quite smug in the notion that they got away with another one. Little do they know that in a few minutes they will confront the most fearsome thing on earth - Women on a Mission.
Armed with two-way radios, “Team leader one to all teams, turn off lights” whispers Millie. With lights out, they pull up to the lane that leads back to the club.
Only two hundred yards away through a cornfield, their unsuspecting prey are milling about, swilling pop and stuffing down all manner of junk food they are not allowed to indulge in at home. Laying back with feet outstretched, Manny is watching Hawk and the kid with green spiked hair playing a game of chess and arguing about who was the greatest chess player of all time, Fischer or Kasparov.
Looking over at the Gimp, Manny says, “This is the life Gimp.”
“Yup” sighs Gimp.
Paddy looks around and asks, ”Hey guys, anybody seen Willie?”
“Probably passed out again in Rusty’s chicken coop” snickers Ronnie. “Last time he did that he stunk up the place so bad the chickens wouldn’t go in there for two weeks. Rusty’s still all lathered up cause his chickens haven’t laid any eggs yet.”
Looking up from his table, Hawk says, ”Boys, you know Rusty ain’t no farmer, he thought he could make some easy money selling eggs, his chickens never will lay any eggs.”
“Why’s that Hawk” asks the Gimp?
“All roosters Gimp.”
Back at the road, Millie’s commandos are separating into groups.
“Ladies, here’s the plan. Martha, take your girls to the right side of the barn. Snatch up any that survive the first assault and make it to the side door.”
“Mavis, take your girls and make your way around back. Git the ones coming out the windows. Tootsie, take your group and cover the left. I’ll take the front.”
“Millie, I’ll stay and help you with the front” says Tootsie.
Grinning, Millie says, “ I work alone. One thing girls, Manny is MINE! I still owe him for my prize pie he smashed up.”
Picking their way through the cornfield, they finally get into position for the final assault.
“Spooky out here, huh?” says Mavis.
“Hang tough, it’ll be over soon” Millie whispers. “Remember, don’t attack until I shoot my fire arrow onto the roof and the joint fills up with smoke. They’ll come out like cockroaches, then we nab them and their floozies up!”
Thunk, thunk. “Hawk, what was that?” remarks Manny.
“Squirrels Manny, go back to sleep.”
“Bet it’s the Fire Demon” mumbles Gimp.
Nervously looking about, Gimp spots smoke overhead. “FIRE, FIRE” screams the Gimp. “Run for your lives!”
Knocking over tables and chess boards Manny and a dozen others run for fire extinguishers. Suggers goes for the fire-hose but it’s gone.
“Paddy, where’s the fire hose?”
“I took it to water my tomato patch.”
After letting off a dozen or so fire extinguishers, the powder from them is worse than the fire, but it is effective in putting out the flames. Staggering around, Hawk says, “We gotta have air, security bail out boys!”
Dropping their spent extinguishers, guys are diving for windows and doors. Wobbling to the side door with tears streaming down their faces from the cloud of powder, Hawk and the Gimp crash through the door. With clouded vision Hawk sees black forms emerging from the corn about twenty feet away. As the Gimp wipes his eyes he spots them also and at the same time, Millie lets loose another flaming arrow.
“FIRE DEMON, FIRE DEMON!” screams Gimp. “He’s brung his family too, run for it Hawk!”
Gimp takes off as fast as his bum leg will let him go. Myrtle, armed with a garden rake, raises it over her head and takes aim. Looking like an Olympic javelin thrower, she lets the rake fly. As the Gimp leads with his good leg, the rake goes between them. Legs tangled up in the rake, Gimp goes head over heels.
Arms raised in triumph, Myrtle shouts, “Gotcha, ya little weasel.”
“I’m done for Hawk, save yourself” whimpers Gimp.
As Hawk’s vision starts to clear, Martha walks up and says, “Well, well, now just how long did you think it would be before your little den of sin was discovered huh?”
Hawk, with a stunned look on his face exclaims, ”Martha? Is that you?”
Meanwhile, Tootsie’s commandos have rounded up several of the heathens that tried to escape out the back windows. Lenny and Paddy are leading the line of tied up escapees.
Millie, slinking among the shadows, mumbles, “Where ya at Manny.” Leaping thru the door with her .44, Millie takes a combat stance, “Come out Manny!”
Following behind Millie is Mavis. “He’s got away Millie, saw him beating through the corn.”
Scowling, Millie says, “Next time Manny, next time.”
As Mavis and Millie exit the club, Tootsie inquires, “Millie! Did ya find the floozies, magazines or dirty movies?” Looking dejected, Millie says “Nope, not a thing, not a single shred of evidence.”
As Millie’s commandos look at each other quizzically, Martha asks Hawk, “What’s this all about and don’t even think about trying to cover up.”
“Sweetums, it is, or was, just a chess club, honest” Hawk says sheepishly.
“No floozies?” asks Martha.
“No gambling or any of those other things we’ve heard about?” asks Martha.
“Girls, untie these good men” says Tootsie, “We have misjudged these poor guys.”
“Can you ever forgive us for mistrusting you?” Myrtle says with head hung down.
“Awww, it’s OK” says Hawk as he gives Martha a peck on the cheek.
“Hey! Anybody seen Spike?” Gimp asks.
“I just passed the port-a-potty and heard someone in there” said Tootsie. “I knocked and all he said was, “Far out dude””
“Yup, that’s Spike” grins Lenny.
From a distance, an “eeeeeeyowwwwwww” is faintly heard.
“What was that?” says Gimp trembling.
“Sounded like Manny to me Gimp” says Hawk.
Millie’s eyes light up. Drawing her .44 and striding off in the direction of the scream, Millie says, “He’s mine, the pie smasher.”
Mavis turns to the girls, “ I think we’ve done enough for one night ladies, let’s head home.”
“We’re gonna stay for a bit and clean this up” says Hawk.
“Ok, I’ll see you later” Martha says.
As the “commandos” are walking back to their cars, “Hey Mavis.”
“What ya think, do you think they were tipped off ?”
“Not sure but we’ll keep our eyes and ears open!”
“Hey Hawk, did ya see that Mavis all decked out in camo?” grins Gimp, “Wow!”
“Hey!! I heard that Gimp” Manny shouts (he’s reappeared from wherever he was hiding.) “She did look good huh?” he snickers.
Manny strolls up to Hawk, “Did ya hide the evidence Hawk?”
“Got it covered Manny” whispers Hawk.
“Where’d ya hide the stuff ?”
“Next to the port-a-potty.”
“Jeese Hawk, all of it?”
“Most of it anyway, twenty seven bags of chips, a hundred and eighty two peanut cluster bars, two cases of ju-ju beans, one case of big-beef-bean burritos and two bottles of Wild Bill’s Hot Sauce.”
“Good job Hawk, if they had found our stash, we’d be goners for sure” says Manny.
“Ya, that was a close one, huh?”
“Hey guys, let’s call it a night, OK?” says Hawk.
With Mann’s Chess Divan now just a smoldering heap, the would-be secret chess society packs up and heads for home.
Well dear readers, such are the events that took place that fateful night, I dare say that Manns Chess Divan will be resurrected, but that is another story.