For once in his life, Chuck Fishman was being helpful.
Gary Hobson didn’t appreciate it.
“Chuck, would you just — hands off!” Gary slapped his friend’s hand away from the paper. “I can handle this one. Just, just, just … quit pestering me, will ya?”
“C’mon, Gar,” Chuck wheedled, shoving a handful of jellybeans into his mouth. Speaking with his mouth full, he added, “She’s a violin player. She’s got to be gorgeous. I mean, you remember that Russian woman — Rosa Paulanova or whatever her name was — ”
“Paulina Rosanova.” Gary wrinkled his nose at Chuck’s black-and-green stained teeth. “Look, Chuck, I can handle this, okay? Anyway, if you did go with me, do you really think this … this violinist would be impressed by your green teeth?”
Chuck went for a mirror, and Gary went for the door, fully intending to escape without his friend. Luck was not with our humble, however; Chuck caught him before he was more than three steps out the door.
“Is that any way to treat your best buddy, Gar?” Chuck pouted, tagging along behind his leather-jacketed friend, who was striding purposefully down the street. Gary had that tight-lipped, annoyed expression he often wore while being pestered by Chuck.
It was only three blocks to the site of today’s first impending disaster, meaning that Gary didn’t have to listen to Chuck for long, which was fortunate, because he was just about ready to snap and strangle his lifelong friend.
The air was chilly today but held a hint of spring; the streets were slimy, slushy and rather all-around disgusting. Gary muttered to himself as he situated himself next to a stop sign, waiting for the violin player to come along. Chuck stood beside his friend, conjuring up images of a gorgeous blond woman, preferably in a very slinky low-cut dress.
“So, Gar, what’re we saving this lady from?” Chuck inquired, becoming a bit bored after five minutes had passed with no sign of his imaginary beautiful violinist.
“She, uh, she … ” Gary checked the paper again, just to make sure he hadn’t somehow changed the article by just being there. It was still the same. “She gets injured by a falling table.”
“A falling table.”
“Oh, so, what? Somebody tosses his kitchen table out of an airplane or something? How about a sink? Why not the kitchen sink?” Chuck asked sarcastically.
“Why not — how am I supposed to know why not?” Gary was beginning to get frustrated. “And no, it’s not an airplane! I-it says here that, that this woman is throwing her boyfriend out, and he’s standing on the street below, and she starts throwing stuff at him … ”
“Kinda like you and Marcia and the suitcase.”
“Well, y-yeah.” Gary didn’t really want to talk about that. “Anyway, finally she shoves out this coffee table, and — ”
“One flattened violin player.” Chuck made a squishing noise.
“You could put it that way, yeah.” Gary glanced around for the scorned boyfriend and finally spotted the man — he was standing with his neck craned upward, wearing that same shell-shocked look that had been on Gary’s own face when Marcia had tossed his suitcase at him.
As Gary watched, several books came flying out of an upstairs window, followed by a blue umbrella. The boyfriend barely managed to dodge the falling objects while calling, “Terry! Come on, let’s talk about this! Let’s — ”
Oh, boy. There was the coffee table, the very edge of it appearing in the window as the angry woman, Terry, maneuvered to shove it out at her unlucky boyfriend. Gary scanned the crowd for the violin player but didn’t see her; Chuck, however, was not so lucky.
He saw her — and immediately wished he hadn’t. She was probably in her late forties, considerably overweight, with crooked teeth and a bad complexion, and she was carrying a violin case. Suddenly wishing that he hadn’t insisted on coming along, Chuck launched himself at the woman and knocked her out of harm’s way.
The coffee table crashed to the sidewalk, and Chuck, off-balance, fell face-first into a sludge of filthy melting snow. He came up spitting and gasping, wiping his face, and was barely able to get his bearings before he was pulled into a bone-cracking embrace.
“Oh, thank you so, so much!” The violin player crooned in a voice that sounded like sandpaper on a chalkboard. She’d probably been smoking since she was ten, but come to think of it, her breath didn’t smell much like smoke. More like fish; yeah, really old fish with lots of onions and garlic. Chuck struggled to free himself, squeaking, “Gary!”
Gary stood with his mouth hanging open, not quite sure exactly what to do to extricate his friend from the predicament he found himself in. As soon as the woman’s grip eased a little, Chuck made a run for it, gasping for breath and still trying to wipe muddy sludge off his face.
As soon as he was a safe distance from the grateful violinist, Chuck gave Gary an icy glare. “See if I ever help you again,” He snapped, then turned to walk away, muttering things about ungrateful friends and how he was never going to be conned into this again.
Gary Hobson stared after his friend in disbelief, then shook his head in consternation, shoved the newspaper inside his coat, and started back to McGinty’s.
(Cut to intro music)
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