Even in the worst of situations, unless we’re talking about being plopped alive into an industrial wood chipper like that poor lady in “Fargo,” there’s a lesson to be learned.
I can’t believe I just typed that. Sounds pedantic. It’s like you’re stuck in one of those old Walt Disney wildlife adventure movies where the voice-over guy with the annoying Motel 6 cowboy accent drawls: “Long About Now, Lobo The Wolf Was A-Wonderin’ If’n There Was a Lesson Hidin’ Behind That-There Shrubbery.”
The lesson is when someone tells you there’s a lesson, you need to run.
Flee. Buy chocolates. Go to a bar and shoot some pool, maybe strike up a relationship with the Keno waitress with low self-esteem, start a family, make payments on a truck.
I’ve a lesson to share. Please. Don’t run. It’s a pretty good story.
It’s my Queenie Story.
Way back, when The Mighty Signal was printed on stone tablets and all front-page stories started with “Thou,” I wore many hats. I was Special Editions Editor and no, that didn’t mean I wrote stories for Little Yellow Bus People with 85-pound heads who wore electric shock collars and were chained to giant drool cups on wheels. A special edition was like a magazine, usually printed to attract advertisers based on a theme, like Home Improvement, Outdoors, Sports, Religion or Fetching & Wanton Keno Waitresses With No Known Sexual Boundaries Like The One In Paragraph No. 6.
Cripes. I can’t believe some readers are SO anal retentive, you actually went back and counted to see where Paragraph No. 6 was.
So I’ve got this upcoming issue. It’s on Women. Let the record state, it was pro-women. I wanted to put an attractive feminine face on the cover because, let’s face it, Beauty Sells, Ugly Smells. One of my closest pals was the reigning Miss Santa Clarita Valley and she was, and is, knuckle-bitingly beautiful. Unfairly, she was also a musical genius, great horsewoman, gifted athlete, spoke seven languages and damn her hide, could do perfect — perfect —imitations of every comic actor from the last century.
To protect her identity, let’s just call her, “Queenie.”
As Miss SCV, Queenie was given this striking oil portrait of herself. She looked like the Empress of Norway. You could almost envision her royally gesturing toward a brand-new strip mall and declaring, in a feigned high-pitched voice, “I NOW DECLARE THIS SAUGUS YOGURTORIUM — OPEN!! RELEASE…………. THE PIGEONS!!”
I wanted to borrow her portrait and use it for the cover of The Signal’s next Women’s periodical. We’re out to dinner. She gave me that look people strike when you ask: “Can I use your dining room to rebuild the transmission to my 1953 Ford pick-up?” She responded as if I had asked her to eat a garlic clove.
Mind you. For a guy, I have really pretty eyelashes. I batted them. I said, “Please? Please, Queenie, Puh-leeeezzzz?” I also uttered the lie so ancient and heinous that it should be the 11th Commandment:
“Thou Shalt Not Utter, EVER — ‘Don’t worry. Nothin’ Could Happen…’”
As we all know, that’s where babies come from and it’s the last thing you remember your drug addict brother-in-law mumbling prior to borrowing your prized 1953 Ford pickup and somehow getting alfalfa and barbed wire twisted into the transmission.
Truly. It seemed safer than a baby at a nurses’ convention. I had my own office. Except for the publisher, Tony Newhall, I had the only keys. A photographer would shoot the portrait at 8:30 next morning. What could go wrong?
“Don’t worry,” I told Queenie. “Nothin’ could happen…”
Next morn, I unlocked my office. Sipped tea. Glanced around. Froze. Queenie’s beautiful oil portrait rested on the table, against my big bulletin board. From some ancient psychic place, a scream erupted, part werewolf howl, part chimpanzee being tortured with a cigarette lighter.
There was a 4-inch-long slash on the canvas, next to Miss SCV’s right ear.
I screamed again.
When you scream in an office, co-workers come running, probably thinking you’ve died and that gives them permission to steal your office supplies. Shocked, dumbfounded, I blurted:
“What. The holy hell. Happened?”
It didn’t take long to piece together the crime. On my desk was the small hunting knife in a sheath. Owned it since I was a little boy. Used it to open mail and maybe some day protect myself from an evil pretend Indian princess running for president. Someone — someone NOT Jim Bowie — had somehow got into my office, taken the knife and had been throwing it at the big cork bulletin board. Whether by accident or they had some deep-seated psychological issues about beauty queens, they sliced Miss SCV’s beautiful portrait, ruining it.
The Slasher? Turned out to be the night janitor. Tony New-hall fired his sorry behind attached to a 14-inch forehead and, blessedly, paid for a new oil portrait of my pal.
Today, when I’m tempted to utter: “Nothin’ will happen…” I’ll sigh and recall My Queenie Story and that, yes, you’re tempting the gods and yes, something bad CAN and PROBABLY WILL happen.
And that’s my fable for today.
You are all free to go out and shoot pool with Keno waitresses, perhaps the start of a long and meaningful life together…
John Boston has 119 major writing awards and many photos of himself, most of them without any noticeable knife wounds.