Nothing Like a Good Meddle (a very short story)

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It was a small sidewalk cafe where friends meet and mull the day’s activities. There was hardly a time of day that at least one table was not occupied. It was a good place. It had no demands nor pretense.

Ethan and Bertie were regulars, stodgy types. Ethan was a sliver of a man and Bertie an overstuffed chair.

But I just want to find out what’s going on,” Ethan said sightly turning his head and glancing over the tops of his spectacles at a young couple a few tables away. “Perhaps I can help them.”

Maybe they don’t want your help,” Bertie said holding his hand to the side of his mouth as if the couple read lips. “We ought not meddle in the affairs of others. There is a proverb that warns about a man injecting himself into a quarrel not his; it is like grabbing the ears of a mad dog.”

Wouldn’t you feel foolish if we found out later, by meddling a little we might have the solution to their problem?” Ethan said.

I would feel far more foolish to meddle and be asked to mind our own business,” Bertie said.

That’s the time we stop meddling,” Ethan said. “We don’t know until we actually meddle.”

Do you know anyone who actually invites people to meddle into their business?” Bertie said.

They may be the first and be grateful,” Ethan said.

The odds are heavily against that,” Bertie said.

Ethan jumped up from his seat and sauntered toward the table where Willie and Dory sat discussing something quite serious.

Where are you going Ethan?” Bertie said.

To solve a problem,” Ethan said and he was beyond reach or reason in a blink.

Don’t do it,” Bertie said, but it was too late; Willie and Dory had already broken off their discussion and acknowledged Ethan’s presence.

Willie, Dory, how are you two today?”

We are fine, Ethan, and how are you?” Willie said.

Dory forced a smile.

My friend, Bertie and I have observed you two for a couple weeks now,” Ethan said. “In addition, your conversations have not escaped our notice. There appears to be some sort of discord. Bertie and I both instruct at the university and though not possessing degrees in any of the fields related to your problem, we do have considerable experience in analyzing and offering logical solutions to thorny issues. We are well schooled in the rigors of life.”

I barely know these people,” Dory said. “If they are your friends, tell them to butt out.”

I thought the same,” Willie said to Dory. “At first I thought it was that old beekeeper you hired to rid the apple tree a few years ago.”

That was your Uncle Leonard?” Dory said.

Uncle Leonard is the taxidermist,” Willie said.

That’s right and married to the woman with a wooden leg,” Dory said.

That’s it, you got it.” Willie said

So we know little of Ethan and Bertie, right?” Dory said.

Not even related, to my knowledge,” Willie said.

Please handle this, Willie” Dory said. “I have a splitting headache. And you know how offensive I can be with a headache.”

Willie stood and puffed out his chest. “Put your nose in our business again and I’ll clip it off with a left cross. I was boxing champ not so many years ago and I remain as savage as I was then. You are your friend’s behavior are abysmal and boorish.”

And another,” Dory said. “Is your life so void of luster you can’t at least talk about the whimsy. If you approach us again or spread gossip I shall report you to the management of this establishment and have you and your friend barred.”

All right, then,” Ethan said, “so as you know, we will not approach this matter again even if accompanied with your tears.”

Ethan abruptly walked back to his table and sat across from Bertie.

I warned you,” Bertie said.

Of what?” Ethan said. “My intervention worked a miracle. Did you see how they joined forces against a common foe. The first time they agreed on anything in years.”

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