Apr/May 2007  •   Fiction

Take Your Mustache and Leave

by Mark Baumer

Artwork by KOB ONE

Artwork by KOB ONE

It was an odd party. The evening began with the Meddlemen's six-year-old son, Tumble Meddlemen, standing at the top of the stairs in his pajamas, telling any guest who'd listen and those who wouldn't, he knew what the horses did.

"Up, up, left. Up, up, right. Up, left, left. Up, right, right," he said.

The Meddlemen's son continued to explain the down moves and was careful not to list both "Down, down, left" and "Left, down, down," which would have spotted the steed piece in the same spot regardless. An attendant at the gas station can give directions in a variety of different ways, but if you're traveling East, you'll eventually catch the sunrise.

"Can you clean the tank tonight?" Mr. Meddlemen asked no one in particular, hours before the first guests arrived.

His wife replied, "Do you think our guests would prefer a white wine or a red?"

Around the time when Mr. Peterson's Mustache arrived, Mr. Peterson, himself, just happened to be following closely behind. The two traded handshakes before entering. Mr. Peterson offered a Boris (the name he had dubbed his fists), and Mr. Peterson's Mustache reciprocated by curling a few hairs around it. Upon conclusion of the exchange, they entered and immediately parted ways, each looking for whatever trouble they could find.

Thirty-five minutes into the party, there was still no sign of Glen Binkles, which wasn't surprising. Binkles and his wits would be tardy, and it was what everyone had come to accept, it being his personal rule to show up, at the very least, one hour late to any engagement he ever committed to attending. To the anger of doctors, ex-fiancŽs, and a dead goldfish, Glen Binkles had always, except for on one occasion, kept to his personal promise to be late.

His sole moment of weakness came when he arrived only 55 minutes late to a doctor's appointment because he had suffered a heart attack en route to the office and rushed himself there early for fear a couple extra minutes would leave him a few years premature to his own funeral. At the time Mr. Binkles thought, what's the point of always being late if you're early to your own funeral? Since his heart attack, which he recovered from nicely, Glen decided he would rather die early than go back on his word.

At the time of his cardiovascular irregularity, Glen had still been a young to middle-aged rebel, but had since grown older, and during this maturation process had found God. Glen now went to church, or as some prefered to say, "He makes weekly visits." Every Sunday he got in his car and drove to his congregation. Upon arriving an hour late, he saw church had let out. He then tipped his hat to the preacher and again to the bake sale women before returning home.

Professor Moriarty was present at the Meddlemen's, but she wasn't nearly as interesting as her name should have allowed. Mostly she'd talk to anyone who'd listen about her brief meeting with her second cousin, Dean, at a family gathering 15 years ago. At the moment, Professor Moriarty had found her way to a corner, where she was telling her wine glass all about Dean. The glass was empty. All the glasses were, for it seemed no one wanted to drink wine from a punch bowl, especially when both white and red had been mixed and then stirred with a ladle.

Mrs. Meddlemen, though never the most cultured host—as her idea of mixing the wines in a punch bowl proved—was on hand to greet guests as they arrived. Taking their coats in her left hand, she held a wine cooler in her right she drank from, between arrivals, using a straw.

Mr. Peterson's Mustache was attempting to nuzzle himself between the breasts of Mrs. Gina Roberts, but the only contact Mr. Peterson's Mustache felt was the swift action of Gina's backhand, particularly strong, though not surprising, considering the amount time she spent on the court and in the laundry closet with Dale UmbrullablasŽ, the former 1982 champion of the French Tennis Federation's Amateur Open. (Dale now finds himself hobbling around as the assistant tennis pro for high school girls looking to make varsity and middle-aged housewives looking to pass time before Oprah. It isn't beyond Dale to invite individuals from either group to the laundry closet. Of course, Dale UmbrullablasŽ was nowhere to be found at the Meddlemen's party for two reasons: one, Mrs. Meddlemen wasn't the tennis kind; two, the uxorious Mr. Gina Roberts, at the moment at the bookshelf talking with Mr. Meddlemen about his new coffee table, had accompanied Mrs. Gina Roberts to the Meddlemen's get-together.)

Mr. Peterson, himself, had abandoned the likelihood of stumbling into a breast-nuzzling situation of his own. With the absence of liquor from the party significantly hurting any chance he'd have with the ladies, Mr. Peterson decided to not even try. Instead, he found a nice spot in the Meddlemen's second pantry, where he could relieve the wanton pleasures from his loins with the help of Boris Knox (the right hand) and Boris Lox (the left hand). Trading off, the Boris's imagined themselves singing a steady tune to the beat of thump, thump, thump, but the only sound ever heard from the second pantry if the music stopped was the slap, slap, slap from the oversized, half deflated sac swinging against Mr. Peterson's thighs.

By now Tumble Meddlemen had made his way down the stairs and was trying to rouse up a game of chess. "I'll let you be white; I'll let you be white," he called out to the guests, but most of them were too focused on their sustained sobriety to give the boy any notice. Professor Moriarty, however, having already told her party companion, the unfilled wine glass, all the Dean stories she could remember, had begun looking for new ears to address. Her head perked at the sound of Tumble's voice, and she was quickly off to recruit the child, who was still calling out, hoping Mr. Glen Binkles would walk through the door, despite it being still a little too early.

At a party last year, when Tumble Meddlemen was in the initial stages of learning the rules of chess, Glen Binkles had sat down with him and played a game. Of course, Tumble, at that time, hadn't known how all the pieces moved, he being only five. Glen hadn't known either, but he had hidden his ignorance by employing the rules for checkers instead. What transpired was a curious game with Glen jumping his pieces across the board and the Meddlemen's son scratching his head because he couldn't remember if it was the rooks or the bishops who traversed diagonally. Guests from that particular party surely remembered shouts of "King me!" from Glen Binkles, who, playing with far greater freedom of movement, won easily.

Though he enjoyed compliments and felt there was no better compliment than having one man praise another man's coffee table, Mr. Meddlemen could not take his eyes off the fish tank. He was sure his fish were disgusted by the fact that their owners were enjoying themselves while they were left swimming in waste.

Professor Moriarty grabbed hold of Tumble Meddlemen.

"Did you know I am related to Dean Moriarty?" she asked.

"I can name all the chess champions since 1960," replied Tumble.

"I only had one chance to meet him. Fifteen years ago. We talked for five minutes."

"Mikhail Tal."

"You know what he told me? He said, 'Never be surprised when you wake up in the morning and you find you're still a Moriarty when you look in the bathroom mirror.'"

"Mikhail Botvinnik."

"Since that day, I've never been surprised."

"Tigran Petrosian."

"When I look in the mirror, I make sure to tell myself—"

"Boris Spassky."

"—I am Professor Moriarty."

"Bobby Fischer."

"And I've always agreed."

"Bobby Fischer is the only one out of the group who wasn't a Soviet."

"I've never looked at myself and said, 'You're not Professor Moriarty.'"

With all the guests having arrived except for Glen Binkles, Mrs. Meddlemen abandoned her post and carried the wine cooler over to Mrs. Gina Roberts, who was still busy brushing aside Mr. Peterson's Mustache. Seeing Mrs. Gina Roberts's empty glass, Mrs. Meddlemen asked if she needed a refill. Gina said she had better wait, but she was growing desperate and planned to drink from the bowled mix as soon as someone else tried it. In fact, many of the guests had reached similar levels of desperation, and the general consensus from the partygoers was, as long as they didn't have to be the first, they would drink. There were a few guests who didn't share this sentiment, namely Professor Moriarty—because she was too busy bearing the stories of her distant cousin upon the Tumble Meddlemen—and Mr. Peterson, who was still back in the second pantry enjoying himself, but less and less lewdly as he had become caught up in reading the cookie recipes on the sides of the cereal boxes.

Knowing the alcohol runs out early at parties, and wanting to get at least a few drops of wine, Glen Binkles decided to arrive not a minute more than one hour late. He was also hoping to catch the Meddlemen's son while he was still awake so they could get in another game of chess. In the past year Glen had yet to learn the rules of chess, but he figured his opponent wouldn't have, either. Walking through the door, the first thing Glen noticed was a full bowl of punch—which made him question whether or not he had in fact arrived late.

A few years ago some juveniles had snuck into Glen Binkles' house with the goal of changing all his clocks an hour ahead, but they had been caught and chased out when one of them accidentally turned on the alarm. Noticing the clock above the doorway, leading into the kitchen, coincided with the ticker on his wrist, Glen Binkles decided he could relax. He then focused on Mr. Meddlemen, who was just beginning his climb, barefoot, up onto the coffee table.

Still being collared by Professor Moriarty, Tumble Meddlemen broke free upon seeing Glen Binkles walk through the door.

"Mr. Binkles, do you want to play chess?" he asked. Binkles was slow to reply because he was watching the son's father climb up from the coffee table and step into the fish tank, where he began cleaning the glass with a wire brush.

Persistent and eager to show his mastery of the game, Tumble asked again, "Do you want to play, Mr. Binkles? I'll let you be white."

Binkles soon grew bored watching a grown man clean his own fish tank and turned his attention to the request at hand, agreeing so long as he could get a drink first. The eyes of the other guests, temporarily diverted by Mr. Meddlemen's expurgating, now followed Glen Binkles as he made his way to the punch bowl. After the first glass was taken, it didn't take long for the bowl to empty, and in a matter of minutes the party turned from a haughty crowd of well-to-dos who would have never been caught drinking a red-white mix to a riot of beasts all struggling to get their tongues to the bottom of the bowl for the last drop. To avoid the chaos, the chess players brought the board into kitchen and began setting up the pieces.

Mr. Peterson inevitably knew someone would mistake the second pantry as the first, but he figured he'd be able to hear them coming and pull his pants up in time to act as if he was just in there looking for a snack. It was with the Boris Lox in motion when he heard the Meddlemen's son say, "Mr. Peterson why are you playing with your pawn?" which only caused him to turn around and freeze, leaving the one Boris locked in place (no pun intended), and the other, Mr. Knox, holding the cereal box.

With the entire blend of mixed beverage disposed of, the guests pushed into the kitchen to hunt out more booze. Mrs. Meddlemen followed, carrying the empty bowl, and her husband waddled in last on his wet feet, holding an algae-coated brush. They all arrived in time to witness Glen Binkles look into the second pantry and exclaim, "King me!"

Mr. Gina Roberts was the first of the guests to get to the doorway of the second pantry. Seeing Mr. Peterson inside, he said, "I was doing that very same thing to a cereal box this morning," before turning to the refrigerator.

His wife, Mrs. Gina Roberts, gave one look, then added, "Oh, he doesn't compare to Dale Umbrullablas... at all. Honey, you should really see Dale sometime. You'd be impressed."

The rest of the guests were now crowded around the pantry door, and Professor Moriarty was the next to mark the occasion by saying, "I once got to see Dean like this, except he was using his right and not his left." Other comments and laughter ensued, but most of the guests were struck dumb at the size of Mr. Peterson's scrotum, resting against his thighs. Mr. Peterson's Mustache was finally able to push his way through the crowd. He stood there a moment, then rustled a few hairs.

"Do you need a Boris?" he asked.

By the time the Meddlemens themselves made it to the second pantry, Mr. Peterson had begun to thaw and had put the cereal box back. As Peterson pulled up his pants, Mr. Meddlemen stepped forward, still barefoot, and said, "I think you'd better grab your mustache and leave." Tumble Meddlemen began waving goodbye.

When all the guests had finally cleared out, and after Tumble had been put to bed, Mr. Meddlemen lifted the bed sheets, took a peak, and felt the urge to ask his wife if she thought he was inadequate in any way.