(The Story So Far: Our hero, having been dragooned by a dreaded aunt into purloining the sacred knitting trophy annexed by a jealous rival when said aunt wasn’t looking, has enlisted the aid of Carolyn Emblehoff, an old girlfriend with some surprising skills. Carolyn has agreed to help but in return she wants Ponsie to pretend he’s married to her so she can discourage a hard-to-discourage ex-boyfriend named Mike McCoy, a wrestler who, it turns out, already has a history with Our Hero. As this week’s episode begins, Ponsie is telling her how it was he who was responsible for turning Mike, previously a tampon salesman, into the fearsome Pukin’ Nuke.)

It was an accident, I tried to explain to Carolyn. I didn’t mean it. It wasn’t even so much an accident as a bad joke that got out of hand. It was one of those times when the Universe hiccups and then coughs up a hairball where no hairball should exist. Not that I mean to call Johnny Jenkins Bellamy-Beauregard the IV a hairball. Not even if that turned out to be what he was.

It was like this: I kind of liked McCoy. If you could get over the fact that he could, if he felt like it, crush your tibia between his toes, you eventually realized that he was a really sweet guy. The type who opened doors for elderly ladies even when they clocked him with their metal canes because they had no particular desire to enter the door through which he then hustled them. The type who would save a puppy from a burning building even if it bit him in the ankle. The type, in short, who believed in Good Deeds the way other people believed in the Dow Jones or the Kinsey Report.

He seemed to like everybody, even his dry cleaner. Hanging out with him was an exercise in loving thy neighbor no matter how obnoxious he – or she- might be. He even liked his landlord despite the fact that the old coot regularly locked Mike out of his apartment for imaginary rule infractions. Playing Barry Manilow, for instance, was strictly forbidden except, for some unexplained reason, on Thursdays, and whistling in the stairwell was good for an instant eviction notice. Mike tried to understand where he was coming from.

“You can see it,” he would muse. “Manilow’s tough. Classical music isn’t everybody’s cup of tea.”

Out of work, the normally happy-go-lucky Mike became a morose fatalist. He sighed a lot and muttered under his breath. Sometimes he sat in a dark corner and moaned, reciting lyrics from Karen Carpenter and Curt Cobain songs. By July it was getting to me. I thought if I couldn’t find him a job of some sort I would have to kill him myself.

It was right about then that I bumped into Johnny JB2 at the pond on Boston Commons. No mental giant, when I saw him he was throwing styrofoam packing peanuts to the swans. “You know,” I said gently, “those are made of wood. They don’t eat.”

He stared gloomily at his handful of plastic peanuts for a while. “Probably just as well,” he said after giving the matter a good deal of thought. “There’s not much nutrition in these.” He popped one in his mouth and chewed. “Not much flavor, either,” he said, and swallowed. I looked away.

Johnny JB2 may not have been a brain surgeon but he was connected to some of New England’s finest gangsters. How I got to know him isn’t important but what I knew about him was. He was always hiring people and always had lots of open positions in his little corner of the organization. I was getting desperate. I told him about Mike.

“How big?” he asked.

I pointed to a nearby skyscraper. “You see that building over there?”

“Yeah. So?”

“He could put it in his back pocket and have room left over for a city bus.”

“Big, huh? Is he tough?”

I squinted meaningfully and waggled my eyebrows with what I hoped was menace. “He doesn’t have to be.”

“That big, he wouldn’t. OK, send him over to my office tomorrow. If he’s what you say, yeah, I could use him.”

Mike wasn’t so sure. “What’s he want me to do?”

“What difference does it make? You need a job. He’s got one.”

“I couldn’t, you know, hurt anybody.”

“I don’t think you’ll have to. Just stand there. That ought to be sufficient.”

But then, it seemed when we got to his office, it wasn’t bodyguarding that

Johnny had in mind after all. He took one look at Mike and asked, “You ever do any wrestling?”

Advertisements