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Redbeard the pirate's perfect day.

QUESTION: If you'd talk a bit more distinctly, Miss--ah-- Mrs.--

ANSWER: M-M-M-Mulliford.

Q.: No more tears; that's splendid. So you're from Wannaget Junction. Is that some distance from Pasadena?

A.: No, Mr. Emery; I said I wanted to get an injunction. It's to save a human life. And there's something else. For the last two days Whitmore's been trying to grow red whiskers, and he can't grow red whiskers. They come out b-b-blond.

Q.: That's unfortunate. But I'm only a lawyer. Suppose I have my secretary, Miss Johnson, call up a doctor I know, and you tell him all your troubles. I'm sure--

A.: But you think I'm crazy or something, Mr. Emery. And I'm not crazy, and I don't want to see a doctor, and Whitmore's tried to get into the Navy himself, but they won't take him on account of f-f-flat f-f-feet.

Q.: Well, I'm not a doctor; but I'm sure if you'd just take a long deep breath and then explain everything to me right from the beginning, we'd both feel better.

A.: Well, Mr. Emery, it's an injunction to prevent a tragedy.

Q.: The object is certainly praiseworthy. Who may I ask is involved in this tragedy?

A.: First of all, there's Whitmore. He's reached a point where he's flouting every law of God and man.

Q.: Whitmore flouts 'em, eh? What laws in particular does he flout most?

A.: Oh, I couldn't begin to tell them all, Mr. Emery. But every time he sees a keep-off-the-grass sign, he deliberately walks on the grass. He can't pass a fruit stand without grabbing grapes or cherries or whatnots, and eating them. At movies he throws peanut shells around till the ushers put him out. At drinking places he says, "Whose beer is this?" And when the bartender says, "Hoffberg's Beer," Whitmore says, "Fine. I know Hoffberg; I'll pay him." Then he walks out laughing.

Q.: How long has Whitmore been doing this, Mrs. Mulliford?

A.: But I'm not Mrs. Mulliford; I'm Miss Mulliford.

Q.: Whitmore's your fiance?

A.: Well, it's all every complicated. I--I--I--

Q.: Take this handkerchief, Miss Mulliford; it's part of my free service to clients. I can't afford to let myself sympathize actively, because I'm so tenderhearted I'd need a tiled floor. . . . A smile! . . . Now, that's better. Somehow, Miss Mulliford, when you smile your face becomes familiar.

A.: Maybe you saw me at the last Rose Parade: I was Fair Rosamund on the Lamanda Park Float. Two years ago at Long Beach I won the title of Miss California, but my mother wouldn't let me go to Atlantic City.

Q.: A nation's misfortune, Miss Mulliford. Now, what about this law flouting? Has Whitmore been doing it all his life?

A.: No, indeed, Mr. Emery. Why, when we first met, Whitmore wouldn't have considered flouting any law whatever. He was born in Boston.

Q.: That explains it.

A.: One day, after we decided to marry, I joked Whitmore about his being afraid of a traffic policeman.

Q.: Something tells me that was a very big mistake.

A.: Oh, it was, Mr. Emery. He began insisting it was very citizen's duty to obey the laws, and little by little he grew so law-abiding it got on my nerves.

Q.: It's the sort of thing that gets on any good woman's nerves.

A.: But it wasn't enough for Whitmore to be law-abiding; he wanted to make me law-abiding, too.

Q.: Tsch-tsch-tsch.

A.: At a restaurant he'd say, "When you eat two different starches at one meal you're breaking a health law." After a movie he'd say, "When you whisper to me during he show you disturb others, and that's breaking a moral law."

Q.: Rather an exacting young man.

A.: When he invited me to the Palomar County Fair, I was glad, because I felt if I could get him away from Pasadena, even if it was only for the day, he'd be more human.

Q.: You know your Pasadena.

A.: We went on Thursday. I didn't know why Whitmore had picked out Thursday, till we were halfway there. Can you imagine why?

Q.: Only when the fee is paid in advance.

A.: Mr. Emery, it was Law-and-Order Day. At the fair they were having a convention of the peace officers of California--local law and order; and an address and demonstration by G-men--national law and order. But that wasn't all. The fleet was anchored offshore and there was going to be a parade of sailors and marines--international law and order. I could have screamed.

Q.: A natural reaction. Lawyer as I am, I deeply sympathize.

A.: But all the way to Palomar I kept saying to myself, "I love Whitmore and, no matter what happens, I'm going to make this my perfect day."

Q.: That was the proper attitude.

A.: We got there, parked the car, and were walking along Administration Boulevard when a very tall sailor stepped in front of us. He had red whiskers.

Q.: He had what, Miss Mulliford? Would you mind repeating?

A.: He had red whiskers. When we stopped, he saluted Whitmore and said, "The admiral wishes to see you in Room 206 of the Administration Building." I said, "Whitmore, I want to speak to you first." I knew it was just a silly fib.

Q.: What did Whitmore do?

A.: The sailor saluted again and said, "Sir, those are the admiral's orders." I couldn't hold back anymore. I said, "Whitmore, don't believe this person. He's telling a falsehood. No admiral has the right to give you any orders. Don't be idiotic." Whitmore said, "If it's idiotic to be a law-abiding citizen, then I'm proud to be an idiot. I'll be right back." And he marched toward the Administration Building. I could have killed him!

Q.: Whitmore?

A.: That red-whiskered sailor. Whitmore had hardly turned his back when that sailor winked at me and said, "Call me 'Red,' Peaches, and we'll cruise around the fair."

Q.: Of course you said "No."

A.: I'm sure I said "No." Twice at least. That's why I was so surprised to find myself walking down Shakespeare Lane with that red-whiskered sailor holding my arm.

Q.: I can't find it in myself to blame him, Miss Mulliford.


Answer: When you think of what happened next, Mr. Emery, you have to consider circumstances.

Q.: That's what I always tell my juries.

A.: Both of us had spent a lot of time being repressed. You see, I'd been engaged to Whitmore, and Red had irritated an admiral.

Q.: Irritated an admiral! I supposed it took an act of Congress to do that.

A.: Red did it all by himself. You see, Red's father was a vaudeville magician and Red had been practically brought up on the stage. One day he imitated the way the admiral walked.

Q.: And the admiral didn't laugh?

A.: No, but some other people did. Then at Shanghai and Honolulu, Red had such a good time they decided they wouldn't let him go to the Palomar County Fair.

Q.: National defense awake at last.

A.: So Red took anchor-chain liberty--that means leaving the ship without permission. Consequently he could be arrested any time the shore-patrol boys spotted him.

Q.: I see. Red had the shore patrol to dodge and you had Whitmore. That must have made things rather complicated.

A.: But so interesting, Mr. Emery! It was like playing hide-and-seek; and how Red could hide! He'd spent years in vaudeville getting out of sewed-up sacks and locked trunks and tanks of water--and all this without anybody seeing him do it. He could almost fade away while you were looking at him. He'd duck behind a hedge or under a table or into a doorway, and you'd look and he'd be gone.

Q.: A remarkable young man.

A.: And we had such a good time at the fair! The Navy had fined him so much he didn't have any money, but he wouldn't let me spend a cent.

Q.: What did he use for coin of the realm?

A.: His brains, Mr. Emery. For instance, when we'd almost finished milk shakes, Red would ask, "How much?" "Twenty cents apiece." You'd see a look of horror come over Red's face. He'd shove both glasses back and say, "Then we don't want 'em."

Q.: Exhilarating, Miss Mulliford. But wasn't there any comeback?

A.: By the time the other fellow had thought of a comeback we weren' there anymore. At the Arabian Horse Show Red said, "This is the admiral's daughter. I want the two best seats in the house." And he got 'em. Free.

Q.: There's a naval maneuver to remember.

A.: In the show they had a tournament. Richard the Lionhearted rode around in white armor on a white horse; and when he won, Red stood up and yelled, "Fake!" until they put us both out. It was such fun!

Q.: If suffering humanity could pass three afternoons a week with somebody like Red, this would be a better world.

A.: I never laughed so much in my life. I'll never forget Red on the Village Green, in front of the Shakespeare Theater, dancing with the Morris dancers. They didn't like it.

Q.: I'll bet Shakespeare would have liked it.

A.: The whole afternoon was heavenly. Everything you'd wanted to do, Mr. Emery, and never had the nerve to do--Red did it.

Q.: It gives me renewed confidence in the republic.

A.: I never laughed so much in my life; and my conscience never hurt me even once.

Q.: A splendid normal conscience. Never let anybody tinker with it.

A.: The afternoon just flew by. It was five o'clock when we turned a corner and came into a V-shaped blind alley. On our right was a high stucco wall that bounded one of the concessions and on our left was a high board fence with barbed wire on top. The V was bare except for a fountain with goldfish swimming in the bowl. We were alone. Red said, "I thought there was an out this way. A patrol back there spotted me and they're coming fast. Well, at that, I'll make 'em pull a swabbo."

Q.: A swabbo?

A.: That means missing the target. Red said, "You see that drain opening down there? Run for it, Peaches. When you get there, throw yourself on your knees and yell down the opening, 'Red come back! Red, come back!'" I started; just before the shore-patrol boys turned the corner, Red dunked himself in with the goldfish.

Q.: A strategy worthy of Paul Jones.

A.: While I was calling down the drain opening, one of the shore-patrol boys touched me on the arm and said, "Don't wait, sister; Red's got another engagement." Then they both leaned over and yelled down the drain, "Come out, sailor!" When one of them started down into the drain I put my handkerchief to my face, so they wouldn't see I was laughing, and started back.

Q.: And had Red made friends with the goldfish?

A.: Red wasn't in the fountain anymore. He must have slipped out the minute the patrol passed. His tracks showed where he'd dashed across to the stucco wall and scrambled over it. I felt so relieved.

Q.: Naturally.

A.: I knew he'd find some way of drying his clothes, and we'd already arranged where we were going to meet in case we were separated. So I thought I'd walk around and buy a ticket to the concession on the other side of the stucco wall. I didn't care what it was; I just thought I might be able to signal to Red. Mr. Emery, what do you suppose?

Q.: Don't keep me waiting; I have a bad heart.

A.: Mr. Emery, that concession was the nudist colony.
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Title Annotation:fiction; a chantey sung by Q. and A., part I
Author:Winslow, Horatio
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Mar 1, 1992
Previous Article:Life's Little Instruction Book.
Next Article:Shades of Burt Reynolds.

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