“You have to meet me at the gas station. I have something very important to give you.”
My eyebrows shot up.”But you’re contagious. You’ve been sick for weeks. There’s no possible way I can meet someone with an upper respiratory infection.”
“I know you’ll meet me because I have something you want. I’ve invented something new. And I know that you’ll want to show it off at your party on Saturday,” said the caller in a congested whisper.
“Oh, for crying out loud! Then I guess I’ll have to meet you, after all.” I sighed and hung up the phone.
“Surely, you’re not going to meet the Master while he’s so sick?,” Einida asked with a concerned tone in her voice.
“Actually, we both shall be meeting with him. You know I cannot possibly resist the lure of a new invention, or the urge to be the first person to show one off to our colleagues….Be sure to pack along your anti-flu suit….You’re going to need it,” I added grimly.
A few minutes later, Einida, clad in a white Tyvek flu suit, climbed out of the car. She startled a person at a gas pump, who apparently thought representatives from the Centers for Disease Control had come to town to deal with a virulent new strain of flesh-eating virus.
I stayed safely in the car, well away from the sickness.
Bellanger K. Shahhat, Esquire, the celebrated master woodworker and joiner, met Einida in the gas station parking lot and handed her a small, item wrapped in greasy rags.
Einida quickly sealed the bundle in a plastic bag, in order to keep any germs from spreading. Then she placed that into several more plastic bags, the bags in an ice chest, and the ice chest in yet another plastic bag–albeit a very large one. She was taking no chances.
Twitching his pointy nose, tittering, and leering, Bellanger asked, “So, you’re really afraid of germs, eh? What would you do if I touched you with my soiled handkerchief?”
“I would shriek and run away. But why would you want to do that?”
“All the cough syrup I’ve been drinking has put me in a mood.”
“Well, let me suggest that it put you into reverse!”
(Bellanger was a notorious mischief-maker. He loved to show his affection for his nervous co-workers by subjecting them to humorous, yet mildly sadistic pranks.)
He pulled out his yellowed handkerchief and waved it at Einida with twisted glee, as if flinging clouds of disease from the depths of its snot-drenched fibers.
Einida shrieked and ran.
He cackled as he chased her around the parking lot, but then drew to a sudden stop when seized by a violent coughing fit.
Einida knew this might be her one window of escape, so she quickly placed the ice chest into the trunk, pulled off the anti-flu suit, stuffed that into the bio-hazard waste disposal container we also keep in the trunk, ran around to the passenger side of the car, leaped in, and yelled, “Drive! Drive! Drive!”
As I put the car into gear, Ballanger leapt to the hood of the car and began licking the windshield.
“Germs! Germs! Oooh, big, scary, nasty germs! Get some! Get some!,” he hooted between obscene licks.
Thinking quickly, I switched on the windshield wipers and squirted the fiend with windshield-wiping fluid.
“I knew I should have installed more defensive technologies in this car,” said the wide-eyed Einida. “No one is safe when that lunatic is on a tear.”
We made haste to the Lab, where the mysterious object and the car were sanitized to operating theater levels of cleanliness.
In the luxurious Conference Room, everyone waited expectantly to see if our latest acquisition would be worth all the trouble it had thus far cost us. What creative sorcery had Bellanger been up to? Would a prank blow up in our face, or would we soon marvel at a wondrous new invention?
The Sanitation Clerk rushed in shouting, “I have it! I have it!,” and handed me the case that housed the item. I opened the case and gasped.
“By the Eternal, that carpenter is a genius! He’s crazy, but he’s crazy as a fox!”
“What are we looking at, exactly?,” asked Dr. Phil, who was, as usual, several pages behind in that day’s script.
“Why, it’s a ‘One Ball Rack,’ for pocket billiards. Remember when I invented the game of ‘Four Ball’ because ‘Nine Ball’ took too long to play? Well, Friend Bellanger has invented ‘One Ball’ because ‘Four Ball’ also takes too long.”
Poor man. No doubt all the formaldehyde he’d been using lately in his ghastly and unspeakable art projects was beginning to rot away his powers of reason. With infinite patience and tolerance, we ignored his ramblings, transfixed as we were by the other-worldly beauty of the glorious Rack.
Scarcely had the sound waves of her words faded before I found myself clapping my hands in delight as I watched Einida run around the table in an attempt to catch the now-rolling cue ball before it went over the opposite edge of the table and cracked apart on the floor.
Still, I could not resist making yet another speech to sum up our adventure of the day: “Now our pool-playing skills can be sharpened to a professional level. And we have yet another trifling, yet thrilling, amusement for the pocket billiards devotees that visit or work at the Lab.”