lord marbank, who had been threatened with death by the black hand and was in hiding, was shocked to find one of the local farmhands passed out on a divan in the drawing room of his chateau in the depths of the northern countryside.
he rang at once for the butler.
“what is this?”
“why, it’s just morgan.”
“morgan! and who is morgan?”
“why, he’s just a country fellow.”
“why is he in the drawing room?”
“well, milord, looks like he just wandered in, like, from outside.”
“this is insupportable. get him out of here. and find hargan.”
suddenly hargan, the bodyguard lord marbank had hired on the recommendation of his old colleague in the foreign office sir james tiddler, appeared. “you wished to see me, my lord?”
“yes, i did. what kind of protection is this? when a fellow like this can just wander in and pass out in the drawing room in the middle of the afternoon.”
“why, he’s just a country fellow from the looks of him,” hargan replied imperturbably. “ quite harmless, i am sure. we’ll have him out of here in a jiffy. come, gober, take his left arm and i'll take his right and we’ll give him a heave.”
“stop a minute!” cried lord marbank. “listen to me. how can you protect me from the black hand when you can’t even keep a dumb brute like this out of my - my inner sanctum, as it were?”
“but he’s not a member of the black hand, is he, my lord?,” hargan replied, a little testily. “we will take care of him and i will take care of the black hand when they show up, and then we’ll all be right snug and proper.”
his lordship started to reply, but just then a bat flew into the room through the open french window. the bat had a snake in its mouth and the snake wrapped itself around lord marbank’s throat and bit him, killing him instantly.
the bat flew back out the window, and the snake crawled away under the tea table.
the butler and the bodyguard looked down at the body.
“i say, there must be some sort of lesson there, don’t you think?” gober asked hargan.
“aye, may be. these swells. always complaining about something, never giving a poor working man any peace.”
“indeed,” the butler agreed. “protection from the black hand! for all the good it did him he might as well have stayed in town and had himself a good time, going to the lord mayor’s ball.”
hargan grunted in assent. “give me a hand here. we’ll stretch his lordship out nice and peaceful on this sofa and then get morgan outside.”
“look here!” gober cried. “do you think the black hand had aught to do with this business?”
“that will be for the coroner to decide, old son. not the likes of you and me. now, then. you take his left arm.”
for alfred and marion’s fortieth wedding anniversary, their three children bought them an all-expense paid trip to maui.
maui was beautiful. the weather was perfect.
they strolled along the beach after an excellent breakfast in the hotel dining room.
the beach was deserted. alfred looked around but there was not another person in sight.
he decided it might be safe to light a cigar.
“i didn’t see any actual ‘no smoking’ signs, did you?” he asked marion.
“no,” marion agreed a little reluctantly. “but if you smoke one, be sure to bury the butt. bury it deep.”
“don’t worry, i will.”
alfred lit his cigar and they proceeded along.
“forty years,” marion mused. “such a long time.”
“oh, not so long as all that.” alfred answered.
they walked a while in silence.
“have you ever wondered,” marion asked, “how different things might have been? how different the forty years might have been?”
“sometimes,” alfred answered.
a bird flew overhead. marion ducked. although the bird was not really that close to them.
“is there anything you would have liked to do differently?” marion persisted.
“why, yes,” said alfred. “if i had my way, instead of being a doctor, i would have been an assassin.”
“oh, on the side of right, of course. i would only have killed bad people.”
“oh? would you always be sure they were bad people?”
“of course! i would get my orders straight from the president, or the head of the c i a. “ alfred took a puff of his cigar. “i would have spent the last forty years traveling from city to city, from bangkok to
moscow to paris to san francisco, staying in one spot only long enough to get the job done. and meeting different - enjoying deferent restaurants in every city. and when i wasn’t on a mission, i would spend my time meditating and honing my deadly skills in a mountain retreat that only the president knew the location of. “
alfred looked at this cigar and sighed. “yes, that would have been a good life.”
“but then,” said marion, “you would never have met me.”
“why, that’s true, dear, that’s true. what was i thinking of?”
behind her the moon was rising over the placid sea.
alan thrust the flower at her.
cora took the flower. “why, thank you, alan, that is very thoughtful of you.”
alan swallowed hard. “does this mean - does this mean that you forgive me?”
“of course not, alan. you know that i can never forgive you. have i not told you so repeatedly? can i make myself any clearer?”
“but i thought… i thought that with time…”
“i am sorry but neither time nor anything else can never efface your beastly and unspeakable behavior. there can be no forgiveness for the likes of you, now or ever.”
alan hung his head.
“go away, alan. and please do not bother me again, or bring me any more flowers.”
cora turned away and began contemplating the ocean .
with a sigh, alan turned and headed for the main cabin and the saloon bar.
before entering the cabin, he looked back at cora. she was chatting with her daughter.
her hands were empty. she had obviously thrown the flower over the rail.
the moonlight played softly on the steady wake of the ship.
alan went into the saloon and ordered a martini.
he got into a conversation with a man from iowa.
but after a desultory conversation about the folly of raising the minimum wage, and a slightly livelier discussion about the chances of the minnesota vikings in the upcoming nfl season, they both fell silent.
ted, joe, and molly
ted and joe were waiting in the lounge of intergalactic station 3 for their flight back to earth. the rest of the team had already departed.
ted was continuing to berate joe, blaming him for the team’s early defeat and exit from the intergalactic tournament.
joe finally had enough. he took his bat out of his bag and bashed ted’s brains out.
a couple of security guards came over and took joe into custody.
the other inhabitants of the lounge did not pay much attention. a few just laughed and muttered “these earthlings”.
joe was let go by the intergalactic authorities with a warning, and put on the next flight back to earth with an armed guard. he was prohibited from traveling intergalactically for five years.
when joe got back to earth, the only person there to meet him was molly, a girl both he and ted had dated.
when joe told molly what had happened, she was shocked, but she immediately determined to marry joe and civilize him.
and she did. she civilized him, but good. they married, and had twelve children, six boys and six girls.
the six boys all grew up to be fine young men. none of them became intergalactic athletes after leaving school, but one each entered the army, the navy, the space corps, the intergalactic police, the old church, and the new church.
the six girls all married fine young men, who were a credit to planet earth in different ways.
molly and joe had a total of twenty-eight grandchildren.
through it all, molly kept a picture of ted over the fireplace in the living room.