It was breakfast last Saturday at the Ken Begley house. Everyone was asleep except for me and my 89- year-old former New York City financial advisor, Mr. S. Wiley. I’ve been holding Mr. Wiley hostage for the last few years, ever since he lost all my retirement money in the stock market bubble when it popped.
Mr. Wiley was drinking his coffee and reading the paper when he said, “My, my young man, I’ve lived 89 years I’ve never seen such a shellacking in all my life.”
“You mean Obama and the Democrats in the last election?”
“No, it’s Cindy’s column about living with you. You sound a little bit crazy toward the end. I take that as moderation on her part. I guess you’re just lucky she didn’t go the whole nine yards with that truth thing. Shoot, this looks like the men in the white coats should be out here with a straight jacket for you. You didn‘t get mad did you?”
“No, and it’s only a coincident that I had to let her go.”
“Let her go?”
“Yep, I had to let her go to E-town and meet some friends for dinner so she wouldn’t write another column this week. Jeff Moreland was really disappointed.”
“I’ll bet he was!”
“You know, Mr. Wiley, I don’t mind if someone tells some lies about me. I just don’t want anyone telling a bunch of truths on me. By the way, not meaning to change the subject, though I’d like to get off this one, do you know anything about theatre?“
“Surely you jest, young man, I’m from New York City. We provide more fictional entertainment with the best actors and actresses in the world with, of course, the exception of all those politicians in Washington. Why do you ask?”
“I need you to help me out with a little bit of stage work down at the Opera House. Their next show is “The Little Shop of Horrors,” and it’s on this weekend. You heard of it?”
“Heard of it? Why, you illiterate bumpkin! Let me check your pockets for turnips because you must have just fallen off the wagon on the way into town if you haven’t heard of “Little Shop of Horrors.” It’s the longest running show off Broadway in America today. It’s a spoof of 1950’s science fiction films, but turned into a musical. Are pretty Angela Nance and young Jack Manion singing in it?”
“Why, yes, they are.”
“Good. I can only work with the best. We better head on down to the Opera House. I can’t keep my public waiting.”
Ten minutes later. . .
“Hey, young man, nobody’s here. Where are the rest of the players?”
“Well, Mr. Wiley, when I said ‘work on the stage’ I meant ‘work on the stage.’ Phillip Campbell and his son, Wesley, always do most of the work, but occasionally they need a little help. Now, grab that hammer and come with me.”
“You mean you want me to do, I hesitate to use the vulgar term, ‘manual labor?’”
“Surely you don’t have anything against an honest day’s work.”
“If I wanted to do an honest day’s work I would have never gone to Wall Street. Let that be a lesson to you, young man. A fellow with a sharp pencil can steal more in a day than one with a pistol can all year long. Why in the world would anyone in their right mind let you swing a hammer, anyway? If they looked up the term ‘rough carpenter’ in the dictionary, they would see your picture.”
“Be that as it may, grab that hammer and go up this ladder. I‘ll steady it.”
“Good googlely gog. That ladder must be 20 feet tall. You’re not getting me up there. I fall off that ladder and you’ll be picking me up with a stick and a spoon. By the way, this wouldn‘t have anything to do with that life insurance paper you had me sign the other day, would it?”
“Of course not. That was just burial insurance. After all, you are 89 years old.”
“But it was for $400,000.”
“So sue me. I believe in big funerals.”
“I like big funerals, too, but I’m still not going up that ladder.”
“How about if I take you to McDonalds afterwards for Cokes?”
“No, sir. I’m not cupping my hands anymore and letting them pour in some Coke so you only have to pay 25 cents instead of a dollar. My hands have gotten so shaky it splatters all over the wall anyway.”
“All right, all right. You hold the ladder and I’ll go up it.”
I got up to the top of that ladder when all of a sudden I could feel it swaying back and forth. I grasped the ladder with both arms and began singing, “Nearer My God to Thee,” in a high-pitched voice. I looked down to see Mr. Wiley smiling while he shook the ladder.
“You crazy old man, you could have got me killed. What would you have done if I fell off this ladder and broke my neck!”
“Take your credit card out of your wallet and go to Mordecai’s with Cindy. Lord knows she‘s earned it!”
Writer’s Note: “The Little Shop of Horrors” will be playing on Fridays and Saturdays, Nov. 19-20, and Nov. 26-27 at 7 p.m., and on Sundays, Nov. 21 and Nov. 28 at 2 p.m. It’s as cheap as going to the movies in Bardstown, and a whole lot more fun. Mr. Wiley and I will be in the front row!