Episode Two: Quin Answers the Phone

Two men stood in an office, brooding over the dark consequences of economic collapse, and the loss of a tuna sandwich for lunch, respectively. The habits and features of the two men were nearly identical, making it hard to distinguish one from the other. The men were both bald, middle-aged, and thick around the waist. One wore glasses that he didn’t strictly need, and the other refused to wear glasses that he obviously couldn’t properly live without. Because of this, the two men constantly screwed their eyes to read newspapers, magazines, and street signs. Ironically, although reading the future doesn’t require glasses, they paid a fortuneteller to read it for them.

We need to find him.” the man with glasses said.

I think I know how to.” said the one without.

How?”

It is a long shot, but a rather amusing long shot.”

Will it be costly?”

The man with no glasses shrugged.

It could be. I’ll make a phone call.”

So what are you doing here at the Hotel Bristol, Doctor?” Quin asked.

I don’t remember. What are you doing here?” said Tannenbaum.

I’m here because I once met a friend while he was here. I want to check and see if he’s in.”

How long ago was he here?”

Six months.”

The two of them walked past the front desk as they talked. Quin propped Tannenbaum against the counter and sought the attention of the desk clerk.

Is there an Alexei Tushwiggins staying in this hotel?”

The desk clerk was a thin reedy man with a thin reedy mustache.

No.” he said after consulting the register.

Dang.”

A nearby pay phone, the only pay phone left on the west coast, rang.

Excuse me,” Quin said to Tannenbaum. “I have to get this.”

No matter.” said Tannenbaum. “I’ll go up to my room. It was a pleasure meeting you, Quin.”

Be honest, it wasn’t really.”

I’ll see you again soon.” Tannenbaum said, and fell promptly asleep.

Quin waved him goodbye and approached the pay phone. After 20 rings, it still rang, and was labeled with graffiti saying ‘Beware the Leopard.’

Quin answered the phone.

Hello. Beware the Leopard.”

Quin, is that you?”

It certainly isn’t the leopard.”

The bald man with no glasses stared into the phone speaker in disbelief. The man who had glasses couldn’t believe it either.

Quin, this is Arthur Baldwin. I need you in Chicago as soon as you can get here.”

Quin hesitated.

I don’t know, Art. I just rolled into the west coast, and I haven’t looked around to see if I like it yet. I haven’t even made a friend yet. I met this one guy, but I don’t think we hit it off very well.”

Quin?” the phone said.

Yes, Art?”

I need this as a favor.”

Is the weather in Chicago nice today?”

In Chicago, the man with glasses hissed into his partner’s ear.

Tell him the weather’s fantastic! Tell him anything.” He would have given further instructions but the man on the phone swatted him away with his free hand.

Quin?”

I’m still here, on the west coast.”

The weather here in Chicago is great.”

Quin sighed.

That’s a lie, but I’ll come anyway.”

He hung up the phone.

A day and three quarters later, the two men welcomed Quin into their office, their faces shining with hope and opportunity.

Thanks ever so much for coming, Quin. If there’s ever anything we can do for you, please let us know.”

The two squinting men reminded Quin of two of the three blind mice.

Well,” Quin said. “There is this one thing.”

The face of the man with glasses fell.

What is it?”

I bought a vinyl record at a garage sale. I keep it with me in my satchel. I’d like a record player to play it on.”

The man without glasses smiled like a boy in a candy store.

Quin, if you find this man for us, I’ll personally buy you the best record player that money can buy.” He led Quin to an overstuffed chair and set him down gently by a candy dish. Quin quietly took the dish and emptied it into his pocket.

I’ll settle for something that’ll play records. Who is it that you want me to find?”

We need you to find a certain man for us.” the man without glasses said.

He was last seen in the African Congo serving in a minor bush hospital.” the man with glasses said.

We believe he has reentered the country just a few days ago. He’s a truly remarkable man. He has earned several degrees in multiple subjects, and has written many books on the mathematical equations of learning. This man actually has made learning into a science! He has learning licked!”

He sounds like a real renaissance man. How do I find him? What’s his name?”

The two businessmen looked at each other. The bespectacled man spoke first.

We don’t know how to find him. That’s why we called you.”

The man with no glasses said:

His name is T. Radcliffe Tannenbaum.”

Quin’s eyebrows, which are more active than an Olympic athlete, shot to the top of his forehead.

You have got to be kidding me!” Quin said.

Where should the story go from here? What should happen to Quin next week?

Let me know at alsothemadhairman@gmail.com

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