Of all things …
So the other day I get this
e-mail from Norman Chad. You all know who Norman Chad is, right? Couch Slouch? Funniest guy this side of that Frank Caliendo guy who does all the imitations on TV.
Well, OK, he’s not that funny, but on any given day his is the only sane voice you will find in the sporting prints.
Say the name Norman Chad and the following things immediately pop into your head: Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, poker, bowling, his ex-wives (three? … four?), a face made for radio and the phrase “Pay the man, Shirley.”
This last would be because Norman always has a Q-and-A tucked inside his column and whoever asks the best question gets $1.25. If you are a big-time, syndicated columnist like Mr. Chad, you can afford to have a Shirley dig into a kitty and send off $1.25 to every guy who asks a smart-aleck question.
Me? Not so big-time. Not syndicated. Just stuck here in Elyria. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Could be Erie, Pa. Or Lorain. Anyway, as some of you have discovered through the years, if I publish one of your questions, you send me $1.50.
I know, I know. It was always $1.25. But now it’s gone up. You’ll get the memo any day now. Got that? You see your question published in my column, you get that buck-and-a-half off to me right quick. Understand? Just so we’re clear.
(Are we clear? You answer: “Crystal.”)
But Norman’s e-mail. Here, let me read it to you. Goes like this:
Someone just forwarded me a column of yours from this past summer in which you claim I stole Shirley from you.
I had no idea you were harboring ill will for this long. You want her back? Fine — I’ll have her on the next Trailways bus to Elyria.
She gets 3 weeks vacation a year and gets off at 4:15 p.m. on Fridays so she can go to Applebee’s.
Yowza. An e-mail from the great Norman Chad. What could be a better gift at Christmas time? I had as my first Christmas wish that all the children in the world could join hands on Christmas Eve and sing “Little Drummer Boy.” But then came this
So my revised Christmas list is this: First,.to get an e-mail from Norman Chad; second, that thing about the all the kids in the world holding hands to sing about a boy playing drums.
Anyway, I wired back the following:
Had given up hope on ever getting Shirley back. STOP.
This is just tremendous news. STOP.
Will meet her at the Trailways depot. STOP.
I added a postscript to the effect that no one ever goes to Applebee’s any more because it’s so crowded you can’t get in. But that there was a really splendid lunch counter in the back of Wal-Mart that they remember to wipe down at least once a week. Told Norman I’d work that out with Shirley after she got all settled in at the boarding house.
But Shirley …
She was with me when I was at The Cleveland Press. Being as it was The Press and Cleveland, there was no $1.25 payoff. Coming or going. There were no questions back then and certainly no answers.
Shirley was just a steno girl. She made her appearance whenever I wrote the words, “Take a memo, Shirley” and put them in the paper.
Appearing suddenly like that in a column, Shirley could look any way the reader imagined her to look. Probably like Jane Fonda in “9 to 5.” Or like Melanie Griffith in “Working Girl” (only without Melanie’s insipid voice, of course) or like Bond’s Miss Moneypenny.
Alas, I am here to tell you that Shirley looks like she’s been thoroughly beaten with an ugly stick. But she’s a fast typer, is a computer whiz and — on days when I have the sniffles or am just plain too tired from staying up late to catch Bruce Drennan in a handsome Robert Hall suit on that really snowy channel — can whip out a Clarke column where no one’s the wiser.
Also, she has these great legs. When I first hired her it was because of the legs. And the short skirts and all. Believe me, on slow news days, this can be a real boon in the office.
The day she came down the steps of the Trailways (tight leather skirt), cardboard suitcase in hand, she greeted me with tears of gratitude.
“That horrible Mr. Chad,” she wailed. “He’d make me go bowling with him — and take notes. And I had to hold his poker winnings — both times. The only thing he ever said to me all those years was, ‘Pay the man, Shirley.’ Creeped me out.”
Anyway, Shirley’s back and is all settled in. In the meantime, it’ll be interesting to see if the horrible Mr. Chad (we have a movie title, folks: “The Horrible Mr. Chad”) will hire a new girl who’s name is also Shirley — or will he tell everyone how he put Shirley on a Trailways and had to find a new girl with a different name? Stay tuned.
Who is this “someone” who saves old columns for half a year and then forwards them on to Mr. Chad? What kind of nutcase would do that? I don’t need no stinking No. 1 fan out there stalking me. Don’t need no Kathy Bates waking me in the middle of the night, saying, “You dirty bird …”
Listen up: My columns are to be saved no longer than three hours. Tops. Then they are to be used to wrap fish. Got that?
The column I was going to write today — the one about The Invisible Man (Mike Brown) and how he can’t get the Cavs to play defense, or to rebound, or to play with energy and enthusiasm instead of being listless all the time — would have come back to bite me because some whack job would have saved the gosh darn thing and used it against me.
All because the Cavaliers decided, entirely amongst themselves, mind you — what with it being the Lakers and the game being on national TV and all — to play ball together one December night.
Footnote No. 2:
It’s comforting to know the Cavs can get up for Marv Albert and Mike Fratello and the other media mooks if the spirit moves them. But not for Mike Brown, The Invisible Man.
Curiouser and curiouser, isn’t it?
Contact Doug Clarke at email@example.com.