A terrible commotion had erupted in the common room of the GHOP (Gentlemen’s House of Pancakes). The common room, of course, is the one where the riff-raff sit. The ones who eat their pancakes by hand and sip their coffee from the spigot. And never smoke a pipe.
I looked up and who did I see?
Who do you think?
Diklitous P. Hercules, of course.
He was “pressing the flesh.” That is, he was shaking hands with diners, waitresses, and I think maybe the owner too. Also, he was shirtless. And without shoes. He did have on pants, but his 1950s strong-man physique was otherwise on full display. His hair was greased back. And after every handshake he fist-bumped his own forehead (see above photo).
I put my hand to my forehead, hoping I might render myself invisible, or at least less visible, and tried to focus on the financials page. Not possible. Not with the high-pitched nasal voice of Mr. H. cutting through. (He sounds like Costello, of the Abbot & Costellos).
When I dared again peek between my fingers, he was lying on a table, bench-pressing a waitress. She was giggling as she rode the hydraulics of his arms up and down, a pot of coffee in one hand, a tray of dirty dishes in the other. Everyone had gathered round and was cheering and clapping.
I snapped the financials page up like a wall between myself and the scene. I am a man with an interest in business, you see. But I could not resist. I peeked o’er the top of the paper, and do you know what I saw? Mr. Hercules flexing both biceps, busboys hanging from each. He kissed the forehead of one, then the other, all while staring me directly in the eye. When he flexed, the busboys rose and fell, laughing with glee.
I raised my newsprint shield once more. Not a moment later, a fist rapped upon my table. A meaty one. Silverware rattled. Beverages rippled.
The fist retreated, having dropped a paper napkin atop my pancakes.
I lowered my newspaper to find Mr. Hercules glaring at me threateningly. He had naught to say. He only pointed one finger down at the napkin, then at me. Then he flashed me the thumbs up, and smiled.
“It’s not good,” I whispered. “And the Professor has published it before!”
He pointed once more at me, then at the napkin. Then he ruffled my hair and turned to go.
This is why, my friends (if I may still call you my friends), the words I found printed in black marker on said napkin are reprinted below for your reading (dis)pleasure. My apologies. But you see that I had no choice.
A Poem About Coffee by Dick Hercules
This cup of coffee
Which I call Nigel
Is so black that
When I ask him
How much more black
Could he be?
He whispers, “None.”
None more black? I say.
Nigel nods wisely,
And takes a sip