Guide to Moral Living in Examples: Standoffs

There was a room.

It was a plain white room. A watercolor of a sailboat hung on one of the walls. There were no windows. There were two doors.

A table had been placed in the room. It was slightly off center. Very slightly. If a bird overhead could see through the ceiling and also liked using Cartesian grids, then the bird would have to use some decimal places to describe the table's position. The table was made out of softwood. The multitude of dents and dings testified as to its material.

One man sat in a chair at the table. He was big and burly. Two cauliflower ears framed a face made of scars. Somewhere in his life he'd lost his neck. His head sprouted straight from his shoulders, sticking out from above a battered leather jacket.

Every few minutes he would lift a small tea cup from the table to his mouth, sip, and put it back down. The tea cup had a lovely daffodil pattern.

His name was Ben.

Ben was as anxious as a tree.

Every ten minutes a stick-thin waiter entered the room, carrying a tea pot. The tea pot also wore daffodils. The waiter would refresh the small tea cup and leave without a word. He came in through either door, but never left through the same one that he had entered from.

The wisps of steam from each fresh cup of tea looked like the white clouds in the sailboat picture.

The door burst open. It wasn't the waiter this time, but an evil man with a mustache and a revolver. He wore a too-large brown raincoat, blotched with grease, draped over his skinny frame. His name was Ben (no relation). Skinny Ben leveled the revolver at Big Ben.

"Gimme the dough."

"I ain't got it."

"Gimme the dough."

"You deaf?"

"Boss says you have it."

"Boss is deaf. I told already told him. I ain't got it."

"You're like a parrot. Sayin' the same thing over and over. And a bird brain, too."

"I ain't the one who ain't listening."

"Who's got the dough?"

"Ain't me. Maybe the boss already has it."

Skinny Ben frowned. In the quiet of the room, you could hear the gears in his head grinding together.

"Lemme check with the boss. Don't go nowhere."

"Wasn't planning on it."

Skinny Ben left.

Big Ben sipped his tea.

The waiter returned to freshen Big Ben's tea. He sniffed the air, sneered, served the tea, and left.

Five minutes later, the waiter entered the room with a cloth and a big spraybottle filled with a purple liquid. He spent a few minutes wiping down the doorknob that Skinny Ben had used, then left.

The room smelled like tea, Skinny Ben, and cleaning solvents.

Big Ben sipped his tea.

The door burst open. It wasn't the waiter or Skinny Ben, but a short, round man with a fedora and a revolver. His sharp, quick eyes darted back and forth beneath the brim. A thick, bushy beard covered the rest of his face and part of his lapels. His name was Ben (no relation). Fedora Ben leveled the revolver at Big Ben.

"Where's the dough?"

"Boss has it."

"Where's the boss?"

"I don't know."

"My foot, you don't know."

"When I told a lie?"

Fedora Ben considered this. Finally, he nodded.

"Ain't that some shit," Fedora Ben said. "You tell the boss, if you see him, that I'm lookin' for him." He backed out of the room, never taking his eyes or the revolver off of Big Ben.

The waiter came through, refreshed Big Ben's tea and, this time, left the tea pot.

Skinny Ben entered, his revolver trained on Big Ben.

Then Fedora Ben entered, his revolver trained on Big Ben.

The two men noticed each other, and pointed their revolvers at each other. Big Ben pointed the bottom of his tea cup at the wall, and sipped.

"Where's the dough?" they asked Big Ben in unison.

Big Ben set his tea cup down.

"It's coming."

The waiter entered. He carried a long, silver tray, with a big silver cover. Fedora Ben and Skinny Ben kept their distance, but didn't move the muzzles off of Big Ben. The waiter set the silver tray down on the table.

"Is that it?" asked Fedora Ben.

"Is that the dough?" asked Skinny Ben.

"Yep," said Big Ben.

"Open it up," said Fedora Ben.

"Yeah, lift the lid," added Skinny Ben.

"Okay," Big Ben said, and lifted the lid. Sitting on the gleaming tray was a white, floury mass.

Skinny Ben and Fedora Ben looked at each other, then at Big Ben.

They lowered their guns.

"I'll be taking that," said Skinny Ben.

"Nix," said Fedora Ben.

"You're both wrong," said the waiter, who entered the room holding a trench broom. It's evil black snout covered all three men. A heavy metal drum magazine hung below, pregnant with murder. "That's my dough. Drop the pea shooters and grab some clouds."

Skinny Ben and Fedora Ben dropped their guns and raised their hands. Big Ben sipped his tea.

"You too, dope."

"I ain't got a peashooter."

"Then stand up and-"

"I got a peapod shooter."

Big Ben sprang from his chair. The force knocked the table over and in a smooth motion, with a loud rrriiiiippp, he freed the shotgun taped to the bottom of the table.

The waiter didn't flinch.

Neither did Skinny Ben or Fedora Ben.

"We seem to be at a standoff."

The door opened with a puff of flour. An old man stood there, dressed in a chef's whites and a fine dusting of flour. His sleeves were rolled up, revealing a set of tattoos inked onto arms thicker than tree trunks.

The Bens and the waiter held their collective breath.

The Boss did not. He used his breath. Hard.

"And just where the fuck have you been I send you knuckleheads out an hour ago to get me some dough and I find you in here playing Reservoir Dogs I oughta go upside your heads jesus christ almighty hallowed be thy game!"

"Name," Skinny Ben offered.

"What?" asked the Boss.

"Hallowed be thy name. Not game."

"Get back to your crossiants church boy I hire you mob goofballs on work release to help me bake my bread not quote scripture!"

"Are croissants bread?" asked the waiter.

The Boss socked him right in the breadbasket.

The Moral: firearms and bread don't mix.

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