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Firm Convictions
by Marvin Pinkis

"I don't know what to think," wailed Wallace Wheeler.

"What's your dilemma, old bean?" queried Quincy Quentin.

"Will you swear it won't leave these pages?" Wallace wailed anew.

"Commendable caution. You appear to be quite disquieted," quoted Quincy. "You must tell me forthwith the cause of such anguish. It pains me that you are perturbed."

"Of course I shall tell you. I owe you that."

"Likewise ten quid you borrowed fourteen fortnights ago."

Wallace raised an eyebrow, for the first time without help. Dunning dolt, he muttered to no one in particular but loud enough to be audible. He had never muttered before.

Composing himself, Wallace explained, "It's like this. Cynthia calls me a cad, yet Brenda brands me a bounder. I feel burdened enough, having been indicted incorrigible and incurably indolent by Isabel, that to bear yet another crown of thorns is more than anyone should endure. And you'll get your quid, Quincy. Cad, bounder, whatever, I've never been tagged 'Wallace the Welcher.'"

At that instant who should appear but Dimples Bernstein, demure, diminutive, yet a vivacious and vixenish vision of semi-voluptuousness,.who had been lurking in the shadows of the story, accustomed to play the femme catalyst, so vital to propel a plot.

Dimples cut to the quick. "So, me bucko, you're at sixes and sevens, uncertain which fork to take, that of a bilious bounder or a contemptuous cad. Small wonder you are at sea. Wish I could help you."

Wallace whined, "If not you, then whom?"


"There must be recourse. Couldn't I merely be unlikeable?"

"Too late for that. Your only avenue to evade ambiguous character identity is to appeal to a higher authority."



" Martha Stewart?"

"No, you dunce. I refer to none other than the one responsible for penning this dreck."

The others gasped in disbelief. What chutzpah.

Wallace remarked, "He'll never consent to grant me everlasting charactericity. He never forgot the Valerie affair."

Dimples declared, "The guy's a son-of-a-bitch, all right. Mean to the very marrow, to say naught of unsharing. Why, once he came across a map of a lost mime but wouldn't talk about it. Do you think he'd cut me in for halfsies? Bastard."

Another remark from Wallace. "Any chance I could be both? A cad AND a bounder?"

Quincy responded, "Duality has been tried, but that was with a churl and a varlet."

"What happened?"

"Oil and water. The churl was declasse and the varlet was the last word in knavery. Each sent an anonymous note to the author casting vile aspersions on the other. The fair solution was to write both of them out."

"Woe is me," said Wallace, "I dare not let that happen. I don't have another story as a golden parachute."

"Enthralled by him, huh?"

"Well, I wouldn't exactly say 'enthralled'. He IS quite good-looking and has a way with Latvian cuisine. Nice car too."

Quentin noted, "You're doomed if you don't flee this story. There's a vessel leaving tonight for Parts Unknown. Methinks you should be on it and start your character life anew."

Wallace asked, "Does the vessel take vassals?"

"Just tell them you're a deranged literature fugitive seeking asylum in any port-of-call."

Dimples suggested, "When you get settled, start applying for roles. If they ask for references tell them you had a list but your dog ate it."

"But I don't have a dog."

"You'll have to gamble that they won't check. Take a bag of 'Puppy Chow' with you."

"In the meantime how do I exit the story?" wondered Wallace wistfully.

Quincy and Dimples huddled and whispered to themselves, then turned to Wallace and smiled.

"What's with all the huddling, whispering, turning and smiling?" quizzed Wallace.

Dimples dallied then disclosed a plan. "Quincy and I will create a diversion. While we're diverting you distract attention by sporting a jester's cap and singing 'I'm a Little Teapot.' That will reaffirm your instability and you can sneak off as Quincy and yours truly make it very plain that we have a hot romance going and you are excess baggage."

"Wait just a goshdarn minute. Quincy never offered that option to me."

Bernstein cackled, "Stop kvetching. It's not for real. There's nothing between us and I'm already spoken for by a ventriloquist. Besides, I planned to ask you out for a night on the town, dinner at a fancy restaurant, a Broadway show over on Elm Street, capped at my place later for chips and soda and a screening of secret photos of the author in compromising positions with a tag team of Polish lady wrestlers. Bring dip."

A telephone's shrill ring jolted the conspirators, presumably the author implementing his regular sadistic wake-up call to his untermenschen, another reminder of their servitude.

Wheeler said, "I'd know that ring anywhere. I'm not answering."

The others were equally unwilling and decided a fair solution would be to draw paper scraps from a Shriner's fez and whoever got the "x" would answer. All would be blindfolded, except the fez. Wallace's blindfold would be of a thick damask material and Quincy's and Dimples' a filmy gauze.

By the time of the drawing the phone had rung over 100 times, each one sending a shiver to the trio.

Wallace, curse the luck, drew the "X" but demanded to see what the others had drawn. The conniving couple, however, had swallowed their scraps and claimed they were chewing gum.

The doorbell rang and a Western Union messenger presented a telegram as the phone continued to ring. As the messenger left he impishly rang the doorbell several times, ran off chortling, all the while tearing off a rubber mask and shedding the Western Union uniform. Nobody had never noticed the "Authors Anonymous" logo.

Quentin ripped open the telegram, paled and read quiveringly, "Answer the fucking phone or none of you will ever character again. Furthermore, no dessert."

Dimples declared, "You lost the drawing fair and square, to a degree, Wallace. Now face up to it and pick up the phone."

Forthwith, Wallace quivered anew and picked up the phone only to hear Quincy squeal, "Hey, buddy, I do the quivering around here."

"Sorry," Wallace whimpered.

"And I do the whimpering," trumpeted Dimples.

Snatches of what Q. and D. heard from Wallace's side of the conversation:

"Yes, sir." "I know, your grace." "No, we would never, never rebel." "Certainly we are grateful." "I understand your patience can only go so far." "We would be nothing without you. Merely two-dimensional figures." "Oh, shall I pick up your laundry?"

Eventually, Wallace hung up, turned to the others, smirked faintly, shrugged his shoulders, arched his eyebrows, pursed his lips, looked around, hummed the entire score of "Sound of Music" and blurted out, "You heard it all. What could I do? Fiddle-la-dee, maybe we can rebel tomorrow."

"You pitiful wimp."


"Cluck, cluck."

"Cluck, cluck?"

"As in chicken, stupid."

Wallace bore the barbs and barely maintained his aplomb. Then he announced, "I need the role so I'm staying put. You two can take off if you wish. Lots of characters are begging for work and you'll never be missed. He and I will just have to find ways to compensate, like serialization and movie rights."

At the mention of future gains, Quincy and Dimples stared at each other and, as one, stated, "Don't you have a sense of humor? Can't you tell a joke when you hear one? So, we were a little hasty. Besides, we have a solution for your dilemma. We recommend neither a cad nor a bounder be. Instead, try blighter. Or think about minion."

"Minion, huh? Hm, possible."

Quincy, quick with the quip said, "Yeah, you could be one of minions."

Wallace ignored that and said, "Let's celebrate our unity and walk off together into the sunset."

"That'll be mucho fun," Quincy grinned.

"I was talking to Dimples."