Don Gerund, P.I. (Proofreading Investigator)
Double Negative Indemnity
Tonight’s Episode: Tequila Mockingbird
I walked across the street to The Uruguayan’s place, The Blue Carrot. It was a wretched hive of scum and villainy, but their cherry blintzes were to die for.
I stepped through the door just in time to see The Uruguayan smacking a tabletop with a flyswatter. I barked out his name like Robert Stack playing Elliot Ness with a bad case of hiccups. “Ernesto!”
He looked up from his swat-fest, and gave me the eye. When he recognized my mug, he instantly went into Boot-Licking Mode with that slick accent of his. “Ah, yes, Mister Gerund! Do come in!” He waved me over to a table and pulled out a chair just as I was sitting down on it. “Can I get you anything? A cup of coffee? A refreshing cordial, perhaps?”
I picked myself up and dusted myself off. “Can the lip-flap, Ernesto. I ain’t here for your monthly ladies’ tea social. I’m calling in a favor for that train-wreck of a newsletter you had me give the once-over last week.” Yeah, I proofed a newsletter. A bad one. A newsletter so bad that it read like a text-message from Edward Bulwer-Lytton. But I took it. I ain’t proud. Or tired.
“A favor? But, of course! I am, how you say, always happy to help out a man in need. What would you like? I know a beautiful Persian woman, who, for a price, can diagram your sentences. Or, perhaps you seek a little boy from Siam who knows the delicacies of, how you say, noun and verb agreement? Hmm?”
“Cut the hard sell, Ernesto, before I breeze this gin mill and leave you with empty berries.” I gave him the up-and-down, “Look, I need a book.”
Suddenly, Ernie got hinky; he looked in the air furtively, then smacked his flyswatter on the table. It landed on my hand, leaving a strange mark that reminded me to pick up some Eggos on the way home. Ernesto gave me a guilty look and answered me. “A book? My dear Mr. Gerund, why don’t you try the library? Books do not, how you say, interest me.”
“This one will. I need…The Maltese Dictionary.”
He dropped his flyswatter and gasped like an asthmatic teakettle. He tried to play coy, but his eyes glittered like a Mylar balloon shorting out a transformer. “Ah, The Maltese Dictionary. It is legendary. But it is, also, how you say, non-existent. You might as well search for Bigfoot, or an intelligent corporate executive. I’m afraid, Mr. Gerund,” and he smacked the table again, “I cannot help you.”
“You leave me no choice, Ernesto. Sorry.” I knew he had the connections, and I was gonna have to get him to sing. It was then I whipped out the big guns: my collection of tastefully nude character actor trading cards.
Lucky for me, Ernesto was one weak sister, and he caved on the third card: a holographic number that showed Jack Elam in a silky green thong. “Stop it! Stop, you cruel bastard! All right! I will tell you! Just, keep the Walter Brennan card hidden! I can only take so much!”
He mopped his forehead with a dirty cocktail napkin and caught his breath. “You will need to seek the Pleonastic Members’ Society. They are masters of tautological study. I will arrange a meeting for you, yes?”
“That would be just jake, Ernesto.” I threw him a card with Andy Devine in a see-through getup. “Consider the favor paid in full. I’ll be waiting for your call.” With that, I stalked out the front door.
Outside, I decided I need a smoke, and lit my pipe. Too bad I didn’t have any tobacco.
But, the wood of the pipe burned just fine. Unfortunately, the smoke got in my eyes, and I never saw the goon with the sap sucker punch me in the back of the neck.
As the lights went out, I heard Ernesto sell me off. “Here is your, how you say, sucker, gentlemen. I have kept to our bargain, no?”
One last voice drifted past my ears. “Ya, das is dere goot. You veel haf your money in zee next sheepmint.”
Dammit. Grammar Nazis. I hate those anti-semantic bastards.
Is this the end for our hardboiled hero? Or was this just a set-up for a really bad pun? Find out next time on Don Gerund, Proofreading Investigator!
All Photoshop illustrations property of Allyson Brooks.