Warning: DO NOT READ if you have not seen Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. It will ruin for you what would have been the best cinematic scene of all time.
If you have, know that I am not liable for any loss of sanity, laughing injuries, or lack of comprehension re my occasionally obscure humor.
A Game of Ponies
"A five minute game?"
A bearded man took a seat across the table with a sardonic camber of his lips. "If you think you can manage it."
"Ladies first," the other offered in his deep, breezy voice.
A smirk. "Perhaps your queen would avail herself of that chivalry . . . provided she were still with us." The first pawn advanced.
"Cold." He made his own first move.
"This is Switzerland."
"I meant figuratively."
The bearded man sent out another piece. "You do not need to define satire."
"Do I not?"
"Then I will stay my dictionary." Regarding the board, he moved a second pawn. "We both have two bishops. I may be absent from the room, but my methods are not."
A smile curved behind the beard. "You can't mean Dr. Watson, surely." But the other remained suggestively silent. He frowned and said, "That doesn't seem fair."
"All's fair in love and war."
A white pawn took black. "And how does this pertain to the former?"
"We both love war." The black-haired man grinned. He replaced the white pawn with a knight. "The ambassador that you replaced with Rene, is he alive?"
Wordlessly his opponent moved a bishop and touched the clock. He suggested with mocking pity, "Would you like me to recommend your next move?"
"Perhaps the assassin," the other went on, making his counterattack, "will take measures to ensure he doesn't give himself away. Like a gambler concealing a tell."
The clock was ticking. "Your clock," the bearded man observed, "is ticking."
I hate it when they do that.
"May I remind you," he went on, "this is blitz chess. A single miscalculation will cost you the game."
"She would have to be single or she would not be Miss Calculation, but I fail to perceive the pertinence to costing me my game."
"Indeed, then." The bearded man leaned back in his chair, smiling like a cat would over a mouse if a mouse could smile.
His adversary scrutinized the chessboard as he continued, "Maybe it's less obvious. A nervous tic. A flutter of anxiety."
"I imagine everyone has a reason to be nervous tonight."
"Sweaty palms. Excessive batting of the eyelashes."
"The marks of the inexperienced coquette."
"Or of a man who knows he will lose."
"Do not worry, all you need is practice. In a few years you will be able to compete with a trained monkey, I should think."
"You are speaking to yourself aloud."
"A monkey you may be, but trained, hardly."
The black-haired man stroked his chin. "So perhaps it's the opposite."
"You're an untrained monkey?"
"The opposite of anxiety. In fact, a failure to behave naturally. An actor so consumed with his performance that the one characteristic he cannot accomodate . . . is spontaneous reaction."
"I note that most actors fail to accomodate intelligence when they are pretending to display brilliance."
Above the roar of the falls they heard a crash, followed by a gunshot and cries seeping through the ballroom doors.
"Then your actor, it would seem, failed there as well." The black-haired man frowned. "That doesn't bode well, does it?"
"Seems your bishop was of some benefit . . . after all."
"The game is still young."
"Actually, it's in its adolescence."
"Do not change the subject to an inexplicably anthropomorphic pony's incongruously animalian pet cat. You merely present yourself as ignorant."
"I don't believe Opal Essence has yet been concocted as a character."
"Then perhaps I will concoct her myself and launch a toyline to accompany her. With it, perhaps, I can corner the market on toys."
"You see? Avarice is withis us all. Hidden within the unconscious we all desire global takeover, even if merely . . . economic."
"My toys will be better than yours."
"Mine will be bigger."
"Mine will be cuter."
"Mine will blow yours up."
The black-haired man blew a raspberry. "What girl wants to play with explosive devices?"
A woman's cries rent the air. The bearded man remarked, "I think you've just lost your most valuable piece."
"So you think I did."
"I know you did."
"I know you think you know I did."
"I know you know you think I think I know you did."
If you couldn't follow that, don't feel bad; I could, but that's only because I'm a genius.
"Don't think I could not follow that and retaliate." Said the black-haired man, fellow genius. "But that would protract this game needlessly. Suffice to say that a winning strategy sometimes necessitates sacrifice. A war has been averted."
A grunt. "Oh, I disagree."
The bearded man smiled and cocked an eyebrow. "Didn't you find it strange that the telegram you sent didn't inspire any action to stop me? You see, it is as I said: Hidden within the unconscious is an insatiable desire for conflict. So you're not fighting me so much as you are the human condition. All I want to do is own the bullets and the bandages. War on an industrial scale is inevitable." He suddenly looked the man across the table up and down with curiosity. "We are not so different, you and I. We are both intelligent. If we combine our commercial ambitions we can corner the market on both weapons and toys, and develop, perhaps, a fusion thereof for the young boys."
"An intriguing proposal."
"Together, we could rule the world as father and son. Well, that depends. How old are you?"
"Pudding and tame. Ask me again and I'll tell you the same."
"Then I am tame-and-pudding years your elder. We could rule the world as metaphorical father and son, mentor and pupil. With my deviousness, my brilliance, my charm, my good looks, my brilliance----""
"You said that already."
"I am doubly brilliant. Where was I? And also with my vast resources and fortune, coupled with your--your--ah . . ." He broke off thoughtfully. "Then again, you have nothing to supplement. Consider the offer void." He seized the chessboard and, balancing the pieces carefully, carried it to the railing. He then threw it over the falls. "There. I win."
As he walked away, the black-haired man said casually, "Bishop takes knight. Check."
"The game is over. The board is gone. You should get that shoulder looked at."
So was the response, "About that fortune of yours." The bearded man halted wearily. "I believe it's just been substantially reduced."
Without turning, he said, "King to rook two."
And so the black-haired man began his spiel. "I attended several of your lectures. Frightfully dull and minimally instructive. But it was in Oslo that I learned at last something of interest, when I first caght a glimpse of your little notebook, red leather-bound from Smythson of Bond street. Rook to king's rook three." He looked up and said pointedly, "Check."
His opponent stroked the compact form in his breast pocket. He half-turned and smiled. "Bishop to rook three."
"Its importance was not fully apparent to me until I observed your penchant for feeding pigeons. Like Nero feeding his lions. Only lions are feline, and birds are avian. And Nero was Roman and far less conceited. And his empire was far . . . smaller. It occurred that even you must keep a record of it somewhere." He rose. "Bishop takes bishop."
The breaded man strode closer with that same sardonic smile. "Rook to bishop four."
"I then only required the notebook itself. You didn't make it easy. I would need to endure a considerable amount of pain. But the notebook would undoubtedly be encoded, so how to break the code? Rook takes rook."
"Pawn takes rook."
"Bishop to bishop seven."
"Excellent move. For a trained monkey."
"It takes one to know one."
"Queen takes knight pawn."
"what next--wait, I'll save that dramatically. Does The Art of Domestic Horticulture mean anything to you?"
"The is a definite article, and then art is a noun meaning----"
"Stay your dictionary."
"No, it is a skill or ability."
"I was not defining art."
"You do not need to define your satire."
"Do I not?"
"Indeed, then. I wondered; how could a man as meticulous as you own a book such as The Art of Domestic Horticulture yet completely neglect the flowers in his own window box? Irony abounds."
"It has throughout."
The bearded man reached slowly into his pocket and withdrew the red leather-bound notebook from Smythson of Bond street.
"Never mind, it's safe." The other man tapped his forehead. "In here"--he fingered the other man's skull--"and in there."
The gloved hands of the bearded man flipped through the red leather-bound pages of the notebook from Smythson of Bond street, revealing a doodled cartoon depicting a man running amok with a can of gasoline and the constant "ha ha ha"s of his deranged laughter.
"The most formidable criminal mind in Europe has just had all his money stolen by a most misfortunate fire . . . along with half of London. And one of my eyebrows." He rubbed the hairless skin ruefully. "Bishop to bishop eight. Discover check." He placed a pipe between his teeth. "And, incidentally, mate." He reached into a pocket and withdrew a lighter. "I seem to have injured my shoulder. Would you mind?"
They stood now face to face. The bearded man grinned and said, "Be my pleasure." He removed the cap and went on, "Once we have concluded our business here, it's important you know I shall endeavor to find the most creative of endings for the doctor. And his wife."
"And let us both endeavor to find the most creative of endings to this story. And this life."
The two men stared into one another's eyes. The calculations running through their minds were swift and decisive. They both arrived at the same inevitable conclusion.
"Let us not," the bearded man observed aloud with a grin, "waste any more of one another's time. We both know how this ends."
"Indeed. Ponies will trump guns on the market beyond a doubt."
"Very true." A sigh. "I will just have to do something about that, then."
The black-haired man raised an eyebrow at something beyond the other man's shoulder. "That is the second biggest jellyfish I have ever seen."
The bearded man threw a glance behind him. At the same moment the black-haired man threw the pipe over his own shoulder and grasped his opponent in a firm hold. He braced a foot against the chess table.
"Though I die today, my little ponies will live on forever!"
He gave a mighty push with his leg. In a tangle of legs and arms the two men tumbled over the parapet. As they fell downward beside the waterfall, the bungee cord that had been secretly attached to the black-haired man's leg the whole time pulled taut. And it snapped.
And so the two men descended together into the waiting embrace of the dreadful caldron of swirling water and seething foam, in the depths of which will lie for all time the bodies of the most dangerous criminal and the foremost champion of ponies everywhere of their generations. It is due to recent injudicious claims of a certain toy company that I make a clear statement of the facts as I have painstakingly gathered them that surround this, the final confrontation between a man of evil, and he whom I shall ever regard as the one and only true inventor of the best toy line of the modern industry.
- IRIS OUT -
If you laughed, tell me why. If you didn't, tell me why. If you thought this was phenomenal or that it was abject, tell me why. Compliments or constructive criticisms are both equally welcome here.
From the desk of Nuile: Lunatic Wordsmith
Edited by Nuile: The Daft Wordbender, Jun 24 2012 - 08:49 PM.