The International Writers Magazine: Comment

Three Men and a Glob of Spit
Peter Leonowitz

"Don’t think you’re talking to an idiot because you’re not talking to an idiot."
"I know you’re not an idiot, sir."
"And if I decide to take this bet it’s under my conditions."
"Yes, under your conditions."
"And I want to see the money up front."
"Way, way up front."

That’s how it started. The bet. The challenge made of pure machismo and immaturity born under one of the most sophisticated sites in the world – the Eiffel Tower.
"Here it is sir…10,000 Euro," Flap said ripping a check. "And I swear it won’t bounce. And if it does, you took all my information."

The fop he was addressing was an American on business in Paris. He was the overbearing fat American that was hated overseas. Cowboy hat and all. "And you know I’m good for my lot," he said while holding Flap’s check to the sun. He had no idea what he was looking for, but it seemed like the proper thing to do.
"Oh yes I do sir…yes I do," Flap replied. "I sure do know that."

The native Frenchman, Flap (a nickname he gave to himself for no apparent reason), ten minutes before on a park bench, had struck up a conversation about Eiffel Tower legends with the American. One story (inspired by a passing jogger that shot a glob of spit that nearly hit Flap’s sneaker) was about the great Chuckie Vanderbilt.
"He claimed, then proved that he could catch a glob of spit released from the mouth of a neutral party from atop the Eiffel Tower."
"Bull…shit," the American said through the last drag of a cigarette.
"Oh I believe it happened. In fact…"

Ten minutes later Flap had cajoled the American into betting that he could do what the legendary Chuckie Vanderbilt had done years before. Supposedly what he did anyway.

So what of those "conditions" that the American laid down with Flap? Simple. A neutral party (picked right off the street) was to birth the glob from the highest platform on the tower. He would have a cell phone and inform the American on the ground after it was away. Second, another neutral party, just as a precaution, would witness the event along with the American. Another set of eyes couldn’t hurt. Oddly enough, this was actually suggested by Flap. His name was Stu, and like the American, was, well American. He was a random passerby that jumped on the opportunity to take part, claiming it would make his "trip to France complete."

A half hour later, a crowd had formed (thanks to Flap’s loudmouthed showmanship) and all the pieces were in place. They had even gotten a paper cup from a nearby hotel. Dixie and all.

"Are we ready?" the American asked Flap and the spitter on the cell phone time.
Flap, stretching his hammies while sucking on a cigarette held up his hand as a stop sign. "Gotta stretch," he preached. "So important." He then began to jog in place causing ash to float down and stick on his velvet sweat suit.
"Are we ready Mr. Atlas?" the American asked impatiently.
Flap didn’t speak, but instead massaged his temples while looking at the barely visible spitter. He pointed a finger at the American in dramatic fashion, attempting to give the impression that he was in a zone where the focus was too thick for words. It backfired, and made him look like an ass.
"Go," the American spoke into the phone.
Stu was almost as giddy as Flap. He bounced from foot to foot while shading his eyes from the sun.

The American had the phone to his ear and waited for word. It came. "Umm…I’m gonna try that again," the spitter said. "The wind blew it back on my shirt. I’ll work up a good one. From the nasal passages. Give it good weight."
The American cringed after realizing for the first time what a ludicrous situation he had gotten himself into.
"Gone!" the spitter shouted into the phone. "And that sucker dropped like a rock!"

Flap and the American stood perfectly still while Stu was yawping and jumping wildly.
Suddenly Flap lunged backwards while throwing his cigarette down. Every part of his wiry body contorted as he exploded into full sprint away from the tower. He stuck his finger in his mouth and held it up to the wind. He juked left in response to his chilled digit.

Stu and the American broke towards him, sometimes looking up, other times looking at Flap. Stu was swift, and kept good pace with Flap. The American yelled after him to "keep an eye on that sonofabitch!"
Flap was swift as he erratically zigged and zagged. All this while leaping over park benches, avoiding spectators, and even at times, avoiding traffic. Stu, to his credit, kept toe to toe.
"I’m watching you!" the American yelled after them, sharing his gaze between the supposed luger rocketing downward and the chasing Flap. "I’ll know if ya cheat me!"
"I’m on him!" Stu yelled back. "No one’s getting cheated today!"

Flap, still mute, was now breathing heavy and his pace was slowing down. For the first time, he took the paper cup out of his pocket and slowed down his stride. Everyone hushed and attempted to follow Flap’s eyes to spot the missile. A few people (actually, most) yelled out, "There it is!" and "Oh, he’s way off!" despite never actually seeing it.
Suddenly everyone noticed the same thing: Flap (and Stu for that matter) was headed right towards a line of bushes. The people started shouting warnings at the unsuspecting Flap while the American wished they would all shut up and let the inevitable happen.

As Flap slowed his stride to a very light backwards jog, he brought up the cup as the distance between him and the hedge got smaller and smaller. Stu noticed this but said nothing.
Flap held the cup high and the crowd hushed. He almost looked majestic just before his legs got taken from beneath him, making him fall backwards into a boxwood shrub. But in mid flight, many people, including most importantly the American and Stu, heard an unmistakable "twap" sound.
All eyes were on Flap as he lay motionless. His feet were sticking straight up which made a few guiltily chortle. Then to everyone’s amazement, Flap raised the cup to the heavens, claiming victory. Stu caught up to him and peered down into the cup. His gaze slowly turned up towards the American who was wheezing from trying to keep up. After seeing Stu’s face, he froze, and then broke into a full sprint towards both men.
"Don’t you move!" he yelled. "Don’t you dare move!"
Stu took the cup as Flap played it cool by quietly climbing to his feet while brushing pieces of boxwood off of himself.
"There’s a glob of spit in this cup," Stu said to the American. His tone was one a doctor would use while breaking bad news.

The American, now finally with the two men, snatched the cup away and looked inside. His face told the story to the onlookers. To be sure, he turned the cup upside down to witness the thick glob of spit that slowly dripped out in one gooey motion. The sound of it hitting the park ground could be heard for miles.

The transaction was made shortly after when the American paid without argument. Stu recounted the entire incident, and even though he appeared to be in disbelief, could think of no reason why Flap should not be paid.
As the crowd thinned, Flap entered a hotel across the street – the one that provided the Dixie cup. He went straight for the stairs and sprinted up to the fourth floor. Coming out of the stairwell, Stu waited for him, grinning widely.
"Rock and roll, partner!"
"Rock and roll indeed!" Flap yelled back while giving him a hug. "10,000 Euro…nice day’s work!"
"You bet Flappy boy…you bet!"
"Next stop?"
"Across town to Tour Montparnasse, I’d say in three weeks or so?"
"I’ll be there."

Flap watched his partner walk down the hall toward the stairs, stuffing his half of the kitty in his front pockets. His grifting partner was a good one. Even after working together for the last seven years, he still had no idea how he managed to become "chosen" to be a third party in whatever scam they were working. Then again, he guessed that Stu had no idea how the spit got in the cup or what the heck that "twap" sound was.

© Peter Leonowitz Sept 21st 2006

Peter Leonowitz lives in Phoenixville, PA with his wife and two children. By day he works as a marketing/advertising writer for a software company; by night he works as an aspiring fiction/screenplay writer.

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