The general facts you are about to hear are true, but I have changed the names and a few of the details to protect the innocent—or the guilty, whatever the case may be.
I clearly remember the Monday when David Appleby came to us at lunch and asked if any of us wanted to buy one very slightly used copy of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. He said we could have it for a good price.
David Appleby was a member of the gang we hung around with at Indiana University, so we knew he had only purchased the large volume the Friday before, and we knew it was unlikely he had used it much.
But wait, I’m getting ahead of my story. Let me begin at the beginning—with David Appleby.
I bet some of you have known guys like David Appleby. He was one of those fellows who fell madly in love with girls about five times a day. If David met a young woman, odds were better than ninety-seven percent he would fall in love with her. We estimated that of the fifteen thousand young women at Indiana University back then, David had been madly in love with more than eleven thousand. And our guess was he had not met the other four thousand.
Although he was part of our group at the university, it would be misleading to suggest David Appleby was actually involved in academic work there. Oh, each semester he registered for three or four classes—tuition paid by his rich parents. And he attended each class a couple of times, but while in class, he daydreamed about the latest girl he loved. Soon he realized he was hopelessly behind in the course work, so he dropped the classes with plans to retake them the following semester. And he spent the next several months falling in and out of love with this girl and that girl.
For the most part, the girls didn’t seem to mind David’s fickleness, because few of them ever returned his affection. On a good day, David was generally presentable, but on a bad day, his face resembled that of a sickly bass gasping for something with which to fill its lungs. More importantly, women usually expect men to have, in addition to broad shoulders and a chin that sticks out to here, substantial amounts of soul and intellect. Of course those expectations are unrealistic and have led to the end of many romances and have been the cause of friction between men and woman since that time many years ago when Eve turned to Adam and told him that when he had finished cleaning out the garage, raking the yard, and dusting his den, he should skip the football game on TV and read a bit of poetry instead.
As for David Appleby, his soul was only as thick as construction paper. His intellect was half that thick.
Anyway, David came to us one Friday evening and said he had met the perfect woman. He said that had heaven dropped down a form for him to fill out so he could order the ideal woman, and had he filled it out and returned it, heaven would have sent him Cecilla Washingham-Thistlebottom. And smiling from ear to ear, he said, “That’s just what heaven has done.”
“What’s that?” we asked.
“Sent me Cecilla Washingham-Thistlebottom,” he chirped.
“Who’s that?” we asked.
“The girl that I love,” he sang.
We were finally able to extract the facts. Frotham Washingham-Thistlebottom, Cecilla’s father, was a professor of English literature at Cambridge University. If like David Appleby you don’t know where Cambridge University is located, let me set you straight on the fact that it is located somewhere in England. Old man Frotham had been invited to be a guest lecturer at Indiana University for a month, and he had brought his daughter, Cecilla, with him.
Our story began on a Friday afternoon with David in the Student Union Building, where he saw at some distance a young female sitting at a table drinking a soda. Of course, David fell madly in love with her. But before he could get across the room to pledge his eternal love to her, some chap sat down at her table. David felt the chap’s presence might make his declaration of love somewhat awkward. He was probably right on that score. Anyway, David checked his watch for the time, because he assumed the young woman might return at the same time on the morrow. If she did, David would be waiting there to notify her of their coming wedding plans.
The time noted, David bolted from the building and across Dunn Meadow. He admits he was still thinking about the woman left behind and was not paying close attention to the scenery and obstacles in front of him.
It so happens that one of those obstacles was Cecilla Washingham-Thistlebottom. She was sitting in the meadow reading when David toppled head over heals over her—literally and figuratively. When David had disentangled himself from her and discovered what a work of heaven he had tripped upon, his eyes popped out on their stems and his lower jaw scraped on the ground. After shoving his eyes back into their sockets and lifting his jaw off the grasses of Dunn Meadow—and David admitted those tasks were not easily accomplished–, he introduced himself. Cecilla, who has the heart of an angel, forgave David’s clumsiness. David felt an explanation was in order, but although no intellectual giant, he realized that telling the truth that he had been preoccupied with thoughts of another woman was not a good idea if he was to win the heart of this heaven-sent female. And it was David’s intention to win her heart.
“I was lost in thought about,” David began. But then he realized the sentence needed an end, so the issue being hotly discussed in his pea-sized brain was, “what end should he put on the sentence?”
Just then his eyes fell upon the book Cecilla had been reading. It was The Sonnets of William Shakespeare. Although David wasn’t sure what a sonnet was and wasn’t familiar with this Shakespeare fellow, he had heard others talk about him. If he wrote books, David reasoned, he must be an author or something. So having found what he thought was the perfect end to the previously started sentence, David said, “I was lost in thought about William Shakespeare’s latest gripping tale.”
Cecilla must have thought this was American slang, because she reacting positively to David’s remark, saying, “You mean you like Shakespeare?”
“Of course. Who doesn’t?” David said.
“Well, many young men don’t seem to appreciate him.”
“They’re sods,” David said with emotion.
Cecilla must have thought she had found a twin soul, but she needed to make sure. “Which of Shakespeare’s works do you like best?”
“Like best?” David said. “I like them all. To suggest some are best, is to suggest some are not best, which is a horrid thing to say about someone like Shakespeare.”
“Oh, how wonderful you are, and how deep you are,” Cecilla said.
Well, me and the guys think she must have suffered a concussion when David toppled over her, and we’re certain she couldn’t clearly see David’s face—perhaps the concussion had affected her vision or a cloud had darkened the sky.
Whatever the case, Cecilla was enough taken in that she invited David to dinner with her father the next night. David readily accepted. Then Cecilla told David she had to leave, because she had an appointment in ten minutes. David wished her well with her appointment and said he would see her Saturday night.
When they had parted, David rushed to the Indiana University Book Store, where he purchased The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. He had expected to breeze through Shakespeare’s works before his dinner with Cecilla and papa Washingham-Thistlebottom on Saturday evening. When he bought the book, David didn’t know whether Shakespeare penned who-done-its, romance novels, science fiction, or that more mysterious group of books in which people said deep but mostly incomprehensible things, but for the love of Cecilla, David was willing to burn the midnight oil.
When, after dinner on Friday night, David opened the cover to his newly purchased volume, he was shocked. He hadn’t realized this Shakespeare fellow wrote in a foreign language. Oh, David recognized some of the words, he said, but they seemed all jumbled up.
Now, I have made light of David’s intellect, but I don’t suggest he has none. On Saturday morning, David was up at eleven o’clock, and after stuffing a substantial breakfast down the old gullet, he was off again to the book store, where he purchased the Cliff Notes on Hamlet. And after several hours of intense study, he had grasped the gist of the story. Fortunately, the notes provided a few of the more well-known quotes from Hamlet of the “To be or not to be” nature.
Because David’s car was in the shop, Cecilla picked up David at his apartment and drove him to her father’s rented house in one of the nicer parts of Bloomington. Naturally, the primary topic of the dinner discussion was that hound Shakespeare. David said he let Cecilla and papa Frotham do most of the talking, and when asked his opinion, David couched his answers in terms of Hamlet. It might not have gone so well had not papa Frotham said they had to cut the evening short, because he and daughter had to practice a presentation they were to make the next morning for the University Chapel.
David, who was delighted to have the subject changed from Shakespeare, said he understood, and as he was an experienced speaker himself, he would be happy to provide papa Frotham and Cecilla with a pointer or two, if they so desired.
“You are an experienced speaker?” Frotham asked somewhat impressed.
“Oh yes,” David assured them, “I am a very experienced public speaker.” Perhaps telling barroom stories to a large gathering of friends at the local pub on Kirkwood Avenue would not have qualified David as an experienced public speaker in Frotham’s eyes, but it did in David’s eyes.
“Don’t you get nervous?” Frotham asked. “I admit I do.”
“No, I never get nervous,” David told him. “It is all in the preparation. If you are properly prepared, you don’t get nervous.” By properly preparation, David meant a few glasses of the pub’s best as a means to avoid nervousness, but he didn’t so specify. Still, he had the feeling he had hit upon a topic that impressed his future father-in-law, and so David added, “I have given many a talk at church myself.” David failed to mention he had not done so since he was eight years old. But he forged on, “So, if you need any advice, feel free to ask.” David was sure helping his future father-in-law prepare for his Chapel presentation would win him some points.
Perhaps it did. Maybe all this was too much for papa Frotham—a prospective son-in-law who was an expert in Shakespeare, who was an expert public speaker, who had no fear of audiences, and who had often spoken in church. Anyway, he warmed to David.
And then an idea struck papa Frotham. “Why don’t you help Cecilla and me make our presentation at Chapel tomorrow?”
Suddenly David realized danger lurked on the horizon. “I would love to but …” David began but no end to the sentence came to mind. He recalled that when he had first met Cecilla, he had started a sentence that seemed to have no end. At that first encounter, the book Cecilla had been reading inspired an end to the sentence. But in his conference with papa Frotham, no inspired end to the sentence came to him. He stood there with his mouth gaping open, doing his most inspired imitation of a large mouth bass.
If papa Frotham saw or appreciated David’s fish imitation, he didn’t say. His mind was on his fear of public speaking and on his Chapel presentation the next morning.
“I insist you join us,” thundered Frotham Washingham-Thistlebottom. “Your expertise will add much to our presentation.”
Later, David told us he could hardly turn down his future parent’s plea. So now it was David’s turn to try to shorten the evening. “Well, I need to do some preparation … er, do some research. I need to go by the library,” David told Cecilla and papa Frotham.
Cecilla asked if David would mind borrowing her car to drive himself home, because she needed to stay with her father and practice for their Chapel presentation. David said he would be delighted to drive himself. Father and daughter beamed broadly at David, patted him on the back, and said their Agoodnights.”
For once, David was telling the truth. He drove right to the library and on then on past it, for the library was on the way to the Owl’s Perch, one of his favorite pubs, where he planned to do some preparation for his part in the Sunday Chapel presentation.
It so happened that our gang was populating the Owl’s Perch when David arrived. We saw him come in the door and waved at him. David joined our group, and right away, we could see he needed something to buck up his soul—what little soul he had. He didn’t provide us with any details that evening. Instead he got his elbows busy providing his soul the needed bucking up.
Well, you know how Saturday nights on college campuses are. You have a few drinks at a pub called the Owl’s Perch and a few drinks at a pub called the Hungry Eye and a few drinks at a pub called O’Dool’s and a few drinks at a pub called the Shamrock and a few more drinks …. Well, you get the picture. When closing time came, we were all fairly happy and tottled on back to our caves—all except David.
David stood where we had left him outside a pub named Daisy’s Dreamworld, and he was thinking. He was thinking he had forgotten something. It only took about fifteen minutes for him to remember what he had forgotten—Cecilla’s automobile. David remembered that when the evening had begun he had Cecilla’s automobile, but now for the life of him, he couldn’t remember what he had done with it. He was certain it was not in any of his pockets, because he had checked each of his pockets three times. Still, the mystery remained, what had become of it? Could it have run off on its own? Was it playing a game of hide and seek with him? Whatever the answers to those question were, they were unknown to David.
And he asked himself one more question: What should he do about Cecilla’s missing auto? He must find it of course, but how? He didn’t know the answer to that question, but he knew he needed help. David decided that we (his drinking buddies for the evening) would be of no help to him, because although we had been very happy when we had left him, we had not been very clear headed. He was right, of course. In fact, I freely admit that when we left Daisy’s Dreamworld, we had been having trouble finding the sidewalk under our feet.
Inspiration came to David. He pulled his cell phone from a pocket and called the Bloomington Police Department. Telling the police that he had misplaced the car would not likely get them to spring into action, so David told them the car had been stolen. He gave them his name and phone number and a description of the car.
Having solved the problem of Cecilla’s missing auto, David happily strolled down the street singing a popular song. Life was good, he thought. It was a beautiful, warm September night with a crescent moon and about a billion stars winking at him, and his wedding plans with the most lovely woman heaven had ever participated in creating were nearly finalized. Who could ask for more? No one could, was David’s answer.
But after strutting some more and singing another popular song, David stopped short. He remembered that many of his previous romantic plans had come to naught. That didn’t bother him, for none of the previous women he had loved could compare to Cecilla. Next to her, they were like freshman English students, David told himself, compared to this Spakesteer fellow, or whatever his name was.
What did worry David was the possibility of a fly being in the potato soup. A fly in minestrone soup isn’t a problem, because you can’t see it, David reasoned. But you can see a fly in potato soup, David realized, and what he wanted to know was, could there be a fly in the potato soup of his wedding plans with Cecilla.
And he saw the possible fly in the soup. Bloomington’s finest in blue might not find Cecilla’s car. He knew Cecilla loved him devotedly, but her missing auto could become a sore point between them. He worried that through the years of their otherwise happy marriage, the issue of him misplacing Cecilla’s car might chafe. The subject might crop up at anniversary dinners year after year, lending a coolness to otherwise romantic festivities. Perhaps from time to time their children would look up at him as ask, “Father, how did you misplace mother’s automobile those many years ago?” Maybe even grandchildren would ask the question.
No, David decided, he could not let the car go unfound. It must be located at all cost. But how? He had no idea where he had mislaid it. Then another idea came to David.
Women were always saying they didn’t mind faults in their men, as long as their men were honest. So David decided to be honest at three o’clock in the morning. He decided to call Cecilla and tell her he had misplaced her car and ask her to come help him find it. She wouldn’t be happy, of course, but she would be pleased with his honesty. More importantly, she would help him find the auto, which would prevent all those marital and parental problems of the future that he so worried about.
No one likes to get a phone call at three o’clock in the morning, particularly not folks who must get up early in the morning to make a presentation at Chapel. Still, Cecilla’s voice expressed concern when she heard David on the other end of the line.
“David, is there anything wrong?”
“Well, yes there is, Darling,” he said. David had never called her Darling before, but this was the first time he had spoken to her after having the “proper preparation.” “It’s your car ….”
“My car? David, have you had an accident? Are you hurt?” Her concern for his well-being gave him hope that all was well.
“I’m fine. No, I haven’t had an accident, but your car ….”
“Has it broken down? Oh you poor darling. I’ll be right there. Where are you?”
“I am at ….” This was the third time in thirty-six hours that, while talking with Cecilla, David had begun a sentence and didn’t know how to finish it. You can’t blame David for not wanting to answer the question. It wasn’t going to be easy at three o’clock in the morning to tell the woman he loved he had misplaced her car, particularly when she had to make a presentation at Chapel the next morning. It would be more difficult to tell her he was outside a pub called Daisy’s Dreamworld. Women consider themselves understanding creatures, but when a man finds himself in the kind of position David found himself in, women aren’t all that understanding. Sometimes, their voices take on a sharply critical tone.
But if Cecilla was going to help David find her car, she had to know where to find him. “Well, I am … in front of the library,” David said, his voice cheering considerably. And he wasn’t lying, for the strolling and strutting he had done after leaving Daisy’s Dreamworld had put him directly across the street from the library. It probably had been there all along, but David hadn’t noticed it before Cecilla had asked where he was. When he did notice it, it was like a gift from heaven. Heaven seemed to be showering him with gifts aplenty of late, David thought.
Cecilla said she and her father would be right there.
David needed to station himself in front of the library, so he danced across the street energetically and enthusiastically sang still another popular song. Later David told us he danced across the street, because the song he was singing lent itself to a lively two-step.
After completing his singing and dancing performance, David sat down on the steps to the front entrance to the library to await his future bride and her father. The thought of what his future father-in-law might say about him misplacing Cecilla’s car made the step on which David was sitting seem a bit harder than it actually was. David readily admits he wished papa Washingham-Thistlebottom wasn’t on the agenda. If there is anyone less understanding about these situations than the girl one loves, it’s the father of the girl one loves.
It wasn’t long before papa Frotham drove up in his car with Cecilla in the passenger’s seat. Both climbed from the vehicle, and their appearance made clear the haste with which they had come to David’s rescue. Both were still in their night clothes. Father and daughter got busy looking around. David joined the looking, but the evenings activities had left David’s intellect less clear than normal, so at that time he wasn’t sure what object they were seeking.
“So, where is it?” papa Frotham asked, getting down to business.
“Where is what?” David answered papa’s question with a question of his own.
“Where is Cecilla’s automobile?” papa Frotham said, clarifying the matter.
Papa Frotham’s question cleared David mind a bit. He now recalled what the missing object was. Still, he wasn’t sure why his future parent was asking him for its location.
“How should I know?” David said. “The fact is, I called you because I don=t know where it is.”
“What do you mean, you don’t know where it is?”
“Well, the nub of the matter is, I seem to have misplaced it.”
“You misplaced it?” Earlier I said that on bad days, David looked like a sickly bass gasping for something for its lungs. Now, papa Frotham did David one better—he looked like a mackerel in the same condition gasping for the same thing. “Young man, where did you leave my daughter’s auto?”
“That’s just the thing,” David said, “I don’t remember.”
About this time, David noticed that Cecilla was shoving her face upward toward his, and he was certain it wasn’t to encourage him to kiss her. Her nose twitched as it worked its sensory powers. When she spoke, David felt uneasy about the tone of her voice. He felt more uneasy about her words.
“David Appleby, have you been drinking?”
“Well, I may have stopped for one single drink or for two or for … but only for nourishment, so I would be prepared for Chapel tomorrow.” Checking his watch, David corrected himself, “That is, for Chapel today.”
“Just where did you have this drink, these drinks?” papa Frotham again joined the program.
“Well, lets see, it was at the Owl’s Perch and the Hungry Eye and O’Dool’s and the Shamrock and Daisy’s Dreamworld and the … darn, how’s a fellow supposed to remember every place he visited during the long evening hours.”
David told me afterwards he realized he may have said a word or two too many.
Even though it was a warm September evening, Papa Frotham’s entire personality turned rather cold. He told Cecilla to get into his auto and they would find her vehicle without David’s assistance.
David felt that to keep diplomatic avenues open, he should say something. He offered, “Shall I see you at Chapel later this morning?”
Papa Frotham’s response was a growl that sounded like “definitely not.” The auto with David’s loved one and his loved one’s father roared off.
David walked home with less vigor in his step than he had demonstrated traveling from Daisy’s Dreamworld to the library. No one observing him would have mistaken his footwork as a lively two-step. Nor was his vocal performance up to his earlier standards. David thinks he might have tried to sing, but most of the sounds he emitted more resembled the noises pigs make when rooting about in their pen for a bit of corn. And although David didn’t mention it, I suspect his face, while still resembling that of a sickly bass gasping for something for its lungs, on that night it might have resembled a tired and sleepy bass gasping for you know what.
Later, David told me that on his way home he remembered that he had called the Bloomington police told them the car had been stolen. Of course he knew he should call them and tell them to forget the entire affair, because with Cecilla and papa Frotham on the case, the matter would soon be resolved. However, the long day and evening had taken its toll on David. He needed to lay down and rest, so he decided to call the police after a good night’s sleep, when his mind would be a bit sharper.
Although David wasn’t present to witness it, the Washingham-Thistlebottoms found Cecilla’s auto within five minutes of departing from David’s company. They found it in the parking lot of the Owl’s Perch. Papa Frotham left his daughter next to said vehicle and whizzed on home, expecting Cecilla to follow.
She began to follow but was detained.
As any Indiana University student can tell you, the Bloomington police are blood hounds of the Sherlock Holmes variety. When on a case, they don’t let up until that case has been solved. And on that night they had a case to solve. A Mr. David Appleby had called and said his auto had been stolen, and the Bloomington police intended to find the culprit who stole.
So it wasn’t long before Bloomington’s blood hounds had solved the case. That is to say, they had arrested the woman who had stolen Mr. Appleby’s car—a criminal going by the name of Cecilla Washingham-Thistlebottom. Alibis would not be allowed, for the police had caught her red-handed, that is, they had found her driving the stolen car.
They easily recognized her as the lunatic, criminal type. Clearly the name she gave was phony. People in Bloomington, Indiana are not named Washingham-Thistlebottom. Further, the woman had no proof of who she was. She claimed the auto was hers but had no proof of that either. She said she had lent the vehicle to Mr. Appleby, but she knew neither his address nor his telephone number. When crack crime solvers like the Bloomington Police ask themselves whether an honest woman would lend her auto to someone who she knew so little about, they answered the question in the negative. And to top it all off, the woman seemed to be one of those lunatics who went everywhere in their nightgown and bath robe.
Still, she was entitled to one telephone call, so they let her make it. She called her father. Having had his sleep the night before speaking at Chapel interrupted for a second time put papa Frotham in a bit of bad humor. That became clear when he showed up at the police station. He swore at the police, threatened them, and generally made a public nuisance of himself.
Bloomington has laws against citizens making public nuisances of themselves, particularly in police stations, and the Bloomington police know what to do with citizens who broke those laws. Criminal Cecilla soon had a cell mate.
Those in attendance at the Sunday University Chapel were deprived of papa Frotham and Cecilla’s presentation. We never learned how the empty time during Chapel was filled. Perhaps the congregation filled the time by singing. They might even have sung one of the songs David had performed on the street between Daisy’s Dreamworld and the library. That is unlikely, of course.
It is possible that after Chapel that Sunday morning there were whispers about the unreliability of the English, who promised a presentation but never appeared. That would have been unfair to Cecilla and papa Frotham, of course, but whispers will whisper.
All was straightened out for the Washingham-Thistlebottoms on Monday morning when the courts opened. The outcome had positive and negative aspects. On the positive side of the ledger, Cecilla got her auto back, and Cecilla and papa Frotham would have more comfortable sleeping arrangements on Monday night than they had on Sunday night. On the negative side of the ledger, Papa Frotham had to pay a fine for his behavior at the police station in the wee hours of Sunday morning, and the Washingham-Thistlebottoms and the Bloomington Police parted on terms that make it unlikely they would be exchanging Christmas cards in future years.
David never saw Cecilla or Frotham Washingham-Thistlebottom again. On the Monday afternoon of their release from jail, they flew back to England.
We have no way of knowing whether Indiana University asked the Washingham-Thistlebottoms to leave because the University viewed with severity people who failed to make scheduled presentations at Sunday Chapel because they were in jail, or whether the Washingham-Thistlebottoms on their own chose to leave because they wanted to return to the more sane atmosphere of Cambridge, England. Regardless, they were gone.
Regardless, with their departure, David realized the wedding was off.
And with the Washingham-Thistlebottoms’ return to England went David Appleby’s need for The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. So as I said earlier, David offered to sell the book to us at a discounted price at lunch on Monday. We all declined.
Sometime later, David told me his investment in the volume was not a complete loss. The following year, David gave the book to the Salvation Army, where he met a young women with whom he immediately fell in love. However, that affair lasted no longer than David’s average romance.
Still, ever the optimist, David floast on.