Vol. 2, Issue 20, May 18, 2004
Play By the Book, For Heaven's Sake
To begin with, Mordecai Grunion is an irascible old Bat whose black Frock-coat, foppishly long Side-whiskers, and scowling Countenance are unfortunate fixtures at the Club which I frequent. His Fortune made in Publishing (among other Enterprises, one imagines), he has long been a major Benefactor of the Club, and demands special Privileges accordingly. Though he made a great Show last year of purchasing a Replacement for the largest Moose-Head - which had Succumbed to an unfortunate encounter with a careless Servant and a Candelabra - he now insists on being the Only one to sit Beneath it, enjoying the dignified shade of its Antlers and Sneering at others over a folded News-paper. He is, in Short, a Biblical test of my patience at times.
So when he acquired for the Club a genuine Manchester Log-end dartboard, of the old-fashioned Wooden sort that must be soaked in Water when not in use, my Excitement was Tempered by the conditions I knew the petty Tyrant would doubtless impose upon its Use.
"Now, Watley," he admonished me as I stepped to the Line with my trusty set of steel-tipped Flying Dutchman darts. "Put those away, my good man. We are all gentlemen here - must seek a level Playing field, you know." Indeed, Hodges, Fitzpatrick, and I were constrained to make Do with the House darts - fine old Hammerheads, a bit Rusty around the edges. But I dearly missed the feather-light Balance of my Dutchmans.
But what ho! - Grunion stepped up with his own custom-made Boston Arrows, and bested us All in the first Round.
"Now, gents," he smirked as he collected his Winnings; "I did pay for the Board after all. A little Consideration if you please."
The indignities did not end There. For as the evening grew Longer, and the rest of us stepped up our Game with ever-fiercer Throws, Grunion requested still More exceptions: an extra step closer to the Board, because he had "forgotten his Spectacles" (they were peeking out of his Waistcoat Pocket, I might add). An extra Throw when Hodges sneezed. An extra Dart in his set, which "must be Used, after all!"
Yet when Fitzpatrick slipped and sent a dart into the Book-case, old Grunion cried Foul and refused to allow a gentlemanly Do-Over. When the Tip of my Shoe inadvertently crossed the Line, he stood before me Waving the Rule-book and constrained me to Lose a Turn. The rules, it seems, are for Everyone Else, but not Him. Outrageous!
It was thus with Immense satisfaction that we saw the evening Conclude with a bit of Poetic Justice, as Grunion's gesticulations against one or Another of us eventually caused that Moose-head to fall from its perch on the Wall and land on his Head: he staggered about, Overbalanced by the enormous uncomfortable chapeau he had inadvertently acquired, until we managed to come to his Assistance - in no great hurry, might I add.
Wealth and Privilege do not confer immunity to the Rules: eventually even the Mightiest scofflaw must falter under the withering Disapprobation of the Community. I consider myself Fortunate to live in a Society which Affirms such values; for surely there is No-one so conscious of the importance of Lawful Action as we Americans. Surely, surely we would not Ignore the rules for our own Convenience, we would not Rationalize untenable behavior, we would not Permit disgraceful acts performed in the Name of our Society; would we?