By Tommy Clarkson from the April 2011 Edition
(The following is the seventh installment of a slightly embellished and bit fictionalized account of an almost real event!)
We all have met ‘em. . .
. . . you know the sort, it may be a brother-in-law, next door neighbor or that particularly irritating high school bully who has gone badly to seed. Recently while flying home, trapped at an altitude of 39,000 feet, one such person sat next to me. The following is a continuation of this experience.
As if reading my mind, the stewardess announced that we had arrived at our cruising level and could now
“move around the aircraft.” The thought of a hasty getaway – to the aisle, crew’s galley, storage compartment . . . anywhere – from my verbose, non-stop talking seatmate, Mr. Dexter Lowdsworth Smyth IV made me almost giddy with anticipation. But before I could flee he turned in his seat and with his enormous body effectively blocked my singular – slim – avenue of escape by picking up where he felt he’d left off.
“And speaking of athletes” (I didn’t recall that we had been, immediately therefore, talking about sports, but such did not deter my new amigo!) “Did I tell you of my upcoming Olympic adventures?”
Before I could even muster the nucleus of a grain of a response, in a grave and serious tone, he continued.
“Not long ago,” he began somewhat vaguely, “I received a call from the Oval Office and the ‘Old Man’ begged me to help the U.S. regain a degree of dominance at ‘The Games.’ Since – as you probably know – I had pretty much got him in office through my connections and campaign savvy, I felt like I shouldn’t let him down.”
“So I ask him in which events he felt we were weak.” With a distinct air of self confidence, he went on, “My Chicago chum told me these to be the 100 meter dash, 3,000 meters and hammer throw, as he well knows these all are events at which I’ve been known to excel, shall we say?”
On he went, “Inasmuch as I’ve been somewhat busy of late I really hadn’t been doing any long distance running – beyond my morning constitutional of twenty miles, of course. Nor had I ‘tossed iron’ lately.” As an aside he added, “You know, of course that the Olympic hammer weighs sixteen pounds and is attached to a just under four foot wire. Well as I didn’t care to disturb the turf at the estate I’ve not chucked the old “ball and chain – as we called it during my college days when I smashed the NCAA record.”
With a snort he seemed to finish this thought with, “But that certainly won’t deter the likes of me from doing my patriotic part!”
Then on he went, “However, as to being ‘fleet of foot’, to keep somewhat in shape I regularly dash down the hall between wings of our country home – conveniently, some 123 meters – for the fun of it.”
“My Man, – my valet don’t you know (with a heavy articulation of the “t”) – likes to time my pre-shower, morning scamper and assures me that my time for 100 meters or so of that bit of a dash is always around the high nines. . . . certainly world class time,” he assured me with dramatic affected understatement.
Without warning, he returned to the earlier event saying, “As to tossing the old iron, on a caprice I went over to the university, borrowed their team’s hammer and threw a few practice tosses – to see it I still had the arms, you know. Well, my fourth effort was a little past 275 feet and close enough to the world record that I knew I’d have no difficulty once I recaptured my swing and rhythm.” He then sat back the briefest of moments in what I hoped would be a long break of contemplative silence.
No such luck. In yet another massive understatement he then went on, “Now the 3,000 meters seemed a bit more of a challenge as I’d actually never really done that distance previously. So, let’s see,” he paused momentarily for effect, “When was it? Oh yes, the night before last, I thought I’d just do a jaunt around the yard of our place – all told, it’s a bit in access of 3,000 acres, of course.”
“I must admit Old Man (back briefly came that affected British accent . . . for whatever reason) I was a tad winded upon completion of my little jog but found that I was only eighteen seconds off the world mark. So, I see no reason
I should have difficulty if I train a bit more, don’t you know!”
As if this all was not enough, he then wrapped up with,
“’He’s also asked me to represent the ol’ Stars and
stripes in two other events – the uneven bars and gymnastics floor exercises – as well. But I told him, unless absolutely necessary, that I’m just too busy to really prepare for more than those first three events . . .
but would if he truly needed me to”
In light of the array of (might we say with a bit of understatement) rather excessive claims he’d made over the last twenty minutes this seemed close to topping them all. The very idea of his substantive girths either flipping about on (let alone getting on) the uneven bars or doing mid air, flipping pirouettes was more than my sense of either humor – or simple rationality – could handle. I alternated between chocking gasps and gurgling gags as I strove to suppress almost hysterical gales of guffaws. He looked at me in disapproving puzzlement.
Finally I mustered a croaked, “Sorry, I swallowed wrong.” Then, I looked at my watch to realize that we’d only been airborne still less than a half an hour!
Tommy Clarkson is a bit of a renaissance man. He’s lived and worked in locales as disparate as the 1.2 square mile island of Kwajalein to war-torn Iraq, from aboard he and Patty’s boat berthed out of Sea Bright, NJ to Thailand, Germany, Hawaii and Viet Nam; He’s taught classes and courses on creative writing and mass communications from the elementary grades to graduate level; He’s spoken to a wide array of meetings, conferences and assemblages on topics as varied as Buddhism, strategic marketing and tropical plants; In the latter category he and Patty’s recently book, “The Civilized Jungle” – written for the lay gardener – has been heralded as “the best tropical plant book in the last ten years”; And, according to Trip Advisor, their spectacular tropical creation – Ola Brisa Gardens – is the “Number One Tour destination in Manzanillo”.