Craven Danger Gets Knocked by Wood
Betty ran across the hall to Maxwell Fritter’s talent agency to get some ice for Craven Danger. Max was a man who liked to keep plenty of ice on hand. Not for drinks, though. He liked tossing the cubes to his dog and watch as the dog scurried across the huge office floor chasing the cold, slippery play things.
“Such a dog, no?” said Max. “I should put him in show business myself. Baxter! The Ice Chasing Hound from Hoboken! Such a laugh he would get. He makes me laugh, anyway.”
“He’s so darn cute, Max,” said Betty. “But what I really need is some ice cubes for Craven. He‘s mad hot from this heat. I gotta go cool him off.”
“So, help yourself, my dear,” said Max. “And, if it’s not too much trouble, toss a cube or two to my Baxter. He could use the exercise.”
”Sure,” said Betty. ”Thanks.”
”You‘re welcome,” said Max.
“So how’s show business?” said Betty. “Are ya bookin’ many acts?”
“Not so good," said Max. “My acts at the agency are, how do you say, stinkaroo? Maybe I should go back into show business myself.”
“I never knew you was in show biz, Max” said Betty. “What was ya talent?”
“I was a ventriloquist, young lady,” said Max. “Twenty years on the road. Just me and Grumbles.”
“Grumbles?” said Betty.
“My dummy,” said Mr. Fritter. “We were called Max and Grumbles. He was my silent partner. He only talked when I wanted him to. The best kind of partner to have.”
“I wish I had one a those,” said Betty. “I got the dummy, but he don’t always shut up when I tell him to.”
“Ha,” said Max. “You’re a funny girl, Betty.”
“Can I see him?” said Betty.
“Him?” said Max.
“Grumbles,” said Betty. “Show me your act, Mr. Fritter. I could use a good laugh.”
“I don’t know, dear,” said Max.
“Ah, c’mon,” said Betty. “Ya know ya want to. It’s just that no one’s been askin’ ya. Well, I’m askin’. Show me your stuff, Max.”
Maxwell Fritter walked over to the steamer trunk next to the piano, opened it and retrieved his old partner. He sat himself on the piano bench, put the dummy on his lap and made the introductions.
“Betty?” said Max. “This is Grumbles. My good friend of many years. Grumbles? Say hello to Betty.”
Grumbles appeared to be about sixty years of age, with a face that displayed a sour demeanor. He had a shock of white hair and over-sized ears. Had he the ability to stand on his own, he would have stood thirty inches tall. Not very intimidating. Until he opened his mouth.
“Va-va-va-vooom!” said Grumbles. “Look at the gams on the babe!”
Grumbles put one hand over his heart and pretended to go into cardiac arrest.
”Grumbles!” said Mr. Fritter. ”Behave yourself. This is a lady you‘re talking to.”
“Sorry, lady,” said Grumbles. “You’ll have to forgive me. Max has had me in that trunk for so long I forgot my manners. And do you know who Max stuck in that trunk with me?”
”No,” said Betty. ”But I bet I‘m gonna get an ear full.”
”She‘s a pretty sharp tool, Max,” said Grumbles. ”Not like the usual dummies you hang around with.”
”That‘s enough of that,” said Max. ”Tell the lady who else is in the trunk.”
“My wife Eliza,” said Grumbles. “And for the past five years I’ve been sleeping with her foot in my mouth. I keep telling Eliza that putting a foot in my mouth was my job!”
“You’re such a cutie, Grumbles,“ said Betty.
“If I wasn’t sitting here in a pair of pants with no legs in them,” said Grumbles, “I’d run over there and plant one on that sweet kisser of yours.”
“Grumbles!” said Max.
”Ah, he don‘t mean nothin‘ by it, Max,” said Betty.
“Who’s gonna plant one on Betty’s kisser?” said Craven.
“Mr. Danger!” said Max, “come on in and meet Grumbles.”
“Well, I hope Grumbles got some ice for my head,” said Craven. “‘Cause there’s nothin’ up there right now but a bowl of melted Jello. I’m dyin’ over there, Betty!”
“Ah, geez, Mr. Danger,” said Betty, “I forgot all about the ice.”
“Maybe if you stuck your head in the freezer,” said Grumbles. “You could save what's left of that Jello brain of yours. Then we can all go back to having some fun. You’re killing the party, Danger.”
“Grumbles!” said Max. “This is our good friend Craven Danger. He and Betty are the Twin Dangers - Private Investigators from across the hall.”
“Ah, the gumshoe I’ve heard so much about,” said Grumbles, giving Craven the once over. “He looks more like a gum-ball, if you ask me. Hard on the outside. All soft and chewy on the inside. Something that‘s meant to end up on the bottom of someone‘s shoe.”
”Hey, you runt!” said Craven. ”How would you like to take a little trip to the saw mill?”
“I’m so sorry, you two,” said Max. “I don’t know what’s gotten into Grumbles. I think I’ll put him back in the trunk and think over what you said about bringing the act back, Betty.”
“You do that, Max,” said Betty. “In the meantime I’ll take Mr. Melty home and put a bag a ice over his head. And it was nice ta meet ya, Grumbles. See ya soon, I hope.”
“Sooner than you think, sister,” said Grumbles. “Just let me know when Mr. Gumball’s not around. Me and you never had a chance to really get acquainted.”
“Why you little squirt!” said Craven. “Someone get me a wood chipper!”
“let’s go, Mr. Danger,” said Betty. “Ya may as well be talkin’ to a tree.”
Grumbles and Maxwell Fritter waved at Craven and Betty as the two investigators closed the door behind them.
“That Craven’s such a stiff,” said Grumbles.
“Ha,” said Max. “The pot calling the kettle black.”
“Hey!” said Grumbles. “Always remember, you’re the straight man. I’m the one that gets the laughs. Don’t ever forget it.”
“I won’t,” said Max. “Not ever again. Welcome back, Grumbles.”