“So,” said the madman at the table, “Today’s topic appears to be Courage.” He said it with a capital because that is the way it appeared to appear.
The clown and the architect looked at the clock. The architect was thinking about meeting his mistress in an hour. He was irritating on the monstrosity who claimed the architect’s mistress as his wife. The clown wasn’t thinking about it at all, not because she was female but because nothing here seemed worthy of where her mind was going at the moment. She just couldn’t get her head around the idea of talking about “courage,” and she was asking the clock how long this quacking was going to continue.
The barber snapped her scissors. She had ideas, but what’s the use.
There was a long and difficult silence.
“Courage. come on. Courage,” the madman said. “You know. The stuff that makes a man a man. Courage”
“What about woman,” the barber said.
“Yea,” said the architect. He thought his mistress was pretty courageous. His wife was a mouse. But his mistress had balls. “What about some women.” He said ‘some’ in an exclusionary way, so as to put mousy women, such as his wife, on the back burner of the discussion, so to speak. He could have inflected “some” to suggest a fifty-fifty inclusion, but that is not what he did. He said “some” meaning: “don’t include mousy women like the architect’s wife in this.”
“Well,” drawled, the beautiful clown who had just undozed herself because there was something here to bite into from behind the mask. “Well,” she drawled, “Even courage isn’t going to make a woman a man.”
“Fortunately,” said the barber.
“Of course not,” snapped the madman. His madness consisted mainly of a very tenacious tendency to be absolutely literal about everything. He was a rib-out-of-Adam’s-side sort of guy.
“I think,” said the architect somewhat thoughtlessly, “it’s calling a spade a spade, even when the spade thinks its a heart or an olive.”
“Wow,” the madman nodded. Then he frowned. He frowned and considered. Then he said. “But what if he isn’t a spade, but a watermelon. And you call him a spade.”
“I see what you mean,” The architect was irritated with himself for not having considered all the possibilities. The clock seemed to be pretty slow in eating up an hour toward when he could excuse himself by saying he had “some business to attend to.”
“Spade, olive, watermelon. Pffft,” said the clown who was now completely unaware of the ticking of the clock. “What if she isn’t a spade but a woman?”
The madman blinked in her direction as if he had suddenly not seen something that was there.
The barber snapped her scissors and grinned. She thought the clown’s mask was nifty. She wished she had a mask.
The architect said, “Yea but, yea but. It doesn’t matter if he thinks he’s a melon, he’s still a spade if he’s a spade. That’s the point.” He said this with a final, vigorous, triumphant grin.
The clown took off her mask, looked into the eyes of the architect and screamed. “Look at me you philandering ox. LOOOOOK at ME.” Then she put her mask back on.
The architect was wondering if his mistress would be wearing her black negligee or her pink panties or both.
The madman said, “Come on people, focus.”
The barber grinned again. She thought the clown looked terrific without her mask. “I think courage is telling an architect he is not a spade or a watermelon but a philandering ox,” she murmured. She clicked her scissors, and simpered in the direction of the clown.
The madman said, “focus people.”
The architect said, “Well, been fun. Gotta go. Got an exhibit to mount.” With that he waltzed out the door.
The barber snipped her scissors after him.
She said to the clown. “That was brave.”
The clown looked very sad behind her mask. “No,” she said. “It’s only brave if they are paying attention.”
“Come on, people, courage. Courage with a capital C. Courage.” said the madman.
The barber snapped her scissors.
The clown yawned, stood up, tipped over the table and exited the room, arm in arm with the barber.
And of course, when they were gone, the madman sat in the empty room as if nothing had happened. He thought this a very courageous thing to do.