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The Way We Roll: (The Return of Bert and Ernie): (A Short Story)

Updated on December 14, 2016
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The first step is to know what you do not know. The second step is to ask the right questions. I reserve the right to lean on my ignorance.

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Bert and Ernie were in a tent, up on one of the hills surrounding the house where Giovanni Gaspari maintained a separate, additional, and shall we say, contingent residence in a gated community, where he liked to do his extramarital entertaining.

Our boys were squatted around a battery-powered heater, sipping steaming coffee, while occasionally glancing at the Love Shack through night vision-adapted binoculars. The lucky contestant would be home shortly. In the meantime Bert and Ernie were reviewing a file on Gaspari.

Ernie said, "He doesn't look like a terrorist."

"What's a terrorist supposed to look like," said Bert.

"He doesn't look like an A-rab..." merely pronouncing it that way to annoy Bert, "... or anything," said Ernie.

Bert did not take the bait this time. "His father was Italian."

"Sicilian, I believe," said Ernie, "to be precise."

"Sicily is in the country of Italy," said Bert, "or at least it was last time I checked."

"Really? When was that?" said Ernie. "Cause I heard they moved it to New Jersey."

"Oh?" said Bert, waiting for the punch line.

"That's what I think every time I turn on Jersey Shore."

Bert was also familiar with the reality television series. And yet he continued to wait for Ernie's punch line. As soon as it became clear that he would wait in vain, Bert said, "Anyway, we're not at war with the Arabs."

"That cowboy in the White House certainly implied as much," Ernie said.

"What cowboy?" Bert said.

"The president," Ernie said.

"Would you care to supply a name?" Bert said.

"You know... the asshole from Texas."

"Yes," said Bert, "that is the name of the state he came from. How about the name of the man. I'll take either a first or last name."

"Some jerk-off."

"You are aware that we've had a president since 'Some Jerk-off'"?

"What do you want from me?"

Bert shook his head. "Really, Ernest, you must take an interest in the democracy in which you live."

"Don't call me 'Ernest.'"

Giovanni Gaspari was a businessman who owned a string of varied commercial concerns, which he bought, sold, and traded around like baseball cards with his similarly outfitted friends and associates.

"One of the charitable foundations he controls has been laundering millions of dollars for Aladdin, right?" Ernie said. Al Quaeda.

With concentrated effort, Bert kept his expression straight. Stoic. Hard-eyed. Stiff-upper-lipped. Serious. Professional. When the tremors passed he said, "Let's go and say 'hello'."

"Time to make the donuts," Ernie said, as they made their way out of the tent, down the hill, toward the Love Shack.

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Bert and Ernie let themselves in. The house had been locked with an alarm system on it, which had also been activated. But the love shack had not been secured in any substantial way against men of Bert and Ernie's qualifications.

They turned on the lights and looked around. They found good positions to take up as they lay in wait for Gaspari. They turned off the lights and took up those positions.

Gaspari arrived and parked his car in the garage. As he made his way to the front door he unlocked it, turned on the lights, the stereo, tuning it to something easy listening, and turned on the television, finding the Antiques Road Show, with his smartphone.

He stepped inside, shut the door, and threw off his tie and jacket. He unbuttoned the top button of his shirt, yawned, stretched, and scratched his balls. He went over to the bar and poured himself a Scotch and water. Then he plopped himself down on the couch in front of the PBS program.

Bert and Ernie would have to do this quickly. Gaspari was expecting company.

Ernie approached him, facing him. "Buenas Noches, Giovanni." Spanish. Ernie didn't speak Italian but he knew that the two languages were very similar. Anyway, you get the idea.

Gaspari reacted with alarm, which he tried to compensate for by overdoing the machismo. He, of course, demanded to know, in rapid-fire succession, who Ernie was and what he was doing there; and he also demanded that he get the hell out of there before he, Gaspari, broke him, Ernie, in half like a wishbone, or something to that effect. It was not clear in what order Ernie was supposed to execute those commands.

Was Ernie supposed to supply the information and then leave? Or was he supposed to leave and then call Gaspari back with the information as to his identity and mission?

Having gotten himself into a lather, Gaspari rose to physically challenge Ernie, who had pulled out a gun.

"I like you better sitting, if you don't mind," said Ernie.

Gaspari sat back down full of attitude meant to indicate that if Ernie hadn't had the gun...

"Tell me," Ernie said. "Were you planning to shower first or does she like you dirty? A dirty boy for a dirty girl."

Gaspari suggested Ernie do something naughty to himself.

Bert made his move at this point, coming up behind Gaspari, putting a choke hold on him, squeezing. Ernie forced a mound of surgical gauze into his mouth to stifle the screams, and then stepped back.

As Bert worked, breathing hard, he said to Ernie, "You know, you could help."

"Its your world, playa," Ernie said.

"Its like strangling a walrus," Bert said between grunts, "a fat, oily walrus."

"You're a big, strong man," Ernie said. "I have complete confidence in you."

"Ernie!"

"Okay, okay, you big cry baby," Ernie said. "I'm helping. This is me helping."

Ernie went over to Gaspari and kneeled on his lap while taking both of his hands and holding them on either side of him on the couch.

"Sorry we just can't shoot you and make this quick," Ernie said, "but the noise would wake the neighbors, and it is a school night."

Gaspari's struggling ceased. The light left his eyes. He was dead.

They took the body in the backyard for burial, digging the hole with the shovels they had brought along for the purpose. But what about the young lady, the pro, coming to see Gaspari? Should they just leave?

"Why not have some fun?" Ernie said.

"Why not indeed," Bert said.

Ernie put a restraining hand on his partner's shoulder. "My turn, old pal. Remember, you got the girl last time."

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The bell rang and Ernie opened it to an exquisite young woman, Gaspari's appointment.

"How do you do, my dear," Ernie said. "My name's Ernest Reynolds, real estate. But only my mother calls me 'Ernest.' Everybody else calls me 'Ernie.' I prefer it."

"Hi," she said and tilting her head to the right, accessing the imaginative part of the brain, she decided, "I'm Stephanie Jorgensen."

They shook hands.

"Please, come in."

"Thanks."

Ernie guided her along with a light touch at her elbow. "Care for a drink? What can I fix you?"

"Sure.... Um, whatever you're having."

"Scotch and water, then?"

"Great but hold the water please."

"Coming up. Just make yourself comfortable anywhere."

Since the T.V. was on, "Stephanie" found a seat somewhere in view of the Antiques Road Show.

Ernie brought over her drink. "They're doing an Antiques Road Show marathon on PBS. I like that program; its the only 'reality' television I can stand."

Stephanie smiled with her eyes and made a murmur meant to convey receipt and acknowledgement of his comment, and understanding.

"You know, I fantasize about being on the program," Ernie said, taking a seat. "Yeah, I think it would really be swell to find something at a garage sale for five dollars or in my grandma's attic or something like that. Take it to the Road Show. Be seen on camera talking with an expert appraiser. Telling me that I have a real treasure on my hands. Something he would have insured for twenty-five thousand or sell at auction for fifty-thousand. That would just be tops!"

Stephanie sipped her drink and murmured affirmatively.

"Sure, I wouldn't even mind the expert telling me that I had a piece of junk on my hands."

"No?" She took another sip of her drink. Making sure he took note of her mouth, she licked her lips---in such a way as to remind the gentleman why they were both here.

"As far as I'm concerned, it would even be cool to be one of those people they show on the sidelines, when they run the closing credits. They hold up something and talk about where they picked it up from, hoping it was really valuable, but the expert said it really wasn't anything. They didn't even make the cut to appear on the main portion of the program."

"An easy man to please," she said, taking another sip.

"Sure," Ernie said. "The whole point---the real point---of the thing is to have someone to share the experience with."

"Yes it is." Stephanie put down her drink and reached behind her back to tie her hair up into a pony tail, making something of a production about heaving her bosom. If there was any question about Ernie's losing track of why they were having this little... conference, a discrete check between his legs was sufficient to put any doubt to rest, despite the loose-fitting slack he wore and kept tugging away from IT in the interest of discretion.

Ernie gulped down the remainder of his drink. "How's your drink, Stephanie. Can I freshen it for you?"

"Please."

Ernie attended to that and fixed another for himself. Upon bringing the drinks back he said, "Look, Stephanie, I'm famished. I haven't had dinner yet. Have you?"

She shook her head. "No."

"How 'bout we order a pizza?"

Stephanie raised her glass. "Pepperoni pizza and Scotch. Two of my favorites."

Ernie ordered a large pepperoni pizza. While they waited for it, he said: "You know, Stephanie, I've never done anything like this before."

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Never done anything like what? Order a pizza? Order a pizza with a woman in your house? Hire a prostitute? Go out on a blind date? A blind date set up for you by a friend or family member? Go on a blind date set up online? What's the scenario?

"Listen," Stephanie said, "mind if I smoke in here?"

Ernie shrugged his assent. "Those things will kill you."

Stephanie took out a pack from her pocketbook, put one in a holder and lit it. Exhaling, she said, "Not me. I have faith in the miracle of modern medical science."

Ernie was quiet for a moment, looking at Stephanie.

She said, "So is 'Reynolds' your middle name? I don't have one myself---a middle name, that is. I kind of feel naked without one." Hand to chest. Remember why we're here, buddy!

"Nah, my middle name's 'Oscar,' after my grandfather on my mother's side."

"The way you introduced yourself, I thought 'Reynolds' was your middle name."

"No..."

"You said your name was 'Ernest (call me 'Ernie') Reynolds Real Estate.'"

Ernie chuckled. "Real estate is what I do. I'm a broker. That other thing, I guess, is a habit I picked up from my old man. He'd always go around introducing himself: 'Glad to know you. Tom Reynolds, advertising.' And he'd always hand out a business card."

Ernie explained that his father, who had come of age in the 1950s, had been one of those individuals who were personally, directly, and powerfully under the spell of the Protestant Work Ethic. He had believed that a man wasn't really a man without gainful employment.

"Sometimes I think his lousy job was his whole soul," Ernie said. "Its how he knew he was alive. Not his wife. Not his children. Not me. His job and his ability to pass out 'business cards' like a big shot!"

Oh-Oh! Can of worms.

The pizza arrived and they ate it and drank more Scotch.

"So," Ernie said, "Tell me about yourself, Stephanie."

Finally grasping the situation, and in the spirit of being willing to try anything once, Stephanie indeed made up a story about being originally from Nebraska. The yarn she spun followed such wholesome lines as would be indicated from a Midwestern upbringing. She grew up on a horse ranch; had been something of a champion horse jumper; had been a high school cheerleader. Ladling on a little, her boyfriend throughout high school had been the quarterback, captain of the football team.

She spoke of her lifelong love, love, love of animals, which led her to study veterinary science in college. She is a veterinarian today. She had 'almost' gotten married once, but alas, she and her beau had grown apart because they had discovered that, in the final analysis, they just "wanted different things from life." However, they remained "good friends" and "kept in touch."

Ernie leaned forward and put a hand on her thigh. "You know, Stephanie, I am really glad we did this."

They were finally headed to the bedroom. Hallelujah!

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They were enjoying the afterglow now. Lying in bed together. Stephanie's head on Ernie's chest.

She said, "You know, I came here all set to roll you."

"Roll me?"

"Yeah," she said.

"Why?"

"Its what I do." She looked him in the eye with deadly seriousness. "What I really do."

"Why did you spare me?"

"You know I'm not from Nebraska."

"No?"

"You know I'm not a veterinarian."

"I guess so."

"My name's not Stephanie."

"Well that makes two of us."

"Two of us, what?"

"I am not from Nebraska; not a veterinarian; and neither is my name Stephanie." He smiled.

She laughed, for the first time in too long, it seemed. She poked him in the ribs. "You're crazy."

"You want to stay the night?"

"Why, you gonna 'take me away from all this'?" she said.

"Maybe."

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A half hour later,---after having wrapped the body up in two sheets, from head-to-foot, like a mummy---Bert and Ernie took it out to the backyard, where Bert had dug the hole deep enough for two.

They laid her in the grave, right on top of Gaspari, and covered the hole with the previously scooped out dirt. When they had finished, Ernie had stood there for a moment, looking down at the grave in contemplation.

Goodbye, my dear Stephanie. I took you away from all this, didn't I?

Bert put a hand on his shoulder. "Come on, let's go."

Ernie let himself be torn away. They got Gaspari's car and drove away.

What? You thought they'd let her live? Impossible!

The End.

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