Wednesday Night at the Rounders Club

by

Albert J. Manachino

Wednesday at the Rounders Club is always the dreariest day of the week. Wednesday evening is reduced to a cigar smoke torpor, enlivened only by the infrequent rustle of a newspaper page being turned. Nothing could be duller except possibly the opera.

At 9:30, Mr. Weddy called for his cab. He no longer was able to endure the mausoleum atmosphere. "By Gad!" he declared, "I'd rather spend the evening with Myra." Myra was his wife … which ought to illustrate how dull it was.

Commander Dabney of the CID settled back in his chair and went to sleep. His lips emitted a slow gentle flutter that promised to continue for hours. Our original purpose was a card tournament and as a consequence we occupied a horse-shoe shaped booth. The base of the "U" was against the wall so that those sitting there, who wished to leave, were forced to disaccommodate at least three people who sat in the spine or the leg of the "U".

It was an extremely irritating as well as inconvenient arrangement and one which I've complained frequently to the management about. The person trapped in the base of the "U" was a newcomer to the club. His name was Galeheart — Dr. Galeheart. Despite the pubnacity of his name, he was one of those inoffensive creatures who were prepared to endure the horrors of entrapment all evening, rather than excusing himself and parading past our resentful glares. But around ten, even he was fidgeting. He ran a well manicured finger around the inside of his collar as if in search of a peach pit which somehow had become lodged there.

He finally exploded. "The Hell with it!"

He undid a crimson school tie and stuffed it carelessly into a lapel pocket, where it dangled conspicuously in a manner reminiscent of a hangman's noose.

In response to the outburst, Commander Dabney came out of his slumber with a snort. Mr. Iceburg sat up straighter in his chair. The ash from Henry's cigar missed the tray he was aiming at. Mr. Weddy, having made his departure, left only two of the Rounders dozing at the table. The three pairs of eyes that were awake swiveled toward Dr. Galeheart.

He took in the sleepers apologetically, cleared his throat, and remarked, as if he had intended to say something profound, "I didn't mean to disturb them. They are dreaming and it is dangerous to disturb a dreamer."

"Dangerous?" Henry repeated with a total lack of comprehension. "Oh, I see. You mean that either one or the other will fall out of his chair."

Galeheart shook his head. "That isn't what I meant at all. But it is difficult to explain. First, you must understand that dreams are subconscious manifestations of waking ideas and stresses. I'm sure you will all agree to that."

It was Iceburg's turn to shake his head. "I don't agree. Dreams are dreams. Something that just happens and over which you've no control."

Henry said, "I don't understand you either."

The commander said, "I think that Dr. Galeheart is beating around the bush." He looked straight at the doctor, who was trapped in the base of the "U". "Are you inferring that we have no existence in reality? That we are figments of some cosmic sleeper's dreams?"

The doctor said, "Yes, that is what I mean. When the sleeper awakens, we shall no longer exist."

The two sleepers continued to snore. One was slumped in his chair on one side of the table. The other sat across from him, his head rested on the table and his nose threatened by a saucer filled with coffee dregs.

Henry remarked, "That is a very extravagant inference." Galeheart stuck to his guns. "Well, what proof do we have that we exist in reality?"

Iceburg replied, "You have the evidence of your senses." He laid a hand on the table. "I can feel this piece of furniture."

Henry got into the spirit of the discussion. "And, I can see it. There's two different people, both observing the same thing. I suppose you would claim this is mass hallucination?"

Commander Dabney added, "I will not dignify this exchange by demonstrating but I dare to say, if compelled to, I could taste it."

You wouldn't like it what with these cigar ashes strewn all over it," Henry remarked … irrelevently, his listeners thought.

The commander's response was an incentive to Dr. Galeheart, who grasped the statement as if it was proof for his claim.

"But the senses are deceiving. I think most scientific men agree to their deceitfulness. A glass rod held against your tongue will taste like sugar if you are deprived of the sense of sight. You always need a second sense to confirm the inferences of the first sense. A mirage does not exist. You can see it, but you are seeing something that isn't there. As I implied, the deduction offered by one sense is worthless unless it can be confirmed by the application of a second sense."

"I see you," Mr. Iceburg stated, as if he much regretted the phenomenon. He opened his mouth to administer a crushing retort.

Henry prodded him in the side with a ring laden forefinger. Iceburg lowered his head to catch the whispered remark.

"For heaven's sake! Let him go on. We don't want this this evening to degenerate back into the nullity it was less than an hour ago."

"But this is sheer lunacy," Iceburg protested. "I'd rather the doldrums than dementia." The commander looked toward the base of the "U". He was about to say to Galeheart, You introduced the possibility that we are figments of a celestial dreamer. The burden of the proof is upon you. But he didn't say it.

Dabney, Iceburg and Henry stared in a stunned silence. There was no possible way a person could leave the booth without being observed, but the doctor no longer was there. On the table, where it apparently had fallen out of his lapel pocket, lay a crimson school tie.

Iceburg gasped. He might have started a scream but Dabney hurriedly clapped a hand over his mouth.

"Shhh! Whoever … whatever it is that is dreaming about us … we don't want to wake it up."

****

The booth no longer is available to prospective users. It has been cordoned off to the entire membership. There even is talk of erecting a wall around it.



Copyright by
Albert J. Manachino


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