Johnny HaHa and the Case of the Missing Potato
Johnny HaHa dismounted from his horse Stephen with a flourish and stood on the sidewalk, examining the surrounding scene. The smattering of folks had quickly become a crowd, verging on a mob scene. They gasped as his legendary black cape billowed in the breeze, presenting him in a velvet spotlight. Phones were held, and pictures were snapped. Sacramento hadn’t experienced this level of celebrity since Chris Webber, and they were savoring every second. Johnny HaHa continued, focused in mind and spirit. He had business at hand.
Johnny HaHa opened the door into Mel’s Delicatessen, and the customary chimes announced his arrival and the expectancy of what was to come. Mel’s was your typical deli; faint green paint lined the walls, your classic cash register in the corner, five aisles of food slightly overpriced, and a deli counter where men and women could procure various meats. An ATM machine across from the register stood quiet with a rushed “Out of Order” sign scribbled in pen hanging from the screen. Meryl, the gray tabby cat who rumor has it lived there before Mel opened the store padded over and brushed her head against Johnny HaHa’s dolphin fin pinstripe pants. He extended his right hand and allowed Meryl to lap at his fingers, each nail manicured befitting a man of his stature. She enjoyed his fingers like a parishioner meeting the pope.
Tommy Simpson, the proprietor of said establishment, greeted him, his face expressing relief for the first time since the incident happened. Tommy had aged in dog years since buying the place five years ago. A poor excuse for a combover fluttered above an open terrain, and his white apron did a poor job disguising a burgeoning belly.
“Mr. HaHa, thank you so much for coming.”
“Please, call me Mr. Johnny HaHa.” Tommy slightly bowed his head in apology.
“My apologies, of course. Mr. Johnny HaHa, it truly is an honor to have you here, and to be honest, I feel better already.” Johnny HaHa looked three degrees away from Tommy’s eyes, his words pouring forth at the exact moment Tommy closed his mouth.
“That is to be expected. Please, tell me what happened.”
“Of course, but before I do, may I ask you a question?” Johnny HaHa met Tommy’s eyes for the first time and waited four seconds before responding.
“You may, although I am not beholden to answer, am I?”
“No, no, you have every right to ignore my words. But I beg, how do you maintain such a mustache?”
Johnny HaHa smirked. “It would be like asking God how he maintains the tide? Or asking the hummingbird what keeps you afloat? The answer is a mystery to all and known to none.”
“Yes, yes, but it is so thin. So impossibly thin. I feel like I could count the individual follicles.” Tommy spoke with both his mouth and hands, his fingers pointing randomly in the air at specified intervals.
“Therein lies the answer to your question. Two hundred twenty-one.”
“There are, there were, and there always will be two hundred and twenty-one individual hairs residing on the ledge of my upper lip.” Tommy leaned in as close as to what was socially acceptable to take in such a fact.
“Truly, you are pulling my leg?”
“Johnny HaHa does not kid for the amusement of others. The man who controls his environment controls his destiny. I have mastered my mustache, which allows me to master the material world.” Tommy stepped back, at once impressed and intimidated.
“Sir, I beg, how does one man dominate such finely held facial hair? The minutes and hours of a day would surely conspire against such mastery?” Johnny HaHa looked up at the gray drop tile ceiling; several tiles would soon need replacing.
“A fair question to ask. One just needs to observe. Have you ever seen my person displaying two hundred and twenty-two hairs? Or two hundred twenty-three?” Tommy considered the query carefully.
“Indeed, I have not.”
“Well then, trust your eyes, not your logic.” Tommy’s face flushed with embarrassment. Mr. Johnny HaHa had lived up to expectations, and then some.
“My apologies. Logic rules today’s world.”
“Allowing a man like Johnny HaHa to sneak in between its grooves, like a tectonic plate shifting underneath the pacific. What creates a volcano, besides movement and time?”
“You suggest…” Johnny HaHa’s silver eyes shivered with intensity, and Tommy stopped in his tracks.
“I don’t suggest kind sir. I am the volcano.” A bead of sweat trickled down Tommy’s right temple.
“Your volatility is hidden beneath your obsequious demeanor.”
“It would be impolite for me to point out your incorrect usage of the word. Therefore I will not.” For the second time in as many minutes, Tommy’s face rivaled his best tomato.
“The police have been called for less trivial offenses. I beg of you, my humblest apology.” Johnny HaHa continued, having grown bored of the conversation.
“Do you have a passion fruit available for consumption?” A wide smile formed across Tommy’s jowls.
“I do, I do. Allow me to hand you my finest fruit.” Tommy Simpson walked two aisles over and examined several passion fruit, contained in a crate with fraying edges fraught with splinters. After several seconds of deep pondering, he chose a fruit hidden beneath several others in the upper right quadrant and walked back over. Pleased with his selection, he handed Johnny HaHa his request.
“Truly, one may say a finer passion fruit has never been offered in the state of California.”
Johnny HaHa nodded with his eyes and, with fingers used to playing Stradivarius and Steinways, accepted the gift. His nails shone in the twilight despite not a hint of polish to be found. He lifted the passion fruit to his lips and allowed the incisors to do the work. A drop of essence broke free and traveled down his olive chin, falling to the floor below to be lapped up by Meryl. At once, Johnny HaHa pointed to the floor with his ring finger.
“There’s your culprit. Notice the greed in her eyes. She schemed on obtaining the slight hint of flavor, just like she schemed to steal your potato.”
Tommy Simpson stood, staring down at Meryl. She had lived in the store since he was but a child. With a tear in his eye, he nodded and understood the consequences of obtaining the knowledge he sought. Tommy removed the phone from his left front pocket. A regrettable yelp left his mouth as the 911 dispatcher answered. Johnny HaHa averted his eyes in embarrassment.
“Yes, 911. I’d like the police to come down to Mel’s Delicatessen. There has been a theft and a betrayal committed at the highest order. Yes, yes, thank you.” Tommy hung up the phone, and within seconds, blue and red lights announced their arrival through his front window. Tommy scooped up Meryl but refused to look her in the eyes.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Johnny HaHa, for the trouble and the embarrassment. I shall add thirty percent to the agreed-upon fee.”
“Then, my time here has expired.” Johnny HaHa turned, allowing his cape to spread out, like an eagle preparing to leap from the mountain. He opened the door, this time the chimes announced his departure and the fallacy of man.