This is a bit of an oddity from the archives, but that’s never stopped me before. While clearing out some old stuff from the attic of my mum’s house I found this parody I’d written a long, long time ago in an adolescence far, far away. It must have been 1988 or 1989, and I must have been 17 or 18.
It was published in my Sixth Form College’s ragmag while I was supposed to be studying for my A-Levels. One of those A-Levels was Philosophy, which will become somewhat apparent later on. I also remember writing a fake biography of the college’s Vice Principal at the time which didn’t get published but almost got me suspended. Amongst other things, I claimed he got his Doctorate for inventing a nasal contraceptive. As it was a Roman Catholic Sixth Form College – and the man in question was rather staunch in his beliefs – this went down like a bride with a spinal injury [ie badly]. Luckily, I wrote it under a pseudonym and Denied Everything. Sadly, it no longer seems to exist. Oh, well.
What follows is a bit clunky in places, but some of the gags still hold up surprisingly well. It’s flawed and I certainly would have written it differently now. For one thing, I’d have given it a better ending, and I probably would have given it a better middle, too. And I’d probably be somewhat less inclined to swipe quite so shamelessly from Jackie Mason stand-up routines and the films of Woody Allen and Steve Martin. Of course, at the time I didn’t think of it as nicking gags; I thought of it as paying homage. I suppose it’s reassuring to know that in at least one area of life I’ve become more virtuous.
In any case, I’ve valiantly resisted the temptation to change any of it. Think of it as a snapshot from the past, or a portrait of the artist as a young eejit.
A cool October breeze brushed against the lapels of my new blue powder suit. This was highly unusual as it was now July. The corpse lay on the sidewalk, outside Rabbi Bernstein’s While-U-Wait Circumcision Parlour. The name’s Kapovoski, Lt Emil Kapovoski… I’m a cop.
“It’s a mess,” muttered Sgt Mahoney, in his stereotypical Irish accent. “Stabbed with a blunt kitchen utensil then hurled out of his tenth storey office, miraculously hitting the sidewalk in the Lotus position.” But I already knew the details. Mahoney was right, it was a mess. Visually it resembled Bonnie Langford’s voice.
Mahoney cleared his throat. “His name was Hutchindale, Andrew Hutchindale. He was a chiropodist. ” There was a brief but unnecessary pause. “His feet…”
Then I noticed it. The corpse was wearing a pair of rubber flippers, the type commonly used by deep sea divers and other underwater swimmers. It was the fourteenth rubber flipper-wearing chiropodist homicide in the last fortnight. I was beginning to detect a pattern.
I searched Hutchindale’s pockets and found my first lead. It was a calling card that read:
Chiropodist of Distinction
Within ten minutes I was arguing with Faughaughnahan’s secretary. After showing her my badge and threatening her with an unaccompanied recital of Beowulf, she let me past.
I paused at Faughaughnahan’s door. I could hear a commotion going on in his office. Discretely, I entered the room, crawling along the carpet like a commando. Faughaughnahan was arguing with a woman. I decided to intervene.
“Ahem,” I said, clearing my throat. “The name’s Kapovoski, Lt Emil Kapovoski. I’m a cop.” There was a brief but unnecessary sense of deja vu. I stood up. “Are you David Faughaughnahan, Chiropodist of Distinction?”
“Who do you think I am,” replied Faughaughnahan, “Joanna Lumley?” It was a trick question, but I already knew that Joanna Lumley spoke with an English accent.
The woman who had been arguing with Faughaughnahan looked across at me and sobbed. “Is this about Andrew?” she asked. I pretended it was. “My name’s Dr Cynthia Chandler. I’m a chiropodist, but you can call me Cynthia. I met Andrew at university. I was studying feet and he was a lecturer at the advanced ingrown toe-nail research faculty. He was my lover.”
She burst into tears, overcome with grief. Dr Chandler was my favourite type of chiropodist; the type with long-tanned legs. I gave the dame my routine visual once-over. She was a looker alright, with a split in her skirt that went right up to her neck. I’m a cop; I notice these things.
“What’s your business with me, Lieutenant?” asked Faughaughnahan.
I slapped the calling card on his desk: “This is my business. It was found on the person of your dead pal Hutchindale.”
“Well, I know nothing about it,” said Faughaughnahan. “I’ve never seen that card before in my life. Just look at the font. Do I look like the kind of guy who’d use Arial?”
“Alright, I’ll go,” I said. “But you’ll be hearing from me again. In the meantime, get yourself a good lawyer and don’t be checking any feet outside of town.”
I left the office and Cynthia followed. Outside the building I lit a stoagie and turned to Cynthia. “What were you two arguing about?” I asked. “Fallen arches?”
She gazed into my eyes: “I suspect he’s been sending me obscene phone calls in Yiddish.”
That was disgusting. “That’s disgusting,” I said as I passed her my stoagie. “By the way, I got a verruca I picked up from a previous case. Can I book an appointment?”
I hoped my metaphor was graphic enough.
It was 7.30 when I knocked on the door of Dr Chandler’s apartment. I was dressed to kill. I wore a beige fine-striped double-breasted suit, a shiny paisley waistcoat and maroon shirt, all available from Angellussis, 672 Oxford Street, London. The shoes were were part of the Vendee winter collection, and available from all participating stockists.
She opened the door and I gazed into her eyes. She was wearing contact lenses, but I had no moral objection. She let me in and asked me to sit in the lounge whilst she went to her boudoir to slip into something more comfortable. Minutes later she returned, dressed as Pagliacci.
She sat beside me. “So, Emil,” she asked, “are you any closer to finding Andrew’s killer?”
I paused, considering whether her last sentence was grammatical. “Yeah,” I said. “It’s Faughaughnahan. Without a doubt. Now about my verruca…”
“Oh that,” she said. “I left all my chiropody tools in the boathouse.”
I jumped off the sofa: “The boathouse?”
“Sure,” she said. “I’m a member of the local sub-aquatic society.”
Even a chiropodist can put her foot in it. It all made perfect sense: the rubber flippers, the argument with Faughaughnahan, the contact lenses… “Cynthia Chandler – I’m arresting you for the murder of Andrew Hutchindale. You are the Chiropodist Killer!”
“Alright, I admit it,” she said. “It’s a fair cop.”
“But why?” I asked.
“It was to avenge my father. Theodore Chandler was once the greatest chiropodist in this city, but his fellow chiropodists formed a consortium, undermining my father’s position and ultimately destroying him…”
“But,” I interrupted, “you haven’t got a father. You’re a fictional character in a lame parody in a cheap dimestore rag mag. You don’t exist, your father doesn’t exist and you’re going to have to come up with a better excuse.”
She was furious: “Existence is a predicative, ontologically-necessary truth. Even a flatfoot cop like you knows that! Didn’t Descartes say ‘I think therefore I am?'”
“I think he did, but he might have thought differently if he was facing fourteen counts of chiropicide.”
She was screaming: “But if a tree falls in the middle of a forest and nobody is there to hear it, does it still make a noise?”
“Not if it’s got a good lawyer.” I plucked a stogie out of my jacket pocket and lit the wrong end. “You forgot one thing, sister. Wasn’t it Nietzsche who said: ‘If you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also?'”
I was interrupted by Cynthia, who was leaping towards me with a pointed stick in her hand. Dames never like it when I mention Nietzche. I ducked, she missed and smashed through a plate glass window. Within moments, car horns were screaming from the street below. What a waste, I thought. Cynthia Chandler, another death in a city full of death. “What is the purpose of life,” I asked myself, “when it invariably results in death?” I thought of those great pessimistic icons, of Arthur Koestler, Albert Camus and Morrissey. Wasn’t it Søren Kierkegaard who coined that immortal phrase: “Life is grossly overrated; I’d much rather be dead.” But then Kierkegaard was married to a Bohemian Cossack woman, and his neighbours constantly threw live cattle into his house…