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Uncle Pringle and the Sexual Accuser
by Martin Green
“Hello, Hank,’ I said. “How are you?”
“Not too good, I’m afraid.
“That’s why I called you. Is this a bad time?”
“Not at all. What’s the matter?”
“Well, you may remember that when I was a youngster I worked in an ad agency in the city. Now one of the women who worked there has accused me of sexually assaulting her. She posted it on Facebook”
“But that must have been forty years ago. How come she’s doing it now?”
“It’s that #MeToo thing or whatever they call it. Women are coming out all over the place with accusations.”
“But you didn’t sexually harass her, did you?”
“To tell you the truth I don’t remember the women and I don’t remember what I did. There were a lot of attractive young ladies in the agency and who knows, maybe I did something that today is considered a sexual assault. The thing is that the college is considering dismissing me.”
“What? You’re kidding?”
“I wish I was. In the present climate, being accused is like being convicted. Anyway, I remember you telling me about your Uncle Pringle. He’s kind of a problem solver. I was wondering if perhaps he could help me.”
“Hmmm. He’s Eleanor’s uncle actually. But yes, he actually helped me with a problem I had at the office. He helped a friend who was hexed by a witch. He helped an elderly couple who’d been swindled by con men. I’ve also seen him confront mob bosses. If anybody can help you, Uncle Pringle can. Let me call and make sure he’s in the city and then I’ll call you and we can meet at my place sometime next week.”
“I’d be really grateful. Thanks a lot, Paul.”
The following Wednesday I was again out on the patio, but this time with Professor Samson, Uncle Pringle and Eleanor. She’d served us tea and cookies.
“All right,” said Uncle Pringle to the Professor, “Paul has told me something of your problem but why don’t you describe it to me.”
Uncle Pringle was a small man in his sixties with neat-looking hands and feet and to my mind bore a resemble to the British actor who was his namesake, Claude Rains, resemblance which he pooh-poohed. He’d been in some secret government t agency and now said he was a consultant although just what he consulted about and whom he consulted for was obscure. He listened carefully as Professor Samson told his story, adding that he was pretty sure his dismissal from the college was imminent.
“Hmmm,” said Uncle Pringle. “And you say you don’t remember this woman or what you might have done to her?”
“I honestly don’t. It was a long time ago.”
“Yes. There’s no doubt that sexual assault of women is a serious concern and it’s good that the women are now coming out with their stories. Still, I wonder if in some cases there may be injustices involved. It seems as if every day someone new is being accused.”
“Some girl even accused the older President Bush of sexually assaulting her when they were taking a picture of them. The poor old guy in a wheelchair might have touched her behind.”
“What’s the name of your accuser?” asked Uncle Pringle.
“It’s Maisie. Maisie Taylor.”
“Do you know where she lives.”
“Not exactly. Somewhere in New York.”
“That’s all right. I’ll have no trouble finding her address.”
At this point, Uncle Pringle’s cell phone rang.
“Yes, Donald,” he said. “What is it now? I’ve warned you about doing that. No, I will not fly to Washington. I have another matter to attend to.” Uncle Pringle ended the call>
“Was that ---” I said.
“An old business acquaintance of mine who, I’m afraid, has gotten in over his head. Well, I have some ideas on how to approach this Maisie Taylor. Professor, sit tight and I’ll be calling you tomorrow,”
The following morning at ten o’clock a small white-haired man rang the bell of an apartment in Queens. The door was opened by a plump but still attractive woman of about sixty. She had blue eyes and brown hair, possibly dyed, was carefully made-up and wore a stylish dress. “Yes?” she said.
“Hello, Maisie,” said Uncle Pringle. “You’re looking well. I don’t suppose you remember me. I heard about your Facebook post about Henry Samson. I too worked in the ad agency and I wanted to apologize to you.“
“Apologize? Whatever for?”
“I wonder if I may come in and I’ll explain>”
“All right.” She led Uncle Pringle into a nicely-furnished apartment and seated him in the living room. “Would you like some coffee?” she asked.
“That would be lovely.”
In a few minutes she was back with two cups of coffee and some cookies. She seated herself opposite Uncle Pringle. “You know, I still don’t think I remember you.”
Uncle Pringle smiled. “Well, that’s not surprising. I was only the mailroom boy, and I had black hair then. I always flirted and joked with the girls.”
“You know, I think I do remember you. You were a flirt. But what did you do to me?”
“One time when I was at your desk you dropped something and bent over to pick it up. I couldn’t help myself.I patted your, well, you know. I immediately said I was sorry and you told me never to do that again.”
“I wanted to tell you again how sorry I am and to ask for your forgiveness.”
“Well, you were a young fellow then. It was nice of you to take the trouble to find me and come over. Yes, I can forgive you.”
“I appreciate that. Now, I have a favor to ask of you.”
The next day the office of the college president, Maurice Hamilton, was somewhat crowded. The people assembled there were Professor Samson, Uncle Pringle, Maisie Taylor and myself. Dr. Hamilton was a large man who talked slowly and fiddled with a pipe. Uncle Pringle had just finished telling Maisie that this was Professor Samson, the man she’d posted about on Facebook.
“I don’t think I would have recognized you,” said Maisie.
“Did you know that because of your Facebook post Professor Samson is about to be dismissed as a teacher at this college?” said Uncle Pringle.
“No, I certainly didn’t mean to cause anyone to lose his job. I’m glad I didn’t post anything about you.”
“I have something else to tell you,” said Uncle Pringle. “That story I told you was a lie. I never actually worked in the same office as you.”
Maisie gasped. “You didn’t? But I thought I remembered you, always joking and flirting.”
“I wanted to demonstrate to you how faulty memory can be. Now, can you be sure that Professor Samson sexually assaulted you?”
“I don’t really know. It was about forty years ago. No matter, I don’t want the Professor to lose his job because of me. I might have been mistaken.”
“Well, Dr. Hamilton, what do you think?”
“Hmmm,” said Dr. Hamilton. “I would say, harrumph, uh … “ He paused and fiddled with his pipe. “Uh, I believe there’s enough reasonable doubt here that dismissing Professor Samson would not serve any good cause.” He paused and fiddled again. “And Ms. Taylor has indicated she didn’t want Professor Samson to lose his job in any case.” Pause, fiddle. “So, harrumph, I believe our business here is finished. Thank you all for coming.”
The following Sunday I was again out on my patio but this time I’d been joined by Professor Samson, Uncle Pringle and of course my wife Ellen. It was a warm day and Ellen had provided cold drinks. “I can’t thank you enough,” Professor Samson said to Uncle Pringle.
“It was my pleasure,” said Uncle Pringle.
“You must have been very convincing to make Masie believe you worked at her ad agency,” said Ellen.
“Well, I did a little research. There was actually a mailroom boy who cracked jokes and flirted with the women. He’s now the agency president.”
At this point Uncle Pringle’s cell phone rang. He looked at it and sighed. “Yes, Donald. That doesn’t surprise me. Come to Washington? Well, my business here in New York has been finished so I suppose I can. But if you don’t listen to me this will be the last time.” He put the phone down.
“Was that ---“ we all said.
“Just an old and stubborn acquaintance. Let’s forget about that and enjoy the afternoon. What’s the latest trend in science-fiction?”
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