Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Adventures of Mr. Smartapple

Dear Friends,

You can’t solve crimes without clues, and there are no better clue-finders than 6th grader Sarah Blevins and her younger brother, Tyler. But in the town of Plaincroft, Vermont, nobody is going to give valuable clues to a couple of meddlesome kids. That is, not until Tyler sits on Sarah’s shoulders and they put on their dad’s overcoat. Now they aren’t just two nosey kids. They are “Mr. Smartapple,” a distinguished gentleman in an ill-fitting bowler hat who knows one thing… it’s clue finding time!

(Scene 1: At the gas station. “Mr. Smartapple” weaves in and makes his way to the checkout counter.)
Tyler: Excuse me, Shopkeeper, I would like to purchase some cigarettes.
Attendant: Are you sure you’re old enough to buy cigarettes?
Tyler: (Guffaws.) Old enough to…? (Guffaws again.) Oh, young Miss, you flatter me. Old enough to buy cigarettes! No, sadly, I am far older than 18, as you can see by the fact that I am over 7 feet tall. Plus, my brow is furrowed.
Attendant: What kind of cigarettes would you like?
Tyler: Oh, whatever you’ve got. Listen, friend, have you seen a man with a handlebar mustache and one abnormally large hand?
Attendant: Hmmm. I do remember a man who looked like that, but I didn’t think anything of it at the time. He was in here, oh, just a few days ago. He mentioned something about getting ahead… at the off-track betting facility.  Oh, and he dropped this matchbook from the Burlington Opera House.
: The mysterious man wasn’t talking about a gambling parlor, but a mattress store… Off Track Bedding on
8th Ave.
He wasn’t trying to get ahead, he wanted to get “a head”. A headboard for a bed! But why?
Attendant: Did your abdomen just say a whole bunch of things?
Tyler: No, all of that was just my ringtone. Good afternoon, fellow grown one. (Into his coat.) Time to get some more clues!

(Scene 2: “Off-Track Bedding” Mattress Shop.)
Tyler: Why hello, Miss. I have recently voted in a local election.
Shop girl: Are you sure you’re old enough to vote?
Tyler: (Guffaws.) Amazing! The vitamin cream really works! No, sadly, I have been over 18 years old for longer than I care to remember. Anyway, if you’re curious, I voted the straight party ticket. But let me get right to the point. Have you seen a man with a handlebar mustache and one abnormally large hand?
Shop girl: Definitely not. Although, now that you mention it, there was a man like that in here yesterday. He wanted a particular headboard made out Philippine mahogany. He said he needed it by Friday or none of this would matter anymore. We had a headboard that was similar, but it wasn’t an exact match. He was very angry and rude, but eventually bought it.
Tyler: Was he wearing a shark-tooth necklace?
Shop girl: No, but he was carrying a library book. It had such a strange nonsensical title that I couldn’t help but remember it. It was entitled, “Come Coltivare Le Piante Tossiche.”
Tyler: Thanks you, Miss. I am strongly considering one of these box springs, but I need to discuss it with my wife and many children. We’ll be back! (Into his coat.) Time to get more clues!

(Scene 3: The Library)
Tyler: (Talking into imaginary phone) Yes, I too prefer soft core pornography to crinkle-cut carrots. Goodbye.
Librarian: Excuse me?
Tyler: Oh, I was just finishing up a common conversation with another adult man on my mobile phone. Do you have any more copies of the book, “Come Coltivare Le Piante Tossiche?”
Librarian: No, it was checked out two days ago. But we do have the English translation, “How to Grow Poisonous Plants.”
Tyler: Did the person who checked out the Italian version borrow any other books?
Librarian: Look, I’m really not supposed to tell you that.
Tyler: You can trust us. I mean me! You can trust me. I’m over 7 feet tall.
Librarian: Well, okay. He checked out a book called, “Intermediate level Whittling.”
Tyler: Thank you. I would love to talk further, but I have an appointment with my geriatrician in 15 minutes. (Into his coat.) Time to close this case!

(Scene 4: The police station. The overcoat and bowler hat are on the floor.)
Officer Whelon: Slow down, slow down, kids! Are you telling me you’ve solved the Leonara murder?
Sarah: Yep.
Officer Whelon: And that the killer is none other than the great tenor, Carlo Bergonzi?
Sarah: That’s right!
Officer Whelon: But that’s impossible. Carlo Bergonzi is famous!
Tyler: But Leonara was more famous, so he decided to take her very life.
Sarah: The Burlington Opera House is putting on Verdi’s Oberto this season. Bergonzi’s character is supposed to kill Leonara’s character in the second act by suffocating her with a wreath of bluebells. But Bergonzi replaced them with home-grown mountain laurels. Poisonous mountain laurels. When she inhaled them, she blacked out and cracked her head on the stage bed.
Tyler: In front of a packed house of 1500 unsuspecting audience members! None of them knew she was really dead!
Sarah: Everyone was fooled.
Officer Whelon: Even us?
Sarah: Even the police. All Bergonzi needed to do was replace the bloodstained headboard and he would get away with it.
Tyler: But the headboard was made out of a rare wood, and when he couldn’t find an exact replica, he had to buy the closest match and whittle it to look like the original.
Sarah: Exactly, but in his impatience to finish the job before the next performance, he skipped “Whittling for Beginners” and went straight to the intermediate level lesson. In doing so, he would have missed the basic tenet that a whittling knife needs to be sharpened after every hour of use, or the carvings become rutted and uneven.
Tyler: Bergonzi’s right hand is abnormally large, so he would have carved left-handed, and that means he would have whittled the headboard from left to right.
Sarah: We’re willing to bet that the replacement headboard will have uneven carvings on its right half.
Officer Whelon: That sounds crazy, but I’ll call the opera house and ask. Hold on. (Dials.) Yes, are there rutted or uneven carvings on the right half of the headboard that you use as a set-piece in Oberto? I see. Don’t let Bergonzi leave. I’m coming to arrest him! (Hangs up.) What can I do to thank you kids?
Tyler: (Getting back on Sarah’s shoulders and slipping into overcoat) Kids? What kids? I am Mr. Smartapple, and I was hoping you could direct me to the nearest winery that offers free tastings for fully-developed adults.
Officer Whelon: Your secret is safe with me!

The End

With warmest regards,

P.S. The Hard Taco song for July is called, “Dance Your Life Away.”