A plague upon it when thieves cannot be true to one another. - Shakespeare, Henry IV
Some of my most painful moments in my illustrious academic career (ha) were trudging endlessly through some of William Shakespeare's most famous works. I'm sure this blog's readers include more than its fair share of Shakespeare fans, but I found Hamlet, Julius Caesar, Othello, and others to be nothing more than literary torture. I was just never able to decipher his ridiculously flowery garrulousness, I never found his comedies funny, and the tragedies were merely meh. Ok, I'll grudgingly admit the plot of Romeo and Juliet may have been original in 1594, but his "star-crossed lovers" routine hath since been rather flung out liketh a dead horse o'er the ensuing 400 years.
I think I need to rinse my mouth out after writing that. Blech.
Anyway, despite the fact that ol' Willy wrote the quote at the top of the page (which of course translates to "There's no honour among thieves" in modern non-stupidly-flamboyant English), I confess that I like it and find it to be true. It's commonly demonstrated on TV and in movies when bad guys stab each other in the back (literally and/or figuratively), but I've never really witnessed it in real life.
And then Henry and Richard (not their real names©) came along and gave me a Shakespearian lesson I shall ne'er soon forget.
Henry and Richard were old buddies, but Henry moved away from their home town some years back. After many years apart, Henry drove back home to catch up with his friend over a long weekend, and the two of them decided that the best way to reminisce was to revisit their old haunts and re-enact the prior activities of their youth.
In other words, they decided to go to a pub and get blind drunk.
Unfortunately in Henry's and Richard's alcohol-saturated brains, designated drivers and taxis are what other people use to get home. Speed limits? Psh, that's for other people, not them. Seat belts? Ha! They never wore them before, so why start now. And trees? They're perfect for running into and getting ejected from the car.
Richard was brought to me first, so drunk he could hardly keep his eyes open. The medics reported that he was the passenger in the car, and they had found him outside the vehicle in the rain leaning against a concrete roadside barrier. He managed to dribble out that his shoulder hurt, and he had lacerated one of his toes (apparently shoes were also optional during their little reunion soirée). He also had scrapes and bruises everywhere but no other obvious life-threatening injuries. I needed more information.
"Were you driving the car, Richard?"
"Noisrajg," he replied, which I believe is Drunkenese for "No, sir." The medics shook their heads.
Seeing that Richard would be no useful fount of information and finding no major injuries, I went to examine Henry, who had arrived just a few minutes later in a separate ambulance. Like his friend, he also smelled as if he had been freshly dipped in a vat of old liquor, stale beer, and cigarette butts. "He was the passenger in a motor vehicle crash versus a tree, Doc," the medics reported. "He was ejected out of the vehicle."
At this point you are probably thinking the same thing I was at the time - Wait wait wait, how could they both be passengers? Were there more people in the car? My Spidey Sense was tingling.
"Who was in the car with you, Henry?" I asked him. Fortunately Henry was just slightly less drunk and slightly more coherent than Richard. Slightly.
"Just me and my gooooooooooooood buddy Richard. RICHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARD!!! I'm just *burp* visiting from out of town and we went out to have some *urgh* fun."
Right. Running your car into a tree and getting thrown from the vehicle sounds like a total blast. Fucking whee.
"Were you driving the car, Henry?" I asked him. He vehemently shook his head no and then vomited on the floor.
"Ok, so Richard was driving?" I pressed.
As I stood there watching his face, I could almost see the hamster running in the wheel in his head, turning the gears in Henry's brain.
After several seconds his glassy eyes lit up as he obviously thought he had come up with a brilliant, infallible response. My anticipation was at its peak. Henry opened his mouth:
"Uh, no comment."
I had to control myself, realising that he had really thought that would clear up everything. I took a deep breath and tried again, this time a bit more slowly.
"Was Richard driving, Henry?"
He audibly sighed, realising that his unassailable ruse had been assailed.
"Uh . . . well, yeah. I just don't want him to get into trouble. But yeah. Yeah he was."
It was clearly my robust interrogation technique which had broken him, and I was instantly glad I had watched all those James Bond movies. I was, however, surprised he had thrown his buddy (his supposedly gooooooooooood buddy) under the proverbial bus so easily.
The police had some choice words and a veritable stack of citations for Richard (once he sobered up a bit), who seemed none too pleased, though obviously astounded, that his stupendous trickery had failed.
Fortunately between the two of them, all they suffered was a fractured scapula, various bumps, bruises, abrasions, and lacerations, a totaled car, and a ruined reunion weekend.
I guess Henry never read All's Well That Ends Well:
Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.
And now I need to rinse my mouth out twice.