The True-Life Tales of Arthur & Archie

The True-Life Tales of Arthur & Archie

This is Day Four of the "How Totally Useless Is the Dallas City Council" watch, and you know what my problem is already? I'm bored.

This is all about the serial faux pas problem with Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway, who is slated to become the real mayor of the city at some point in the next two weeks, when the current real mayor resigns to run for higher office.

You know what I mean -- serial faux pas. Pants. Gambling house. Arthur and Archie. Dog killer. And then he becomes mayor?

That can't happen. Before that happens, the council needs to vote to remove Caraway from the line of succession. But they can't do that. They can't vote to take his mayor pro tem title away, because they are deadlocked. The white ones want a white mayor pro tem. The black ones want a black mayor pro tem. The Latino ones want ... I think you get the picture.

Useless, in other words. The city council and mayor are totally useless. The purpose of my watch is to see just how totally useless they are. How long will it take? But we already know the answer to that one, right? So I'm kind of bored already.

Just to pass the time sometimes, I try look for the silver lining. As a writer and journalist, for example, I think the two best things to come out of the whole Caraway affair have been Arthur and Archie -- the two characters Caraway made up to explain why the cops had been called to his home to settle a disturbance.

Caraway tried to deny there had been a fight between him and his wife, state Rep. Barbara Mallory Caraway. He said two guests at the house named Arthur and Archie had gotten into a fight over a football game they were watching. "Archie loves the Cowboys, and Arthur hates them," Caraway explained. "Everybody knows how bad Arthur hates the Cowboys." Sure. Everybody.

Later he admitted it was a fight with his wife.

I want to keep Arthur and Archie around. For some reason I like them. I would be sad to see them go. So, while we're doing this watch thing, I thought I would help pass the time by writing a little mini-series I want to call The Adventures of Arthur and Archie.

Chapter One

Arthur and Archie are walking down McKinney Avenue in Uptown one sunny afternoon. Many people reading about them here may be surprised to learn that Arthur and Archie are white. Archie is a slight man with stooped shoulders, wispy brown-blond hair, a sad face and eyebrows that fly up and down expressively. He wears a light-colored suit and tie, with a shirt collar several sizes too big for his neck.

Archie, on the other hand, is a very large and rotund man with a small black mustache and black hair slicked to his head, combed in a little spit-curl over his forehead. He wears a tight-fitting black suit, way too small for him, with high-water pants and jacket cuffs high on his forearms. Beneath his chin a short necktie bobs down barely to his breastbone.

Arthur stops on the sidewalks and says, "Archie, I'm getting awfully hungry."

Archie draws up to a halt, puts his fists on his huge hips and glowers. "Well, isn't this a fine fiddle! What on earth do you expect me to do about it in our current circumstances?" He jams his fists into his pockets and snaps the pockets inside-out. He is broke.

Arthur minces, crossing his legs as he stands and looking down shyly. With one hand he flaps his necktie at Archie and with the other he points up at an overhead police security camera.

Archie looks up at the camera, peers shrewdly at Arthur, back up at the camera. Finally the light bulb of understanding comes on. "AHA!" he roars. "Perhaps you have a good idea after all, Arthur. We shall ask the chief of police to deliver us a pizza."

Arthur and Archie turn their faces upward to the police camera. "Dallas Police Chief David Brown," Archie calls out pompously, "it's Arthur and Archie here, the famous friends of Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway. We know you are watching, sir. You are always watching.

"We need you to send a patrol car out here with a pizza for us, hand-tossed, extra cheese, with Jimmy's sausage on it. We would like you to get on this right away, sir, if you do not mind, kind sir!"

Arthur says shyly to the camera, "No mushrooms, please."

Meanwhile back at Police Headquarters Dallas Police Chief David Brown is skulking back and forth across the vast expanse of his windowless office. It's a scene from a science fiction movie -- an office the size of a ballroom. Three walls are covered with thousands of video displays from security cameras all over Dallas. The fourth wall is taken up entirely by a gigantic movie screen, and on that screen, 10 times life-size, we see the upward craning mugs of our intrepid duo.

Archie is snapping bulbous fingers up at the camera, calling out in a shrill shout, "Let's not dawdle, Chief. Let's not dawdle!"

Chief Brown, head bent low, staring at his feet as he shuffles back and forth beneath the screen, flutters the fingers of both hands at his sides and mutters, "I can't take this. Not again. Damned Arthur and Archie! Not again! I won't do it! They're making a laughingstock of me. People on the street hoot and holler when I drive by."

He turns to his assistants imploringly. "They have a name for me, I know. The public calls me something behind my back, but I don't know what it is. No one will tell me. But you know. I know you know. You can tell me. I won't hold it against you. I will respect you for shooting straight with me. What do they call me?"

In a tiny voice the first assistant says, "Pizza Man."


"They call you Pizza Man, sir."

"YOU'RE FIRED!" the chief shouts. "Get out! Get out!"

The first assistant departs.

The second assistant, third assistant and fourth assistant cower in a knot at the back of the enormous office.

"The chief is having a meltdown," the fourth assistant whispers.

"No shit, Sherlock," the third assistant whispers.

"There's nothing we can when he gets like this," the second assistant whispers. "I'll have to call Mary."

Ten minutes later Dallas City Manager Mary Suhm barges into the office with her first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh assistants. Suhm is imposing in her sky-blue skirt and jacket uniform, with coils of gold braid through her epaulets and a solid tableaux of colorful city management medals on her front part. Atop her head is the gleaming silver helmet of the Professional City Management Officer Corps, topped with a bright orange ostrich plume.

By now the chief is sitting on the floor in a corner of the room with his head on his knees, weeping. On the screen overhead Archie's head is the size of a water buffalo. He bellows: "We await our pizza, Mr. Police Chief! Mayor Pro Tem Caraway is not going to be a happy camper if we do not get the pizza we desire."

Suhm looks at the scene on the screen. Behind Arthur and Archie a large crowd has gathered on the sidewalk. The crowd laughs uproariously and applauds whenever Archie speaks. Arthur and Archie turn to the crowd. Archie bows as deeply as his girth will allow, and Arthur curtsies to them.

A thunderous ovation goes up, and the mob begins to chant, "AR-THUR! AR-CHIE! AR-THUR! AR-CHIE!" In the distance, the towers of television live-trucks rise above the crowd like minarets.

Suhm looks from the screen to Chief Brown in the corner, back to the screen, back to Brown. "Holy shit," she says to her assistants. "This is the Big One this time. The chief has melted down to a blob of grease!" She goes to Brown, kneels in front of him and speaks loudly: "David! David! This is Mary Suhm! Can you hear me David?"

But Brown is uncomprehending, muttering over and over to himself in a guttural rasp. Suhm puts her ear to his mouth and listens. She says, "I think he's saying, 'Pizza man, pizza man.'"

The chef's remaining assistants shrug to indicate they have no idea what she's talking about. She snaps her fingers at one of her own assistants. "Dial Caraway. Do it now!"

Fumbling with the phone at first, the assistant finally manages to dial. He shoves the phone at Suhm as if it were a burning coal. She snatches it from him. But when Suhm puts the phone to her lips, her voice melts to sugar.

"Hey, Dwaaaaaaaaine," she coos. "How are you doin' today, baby?"

The phone is on Bluetooth to a public address speaker. Caraway's voice booms out over the huge room, like Moses calling down from Sinai.

"Oh, I can't complain, Manager Mary," he says. "Cannot complain myself. But tell me, Manager Mary, how can the Mayor Pro Tem assist you on this fine afternoon in our fair city?"

"Dwaine, I'm with the Chief, and we're having another bad Arthur and Archie situation. They're asking for pizza again. They've got a huge crowd with them again. I think the chief feels very disrespected by this. He's extremely upset."

Caraway's demonic chuckle booms over them: "Sittin' in the corner bawlin' like a baby droolin' on his pants, I bet."

Suhm shakes her ostrich plume in disgust but keeps her cool. "Yes, Dwaine, it's pretty bad this time. I was wondering if you might be able to help us by calling them off."

"Calling them off?" Caraway cries in a deeply wounded tone. "Calling whosomever off, Manager Mary? You want me to call off Arthur and Archie? I think it is very disingenuous, Manager Mary, that other people's friends are not called off, as you put it, and they are treated with the respect they so deserve, and yet just and so, because a person is a friend, so-called and accordingly, of the mayor pro tem, well, then, be that as it may, that is a dog of a different color, and, betwixt and between the scene, all of a sudden and accordingly, now this person is supposed to be called off, if I may use the same Eucharistic expression that you so indelibly employ."

"Of course, Mr. Mayor Pro Tem," she says. "I am so sorry I interrupted you."

"Not at all, Manager Mary. It was good to hear from you."

Suhm hangs up, rises back to her feet and heaves a great sigh. Turning to the large crowd of assistants around her, she shouts, "SON OF A BITCH!"

Suhm begins to wander back and forth beneath the screen exactly as Chief Brown had done minutes before. Plume pitched forward, hands clasped behind her back, she mutters between her teeth: "Arthur and Archie. Arthur and Archie."

As if hearing her for the first time, Brown looks up from his corner. With a feeble smile, he chants, "Ar-thur! Ar-chie! Ar-thur!"

"Oh, shut up, you dipshit!" Suhm shouts. "Get a grip, will you." Half turning toward the assistants, she says, "What in the hell do I do now?"

Suhm's seventh assistant, a mouse of a girl in a gingham skirt with pop-bottle glasses, steps forward meekly. "Madame City Manager Mary, might I offer a suggestion, please?"

The other assistants fall back, fearful of Suhm's wrath at this impertinence. Suhm regards the bold seventh assistant severely for a very long moment, then snaps, "Well? What is it, then, Four-Eyes? What is your bright idea?"

"We could call Carol."

To be continued.

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