Tony Randall: “It Was A Tough Fight, Folks . . .”
Tony Randall lay rigid, trying not to breathe. holding the sheet up over his head with his fingers. Maybe if he didn’t move a muscle . . . maybe if his head didn’t show . . . maybe if he didn’t make a sound . . . the burglar might think he was just a big lump in the bed and go away. Maybe . . . The loud squeak of a bed spring startled him. Florence. He’d forgotten all about his wife Florence, in bed beside him. She was turning over in her sleep.
Just like a woman. Can’t depend on one in a crisis.
Wait—he could throw a sheet over her too! Two lumps on a bed, no, that was silly. It would never work. Why had he let her talk him into not having the telephone connected? “We’re here for a rest,” she said. “Let’s not have the phone hooked up.” Hopeless.
Suddenly, a flash of light hit the window, stayed there. A flashlight! The burglar had an accomplice outside!
Do something, he dared himself silently. He forced himself to get out of bed, and determinedly tiptoed to the head of the stairs. Come on, he told himself, you’re not scared—only your legs are. Got to save Florence . . . His toe hit something—an old bicycle pump . . . a weapon . . . good!
With bicycle pump in hand, he felt brave. Now he slunk down the stairs like a tiger—ferocious. Halfway down he stopped. Strategy! Pretend he had a gun. Like a kid does, poking his hand in his pocket. He went to poke his hand in his pocket. But there was no pocket. No pants! This was positively embarrassing. How could he face a burglar in the nude?
He sneaked upstairs again. Florence was still sleeping. He slipped on a pair of pants, pulled himself to his full height, grabbed the bicycle pump in his left hand, thrust his right hand into his pocket. He poked his finger hard against the cloth—ready to shoot—and went downstairs again. At the foot of the stairs he flicked up the light switch, shouting, “Put up your hands. I’ve got you covered.”
The lights didn’t go on.
“The burglar’s shut off the current,” he thought. And—now he’d given himself away by hollering. Somewhere in that room a man was crouching in the dark waiting to kill him.
He dropped to the floor. But no good to stay here with retreat cut off.
Quietly he wiggled along on his stomach. Then . . . a light went on—the powerful gleam of a flashlight—from the top of the stairs behind him. The burglar had crept upstairs. He was caught!
“Tony,” his wife cried, “what are you doing lying on the floor? Are you sick? It’s one-thirty in the morning. Come up to bed.”
“Florence,” he yelled, “go back. We’re trapped. Go back.”
Suddenly there was a quick movement and the crash of a lamp falling off a table.
“All right,” Tony snapped, “come on out—with your hands high—or I’ll shoot. I’m counting to three. One . . . two . . .” The burglar came out. “Meow,” it said. It pattered across the room to Florence and rubbed against her legs.
Three minutes later, a wet, bedraggled white cat was lapping up a saucer of milk, Tony was at the kitchen table munching a peanut butter sandwich and Florence was making him another. “You must be starved,” she said, “after that workout.”
“All right, so it was my fault—so I forgot to close the porch door and a cat slips in. . . .”
“. . . and stamps her feet so hard that my hero grabs a bike pump to save me.” She was laughing uncontrollably now.
“Ah, lay off,” Tony begged. reaching for the other sandwich. “I tell you somebody did try the doorknob and flash a light into the upstairs window and cut off the lights. . . .”
He stopped as a motor roared up to the cottage. Brakes squealed. Fists pounded on the door.
“Open up,” demanded a rough voice. Tony leaped for the bolt and fastened it.
“I told you,” he whispered.
“Hurricane warning,” the voice yelled. “Last call!”
Florence unbolted the door. There stood a dripping Coast Guardsman. “I’ll pick you folks up for the boat in five minutes,” he said hurriedly. “Got to finish checking. Last time around your place looked deserted.”
Tony gave Florence a triumphant look. She avoided it. The Coast Guardsman called, “No time to lose, folks,” and drove off in his jeep. The Randalls got ready to leave. At the door, Florence stopped. “The cat,” she pleaded, “we can’t desert it.” She stooped, but the animal squirmed away and disappeared into the other room. She came back with something in her mouth—a very small kitten.
“Oh the poor little thing,” Florence cried. She pushed it into Tony’s big hand, scooped up the mother, and she and Tony each grabbed a valise.
When the ferry lurched away from the dock, the kitten leaped over the rail in sudden fright. Tony yanked off his raincoat. “Don’t worry,” he told the cat, “I’ll save your baby.”
“It’s too rough,” she cried. “Tony. . . .” She grabbed his jacket. He squirmed out of it, kicked off his shoes—and jumped.
“Man overboard!” someone shouted, and someone else yelled, “Cat overboard!” The ferry reversed engines. A line was thrown over the rail. In a few minutes man and kitten were hauled back on deck.
Florence cried anxiously, “Tony, are you all right?”
“I’m fine,” he managed to gasp.
A woman passenger looked at Tony and sighed. “Wasn’t he wonderful? So brave.”
Florence put her arms around her soaking wet husband and whispered. “My hero!”
“Ah, now Florrie, quit riding me. . . .”
“Oh, darling, I mean it. You were wonderful—so brave!”
And as they walked away from the admiring crowd, Tony let out one big, loud, ominous sneeze.
—BY JIM HOFFMAN
See Tony in “Lover, Come Back” for U-I.
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE MAY 1961