might have known it couldnt last. I was spending a quiet afternoon on the
patio of our suburban New York house reading the Sunday Times when my wife
Ellen came out, telephone in hand. I felt a twinge of annoyance, which
vanished once she told me it was Professor Henry Samson. He was an older man,
probably in his 60s now, a sci-fi writer like myself whod once been
my mentor. I hadnt seen him in a while but had heard he was
now teaching at our local college.
Hello, Hank, I
said. How are you?
Not too good, Im afraid.
Thats why I called you. Is this a bad time?
Not at all. Whats the
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
But that must have been forty
years ago. How come shes doing it now?
Its that hashtagMeToo thing
or whatever they call it. Women are coming out all over the place
But you didnt sexually
harass her, did you?
To tell you the truth I dont
remember the women and I dont 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.
I wish I was. In the present
climate, being accused is like being convicted. Anyway, I remember you
telling me about your Uncle Pringle. Hes kind of a problem
solver. I was wondering if perhaps he could help me.
Eleanors 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 whod been swindled by con
men. Ive also seen him confront mob bosses. If anybody can help
you, Uncle Pringle can. Let me call and make sure hes in the city
and then Ill call you and we can meet at my place sometime next
Id 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. Shed served us tea and cookies. All right,
said Uncle Pringle to the Professor, Paul has told me something of your
problem but why dont 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
poo-poohed. Hed 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 dont remember this woman
or what you might have done to her?
I honestly dont. It
was a long time ago.
Yes. Theres no doubt
that sexual assault of women is a serious concern and its 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
Whats the name of your
accuser? asked Uncle Pringle.
Its Maisie. Maisie
Do you know where she
Not exactly. Somewhere in New
right. Ill have no trouble finding her address.
At this point, Uncle Pringles cell
phone rang. Yes, Donald, he said. What is it
now? Ive 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
An old business acquaintance of
mine who, Im afraid, has gotten in over his head. Well, I have
some ideas on how to approach this Maisie Taylor. Professor, sit tight
and Ill be calling you tomorrow,
The following morning at ten
oclock 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
Hello, Maisie, said Uncle
Pringle. Youre looking well. I dont suppose you
remember me. I heard about your Facebook post about Henry Samson. I
too worked in the add agency and I wanted to apologize to you.
I wonder if I may come in and
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
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 dont think I remember
Uncle Pringle smiled. Well,
thats 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 couldnt 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 shed posted about on Facebook. I dont 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 didnt mean
to cause anyone to lose his job. Im glad I didnt 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
didnt? But I thought I remembered you, always joking and
I wanted to demonstrate to you how
faulty memory can be. Now, can you be sure that Professor Samson sexually
I dont really
know. It was about forty years ago. No matter, I dont
want the Professor to lose his job because of me. I might have been
Well, Dr. Hamilton, what do you
Hmmm, said Dr. Hamilton.
I would say, harrumph, uh
and fiddled with his pipe. Uh, I believe theres
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 didnt
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 Id 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 cant thank you
enough, Professor Samson said to Uncle Pringle.
It was my pleasure, said
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. Hes now the agency
At this point Uncle Pringles cell
phone rang. He looked at it and sighed. Yes,
Donald. That doesnt surprise me. Come to
Washington? Well, my business here in New York has been finished so
I suppose I can. But if you dont listen to me this will be the last
time. He put the phone down.
Was that...? we all
Just an old and stubborn
acquaintance. Lets forget about that and enjoy the
afternoon. Whats the latest trend in