Nothing Annoys Them So Much
By Jeff Baker
The tree was still there at the edge of town and whenever I saw it, the memories would come back, memories of a summer afternoon when I was ten years old in 1882.
It was early summer and not too warm for Kansas and so the men were playing their weekly game of base-ball and watching this was my own weekly fun. We had the usual group standing (and in some cases sitting) around and watching the play of the game and I was standing in the shade of the big tree, wishing I was old and big enough to play with my father, my oldest brother Samuel and Dillard Jellicoe who everyone said was built like a bull. There was one newcomer to the audience for the game, the man who had stayed at Mayor Everett’s house after giving some talk at the church the night before. He was supposed to be famous but I hadn’t heard of him. He was wearing a long black coat, pressed black pants (Sam told me he had worn knee-breeches at his talk the night before) and a white shirt. He had a longish nose, black hair down to his shoulders and he carried an umbrella which he was using to protect himself from the sun. I crept closer, wondering why he simply didn’t stand under the shade of the tree but I overheard him say he wanted to see what he called “the new spectacle.” He was watching intently, however.
Someone pointed Dillard Jellicoe out to him and he nodded referring to “the loud young man who had been asked to leave” during the stranger’s talk the previous evening. I saw Jellicoe eyeing the stranger and his face reminded me of an angry bull.
The game had reached the height of play when Jellicoe suddenly ran across the field, directly at the stranger, the other players being occupied at third base and home plate. Jellicoe let out a loud yell and jumped at the stranger and I closed my eyes.
I heard a loud thud. Two of them really.
I opened my eyes. Someone was lying there in the dirt, and the stranger was standing over him, his feet spread, his arm outstretched, fist clenched.
“I boxed a bit while I was at University in Dublin,” the stranger said.
I made sure I was there that evening when the stranger caught the train. He bowed to the small crowd on the railway platform (Dillard Jellicoe conspicuously not among them) and then announced “Always forgive your enemies. Nothing annoys them so much.” He turned to where I was standing and winked. “Except maybe a fist to the jaw!”