McGuffin’s Big Deal
by Jeff Baker
It was late Spring when Delmar and I walked into the Billiards Room at the club, talking softly about some big land deal he had just made. Doubtless so he could stare at the property and think how rich he was. As we passed Old Man Plunkett, he perked up and asked rather loudly “What’s that about a land deal?”
I looked around. It was too late to shush him or even try.
“A land deal?” came the voice from the chair in the corner. “I once had the Granddaddy of all land deals. I once had the opportunity to buy one of the biggest cathedrals in the city of London.”
McGuffin. I sighed and waved for another drink.
It was just after the War (McGuffin said.) I was footloose and fancy free and I was looking for a place to live having mustered out of the service. I heard about a place which was going for a song. I showed up at the address and couldn’t believe it; the address was Saint Ambroise’s Cathedral. I was not a religious man by any means, but I would happily have rented a room in the cathedral. They told me that the Cathedral had been closed during the War and they were looking for someone to stay there and keep the place safe from intruders and there would be some “light housekeeping.” I entered the Cathedral, which was not nearly so big as St. Paul’s or St. Clemmons’ but was large, well-lighted and secure. My room was upstairs toward the back just behind the huge dome. I spent the morning moving my scant possessions into my room and doing my few housekeeping duties, namely dusting the pews and sweeping the floor (none of which had been done regularly since the doors were padlocked around 1940. When I was finished it was early evening, so realizing that I would not have to clean six years of grime again, I celebrated with a tin of meat and music on the radio and after checking the parameter and making certain that the doors were locked I retired to bed.
I was awakened a few hours by a strange thumping and fluttering. I grabbed my torch and my service revolver and headed into the main cathedral where I heard the sound. There was a dark cloud of some sort swirling around the room. At first I thought there was smoke filling the room or just maybe bats, then I shone the light beam and revealed to my astonishment thousands of moths! Of every size and description. And they saw me too! They began to dive for my torch’s beam, like a dark column of shadow. I waved at them, thought about firing my gun, then I thought the better of it and simply ran! But not fast enough: the moths surrounded me and suddenly I found myself lifted into the air! Before I could do anything, they rose through an open skylight taking me with them! I saw the lights of the city and realized I had no way of fighting them, unless…I suddenly realized what they were after; I tossed the torch to the ground and the moths darted after the light source, leaving me to fall from the height of the cathedral to the ground.
“My Lord!” Delmar said. “How ever did you survive?”
“By using my wits,” McGuffin said. “Getting dropped was my main objective so I made sure I was over the park across the street when I threw the torch. I dropped several feet into one of the largest trees from which I climbed down and went back to the cathedral to pick up my belongings. The next day I told the owners that I was not an exterminator which was what they needed. They said they had tried but the building was engulfed with moths.”
“They then offered to sell me the cathedral, doubtless to get it off their hands.”
“My word, McGuffin!” I said. “What did you do?”
“I simply handed them a bill for my moth-eaten clothing and set out to find a paper with rental listings. And no moths.”