"Malibu Christmas Mitzvah” is an annual concert put on by local businesses to celebrate the holiday season. This year the concert has adopted a “Wizard of Oz” theme, and so the barbershop quartet I perform with will be dressing up like Malibu Munchkins.
Tonight, as I was leaving the office for dress rehearsal, the phone rang.
“It’s an emergency,” said my receptionist, Delphinia. “They need you to go to their house.”
I was happy to help but wasn’t dressed for house calls. In my red satin lederhosen with embroidered bib, and candy cane leggings with glittering orange booties, I was the quintessential Malibu Munchkin. Delphinia had even found a yellow beanie with a propeller and had epoxied it to my head. Now all I needed was a spray tan.
“Emergency,” she said, handing me the phone. “You’d better take it.” It was the wife of a film distribution CEO.
“Charles,” said the woman, “I’m worried about Harry. He lost a contract with one of the major studios today and he’s so miserable I’m afraid he’s going to hurt himself. We’re having a birthday party tonight at the house for my little girl but now, suddenly, we’re in crisis mode. Can you get over here right away?”
“Delphinia,” I said, “pack up the car. We’re working overtime.”
I figured if I took a slight detour to the CEO’s house in Bel Air, I wouldn’t be too noticeably late for tonight’s rehearsal. But I wasn’t going to change my costume for this patient or tear the beanie from my head, only to re-glue it a half hour later. I’d show up as-is.
We pulled through some tall iron gates and up a curved driveway. A security man in black livery ushered us to the front door and rang the bell. A girl in her early twenties answered.
“Hello,” I said.
She looked me up and down and took a slurp of her mojito. “Mom,” she shouted over her shoulder, “did you order a Teletubby?”
“No, darling,” came a woman’s voice. “I ordered Sponge Bob.”
“Well, you better come look at this!”
A slender, middle-aged woman in a black cashmere sweater appeared at the door. She gave me a confused look.
“Hello,” I said. “I’m Charles and this is my assistant, Delphinia.”
“Oh my goodness” said the woman, “we assumed you were the entertainment. He was supposed to be here twenty minutes ago and the kids are getting impatient. Won’t you come in? Excuse me but somehow I expected you’d be wearing scrubs. My husband is upstairs, second door on the left.”
We found our way upstairs to a vast bedroom where an unshaven man in striped pajamas was curled up on a chair in a corner. He lifted his head and stared at my beanie with lifeless eyes.
“Howdy,” I said. “I understand somebody’s in a bad mood. I’m here to help you reclaim the joy of living. But first, I’ll run to my car since I forgot my doctor’s bag. My assistant will take your vitals.”
As I stepped out into the hallway, I heard the man say, “What’s he doing in that getup?”
“Who, him?” said Delphinia. “What getup? He always dresses that way!”
“Is that true?” said the CEO. “He tho thilly! Da funny wittle man alwayth dwesses dat way?”
“Yeth,” she said. “Can you be-weeve it?”
“He tho thilly, he makthe me wanna waff and waff!” he said.
“Oh my god! Me waff-ee too!” And they both giggled hysterically.
I stepped back into the room. “What’s so funny in here?” I said. They tossed me a casual glance.
“Excuse me, Boss?” said Delphinia, taking the man’s wrist in her hands. She gazed at her watch to gauge his pulse and said, “I have no idea what you’re talking about, Boss. Pulse seems OK. Weren’t you going to get your bag from the car?”
“Yes,” I said, and stepped out into the hallway. And as I did, I heard the man say, in a high-pitched voice:
“He going to get hith bag o’ twicks! Yipeee!”
“Hooway!” said Delphinia. I could hear the coins jingling as she jumped up and down. “Da man in the wed shorty pants id gonna make a bawoon aminal!”
“Ith he weally? Do you pwomith?” he squealed.
“Oh my God, me waff so hard, me make a pee-pee!”
And they laughed hysterically until the second I poked my head in the door. “I heard that!”
“Heard what?” said the man. “Are you sure you’re alright, Charles? You seem to be hearing voices.”
“Right,” I said. “Hearing voices.” I was getting pretty steamed by this time and I turned and walked out the door.
“He a thcream!” Delphinia shrieked.
“He hearing voy-thes!” said the CEO. “Boo!”
I spun on my heel and poked my head in the door, catching them in mid-LOLcat. “Aha!” I said. “It looks like everybody’s doing just fine here. Sounds like nobody really needs my help after all. They can ask for it all they want, but maybe I don’t feel like giving it, so maybe I’m going to leave. Good-bye!”
I stomped downstairs, angry that I had wasted an hour of my time and was now late for my rehearsal. The CEO’s wife was standing in the foyer, nervously wringing her hands.
“That was quick,” she said. “How is he?”
“Thank God,” she said. “You're a miracle worker!”
“I’ll send you the bill.”
“Say,” she said, touching my arm, “I don’t know how to ask this but it looks like Sponge Bob isn’t going to make it here after all, and--”
“And what?” I said, heading for the door.
“And my daughter is going to be heartbroken, and I was noticing you’re wearing a Teletubby costume and--”
“Munchkin. I’m a Malibu Munchkin,” I said, pulling a flattened pack of Camels from inside my bib. What of it?”
“Well,” she said, “do you know how to make any balloon animals?”
“I can do a giraffe and a peacock and Telly Savalas. What are you getting at?”
“Perfect,” she said. “How would you like to make some extra money?”
“I’ll pay you whatever you want.”
I set a broken Camel on one end of my lip and smiled with the other. “You got a light?”