On a crisp, yet somehow damp London evening (such is London), Humphrey Holdsworth, his wife Dolores, and Richard Aldwinkle trudged their merry way from the parking lot to the grand ball room at the Marriott. Inside was a banquet for LineTech Solutions executives, which Humphrey had been invited to attend despite not being an actual executive. It was pretty clear to him why he had been invited and that was because LineTech was searching for a new chief technology applications adviser. Everyone knew that Humphrey was lined up almost perfectly to take the job, but no company would hire someone based solely on their career position. Humphrey was already well-known in the company and had a solid reputation. No one really expected anything except that he would get the job.
He, however, had some schmoozing to do and this banquet was the perfect opportunity to do so. Humphrey was nervous about the whole thing and couldn't help but shake. For some reason, his left hand shook like a Mexican in an igloo, but his right hand remained mostly calm. Not helping matters was the fact that he was wearing a tuxedo. Humphrey absolutely hated wearing super formal clothing. He didn't mind a simple suit, but a tuxedo? Too much.
Dolores Holdsworth, Humphrey's wife, knew about his left-side shaking. She helped him compensate for it by locking her arm around his. And this was no thing to complain about. Despite being in her early forties, Dolores was a very attractive woman. Her dark green dress matched her forest eyes and shoulder-length chestnut hair well. Humphrey would always wonder why she had fallen in love with a capital-class dork such as he. A technology adviser position was a natural fit to his archetype. Perhaps it was the Oxford education. Or perhaps he's just a nerd. Does it matter?
And speaking of Oxford, to Humphrey's right was Richard Aldwinkle. From kindergarten onward, if one were to look on Humphrey's life, Richard Aldwinkle was to be found. Somehow, the two became inseparable despite their differences. On one hand, Humphrey was a hard-working sub-genius who worked his very hardest to stay out of trouble. On the other was Richard, who was a slacker with an average IQ and a massive propensity for getting himself into various sorts of squandles. And somehow, Richard always dragged Humphrey into it, and then used Humphrey to get out of it. In fact, Richard gained a lot from Humphrey, including somehow using him to get into Oxford. Objectively speaking, Humphrey gained the least from this relationship, however, it could, and should, be noted that without Richard, Humphrey would have a pole up his arse. And a stick up that pole's arse.
The only trait Dolores found detestable about Humphrey was Richard, who she saw as irresponsible and rude. At the same time, however, she felt as though she somehow owed him. It was actually because of Richard's ineptitude that she and Humphrey met at all. This is a long story for another time. Tonight, Richard was slightly more tolerable than usual. Why is that? Delilah. Or specifically the non-presence of Delilah.
“A pity Delilah couldn't be here,” Humphrey said with a very thinly-veiled touch of irony.
“Well, stomach flues happen,” Richard replied, not losing an ounce of his bearded cheer.
“A rather convenient stomach flu,” Dolores quipped. “Both for her and for us.”
“I'm actually going to agree with that,” Richard laughed as he straightened out his kilt. “If she were here, I'd never get away with this!” He actually looked completely ridiculous, especially considering that there wasn't a single bit of Scottish blood in him.
“You shouldn't be able to get away with that anyway,” Dolores rolled her eyes. In the back, middle, and front of her mind, she knew that the only way Humphrey could possibly lose this promotion would be Richard. But at least Delilah wasn't here to scare everyone away. Just the sight of a woman with scales....
“Now, now, a kilt is a perfectly reasonable-”
“It's a skirt,” Dolores argued.
“A man skirt,” Richard retorted.
“At least you didn't bring the hat to go with-” Dolores' eyes shot wide as Richard whipped it out of his jacket. “Oh, God, you did bring the hat to go with it.”
Richard put on the typical beret and grinned, “Had to get a complete set.”
Dolores rolled her eyes and decided that it would be foolish to pursue the issue any further. Not simply because Richard was completely ridiculous, but because they finally arrived at the door of the ball room. Humphrey suddenly stopped and took off his glasses as he trembled. Dolores took his hands and look him right in the eye, “You'll do great, Humphrey.”
“Thank you,” he put his glasses back on and then opened the door for the others. Inside was a moderate crowd of people, all dressed in expensive evening attire. Humphrey took a very deep, shaking breath before he put on a very confident face. This, of course, was a mask. In reality, Humphrey felt like a lobster in a pot.
And speaking of lobster, Richard eyed the buffet table and said, “I'm going to go check out the refreshments.” Exit Richard.
Very suddenly, a fat man who reminded Dolores very much of a fat ostrich with a beard came up to them with a grin the size of Manchester. This man was Thomas Daugherty, the Scottish CEO of LineTech. He beamed, “Humphrey! I'm so glad you could make it!”
Humphrey shook his hand, “As am I, Tom.” He then adjusted his glasses; another nervous tick.
“And who's this?” Tom turned to Dolores. “Is this the famous Dorothy?”
“Dolores, actually,” she extended her hand to him, where he kissed it. His beard was surprisingly smooth. While that sounds like it could be a positive trait, it was actually kind of gross.
“Ah, pardon me, I'm simply the worst with names,” he chuckled. Dolores feared that she had hurt Humphrey's chances somehow. She was wrong, “You know, Humphrey talks about you all the time. You probably know better than I do how much he adores you.”
“I do,” Dolores smiled warmly. She spied a ring on his finger and asked, “Are you married?”
“Ah, yes, I am, my wife should be around here at some place,” Tom stood tiptoed and searched for her. “Ah, she's probably off getting my nightly schmoozing done for me. Such a wonderful lass.”
“Dolores makes me do my own schmoozing,” Humphrey said. “She's like my private schmoozing coach.”
“And you still have a long way to go,” she put her hand on his arm.
“Humphrey!” Came a voice which Dolores had been dreading in the back of her mind. “Humphrey!” Richard suddenly appeared next to them with a look of childish joy. “You've got to come see this!”
“Excuse me,” Humphrey said.
He pushed through the crowd to follow Richard over to the banquet table. He exclaimed, “Isn't it awesome?!” He pointed to a four-tiered chocolate fountain. “But wait 'til you taste it!”
“Alright, “ Humphrey grabbed one of the strawberries on a stick they had there and put it underneath the fountain. Richard did the same. He took the fruit and found pure ecstasy as soon as he put it in his mouth. Seriously, he had never tasted better chocolate. “That's... that's delicious!”
“Isn't it though?”
Just to confirm that it was indeed the chocolate and not the combination with the strawberry that was so delicious, Humphrey discreetly put his finger under the stream and put it in his mouth. To his amazement, it was even better by itself. “Good God, this is the best thing I've ever tasted!” And, just to satisfy his curiosity, he called to the nearest waiter and asked, “What type of chocolate is this? What brand?”
Humphrey understood the waiter as saying, “Ah, sir, it is le Durchfall Chocolate imported from Holland.” The man was clearly French. And probably, well, um, flamboyant, judging by his mustache.
“Imported?” Richard frowned.
“Means it's expensive,” Humphrey told him. “Oh, wel-”
Richard then resolved, “We need to collect as much of it was we can. Quick find me a container.”
Humphrey resisted, “Wha- Dick, you can't just-”
“Blast! There's got to be-” He stopped as soon as he realized that around his waist was a sporran; or basically the small bag worn with a kilt. “I've got it!” He unzipped the man purse and held it under the fountain.
It was too late. The chocolate suddenly spewed everywhere. It jetted out to the floor, but mostly all over Richard. The shock of being wet with warm chocolate made him drop his man purse, but since it was still attached to his waist, it slopped right into his crotch. Before long, Richard was absolutely covered in chocolate.
“Oh, Richard, now you've done it,” Humphrey laughed uneasily as his hand hit his forehead. He wasn't thinking about the promotion or anything; he merely saw the embarrassment and the comedy of the situation.
A thickly-accented German old woman voice suddenly exclaimed, “Vhat is zat?!”
Richard turned to face her and whimpered, “Durchfall.”
The old woman gasped and then suddenly vomited all over the floor. The room fell silent and everyone stared, not sure what to make of the situation. Dolores ran over to Humphrey and did her best to gather words, but none came. A few seconds later, she realized by the expression on Humphrey's face, it was all Richard's fault. How typical.
Tom rushed over and asked loudly, “What's going on over here?”
Humphrey then stammered through the whole story. Dolores feared the worst about the promotion. It was surely gone.
“Wait,” Tom stopped Humphrey, “What brand of chocolate did you just say?”
“Durchfall,” Richard tried to wipe the chocolate off, but with each passing second, more of it solidified.
There was a brief pause before Tom suddenly burst out in the loudest, most boisterous laugh anyone in the room had conceived possible. A few people joined in with him (suck ups) before he gained control of himself and said, “You've misheard what the brand is! It's not durchfall! It's Dutch Tall!”
“What?” Humphrey's eyes widened.
“'Durchfall' is a word in German that means, well, to put it bluntly, diarrhea,” Tom laughed again. “Mrs. Krautz must have thought that-” he burst out laughing before he could finish.
“Oh my,” Humphrey started laughing to himself. Through his embarrassment he saw the comedy of the situation; one of his better traits.
“I knew the fountain was a bad idea!” Tom said, still holding his grin.
Dolores figured she should do some damage control, “Look, Tom, we are so sorr-”
“Humphrey, you should take your friend home so that he can bathe before his clothes stain too badly!” Tom told him.
“I'll do that, sir,” Humphrey gave Richard an angry look. Dick knew had done something terrible. “Come along, Richard.”
“Oh and Humphrey?”
“About that position coming up,” Tom stroked his beard. “Don't worry about it. The job is yours. We were going to announce it tonight. That's why we had this banquet at all!”
Dolores, without thinking, leapt to Humphrey and embraced him. “Oh, Humphrey, congratulations!” She kissed him on the cheek.
Humphrey, stunned, said, “Thank you, Mr. Dougherty!” He walked over and shook his hand. “Thank you so much, sir!”
“We'll discuss this tomorrow, for now, you need to get your friend home!” Tom's smile was truly indomitable.
Humphrey, still in disbelief, led his wife and his best friend out of the ball room and back to the car. They said nothing during this trip. Reacting to a combination of celebrated happiness, embarrassment, and confusion is not easy. Nevertheless, the air was one of pure glee in the Holdsworth car as they drove him. Even Dolores was too relieved at his promotion to worry about Richard staining the whole back seat of the car with chocolate. She never got it out, by the way, and wouldn't need to. The new Jaguar took care of that.
Humphrey's little escapade led to the creation of the biggest inside joke in LineTech Solution's very short history. The bathrooms would be constantly referred to as “durchfall centers” and Humphrey continuously received Dutch Tall chocolate as a prank. Sure, it ceased to be funny eventually... but it really is the best chocolate ever made.