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Paying Your Dues
About the Author: Steve Shrott’s mystery short stories have appeared in sixteen anthologies as well as numerous online and print magazines. He has written two humorous mystery novels (Audition for Death and Dead Men Don’t Get Married,) as well as a “how-to book” on comedy-writing. Some of his jokes are in The Smithsonian Institute.

I stood in front of Chapter two-thirty-one of “The Mike Association,” and welcomed everyone.

We hold meetings the third Friday of every month in the back room of Mike’s Beer Emporium. During most of our sessions, we discuss the charity events we’re organizing.

Mike Wilson, the bar owner, lets us use the place because he knows how important our work is, and he’s pretty certain that after the meetings we’ll order up some liquid refreshments.

Oh, I’m Mike Connolly, by the way.

Today’s meeting began with Mike Flanagan reading aloud the minutes of the last session, and addressing the current state of our operating budget (negative, if you must know.)

Then I moved onto the tragic news about one of our newer members.

“As you’re aware, Mike Cooper was murdered, and I’m sure some of you would like to say a few kind words about him.”

I waited for what seemed an eternity, but no one stepped forward. Not even Mike Deluca, who got along with everyone.

“Mike Reynolds?” I asked with pleading eyes.

He shook his head.

“How about you, Mike Cummings?” He wouldn’t even look at me.

The truth is that most of our members disliked Mike Cooper. He didn’t have the gentleness of spirit that Mikes are known for. Sure, all our tempers flared on occasion, but generally we sauntered down the good path.

Mike Cooper had only been with us a few weeks, but his outbursts had already garnered many enemies. He had even made fun of the night-janitor’s lisp. The custodian had clipped him with a surprise right hook and chipped one of his teeth.

Still, as I stood in front of my fraternity brothers, I hoped someone would come forward with an anecdote that would reveal the kindness I was sure existed underneath Mike Cooper’s crusty shell.

No one made a move.

“I’m disappointed in you guys. Cooper may not have been the perfect representative of our tribe, but he was a Mike. Let’s at least bid him adieu as he journeys into that final realm.”

For a moment silence filled the room. Then one at a time, members stood up, and whispered, “Fare Thee Well, Mike Cooper.”

It made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Mikes rule!

An hour or so later, everyone left to go home to their families. I went home to my cat, Mike-elangelo. Hard as it is to believe, I’m still single. I think woman are a little hesitant to get involved with a private eye who faces bullets and enraged husbands on a daily basis.

The next morning, I awoke, shocked to learn that they had arrested Mike Witherspoon for Cooper’s murder. Obviously, it was some kind of mistake. A Mike would never harm one of his own.

I jumped into my Honda Civic and headed to police headquarters.

Sure, I could’ve gotten some sexy new roadster, but Mikes aren’t a flashy lot. We like to blend in.

I entered 53 Division, and an officer popped open Mike Witherspoon’s cell. Two beefy arms immediately surrounded my body in a warm bear hug. “Appreciate you coming.”

“What happened, Mike?”

He waddled back and forth, then stopped suddenly, and stood in front of me. “I lent Cooper five grand for a heart operation. Said he’d pay it back within a week. He didn’t. I had no money for rent so I went to see him. We argued, but he wouldn’t give me my five-grand back. The next thing I know, I’m convicted of murder.”  He plopped down onto his bed staring at the floor.

I patted him on the shoulder. “Don’t worry Mike. I’ll get you out.”

He didn’t look up.

I headed down the hall to see the chief, Nick Liebman. He’s not a Mike, but Nicks are pretty good too.

As usual, his black straggly hair sprang up in all directions looking like a barber’s nightmare.

“What the hell you doing here, Connolly?”

This story appears in our MAY 2020 Issue
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