1. Always one screw left over
  2. What about the agreement?
  3. His reason for retiring


The regular Wednesday night meeting of the Longwood Gab and Gargle Club broke up about ten o’clock, as usual, but Philip and May were still sitting in the booth at a quarter past eleven.

“What about the agreement?” Philip asked for at least the tenth time. “We all said we’d stick to it and see it through to the end.”

May shook her head and tapped a well-worn fingernail on the tabletop to emphasize each word of her rebuttal.

“That agreement didn’t include any of this stuff. In the beginning it was all just for fun and I refuse to be held to it any longer.”

The two of them had been hashing out their differences since the rest of the group had staggered out earlier. There were eight of them altogether, and for the most part their get-togethers were amiable, occasionally raucous, but generally under control. They’d been meeting every Wednesday for more than three years now; May and Phil and the Frobishers at the start, and then Don and Evelyn joining in after the first couple of months.

The strain on the group, though, hadn’t appeared until the last two members sort of invited themselves one night, and no one had found a good way to arrange for them to be uninvited.

The Sherman brothers weren’t strangers to the original group, and for the first few times they showed up it seemed that they’d fit in just fine. They laughed in all the right places and took their turns buying a round.

“Well,” Amy Frobisher had said after they’d been coming a while, “it isn’t so much that I dislike them. It’s more that I just don’t feel comfortable with them. Especially Ted. He’s so quiet that he’s almost scary. I think he’d never say a word except that Fred nudges him under the table. I’ve seen him.”

Amy had been the only one, at that point, to put it in words, but the feeling was there all the same. And now this latest thing, the idea the Shermans had proposed tonight, was just too much.