“You see, Mr. Shnodgrate,” this professor was saying as he looked across the table at the grumpy V. Shnodgrate, “maybe you should try not to take things so seriously?”
Shnodgrate looked up. “Sometimes I wonder about you, P.VJ. If you don’t take anything seriously, how then can you possibly get on?”
“Get on with what?” I asked.
“With everything!” Shnodgrate said with a wave of his hands. “If you don’t take everything seriously, then everything won’t take you seriously.”
That got me.
Either Shnodgrate was being deep, or the professor was being dull.
“For instance,” he went on, “look at that face.” Shnodgrate shoved this picture in front of me.
“What can you tell from the eagle’s face?”
“Well…” I began unsurely. “Firstly, from his look, I suppose him a mean sort of chap–”
Shnodgrate let out a huff of disapproval and fell back into his seat.
“Something’s clearly wrong with you, P.VJ. Why do you take a serious expression as a mean expression? You always think I’m angry, but in reality, I’m serious. Just like that eagle And when you’re serious, you’re taken seriously.”
“By eagles?” I asked.
Shnodgrate didn’t approve. “By everyone!”
“I see. Maybe you should write a book about the serious expression being taken seriously.”
At that moment, Napoleon walked up and sat at our table. “Mind if I join you, eh?”
“Take this man for instance,” Shnodgrate said. “Look at him. I bet he’s never had a serious day in his whole life.”
Napoleon smiled indolently. “And have I suffered for it? I tell you, no! Ma foi!”
I shrugged. “Can’t be good overall, though, Napoleon. You see, the eagles won’t take you seriously now.”
That did it.
Shnodgrate jumped up. “I’m leaving!”
“Before you go,” Napoleon said, “I challenge you to a drinking (dual) contest! Whoever can drink more, he’s the more serious man. And I vill vin, eh?”
Shnodgrate turned and left.
“Oh well,” I said.
“Then I challenge you, P.VJ!”
I stood. “Oh no, you see, this professor isn’t the kind.”
And I left.