Thor loped into the room, removed a gigantic leather sap from his rear pocket and sat down on the couch with a thud.
"I hate it when they talk back," he said. "It just makes it worse for them."
Moe nodded his agreement and slipped brass knuckles off a fist the size of a country ham. "They bring it on themselves," he said. "We are not to blame."
Thor and Moe are the two broken-nose enforcers who live in a meat locker on the second floor of the Sun building. They are ambassadors of goodwill.
What was it today? I asked them. Somebody try to leave a rude message on Sundial?
"Worse," Thor said. "Somebody tried to hold a garage sale instead of placing a classified ad."
When not making sure that people do what is best for them, Thor and Moe serve as my Poetry Police.
As I recently announced, the 10th Annual Roger Simon Greater Eastern Seaboard Poetry Contest is on.
"Except we have a problem with you this year," Thor said.
A problem? I said. With moi?
"We think the prize stinks," Thor said.
Prize? I said. Did I offer a prize?
"That's the problem," Thor said. "You didn't."
"You offered to print the winners' names in the paper," Moe said. "Big deal. These days you can get your name in the paper by jamming somebody into your trash compactor."
Good point, I said. OK, how about this:
In the lobby of the Sun building on Calvert Street there is this glass display case filled with all sorts of Sun crap. There are baseball caps, sweat shirts, little panda bears wearing Sun T-shirts, tote bags, etc.
So this year, my Grand Prize winner will get to go to the display case and pick out any single item as a prize so long as it's under $25, which is the most I can disguise on my expense account as lunch with Hillary Clinton.
"And what do the other winners get?" Moe asked.
They get their names printed in the paper without having to go through all the trouble of jamming somebody into their trash compactors, I said.
"Fair enough," Thor said.
OK, so here are the rules:
Each entry has to be on a postcard and be either a limerick or a haiku on the O. J. Simpson case. You can enter as many times as you wish.
Here's a limerick by Mary Jane Mitchell of Ellicott City:
O. J. once had a dual intent
Both a man and a beverage it meant
Now he's fumbled at scrimmage
And tarnished his image
And we're wondering where he'll be sent.
A haiku is a three-line poem that does not rhyme. The first line has five syllables, the second has seven and the third has five. It expresses a single, penetrating thought.
Here is one by Ella Mae Kirby of Halethorpe:
Lawyers play a game:
Is client guilty or not?
Who cares? Only win!
"Not bad," Moe said, "But who won the Charles Rammelkamp Award this year?"
As you may remember, in 1985 Charles Rammelkamp, asked to submit a limerick or haiku on squeegee kids, sent me a 200-line, four-page, single-spaced short story. It began: "Through the window of Sutter's Cleaners I saw Mr. Miller talking with Lucille, the young lady who runs the place."
And have you ever heard of Charles Rammelkamp since? No? Perhaps that is because Thor and Moe paid him a little visit.
This year, I said, I may give the Rammelkamp Award to JoEllen C. Lofton of Baltimore, who sent me a letter, not a postcard.
"Strike One," Moe said.
Which contained a 45-line poem.
"Strike Two," Thor said.
That was neither a limerick nor a haiku, I said.
"Strike Three and let's go pick her up," Moe said, pulling on his steel-toed shoes.
No, wait, I said. Let's let her try again. But everybody remember:
O. J. Simpson. Haiku or limerick. Postcards only. Send to:
Roger Simon's Poetry Contest
The Baltimore Sun
1627 K St, N.W.
Washington, DC 20006
And hurry. Like Judge Ito, I want to get this thing over with.