My sister called me up a couple weeks ago and said she had this idea for a character she wanted to draw and she wanted me to write a story to go along with it. I have to admit that I don’t even remember the last time I’d written a short story, but the name she gave the character—Sir Olive Hans—was just too good for me to pass up. So, I set out to write about 1,000 or so words of nonsense, bolstered by this most excellent illustration.
What would you like to see Sir Olive do next? Let me know in the comments.
The newlyweds, Martha and Mandrake, were simply ecstatic to be hosting their first formal dinner party. What better way to open a new chapter in their lives than by throwing an intimate, extravagant dinner with their closest friends?
No expense would be spared. Their guests would enjoy the finest foods—all privately catered by the finest culinary masters in their nearby New England hamlet. They would eat off the finest china and drink from crystal chalices. “Why,” Martha and Mandrake said to each other, “perhaps if the night proceeds accordingly we might even uncork that bottle of 1874 Chateaux Deux we’ve been keeping in our cellar!”
Indeed, no guest would depart unsated—or unimpressed.
The dinner party began promptly at seven o’clock sharp. The first guests to arrive were the Curmudgeons, their spangled Chihuahua in tow. They were followed by the Oglethorpes, a taxidermist and his wife who kept eyeing the Curmedgeon’s Chihuahua with bizarre eagerness all night. The last to arrive were the Dumptys, who both suffered from premature osteoporosis. The guests all took their seats at the table, and just as Martha and Mandrake were set to commence with the first course, a ring came at the doorbell.
“Who could that be?” Mandrake asked. “Martha, were we expecting anyone else? I’m afraid we haven’t set enough places at the table.”
“Why no, Martha replied. “There must be some mistake.”
The pair proceeded to the front door. Mandrake reached expectantly for the doorknob, but just then a thunderclap bellowed through the hall, and Mandrake instinctively recoiled in terror.
The room fell silent. The Chihuahua whimpered in Mrs. Curmudgeon’s purse.
The large mahogany door slowly crept open, and Martha let out a gasp. A petite, proper gasp, but a gasp nonetheless.
A set of long, spindly fingers crept around the door, each with a strange shining globe around the tip. Mandrake moved in front of Martha to protect her, ever the chivalrous gentleman.
The door swung open, and in the entryway stood a tall, smiling figure. He was certainly dressed to rub elbows with the best of them. A pair of sleek Hessian boots adorned his feet, along with a pair of smart chaps and a tailcoat so perfectly tailored to his trim figure that it gave the man an almost regal quality. A beaver-skin top hat adorned his smiling visage, which was perfectly framed by a masterfully trimmed handlebar mustache. This commanding presence, which leaned ever so gracefully on a hand-crafted, diamond-tipped cane, radiated class and dignity as if they were mere afterthoughts. To say that the hosts and their guests were dumbfounded by his presence would be accurate, although it wouldn’t paint the entire picture.
But, as they took this striking character in, everyone present couldn’t help noticing the peculiar protrusions on his fingertips, tiny balls that glistened in the faint chandelier light.
Without any further delay, the gentleman extended his knobbed right hand to greet Mandrake, “Sir Olive Hans, at your service.”
Mandrake stared tentatively at the glossy protrusions, but decided that—in the name of propriety—he must not show any reservations in the presence of so fine a specimen of cultured society. And so, Mandrake reached out, gripped Sir Olive’s hand, and shook it vigorously.
“Charmed,” Mandrake said.
Sir Olive grimaced, “Do you watch the olives, old boy.”
“Wha . . . the olives, you say?” Mandrake stammered.
“Quite right,” Sir Olive said. “I am sure it is clear to anyone in this room that I have olives on my fingertips. I am afraid your steely grip has ruptured the skin. I’m leaking olive oil, it would seem. Extra virgin at that!” Sir Olive winked.
“Oh, dear me! So sorry old boy. I didn’t want to appear rude, and now it appears I have done just that.”
“Nonsense!” Sir Olive bellowed. “We’re all here to have a good time! Think nothing of it. Although, if you have a salad in need of dressing, I’d be glad to squeeze the remainder of this oil out.” He let out a sharp cackle, indicating that his comments had all been in good humor, but the assembled crowd was so fixated on peculiarity of the olives adorning the gentleman’s fingers that the comment had fallen on deaf ears.
“What a ghastly fellow,” whispered Mrs. Curmudgeon to her husband, still clutching her Chihuahua.
The room fell silent. Mrs. Curmudgeon had thought no one would hear her declaration, but Sir Olive’s sudden sheepishness made it quite apparent that he’d not only heard the lady’s vitriolic retort, but that it had in fact taken him aback.
Mr. Mandrake, well trained in the art of playing host, did not allow the mood to persist. “Do forgive us, Mr. Hans, but we were just preparing for a dinner party and hadn’t expected the extra company of a man of your . . . pedigree. If you would like to join us I’d be happy to have my servant make a place for you at the table.”
Sir Olive bowed in appreciation.
“I am indebted to your generosity, kind sir, but it is clear that you have a dinner party well underway and I couldn’t fathom the stigma of being the uninvited guest,” Sir Olive said.
“Nonsense, you will be our guest of honor!” said Mandrake.
“Thank you again, but I really must be on my way,” replied Sir Olive. “I only popped by to make a small request before I continue my travels.”
“Anything for a distinguished gentleman such as yourself,” said Mandrake.
“In that case, could I trouble you for a toothpick?” smiled Sir Olive.
Mandrake felt just as surprised as the rest of the guests at such a request. Fortunately, he always kept a silver toothpick in his breast pocket during dinner parties, as he had a terrible phobia of speaking with food lodged in his teeth. He reached in to his pocket, and procured the small implement.
“Thank you, my fine sir!” said Sir Olive, returning once again to his grandiose spirit of speaking. “And now, I must sadly take my leave of you. Good evening to all!”
And with that, the mysterious Sir Olive Hans departed.
The group of young diners ate largely is silence for the rest of the night. No one was in a particularly foul or downtrodden mood, and in fact the food and drink were both quite lovely, and paired excellently with each other. Perhaps the only miscue was the piece of spinach clinging to Mandrake’s left canine tooth, a fact wholly lost on the man, who had surrendered his only toothpick to Sir Olive.
Their silence, in other words, was due to no failing of the party, the food, or the hosts, but simply due to the nature of unanswered conundrums. Had they discussed it, everyone at the table—even Mrs. Curmudgeon—would have agreed that Sir Olive was perhaps the most dapper, distinguished, and commanding presence they had ever encountered.
But how did those olives get on his fingertips, and why did he require a toothpick?