Hastings and Watson

Photo of Perfume Passion (pink) rose, on a black background, with the caption: "He asked if I'd seen the rose between his teeth."

Hastings and Watson

Short story by Iris Carden

They met in a quiet corner of the pub, away from the hubbub, the many voices, where they could speak.

“I just get sick of the way he always makes me look like an idiot,” Arthur Hastings said. “You wouldn’t believe the stunt on this last case. ‘Just stand at the the top of the stairs here, and watch what happens,’ he said. Well I watched him cross the floor down below. I told him that’s what I’d seen. Then he asked if I’d seen the rose he was carrying between his teeth! Well, I hadn’t, I looked stupid. But that solved the case because that proved the witness couldn’t have seen what she thought she saw, and you know how it goes.”

John Watson sighed, as he looked at the younger man. “Sherlock was like that all the time. Even when he was out of his mind, high on cocaine, and shooting holes in the wall, he still managed to make himself look clever and me foolish.”

“Poirot and his ‘little grey cells’ is always so superior. I’m always a prop to show how superior he is.”

“It’s called narcissism,” John replied. “I became interested in psychology after Sherlock’s death, trying to understand him, and why I had put up with him for so long.”

“And why did you put up with him? Why do I put up with Poirot? Even I treat him as my superior. I can’t bring myself to call him Hercule, can’t raise myself to the level of first-name acquaintance.”

“It took me a long time to go from ‘Holmes’ to ‘Sherlock’ as well. I stuck with him because he was brilliant. I was always awed by his intellect and the way he could solve a mystery. But I also stuck with him because he needed me. Just like Hercule Poirot needs you.”

“Poirot doesn’t need me.”

“He does. You tell his story. No-one else will do that. The world knows he’s a genius because you explain his genius. And who else would put up with him? He has no other real friends. Other people wouldn’t tolerate his arrogance. He doesn’t admit it. He talks down to you. But he needs you.”

“Then why do I stay with him?”

“Because, like me, you are a faithful friend. You see something worthwhile behind the arrogance and the narcissism. He also gives you a good story to tell. No-one would have ever heard of me if I hadn’t told Sherlock’s story. No-one would have ever heard of you if you hadn’t told Poirot’s story. I know whatever led to your injury and got you invalided out of the army was probably incredibly heroic, but still not enough for the kind of fame you have now. We are made to look like fools, but we get a little share of their reflected glory, glory we have helped to manufacture. They wouldn’t be famous without us, either.”

“You managed to leave.”

“When I met Mary, I had an incentive to change my life, to love someone who was capable of loving me in return. Proposing to her was the best decision I ever made. I hope accepting was the best decision she ever made. I didn’t cut my ties with Sherlock, but my world became bigger. I had a life beyond Sherlock, and it was a life worth living. You, my young friend, need to find your Mary. I don’t mean you have to find a wife, but you have to find something beyond Poirot to live for. He will never make himself less important in your life. You need to do that for yourself.”

Arthur was quiet for a moment. “Well,” he said, “here’s to finding something.”

They clinked glasses.

A moment later, Arthur continued, “He dyes that ridiculous moustache, you know.”

By Iris Carden

Iris Carden is an Australian indie author, mother, grandmother, and chronic illness patient. On good days, she writes. Because of the unpredictability of her health, she writes on an indie basis, not trying to meet deadlines. She lives on a disability support pension now, but her ultimate dream is to earn her own living from her writing.

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