Nap Lapkin and the confusing story
If you’re familiar with the reaction that teenage girls had to seeing the Beatles in concert in 1964, I bet you remembered it in black & white, then you have an idea of how both men and women greeted the appearance of legendary super-spy Nap Lapkin as he spoke to a new class of recruits at Camp Swampy (a covert CIA training facility in Williamsburg, Virginia). Except instead of screaming and crying they sat completely motionless, in color, in their chairs as he entered the conference room to address them.
In their heads they were screaming and crying and, just to give you an accurate idea of how they were feeling, shaking. Shaking a whole lot.
To one young recruit what Nap said wasn’t as important as how he said it. Let me back up a moment here to mention something that I didn’t mention when Nap entered the room because in all honesty I couldn’t see how it was in the least bit important, but leave it to a young recruit to obsess on it and make me look like a writer who doesn’t convey relevant details.
I’m not fucking Dan Brown. I think we’ve established that. I didn’t tell you what Nap was wearing and I didn’t mention if the fixed tables in the conference room were laminate or wood. The list of things I didn’t tell you about could choke a horse and explains why clerks at the bookstore tell you to lift with your knees when you go to pick up a Dan Brown novel.
Nap entered carrying a cup of coffee. As he began to talk he occasionally sipped it. A number of times he used the hand that held the coffee to point at somebody or make a point. And yes, I know Dan Brown would never use the word point twice in the same sentence.
After Nap was done speaking he exited the building and began the short walk to the parking lot. He didn’t get far before the young recruit who made me look so bad earlier in the story chased him down and tapped him on the shoulder.
(Honestly a part of me wants to make that young recruit trip and snap his neck for embarrassing me in front of my readership)
“Mr. Napkin… do you have a minute to talk?”
Nap turned and looked at him. Inside the new recruit’s head he once again began to scream and cradle his face in his hands as tears ran down his face.
“Sure” replied Nap, “What can I do for you?”
Unlike Dan fucking Brown, who would spend a thousand words relating an endless torrent of pointless dialogue and mentioning the type of tree to their left, I will jump to the salient bits.
“I noticed you carried a full cup of coffee in your hand as you entered the room this morning. It made me wonder if I’m cut out for this stuff.”
Nap looked at him a second then, putting his hand on the recruit’s shoulder, asked “Are you special?”
Sucking in his chest the new recruit asked “Do you mean do I feel uniquely qualified to be a field agent?”
“No” said Nap. “I mean are you retarded? Are we starting to put retarded agents in the field now?”
“No sir! What I meant is that my hand shakes when I try to walk and drink coffee.”
Nap gave him a look that made it clear he wasn’t sure if Dan had answered his original question. I’m calling the new recruit Dan now because I’m not Dan fucking Brown.
Trying to answer Nap’s original question Dan continued; “You look the part Nap. There is no shakiness in your hand. When I try to walk and drink coffee at the same time it always splashes up in my face or I have to concentrate so much that I trip. It makes me wonder if I’m cool enough to be an agent.”
Nap smiled. “Now I understand. You’re not that retarded after all.”
Dan smiled. He had not anticipated such accolades.
“The short answer is; you are cool enough to be an agent. You’re just not cool enough to be me.”
Nap walked over to a bench and invited the young recruit to sit down next to him.
“But nobody is kid. There is only one me.”
Dan nodded. Truer words had never been spoken.
“Let me tell you a story kid.” With those words Dan began to scream and cry again in his head. In fact, if Nap had bothered to notice, a single real tear began to make its way down Dan’s cheek.
“When I was just getting into the business I had a few of the same preconceptions about what it meant to be a spy. I’m going to tell you something I never told another person. If you ever share this information with anyone I will find you and I will crush your larynx.” With that Nap lifted an eyebrow ever so slightly to indicate that he was expecting a reply.
“Understood Mr. Lapkin.”
“Ok then. I grew up watching James Bond films and if you’ve ever noticed, a lot of them involve casinos or gambling. Wanting to make sure I was ready for this environment I decided to learn how to card count. I would drive up to Atlantic City on weekends where they had classes that taught such things.”
That’s the type of tree they were sitting under.
Take that Dan Brown.
“I think it was my third class when it happened. There was an old guy there and he must have had Parkinson’s or something because he kept having these little burst where he’d shake. Annoying, sure, but I actually found it to be just the type of distraction I might run across in the field so I didn’t ask that he leave.”
Dan nodded, showing Nap that he appreciated his compassion.
“All morning this guy was shaking and trembling. Finally we got to take a break and this guy heads directly over to the coffee station. Everybody in the room freezes. I mean, everyone was watching as this guy grabs a cup and the pot and begins to pour. You could hear a pin drop. He must have known everyone was watching.”
That’s the type of wood that the bench they were sitting on was made of.
“He finished pouring it and everyone exhaled. His hand was like a rock. Then he reached for the creamer and shook a little into his cup. We were all suffering. Waiting for the inevitable. I’m telling you, it was so tense. When he was done with that he went to grab the sugar and in my head I was yelling “Don’t get greedy!” but he poured a little sugar into his cup with no problem. I then realized that I hadn’t taken a breath in over a minute.”
Dan then realized that he hadn’t taken a breath in over a minute.
“This guy, this old Parkinson’s-riddled guy, then picked up a stirrer and began to stir his coffee. The room was just about to erupt in applause. He swirled the stick around in the cup and then, with the steady hands of a brain surgeon, placed the stirrer down on the table in front of him.”
Nap looked Dan in the eye to make sure he was paying close attention.
“Then the old guy lifted the cup to his lips and sent the coffee flying with the mother of all spasms. Seizure city. The Splash Zone at Seaworld didn’t hold a candle to this. Every square inch of the room was drenched. More liquid was sent flying than the cup could have possibly held.”
Nap fixed his gaze on Dan again, making sure he understood.
“Do you understand? More liquid was sent flying from that shaky old man’s cup than it could have possibly held.”
Dan did not understand.
Dan Brown doesn’t understand how hard it is to write about Nap Lapkin. His characters make sense. I can only write things as they happen. If Dan Brown had to write about Nap Lapkin his stories would be just as dumb.
“You see rookie, some of who you are is you. The rest is circumstance.” Once again his eyebrow lifted slightly to feel out the new recruit’s understanding then he continued.
“I walked out of that room and never went back. I knew that when it mattered, when I am playing blackjack and the bad guys are watching and I have a ten and an eight showing and I hit I’m going to get a three.”
Dan wanted to understand. Desperately. He knew somehow that it was important. In his head it was as if the Beatles started playing an old George Gershwin tune. There was screaming. Confused screaming.
Nap slapped the knee of the new recruit and said “Fate will make you who you are.”
“Are you saying not to worry about how I drink coffee as I walk?” inquired Dan, stammering a little.
“Oh no no no, you definitely need to work on that.”
With that Nap chuckled to himself, stood up and walked towards his car.
On the way he passed three Eastern White Pines, two Yellow Birches and a Bitternut Hickory.