Abel and Knott
By Tom Carnegie
I'm not sure of the spelling, or if Abel and Knott are even their real names, but everybody calls them that, including each other. Abel and Knott are business partners. They have been partners for as long as anyone can remember. The story goes that as young men they decided to split all of their earnings fifty-fifty for the rest of their lives. They then sealed the deal with a handshake. When the railroad was being built, Abel got hired, Knott did not. Knott got half of Abel's wages. Knott won a little at the poker table, Abel got half of it. Now mind you, the money is always split fifty-fifty, but not their possessions and not their women. Abel and Knott have both worn out a wife apiece. I don't presume that either will marry again. Abel has a mule that he calls B-cup, which is short for Buttercup. Knott doesn't have any livestock, but does own a little mining equipment. Abel and Knott have a hankering to look for gold. They have been prospecting in the hills north of Baton Noir, and have staked a claim.
As Joseph Vant stands outside the Model T Garage, he sees two figures in the distance walking into town. As the figures get a little closer, they become Abel and Knott. Abel and Knott have been working their claim and come into town periodically, but this time is different. This time there is no B-cup. When they get close enough to engage in conversation Joseph asks Abel where his mule is. "She's buried up on yon mountain" is the reply. "Oh, I'm sorry to hear that." Says Joseph, and then as if to change
the subject, continues, "I heard that there is a registered letter for you
at the post office. Maybe it is some good news." It turns out
that the letter is more good than bad.
Apparently Abel's aunt, whom he didn't even know he had, has passed away and
left him $1000.00. That means Abel gets $500.00 and Knott gets $500.00.
The first thing they do with the money is to go to the movie house and watch
their first motion picture. They invite Joseph Vant to go with them and he
does. The name of the film is Broken Blossoms starring Lillian Gish.
After the show, Joseph thanks them for treating him, then says, "I'm glad I
got to see one before they don't show them any longer." "You
think they'll quit making them?" asks Abel. "Yes I do, and
I'll tell you exactly why. In order to enjoy a motion picture you must
suspend your disbelief. This is very difficult to do for two reasons:
First, the screen is flat. In a play for instance, there are three
dimensions, with a motion picture there are only two. Second, is that
annoying piano player. It would be better if they had people behind the
screen shouting the dialog. This would help, but even if the actors own
voices magically came out of the screen it wouldn't salvage a fundamentally
flawed form of entertainment. In the future, motion pictures will only be
used to document news events, and then only to a limited extent."
Knott and Abel don't really understand all that Joseph Vant just said, but they
too are glad that they got to see a motion picture before they are no longer
Knott then takes most of his money and buys what is likely the most impractical
thing he could get. A grandfather's clock. He doesn't even have a
house to put it in, but he's been eyeballing this clock in Herr Uhr's shop for a
long time, and now it is his. Abel spends his money on a far more
practical item. A 1917 Model T Runabout. It has no turtle deck, but
rather a small wooden box in its place. It is in pretty nice shape as it
is only a couple of years old. It also has a low head that has been milled
about an eighth of an inch, a Bosch high tension magneto and a Stromberg OF
carburetor. Abel names his new friend P-cup, which is short for pickup.
P-cup moves down the road quite nicely, and Abel loves to drive her fast.
He has developed a new emotion that he has never experienced before - greed.
Abel is greedy for speed. It seems as if some people, once they get a
taste for something, just want more and more. Such was the case with Abel.
Abel stops at the Model T Garage and thumbs lustily through catalogs. How
he drools over pictures of high compression heads and special manifolds!
In order to purchase these goodies, Abel needs money. So with the clock loaded
in the back and Knott in the front of P-cup, it's off to their cabin in the
hills to pan for gold.
Nobody in town knows for sure how well the gold digging operation is going.
There is much speculation. The fact is that Abel and Knott are doing quite
well. When they come into town for supplies or to play cards or to just
say hello, they don't breathe a word about their operation.
Today Knott is coming into town alone. He has his clock roped to the back
of P-cup. As he drives by the Model T Garage, Joseph yells to him,
"It has come in!" "O.K." says Knott as he slows to a
stop. "I have to get my clock looked at. There is something
wrong with it. It goes tick, but won't go tock."
Herr Uhr is a clockmaker from the Black Forest of Germany. As Knott
explains to him how his clock just goes tick, but won't go tock, Herr Uhr peers
intently into the face of the clock. "Vee have vays of making you
tock!" he says. He does too. A simple adjustment is made - the clock
is reloaded and Knott heads back toward camp. Knott stops by the Model T
Garage on the way and tells Joseph that he will be back in one week.
A week later Abel senses that something is not right. Knott left very
early this morning in P-cup. To top it off, he feels that some of the gold
is missing. With all the luck that they have been having, Abel is sure
that Knott is getting greedy. "Now that we are into some real money,
greedy old thievin' Knott is going to pull a fast one on me." Abel
has pretty well worked himself into a lather by now. He stomps over to the
shed they use to store P-cup. He opens the storage box and pulls out the
gunnysack. In the gunnysack is the gold and a Colt .45. He weighs
the gold. Now he is even more convinced that Knott is robbing him.
"There should be more gold than this. I'm gonna watch that Knott like
a hawk." Abel puts the gold and the gun back into the sack and puts the
sack back into the storage box.
Late that night Knott returns. He backs the T into the shed and heads for
the cabin. "Where ya been all day?" asks Abel. "Had
to run a few errands." says Knott. Rather than push Knott for more
information, Abel decides to let it go so as to not tip Knott off that he is on
to his little scheme. He is going to catch Knott red-handed.
"Good night Abel. I'm turnin' in. I'm just plum tuckered."
It isn't like Knott to turn in so soon. So Abel knows something is up.
When Knott thinks Abel is asleep he gets up, grabs the lantern and heads for the
shed. Abel isn't asleep though. He waits a few minutes, then grabs
the rifle and creeps out to the shed. By the glow of the lantern Abel sees
something that confirms his suspicions. There is Knott with a gunnysack in
his arms. Abel lowers the rifle to Knott's chest and calls out, "You
are a thief, Knott. You are a demnation thief" "No,
No, Abel, you don't understand. Here, I'll show you." Knott starts to reach
into the sack. Abel knows he's going for the Colt .45 and he knows it's loaded.
Abel shoots first. Down goes Knott. As he crumples to the ground, a model T
cylinder head falls from the sack. Abel walks over to Knott. As he looks at
Knott he notices that the hood of the T is open. Installed on the motor is a
brand new Roof-Laurel cylinder head. Attached is this note:
I don't no when your birthday is, butt I took some of my share of the gold
and bot you this hear cylinder head. The folks at the Model T garage put it on
for you today. I'm sorry to be so sneeky about it butt I wanted to supprize you.
I no you wanted it real bad and it makes me happy to give it to you. Your
partner for life.
Knott makes a couple of gasps for air. As Abel cradles Knott's head he
repeats over and over, "I'm so sorry Knott, I'm so sorry."
The partnership is now over.