The Five Square Men

Damon Runyon

Barring maybe a few babies born the last couple of years, my Grandpap Mugg has a pretty good line in everybody back in my old home town, and what he thinks of most of them is scarcely fit to eat.

You take the average prominent citizen of my home town, and no matter how he stands in the community, my Grandpap Mugg can dig him up from away back yonder, and show where he ought to be in jail, or maybe hung.

For many years my Grandpap Mugg claims that outside of himself there are only five square guys in my home town, which gives us a total of six in our entire population. And of course my Grandpap Mugg says he is the squarest of the lot, although some people say different.

The five guys my Grandpap Mugg says are square guys are as follows:

John P. Stubblefield, the president of the Stockgrowers bank.

Herman B. Hornblower, who owns the Manhattan clothing store.

Red Mack Counihan, the gambler.

Gus Juniper, the harness maker.

Elmer Foote, the editor of the Daily Express.

All these guys are very old citizens, and my Grandpap Mugg knows them since Pike’s Peak is a hole in the ground. Naturally my Grandpap Mugg knows what he is talking about when he says they are square, and of course he also knows what he is talking about when he says he himself is square, although some people dispute it.

Well, sir, what happens one time but my Grandpap Mugg has a very important business deal on which looks as if it is going to make him plenty of dough.

It seems that this is a deal in which he needs a number of partners, and especially partners who are square guys. So my Grandpap Mugg decides he will take in on the deal all the five guys I mention and give them a chance to make some dough with him.

“I know all these gentlemen a long time,” my Grandpap Mugg says, “and I know there is very little if any larceny in them. They are my oldest and dearest friends, and I am glad I can shoo them in on a big opportunity.”

My old man claims that it is not reasonable that anybody can live in my old home town as long as these parties, and remain square, but my Grandpap Mugg says he will lay even money on any one of the five, but not so much of it on John Stubblefield. Anyway, he says, he is going to take them in on this deal, so one night he invites them all to our house for a little session at poker which will give them a chance to talk things over.

Well, they play nearly all night long, and it is a pretty big game at that, but the next morning my Grandpap Mugg is around looking very sad indeed. Furthermore, it seems that as far as the five square guys are concerned the deal is all off. They are not in. In fact, my Grandpap Mugg says he never mentions it to them at all.

“You see,” my Grandpap Mugg says, “I get to looking at them while we are playing cards, and certain little things about each one that happen long ago comes to my mind. I get to thinking that maybe they are not as square as they ought to be, especially John P. Stubblefield and Herman B. Hornblower, because they are both well fixed.

“Finally,” he says, “I decide to put a little test on them, and I go out in another room for a moment and fix up a deck of cards. When it comes my deal I deal each man five aces.

“Well, sir,” my Grandpap Mugg says, “I am very sorry to say it, but the next few minutes are very terrible to me, because I see each of five men I have great trust in as square guys trying to get rid of his extra ace.

“From now on,” my Grandpap Mugg says, “I do not believe anybody in the world is square, except,” he says, “maybe myself.”