True Love by T. S. Phoenix
. . . America moves slowly toward a worldwide economic disaster that will end in nuclear holocaust. One man holds the key to preventing total collapse and bringing world peace. He just left for the beach.
T. S. Phoenix, now past 30, was bounced around from place to place after birth, and began work at age 12. After sharing a cobweb-filled attic with a motorcycle mechanic who stomped in the hood of a car because it blocked a pedestrian crosswalk in front of him, Phoenix lived for nearly a year in a remote cabin in the woods of Pennsylvania, far from telephone, television, and people.
A teenage motorcyclist, Phoenix wore the same Harley-Davidson black leather jacket for nearly twenty years. Although convicted of several crimes, Phoenix escaped prosecution on several others. Two warrants are currently outstanding.
Phoenix wrote a horror story about death at sea before leaving high school, and for nearly twenty years kept a journal of troubled thoughts and unusual experiences from Mexico to Morocco and back. Several attempts at poetry found limited success, so Phoenix abandoned this effort to publish humor under another name.
In recent years, Phoenix wrote about the disadvantaged and the unemployed. A temporary worker fired from several jobs, Phoenix is an expert on the subject.
Phoenix began True Love while living on the top floor of a condemned house. A portion of this story appeared previously in Washington Post Magazine under the title "Love Letters."
Some time ago fragments of a yellow manuscript, written by one whose skills did not equal his or her ambition, came into my possession. It is characteristic of our age — an amateurish effort offering more words than wisdom from a writer who presumes a worm's-eye view might suffice to instruct those able to observe from a much higher platform.
Despite the unimaginable task of making a thinly disguised biography even marginally tolerable to busy readers, as a former teacher I felt it obligatory to at least give it a cursory read. At the urging of Gloria Naylor, author of Seven Women of Brewster Place, I have done what might be done to humor the author by correcting spelling and grammatical errors while leaving a modicum of the original style.
I have added elements from our common cultural heritage to enhance the otherwise sterile meanderings of someone little read in the great classics of literature. My choice of nomenclature, I trust, flavors this ollapodrida, though it cannot supply the tastefulness or elegance of T. S. Eliot's "Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" or "The Wasteland."
The book's greatest weakness lies in its casual blending of facts and fantasies. The essence of good fiction is verisimilitude, an art that this author regrettably neglects and which I could not rectify without beginning ab initio. To convince readers, an author must be believed; telling a story both internally consistent and consonant with our own experiences. The combination of unlikely characters and incredible coincidences makes this unsatisfactory literature, though an avaricious cinematographer might choose to procure and display it to the masses.
The author's haphazard interpolation of sex, violence, and religion — subjects which our readers doubtless find anathema — render the book unfit for refined people in an age of antidisestablishmentarianism.
Furthermore, the indiscriminate mixing of psychology, politics, love, dieting, film, poetry, finance, self-help, predictions, business management, and science prevents us from quickly describing the book to acquaintances at cocktail parties. Progress requires us, in such cases, to fully indulge our tendency to floccinaucinihilipipification.
I, for one, ignore data provided gratis regarding the marketability of books touching on culinary arts and cocaine. Pleasure, for me, comes in a version less impious if less chic — something better suited to a gondola than to a Viking cruise of the Caribbean. My quest is for the tranquil sound of chimes at golden dawn, the hush of a lullaby by a luminous sea, a melody murmuring through the mist.
Surely history shall applaud my decision to condemn this work. Let us forget this dog-eared manuscript until the author's last relative has perused it and it is burned with other rubbish accumulated over the years. I'm sure we'll be forgiven for not signing our real name.
Wherein we meet T. S. Phoenix and some characters
Chapter One: They Meet
In which True meets a legend in his own mind
Chapter Two: Old Ben
In which Benjamin V. Cohen asks F. D. to prevent an economic collapse
Chapter Three: Golden Cadillacs
Wherein Joe Laitin tells F. D. he will make a million dollars
Chapter Four: Breakfast at Timberlakes
Lawyers are in the gravy and F. D. is in the soup
Chapter Five: Of Mice and Men
Of politicians and the eating habits of people
Chapter Six: Wine and Roses
How it is that wine becomes vinegar and roses fade
Chapter Seven: The Magic Mountain
The enchantment of F. D. and his fall from grace
Chapter Eight: Breaking Away
How it comes to pass that things inflated go flat
Chapter Nine: Twelve Days of Xmas
Where we learn again what money can buy
Chapter Ten: Other Voices, Other Rooms
Wherein everybody is busy but nothing happens
Chapter Eleven: News from Nowhere
How F. D. disappears but pieces keep showing up
Chapter Twelve: The Blue Book
F. D. goes to a party
Chapter Fourteen: Straighten Up and Fly Right
How F. D. conquers the temple and ends a deficit
Chapter Fifteen: Death Valley Days
F. D. on the beach
"All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts . . . ." — Shakespeare
Since you have probably already read the jacket, I guess you think you know me. I've noticed these jackets don't allow too much space, so maybe I can fill in a few things before you get too busy reading.
First, in the matter of who I am — namely, T. S. Phoenix. The powers that be put the wrong names on my papers, but did okay on the initials. The rest could be a long story or a short one. I'll tell you the short one, because I know you are probably busy and really don't want to know everything or you would be reading The World Book and not this.
Last night I was walking in Georgetown, which is the name of a town on the way to the beach. I was walking in pants which this blonde who fixes things for me says are too short but can't be fixed, and I had about a dollar in change in my pockets and nothing else.
On the street, I was mostly looking down, which I do when I've had a beer for dinner, and I saw this black tag lying there, so I bent over to pick it up. The tag came off a pair of sox, and it still had one of those little plastic things that I always had to cut off, when I had money and could buy sox.
This tag, which was in pretty good shape considering that it had probably been walked on a couple of times before I picked it up, still was in one piece. How it was got off the sox without cutting I don't know, but I figure this is one smart guy that did it.
I guess if I could get the tag off of sox without cutting the plastic thing, I would be living in a ritzy house in Georgetown and not walking the streets without a dollar bill in my pocket and with enough debts to put me in debtor's prison, if they had one, which they don't.
If they did, I would be off the streets and eating regular, with a TV for company. I've never been in prison, but there are worse places and I know a few people who would be very happy to lock me up.
Anyway, this black tag says "Phoenix" on it, with some other things in white print. I figure this might be a good tag for me, because I have been out burning up the pavements, partly to come up with a scam to make a few bucks and partly to write this story.
A very nice lady said she would help me publish it, and I figure I will get a lot of money for it — at least a dollar a book. She got seven cents a book herself, but she is about as street smart as a farmer, so she ends up scrambling in the dust, but doesn't take home much bread.
I like this black tag, because most people say I'm one of the black sheep in my father's flock, even though I can usually pass for white.
You would know my true color if I told you my real name, which is not Phoenix. It is not Smith or Jones, but it's almost as common as dirt.
Everybody knows my town is black. Rich lawyers and liberals come here and promise to help poor folks, then they get rich and hire their friends and relations. Other rich guys get hired to build expensive things that usually don't work, and when they do, somebody dies.
It is not easy in this town if you look too white or if you picked the wrong parents. You can end up an oreo cookie in reverse, for which there is no market these days.
Anyway, I will use this brand of Interwoven socks because I think a lot about sox. I am doing a lot of walking lately and I could use a good pair of sox. Besides, the story I am writing is interwoven, too — and if Phoenix is not a perfect name, it will make a pretty good story.
So I keep on walking, and since I do not have enough money to stop in for a beer, I take P Street and pass by a health center which is right next door to a pizza joint that I once ate in.
I am fond of this pizza joint because one rainy night a very brassy blonde was chewing with a couple of friends and was giving me the eye pretty good. I think we would have had a very good time in some dark place, except I was already stocked up with one blonde eating the other half of my pizza, and pretty fast at that, and since this blonde had given me some fun, not to mention food and clothes and a place to get some exercise and sleep afterward, I was not so hot as to shoot for a second blonde, although this blonde was put together very nice.
Since I am looking into this pizza joint in case the blonde is hanging around, which is not likely, but I am looking anyway, I notice this health center. Now this won't be easy to believe, because I am still carrying this black tag which says Phoenix on it, but the name on this health center is also Phoenix.
I figure this sign is to tell me the tag is okay.
Now I think to myself, why is Phoenix such a good name. It is just a town in Arizona, which is where I lived before my parents lost me.
Then I remember that Phoenix had the highest temperature ever recorded — 118º — even though it is September. I figure this temperature is reached because of the hot air blowing in from California.
This hot air probably has to do with RR and the white mob. They have been making a lot of heated noise about the red mob shooting down their plane, even though RR says it wasn't his. The package was owned by some dark friends who bought it from guys who hang out in the grove.
He says he is taking this very personal and that he cannot figure out why the red guys are getting so particular about where planes fly.
Now if he read a little more or was a little smarter, he might see that this plane was called 007, just like secret agent James Bond, and that "00" means it is okay to kill people if the government says to do it.
Well the reds make quite a row about how this plane is peeking into some very private windows, namely a couple of missile bases and such, and that it seems to have taken a little detour of about 300 miles from where it is supposed to be, which is over the ocean. They make a lot of racket when it starts peeking, and then they give it a couple of pops and it goes down like a rock.
This makes for some unpleasantness, because the rock is occupied by a number of very dignified people and it is very unfashionable to off a large number of dignified people in this fashion — unless you are very well connected and have a good story, which these red guys don't.
This event makes for a lot of hot air, which RR is very good at, since he has been getting paid to expand his lungs and work his vocal cords for about fifty years. In fact, I call him RR because he rode around the country in a Rolls-Royce with a driver and then made his employers pay the tab when he was making the film version of his current life.
Right now, spouting all this hot air gets him 200 grand a year plus some nice china, a big house, an armor-plated car, a jet airplane, and a small army of bodyguards — which he needs, since this hot air is not very nourishing to folks who would rather have a hot meal.
If the tag for the socks and the sign on the health center and the hottest air in America is not a good enough reason to call myself Phoenix, this same night I visit a ritzy house with the aforementioned not-so-brassy blonde who fixes socks and eats the other half of my pizza, and I happen to take a gander at an atlas.
I am gandering at an atlas, not to look for Phoenix, which I have been to and rode a horse in and where I also made love to a very nice little girl who a little later would end up married to a guy who slept a lot, but who was on this occasion taking some air before she went under for the third time. I am looking for Intercourse, which is a town in PA.
I have been to this town, and on Thursday when I am playing delivery boy at the old post office, I meet a married woman who says her name is Denise Bender. Since I always liked the name Denise — mostly because of a girl named Denise who was a cheerleader at my high school and who made me very hot and who almost went home with me from a party at a funeral home and who told me not to marry a very foxy blonde because I would end up sacrificed before an altar. I almost did anyway, because the blonde was very well put together and a great place to exercise.
Denise Bender has all her curves in the right places, and when she says she is a computer programmer I let on I worked once for Sperry, mostly talking and typing. I don't tell her that I worked for Computer Sciences last month, which is pretty impressive, also typing some.
Anyway, she asks about Sperry, which builds the Univac computer. this item was a big deal when nobody ever heard of a computer, but now these folks are down on their luck and sell stuff to the government, which helps the handicapped, especially big companies with lots of hummers.
Now in case you have not worked for an important corporation or an important university or an important government agency or an important charity or whatever, I will explain about these hummers.
A hummer does not have to work anymore, because he is too important. Instead, he hangs around and watches other guys do the work. When they do the work he looks very serious and nods his head and goes hmmmm. And then he does it again, even longer, like hmmmmmm.
Then he goes to lunch.
When he comes back, he gets another title to make him more important. The big guy then calls a meeting of all the hummers who did not get his title yet. Then they take turn making various noises, and after each one makes his noise, the others all hum.
If you study social stuff, you could call this the Music of the Spears or MOTS, because in the old days guys carried spears, but now they just hum people to death. That is enough stuff for social experts to think about, because this is a book for laymen and laywomen.
Anyway, the Bender asks if I worked in Pennsylvania, which is where Univac has its main office, and she says she is from Pennsylvania and somewhere around Philadelphia. She says some other things, but my mind is on her bends and I miss the drift, mostly it is about a lot of towns in Pennsylvania which I never heard of.
One town which I have heard of and which is very much on my mind at all times, is Intercourse. I ask her if she has heard of Intercourse, and she says no, which is not very convincing since she is from PA and has a 12-year-old son.
I tell her it is a town in Pennsylvania, and she looks away a little and then looks back at me as if I am maybe making this story up, which I am not. Anyway, all this conversation is enough to get her to go for a little walk with me to help me find the old post office, which is across the street and is not a post office at all, but is a lot of restaurants and a theater that isn't open.
I figure this very nicely shaped lady is the reason that this first building is put in my way, and also that it turns out that there is no room 6333, because someone in the government who fixes such things has forgotten all the rooms from 6330 to about 6346.
So I ask Denise, as we are finding the elevators, if she will give me a kiss if Intercourse really exists, and she says no.
This is an answer I get a lot from women who want to say yes but who are out of practice, so a little later — just as I am about to leave her and cross the street — I ask her if she will give me something else instead of a kiss. Again she says no, so I tell her to look it up in an atlas which is maybe as far as I am concerned the only place she will find Intercourse with an attitude like that.
It turns out, though, that when I get to where I was supposed to be in the first place — to room 6333 — there is a message that Denise has called and left me the telephone number I wanted. Since I did not ask for a telephone number, I am very curious, and I call this number which I am told is also at the IRS. Since Denise picks up the phone I figure she is maybe getting smarter and I ask her if she would like to take a drink with me after work. She says she has a car pool, which is a good excuse, so I put her in my book for later.
So it is Friday night and I am looking for Intercourse in an atlas, instead of giving Denise a little exercise. I find it is near such towns as Vintage, which some folks pass through on their way to Intercourse. There is also Sinking Spring close by and some other towns closer, like Reamstown and Gap. But most of all Paradise is so close to Intercourse that they might be two parts of the same place.
Not long ago I had a bit of Paradise in a sort of redhead who was named Paradis, but lacked the "e" which I guess was for energy, because she got very tired very quick. A little later she got a kid, and our love life sort of went off the track, although I would not mind to make her acquaintance again some dark night.
Anyway, what I was getting to was that here on this map, after the tag from the sox and the sign on the health center and all the hot air even though it is September, was a town called Phoenixville which is not far from Valley Forge. Since I am a true patriot, I figure this cinches it, so I will call myself Phoenix.
Now there will be some people who know me who think that this is not the whole story, and that is true, but the whole story is very long and in any case no one can tell the whole story, not even those who were there when it happened. And besides, you are already getting bored with Phoenix and would like to get on to something more interesting.
I suppose I could tell you about T.S., because maybe you want to know what these initials stand for, but I will let you figure that out for yourself. I will say it is not Eliot, like some people might guess, because the only Eliot I ever met said her name was B and I am not sure even whether this Elliott was spelled with one L and one T or not.
My guess is that you are too tired to figure why I call myself T.S. and should start with chapter fourteen so you can finish this story and get on to reading another. Why spend time on introductions when acting and singing bring in the big dough.
Anyway, now you have heard my name and you know it is made up mostly from what I have come across in my travels.
The story I have to tell you is named True Love, because it is true and because it is a love story, although it does not have a happy ending like in the movies, except maybe like in Romeo and Juliet.
I saw this movie with a redhead at the Circle. It is not my idea of a good love story because there isn't enough sex and the people die with no thrills. Just the same, a lot of people paid money to see it instead of getting a National Bohemian at Herb's, even though the lovers end up together in a tomb and, what with the slow mails and some harmless deception, they both end up pretty dead. I figure the guy who wrote the story really brought home the bacon, if he had a good agent.
I myself like any good love story as long as there is a little sex in it, maybe with some danger, and it does not cost too much.
So this story I am telling you is a little like Romeo and Juliet, only the clothes are more up-to-date. I borrowed everything from a guy who is pretty much out of the picture and as good as dead.
Some of this story was a bunch of letters kept in a condemned house where I have been holed up for some time. The letters were written by some sap who was mostly just taking up space.
Since I met the sap and had to listen to him spout off about this true love of his, I thought it might make a good story, especially for women who love to read about romantic lovers with mustaches and money who bring flowers to damsels in distress and the like.
Besides which, I would like to have a bundle of dough so I don't have to be a janitor, which is what the people over at Manpower think I might be good for if they don't need anybody to punch things out on a word processor — which is a television screen that has no soap operas except the ones you put into it by punching the keys.
Just writing down this story is a big job for me, but I tell this idea to a couple of friends, and they get all hot and say I had better not do this, because the doll in this love story will take it very unkind, especially as she is not too thrilled with the events and would be very happy if they had not transpired. My friends, who do not know me too well anyway, say I should change a few things, like especially the names of everybody, so I will not end up in court.
They do not know that I have met up once with a very good mouthpiece who goes by the name Armor, which is a very good name to have when people are taking potshots at you, so I figure I can just tell this story straight out and there will be no trouble which he cannot handle, especially if I can put together a few bucks to buy him a couple of dinners or a nice political office or something.
I figure this changing of names is probably okay advice, but I think I can get the same result by changing my name and becoming invisible, which is to me a very easy thing to do, as I am often having to do this when someone wants a pile of money which I owe him but do not have.
Besides which, it is some considerable trouble to change names and such like, and I am not a great fan for trouble, although I have bumped into it more than once. In fact, while with some people you could say that trouble is their middle name, you might say it is my first name, and with a capital T.
So I'm not sure about what to do with the names of people in this story, but I figure I should change the name of the sap who wrote these letters, because most of the other people don't use their real names anyway, and the doll who is in the story could have changed her name by now, since I hear she has starry eyes for some big wheel who is moving in the biggest circles in Capital City these days.
If I have to change the name of the sap, I can probably find a name lying around on a sidewalk somewhere, but today it is definitely raining and not so good for walking.
In fact, I am suppose to be meeting with a guy who would like to give me a couple of good belts on account of I owe him thirty or forty Ben Franklins. I do not wish to pay him these Bens, inasmuch as I have a whole line of tough guys waiting for Bens, and they are better connected in Capital City and are very interested in my health.
For this reason, I will go back to hiding out, after I visit Denise, who is connected with the mob in a small way and who may also give me some tender loving care some fine night. I remember she has some very nice cushions, and I am thinking that this rain would be much nicer if I were resting somewhere with Denise and doing something to keep healthy, such as exercise.
Even if I am short a name for the sap, you can relax, because even if fat old Chance says it is elementary, there is no way I will chicken out and go for a stuffy name like Paul Emile LeCoq de Boisbaudran IV.
Personally, I think that Dennis is a pretty good name, since this curvy number keeps coming back to my mind, although Stephanie is not a bad idea either, so I could probably name him Steven. I can't do this, because I am never sure whether it should be Stephen or Steven. This I am sure will trip me up before the story is half done, so I will save this name for true love's husband, who can pop up and disappear before I forget which spelling I picked.
Since Dennis is not a perfect first name, I think that maybe a first initial would be a nice touch. I guess F is good enough, since it stands for First and a lot of other names like Frank and Ferdinand.
Frank is a plain old word you can find in any book of words. Ferdinand is a bull who would rather smell the flowers than get killed by the matador, which makes him a very uncooperative bull and no hero.
So F. Dennis has practically got it all, except for a last name. Smith or Jones are too common, but I could use Phillips, except here again I do not know whether I should use just one L or two. So I think maybe I will stick him with Williams, which I don't ever see with one L. This would be easier to remember and would keep me from getting tripped up when I use it again, if I ever do.
This F. Dennis is a very ordinary guy with a little mustache, very short and without enough hair. Except for the fact that he is a very average looking guy, he looks a little like a short Burt Reynolds, or maybe Clark Gable except for his looks and his personality.
Now his true love, which some guys would spell TRUE LOVE, or at least True Love, is perfect. Since perfect people are pretty rare on this planet, I will give her a more down-to-earth story. Of course, she is a very foxy lady. I have seen this true love myself once or twice and I can say she would make a very nice place to spend some time.
In fact, this is the kind of foxy lady which a great many guys who are not so dull as F. Dennis and who are also better connected will spend a great deal of time to get close to. Moreover, I hear there are some guys who will dump their lifetime partners in short order if they can get a little of this true love for themselves.
Now whereas I am not supposed to be giving away any real names, I will call this very foxy lady True Love, although I realize that this is very corny, and it is not exactly her real name. So that you will not commence to tearing out pages and throwing them in the garbage, I will just call her T. L. which is close enough for now.
I do not know who T. L. looks like, although she is a little like Goldie Hawn only much better put together. She is not Sophia Loren, but very nice in the personality department, if you know what I mean. She is a little skinny for me, because skinny people make me nervous, but a little beer and pizza would fix that problem, and in an emergency, she would do just fine even without the beer and pizza.
These are the two main characters. There are a couple of billion others, but most of them are out of town and will not show up here. Some you will get to meet, such as Sunshine who is a jolly redhead with more money than is good for her and Paula, who changed her name so her father would not know who she was, and Donna who is a real lady.
So, like I say, I have these letters, which are very sappy, but okay for people I guess, although they did not go over big with True Love and they did not get the sap a happy ending, which is no surprise to me because it has been my experience that there is no substitute for something physical when it comes to romance. Words and Flowers are just overhead, and I believe in very low overhead, except where I can get an immediate payment by word or flower, which is seldom.
I will set the scene by telling how F. Dennis got mixed up with this doll, a story which I overheard when I was hanging out in San Francisco with Minnesota Marge.
Minnesota Marge is a friend of the Cruise Director, who has been playing with balls since she joined the San Francisco Warriors for a little halftime action quite a while back.
Mostly she hangs out with Mr. Wonderful, who has a Mercedes and a Hatteras and a wife. Sometimes she features the editor or the ex-cop.
These characters all have a place, but it is far from here.
When F. Dennis met Minnesota Marge and poured out his long story of true love, she told him her own current heartbreaker and they never did get cozy. This is a very sappy thing to do. I myself would avoid all such discussions until after I am too tired for anything else.
My memory is perhaps not perfect, but it will be good enough for this which is only a story and which you will probably not remember by breakfast anyway, if you eat breakfast, which I am about to.
"Have no friends who are not as good as yourself." — Confucius
This is going to be a very long story, so you might want to pour some Cheerios or take a nap or go to the bathroom or look out of the window for a while or find something more exciting than the next few pages.
This story is for saps who would rather put their nose in a book about love than go out and find some for themselves.
You should be one hundred percent perfectly clear that I am not so hot on telling about things that never happened. I figure there are plenty of politicians making a nice living this way, and anyway, plenty of things that do happen never make the newspapers.
It seems to me it is pretty wasteful to make up stories when there are true ones lying around untold.
I am not against folks who like to tell tall tales, because there are always a bunch that will listen to such and will buy drinks all around, but I am not so good at such lines and so I figure a better way to get a good story — and it's perfectly legit — is to steal it.
I asked a friend of mine named Joe about this scam, and he says it is not only okay, but it is the way everybody does it these days including the New York Times. If you have seen this rag, you know she may be old and gray but she is pretty fat, so she must have been eating good.
If I had a big pile of money like some guys, I'd have made a movie when these things happened and saved a lot of typing, but a lot of people would have noticed being trailed around with a camera — especially in the bathroom and such — so the story might have turned out different.
Listening to gossip is okay, but it is quite a chore to memorize it and write it all up in some fashion. I don't like trying to memorize, and I do not like to write, but I will do almost anything to make a buck.
I am not any Ronald Reagan, so I cannot remember much more than "Hark, I hear a cannon," but I have heard this story morning, noon and night for so long that even I can remember more than you will ever want to know.
As I say, memory was never my strong point and I figure the sap who wrote the letters and who bent my ear with this history was no better in the memory department than I am, so don't expect you will ever read the whole truth. Instead, you should maybe swallow a large salt tablet before reading any more — unless you have high blood pressure, as a lot of people seem to these days.
Just so you won't get the idea I am writing this story for fun, I should say I was offered a dollar a page and if I write while I work for some important company, it's a good way to pass the time.
Since bosses spend most of their time at the country clubs or on a jet airplane, they don't have much time to keep an eye on things. Nobody bothers with us regular folks unless the bosses need an extra house or a new boat, then they decide we are stinking up the neighborhood and they get the guards to show us the door.
That's the way the world is these days — some people are riding on sheepskin seats and the rest are getting squashed under the tires, and the ones on the sheepskin seats are very offended at the unpleasant odor from those who ar leaving their bodily juices on the Michelins.
I guess I should start by telling you about the sap. He is like a lot of bums you see around Capital City every day. They make quite a sight with their sniffing and begging and lying around and they make the neighborhood smell like a broken refrigerator filled with dead meat.
He looks like these guys and in these times of equal opportunity also like some dolls who are pretty fragrant. He looks like he has dropped a few marbles along the way or maybe his whole bag of marbles, because there doesn't seem to be much behind his eyes except mushy stuff you couldn't sell for a dollar a pound even if politicians would let you.
Although F. D. was never much of a big deal, he always tried to act like a genius before his brains got jangled when he fell from a place that was too high for anyone not wearing wings.
Now F. D., as I will call him for short, and he is exactly one foot shorter than Mr. Wonderful and too short for Wendy and Candy and T. L. who probably do not have time for small change.
It was easy for me to get Wendy. She picked me up once next to an Exxon station and we had quite a little ride after the sun went down, I got a bottle of Pearl beer and had some real kicks. Everything worked out just fine that night.
Wendy said she was a feminist, like a lot of Capital City women. Since such people feel better if you agree with them, I allow as how I am as feminist as the next guy and maybe even more so. I do not mention the belt I use to let women know how they rank with me. In fact, when I first use this belt, a very well put together shrink decides she will be as friendly as I like. I figure I am a feminist, because I try to give women what is good for them anytime I can.
Once upon a time F. D. ran a little business in Capital City making marks here and there, and piling up a stash. He was doing this in the same way as business is done everywhere, by putting the touch on his friends for a few bucks and then finding somebody else to do the work.
One day his number one slave decides to take on it on the lam. Since his friends have gotten very used to certain services being performed in a certain way, he is very concerned that he will have to do this work himself if he cannot think very fast and act even faster.
He decides the way to get the slave back and maybe to get a bunch of other slaves is to get religion. He goes down to a store and buys a book and in no time at all he has a first-class religion and figures he can save the world or at least make a bundle telling people he is going to save it eventually.
He makes a list of the things he will need, like a wife and a bunch of children, and some other things that will be helpful including a couple of billion dollars and a book on life and some peace and quiet so nobody will blow him and his family and his money to kingdom come.
He sits down and makes out a plan. He decides that to make it all work out he should become perfect.
Now I could tell him that there are some very nice places with high brick walls and little windows filled with people screaming about such ideas, but since he is a rich guy and thinks he is so smart, he will not be likely to listen to such remarks as I could make without the slightest boost from anyone.
It is also very unlikely that any guy with a lot of dough is going to go into such a place as has high brick walls and little windows unless he pops a few shots at a president or some such. And even F.D., who is a sap, is not so crazy as this, especially if there is no profit in such activities and his new religion says no dice to killing folks.
Since there is no one handy to put him safely under lock and key, he sets off on his program to become perfect. He reads a book called How I Rose From Failure to Success in Selling by some dead guy, because he figures if he is going to make any real money he will have to sell the pants off everybody in town. Now this is by no means easy, because quite a few people between Frenchville and Imperial Beach are running around half naked thanks to a great selling job.
The first thing the sap does is figure out thirteen different areas where he falls short of perfection. Then he writes out cards telling him what to do to perfect himself in each of these areas.
If he had asked me, I could have given him a couple of dozen more areas where he might want to build up some muscle, but he figures he can do fine with this idea which the dead guy borrowed from Ben Franklin.
Ben Franklin is one of my favorite folks, mainly because his pictures in green can be used to catch blondes, brunettes, and redheads. Still, I would not let anybody else tell me his ideas. Some folks will ask a weatherman if it is raining outside, but I'd rather look for myself.
The first week F.D. sets aside for exercise, which is close to my heart and which I indulge in when I am in the mood. His idea was to swim three miles in an afternoon, then to bicycle a hundred miles in less than twelve hours, and then to walk thirty miles in a day.
Now I have not spent much time in a swimming pool since Sunshine tried to pull my swimming suit down, and I find a bicycle is very hard on certain parts of my anatomy which I figure can be put to better use.
On the whole, I agree with the guy from Ohio who was the first sap to go for a stroll on the Moon. He says he figures he has got only so many heartbeats and he does not care to waste any exercising.
Since F.D. was not the smartest guy in the world and never got closer to the Moon than the lounge on a 747, he spent this first week sweating a couple of gallons off riding to George Washington's house and back.
He did this for about a week then he decided to get cleaner and look better. I grew up having a bath about once a week on Saturday night so as to save water, so I do not go overboard here and I figure clothes are good enough if they cover what they are supposed to cover.
F. D. decides to give away everything that does not look just so, and furthermore he goes out and picks up a book on the subject, as he will do at the drop of a hat. It tells him how to dress for success.
If I had a fancy sports car and a hundred grand in the bank and a big house and a condo in Georgetown, I would not stand in line to buy any books on how to dress myself. I would put on a black leather jacket and buy a new motorcycle and go anywhere I was in the mood to go and no one could so much as say boo.
Things go along fine until the third week, when F. D. starts practicing to be more tranquil when little things go wrong, such as when he has to drive on the same road with some guy from another state.
I myself have always found it is a lot more enjoyable on such occasions to let out a couple of unpleasant words, as it gives everybody a chance to know how much you would like such people to go back to their own state or into the nearest river.
He does not think ahead that if he is trying to become more tranquil, he might end up getting lots of chances to show this skill, such as when he is being beaten up or treated like a dog. If he wants to learn tranquility it is okay by me, but I would rather go to the beach.
This week is the reason he ends up in this very book. In one week of being more tranquil, F. D. finds himself some first-class trouble.
It starts when he decides to take Ms. Paula out for a bite.
Since Paula is not her real name, this little lady could be anybody.
She could even be the little brunette with hot breath that I met along the parkway. She said her name was Paula, and I could tell by the way she looked at me that I could have her short of breath in no time at all, if I could get my hands on her. I wanted to try this, but she was with someone bigger, and they moved too fast for me to get her.
This isn't Paula of the parkway, though. I have seen F. D.'s Paula of the changed name, too, and if I ever take her out for dinner, I will have something in mind for dessert and it will not be ice cream.
So F. D. shows up at the very big house where Ms. Paula is living and he is feeling very tranquil indeed. He plans to cheer up Ms. Paula, who has been very sad because her love has gone off to live in far away Atlanta and she is left high and dry.
F. D. goes up to the door and rings the bell and waits. After a while Ms. Paula opens the main portal all out of breath and looking like she has been chased around the bedroom for about an hour. She says come in quick, be right back, there's some trouble on the phone, upstairs.
So she runs back up the stairs in a flash and F. D. stands cooling his heels in the doorway and practices being tranquil.
He checks out the paint on the ceiling and a few other places, and is still tranquil when she comes back downstairs and pushes him toward the garden, grabbing a glass and some wine along the way.
She sits him down in the garden with some other guy, and says she has been on the telephone with her very best friend who is busy being beaten up by her very own husband somewhere in Georgetown.
While she is talking with this best friend on the telephone and asking where it is she is busy being beaten up, all of a sudden there is no more conversation. It seems that the best friend is no longer chatting and has perhaps hung up the phone and gone on about her business.
Ms. Paula was born in the middle of winter, so she is a worrier. She does not figure she should down a glass of wine and get on with a nice dinner somewhere, but tells F. D. that she thinks she may get another call and they should sit still until this call comes in so she can go off and rescue the friend from the husband.
If you know anything about husbands, you probably know that lots of them are no good, or at least not good enough to keep around.
F. D., Ms. Paula, and the extra guy in the garden drink their glasses of wine, look each other over and then look up toward the bedroom with the telephone.
Sure enough, before they can start another glass of wine, the telephone rings and Ms. Paula is off like a shot. In a couple of minutes she is back and says she has to go rescue her friend who is now tired of being beaten up and is standing on M Street waiting for a ride.
F. D. decides he will play assistant hero, so they jump in Ms. Paula's silver Mazda and go roaring off to M Street.
Sure enough, there on the sidewalk is this friend of Ms. Paula crying her eyes out and looking a bit under the weather. Right along side of her is this husband who is a pretty cute guy with a beard. He is trying to talk her ear off so she will go someplace with him or at least hang around on M Street for a while.
Ms. Paula gets out of the silver Mazda in a second, grabs her friend away from the husband and puts her in the back seat. This is by no means easy and in fact is very difficult because the car does not have a back seat, but has only a very small place for luggage.
Fortunately this friend is a pretty small piece of baggage herself, and so she fits in with only a little bending.
F. D. plays his part by being very tranquil and going over to talk to the bearded husband. The husband is not having too much of this talk and is in no mood at all for listening to any guy who is about to get in the same silver Mazda with his lifetime partner, even if this stranger has enough tranquility to last until Doomsday.
But F. D. looks him right in the eyes and says very calmly that he will most assuredly talk to the lifetime partner about this matter.
The bearded husband does not appear too enthusiastic about this, but since the lifetime partner is already scrunched up in the back seat of the Mazda which doesn't have a back seat, and Ms. Paula is ready to gun the engine and depart, the husband shrugs his shoulders and F. D. gets back in the car and the silver Mazda streaks away.
They don't get more than a block before Ms. Paula asks where they are going. They bat this question around a little and they decide to go back to F. D.'s so the husband will not be able to come and find them when he wises up, which he will do in about five minutes.
So they take a little spin and in no time at all they are sitting in the kitchen of F. D. and Ms. Paula's friend is crying her eyes out and rubbing her arms where her husband was holding her while he was trying to shake some sense into her, but without much luck.
Now, so you won't be overcome with suspense, it happens that this friend of Ms. Paula is none other than True Love, although F. D. has no more idea of this than the man in the moon. In fact, when Ms. Paula points out that T. L. is a very cute dish, F. D. mumbles a polite "Yup" and thinks no more about it.
Instead, he busies himself putting ice cubes in little plastic bags so that T. L., as I call her, can put these little plastic bags filled with ice cubes on her arms in the places where her husband has been squeezing her a little more than is good for anyone with small arms.
F. D. says maybe a little champagne will help dry up some tears, so they pop the cork on a couple of jars of the bubbly.
Well, with the ice cubes on the arms and the bubbly sliding down the old gullet pretty nice, naturally the conversation gets around to such questions as what is going on anyway.
T. L. says she does not understand what all the fuss is about, but that a couple of nights ago she is out hoisting a few with her very good friend Ms. Paula and they meet some guy who is extra friendly and not bad to look at.
To make a long story short, she takes a little walk with this guy and sits on a park bench for a while until it is very late and then she goes home to her lifetime partner who is a bit suspicious that maybe she is not perfect in the faithfulness department.
As it happens, Ms. Paula goes right home to bed and before long she gets a call from T. L.'s lifetime partner. He observes that whereas Ms. Paula, who has no lifetime partner, is home at an early hour, his own T. L. is nowhere to be found, and is probably up to no good.
When T. L. does finally decide to see what is up around the old homestead, she finds it is her lifetime partner's dander and she must do some very fast talking indeed to keep from being pitched off a nearby balcony, which would by no means be good for her health as she is none too sturdy and the balcony in this case is nine floors above some very hard concrete.
Everything is more or less settled by this fast talking, and there is no more trouble until this Friday afternoon, when she meets her lifetime partner at the M Street bistro. He inquires as to how she has been and she says fine and he says he tried to call her at work this afternoon and they allowed as how she was out.
She says yes she was out and this is because she was not feeling too much in the pink, so she went home to take a little nap and then went to have her hair rearranged. He asks why she did not answer the phone when she was home, because he tried to call her all afternoon. She is very quick to say she has pulled the plug out so as to not interfere with her taking this little nap which she very much needed and she is feeling much better now, too, thank you.
At this he gets a little sparkle in his eyes and commences to breathe a little uneven, and says something like "Aha" by which he means now I have got you. He then lets on that he has been home after work and has found their little cat locked up in a closet where this little cat has spent the whole day and has been very much unhappy about this.
From this he has figured that T. L. has not been at home taking a nap, but very likely has been taking a nap at some other location and probably without getting so much as a wink of sleep either.
So T. L. gives this some little thought and then says it is true she has not been at home like she was saying, but also she has not been doing anything very wicked, only sitting in a bar with the guy from the park bench of a couple nights before and talking.
Somewhere along in here T. L.'s lifetime partner, who we will call Steven or Stephen, after the saint, commences to grab her arms and to do a little shaking back and forth. He also pushes her against a wall a time or two.
Now when F. D. hears this tale he stays very tranquil and says it is most unfortunate that she has told such stories to her lifetime partner, as such stories will do much to make him doubt the truth when it is told to him, if it ever is.
He says he does not doubt himself that she is now telling the truth, but he thinks maybe a lifetime partner who has heard such stories a little at a time might well be expected to commence a little arm grabbing with some shaking, if not much more.
So, with the champagne going down very nice and the story all being told out, T. L. takes a stroll in the living room to make a phone call so she can see how things are going back home.
Ms. Paula and F. D. stay in the kitchen and perhaps listen with one ear to what is coming to pass in the other room. Ms. Paula allows as how F. D. is a perfect angel to be so tranquil in all of this, which is not at all how she would like to see this evening go.
He looks very tranquil and says it is definitely no problem and he is even finding it all pretty educational.
In a short while, T. L. comes back and says everything is worked out. Her lifetime partner will move out right away and live someplace else and they will divide up everything a little later.
With this all settled, they polish off the last of the champagne and take a stroll down to Nora's, which is a very classy little restaurant not too far from where this F. D. is living.
They all sit down at Nora's and have a bottle of wine and talk some about how come F. D. is not going crazy with this ruining of his plans for a quiet evening with Ms. Paula. He says he is improving himself and this week he is practicing to be tranquil no matter what happens, so he is getting some good experience and having a fine time.
Besides, he says, he is taking out Ms. P. because he has heard she is not having such good luck with men and he does not want guys in general to get a bad reputation. He says he would have had a dinner with this Ms. P. even earlier just because of the way she looks in tight pants, but she did not exactly seem to be drooling over him in the way he thinks would show she wants anything more than a polite how do.
So Ms. P. commences to make some goo-goo eyes at him and talks in a southern accent and shows she could play this role if she wanted.
The dinner's a winner and the wine is fine, and before long they all are walking back down Connecticut Avenue, and the sap has his arms around the two dolls. He notices some guys passing by are giving him the eye and scratching their heads because they cannot understand why a short guy with a little mustache has two such delicious looking dolls to hug him and laugh when he is not funny, except maybe looking.
He figures it is the tranquility, and that it is a result of becoming perfect. I figure it is mostly the champagne and the wine.
When they get in front of his house, Ms. Paula puts T. L. in the silver Mazda, only in the front seat this time, and goes back to F. D. and gives him a very wet kiss right on the mouth. The next time it will not turn out this way, she claims, and gives him an extra squeeze.
Now I do not know what F. D. is thinking at this time, what with him being so filled up with tranquility, but if this is me and Ms. Paula plants such a kiss — a wet one especially — on me in this fashion, what I am think would burn a hole right in this page.
So this is how F.D. meets True Love.
"Things and actions are what they are, and their consequences will be what they will be: why then should we seek to be deceived?" -- Bishop Butler
The next day is a very nice Saturday, and F. D. is still being very tranquil. It is a particularly good for him to be tranquil, because he is off to bid a fond farewell to a very friendly brunette who has been a good neighbor for some years but is now throwing in the towel and having herself married off to a shallow-water sailor.
This sailor spends his time sailing a desk around on very dry land, which is the usual fashion these days, but F. D. figures nothing lasts forever. So when the brunette — a number he inherited from his dead friend Nick — decides to walk the plank, he buys her a nice farewell dinner before she gives up the ghost.
Nothing lasts forever, in fact it has been my experience that most things don't last until breakfast, still and all I would no more give up a friendly brunette to a shallow-water sailor than I would stay at an airport hotel in Beirut or have my head shrunk in Grenada. I figure this F. D. may be suffering from being short. It is very probable that his body came to a conclusion before enough gray matter was stuck in.
Anyway, this fine Saturday, F. D. collects himself a redhead, dresses in black, and takes himself to the Academy for the services.
What happens next could be the first stages of insanity brought on by finding True Love, although he does not yet know it is his True Love. Then again, he has been losing weight by dieting even before it is diet week, and folks who are too light can get blown around by every wind.
Anyway, as you will see, this Saturday turns out more unlikely than the night before, when he practices tranquility with the help of Ms. P.
The wedding goes off without a hitch, except for the two victims, and F. D. and the redhead go bite dinner with the temporarily happy couple and a gaggle of friends.
At this dinner, besides biting, there is a deal of talking back and forth. F. D. is noisy, especially for a tranquil person, even a tranquil person in training. He has not yet arrived at silence week, which he needs more than all of the other weeks combined.
In the course of dinner, which is in a dark room with everybody crowded around one long table, he commences to talk to a guy named Jack, who he has seen a time or two at parties with the former friendly brunette. Jack has scored a fair number of zeros with the Capital City ladies, mainly because he owns just one pair of tan corduroy pants.
Still, he is quite a guy at making with the physics.
Now I am not so hot at this physics stuff myself, but as far as I know it is mostly figuring out how little particles get around.
The guys who do this physics say the world is nothing but physics, and that little particles usually hang around bigger particles. Pay attention, because if you are a big particle, a lot of very fast little particles may be trying to get real close to you in no time at all.
I can tell you from my own studies that a little particle will not get anywhere with most big particles, and a bantamweight can get squished like a bug if she gets belted by your average heavyweight.
Mostly I try to look at such particles from a very great distance and hang around home instead with a vacuum cleaner, but F. D. is regularly sticking his nose into everything, so he commences to ask Jack, who is wearing a suit for this sad occasion, just what he is up to anyway.
Jack gives him an answer that would be a big help to anyone practicing for the national spelling championship, and F. D. who is rich but not too quick on the uptake, says something like "Huh?"
Physics guys are always hearing such remarks, so usually they just talk about football, but Jack keeps his eyes on the end zone and gives it an instant rerun. When the ball goes over his head again, F. D. asks Jack to try a screen pass instead of going for the long bomb.
What good is a photon microscope anyway? What does anybody want to see that they can't already see good enough with other gadgets? Well, says Dr. Jack, you could probably figure out what causes cancer if you could get a peek into a couple of these cells and watch what they are up to.
F. D. nods slowly, his head rolling like some tiny little wheels are turning somewhere in back of his brain. With some saps, these little wheels always seem to be turning and sometimes they spin like crazy.
Usually, though, these little wheels are not connected to any of the big wheels that can really get things moving. If they are chained together, it is with the wrong kind of chain.
"What else?" he asks.
Well, says Dr. Jack, you could probably figure out why a bunch of particles sometimes looks like lead and other times looks like gold.
This makes the wheels creak around a couple more times.
Another thing, says Jack, is that you could probably figure out how plants make food out of thin air, a little mud, and a bit of sunlight.
By this time, F. D. has little dollar signs popping up where his eyeballs should be and he says how is it going Jack, anyway?
Well, Jack says, it is going very slow. The bosses think he should stop being a physics guy and become a manager like them. He allows as how this would be no fun for him at all and he would much rather have a couple of more bucks for some gadgets to put in his laboratory.
He says about five million clams would do the trick and if it worked out, then he could get on to something more difficult.
F. D. rolls his eyes and asks why the bosses do not cough up the five million, which is a very small sum these days.
Jack says they like to be fair to everybody where he works, so they do not give anybody as much money as he needs, but they give out just enough to keep everyone busy. Anyway, says Jack, in about ten years they will have enough money to build this gadget and there will still be plenty of stuff to look at then.
F. D. says he does not think this waiting is a very good idea, what with people dropping like flies from cancer and a couple of continents full of starving people and a shortage of gold, silver, and other handy substances. He says something should be done to collect this money.
He stores this all away and the wheels stop creaking for a while.
Then he turns to Mary Pat, who is the roommate of the friendly but very married brunette. Mary Pat is such a woman as guys have been known to practically wet their pants over when she is around. At this time, she is making a very tidy sum hustling for a gang from the Midwest.
She is called Mary Pat because Mary is a moniker that everybody uses these days. In fact, the friendly brunette who is now married uses the moniker Maryann. We will try to resist throwing in a Mary Mallon or a Mary Blandy or even a Bloody Mary, although such have been around.
We have to keep them out because of the guy lurking in the garden in the last chapter. Far too many folks are crowding into this story, and even with Grenada we can't keep the population down if the wrong Marys stick their noses where they are not needed. The guy in the garden doesn't get a name, and will disappear right after he has his dinner.
F. D. asks Mary Pat how's tricks and she says okay, I guess. He asks what is happening with the FAA, which is the way the government calls the guys who boss all the airlines. Mary Pat sells mechanical teachers to the FAA, which has just tossed some folks out of towers for asking for more, please. This is considered very impolite in some circles.
Well, Mary Pat's eyes light up a bit and she says, oh, yes, the guy who trains people at the FAA wants very much to buy a whole army of these mechanical teachers so they can teach some mechanical guys to tell the airplanes to get in line and make it snappy.
That will be nice for you, F. D. remarks.
Not so, says Mary Pat, for this guy is not the boss of the whole FAA, but is just a cog in the machine. He is a middle manager, which means that the only thing he gets to manage is his middle, which is usually a growth area. If he wants to buy something he has to ask real nice.
Mary Pat says he has jumped up and down, but nobody pays any attention, so unless she can get to somebody at the top, it is no go.
At this the wheels start creaking again and F. D. makes a pitch. He says he is having brunch in the morning with a former high mucky muck at the FAA, and he figures he might put together a little meeting one way or another if a bit of lettuce might fall his way.
Mary Pat says this would be very nice, but she also does not get to spend any money except to buy lunch.
After a bit more wine, F. D. packs the redhead in the car and heads for Capital City. At this time I would have in mind what to do with a very firm redhead, but F. D. is figuring out how to make money inventing photon microscopes, curing cancer, and selling teaching machines to the FAA.
When they are in the car, F. D. says he wants to go by the Mayflower Hotel and pick up the Sunday paper, even though it is still Saturday.
Now, if you can buy next year's car this year and a December magazine in November, one and all want to buy a Sunday paper on Saturday night. After all, knowing what will happen tomorrow can be very profitable. F. D. figures he will need to read this paper to find out how things are going with the FAA before he eats Sunday brunch.
Brunch is a word for lunch that is really just breakfast for people who get up after Burger King and McDonald's stop serving breakfast.
F. D. and the redhead park the car and take a stroll to the Mayflower Hotel decked out in their Sunday-go-to-meeting outfits, although it is still Saturday. F. D. buys the Sunday paper from the guy who sells papers. The paper is pretty cheap, if you figure by the pound.
While he is reaching for the Sunday paper on Saturday night, the redhead is reaching for a little dog.
Now a lot of people don't like it if you call them redheads, so it is probably only okay if you don't know what name they like. That is why I call the blonde behind the cash register at Lambda Rising who sold me a book called Song of Solomon when I was looking for something else just the blonde behind the cash register at Lambda Rising.
ere and now I will cease to call the redhead a redhead, and since she is headed for the beach, I think we should call her Sandee.
This spelling is not the usual and may cause a lot of trouble from the folks who think I should spell sox s-o-c-k-s even though I have checked both the White Sox and the Red Sox and I am one hundred percent sure about the spelling. Perhaps this is just a tradition in Chicago and Boston and has not caught on so quick in other neighborhoods.
I tried spelling it both ways on my machine at work, and the machine says it never heard of s-o-x. This machine never heard of True Love either, except what I told it myself. The machine says I can, however, spell the word s-o-c-k-s until kingdom come and it will not make a peep. So I will tell the rest of my story to a machine that is not so particular about my way of spelling.
If everybody will remain calm, then, I will call this redhead Sandee, like the beach, and she won't get mixed up with another redhead who may appear later as a ghost from olden days and who we will probably have to call Sandy, since that is what a lot of redheads are called anyway, although I personally lean to calling her Old Dependable.
The little dog Sandee is bending over and squatting down to play with is wearing a red plaid raincoat. Such a little raincoat on a dog may seem a little peculiar when there is not any rain present or coming up or going away. In fact it is a very nice evening for a stroll.
Attached by a strap to the other end of this dog is a guy who does not have such a red plaid raincoat, at least not on, and who looks old enough to be your great-grandfather even if you can remember the Civil War from personal experience.
In fact, some people might guess he was 900 plus, although I am conservative and would put his age at somewhat less. Why this dog is pulling this poor old guy around by a strap I cannot figure, except that there is no society for the prevention of cruelty to old geezers.
The guy who pushes newspapers to suckers pipes up out of nowhere to say a few words to F. D. and Sandee and the dog with the red plaid raincoat. He says "Do you know who this gentleman is?"
Now I do not mean to be critical, but Capital City is by no means so small a town that folks will know every old geezer led around by a dog in a red plaid raincoat, so this question is probably just to warm up for what the only guy who is making any money at this time has to say.
Sure enough, before you can say Jackie Robinson, he says the old geezer is none other than Ben Cohen, who was financial and legal advisor to FDR. If you are young you will probably figure this FDR is some big corporation that used to be called Federated Developmental Robots or the like. Companies are always using such initials so they can stop making robots and start building toilet bowls or selling clothes to make some real money.
In this case, however, you will be mostly wrong. This Mr. F.D.R. is a character, and a very inconvenient one at that, in that he has two initials I have already used in one introduction and two chapters.
However, I am a quick learner, so I will drop this Mr. F.D.R. before he gets a chance to confuse you. This is nothing personal, but you can forget him. He is dead as a doornail and will not appear again in this book under any circumstances whatever as long as I am in charge.
Next thing the newspaper guy points out is the little dog with the red plaid raincoat. By this time F. D. is crouching down to rub the dog where it isn't covered up by raincoat. When the newspaper guy asks if he knows the name of the little dog his face makes a question mark.
At which the old geezer says "Mr. Deeds".
Now F. D. does not want to let on that he is not in the know, so he says something like "Oh, yeah, 'Mr. Deeds Comes to Washington'."
Only a sap would make such a mistake, but everybody is very polite and they do not tell him that there is no such movie in the whole world, at least not yet, and that he is simply adding to the air pollution.
I have watched more movies than I can count, and I can tell you there are movies about guys going to Washington and there is even a movie about a guy named Me. Deeds, but such movies are pretty old and they don't have anybody running around naked in them, so you probably won't see many people lining up to see them these days.
F. D. and Sandee give out their names and old Ben and F. D. commence to talking about things in the newspaper and about why F. D. is in the front of the Mayflower Hotel on this Saturday night to buy the Sunday paper.
F. D. gives out his story about the dinner and the FAA and making a couple of bucks, and Mr. Ben Cohen is very polite but he says that this is by no means what is needed in this case. He says it is unfortunate that the FAA fired 11,500 air traffic controllers, because this is a most unhealthy thing to do.
Mr. Ben Cohen looks very serious and says that F. D. should not be selling equipment to the FAA, but should tell them how to get these guys back to work where they belong as soon as possible. He says that back in the war they would do something called hold the line, which meant that nobody would get fired or strike for a month or two until everybody got cooled off and they could figure out a better solution.
Old Ben also mentions that interest rates are too high, and that such things need some serious fixing pretty quick.
Now whenever a boss tells workers to drop dead, he may have trouble getting the job done, and if the government fires folks, customers will have to suck eggs. Government doesn't allow competition, so when RR says take a walk, a lot of other people have to walk, too. Some guys and dolls who make the airplanes work are out of it. You do not want to have planes bumping into each other in the dark, so the government puts them on the ground where they will be nice and safe.
Of course not everybody gets to walk, and before long a few people drop out of the air in other ways. Even with all these extra planes sitting around safe on the ground, a few little fender benders will happen.
One little airplane that wants to go to Florida gets off to a bad start. This airplane is shivering in a snowstorm when some guy up in the air says it is okay for another plane to land right where this little airplane is just about freezing to death.
When the pilot hears this news, he decides he had better get out of the way, so he gooses the little plane toward Canada. The little plane says I think I can, I think I can, or some such, then bumps into a bridge and lands on a wet spot.
Now there is an airplane that is made to land on such wet spots, but this is not it. The government says this poor choice of planes is a clear case of pilot error. The pilot doesn't say a peep.
The airplane sinks before you can say J. Lynn Helms. Quite a few people stay aboard waiting for the government to figure out who should save them. The whole plan takes less than two years.
Meanwhile a couple of troublemakers decide to get people to someplace dry while the government calls meetings to work the problem out. One of the troublemakers has a name like Russian satellite. He jumps in and saves somebody and gets on the evening news.
Another guy arrives by airplane and is already in deep water. He saves somebody else and loses himself while the government flies around.
This guy has a name as common as dirt.
Maybe Ben Cohen knows about this future crash when he tells F. D. about holding the line. I have heard that Old Ben Cohen got all of his money out of the stock market back in 1929, just a few days before things got a little black. Maybe Old Ben doesn't want the country in the drink because the guys running things are over their heads.
Ben Cohen does not waste time talking, so he asks what F. D. thinks of Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf. F. D. makes a shrug with his face.
The old guy says things would be okay in Afghanistan if the U.S. of A. would stop trying to keep everybody fighting.
Now F. D. has read the newspapers and he is pretty sure the commies have rolled in tanks and marched in troops and flew in planes and helicopters. He figures this is the real problem.
Ben Cohen says F. D. has heard only half the story, because his very own U.S. of A. has been pumping up the funeral business around this neighborhood so as to give more people a chance to rest in peace.
They call these people freedom fighters because when the fighting starts, freedom gets kicked real good. This exercise gives the U. of S.S.R. a chance to practice for the next war without spending a lot to travel. The U.S. of A. got its practice a few years back.
Ben Cohen says everything would get cleared up in Afghan land if the U.S. of A. would not pass out truckloads of equalizers to keep things from getting too peaceful. Furthermore, says Mr. Ben Cohen, the U.S. of A. had better start making some sense in the Persian Gulf, even if the Persian Gulf is not smack dab in the middle of the U.S.
Since Old Ben will be gone long before the world ends up, maybe he could give his brain a rest. Probably he thinks he will be around forever in one form or another. Anyway, he tells F. D. that everybody should be selling world peace for a change.
If this guy is so smart, he should know that it is very hard to make a buck selling world peace. This is because the only people who are buying don't have any money and the people who have money are doing perfectly okay and have all the peace they need, thank you.
In fact, this peace stuff can be hard on a lot of pocketbooks.
Mr. Ben Cohen says maybe the reason we are not getting peace is that our president has gotten some bad information. He figures somebody should give the Prez the straight story before it is too late.
Back around 1950 a guy named Ben Cohen was saying that the great U.S. of A. was going to get bogged down if they didn't get on the right track in Vietnam. Of course, if you read about the 1950's you will find we did not get into much trouble at all, so most folks probably won't get too excited about this Persian Gulf stuff.
World peace is just an idea, and if you are President of the United States you do not have much time to listen to other people's ideas.
Usually you have ideas of your own that you have been carrying around for a long time. Half the fun of running things is to use the ideas you have been saving up for your whole life.
Anyway, ideas are a most unprofitable line.
First, there is a very large supply of ideas, and more are being produced every day than you could use in a lifetime.
Second, there is no quality control, so if you buy an idea that sounds great, it might blow up in your face the first time you try to use it.
Third, you can get as many ideas as you want for free, since there are plenty lying around that haven't been used in a couple thousand years.
Fourth, if you don't like antiques, there are people who invent new ideas by the bushel and pass them around to anyone who comes within shouting range.
Finally, you can come up with your own ideas around the house in no time at all and without any training, so why buy somebody else's.
That's why ideas are worth about as much as politicians or paper clips. You can toss them in the wastebasket or stick them on paper, but they usually cost more money than they bring in.
The talking and petting of the little dog with the red plaid raincoat takes ten minutes. Then everyone smiles and nods and walks off.
Sometime later that night F.D. is thinking over the events of the day and comparing the goals he has set for himself with the goals of Old Ben Cohen. F. D. wants to build the best communications organization in town. Ben wants to keep the world from blowing up.
F. D. thinks about this while he is lying in bed. He thinks Old Ben Cohen is the smartest man he ever met and has the best goals.
He takes a deep breath and feels a few tears slide down his cheeks.
F. D. is definitely a sap.
"If I had my life to live over again, I would elect to be a trader of goods rather than a student of science." — Albert Einstein
Now before you get all excited and start thinking that I am not too bright or maybe that I am on the wrong side, you should know that I am not opposed to world peace myself and I also will admit that sooner or later there may be a little disagreement out around the Persian Gulf.
War is a pretty safe bet, and even if you pick a little island in the middle of nowhere, someone is likely to decide to get their kicks by dropping bombs on it.
If you want to bet on world peace, don't let the bet run too long.
This world peace stuff is just an idea and even if it is a first-class idea as ideas go, it is still worth only about as much as most ideas.
Saps, however, get emotional about this old idea. Moreover, this sap is a real idiot, because he is thinking in the back of his head that maybe he should personally do something about this matter.
Now if you are Mr. Armand Hammer and can pick up the phone and talk to world leaders, you can put in a good word for peace now and then, as long as you are polite and don't expect any real results.
World peace is something everyone should put in a good word for, especially if they are in the missile and bomb trade. Guys in this trade are big believers in world peace and are always talking about how important it is to keep the peace.
In fact, when they come up with a new missile that can blow up a million people at a pop, they might let the engineers call it MX, because engineers love capital letters and initials, but when it comes time to make some real money, they dub it The PeaceKeeper.
This name has a long tradition going back to the good old days when everybody kept the peace by flying around little lead missiles about the size of your bellybutton.
Every once and a while some sap will take this world peace stuff too seriously and decide it would be better if we all stopped fighting and cleaned up the neighborhood or built something nice.
Such people are perfectly okay if they just stick to carrying signs and marching in parades and passing resolutions. However, if they should get in the way of the guys who are making big bucks from the protection racket, they will not be very popular.
So this F. D., who figures he is a smart cookie, decides he will actually do something to get guys to build space stations and cure cancer instead of cranking out Peacekeepers.
Most people will say this is a fine idea as long as you do not ask them to do anything about it. A lot of people get fat paychecks for almost building space stations and for almost curing cancer.
Anybody with common sense can see that if you get paid for not quite getting the job done, you will always get a paycheck. The best way to get in trouble is to agree to do something and then actually do it.
As soon as you get it done, you will be out of a job.
So if we want to have a job for everybody, we have got to be very careful not to give them anything they can do and if it looks like they are about to get anything big done, we had better hire somebody else to stop them. That's just good business. The sap does not see this, or if he does see it, he thinks people will do what is right even if it costs them their job. That's a laugh. You might think this once or twice, but only a sap will do it three times.
If you spend too much time listening, you will start to think people are serious when they tell you they want to do something. The best way to find out what people want to do is to take a look at what they are doing. They can stop whenever they want to.
I myself will continue to be a great fan of world peace and will speak out for it at every chance. I will speak just as loud and maybe even louder when I am working for guys who make little gizmos that help the Peacekeepers land in the right neighborhood.
You could say I shouldn't work for such guys, but I have to eat just the same as you, and I cannot afford to be a sap. So generally I keep my belly full by hanging around where the money is.
Anyway, where do you get your belly full? Unless you are building houses to last a lifetime or feeding people or keeping things alive, maybe you are in the same boat — nuclear-powered, underwater, filled with missiles, and sailing around in circles until things fall apart. Sunday morning rolls around, and F. D. is off to a little brunch with Joe and John and their lifetime companions.
Joe is a former FAA high mucky muck and John is a tough guy from New York. John comes from a family that picked up things that once were living but had passed through that stage and had ended up lying around on the streets. These would then be dumped out on Long Island so they would not get underfoot.
Since John was more refined than some in his family, he went on to similar work on a higher level. He had some friends in a California mob, and when there was a little power shift in the gang, he begged everybody's pardon and settled down in Capital City.
The new mob was fine until the top guy got offed in a very polite manner and what with a few years passing, John was no longer in like Flynn, although he still managed to make a few bucks producing smoke at the right place and time.
Today these guys are all sitting at the Tabard Inn and F. D. says he has an idea about putting together the best communications outfit in Capital City and maybe even in the whole world, since Capital City is probably the number one town for such activities.
F. D. starts by asking who is the competition. Joe and John look at him and look at each other and they are hard pressed to come up with a name. So F. D. asks about some guys named Hill & Knowlton.
Well, from the way Joe and John move their eyes and lips and shift a little in their chairs you can see that Hill and his buddy might just as well be in Outer Mongolia, because as far as Capital City is concerned they are dead.
Even if the mortician has done a fine job with what is left, Joe could knock them down with a pencil and a social security check.
This is a pretty common case these days. A lot of nearly dead things are walking around and pretending to be alive.
This is done mostly with makeup. Sometimes it is used extra heavy, as when people are in a casket and a lot of people who helped put them there come by to pay their respects.
Mostly it is used a little lighter, just to make people look like they have been in a fight, but are still alive.
If you are almost dead, you can put some black or blue or green stuff around your eyes, with some red stuff on your cheeks so it will look like you have been slapped around pretty good.
Your lips should look like the blood has all bubbled up on them so they are good and red. Some folks like to put some color in their hair so it will not look like it belongs to a corpse, and some folks just buy the hair off some living body and stick it on their head.
Some people are made of wires and plastic, but with a little red wax on the mouth and some borrowed hair and such a lot of people cannot tell.
This is the way just about everything gets treated after it is about ten years old or so.
Organizations use plastics and other chemicals and then they put out a story on the wires about how they are the very guys you always loved. Nobody much bothers to check for signs of life, or they'd know practically everybody is dead, even if they still walk around.
F. D. gets tired of asking about the competition, since it is all pretty gray, so he springs the FAA into the conversation.
Joe says he is a big fan of making a lot of money for a little work, but he does not think he would like to set up any meetings right now thank you.
Then F. D. brings this guy Ben Cohen up at the brunch. Of course he does not actually come up in person, but only by name. The name of Ben Cohen comes up at the brunch because F. D. wants to know something about Old Ben. What he wants to know about Old Ben is a lot more.
So he asks Joe did you ever hear of a guy named Ben Cohen?
Joe looks at him right in the eye and says this Ben Cohen was once a very big deal and he was in fact the architect of the whole New Deal practically, and thought up all the big ideas.
Now I do not know one architect from another because I do not build any buildings myself, but if I were building a building I would be very careful about buying from any guy who built things for the government.
Usually such buildings are so confused that you can never find your way to the toilet in them.
This is nothing against the old guy, because he did not put in all of the hallways or leave out the numbers on the rooms. These little touches came along later. Still, from the looks of the place he did not set a very good example or if he did nobody followed it.
On the other hand, it sure is a very, very big building.
So, F. D. asks a little bit more, and Joe says the old guy is not so over-the-hill as he looks, and in fact he played tennis everyday up until about a year ago.
Naturally when F. D. goes to see Ben Cohen a couple of days later, he asks Ben Cohen is it true you were playing tennis everyday?
He figures that this Ben Cohen guy will say yeah but I am an old guy now and I cannot do this, it is too hard on my old bones. This, however, is not what Old Ben Cohen says at all. He says I was playing everyday first thing in the morning, but then I had to quit about a year ago because I got too busy.
Well, I am too busy to play tennis, too. I cannot find time enough to play with the beautiful people, but I would if I had a couple more bucks and some balls.
When I did have some balls, I played with Karen.
One night I was at this party with a little lady named Mary who is a comforting soul and I saw a cute little blonde whose name I hear is Karen. The first thing I think is that this cute little blonde would be a lot of fun to exercise with.
The next day I drive over to Karen's house and I go in and the first thing I do is what I always like to do, which is take off all my clothes. I know this is a very unusual thing to do, but we are trying to get some exercise and we are both very busy and to get this exercise we have got be be properly dressed.
I could have come properly dressed, I suppose, but I figured it was cold and rainy outside and I did not want to run around like that. Anyway, I figured there would be a place to change before we exercised. This Karen is a very well put-together number although she is a problem when we talk, so I try to avoid this at all times. If you can ever get her not to talk, you can have some real fun.
Mostly she talks quite a bit because she works for a big-time magazine, although it can't get out more than once a week and that is not in time for anything important, so it is always a little behind time.
Karen says she is working eighteen hours a day, and that is certainly more than enough time for just about anything. She spends this time listening to guys talk, and since it is very boring to listen to other people, she wants to talk a lot to me.
She and her magazine think they know everything, of course, because they work a couple of million hours a week. Mostly all they do is hear things and repeat them back and forth a hundred times until they are just words and nothing more.
It is much easier to write without talking to anybody, and also much more efficient. After all, why should you write down what some other guy makes up when you can make stuff up yourself and save time.
Of course, some dishes may want to work eighteen hours a day, but to do this you have a lot of people who helping out by re-writing everything you put down. That way they can send it back and forth making changes until nobody cares what it says. After all, people say you can never have too many cooks to make a great chili.
I do not want to be a great writer if I have to spend all my time changing what I already wrote down once. On the other hand, I would like very much to make about fifty grand, which is about what the government will pay you to do absolutely nothing except maybe show up.
These guys do not care much what you do as long as you look busy and do what you are told to do and don't change anything if you can help it.
Government types are always very conservative even though they talk just like liberals. That is because they mostly want to conserve their jobs and the best way to do that is to say what is fashionable.
Mostly you have to also say that nobody should change anything, because if they do, what will happen to everything important? Mostly people will be on your side, because if you change something, everybody who did it the old way will look like a lot of boobs.
Guys who want change just make trouble for government types.
Those guys who want to get ahead in the government should try to find some way to hire more people to do the same amount of work. This is the way to the top. If you can do a job in 40 hours, you will get nowhere fast. When you work 60 hours and need ten more people to do what used to be done by just one, you get to move up the ladder.
When you need a thousand people and still can't get the job done, you can move over to Health and Human Services.
When you need a million people and still can't get the job done, you go to the Defense Department.
After that, you'll need to buy some technology so a few rich guys can help their companies buy the farm and grow you something new to eat.
You can't get more than about fifty grand until you retire from the government. Then they will give you a lot of nice checks, and all your old friends will send you money by the truckload for being nice to them and giving them whatever they want to buy.
This is a lot of work, because such folks are always changing their moods, but that is good, because your old friends send extra money everytime they come up with a new idea or fiddle with the old ones.
I have been trying to figure out how to do this stuff, but the government uses too many big words and gives out with long sentences.
To learn how to write, I read part of a book that puts down stuff in a way regular people would never do.
It tells about highway safety, which is what the government calls it when only forty or fifty thousand people get killed in a whole year.
When you write about this safety stuff, if you want to make fifty grand, you have to call a crackup a "physical insult."
Now a physical insult is when you are riding in a car and it gets run over by a truck. A lot of guys with no class and no jobs will just say the people got squashed like bugs, but you cannot get any fifty grand for this kind of stuff.
If you are getting fifty grand from the government, they will even give you more so you can go to school to learn exactly when to put down physical insult so nobody will get sick to their stomach when they are trying to read.
For fifty grand, I would write words like physical insult every day, and I would even go around seeing that a lot of people around this town who could use a physical insult or two get what they need.
Of course, some people will get very unhappy if you go around giving them physical insults and they will try to give you physical insults right back.
I tell you about this fine writing so you will understand why True Love will not want to hang around with such a guy as wrote a whole book of letters. If you hang around with such a sap, before long you will be writing so weird that you will never be able to get ahead.
If you want to get a government job, skip such letters altogether, because they will not fill up your mind with the right stuff.
In fact, a good editor would toss them right in the junk and give you a little summary so you can get a beer and then have time for a nap. This will be helpful when you go to work for the government, too.
One good thing about these letters is that they do not say very much, and they take a lot of words to say it. This is very important in the government, because the more paper you use the better. This makes work for printers and for librarians and trucking companies and the like.
Since the government owns forests all over the place, printing more paper means it can get rid of a lot of trees. These trees may look harmless, but RR says they pollute, and they also protect a lot of animals and plants that get troublesome when you are damming things.
Nobody wants to get rid of these animals and plants by going out and killing them, but when you want to give your friends some money to build a dam or something extra animals and plants can get in the way.
Actually, they do not make much noise, but some other guys will start to yell and stamp their feetand raise a ruckus when you want to go tearing up the neighborhood where these critters live.
It is much better to put out a report on how to protect such little animals. Then you chop down a forest so you can give a copy to everybody. The animals disappear and nobody is the wiser.
Letters usually take up too much space. That is because they just say the same stuff over and over again.
If you want someone to listen, just say something once. If they do not hear it that one time there is a good chance they never will.
F. D. figures everybody should get three chances. So he tells you that he is going to tell you something, then he tells you, then he tells you what he has just told you.
In my experience, when I give people extra chances, they just want more for the same price or maybe at a discount. Never give anybody anything extra for free unless you want to keep doing it forever.
You can save a lot of trouble by just giving everyone one chance.
I say this meaning no offense to the guy who wrote the preface for this book and stuck in his own ideas. He is a very nice person although he writes a little stuffy and would fit in just great at the government.
Anyway, F. D. and Joe and John and the ladies talk some more and then take a stroll over to the house of F. D.
Once they get there they do not make any big decisions, but Joe takes a liking to a 1914 Cadillac which is a present from the mother of F. D. and F. D. says he is tired of it and doesn't much like it anyway. He tells Joe to take it along when he goes.
Now it happens that the lifetime partner of Joe is very French and has very good taste as do all Frenchies, so she does not like this Cadillac much, possibly because it has a white vinyl roof, although the rest of it mostly looks like gold. In any case, she says if this Cadillac is to be handed off, it will not be to her lifetime partner or else. Joe does not inquire as to what else.
A little later Joe sees a clock with a pulsating sun that gives the time in orange numbers, and F. D. says he just happens to have two of these and gives Joe one to take along.
Even before he has taken off with the clock and without the Cadillac, Joe says he is sure F. D. will make millions of dollars.
Now Joe is a very smart guy and he hangs around with a lot of other smart guys who are rolling in dough. In fact, in his last big job, he is in on a heist bigger than Fort Knox and it is all perfectly legit.
This is my idea of a very smart operator indeed.
In fact, he is such a smart operator that when he is dumped by the guys who are running the biggest con game around, it is in all the papers and moreover a little later a local magazine says he is one of the top five Capital City wheels.
Nobody makes any deals over brunch or around the house, so it is mostly just more calories and a lot of talk.
This goes down as business in Capital City these days, but unless some guy is giving you a salary while you are chit-chatting, I do not see the percentage in it.
In general, I would take the money up front and then ask where they wanted the body delivered and in what condition.
If you paid for this book, then you will learn plenty and be way ahead of the game. Probably you got this book for free, though, or pretty close, so you won't remember two cents worth the next time the phone rings anyway.
That's because nobody listens to advice these days unless they have spent an arm and a leg to get it. In fact, advice is just about as useful as ideas because there is an ample supply and not much demand.
Here is a special feature so you will learn from this advice. If you are reading this and did not pay for it, unless you send me a dollar right away, you will not be able to use anything I have told you.
You think I am kidding, but I could tell you about a couple of guys who caused some trouble for me a while back. I did not so much as touch them and they both are now out of business pretty permanent.
Everybody said it was brain cancer, but I am not a doctor, so I cannot say. I never met them, so I am in the clear.
I figure this brain cancer was just nature's way of telling them to be nice to me.
If you pay up, I will tell you a love story good enough so you won't decide to watch television or read the newspaper or do some other thing to clutter up your brains.
Of course, you may decide it would be better to save some money and hope I am just making all this up.
That's one way to find out, but it may be kind of expensive.
On the other hand, you can check go to http://fredricwilliams.freeservers.com and if you are smart enough, you can find a way to learn the rest of the story.