The Muted Philippic: Rehearsed, But Unvoiced
He was peddling books. No, he did not carry the books with him. You picked the books you wanted to buy from his fancy little pamphlet. These books would then be “donated” to an elementary school. The cheapest book was fifty bucks. “I accept cash or check,” he said, “and I have to give you a receipt.” He showed me a booklet of rectangular chits that looked receipt-ish. He seemed eager to write up a receipt for me. What kind of person is eager to write up a receipt? One who is desperate to make a sale, I suppose. Or, one who is eager to steal another's identity.
Religious books were listed in his fancy little pamphlet, but, he said, he was not allowed to sell them. I did not notice these religious books--he pointed them out. Perhaps he meant to elicit an emotional response the likes of: “That’s really too bad,” or “Stupid public socialist school system,” or “Why not?” And then perhaps he would launch into a muted philippic against The Government--something or other that would surly pass muster with the Fox News Network camp.
And, sure, I suppose you could easily mistake me for a conservative. I do not have any tattoos or piercings; I dress to mix into the crowd; I part my hair in the conventional manner. True: I do not like to stand out. At least, not anymore. I have never felt comfortable when cast in the role of The Peacock or The Clown; and whenever I am cast, which is rare, I am typically cast in the role of The Clown. The last role I was offered: Elijah at a Passover Seder. I rejected it. True: Elijah is no clown. He is an unshaven religious mooch. But I only know how to play a clown. I did not wish to sully Elijah’s street cred. So when this punk-kid said that he could not sell me the religious books, I just said, “Yeah.” Or maybe I said, “Okay.”
Anyway, I am an atheist. If I am having a good day, I am an agnostic. I am a believer only when I get laid, and the last time that happened was on Thanksgiving of 2009. It was the worst sex of my life. No, I had not expected to "get any" on, of all days, Thanksgiving. Call me a stick in the mud, but if I am going to be rolling around naked with somebody, particularly when that somebody is a relative stranger, I would prefer to be physically and mentally prepared for it. I do not see how, after a certain amount of turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, and the rest of it, you can even adequately Get It On. I blame the bed, too. It was much too soft. One’s ability to thrust is significantly compromised when one’s knees are forever sinking into the mattress. But she did not want to conduct the proceedings upon her sofa, and there were no rugs on her hardwood floor.
So on that particular Friday in October, no, I did not give a shit about this punk-kid’s damned forbidden religious books. I was operating on roughly two and a half hours of sleep. I do not remember why. Either I ate too much the night before, or my grandfather got one of his two a.m. stomachaches. Why do these people always sniff me out when I am sleepy or exhausted?
I was not going to give him, or any stranger, fifty bucks, and I was not going to write a check out for any amount to some punk-kid, or any stranger, who had just rung my doorbell out of the blue. But I sensed a delinquent’s retribution afoot if I let him leave empty handed. He neatly fit the profile of a vandal. So I asked him if he would accept a twenty. Without any perceptible enthusiasm, he said, “As a donation.”
So I left him on the stoop, ran upstairs, pulled a twenty out of my wallet, ran back downstairs, and handed it over. He did not write me a receipt. I suppose a twenty was not enough to warrant one. But he did offer to shake my hand again. And then he thumbed over at Lou’s house and asked if my neighbor was friendly. “He’s friendly,” I said, “but not likely to be receptive.”
Mid-pitch, I later learned, Lou slammed the door in his face.
Within the hour, somebody in the neighborhood had called the police. I went out to run an errand and the cops had him sitting on the street near the train station. They had handcuffed him. I thought about stopping to ask for my twenty back. But I didn’t. I kept going. Does that make me a coward? Or does it make me charitable?