The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." " is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32)

Monday, July 24, 2006

CONFIDENCE GAMES: There once was an old woman who lived in a shoe, a nice oxford, in fact, that she and her husband bought just after the war for no money down, a deal they got because her husband was a veteran. The old woman had had her eye set on a nice pair of pumps that year, but her husband objected, saying he would feel just too silly living in women’s shoes. So they moved into the oxford instead. The old woman came to like the oxford immensely; it was plain, hardworking, and without pretension, just like her husband, and it was miles away from the penny loafers she had grown up with, who were constantly mooching money off anyone who happened by.

The old woman’s home was a happy one, a shoe full of children and animals, none of whom were hers, except for three daughters, Faith, Hope, and Mrs. Sonia Edelstein of Larchmont, New York, the rest of the old woman’s children having been fed to the auks, wombats, and boomslangs at the London Zoo at the behest of the Royal Society for the Preservation and Propagation of Curiously Named Animals, who needed the extra space for their letterhead.

The old woman’s troubles began when she tried to get her shoe shined. Shining the shoe was something the mister, as she called her husband, always took care of, although why she called him a mister is something of a mistery, since he was not a mysterious man at all, but rather a wholesale supplier of prude Danish and old socks to supermarkets throughout the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut tri-state area. When he finally passed away after an illness not long enough to beat the spread in the heated office pool, the old had to make decisions she’d never had to make before. It was this inexperience, more than anything else, I think, that left the old woman open to the corrupt blandishments of the spats salesman.

Now her late husband took great pride in shining his shoe. Three times a year he would go outside with a can of polish in one hand and a rag in another and the shoe brush in the other to polish the oxford to such a high gleam that passersby in the street who knew nothing else about the old man and his wife knew that none but intensely respectable God-fearing rock-ribbed Republicans lived in that shoe. For the Fourth of July he would spit shine the shoe; the neighborhood children would go to the shoe and help out with gusto and high spirits, usually rum but sometimes gin as well, and there are few things that will keep young people out of all manner of trouble better than lining up on the Fourth of July with some high spirits to spit on an old man’s shoe.

But with her husband’s passing the old woman was distraught, and for some years afterwards she did not bother shining the shoe; the widow’s weeds grew luxuriantly in the hitherto well-kept lawn, and the shoelace curtains turned brown and dirty in the windows. In most people’s opinions it was these small signs of neglect that brought, like aunts to a sugar daddy, the spats salesman to the old woman’s door. That spats salesmen in general have a shady reputation is a fact beyond the power of even the greatest p.r. man to rectify, and the recent piece about the industry and its abuses on 60 Minutes did not help the public image of spats salesmen at all. Many charges were made during that program, but Mike Wallace’s devastating interview with a salesman who tried to sell spats to a blind World War II veteran living in a sandal in California’s Big Sur country did more to paint spats and those who sell them with the tar brush of corporate villainy than anything I can mention here. After all, what conceivable reason would a man used to living in sandals need spats for?

The salesman who wormed his way into the old woman’s confidence was a particularly loathsome example of the type, a completely scummy flimflam man with one eye out for the bunco squad and another out for the big score. The man walked with a limp; he had a trick knee that could pull a hat, usually a derby but sometimes a boater, out of a rabbit, and he wore a lousy toupee made from the hair of several dozen old Chinese women who were now searching the globe trying to track the salesman and their hair down.

The salesman plied the old woman with smooth talk and fine whines about how only three of his ex-wives ever really understood him and the pressures of a salesman’s life on the road and how much economical it would be if she could protect the investment she and her late husband had made in the oxford if she put a brand new fresh from the factory spat made of the finest aluminum vinyl yak leather available now only for $500.00 a month for 240 months available in any color you could want so long as the color was white. Flattered by the loathsome swine’s sweet talk and vile attentions, the old woman signed the contract without reading the document too carefully, which is a polite way of saying the old girl didn’t read the damn thing at all.

I know I shouldn’t be popping in like this in the middle of the story, but it seems to me that this is an ideal spot to point out to the reader that shoe improvement fraud is a multimillion-dollar business in the United States and that the elderly are particularly prone to these conscienceless wretches. While I wish to make very clear that I am not advocating the death penalty for these lying miscreants, I am suggesting that a national policy of holding them down on a cold concrete floor and popping their kneecaps off with a crowbar may go a long way to ameliorating this problem once and for all. Now back to the story.

Having discovered too late that the spats salesman was a complete louse who not only took the old woman’s money but also ran off with her youngest daughter and the old woman’s complete collection of Engelbert Humperdinck records to boot…well, we knew that part already, didn’t we? This guy was a complete hose job from beginning to end, let’s face it. Why would anyone, even an old woman as naïve as this one purports to be, even allow such a creature into her home? I mean, if you look at this from a purely theological point of view, does lying to a salesman in his official capacity of representative of a company that makes an absolutely brand spanking new product that will revolutionize your life for five easy payments of $149.99 plus shipping and handling no C.O.D.’s please offer void where prohibited by law have your credit card ready call now, a product that you’ve had absolutely no problem living without for damn near all of your life even count as a mortal sin? I don’t think so and that’s about all I want to say about that.

I should mention, however, so as not to leave you folks hanging about what happened, that the spats salesman did eventually come to Jesus and return the old woman’s money to her, or rather, Jesus came to the spats salesman and twisted his arm until it almost popped out of his shoulder socket. It goes almost without saying that one of life’s more profound lessons is that knowing very large Puerto Rican guys who can help you out of a jam is almost always a good thing.


  • At 10:12 AM, Anonymous yankeewombat said…

    I can only add that, as a youth, I often smoked the peace pipe out of respect for my Native American friends before I spat on old men's shoes on the 4th of July. That holiday activity was quite sedate compared to the japes my Native American friends and I would get up to on Halloween when placing a medium sized heifer in the belfry of the Unitarian church was considered the very soul of wit.


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