November 28, 2023

No News From Doodlebug Island . . . by William F Jordan


The usual group of Islanders with idle time on their hands and a casual disregard for the way that time was spent were gathered at Smiley Blevins barber shop where astute political analysis was always the order of the day and pronouncements rendered with the force of papal bulls.

“Donald Trump is the sole accomplishment of do-nothing Republican members of Congress,” asserted Dwight Bernbaum, a retired dentist and current councilman. “He is the spokesman for millions of Americans fed up with office holders who ostensibly owe allegiance to party rather than country!”

“Yeah, Trump is a hollow shell housing all the anger and discontent of people who can’t find a more suitable vehicle. I thought at first that he would simply implode or slump into obscurity; but American anger and discontent are too pervasive, too widely held.” Sam Quarles spoke with conviction.

Since no one present was of an opinion markedly different, conversation on that subject languished. Presently, however, a debate began whether or not Ted Cruz is a liar, and how that quality of character would play out positively or negatively with regard to foreign policy or domestic dealings.

“In all likelihood it could be seen as a positive, given the deceit and treachery inherent in politics,” declared Tom Littlefield, himself a former quasi minister of dubious connections.

“There’s a little larceny in every heart; that, and a desire to shape a story to our own advantage. Ted Cruz happens to be good at it, is all, but he doesn’t hold the franchise.”

The conversation morphed into a discussion—read that confession—of the worst lies each member could be induced to reveal about himself, and from there what dishonest thing each of them could safely reveal without incurring legal action of some sort.

“I broke into a Church of Christ when I was thirteen and drank all the grape juice they were planning to use for sacrament services that night,” said Jules Winkleman, a retired plumber. “I heard they had to use water instead.”

After a few more described their misdeeds, Jules once more picked up the conversation. “I don’t suppose our sins are the important thing here. Maybe it's what we learned from them that counts. In my case, I was never tempted to break into someone else’s property, and a few years ago I sent them a check for what I took.”

“In my case,” replied Tom, “it was a matter of eight cents that set my feet on the straight and narrow. At seventeen, I was working for Safeway – stocking, carrying out, whatever. One day I spotted a quart of milk that had developed a leak, and though I knew it was inherently wrong, drank the remaining half, and afterward tossed the empty carton into the trash burner.

That night when the manager, a man we simply knew as ‘Smitty’, gave me my pay, he quietly deducted sixteen cents, which was the price of a full quart of milk.”

“And you could hardly complain of the overcharge,” laughed Dwight.

“No, but the worst part was that after I was discharged from the service, I asked Smitty for my old job back, and he turned me down. With him, you were either honest or dishonest, and no one got a second chance. It was a bitter lesson, one I’ve never forgotten. I find myself perpetually applying what I’ve come to call my eight cent-rule.”

“So, Tom, Doctor Freud and I would argue that’s why you took up the ministry. You’re trying to expiate your sins. Won’t work in your case, though, because, as I recall, you’re rather fond of your mother and father, and don’t want to do either of them in.” Jules was in a needling mood.

“Apparently you’ve never made the immediate connection between your plumbing practice and the water you forced on those members of the Church of Christ. Dr. Freud might have a few words for you, too, and I’m going to send a cautionary note to your parents.”

Amid the laughter, Sam Quarles poked Dwight in the ribs. “We haven’t heard about any of your misdeeds, my boy. Cat got your tongue?”

“We Jews live in perpetual denial. Confessing to a single sin would just leave the next one bubbling beneath the surface, so we tend to ignore them. Still, i’s interesting and instructive to hear the guilty secrets of others, and I’ll make every effort not to pass them on.” His benign smile didn’t hold much promise, however.

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