February 1, 2023

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


It was Friday; I had my feet up and was congratulating myself on having my newspaper, the Doodlebug Island Run-on, ready to go to press when  Randolph Spitzenberger dropped by.

“Bill, I’ve just had the most paradoxical experience of my life, one with extraordinary implications! I was at Madelyn Fisher’s home examining her collections and overheard a conversation between her and her son Morgan. He asked if there were anything she needed, or if there were anything he could do for her before he left? She pointed to a postcard on the kitchen counter and said, ‘Yes, you can mail that for me, and, please, don’t lose it.’”

Now, Randolph is an independent art and antiques appraiser, so I interrupted him to ask if he were at Madelyn’s home on business? “Is she downsizing or thinking about moving?”

“No, she’s concerned about insuring her things properly, and well she should because she has a number of valuable pieces — jewelry and porcelain — that she likes to display. But getting back to the reason for my coming to your office, I was disturbed by their conversation. Morgan picked up the postcard and was surprised to learn it was a Reader’s Digest Sweepstakes entry form. ‘Mother!’ he exclaimed, ‘Why would you concern yourself with this? You are worth over two million dollars already! Why, if you tried, you couldn’t even spend the interest on your money in a lifetime. Is there something troubling you I need to know about?’

‘No,’ she replied, it’s just that you never know if you’re going to need more!’”

“I can see what you found disturbing about their conversation,” I replied. “The overtones just kind of reach out and grab you. And, as I see it, they might end up taking whatever joy a person may have in his personal savings, replacing it with discontent.”

“Yes, exactly! I haven’t been able to think of anything else since I left Madelyn’s house. If a person has a dollar, wouldn’t he or she be better off with two? If someone has a hundred or a hundred thousand, wouldn’t he or she be more assured with twice the amount? Could it be, Bill, that no matter how much an individual has it may never be deemed enough?”

“You waltz in here on a languid, peaceful Friday afternoon when I’m feeling nothing but contentment and drop this philosophical bombshell, expecting me to say something smart?”

“I had convinced myself you might have something erudite to say on the matter,” he laughed, “but in any case I now have someone who will share my newfound anguish. I didn’t want to be the only one whose weekend will be spent dithering about it, Besides, I didn’t ‘waltz’ in. I rather deliberately sauntered in.”

“Well, you can take your irritating conundrum and saunter right back out. The two cells that pass for my brain matter have been taxed enough this week. Besides, the fish in Oak Creek are waiting to be amused at my attempts to catch them.”

“Too late, my friend. I can tell from the look on your face you’re as hooked as those fish you feed, amuse, and rarely catch. Now, if you think of something clever, let me know.” With that, he left.

I tried to think of something else, clever or otherwise, but my attention always reverted to that annoying question, ‘can a person ever be secure in the knowledge he or she has enough?’ For the rest of the evening and all the next day my mind ran in contorted circles, returning to the rather sordid view that generosity wages mortal combat with selfishness, and in most cases loses.

Finally, I hit upon the perfect solution: it resided in Mark Twain’s delightful story of a corrosive jingle called, ‘Punch, Brothers, Punch. All I needed was a minister. With that, I made my way to the Reverend Blain Dickerson’s home where I lay the matter at his feet. “This will make an interesting topic for a sermon,” he said, “thank you, Bill.”

Expectedly, I felt a great unburdening, and in that relief a need to talk volubly and at length of the simple pleasures of life. But, upon taking my leave, I had a momentary pang of guilt, for I could not help but be aware of the Reverend’s quietness, the pallid look of concern on his face, and the agitation in his manner. My ‘goodbye’ went unheard.

“Is it possible to ever have enough?” he murmured.

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