save you time and money, he said.
Nothing more. How could I resist? Wipe
your feet on the carpet, I said, thinking
he might end up erasing the prints with
a fine powder ground by mortar and
pestle, activated by a blow-torch: magic!
Instead, he sat on my divan like a man
who believed in his product and I said,
whatever you’re selling, I’m buying
before he could launch into his spiel.
He complimented me on my Beagle.
Fine breed, he said. The best, I agreed.
So agreeable and nice to neighboring
kids. Kids make it all worthwhile, he
said and before I knew it, we were slapping
our thighs with joy, sharing those stories
of our offspring— the ones where they
scare you to death with some childish
prank you taught them or narrowly avoid
a jail sentence— and drinking that brandy
I’d been saving for a colicky day when
all that seemed to want doing would be
listening to the melody of skidding
wheels on blacktop while stones skipped
along the gutter. Then it was time
for lunch and he stood up, a bit abruptly,
I thought, considering, and asked for
a glass of water, which he drank while
singing,“Bess, You Is My Woman Now,”
proving that ventriloquism is not dead
outside of the Standard Metropolitan
Statistical Area including Las Vegas.
We said farewell in a European fashion
inappropriate within 300 miles of Rockford
before he went on his way to his next
appointment, a big account, his bread
and butter, his meat and potatoes and I said,
well, I sure hope they feed you! and we laughed,
the morning one more figment of history.