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    Sunday, February 24, 2008

    The Snake Oil Salesman

    Just one swig a day

    Before a snake oil salesman comes to town, most townspeople polled say they'd never buy anything from him -- it's hogwash. But then he comes, "clip clop, clip clop" as the hooves hit the ground, a single donkey pulling a wooden wagon behind. The donkey's trimmings are nonchalant -- faded reins that once were bright red and blue -- and it slowly chews cud as the iron shod wheels squeak to a halt.

    The wooden planks of the wagon are weathered but solid, and soon everyone is gathered at the town square. Little street urchin boys climb trees to get a better view, and mothers in bonnets admonish their daughters to act demure although the heat of noonday is strong.

    And then at once, the window of the wagon swings open, revealing bright colors and beautiful bottles. From around the back steps a man impeccably dressed in a black tuxedo, addressing "sir and madam" as he smiles brightly. "Surely this man, who looks so believable, can't be that bad?" a young man thinks.

    The tuxedo man shakes hands with those toward the front, his strong grip and sure look --eyes never deviating from the person he's engaged with -- invariably leave each onlooker smiling. And then he steps onto the crate; his makeshift podium, and begins to speak.

    Oh the oration! "Are you ailing? Have you lived the last 4, no 8 years in agony? Perhaps it's a stomach problem -- you feel sick don't you, sir?" as he points to someone in the second row. "Yes, we all know what you have, what you've used to deal with your problems, these last 8 years. Yes, we all have heard the spiel from your 'doctors' that have helped you all this time. But you're not better yet, are you?"

    Oh he's good. He knows the town he has reached. "I grew up learning about your town. I came here as soon as I could. Why? I hoped I could meet you, learn from you. I've read about the many great things you've done in the past. Look at Jimmy," he says, motioning to a well-known teenager in the middle of the group, "I've read of his exploits in school. You all know him well, and I know he's a good boy."

    "This man's one of us," an older, well-to-do lady says, as she fans herself.

    The orator continues. "I believe in you. I know what you can do. I hope for a better tomorrow. It was that hope that has brought me here -- to share it with you. I've found the cure for the last 8 years in this," and with a whirl he whips out a nice crystal bottle from the racks in the window. Stopped with cork, this tall thin crystal bottle contains a clear, slightly blue, liquid. He brandishes it for all to see, smiling brightly, and then continues.

    "You see, I had what you had -- this indigestion, this upset stomach, this feeling of unease for the last 8 years. I hated what I was told -- it didn't make sense. I read about your exploits, and I knew there was good in this world; things to strive for. I hoped for something better, and that hope led me to this."

    It was that hope that has brought me here ... I've found the cure for the last 8 years

    With a flourish he popped the cork, and took a swig. The audible "gulp!" and subtle bounce of his Adam's apple resonated against the sweltering noon-day sun. "Aaahhh...so refreshing. I found this, my friends, which I've named H&C Tonic for hope and change. I share it with you because I look up to you, I feel I'm one of you," and he looks at one of the urchins in the tree. "I was raised by a single mother, school teacher, who herself was bred in Kansas -- the heartland of this great country. I spent the last 8 years, like you, with indigestion and worries about the future. But I found H&C Tonic, and a swig of this a day has changed all that. The pains, the upset stomach, it's all gone. My worries are faded, and my hope is magnified. I know there's a great future ahead, and I don't sit up at night grumbling about it, or dealing with my queasiness. Just one swig a day, as refreshing as you just saw. Sure you can take more, it won't hurt, but even just one swig a day -- and your pains and worries will float away like mine."

    "But what's in it?" a skeptical old man in the back asked, as he raised his cane -- but the orator had done his homework.

    "Oh, physician Brown! I'm glad you asked." With a smile he turned back to the crowd. "Oh it's got a water base, some flavorings and vitamins. Things you all know to be good. But ol' Doc Brown, he wants me to give up my proprietary formula so he can go into business for himself! Now that wouldn't do, now would it, doc?" and the salesman laughed, the crowd joining with him. "Ol' Doc's a good man," he said, "but how come he's been treating you your entire lives, and you still have these symptoms. My proprietary blend of Hope & Change Tonic will cure your ills and bring you back to the days of your youth, when you could run and not tire, fall asleep under the stars and not worry about the morrow. Just one swig a day!"

    With that, the tuxedo man started passing out bottles. Coins changed hands. Old Doc Brown mumbled under his breath and walked away. A street urchin picked the pocket of the old lady with the fan, so he could take a swig himself and see what it was like, and slowly, the crowd dispersed, until only the salesman and his mare were left.

    The sun, fading behind the mountains, signaled the end of another good day. The jingling of coins in his purse made the man smile. "Well old girl, one more state down -- only a few more to go, and we can stop this business. We'll have enough saved up to get us out of this small wagon and into the big white house we've always dreamed of." He closed the wagon's window.

    "Oh, it looks like we're out of lemons and blue food coloring. We'll need to pick up some more in the next town over -- can't run out of this tonic before we're through!" Then he took another swig.

    "Aaahhh...gotta love lemonade, huh girl?" And the donkey just kept chewing.

    1 comment:

    xanghe said...

    love it, man. That's good stuff. Too bad I don't have anything intelligent to say about it...