A successful swindler has to be a great salesman even more than a great actor. –David Suchet
WHEN THIS WORLD CATCHES FIRE
BOOK THREE: SAVAGE NOXTOWN
CHAPTER TEN: PART THIRTY-SEVEN: KINGDOM COME
Count Justin Victor took a long pull from his schooner of flat reeb poured by a sullen Tipsy Smith and turned to both me and Pappy O’Day.
“For me, it’s not so much the stumpy you get out of fleecing the bleeder–although it is that too; otherwise why would any man bother–but it’s the thrill of the chase; it’s for the sheer joy of leading the lamb to the slaughter, you might call it. The wolf knows he’s a wolf; the lamb knows he’s a lamb; each plays his predestined and foreordained parts. You don’t take all the risks I take just for fun. The feathered oof-bird is the reward; dinarly; if it wasn’t for money, most of us wouldn’t even stir from bed. Me, I’m a sheep in the morning; I sleep until the afternoon; it’s the way I’m built; no morning glory, me, Yob. I only prowl in the afternoon and on certain nights. Don’t like working in a rainstorm or when Oliver is in town; never did; I’m superstitious that way; but if there’s quick money to be made in a short con I’ll gladly overcome my scruples, and for a long con there’s no help for it. I live too close to the wood to be frightened by an owl. Pempe moron proteroy–that’s my motto.
“I ride the train quite a bit. Almost as much as the chumperoos who have actual jobs where they have to be there bright and early at seven in the morning or whatever ungodly hour their boss tells them to be there. None for me, thanks; I never had a boss or worked a real job a day in my life after I turned 25 and let me tell you something–I don’t miss it at all. Not any of it.That’s not to say that the grifting life isn’t a lot of work, because it is. I might have gone into sales and maybe not worked so hard. But salesmen are slyboots; they’re ruthless in their deceit. Even more so than the con man. I don’t know how those birds can sleep at night. Sure, they say they only sell to people who want to buy. That’s a load of hooey. They only sell to people who are willing to pay too much for what they have to offer. Dollars follow dollars. Let me put it to you this way–if the goods were priced fairly, you wouldn’t need no salesman and no advertising either; people would come streaming in the door; word of mouth alone would do the job. But nobody wants to make a fair profit anymore; it’s always gouge away at the old file’s purse and devil take the hindmost. This country runs on splatterdash and slumguzzle; from the ward-heeler to the mouthpiece to the bluecoat and on down. The ordinary sap gets treated like a lazy cur; plenty of kicks and cuffs and very few kind words. I do sometimes think that if you gave most people enough to eat and a warm place to make their bed they would be perfectly satisfied to work for nothing. Of course, there’s a name for people like that. They’re called ‘slaves’. Small wonder, then, that our colored brethren are so, how shall you put it, ‘mercenary’. They had quite enough of working for nothing. Quite enough, too, of being lashed for minor indiscretions. That’s what makes some of ’em go ‘bad,’ though of course there’s some of them who are bad from the start. Of course, nearly all of them will steal. That’s a given. But think about what was stolen from them. From birth. That’s why we put up with it. Deep down in our hearts there, we know. Of course, if you kick a salesman in the heart, then you’ll break your foot.
“I see a lot of salesmen on the road. The ones in unhappy marriages are always the most successful. Maybe because they don’t mind drumming for eighty hours a week, which is what it takes when you’re first starting out in a new territory. Sometimes you even end up losing pewter, because there are certain things you can’t get away with putting on an expense account and they have to come out of your own pocket. Like abortions, for starters. And I’ve known plenty of them who are on the dope. The door-to-door book salesmen in particular. Those creatures are the lowest of the low, worse than even a standing patterer, and believe me when I say that traveling salesman is a pretty low profession to start out with, like vaudeville hoofer or maybe a sanitation engineer. Even a punchy ex-prizefighter has more dignity. You’ll never dine with the Cabots and the Lodges, or even the Vanderbilts. Though I suppose P.T. Barnum and Diamond Jim Brady will always be glad to see you. And of all the low-down scoundrels who can’t get a job doing anything else, the Bible salesman is the worst sinner there is. Imagine a not so young man who comes to your town a stranger, wearing a derby hat and a black frock coat and carrying a rolled-up black umbrella, and preaching pious platitudes from the corner of his mouth and stealing anything that ain’t nailed down and seducin’ your daughter in the bargain. Chances are, he’s a jackleg preacher, or a Bible salesman, or both.
“I fail to see why salesmen give themselves such airs. They’re more vain than actors, and that’s goin’ some. Whores, preachers, and shyster lawyers ain’t got nothin’ on salesmen. After years on the road, I’m convinced that you have to be a little nutty to be a good salesman. You got to be Captain Grand; a real good liar. Even when you’re selling cag-mag. Especially so. “Our stuff is the nuts. The other guy’s stuff ain’t worth shit.” Or words to that effect. Hell, why say it when you can show it? It’s really too bad that, mostly,the salesman has to rely on a smooth line of palaver. A lot of them hard-shell hicks from the big stick country ain’t hearin’ a word of it. They’re immune to slick patter. And so is the Yankee farmer. Can you imagine a life selling farming implements to those babies? To me, that would be the definition of a perfect hell. “Today I made five dollars–and a peck of apples”. Haw! Feast on that, Mr. McCormick!”
And then, for no good reason, the Count broke into song:
The Seven Stars–our favorite groggery,
The home of every vice and pettifoggery
The owner says drink drink drink,
Boys, he says–never mind the awful stink
Hurrah–The Seven Stars!
WHAT’S NEW, PUSSYCAT?
- PUNCH’S HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR
DON RICKLES ON THE JERRY LEWIS TELETHON
THE BEST AND WORST OF EUROPE
5*AVATAR OF THE ZEITGEIST
6* DAILY UTILITY
CITY VS. COUNTRY HAM
Deepest Mandelbrot Set Zoom Animation
FOUNT OR FONT?
YOUR LIFE ON EARTH
I GOT A GAL IN KALAMAZOO
11* DEVIATIONS FROM THE PREPARED TEXT: A REVIEW OF OTHER MEDIA
The Negro community frowns upon your shenanigans
What really happened at fire station number 5?
CONTROVERSIES IN POPULAR CULTURE.
814. DR. PEPPER IMPOSTERS