DECEMBER 18, 2015
Copyright 2015 FRANCIS DIMENNO
A smile is the chosen vehicle of all ambiguities.–Herman Melville
WHEN THIS WORLD CATCHES FIRE
BOOK THREE: SAVAGE NOXTOWN
CHAPTER TEN: PART FORTY-NINE: KINGDOM COME
“While we’re on the subject of lawyers,” said Count Victor Justin, “I will tell you what the most unnerving aspect of that profession is. It is the smile. The defense attorney who never smiles; the prosecutor who grins from ear to ear in private when he’s got a live one; and my cousin, John Anderson, who has this queer shy private smile, like he had just gotten a tattoo in an embarrassing place. No–I will tell you what the smile is for. It is the stock in trade of con-men. You imagine all sorts of things as you go through life. Like a smile is always good. It is not. A smile is good only to fleece rubes. Living alone is a crazy business. You think of things you’re otherwise too preoccupied to pay much credence. For example: Have you ever seen a dog cry? I have. The brute was not sad, but tears came trickling from its eye. Well. Did you know that a man can smile and smile, and be a villain? We have Shakespeare to thank for that tradition. A successful con man has got to look out for his own teeth, even while waiting for the police, who are never there when you need them, only just try to beg a quarter from a swell and there’s old Clancy, a-threatening to run you in. Ain’t I right, Tipsy? Ain’t I right, Pappy? Ain’t I right, Cadger? You know I’m right. You know it’s the truth! You know it’s the truth!”
“What does a smile truly mean? Is there any difference between a mother smiling down on her bairn and a grifter sizing up a mark? None. Not a bit of it. It’s only the intent. Every day and in every way, your smile is killing me. Think. There’s nothing like it in nature. Smiles were made by men, for men, to scatter the riches of their deception. Smiles were made so ladies could be coy, and conceal their gratification at looking upon the male physiognomy. How is the sale lost? Nine times out of ten, it’s for the want of a genuine smile. But what is a genuine smile? Hung out to dry, for the want of a friendly grin. But–I ask again–what is a smile? Is it the involuntary rictus of the already defeated? Is it a strategy? I say yes. A smile distracts your enemy from your roving eyes. Eyes which are greedily looking about for a place to stick the knife. I know whereof I speak, Yob. A smile is a curve ball that makes every straight plane crooked. Beware the man with a set of flashy choppers, who promises you something that’s too good to be true. Remember, Yellof: The sun smiles. the moon frowns. The way to escape any argument: Smile, and say, ‘I do not care to express an opinion’. There’s the parsing of a born lawyer for ye! The rascals can argue either side of a case, regardless of their true feelings, just so long as at the end of that long road there is the Do-Re-Me. In that way, they are exactly like grifters who are with it and for it, and who live for the long con. Well, all I ask is that you give me a cool drink of water ‘fore I die. Haw! The one thing you will not hear from the lips of any lawyer, anywhere, is the unvarnished truth. Unless there’s some kind of little room where they go after they meet with a client, where they can sorter whisper the true facts of the matter to themselves; or write them on a slip on paper in the smallest room in the house then crumple it up and throw it down the cistern. Haw! Grifters have nothing on lawyers, who can steal your face right out from under your nose.
“Mister, I only smile when I have to. A smile is too precious a ‘tell’; you’ll never see a riverboat gambler grinning like a jackass. Leave the fixed smile to the young whippersnappers, who have something worth grinning about. Leave it to your social inferiors; your buggywhip salesmen; your bellhops and Pullman porters. Your minions. You ever notice that people with the smallest heads and the least brainpower are the ones who are smiling, smiling all the time? To see a man of true intelligence actually smiling is like watching a shark, preparing to bite. Don’t mind my rambling, Yobs; haven’t had much sleep; scheming about ways to get back at that pettifogging mouthpiece cousin of mine; long ago he done me dirt, and I still ain’t over it. You know how it is. Thirty–even forty years later you still ruminate on slights and hurts, while forgetting all the happy times. No wonder a smile don’t come natural to me! I always was something of a misfit in that line. I still can’t conceive of the notion of a grinning fool as someone who somehow, some way, also happens to be a man of taste and discernment. To me, having good taste and a refined sensibility means having to apologize to your inferiors all the time–for there is very little in this whole crass country which can meet with your true approval, or raise a genuine smile.
“I say smile, if you want to, as you hobble through life–but be sure to carry a sword in your cane. A smile will assuage the well-meaning; but they’re not the ones you have to look out for. No, it’s the bad man–one look at your loopy grin and he’ll take you for a weakling to be plucked. Smile at the world too long, me huskies, and it will spit in your face. Do you know why a wise man is sparing of one of his smiles? Because only an ignorant fool has something to be glad about. Any man who thinks too much–who thinks at all–will find many a reason to show some restraint when it comes time to flash his choppers like some addlepate so that the wise heads of the world may adjudge him a noodle. Remember–only when there’s a woman to be charmed or a sucker to be fleeced–that there’s the time to turn on that tumescent leer.”
How Many People Have Been Shot in Your Neighborhood This Year?
19 BAFFLING VINTAGE CHRISTMAS CARDS
THESE HORRIFYING POSTERS MAKE GREAT GIFTS FOR ALL OF THE FREAKS (AND DOPE FIENDS) ON YOUR XMAS LIST
5*AVATAR OF THE ZEITGEIST
6* DAILY UTILITY
Silicon Valley professionals are micro-dosing LSD at work to gain “superhuman” creativity
Site Makes It Easy to Find Out Which of Your Facebook Friends Like Donald Trump
11* DEVIATIONS FROM THE PREPARED TEXT: A REVIEW OF OTHER MEDIA
THE PROPAGANDA CYCLE
CONTROVERSIES IN POPULAR CULTURE.
826. THE VIBES