It’s an incredible con job when you think about it, to believe something now in exchange for something after death. Even corporations with their reward systems don’t try to make it posthumous.–Gloria Steinem
WHEN THIS WORLD CATCHES FIRE
BOOK THREE: SAVAGE NOXTOWN
CHAPTER TEN: PART FIFTY-THREE: KINGDOM COME
“Happy New Year,” mused Count Victor Justin. “Ever ask yourself what’s so happy about it? I’m sure if you looked deep into your heart, you’d find that the answer is ‘Nothing’. It’s cold and dark and snow and ice is everywhere. Bums are freezing, horses are dying in their traces, birds are plummeting from the sky, there’s rats in the barn, and just try and get a doctor to come to your house. No,” he said, ruminating, “No happiness here.” he snorted. “But I’ll bet you think that maybe I ought to quit smackin’ me gums and get to the point.”
“The older I get,” said Count Victor Justin, “the more I seem to realize that people in the mass are actually little more than a bunch of superstitious cave-dwellers. They think they’ll consistently win money at horse racing and the stock market by gambling against professionals who make it their business to profit from the gullibility of ‘The Peepul’. The number of Yobs who think they can beat the professionals at their own game is overwhelming. Good thing, too; it’s what keeps us in business. I’ve had suckers we thoroughly fleeced of every penny once actually come back and say that they were very sorry that the gimmick didn’t work out for us the first time, and could they try again? There’s a name for such invulnerable stupidity, but I have yet to contrive it. Vapidity doesn’t quite convey the sheer bullheadedness involved; doltishness implies a certain helplessness which just isn’t present in the make-up of these hard-charging dupes; cracked would seem to cover it, only there’s always a certain amount of misplaced shrewdness in even the looniest sucker. What makes people so crazy to drop money on a ‘sure thing’? When there’s no such thing? And yet, there’s always some chump who is ready to swallow whole even the most preposterous cock-and-bull story. Why? I blame the whole emphasis on mammon. That’s all you hear people talking about–on the horse-drawn trolley; in the smoking car of the train; in the parlors and hotel waiting rooms and doctors’ offices–money. Bla Bla bla return on investment. Bla bla bla bonds. Bla bla bla he took a beating in the market. Bla bla bla futures. Money. How to get it; what a misfortune it is to lose it; who’s got it and who ain’t; how to get hold of some quickly; how to get rich quick. To make matters worse, we assume that any reputable-looking gent has got the ochre to stand a loss. That’s not always strictly the case, as I have discovered to my palpable regret. Sometimes we play a short con on a chump who hasn’t got two dimes to rub together. That’s the kind of yellof we always cut loose, because the day is too short to waste on fleecing paupers. Unlike some of our banking and retail establishments, which seem to delight in taking money from the poor in the form of outrageous ‘fees’. Me, I’d sooner find a fly in my soup than flim-flam a mark who ain’t got no yaller boys. As you know, I am not a godly man–but there has to be a limit to the bad which one can do. I don’t rob soldiers, or steal money from mailboxes; nor do I go out of the way to swindle the blind. No; my best targets are people who are both ignorant and vain. Strangely enough, if they are Godless men they are skeptical, and hard to convince, though since they think they know better than everybody else, the agnostics can be got to eventually. And if they happen to be extraordinarily devout, they are also difficult to cheat. They fix onto God as their pilot, and won’t hear of any dishonest flummery. Them’s the ones who pose the real challenge to a grifter’s ingenuity. You’ve got to work those yahoos extra hard; but once you get them, they’ll stick to you come hell or water high.
“Usually, the way you snare the Holy Joes is by pretending to be just as humble and unassuming as they are when it comes to religious matters. Put aside the lucky horseshoe tie-pin and show off a silver cross; discreetly mention your good work for “The Missions” and interject the name of the Lord into every possible crevice of the conversation. Even when mopping your brow with a starched handkerchief. And you’ve got to be clean. Even to the point of stinking like soap. Yardley’s is good for that purpose. That stuff will have you reeking to high heaven if you apply it with sufficient vigor. I noticed that old George the Pullman Porter on the 20th Century Limited uses nothing else but. He fairly reeks of it. You can smell him coming from the other end of a rail car. You think being a grifter is all beer and skittles? No Yob; and I’ve found that it pays off to notice things like that.
“‘Do not tempt the Lord thy God.’ Haw! If God were even capable of being tempted, I’m sure that first and foremost he’d be tempted to smite all those people who invoke his name so loudly and with such fervor, such as that there Reverend Cross, who I notice hasn’t been coming around so much after the Bully of Blowtown threatened him with a spanking. Forget politics; forget who’s in charge; forget even God; verily, the prospect of a good arse-kicking clarifies the mind in a most wonderous fashion.
“Aye–and, speaking of temptation, I don’t plan to quit any of my bad habits for the New Year. By the blood of creeping Christ, my bad habits are the only thing that are keeping me alive. You young folks might do well to remember that an old man doesn’t have too many consolations, and that what’s fun for the young is a necessity for the old. What is this foolishness of considering the New Year as any kind of a new start? A good old cup of kindness will do for me. I revel in it. Why not? The frothiness of a cold beer; the mellowness of some good red wine, and the jolt of a jigger of raw whiskey–and all is right with the world. Peace–peace and quiet is what we long for–none of this flutter fuzz and flabberdegaz.
“After all–what is death? Especially around here…where they’ll rob you for a wooden nickel and murderize you for a lousy silver dime.”
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Reminds me of the Trump candidacy.