APRIL 22, 2016
Copyright 2016 FRANCIS DIMENNO
Life is a dream for the wise, a game for the fool, a comedy for the rich, a tragedy for the poor. –Sholom Aleichem
BOOK THREE: SAVAGE NOXTOWN
CHAPTER TEN: PART SIXTY-SEVEN: KINGDOM COME
“Truer words were never spoke. That’s as sure a formula for failure as I ever heard. People who think that way end up living that way, and there’s nothing you can do to help them, save roll your eyes, because once a sucker gets a fixed idea in his head, it’s going to stay there come hell or water high.
“I have found it to be remarkably true: What you settle for is what you are.
“People don’t make ‘mistakes’. That’s because they’re basically just animals who will go where their instincts lead them. There’s nothing accidental about the things that people do, and the carny stunts they try to pull on their peers.
“The young make their reputation in bedeviling the old. They practically consider it their duty. ‘Twas ever thus. I recall one time going to the carny as a young man, when I had already been put wise by an old hand at the last carny I worked. I thought it would be a cute stunt to cheat at all the gaffed games and win big.
“So I would put a coin down on the Over and Under and move it ‘just so’ when the results came up, to show I had bet correctly even if I hadn’t. I would hide a pea under my fingernail to fool the man who was running the old shell game. There are endless ways to make trouble at a Carny if you’re with it and for it.
“But the canny old Cazarnies knew I wasn’t a greenie or a lot louse the second they saw me. It was their grift sense.They had a good chuckle at their own expense, then they told me that they were working, and strongly implied that unless I wanted a job of work that I should blow, unless I wanted something bad to happen to me…’like a thief in the night’. Y’see, they were tolerant of me…up to a point. Because I was their own kind. Always remember–the older you get, the more you want to cling to your own kind. It’s practically a law. Old folks are fearful of novelties and brash newcomers–and for good reason. Who needs some snot-nose come to upset the apple-cart after you spent half a lifetime arranging the fruit pyramid Just So? Somewhere along the way to the boneyard the oldsters lose their sense of humor, along with their tolerance for the unusual.
“Nobody loves a stingy hustler–except maybe another stingy hustler. Maybe that’s why grifters are so profligate with their ooftish, when they got it. Champagne and strawberries at midnight, and hang the consequences. It’s a nice way to live, if you can stand the gaff.
“Most people are like dogs, y’know. They go snuffing down a rutted road full of horse apples in the springtime, and are proud of the leash. In the summer they sweat and piss, and in the fall they foolishly strut about. In the winter the leash has become a burden, but they’re proud of it all the same.
“Just consider that the mass of men are just dogs who can walk upright, and you won’t go too far wrong.
“You want to get someone to agree with you? Simply nod your head yes as you talk to them. Works every time. You want to get someone to pay attention to you? Wave your arms around. In his face, if possible. Better still–clasp his shoulder in a manly grip. If it’s a bairn, grab his chops between your fists and squeeze–tight, but not too tight.
“You can motivate people better if you dole out small lashings of praise at regular intervals, rather than shower them with compliments at every conceivable moment. Like a charm, it works.
“But in order to influence people in the ways you want them to go, you must first master your own mood. Let no trace of annoyance or elation cross your fevered brow.
“And you must never give people the impression that you consider yourself somehow ‘above’ them, or ‘better’ than them, even though you are. You have to be, if you are going to sway them to your will. There are people who are too dumb too be mesmerized, and people who are too smart. Those are the parties you wish to avoid.
“Here’s something else. The young can be hot-tempered, but their inflamed passions soon cool. The old tend to be utterly and remorselessly vindictive. They don’t care about not making new enemies. To them, the whole would outside of their own constricted existence is a new kind of enemy. And old people largely get their jollies about being the proverbial dog in the manger. In other words, ‘If I can’t have it, no one can’. ‘Where were all these free luxuries the young folk are wallowing in back when I was young? It’s all a dung-heap of foolishness.’ For all the old, the fact that they can no longer work the world to their advantage means that the whole world is broken. ‘Where is the world I knew?’ Dead–like you are going to be, and very soon. Eskimos have the right idea. Say–I don’t think of myself as ‘old’–I just think of myself as a young man with plenty of experience. I’m always game to have new experiences. Just so long as I don’t have to put on a monkey suit no more. I’ve had it up to here with the starched-collar set.
“What is war, and the war of life, after all, but a means by which the old make the young into old men like themselves? ‘That which doesn’t kill me makes me stranger’. Haww…!
“Take away everything a rich man has–his friends, his fancy duds, his swell home, and his reputation–and I guarantee that within thirty days he’ll either be dead a mackerel, or he’ll be eating out of garbage cans. That’s the way we’re built. Survival at all costs. It’s a natural instinct. Like the two skunks, In and Out. Usually, Out was in and In was out. But one day, In was In. How could you tell? ‘In stinked.’
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