scholars and rogues

I entered a contest…and lost.

by Terry Hargrove

All right, all right. I’m ashamed to admit this, but confession is good for the soul, so here goes: I entered the Washington Post Pundit Contest. Yes, me, a good liberal, trying to write for the Post. The Post is conservative, right? I guess I should have looked that up, but it doesn‘t matter now. Was I sleeping with the enemy? No, of course not. I was just trying to get close enough to the enemy to give her my phone number, because she’s hot in a weird sort of financial way, and I wanted to impress her so we could hang out together with her successful friends. Ah, but she is a fickle tart, and she threw my heart and my entry away.

But I don’t believe in waste, so I’m posting my entry, my losing entry, here. They would only let me write 400 words, and for long-winded old farts like me, that’s barely enough for a decent introductory paragraph. But I digress. Here it is. Be gentle. And if you see Washington Post out there somewhere, tell her I’ll be all right. Someday.

I have a bad feeling about health care reform. I wish more people did, but I guess they haven’t bought fishing tackle from Johnny Spunkmeyer.

Johnny was different. His IQ had settled in the low 70s, and he couldn’t stop smiling. He worked as a clerk in a bait and tackle store that had a colossal variety of stuff you couldn’t find anywhere else, but to get to them, you had to go through Johnny. He had a way about him, an ability to make even the most outlandish and expensive product seem indispensable and cheap.

“Am I reading that right?” I asked. “Eight dollars for a bobber?”

“That ain’t a bobber, that’s a float,” Johnny replied. “And it ain’t just any old float, that float there is guaranteed to never slip. Look here, it’s got a light inside that flashes red when a fish gets close, and a special green paint on the bottom that’s banned in three states. It attracts the fish, you see. In the same way this Magic Seltzer, a real bargain for only $29.95, will draw bass to you boat.”

“Yeah, that sounds great,” I replied. “But the sea horse lure I bought from you last month for $11.95 didn’t get a single strike, and the $60.00 aerodynamic minnow bucket you said would keep bait alive for up to a month not only killed my bait, I suspect it in the sudden disappearance of my cat!”

“You’re using them wrong!” he screamed. “You got to have faith! And Magic Seltzer! Let me bag that up for you.”

There was something about him, something that put him above suspicion, so that I bought the eight dollar bobber and a box of Magic Seltzer. The bobber slipped and shattered on the first cast, and the Seltzer created a deadly algae bloom. In the end, both settled in my garage next to the aerodynamic minnow bucket and the sea horse lure.

It wasn’t Johnny’s fault. It was mine. I didn’t have faith, but I had a profound need to believe someone who I didn’t think was capable of lying.

But in some way I’ve never understood, you can tell the truth and still be wrong. We do need health care reform, but do we need the reform we’re getting? I see Johnny smiling, handing me a bag, and I’m wondering how much room I have left in my garage? Because this thing is big.

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