I was walking downtown (fancy that) to meet my brother Pat at Limpy's Place one fine summer evening, just after the war. It was the cola war, in case you were wondering. Do you remember that? Some of the most viciously-fought advertising campaigns ever seen. It was brutal. I was able to serve as a mercenary for one of the minor combatants, “Okra-Kola”. Okra-Kola was a soft drink produced in Oklahoma City (where else?) that was designed to go perfectly with barbecue, and that was made with real okra – not artificial okra, the way that “Dr. Okra” from Tulsa was. I managed to free-lance a couple of slogans for the company before they folded:
“Okra-Kola: It's the Stringy Thing!”
“O-K! Seed-free Since '73!”
In retrospect, perhaps it wasn't my best work.
Anyhow, I was walking down to Limpy's Place and as I passed the Johnson & Weinberg Hernia Parlour, I happened to spy a most curious little box on the ground. Who can resist these things, right? It was blue and seemed to be lacquered. I stopped and looked both ways. Then I looked up and down. Then I lit a cigarette, just to make me appear more nonchalant. Putting the lit cigarette behind my ear, I stooped down, picked up the box, slipped it in my jacket pocket, and walked on.
A few steps down the sidewalk I turned into the alleyway just alongside the New-China Sauerbraten Buffet (which gave off a much more agreeable aroma than you might have guessed). Making sure that the coast was clear, I pulled the box out of my pocket and slowly opened it. Inside there was a lone slip of paper – bigger than you might find inside a fortune cookie, but smaller than a business card. That narrows it down, doesn't it?
I took the slip of paper and turned it over to find some words written in the finest blue script.
It was wisdom. Divine wisdom.
I read the words again.
I felt a warmth that I had never felt before. It was as if my entire intellectual and empirical faculties were beginning to glow as an ember. I was alive. Alive and on fire, as it were, with this new-found wisdom. I needed to share this with Pat.
I ran out of the alley and sprinted the block and a half to Limpy's Place. I burst in the door, nearly tripping over Filthy Milt Gozomski who was back in town and apparently on quite the bender, owing to his prone position on the floor. I leaped over whatever it was that he was lying in and stepped over to Pat, who was just finishing his first triple de-alcoholized scotch-and-tumbler.
“Tom, you look all out of breath. You okay?” he asked, licking the little bits of peat moss from his complimentary “scotchy-doodle” that Limpy gives to all of his hard-core de-alcoholized scotch drinkers.
“Patrick...it...it...it's wisdom...divine wisdom!” I said, handing him the little slip of paper. “I'm burning with the enlightenment of the ages!”
Pat glanced at the slip of paper, and then up at my head, and then back at the paper. “Inspected by #7” he read aloud, frowning and looking a little doubtful.
“Oh,” I said, “I must have read it upside down. I thought it was in Cyrillic.”
“Here's your martini, Tom,” he said, pulling out a barstool and handing me a wet rag. “Drink up and crush out that cigarette behind your ear. You do know that Brylcreem is flammable, don't you?”
(Almost a true story. The names, circumstances, locations, and dialogue have been changed to protect the innocent.)