Dear Beergirl and Beerboy Disciples,

It was one of those nights: I was on the road; staying in one of my hideaways around the U.S.A. Right now I won’t tell you why I was on the road. By now you understand that I try to make these communications confidential with you disciples, but can’t be sure of my success. I do, though, feel safe telling you about the unfolding chain of events that dropped into my lap that night on the road.

So, on that night I referred to, there I was, trying to figure out how to get raspberry jam out of my vacuum cleaner. And how does a reformed international con man get raspberry jam in a vacuum cleaner anyway? I wish I could tell you, but like I’ve said in previous communications, you never know who can break through my editorial encryption.

So, there I was with the vacuum cleaner and the raspberry jam, in a situation that would make any KGB agent afraid for his life. Then the phone rang. Good, a distraction. I laid down the vacuum cleaner. I walked to the phone, moving softly so as to not upset the jam or the vacuum cleaner. Who was calling?

I had left messages on numerous of my counterintelligence friend’s answering machines begging for help with the vacuum-raspberry jam dilemma . I picked up the phone.

“Hello?” I said.

“Hello, sir, I’m Mary Louise, with Junk Food Is You. I’m sure you, like every red blooded man, loves you’re ice cream. How would you like 2 gallons of gourmet ice cream delivered to your door, free with your first order?”

What a voice! So confident, sexy, and in control. Wait a minute; that voice sounded familiar? Maybe this call was going to be more than a distraction.

“We guarantee delivery to your door within 15 minutes of placing your order. Think of that, sir: beer, ice cream, chips, pizza, pepperoni sticks, soda, hot dogs, cheeseburgers, corn dogs, French fries, hot fudge potatoes with whipped cream and cheddar cheese (dessert and dinner in one entre) and much more, delivered to your door 24 hours a day, within 15 minutes of placing your order.”

Yeah, I did know that voice. Why couldn’t I place it?

“I’m sure, sir, that like many Americans, you’ve had those terrible, agonizing moments deciding between missing a few minutes of your favorite TV show and making a run to the corner store.”

Oh, my God, I did know her!

“Now, sir, you don’t have to leave your couch. Regular clients give us a key to their front door. We will let ourselves in, and deliver your goodies right to your couch. We even provide plates, bowls, silver ware, paper napkins, and bottle openers. And, sir, in compliance with the Oregon Beer Regulators Act, we serve only microbrew and craft brew beer.”

“Mary Louise, is that you? This is David.”

The line went quiet.

“Mary Louise, come on, I’ve heard that voice on Saturday morning cartoon shows so often I’d never forget it.”

The time of silence on the other end ticked by–getting dangerously long.

“Mary Louise, don’t hang up on me. Please, come on, this is David, talk to me.”

The sobbing started low and quiet. She fought to keep from breaking into a full wail.

“Oh, my God, I didn’t think any one would recognize me.”

“Mary Louise, what’s going on? You’re doing phone sales?”

“I get off work in an hour. Let’s talk. You know that coffee shop on upper Hawthorne Street?”

Sure I did.   I hung up and tried to process what had happened. Mary Louise–using her magnificent voice to peddle junk food? I had never heard her so sheepish. Mary Louise, the Queen of Saturday morning cartoon voice-over actors had fallen so low.

I got on over to the coffee shop early, in case she got the jitters approaching the coffee shop and tried to take off. I stood on the sidewalk across the street. Then, yep, there she was, looking kind of shaky, wearing sunglasses and a leopard skin pattern handkerchief over her hair. Right, Mary Louise, you Hollywood actresses never were any good at going undercover. I skipped on over to her side of the street before she got to reconsider and take off.

“Mary Louise, hi!”

She turned toward me, lowered her head in shame, moved her upper lip in that fake flippant move that Hollywood celebs use when they’re nervous.

“Hi, David, what’s happening?”

She wanted a table on the sidewalk. Why? Was she was too skittish to walk any further? Or was it that instinct her kind had to always draw the most attention to them? Anyway, we sat down at an open table on the sidewalk.

“It’s been a long time, David. I haven’t forgotten you. Those times at the carnival working with you, those times, if I could only save a few memories from my life, I’d save those.”

All wasn’t lost. That sounded like my Mary Louise. I thought back to first time I ever saw her. I was working a carnival down in Ventura, CA. Those were my “Razzle Dazzle” days. Razzle Dazzle? That’s a carnie term—for conning suckers of all ages.

There’s a bunch of variations to the razzle dazzle game, but let me guess. When you were young you fell for it. Remember those coin toss games at the fair? If you could just get that thumb flick to keep your dime on the plate that big fuzzy pink bear-giraffe-elephant would be yours. That dime, though, never did stick where you wanted it to, did it? Guess, what, sucker, of course it didn’t. That was a rigged game. You’d be surprised how those dimes add up. I know low-rent brain jerks who are retired now living high on as many hogs as they want from doing nothing more than tantalizing kids with the tinkle of dimes bouncing off fancy glass plates.

Like Mary was talking about, I can remember a sunny Saturday morning long ago when I was doing just that with some glass plates. That’s how I got started in all this con job stuff, but that’s another letter.

Then this short black haired woman, Mary Louise, way too good looking to be hanging out at the carnival, was lurking back off the black tarp and grass walk way. As I worked my coin tossing booth and ripped off one kid after another Mary watched me real good. She had that look, trying to figure my trade secret. Why? Was she a fellow con, or, maybe, a cop?

I was sure she was a cop, and I’d be told that I didn’t need to leave town right away. All she wanted was for me to kick back some loot to her. That’s par for the course for the carnie trade, just a business expense. Any good cop knows how much to ask for without breaking the bank. I’d done it in lots of towns. And I still kept getting richer.

So, like I said, it was a sunny Saturday morning. Mary was eyeing me. Then two young girls, I’ve never been good with kid ages, say 9, were at the coin tossing rail of my rigged dime game. They had brought their piggy banks with them. Their precious hoarded coins, coins they had toiled all year to save, doing chores and good deeds. In other words they were ideal suckers.

Mary moved close to the rail, real close to the girls. Adults would have been uncomfortable with a stranger getting so close, but you know how kids are. Let’s skip the ugly details, let’s just say that at my coin tossing rail those beautiful young girls lost all their coins in less than 10 minutes. And they left smiling, because I made them laugh. Get a girl laughing, any age, and she’ll consider any amount of money taken from her trivial. So, it’s not really stealing is it? As the girls left, Mary Louise moved in close to me.

“Say, David is your name, right?”

“Yes, ma’m–unless it shouldn’t be. You tell me.”

“You have a way with kids.”

I thought she was a cop, so I trusted her.

“Yep, kids are easy to rip off. I can do it with a hang over, it’s not hard.”

“I know. I’ve been watching you. I envy you. I’m in a related business to yours, ripping off kids. But, my work is harder to do. I’m more in the public eye. I have to be sharp every minute. And I have to keep my reputation squeaky clean. I really do envy you”

Oh, oh. What was she, a reporter?

“You, you aren’t a cop?”

“No, I’m a voice-over actor for Saturday morning cartoons. I’ve done it for years. I never see the kids who watch my show, not like a theatre actor would. But, I tell you, I can feel them staring at me through the TV. I used to just feel it when I was in the recording studio. Now, I feel their glares wherever I am. And I have to be picture perfect for them, every second. The film stars for adults can get away with scandal. In my line of work one scandal ends your career. You want to know something else?”

I was in over my head; I’d spilled myself to her.

“Sure–what?”

“I can’t take it any more. I don’t understand you. You make your living just like me, by ripping off kids. And you have to look then in the eyes for real. How can you stand it?”

“That’s the secret. I really do get to look them in the eyes, not just imagine like you. You want to control your mark?”

“Yeah that’s what they are, the kids are just my mark.”

“Then, there’s just one way. You’ve got to look them in the eyes. Then you’re in control.”

A look of revelation came over Mary Louise.

“You mean that’s the secret? All this time I’ve avoided contact with the kids as much as I could. And you’re saying that the way to take control from the pathetic, doe-eyed punkettes droning on about their pie-in-the-sky-isn’t-everything-in-life-more-wonderful-than-a-Jimmy-Stewart-movie-golly-gee-wizz-isn’t-my-dress-the-prettiest- thing-ever-life is to look them in the eyes and steal them blind.”

What else could I say?

“Yeah.”

It came over her. It came over slow at first, then faster. She had been trapped in the money game. How to pay for her fancy life and still be true to herself? Now, she saw a way out.

“I want in your game, David, and I want in now.”

I had slipped up and told her my secret. She was going radical. How could I hope to control her?

“We’re here for 3 more days. Then we’re going on to Reno. You’re welcome to come along.”

The next day Mary Louise was behind the rail with me. You should’ve seen her. Picture the devil being birthed from a horse at the same time as a colt. Imagine the devil and the colt both learning to use their legs at the same time, the colt to walk, and the devil to ride the colt. Mary Louise was the devil, the kids coming to our rail her colts. She was more than a natural to scamming, I could tell. Remember that I’ve said the soul of every scam has always existed before the actual scam is birthed? I could tell Mary Louise’s soul came from the same place that all scams come from. She knew more about rackets than you can know from just earthly existence.

By the time we got to Reno she was the boss of the coin toss, not me. There was no power struggle. I got out of the way very willingly. I was afraid of what would happen if I tried to stand in the way of Mary Louise.       At the end of the Reno run I had a chance to go to Tillamook, Oregon and run a “Razzle Dazzle” game. I went, and left Mary Louise in charge. I figured I would eventually hear of her running Donald Trump out of Atlantic City, becoming the Queen of New Jersey.

That was years ago, though, And now, here we were at a coffee shop in Portland.

“What happened, Mary Louise?”

“It was a couple of years later in North Dakota, or was it South Dakota?   I had settled in to a prime life of scamming kids during the day, then dreaming about scamming them at night. That way I got to rob the brats twice a day.

“Then one day a young woman dressed in Christmas clothes showed up at the carnival. All day she watched me. I didn’t get it.   The more she watched me the more I wanted to take every cent she had. I tried every trick I knew, but couldn’t get her to play. It got to be an unhealthy obsession, even by my standards.

“The next day she came back. She just stood there out of the way, and stared at me, looking bewildered as I robbed kid after kid. Late in the afternoon it started to rain. She just stood there getting wetter and wetter, not able to take her eyes off me. About dusk the floodlights kicked on. There she was, under a bright light, in an ankle-deep puddle, clutching a toy bear tight to her chest, not blinking, staring at me. That was all I could take. I walked over to her.

“Okay, punk, what do you want?”

“Please, Mary Louise, I didn’t mean to upset you.”

“You heard me, punk, what do you want?”

“I heard your voice yesterday. Didn’t you used to be in cartoons?”

As we sat at the coffee shop table Mary Louise took a grip on herself.

“I’d shoved my cartoon work so far back in my memory that I had actually forgotten about it. The memories came back like an avalanche. The girl moved closer to me.”

“I used to listen to you. You were the next best thing to Santa Claus, the most pure woman I could ever imagine. My own mommy disowned me because I believe in Santa Claus. I knew you would love me anyway. I used to fall asleep dreaming of you being my mommy, cuddling close to you, telling me Santa Claus was real. What happened to you? Why are you stealing from kids?”

Mary Louise clinched the table, steadying her nerves.

“The avalanche hit. Instead of the burned out ex-Hollywood-woman-of-the-world I had become I saw myself as the young innocent woman I had been when I started doing cartoons. I had thought nothing could be better in the whole world than making children happy. What had happened to me? I let the girl look me in the eyes.”

“What is your name, dear?”

“Patsy.”

“I’m sorry, Patsy. I’ll never work the carnie again. Tonight when you fall asleep please think of me like you used to.”

“Let’s both of us get out of here now” said Patsy.

“I left with her right then. We spent several months together. Patsy got me back on track. Then, we both knew we had separate paths to travel. I didn’t feel that I should go right back to Hollywood. I had disgraced my talent. So, I’ve been using my voice to sell phone stuff. It’s an honorable profession.”

“Yes, it is Mary Louise. But I think our paths crossed on purpose. It’s time for you to go back to Hollywood.”

Mary Louise grimaced, and looked embarrassed as she started to cry.

“You think so?”

“Yes, I do.”

Well, fellow Beergirl and Beerboy Disciples, she took off yesterday, back to Hollywood. She will never be the same innocent woman she was. It will, though, be wonderful to hear her voice again, on Saturday morning.

 

Yours in the faith,

David

 

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