We had agreed to meet as usual in our city’s downtown park. C.W. was sitting on a bench wearing an old-time physician’s white outfit, complete with a stethoscope slung around his neck. Somewhere he had obtained one of those large, cylindrical light reflectors held by a headband. He looked like a goddam idiot and I started to keep walking.
“Sit down. The Doctor will be right with you,” he said. He was reading a newspaper and didn’t say any thing else to me until he had turned another page and finished reading it.
“This is a strange piece of information, Jimbo.” He had heard this name somewhere and knew it pissed me off. I had asked him not to use it which made him seem to enjoy using it that much more.
I sighed. “What is it?”
“It’s about something called a salary.”
“What the supreme spirit of evil is a salary?”
“What the "devil" a salary is, is what people are paid for the work they do.”
“Ah yes. Work—that unpleasant little pastime of yours.”
“Don’t you work on your planet?”
“We contemplate, imagine, and visualize on my planet. It’s different.”
I didn’t say anything. I still hadn’t taken a seat. I really didn’t want to be seen with him.
He straightened his headlight then folded the newspaper and handed it to me.
“Have you seen this?”
I glanced at it. It was an annual weekend piece our statewide newspaper runs that summarizes the top salaries for state employees. “Yeah,” I said. I handed it back to him. “I read it a while back.”
“These listings are all for individuals who perform some sort of public service, considered important by your people, right?” When C.W. used “your people” he was generally referring to a local, statewide, or national population as opposed to the more inclusive “species.” It wasn't complimentary.
“Would you consider the act of teaching others to repair the malfunctioning heart of an unfortunate individual a worthy endeavor?”
“Almost a righteous act?”
“If there ever was one.”
“According to some of your religions, one of the most gracious acts a person might accomplish?”
“True that. You are correct in realizing that some of them don’t go in for one person healing another person. Their god is soley responsible for that. Most of us go for human healing, though. The ones who don't, well they seem to keep dying off.”
“We’ll go into that another day. Right now, I would like for you to compare, for me, the ability to teach young people how to repair hearts with the ability to teach young people how to play a children’s game. The latter pays a salary 12 times higher than the former in your state.” I was sitting now and he was staring ahead. As soon as he asked the question, he turned to me and, I’ll swear, turned that goddam headlight on me while he waited for the answer.
“If you are talking about what we pay our football coach compared to the salaries at the medical school, I can’t explain it and neither can anyone else. Just be glad you didn’t land in Alabama.”
“Your know your species is performing berilincha, don’t you?” referring to a Fallovian phrase indicating, literally: the chewing off of one’s genitals, slang for an act that does not portend long-range good fortune.