C.W. provokes me to no end. I know we have an agreement. It’s called, for some reason, “Don’t Inquire and Don’t Enlighten.” This simply means I am not to ask him directly about the vast store of useful knowledge his planet must have about the universe. He, then, is not supposed to tell me anything that would disrupt the normal development of our evolution.
But, hell, he could give me a hint on occasion, couldn’t he?
Not this little prick. Today, for some reason, he had assumed the shape of a carnival barker, complete with a striped sport coat, white pants, a red-satin bowtie and a straw hat. We were strolling down Capitol Avenue and I was keeping a sharp eye out for anyone who might know me.
“So, step right up young man,” he said. “I understand you want to know the secret of life.”
“Just a little info about the formation of the universe will do,” I said, ducking my head as a city-owned vehicle appeared in sight.
“The secret of life. Well I’m here to tell you,” he said in a loud, huckster’s manner, more TV evangelist than Carnie. “The secret of life is this—now listen closely,” he paused for effect. “Life is just a bowl of cherries.”
“Screw you,” I said.
He looked hurt. He hurried a few steps ahead of me and then spun around. He gazed directly into my eyes the way a puppy will when he realizes that you have no treat for him.
“You mean,” he said. “Life is not just a bowl of cherries?”
“C.W., “I growled. “I have heard that joke dozens of times.”
“It’s still funny, though. Isn’t it?”
“If you say so.” I walked along saying nothing.
“Are you going to pout?” he said.
“Leave me alone.”
“Yowza, yowza, yowza,” he said, loud enough that people on the street turned to look.
“Forget about it,” I said.
“Okay, I’ll tell you one thing,” he said.
He could be slippery. “What’s that?”
“I will tell you the most important thing for your species to know at this exact moment in your history.”
“You can take it to the bank, brother,” he assumed his carnival voice again.
“No tricks. Nothing in my hand, nothing up my sleeve.” He demonstrated this.
“What do you think it might involve?” he said.
I thought. “Some might say religion.”
“Good guess, mister. But you’re absolutely wrong. Try again,”
“The type of political structure.”
“Nice try, young man, but wrong. Try again.”
“I give up.”
“So quickly?” No wonder your species still believes in ghosts.”
“Okay, you are ready for the most important piece of information there is?”
“Just this,” he said, as he put his hand to his mouth to whisper it.
I was exasperated. “C.W.,” I said. “Our leaders already know this.”
He looked at me, sadness in his eyes.
“It’s not your leaders I’m talking about.”