Mr. Brown was trying out a new bit on this week’s crop of adolescent out-of-towners.
“So we all know that men have farms, we know men have pigs, and of course we know men can have dogs. Now, let’s think more about this!”
The kids looked at each other with snarky brows or half-smiles. Paula scrutinized Mr. Brown’s current costume. A blocky suit jacket of matte black. A filigreed lavender vest complete with pockets and watch-chain. A bowler hat on the table, its fabric the same matte black as the suit jacket. Mr. Brown clearly spent a lot of time on the hairdo.
“I think he got the hair from Harry Houdini,” said Paula to FTWM, who was sitting on the drop freezer idly thumbing the Dry County Mailer. He frowned and raised his eyebrows, considering this.
Paula dropped her sponge in the dishwater and gave her whole attention to the comedic scene in the corner booth. All the out-of-town adolescents end up huddled in that corner booth, never supposing they would be induced to play the role of ensemble antagonist in a performance framed by the sink’s secret window, written and directed by a black-market dramatist of the highest order.
“Let’s say man has a farm. So far, so good. Man has farm, farm has pig. ‘S okay, many farms have pigs. Now then, man has farm, farm has pig, and then farm has dog. Are you with me? But then listen to this: what if pig has dog? As pet? Pig is like man, very much like man, except for apes, maybe most like man. So, why not pig have dog?”
Foreheads crumpled upwards.
“We can go further and say, ‘dogs can also have dogs.’ Why so? Well, for one thing, dogs having dogs is basically what a common Eurasian wolf-pack consists of, believe me.”
Mr. Brown caught himself – the construction “consists of” is not one a Siberian Jew rug-merchant would use. He pounded the table gently as a diversion from his misstep.
“Even in USA backyards with two dogs, one of those dogs might be dog to the other.”
The rebound characteristic construction “USA backyards” turned a few of the snark-brows into skeptic squints.
“But watch: why can never a dog have a pig? Aha! Because dogs are not butchers, they have no hands for butchering. You can say, yes, but Lev, dogs can herd pigs in farm-fields, but then I must point out that dogs have nothing to herd pigs into, only man has pig-pens for holding herds of pigs.”
“Now, here is the kicker. There was once a man in the very north of Eurasia. This man was man to man, that much was granted him.”
The kids nodded along with Lev’s strum of humanist heart-strings.
“And yet this man-as-man was born man-to-a-dog,
that dog of which was dog-to-a-dog,
that dog of which was dog-to-a-pig,
that pig of which was pig-of-a-farm,
that farm of which was farm-of-a-pig,
that pig of which was pig-of-a-man,
that man a man who had no pig of his own.”
The kids felt they were expected to gasp after finding out the man had no farm of his own. Mr. Brown had measured accurately the appropriate ratio of nonsense to mystery needed to summon a shimmering collective daze which could then be bagged and put on the market.
“And who was this child born so low in the high northern steppes?” he asked them, finally.
“Nice to meet you, it is I, Levi Shmuelyov Levinson, or Lev for my friends. We are friends, you and I, if that pleases you. Yes? Good. Come to my shop after you eat, I will show you my finest rug, a Georgian weave some say was stolen from the tomb of George Gurdjieff…”
“I’ve heard of him!” said one of the kids.
“Me too!” said another.