INTRODUCTION TO THE SALESMAN'S
"For pity's sake!" the bartender
said. "How bleak
Can life get? What pleasure can we seek
In such a
world? You've told a tale true,
By God! But maybe just a trifle
True. Why would we want to hear such a tale?
But please don't
mind my ranting. Let us sail
On. You," he said to the salesman, "are
Something light, please -- a trite but tuneful text
us out of life instead of in."
"I've nothing of the kind," said the
"You'll have to hear another, I'm afraid,
black." "A modern-day parade!"
The bartender cried. "What is it with
That art should find such shit to revel in,
And not be art
unless it bottom feed
And make near suicides of all who read?
ahead, dear Sir -- do what you will,
Though too much truth cannot but
do us ill."
A salesman, as you know, must live
Selling things that customers don't need.
For if he sold
just what the world required,
Many fewer salesmen would be
Creative selling creates what was not there:
A need so
strong no real need can compare.
The customer must have this thing or
Regardless of the consequence. But what
Might in the individual
Is in the aggregate quite constructive,
for economic health,
As each impulsive purchase creates
Thus my greed becomes your source of good;
The evil old
become the modern should.
What was seen as living sinfully
Is how we
prosper -- fools, perhaps, but free.
A doctor who devoted his
To ridding life of death himself lay near
The moment he had
hoped would never come:
Despite his greatest efforts, death had
By his bed his three disciples waited.
They, too, had spent
their lives in unabated
Struggle against death, to clear our
Of peptides that evolved to be the means
By which each
generation might survive --
But only if the one before it
No longer was that mechanism needed,
The species having
In taking over its own destiny.
But death revealed
its secrets cunningly,
Not willing to be bested easily,
A wily foe,
as you shall shortly see.
Just at the point of death, the master
Words that one could barely tell he uttered:
"The code! The
code!" he said. "The second drawer!"
And then he died. He could say
"The second drawer!" the first disciple
"That bastard! Holding out until he died!"
"The second drawer
of what?" the second said.
"His desk, of course! The one right near his
Let's hurry up, before anyone knows
He's dead. Some executor
The house, or rifle through his papers fast,
that fame and fortune be at last
Given to a dead man! While we
footnotes in his hagiography!"
"Now wait!" the third one said. "I
need to think!
Let's go to a bar and have a drink,
And not talk with
the corpse in front of us."
And so it was agreed with little
That they would meet in twenty minutes at
A bar that all three
knew, and, further, that
They would all equally share what might
From whatever code the old man knew.
later, the three were there,
Drinking to the fortune they would share
The Nobel Prize, the patents, and the fame
That would make each
of them a household name,
Not to speak of immortality,
lasted through eternity.
"To the death of death!" the third one
"And to its murderers!" the second boasted.
"Let's meet up
at the house," the first one said.
"We'll just finish up -- you go
The third one answered, pointing to their drinks.
the first one left. They're drunk, he thinks.
The road up to the
master's house is steep
And winding, and the canyon very deep.
they'll go over it, and I
Will have this to myself, if they should
Ashamed of such a thought, he started driving
Up the mountain
road, his dark thought writhing
Like a cornered snake inside his
Darkness fell, and it began to rain.
It took all his
Stay on the road, as a sharp pain grew
left arm -- a gas pain, surely.
He could barely see, and drove on
By instinct up the narrow, winding road
Towards his master's
At a sharp, blind curve he saw a sign:
washed out ahead." And right behind
Barriers across his narrow
Just barely visible in the pouring rain.
He swerved left,
then saw a gaping hole
Just to his right, beyond an orange
Blocking it off. And suddenly he thought:
Suppose I move the
barriers? I ought
Not think that way! But there it was: a
Thrown in front of him. Fortune grants
opportunities. He pulled
Over, shaking. Greed his body ruled
stumbled out into the rain,
Not so much in cunning as in pain,
pulled the barriers around the curve
Where they could not be seen. No
car could swerve
Fast enough to stay upon the road,
But would go off
the cliff. Far off there glowed
The headlights of two cars a mile
Coming up the hill. The disciple's heart
beneath his aching chest.
Something was wrong! Some giant finger
Against his side! He barely got to where
He could watch
unseen, then fainted there,
Seized by poison sprinkled in his
By the third, who quickly reached the brink
And tumbled off,
down a thousand feet;
The second, moments later, a repeat,
first lay dying, nearly stilled,
The victim of the two he just had
The master's papers passed to a trustee
Who sold off
what was under lock and key,
But threw out junk that none could find
Including what was in the second drawer.
Was it indeed
the code that would kill death?
Or just the rant of one near his last
Greed had got the three out of the way
Who might have known,
so death another day
Ruled life, as he had for all these years,
tyrant whom we worship with our fears.
EPILOGUE TO THE SALESMAN'S
"You live by greed, and yet you it
The bartender said, "in this old-fashioned tale.
dress greed in fashionable clothes,
The dealer in delight instead of
And free us to indulge our base desires?"
"I do only what
this design requires,"
The salesman said, "and follow Chaucer's
The tale is old fashioned out of need,
For Chaucer had the
Pardoner preach against
What he himself precisely did. And
This need to follow Chaucer comes, I know
Not, but it is how
I must go."
"Now you're next," said the bartender to the
"Please forget this Chaucer! On my life,
I find no pleasure in
this shadow tale!
Be yourself, and on your own regale
with a story of your own,
Not one that mimics one that is long
"I cannot help myself," the good wife said.
as I resurrect the