Of Course It Ain’t Free

three glasses of beer

Different political opinions

[This story concerns my imaginary friend Radleigh. If not for that, it would be completely true and reliable.] One afternoon during a discussion of reptiles he had seen in his neighborhood, Radleigh said, “I’ve also seen one snake. A state representative lives two doors down from me.”

“A representative?” I asked. “Aren’t those usually warm-blooded?”

“A rattlesnake,” Radleigh added. “I mean in the bad sense of that word.”

“I didn’t know there was a good sense,” I said. “I mean they’re poisonous and all.”

“Well, there’s the neutral sense of an animal that will kill you if you come near it. But our state representative is a pure politician, and when I say pure I mean guile and deceit and scrabbling for power by any possible means. Now that’s worse than even a drunk ambitious rattlesnake could hope for.”

“Rattlesnakes don’t get drunk,” I said. “They’re all underage.”

Radleigh looked at me in a way that did not signify complete respect. “Is symbolic language a problem for you?” he asked. “Are you a Baptist?”

“I know you’re trying to insult me,” I said. “And by the way, no rattlesnake has ever been elected to an office higher than mayor.”

“You’re right,” Radleigh replied. “I shouldn’t be degrading a harmless snake by associating it with the state legislature.” He paused to gather a memory. “Last year the representative who lives down the street had a party and invited all the neighbors.”

“That sounds like a very nice gesture,” I said. “Maybe you’re too critical. Was it a potluck?”

Radleigh sighed heavily, which, I should say, is a common occurrence with him. Maybe he has breathing problems. “Your innocence wears me out,” he said. “I can’t believe it’s real. It was a party about a month before an election, so it was political. I went to see what the guy was up to. Once he had a crowd, of course, he made a speech.”

“Was there free beer?” I asked.

Radleigh ignored my question and said, “He kept using the word ‘freedom’, over and over, freedom of things, freedom from things, freedom to do things. He was making this noise freedom, freedom, freedom like a robot. We were all supposed to go Yeah! I’m for that. You got my vote.”

“Yeah!” I said. “We’re Americans. Total freedom.”

“That’s right,” Radleigh replied. “I want to drive drunk past a school going 75 miles an hour with no driver’s license.”

“Oh, well,” I said, “you’d need a driver’s license.”

“To listen to our representative talk, it was obvious he thinks we’re all stupid. He even proved it by telling us how much he respects us because we’re smart people.”

“I’m flattered by that,” I said.

Radleigh waved his hand in the air. “And we’re supposed to be so stupid he could tell us anything, as long as he used the word freedom.”

“Anyway,” I said, “I’m still wondering if there was free beer.”

“No, but you’re free to think so.”


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2 responses to “Of Course It Ain’t Free

  1. Richard Gilbert


    I really liked this story. I hope all is going well with you.


  2. Thank you, Dick. I cannot claim to prosper like a robber baron, but as the movie The Big Lebowski said so well, “The Davy abides”. Or something like that. I’m working, I’m writing, I continue to make plans to be on the planet. For most of us, that’s already not so bad.

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