Earnest Pettie, comedy writer
Frank Lumley, perched at near the end of an almost empty bar, dressed in his finest Boss Hoggery, held a hundred dollar bill in the air, snapped it, and rolled it into a small tube. Next, he took that makeshift straw and stuck it into the foamy top of a milkshake, slurping. “Delicious,” he said grinning.
“The drink or the dollar?” Lumley looked down the bar and saw that he was less alone than he’d thought. A man a couple years younger, a couple styles trendier, and a little stubble manlier was looking at Lumley.
“Both, son, both. This milkshake is made with the finest vanilla ice cream because it’s delicious and the rarest camel sperm because I can. The bar doesn’t stock it– I bring my own.” The air between the two men had grown as thick as Lumley’s milkshake. “Don’t look at me like that, son. I worked too hard to get here!”
“Do you mind if I ask how you got here? How’d you make your money, or it that too rude?”
“Nah, son, it’s fine. Remember when oil hit 134 dollars a barrel? Well, I was in the barrel biz. 100 bucks a barrel.”
“You charged a 100 bucks a barrel? But wouldn’t that make oil just 34 dollars a barrel?” Lumley nodded. “May I?” the man asked, indicating Lumley’s shake. Lumley slid his drink down the bar, saloon-style. The man caught it and spat in it.
“Hey, son! Don’t do that! I deserve every dollar I earned! Do you know how I got in the barrel biz? Do you?” Lumley arrested the man with the gaze of a principal lecturing a student. “Ten years ago, I was broke, and all I had was a barrel, which I wore strapped to my body with suspenders. Then you know what I did? I chopped that barrel down and made two smaller barrels. I wore one, which was considerably less modest than I was accustomed to. I sold the other and bought party cups. That was my introduction to the biz. I sold those cups to a nearby lemonade stand, and reinvested those profits in ice, which I sold to the lemonade stand at a considerable markup. When that little girl had to raise her prices to cover costs and lost customers, I swooped in and bought the stand from her. I operated that stand for a nine months before I realized I was sitting in a gold mine. That little girl’s dad had built that lemonade stand out of love and wood. The love I had no use for, but the wood…. I chopped that lemonade stand down and made three barrels with it. You know what I did with the money I made from that first sale? I bought a pair of pants. I was in the barrel biz, and, as a business man, I knew I’d need a pair of pants. I sold my first barrels to elephant and seal acts. Demeaning but profitable. Slowly, I moved up to rodeo clowns, acquiring more and more of the barrel market. Soon, I had nowhere left to go but oil. That was where I made my first stumble. I didn’t realize they’d need lids! Otherwise, all the oil just sloshes around, son! It took me forever to live down that ignomy, but I did, son! And for every oilman who called me “Valdeez” because of my spilled oil, I tacked a dollar onto my prices. So that’s where we are, today, son. I’m raking in record profits.”
The other man just stared at Lumley. After a moment, he bagan, “I don’t know if any of what you just told me is true–”
“It’s all true.” Lumley nodded and sipped his milkshake.
“–You should be ashamed of yourself.”
“Shame, son, is wearing a barrel to the local swimming pool.”
The other man sighed and went out to his car. He got in, drove to the nearest gas station, where he paid four dollars a gallon for his gasoline, and cursed Lumley while wishing he’d tried a sip of that milkshake.