Issue 67, Fall 1976
Thomas Bottle was thinking of all the things he hated: hair down his back when he got a haircut; his Aunt Fern’s kitty litter; ringworm; the loud women in baseball caps who came every summer to paint the ocean below his house; and Jehovah’s Witnesses who came to sell him Awake! and The Watchtower. Thomas Bottle felt he could take care of himself, in his own clean way, without someone muscling in to tell him how. There were a number of other things he hated, but before he could list them there was a knock on the door. A pair of gleaming Orientals in muskrat stoles stepped in and invited him to follow them. He parried their invitation by asking what they did in their spare time. One bowed and said, “I am a third degree black belt.” The other just smiled, showing two enormous gold teeth. Thomas Bottle was suddenly frightened, and ran upstairs and locked himself in the bathroom. After about fifteen minutes he came back down. The black belt had disappeared. The other one—who continued to smile those gold teeth—was sitting at the dining room table, polishing the wax fruit with a filthy handkerchief. Thomas tried to be calm. He said, “At the risk of sounding rude, I must ask you to go. I admire your resolve, but I have problems of my own.” The Oriental continued to polish the fruit. “I don’t think you understand my position,” Thomas said. “Moreover, I pay taxes.” The Oriental only smiled, holding a pear up to the light. Then the black belt reappeared, followed by a striking blonde who had to be six feet tall. “I suppose she’s going to take off all her clothes now,” Thomas told them. “I suppose that’s what you’ve got up your sleeves.” He was getting angry. “But it won’t work! I say it won’t work, damn you! I keep my hedges trimmed! what do you want, blood from a stone!” But Thomas Bottle’s protests were in vain. The blonde slipped off her jogging togs and stood before the bowl of wax fruit, holding her palms up; she was flanked on either side by the Orientals, and all three were grinning profusely.