Billy Onnisdale started talking, and of course, because I was in need of entertainment and not being sober enough to stop him, I let him go at it.
“I don’t know if you remember old Dick Oslinfar. Quite a guy until he gave up lying. Which is why you probably don’t remember him. Only thing memorable about him is he was a professional liar. He gave it up for Lent one year and died before he could get back to it.”
“Seems odd an old fabulist worries about Lent,” I provoked. “Seems if he was going to give up something it would be something practical like persimmons or crab apples.”
“I don’t know why he gave it up for Lent.” Billy said. “He warn’t particularly religious. At the time he was sparking on Freya Harricksenson, and she was a Mormon, which they don’t do Lent. Just Joe Smith with Jesus on the side.
“There isn’t any crab apples in April anyway.”
Billy paused to take a chug on his beer.
Something you have to understand about Billy Onnisdale is he never let evidence influence how he saw the world, reality perhaps, but not evidence. So we need to excuse his rather odd belief that Mormon’s conspired with the Romans, the Jews, Brutus, St. Anthony, and Judas to kill Jesus. This is just something you need to put up with if you need entertainment and only Billy is available and you are too imbibed to interfere. I did try to say something, being a lapsed Mormon and all that, but I misremember what it was I said.
Billy went on.
“Freya was a thin fire of a girl, with black hair that she tried to flip at the shoulder but that naturally frizzed at the ends so when she was coming at you it looked like she was wearing a black cat scarf that had it’s back up. I think the thing that got Old Dick was the blue eyes, like turquoise they were, turquoise with little orange flecks sparking in them. Thing is though, and apparently this did not bother Old Dick, those eyes were set under a ridge of brows that sloped like angry black caterpillars down toward the bridge of her nose—like she was always giving the world a frown. Maybe it was the handbag. Freya carried this huge handbag over her shoulder, and maybe Old Dick thought it had something in it—what with being a fambullshist and all, he was pretty susceptible to making up possibilities. So maybe that large handbag somehow suggested fambulls to him. I don’t know.
“About all we ever saw come out of that handbag was give-away Book of Mormons and stray pieces of paper with chapter and verse scribbled on them. And I am lost to see any fambulls in those items, though Old Dick may have. You never know.”
Billy stopped and signaled to Cyndi that he needed a refill on his poison de jour.
Let me say here, I have had experiences with the Freya Mormons of the world. They are a type. But I have never actually met this Freya Harrickenson in person. This is a small town. And as I say, I am a lapsed Mormon and am pretty familiar with the non-lapsed ones around and I have never heard of this Freya gal. Could be she came here, lived, went to church, and died, in the forty-five years I was off selling dynamite to nunneries and snow cone cups to housewives in Fairbanks.
Cyndi popped another cheap beer and slid it in front of our entertainment. He gargled down about half the can, set it in front of him, folded his arms on the bar, and looked into the mirror.
I waited for the entertainment to continue, but it seems the show had left town.
“That’s it?” I said. “That’s the story? Where’s the ending?”
“What’s wrong with my ending?” Billy said. “I ended it. What’s wrong with my ending?”
“Where’s the denouement, where’s the resolution? How did he die?
“O,” Billy said, “I thought I made that clear, Old Dick died of giving up lying for Lent. I thought was pretty clear. I think I said he gave it up for Lent and it killed him.”
“Hmfph,” I said, “People don’t die from not lying.”
“You ever tried it?”
“At least if you are going to tell lies,” I said, “You can finish them off instead of just leaving them staggering around in a victim’s mind.” I was disgusted. “A lame lie is worse than a dead liar.”
2 thoughts on “A Fabulist Dies for Lent”
Puts me in mind of Josh Billings and his wonderful humor and use of local color.
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It is nice to think that if this were circa 1868, I might have be able to make a living fooling around with words for newspapers and other stuff people actually bought to read..
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