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Notes From The Small Pond: Don't pay me


April 22, 2022

Every now and then it crowds into one’s consciousness: Why am I rich, poor or middling? How’d I get here? How does Relativity matter? What if I was in Ukraine? Now what? What after I’m dead?

At the risk of revealing the obvious: while this is largely an Old Person Conundrum, the fact is, people go through this self-audit on a constant basis from a very early age. It’s the intensity of the boil-from-simmer that differentiates the younger consideration from the more seasoned.

Water boils at 212 degrees no matter how long it takes to get there. Once there, it boils.

It’s boiling.

When I was young and hungry (no longer young, still hungry), I remember working as an insurance adjuster and being invited to lunch with an officeful of older guys with shirt-stretched bellies and coffee breath and exaggerated anecdotes and fake laughs and self aggrandizement and everyone talking and no one listening and the pitched back-and-forth contest of office-talk-camouflaged-as-Being-Real one-upmanship:

“You woontabaleivedit. We were snowmobiling in Utah and I got outuva avalanche by dragging my sled sideways across the mountain for two miles.”

“Wow. Amazing. (yawn) I was in Tanzania on a photo safari and this rogue elephant came at us and I had to hide under the Jeep and I could totally hear this bull elephant huffing and stomping and pissing — he was so angry.”

“Mustabeen scary. (yawn) But not as scary as when I was in Mitchell, South Dakota and my truck dropped its tranny and I had to walk up to some farmhouse and the lady that answered the door was cooking meth with a gas mask on and thought I was the cops and unleashed her pitbull on me and I had to fight it off by shoving my fist down its throat so it couldn’t go for my neck.”

“Jeeeze …”

“Still gotta scar” and he rolls up his sleeve.

I’d sit there and hate my life, five bucks in my pocket.

“I’ll just have the soup.”

“What the ??”

“Not super hungry.”

Everyone else orders gigantic sandwiches and tall, red, plastic vessels of Coke and then skinned-over butterscotch pudding for dessert; then they look at me and say:

“Rookie Pays the Bill.”

I pull out a credit card. Explain it later to Blythe. Sorta.

Thirty years later, I’m the one with the shirt-stretched belly and coffee breath.

And no braggy stories to tell.

Cloquet's Parnell Thill is previous "Columnist of the Year" winner in Minnesota and author of “Killing the Devil and Other Excellent Tricks,” available online. His opinions are his own, as are a few of the moments he describes to make his point. Contact him c/o [email protected].


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