Vol. 7, Issue 2, October 6, 2009
Truth in Labeling
We had just finished a fine mutton Curry at the Club, which our Chef indulges in when he feels a bit Exotic (and wishes to irritate old Mordecai's sensitive Digestive tract) when Fitzgerald began the habitual Grilling of our newest Member. Stokely was a Strapping young man whose whiskers shone in the Firelight as he puffed his Cigar in taut anticipation.
"You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive," said Fitzgerald cordially, gripping his glass of Port with a strength for which I should hardly have given him credit following so much scotch Before dinner.
"Surely there's no mystery in That," I interjected, "for the lad told us Himself that he was posted there for some Years."
"Quite so, quite so," muttered Fitzgerald with a somewhat surprised look. "Er, what was I going to say? Oh yes: do you, sir, consider yourself a Soldier still, even though you have Left those fabled rocky mounts and Returned to American shores?"
"That would be rather odd," said Stokely carefully, "as I was not a soldier There. I have already said, I believe, that I was a Photo-Journalist."
"Quite so, quite so," boomed Fitzgerald, fortifying himself with a hearty swig of Port. "Well, once a Soldier, always a Soldier, I always say."
To this, Stokely looked to us for help; but Garamond merely arched his bushy brows, Lupin puffed thoughtfully on that dreadful Meerschaum he affects on foggy days, and Mordecai offered naught but a wheezing Grimace as he thumped his Waistcoat in a futile effort to counter the pernicious Effects of Chef's malicious offering.
"I believe what Fitzgerald means," said Garamond, gracefully pouring a glass of Soda-water on Mordecai's increasingly rubicund Visage, "is that there are Some occupations which come to Define us as individuals, even though we may have Ceased said occupations long since. Lupin, for example, is still the Professor to many of us, despite his retirement some Decades ago."
"That is true," said Stokely thoughtfully, "but then why only Certain occupations and not others? I have also, in my time, served as Delivery-boy, Milkman, and town Alderman; I no more carry my Camera now-a-days than I do crates of Milk-bottles, yet I confess I am more likely to think of myself as Photographer than purveyor of Dairy products."
"I think," I opined slowly, taking care to ignore the spluttering Spectacle of Mordecai divesting himself of Waistcoat and attempting blindly to dry his Face on Hopkins' flowing beard, "that it is a question of the pursuit that we find most Fulfilling, whether or not it be the most Significant of our pastimes."
"I confess," creaked old Parsons, "that though I spent Forty-three Years as Bank President, I tend to think of myself as a Mountaineer first and Banker second, despite the fact that Roosevelt was president when last I scaled Kilimanjaro. Although I did try to marry my two passions with that regrettably failed Mountainside Banking venture."
"And you, sir?" Stokely questioned me, adroitly lifting his Drink from the table before Mordecai tripped over it, blustering his way to the Water-closet. "I know you to be an Attorney of modest repute, but didn't you used to run a small News-paper of some sort? How, then, do you think of yourself - as longtime Barrister or one-time Editor?"
I thought this was a Simple question, but, though I meant to Expound upon the Thrilling Pursuit of the Law, I found my cluttered Office at the Review come to mind rather than the marble floors of the Court; I turned my mind to the impending closing Arguments for the Harrison case, now reaching its End after a trial that consumed Weeks upon end, but the quiet Clatter of the News-ticker and the chuffing sound of our Steam-driven Difference Engines encroached upon my thoughts. The smell of News-print, the clamor of my indigent Nephew's incessant schemes for extra Funding: I shook my head to clear my thoughts. The day of the News-Paper was nearing its Sunset; everyone knew that. Writing is surely a Fool's game; had not years of Obscurity taught us that much at our struggling little Paper? Had we not Had our run, and wasn't it time to move on?
Stokely looked expectantly, and I realized that I had paused, pince-nez in Hand, gazing deeply into my Scotch.
"I think," said I, putting down my drink and heading for the Cloak-room, "that I shall have to get Back to you on that one."