Sunday, April 13, 2008

Scamology, Continued Yet Again.

When I started this project, I honestly did not realize it was going to take this long to explain it all. I apologize for the serialized nature of this, and promise to stop at short-story length and not turn it into a novella.

Chapter 4, Cont.

Disclaimer. This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to real scam artists is strictly coincidental. The sun is not 100% guaranteed to appear over the horizon tomorrow just because it did so today. That’s a kind of coincidence too. Besides, it’s always all about you, isn’t it?

At 4:00 AM, L. Jack sits bolt-upright in bed. He has just had a strange dream. He has been kept sitting in a waiting room, waiting to see Moe Horowitz of The Three Numbskulls. In the dream, Moe is a rich mogul like Horace Hughes. While he’s waiting, Harpo Sparks from the famous Sparks Brothers keeps hitting on Moe’s sexy blonde receptionist. Three men enter the office and are shown right in to see Moe.

L. Jack asks the secretary “What about me?”

She replies, “I told you it would be difficult to see Mr. Horowitz without a lawyer. That man had two.”

At this point Harpo starts counting money out on the desk. The secretary puts her hand down his pants and appears to be jerking him off. Harpo stops counting out bills and she stops moving her hand. He counts out more bills and she continues. He starts laying out bills faster and faster. L.Jack reaches for his wallet and wakes up.

The dream was his unconscious, trying to tell him something. Of that he was sure. Maybe it was several “somethings”. He gets out of bed, and ponders. The most obvious message, he says to himself, is that important men are hard to see. That’s when it hits him. He snatches a Bible off his bookshelf and turns frantically to the book of Acts, chapter 17. It was as he remembered. Paul’s attempts to establish his church are foiled as he gets ridden out of town after town by the established clergy. He winds up in Athens. Seeing a rich city-state with a population wherein all manner of god-worship is tolerated, he immediately sends for his two cohorts, Sillyas and Timmah.

It was just that simple. A prophet standing on a soap box expounding his beliefs is seen as a nutcase. A prophet sitting on a soap box, waiting for people to come to him to hear his wisdom is seen as a wise man, sight unseen, before he even opens his mouth. People aren’t likely to find you on their own, however. That takes advertising. Advertisement by converts. Advertisement by Disciples. If you can’t make disciples, buy them. It all started to come together in his head. He needed accomplices.

For his first attempt, he opens the Diuretic University of Research (DUR). This is no more successful than his earlier published attempts. He uses this as a learning experience. He learns that those who are sold do not necessarily make good salesmen. The True Believers that he is counting on to recruit more initiates are not up to the task. He also learns that he can eliminate unwanted business partners by turning them in as Kommunists. This is the period of the Kommunist witch hunts, headed by Senator “Taildriller Joe” McSorley.

The dream came back to him. The Three Numbskulls, the three Sparks Brothers, the Man with Two Lawyers, Paul, Sillyas and Timmah. He needed two cohorts, people who knew exactly what he was trying to do. He needed two con-artists like himself. After several months of cozying up, skulking about, and sounding out prospects, L. Jack has chooses two partners. To help him in the re-tooling of his scam, he selects John “Johnny Galoshes” Galliano, and Bobby-Sue Whipit. He will later marry Bobby-Sue for a combination of legal reasons and atavistic tendencies toward alpha-male egomania.

Bobby-Sue and John bring all their knowledge to bear on the problem. They tell L. Jack that the name he has chosen for his organization is too unfamiliar to allay the suspicion of curiosity-seekers. They need something that sounds familiar, with just enough of a difference to draw attention to itself. After some debate, they focus on the pseudo-scientific bent of this philosophical gambit, and select “Scientifonomy” as a name that will make this seem more modern and forthright than other religions. This opens the door to incorporating other scams into the mix, like medical quackery. They revive an old galvanic skin response detector, predecessor to one of the components of the modern lie detector, and call it an O-meter. This is an inside joke; the more they get to use it, the more the mark will owe. They have explained to L. Jack that, in the world of religion, followers are called disciples. In the larger world of tent shows, pyramid schemes, and carnival scams, they’re called marks. The only exception is the P.T. Farnum Circus, where they’re referred to as “suckers”. None of these derogatory labels are ever to be used in public of course. The illusion of respect must be maintained or the marks will take offense and go elsewhere.

John and Bobby-Sue remind L. Jack that all religions also have an origin story. Convincing marks that you have a handle on how everything works is much easier if you first convince them that you know how everything began. As the writer of the group, L. Jack is tasked with coming up with this story. He falls back on what he does best and writes a dilly of a piece of hack science-fiction.

He writes about a galaxy ruled by the Emperor Nugai. Any resemblance to Ming the Merciless of Mongo is strictly due to lack of imagination and scruples. Since no one gets to be Dictator of the Universe without being evil, Nugai is evil. One day, Nugai decides that his galaxy is too crowded. He complains to his ministers:

“The galaxy’s full of the wrong kind of creatures!
There are too many Blurgles, and Wombles, and Screechers
There are too many Nim-jums, and Tieblots and Stubbins!
Even worse than all that,
there are too many Flubgublins!

Nugai decides to do something about this problem. Since his afterlife belief is of the reincarnation flavor, and since he didn’t become Emperor of the Galaxy without knowing things like that for sure, he couldn’t just kill them. Instead, he orders them all to hold a stick over their head (Emperor of the Galaxy, remember?) and freezes them into popsicles so the souls can’t get out. At this point, Nugai could have just dumped all these corpsicles off on a really cold planet and had done with it, but no! He doesn’t have a firm grasp of how things work, and nobody who argues with him lives very long (Emperor of the Galaxy, remember?) He builds an elaborate, energy-consuming gigantic freezer. He makes this freezer in the shape of a giant pyramid because, why not?

After about a jillion years, someone approaches Nugai with a scheme to turn his giant freezer-pyramid into upscale urban townhouses. The only problem is, what to do about the corpsicles? Whatever it was, it had to be an overly-elaborate and resource-wasting Final Solution worthy of the brain of the Emperor of the Galaxy. Nugai orders a fleet of intergalactic space ships to be built to transport the corpsicles far, far away. They end up looking just like the Douglas DC8 because wings are so very useful in space. (Lack of imagination, remember?) He also has a second fleet of ships built. More about those later. The whole operation is then flown out of Nugai’s galaxy and into ours. Since the needle of the improbability meter on this story has already flown off the gauge, it should come as no surprise that, despite odds of about 590 billion to one, they wound up here on Earth.

(to be continued)

Image from



At 9:35 PM, Blogger Romeo Morningwood said...

and yet they still got Big Willy Smith last week...another one bites the dust.

I suppose that in the end it doesn't sound that much crazier than the others..they've just been around longer.

At 5:31 AM, Blogger breakerslion said...

donn: Should we blame Men in Black for his susceptibility? As you say, just as crazy as the rest of them. I think most people believe that they need something and some of them are applying the "lesser of evils" voting strategy.

At 7:50 AM, Blogger Rita said...

Since people seen willing, maybe because they are predisposed or maybe just conditioned ( Aristotelian scholasticism, anyone?) to believe in metaphysical entities; ghosts, spirits, souls, isn't a far stretch that we would strive seek out ways to connect with those entities. It just sorta struck me at this moment all the different scam artists there are willing to exploit this realm of wishful thinking.

Like W. C. Fields says,
"It's morally wrong to allow a sucker to keep his money."

At 5:06 PM, Blogger breakerslion said...

handmaiden: What I don't get is, how people miss seeing the parallels between the religious hype and more generic scams. One hand washes the other, of course. Without one, the susceptibility to the other drops markedly, and vice-versa.

Like W.C. Fields also said, "Who put pineapple juice in my pineapple juice?"

At 5:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem is, most of us are slow to grasp these concepts. Slower then we'd like to admit.

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