Honorable Honorarium

This is a true story. The names are changed to protect the innocent. I am, of course, begging the question of whether any people associated with me are innocent or deserve protection.

For the sake of argument let us suppose that my name is Ernest Erstwhile. I have been invited to speak at a dinner in the Michigan Thumb area, or over in the Oklahoma Panhandle. The program chairman will not tell me whether to speak for twenty minutes or thirty-five minutes but does say, “Don’t make it too long.” To save a little money he has offered to pick me up in his car, and we have agreed on a time late in the afternoon of that day of rest and gladness called the Sabbath. At the last minute he feels that he must go early and wonders, “Do you mind going along? You can sit in on some of the afternoon discussions, which should prove interesting.” We, therefore, leave the house at two P.M., and I am to speak at a dinner at six P.M.—which eventually gets under way at seven P.M.

In the afternoon I sit in on a discussion group of “youth” who worry away at the subject of “boy and girl relationships,” giving time to such items as whether one should date a girl who wears glasses. At supper time (remember, this is a true story) we have escalloped potatoes, baked beans, and spaghetti, with apple pie for dessert, and church coffee. The program includes everything from a vocal solo to a high dive, and I then get up to deliver myself of my opus.

The following conversation comes at the close of the meal. Putting his left hand in his right inside pocket the chairman says, “Now, Mr. Erstwhile, you know that this is a charitable organization.” And I say, “Yes.” Then he says, “You know, of course, that we don’t have much money.” And I say, ...

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