Friday, June 17, 2005

The Three Golden All-purpose Comebacks

I was a young man working as a spy for the War Department during World War I when I received my assignment to travel to Moscow from northern China. I decoded the encrypted cable message twice to make sure I had it right, because it meant an extremely uncomfortable, perilous journey which would eventually join me up with the Trans-Siberia Railway. But orders were orders, so I set off under the guise of a Chicago insurance executive representing a manufacturer of ball bearings. I needn’t bore the reader with my travails as I made my way to the station in Vladivostok. Feeling tired and famished, I found my compartment, threw my luggage up on the overhead storage rack and immediately sank into a deep slumber without removing my coat. That was late in the afternoon on a Monday. I awoke to a blinding glare as the sun slanted in through the window the following Tuesday morning. When I arrived, the compartment was empty. Upon waking, I saw I had a companion.

“You need a shave,” the man said to me.

“I suppose I do,” I replied.

“American, eh?”


“Uh huh,” he said, and then he returned to his book. He was past middle age, wore a high, stiff, very white collar and his clothes looked freshly cleaned and pressed. His face was ruddy, well-scrubbed and clean-shaven, and he spoke his few words with a light Scottish accent. I excused myself as I stumbled toward the lavatory to do what I could to neaten myself up. I hadn’t changed my clothes for two days and I sorely felt the contrast between us.

As the train made its halting progress through Khabarovsk and Irkutsk, my traveling companion proved to be a taciturn sort. I could learn that his name was Rainsford and he was a writer of some kind, but that was about it. I contented myself by reading back numbers of The Scandinavian-American Review and left him in peace after several aborted tries at conversation.

I had fallen asleep again when, just before dawn, I was roused by having my shoulders soundly shaken. It was Rainsford, only instead of the prim, dapper man I had become accustomed to, here he was wild-eyed, hair disheveled, collar all askew.

“What is it?” I asked, instantly awake and horrified by the sight he made.

“It’s all up!” he exclaimed. “I haven’t much time left. I’ve got to tell someone!”

“What are you talking about?” I said, but he sank to his knees and fell gently over on his side. There he lay on the floor, beads of sweat standing on his mottled face, breathing through his mouth in ragged gasps.

I crouched beside him and turned him fully onto his back. “What’s the matter? Tell me what, Rainsford?” He made the slightest sign indicating for me to come closer. I put my ear close to his mouth, and then he told me in a dying whisper the last words he would ever say in this life, the words he feared would die with him. The words which I will now share with the world before I, too, go on to another place.

The Three Golden All-purpose Comebacks

Number One: “Your momma!”

Number Two: Roll your eyes and make the “pfffff” sound.

Number Three: “Yeah? Well, look at you!”

Use them wisely, as I have all these years.


Blogger Mona said...

My life is forever changed by this gripping story of three wise comebacks.

1:12 PM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

Changed for the better, I trust.

1:51 PM  
Blogger NYPinTA said...

I do the "pfft" one all the time. Glad to know I was using one of the three greatest.

2:02 PM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

I always knew you were special.

3:09 PM  
Blogger Spirit Of Owl said...

Yo Mamma is a Frank Zappa song.

"Maybe you should stay with yo mamma,
She could do your laundry and cook for you..."


5:29 PM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

Frank Zappa is da man.

8:45 AM  
Blogger trinamick said...

2 & 3 make their way into my verbal rotation regularly. I must have been eavesdropping when he told you.

8:51 AM  

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