My grandfather was one of those almost extinct class of hucksters that didn’t trouble themselves with the nutritional values of snake oil. It may not have been ethical to sell his cross-town neighbor a packet of saltpeter to curb a hostile goat’s most particular amorousness, but he never set out with the intention of doing harm, not to the beasts nor to the simple hands who could be convinced my grandfather possessed a piece of something most lacked. My grandfather did have a flair for the dramatic, and honey was in his voice if not his veins. I never met a man or woman who denied the old man was a charmer.
Times changed, though, and the corner store was laid low by the march of progress. Big box stores erupted in the small town where he had once sold nutty horses when there were too few willing to put faith in the automobile. There were a spate of jobs, some even mostly legitimate, between his penultimate confidence scam and the last one.
When the children had up and grown and my grandfather got to feeling restless, he turned back to his old ways. My grandmother shook her head and had her say, but my grandfather was an intractable man since the day he learned to walk out the door. She shut him out of the house while he concocted his newest source of riches. He holed up with me when I was living out my first year at the local college (and halfway to tending bar fulltime).
My grandfather, bless his heathen heart, got to selling abridged bibles. The first issue was where he got the bibles in the first place, as box stores or no there were few churches in our immediate vicinity, and few enough of us to know when one of them had been held up. The second issue concerned the manner of abridgement: namely, bibles coming in sets of twos with even pages in one and odd pages in another.
If I have regrets (and being ridden out of town on a rail, in this day and age, is certainly one), it’s that, plain dumb and lawless as the scheme was, the old man had made a hell of a profit before I’d even come home that first day. And if he’d made it to day two without us getting run off there might have been a future in this post-printing business.