December 4, 2023 | Rome, Italy

Bleach and wag

By |2018-04-20T23:29:09+02:00April 7th, 2018|Area 51|
Not satisfied the first time? Try bleach.

onald Trump is a literalist. He misspells words not to spite the language but because he feels like spelling them a certain way, which to him is correct, or feels correct. He contradicts himself endlessly because he literally feels to do what he does at the moment he does it, be damned what others did before. The before is abstract, ancient history, boring, or conventional, superseded by some utterly persuasive new and literally fantastic fancy. Life is about exclamations and their tall dotted points. Nuance is for losers and sounds French, or maybe like a flavor of gelato, which also sounds foreign but lots of people buy so that’s fine.

I understand Mr. Trump, president, impresario and literalist. I once belonged to his tribe.

To wit, at age seven my father explained to me the arcane process of laundering money, in which bad money became good money after being laundered because no one any longer knew it was bad. This literally excited me. I immediately understood the concept and took it to heart.

First, I took my only one-dollar bill and secretly washed it the basement sink again and again. When this diligent washing process didn’t seem somehow to launder the bill, I added bleach, which I knew nothing about but smelled efficient.

That did it. My bill began to fade. The green receded and a white haze appeared. After drying, I proudly went to the drug store expecting this new laundered bill, bad become good, would buy me a vast satchel of taffy candies and sour cherry gum. Instead, the clerk told me the bill seemed to her bleached out and she refused to accept it. But it’s laundered, I explained. I did it myself (exclamation point). The manager was then called, who called my mother, and I did not see another dollar bill, or a container of bleach, for a year. My remarkable laundering skills were placed on hold.

There’s another similar story, one that Mr. Trump might enjoy even more. I was told, or overheard, that under some circumstances the tail wagged the dog. The speaker said so with such conviction – he was discussing politics – that I knew experimentation was in order.

At the time we didn’t have a dog but the neighbors did. His name was Nathan Hale, apparently that of a patriot or traitor so some such aging public servant. Our neighbor was an eccentric physicist, or so I was told. I didn’t fully understand either of these words but presumed they explained his stammer.

In any event, I one day approached Nathan Hale, a beagle (which I called a bagel) with intentions similar to my money laundering. I literally felt like the time had come (exclamation point) for the tail to wag the dog, so the tail is what I grabbed. Nathan Hale did not call the manager. He wheeled around and bit on the wrist. I yelped, bringing the stammering eccentric physicist out to examine the scene.

“What did you do?” he asked me as I cried.

“I wagged the dog,” I replied.

The way I laundered the money, I felt like adding.

Soon after, I was given a lesson in animal parts and warned that it was never a good idea to do whatever I felt at the spur of the moment. I should not take literally expressions I heard in passing. Doing so could produce deleterious results.

Which I assumed meant a dog bite, or a pale dollar bill. Next came the advice “sleep on it,” but I never did, and nor apparently does my loyal heir, Mr. Trump, someone who has actually learned to bleach and wag without serious consequences.

About the Author:

Christopher P. Winner is a veteran American journalist and essayist who was born in Paris in 1953 and has lived in Europe for more than 30 years.