My best friend Bill had a favorite phrase that would pop up anytime he’d have to think his way out of some idiot situation he’d into which he’d fallen. He’d have to “cogitate my veritabilities.”
The cogitation would typically be accompanied by smoking a tobacco cigarette rather than a joint when he needed a rational plan. Unlike me, in those days, he was not a habitual nicotine addict. So the tobacco was a focusing device.
The Saddlery owners had seen some of Bill’s artwork and decided that the sometimes stock clerk was the ideal person to do the new show cards for the store. Bill was not over-eager, even though they were going to pay for the art. At issue was the supervision of the project. Having been informed that Bill tended to rather sumptuous female illustrations and unusual postures in his art, the owners had taken the precaution of placing Mr. Harris, his supervisor, in overall charge of the project. Mr. Harris, a Deacon of his church, was a fair but strict boss – not what Bill wanted as a boss on an art project. Bill was heard to mutter, ” can’t catch a cold, oh no, had to catch pneumonia instead!”
The project proceeded with preliminary drawings of the Saddlery’s products in use by pleased customers. Mr. Harris allowed Bill enough artistic freedom that some humor crept into the illustrations. The final designs were quickly approved, and Bill began painting the show cards.
The showcards were ready for the spring open house held each year in the downstairs showroom. Bill placed the showcards on easels for viewing by guests circulating among the tables of food and drink. In the back was a showcard with an equestrian performing before a crowd in the viewing stands. Off in the corner was a miniature band providing musical accompaniment. Barely visible among the tiny musicians were a pair involved in suspiciously sexual activities. The flutist seemed to be having difficulty with the embouchure of the instrument she was attempting to play while the trombonist was wildly gyrating. That part of the illustration was so small that you’d have to look very closely to notice. But Mr. Harris eventually saw the grins and heard some of the guests’ laughs. The remainder of the evening, he stood in front of that showcard glaring at Bill.
The next day Bill and me – me because Mr. Harris “knew” that anything Bill was involved in had me as a coconspirator – were assigned to straighten up the storage area behind the old bank vault. The Saddlery storages snaked through several buildings and basements, including sites appearing on no plans. The vault was just that, the sealed vault of a bank that failed in one of the 19th century’s panics. Being exiles to that storage area meant days in dim 40-watt bulb territory. But being adaptable youth, we found a storage room with a skylight to the street and many saddle blankets to rest upon. Bill stretched out, lit a cigarette, and exclaimed that he would spend some time cogitating his veritabilities.