My friend Lynn, whose hobby is genealogy, is oddly proud of the “black sheep” in her family history. Not only were they embezzlers, bank robbers, and pirates, but they were very successful ones. I got tired of hearing about it. The next time she started in on me about it, I was ready.
“You know, you are not the only one with an interesting history,” I said. “I, myself, have led a checkered past.”
“You have been involved in shady endeavors?” she asked in amazement.
“Well, no, I just meant that I have played a lot of checkers in my past. But I cheated once when nobody was looking.”
“Forget it,” she sniffed. “You and your hillbilly kinfolk are hopelessly square and boring.”
“Not necessarily,” I added. “What about my cousin Leo? He went to prison for a money laundering scheme.”
“Leo concealed illegally gained funds in order to evade taxes?” she asked.
“No, he took all his one dollar bills down to the laundromat and ran them through a few wash cycles until the picture of George Washington faded out. Then he drew a beard and a mustache on them and turned them into Abraham Lincoln. He would have gotten away with it, if only he hadn’t quit that ‘Learn to Draw at Home by Mail’ course. His Abe Lincolns looked more like Colonel Sanders.
“Then there was my cousin Bernie, who was world-renowned for his success in navel maneuvers.”
“Bernie was in the Navy?” she asked.
“No, not that kind of naval maneuvers. He used to strip to the waist, paint eyes on his big beer belly, and then make his navel look as if it were singing. He performed the Star Spangled Banner before the local high school’s football games. That was before he kicked the bucket, of course.”
“Cousin Bernie is dead?” asked Lynn.
“No, he kicked over the coach’s bucket of Gatorade and they fired him.”
“That’s it?” asked Lynn. “That is your ancestral claim to fame? Cousin Bernie and his singing belly button?”
“Well” I said, “there was Grandpa Murphy, who was a successful counterfeiter.”
“Really? What denomination?”
“I think he was a Southern Baptist. Why?”
“No. I mean what denomination of bills did he copy?”
Who said he copied bills?” I asked. “He was a counter fitter down at the Formica plant. That man could trim out a counter top like nobody’s business. Of course, he has since bought the farm. It was really sad.”
“Don’t tell me. Grandpa Murphy’s dead?” she asked.
“No, He bought the Richardson farm out on route nine. Then the government cut his tobacco base and he lost his shirt.”
“He went broke?” she asked.
“No, he lost his shirt. His favorite blue flannel one. He took it off and hung it on the fence post and his neighbor Frank stole it. Grandpa Murphy turned Frank in to the law. One of those ‘creative’ judges sentenced Frank to life in prison on a steady diet of nothing but porridge and water. Frank took it to an higher court and got the sentence overturned.”
“On what grounds?” Lynn asked.
“They said it was ‘gruel’ and unusual punishment. Ha ha. Hey, Lynn, where are you going?”
She’s probably just jealous because my ancestors are more interesting than hers.