Once upon a humble time, in a humble town with a humble river running humbly through it filled with humble toxic mercury and other humble poisonous pollutants that the humble townspeople humbly drank until they became humbly retarded, a crowd of people was humbly gathering at the local bar, which was humble. There was a kind of simple, but positive energy in the air, the kind that only sub-rural townspeople can generate. The kind that they can only generate when completely wasted. Suddenly, from the crowd of people gathering around the bar, a man nobody had ever seen stepped onto the bar and began talking loudly. The din slowly dulled as he spoke.
"Hello, ladies and gentlemen! I'm Honest Jim, and I have to say, I don't know anything at all about any of you, but you look like smart people. Yep, reeeeeaaal smart. Well, I've traveled far and wide, up the Mississippi, down the Missoura', and across the Appalachians into the great western frontier. You know what I learned? Smart people, just like you folks, buy my product, "Honest Jim's Miracle Tonic." It cures what ails ya! Got a head cold? My tonic oughta cure that right up! Toothache? I can fix that! Car trouble? Say no more, Honest Jim's Miracle Tonic will leave it as good as new! Yep, Honest Jim's Tonic has just the stuff to cure just what ails ya."
Another unknown person steps out of the crowd...
"But, I'm just a humble citizen from...this town... Please, Honest Jim, tell us more about this fantastic new product that you are selling right now for low, low prices, while supplies last, limited time only, trademarked with all rights reserved by Honest Jim."
"But of course," said Honest Jim. "Just tell Honest Jim what ails ya."
"Why, certainly, Honest Jim. I have numerous real, and not in any way made-up ailments. I have a terrible headache, a stuffy nose, a mild concussion, chronic depression, a failing marriage, an addiction to pornography, male-pattern-baldness, serious dementia, and an awful case of loneliness. Can Honest Jim's Miracle Tonic cure what ails me?
"Why, of course," said Honest Jim assuredly, handing the man a bottle of his Miracle Tonic. "Just drink up."
The man sipped it. He nearly gagged, and began sputtering, "Why, I feel better already, and almost all my ailments seem to be, *cough*, disappearing, right before my *cough* eyes, I--*cough**cough**hack**sputter**spasm**cough*--Ok, you know what? This is awful. Jimmy, no twenty bucks is worth this! I'm going back home to Rhode Island."
Honest Jim ignored the man as he strode quickly out of the bar. "See? All that coughing was a sign of the amazing healing process set into motion by my fantastic miracle tonic! You, like that man, whom I have clearly never seen before, can be cured of all your ailments!"
The local bartender steps up
He looked right at Honest Jim, eying him distrustfully. "Ok, I have just a few questions for you, "Honest" Jim, before I "buy" your "miracle tonic". First of all, is it even FDA approved? What are the ingredients? And, why should any of us even trust you?"
"Trust me?" exclaimed Jim. "Why, honesty is part of my name, the one I chose, of course you can trust me! As for the ingredients, well, good question. The main active ingredients are honesty, prayer, patriotism, and, of course, a pinch of love. Not that kind of love, though. The miracle tonic is flavored with strong moral fiber, and good ol' American stick-to-it-ive-ness. The preservatives include Manifest Destiny, but the tonic remains as natural as possible. May contain nuts. Don't expect it to taste like nuts though. Are you convinced yet?"
"Not even a little bit," the bartender scoffed. "For example, you still haven't answered one of my questions. Are you approved by the FDA?"
"Ah, yes," said Jim coolly. "That question that I innocently forgot and glossed over completely unintentionally. I'd just like everyone to know that this was purely an accident, and not just clever equivocation on my part. Well, I am tempted to lie... but my name is Honest Jim... I'm sorry, I just couldn't do that to you people. The truth is... yes! I am 100 percent FDA-approved!"
"Yeah right," muttered the barkeep under his breath.
"Whatcha say?" asked Honest Jim, looking more and more pleased with himself. "Perhaps you have more questions to ask me...?"
"Oh, noooo," said the barman sarcastically. "I'll just have to accept everything you say without question, I guess"
"Excellent!" exclaimed Jim. "Then you'll be buying how many dozens of bottles of my miracle tonic?"
The bartender stared in disbelief at Jim. "Wow, you really think I'm going to buy some of this, don't you? You know what, I don't need any of that tonic crap. Here's a sawbuck, why don't you get yourself some food? Anyways, my shift's over, I'm going home." The barman handed Jim ten dollars and walked out, shaking his head but feeling like he had done a good, charitable deed.
"See that?" said Honest Jim to the few people that were still paying attention. "He was healed by my product, and you can be too!"
The bartender, just going out the door, could be barely heard letting out a loud groan.
Another man from the town steps up
"Well, that's that," he said. "I guess we're all just gonna have to buy this product. I don't know about all of you, but I'm sold. I mean, what could possibly be wrong with this product? Unless you're allergic to nuts, which Honest Jim here has kindly warned us about, there is clearly nothing wrong with this product. After all, it says honest right in his name. How could he possibly be lying? I mean, if there was something else that was wrong with this product, wouldn't Honest Jim have told us?"
"Weeellll...." said Honest Jim, looking down at the ground, pretending to feel guilty. "There are a few minor side effects I think I should warn you about..." Suddenly, Jim looked up, and after a single breath, the words all came tumbling out of his mouth. "Side effects may include nausea, heartburn, indigestion, upset stomach, diarrhea (Yay, Pepto Bismol!), anxiety, depression, being anxious about being depressed, being depressed about anxiety caused by depression, insomnia, inability to sleep, lack of sleep due to insomnia, insomnia, cancer, stillborn babies, slow agonizing death by internal hemorrhaging, and, in rare cases, freakish, Stephen King-esque psychic powers. Any questions?"
The townspeople stood there in shock, their mouths hanging open, wondering what to say.
"Oh, you look at me like all of those are so objectionable," said Jim. "Here, let me tell you about the positive side effects." This time, more slowly, Jim began to rattle off the positive effects. "Other side effects may include long life, prosperity, common sense, honesty, integrity, morality, good money-management skills, likability, and lower mortgage rates. And don't we all want those?"
The townspeople were swayed. They all raced up to the counter, and began throwing money at Jim and demanding miracle tonic.
"I want five thousand bottles," demanded the town's swanky rich man.
"Six thousand!" cried the town's compulsive one-upper.
"Please, please," said Jim. "There's plenty for all of you. Now let's just form a good ol' American line, here, and—"
Suddenly, a group of policemen burst through the door of the bar
Honest Jim looked left and right, then shouted to the policemen coming barreling in through the door, "Oh, thank God you're here, officers!" He pointed to one of the men from the town. "This man was trying to con us out of all our money!"
"Mmhmm," said the police chief, just walking in and rolling his eyes at Honest Jim. "Look, James, this is the third time we've caught you trying to pull off some cheesy scam. Do you really think that you can just get away like that?" He turned to the crowd. "Ladies and gentlemen, you were just about to be scammed by this man, his name is James Chickenego. He sometimes goes by "Honest Jim" to con people like you out of your money. I personally apologize for any minor inconveniences he has caused you."
One of the townsmen stepped up. "Does.... does this mean we don't get any of that wonderful miracle tonic?"
"Are you serious?" said the police chief in disbelief. "Were you really falling for that scam?"
Suddenly, Honest Jim jumped up, for no particular reason, other than to make a speech. "Aw, curses, coppers, you caught the boldest 'n' silkiest grifter of a flim-flammin' con man this side of the Missoura! Yes, I'm Silky Jim, but I've got me some friends in high places who'll sure get me outta whatever prison yous coppers put me in, and a reputation to boot! I'll be back, or my name ain't "Silky" Jim "Dandy-pants" Smith—legally changed from James Chickenego—! I'll be back! I swears it!"
"Yeah, okay," said the police chief, rolling his eyes. "Come on, Jim, we're going somewhere niiiiiice 'n' quiet..."
As they walked out the door, one of the women from the town looked up. "Hey, look what I got in my e-mail! I can save hundreds of dollars if I just give these nice people my name, address, credit card information, and social security number! Let's all give them our information so we can save big!"
"Yeah!" cried the townspeople, as they ran off to give the internet their money.
- THE END