Chapter Thirty-two

   I shouldn't say nothing of interest happened on the way to work. Maureen and I decided to walk. It was such a nice day -- trust me -- and we passed a book store, and guess what was for sale, in a remainders bin, for two dollars? Guess. That's right! Lincoln: The Man. And the name of the author? Wrong! The name listed on the cover was -- "James M. Reynolds"! Surprised? I was. So was Maureen. And impressed.
   "I'm impressed," she gushed. "How did you ever find the time to write a book about Lincoln?" Then she got wise. "That's not you, right? There's another 'James M. Reynolds', there must be."
   I didn't want to deal with it, or develop that line of thinking -- which is the same as saying I don't want to deal with it right now, as I write this -- so I ignored her.
   We entered Kopy Katz (new location) and Mr. Katz greeted me like a long-lost son, hugging me, slapping me on the back, almost coming to tears, and then -- abruptly -- he jumped away from me like I had the plague. "Oh my God!" he cried in disbelief. "You're back!"
   "Yes, Mr. Katz, didn't Maureen tell you? Didn't she tell you?"
   "But, but... " He was petrified, looking at me like I'd returned from the dead. And then it hit me -- of course! -- I'd just returned from the dead! I apologized to him profusely and he did finally calm down after a lengthy and somewhat convoluted explanation of how, after being given up for dead in the late 1920's, I reappeared recently, without any sign of aging, still dreaming that elusive dream of an automatic shoelace-tying machine. So, it was understandable that Katz, an old friend from the salad days, was scared out of his skin. You would be too.
   "Jim, are you really going to go with this coming back from the dead thing? Because if you are, let me tell you, you're walking on banana peels."
   "Just play along, Maureen, okay?" (I've never heard of such a difficult and argumentative fictional character, have you? Give me a break!)
   "Who are you talking to?"
   "Oh, nobody."
   "Hey, you two! Get to work!" Mr. Katz may have been an old friend, but he was still the boss, and he had a business to run, and there were customers coming in, so...
   "Can I help you?" I asked the first customer -- a tall, angular man with a long angular face. He had a beard, and wore a black coat and an old stovepipe hat. "If I didn't know better I'd say you were Abraham Lincoln," I remarked.
   "I am Abraham Lincoln," he replied, with a hint of irritation.
   "And what can we do for you today, Mr. Lincoln?" I winked at Maureen, but she was helping someone else, someone who just might be more interesting than Lincoln, who I've milked, ad nauseam, to the point where he's become kind of an albatross. I can't get rid of him! (By now, who cares? -- Ed.)
   "I need six copies of this," Lincoln said, handing me an old envelope with a lot of scribbling on the back.
   "You want six copies? What is it, the Gettysburg Address?" (Even though they've long since debunked the "back-of-the-envelope" story, I'm going with it anyway.)
   "That's funny, because it is an address I'm supposed to deliver on the battlefield at Gettysburg tomorrow. But, how did you know that?"
   "Just a lucky guess. Besides, I saw the first line here, 'Four score and seven years ago' -- blah blah blah."
   "Curious. Very curious, young man."
   Talk about playing it straight. This guy really thinks he's Lincoln! "Did you call me earlier?" I asked.
   "Call? What do you mean?"
   "Did you call me -- on the telephone."
   "Telephone? What's that?"
   "Ever heard of Alexander Graham Bell?"
   "Was he someone who could call, or shout in a very loud voice?"
   "No, he was the inventor of the -- never mind. I'll go get your copies." I took Abe's envelope with the Gettysburg Address on it and went over to the Xerox machine -- the Xerox machine! Of course! I needed Maureen's attention, immediately -- Psst! Hey! Psst! Psst! -- but she was too absorbed in taking a customer's order. Just who was she talking to, anyway? I wondered, moving closer to get a better look -- Holy Mackerel! -- Maureen was taking an order from a -- cop! I continued to eavesdrop, but from a safe distance.
   "So, you're telling me you don't know anyone named James M. Reynolds?" the cop asked her. "He's never worked here?" He was persistent, but I was sure she wouldn't help him, I was positive.
   "Oh, I didn't mean to say he never worked here," Maureen suddenly recanted, blowing my faith in her. "I just said I didn't really 'know' him, in the sense that he's so damn unpredictable."
   "Aha," the cop reacted, with renewed interest. I couldn't believe it! What was I going to do? Maureen was singing like a canary. It was only a matter of time.
   "Have you seen him recently, ma'am?"
   "Uh, well, what's this about, officer?"
   "We have reason to believe that Mr. Reynolds is here under false pretenses."
   "What does that mean?" Maureen wondered. I ducked down behind the Xerox machine.
   "It means that he shouldn't be here, or at least not without the proper papers."
   "Proper papers?"
   "He needs proper identification."
   "In order for us to identify him."
   "I don't get it."
   "He needs an identity, ma'am. We have reason to believe that this Reynolds fellow has no identity. We just want to ask him a few questions, maybe rough him up a little, that's all."
   Maureen was providing the resistance of a wet Kleenex -- Kleenex, the facial tissue that uses no toxic oils, no artificial colors or scents. I figured it was time to make my move. As the cop pulled out my mug shot and showed it to Maureen I stood up and made myself clearly visible. The cop noticed me, but Abe was the first to blow my cover.
   "Say, young man, why are you hiding back there?"
   The cop put two and two together and I could see it all coming, I could see the whole big house of cards toppling, and I had to act! You knew it was coming, I knew it was coming, and Maureen, who suggested it in the first place, knew it was coming...
   I lifted the top off the Xerox machine and bent over and lowered my head down and placed it on the cold glass. I closed the cover over my head and groped for the Start button. I found it. I pressed Start.
   !$#%$% !$#%$^ *&$*@@ %^&*@#!
   !$#%$% !$#%$^ *&$*@@ %^&*@#!
   !$#%$% !$#%$^ *&$*@@ %^&*@#!
   !$#%$% !$#%$^ *&$*@@ %^&*@#!
   !$#%$% !$#%$^ *&$*@@ %^&*@#!
   !$#%$% !$#%$^ *&$*@@ %^&*@#!
   !$#%$% !$#%$^ *&$*@@ %^&*@#!
   !$#%$% !$#%$^ *&$*@@ %^&*@#!
   !$#%$% !$#%$^ *&$*@@ %^&*@#!
   !$#%$% !$#%$^ *&$*@@ %^&*@#!
   !$#%$% !$#%$^ *&$*@@ %^&*@#!
   !$#%$% !$#%$^ *&$*@@ %^&*@#!
   !$#%$% !$#%$^ *&$*@@ %^&*@#!

(This ends Chapter Thirty-two. Don't ask.)

Chapter Thirty-three