'Keep Those Prohibitions Coming!'
A Ramblin' Gamblin' Willie story by Greg Swann
"Hey, Bud," said the Bootlegger, "wanna buy some spray paint?"
"...How's that?" I was wandering through one of the larger suburbs of New York, just looking around, when this greasy goon in a leather jacket accosted me.
"Spray paint," he replied. "Wanna buy some spray paint?"
"...?" I never know what people are talking about... "If I wanted to buy spray paint, I'd go to a hardware store."
"Not here you wouldn't," said the Bootlegger.
"And why not?"
"Because spray paint's banned here."
He shrugged. "The city fathers think banning it will cut down on graffitti."
"What if I want it to keep my barbeque from going to rust?"
He smiled. "Then you have to buy it from me. Best prices in town - only five dollars a can."
"And, of course, the graffitti artists can buy spray paint from you as well..."
"Why do you think I'm out here?"
I said: "Check."
The Bootlegger said, "Banning spray paint's the best thing that happened to me since airplane glue was outlawed. What I say is, three cheers for prohibition!"
"Hey! How about some dirty magazines?"
"They're banned, too?"
"Sure. There's a new law that says people can declare themselves damaged by any publication they don't like. A whole bunch of magazines have been banned. What do you like - Playboy, Penthouse, Vogue...?"
He smiled. "Never thought I'd handle something as classy as this. Some woman said it offends her to be treated as a 'glamor object', so here it is. Only ten bucks."
"I don't think so..."
"Well," he said, "how about this one." He held a medical journal titled 'Causal Factors Leading to Immune System Disorders'. "This guy said it damages his lifestyle, so now I'm the only one selling it. Only thirty-five dollars."
"No... It's not for me."
"Well," said the Bootlegger, "how about this?" He held up a small device about the size and shape of a TV channel-changer.
"What is it?"
"A stun gun. See how it works? You put a battery in it, then a charge is collected in this capacitator - "
I said: "Capacitor."
"Right. Anyway, the charge gets collected, then, when you close on an opponent, zap!, he gets a shock."
"And those are banned as well...?"
"I don't handle nothing that's legal. Too much competition. The prohibitionists claimed that a criminal might get ahold of one of these stun guns and use it for crime... But that's not the real reason they were banned."
"What criminal is going to use a weapon you have to close with? Believe me, I know a lotta muggers, and none of them wants a weapon that's almost as useless as wrestling. Criminals want guns, not electric gadgets."
"So why was the stun gun banned."
The Bootlegger smiled. "It's the perfect defensive weapon, right?" I nodded. "It's useless for crime, the only thing it's good for is responding to crime, right?" I nodded again. "So suppose people get fed up with prohibition...?"
"Now I get it..."
"Sure. If a criminal wants a weapon, he's going to get it, no matter how many laws you pass. When they say they want to ban a weapon, it means they want to make sure the prohibitionists and tax collectors come back alive. Well, it's all right by me. This stun gun would sell for fifteen bucks if it were legal. But since it ain't, it's fifty. How many do you want."
"None right now."
"Price goes up next week."
The Bootlegger giggled. "Keep those prohibitions coming!"
"...They don't seem to have much effect, do they?"
"You kidding? I'm making a mint! How much do you think I'd make on this junk if it weren't for all those laws?"
"It's pretty stupid, when you think about it. Those prohibitionists think you can stop people from doing what they want, just by passing a law. But you can't stop them even if you put them under lock and key - you wouldn't believe what you can buy in a prison!"
"Oh, yes, I would."
"So," the Bootlegger mused, "let 'em be stupid. I laugh all the way to the bank."
"But you're putting yourself at risk, aren't you? I mean, you could go to jail, right?"
He smiled wryly, rubbing his thumb against his fingers. "I know how to get along..."
"Sure. Cops gotta eat, too, don't they? How do you think they pay for their stun guns and dirty magazines?"
"Hey!," exclaimed the Bootlegger, holding up an egg. "How about this?"
I said: "That's an egg."
"You got it. Only one smackaroo!"
"Are eggs banned here, too?"
"Not yet. But I can hope, can't I?"
"...Hope for eggs to be banned?"
"Well, for one thing, kids can use 'em for vandalism, just like spray paint. For another, it's a sure bet they offend someone's lifestyle. For another, a criminal might use one in a hold up."
"Why not? It's just as good a weapon as a stun gun. But the best reason is, the egg is the perfect way to let the prohibitionists know what you think of them. They're sure to be banned."
"Got it," I said. "Give me a dozen."
"Okay," the Bootlegger replied. "Just don't say where you got 'em..."