My Brother the Scholar

Contributed by: Dana Charette, California

Way, way back, in the early 1960′s, when people used to come to your door and sell encyclopedias, my father let one of these people into our living room to do his sales pitch.  It was for Collier’s Encyclopedia.  Collier’s had ended publication of their once popular magazine but continued on with the encyclopedia.  My dad didn’t usually invite salesmen in but this fellow walked into our back yard while we were trying to start a small, gas powered motor, for a model airplane.  It was obvious we were not being successful because we would get a few putt putts out of the engine and then it would stop.  The salesman came into the back yard wearing his suit and tie (that’s how people dressed back then) and offered to help.  He was in his early 20′s and took off his suit coat and tie and tried very hard for an hour to help us get the little motor started.  We were unsuccessful and when it came close to dinner time my dad invited him in to make his sales pitch.

Well as he started to show us his sample encyclopedia my dad kept saying that it looked nice but my brother, who was going to Highland Park Junior College, would be home soon.  My brother being a college student would certainly be a knowledgeable authority on the quality of the encyclopedia.  My father kept stressing that all through the sales pitch.  How smart my brother was, how he was a history major, how he was in his second year at Highland Park and would soon be transferring to Wayne State University next year.  To hear my father expound on my brother’s intellect you would have thought he was an advisor to the President Kennedy.  Remember this was the very early 1960′s.

Well earlier that day my mother had made a lemon meringue pie which just happened to by my brother’s favorite.  The pie was cooling in the kitchen on top of the stove right by the back door to the house.  This was before open concept floor plans became the rage and the kitchen was its own room, as was the living room, as was the dining room, etc.  We heard my brother, the scholar, as he walked up the sidewalk to the back door.  His foot falls keeping time to the song he was singing at full voice.  We heard the back door open and in mid phrase of his song and said, “LEMON MERINGUE-A-DANG-DANG PIE!”  With great enthusiasm.  He went back to singing his song and entered the living room and was about to put the books he was carrying on a nearby table when saw us all sitting in the living room with the encyclopedia salesmen.  We were all staring in silence at him and he froze, leaning toward the table with his arms extended, books in his hand, and his jaw dropping to the floor.

My dad introduced my brother, the scholar, but the sales pitch was over and dinner was ready.  We bid the salesman farewell as he packed up his samples.  We had dinner, but didn’t purchase the encyclopedia, and the pie tasted great.

One footnote to this story is that I’m a terrible speller and as I traveled down my sentences toward the word encyclopedia, I paused, thinking that I’d have to look it up or spell check it.  But a voice came to me out of the past.  The Mickey Mouse Club and Jiminy Cricket came through for me after all these years. “Look in the encyclopedia, E-N-C-YC-L-O-P-E-D-I-A”: