The Smartest Man on Earth
By Doug Mathewson
Uncle Art was the smartest man on the planet for sure. He proved it every day just being wrong. That may sound crazy, but know what? It worked out right. Three seasons he travelled from Maine to Miami and back, working his act on seaside boardwalks. Winters he and Aunt Vera relaxed in their little trailer on Narragansett Bay. He changed his name and his costume fairly often to, as he would say “Keep the act fresh. Be relevant in today’s market.” Well, that seemed a bit much, but like I said, he was the smartest man on earth. Sometimes he was “Frankie Future” and wore a space suit and a turban. “Marcello the Mysterious” wore a tux with his turban. He might be a time traveler, an ancient mystic swami, or a visitor for the mysterious and undefined seventh dimension. But always, always he wore his signature turban.
The act was straight forward. For three dollars (five bucks seemed too high) he would guess anything your age, gender, race, country of origin, favorite past time – anything. And since he always “Guessed” wrong, you won. You won a prize worth three cents or less. A stick of gum, a miniature pocket-comb, and maybe individual cellophane wrapped tissues labeled in Korean. Net gain $2.97. That’s how it worked with the gents and the kids. They would walk away, chewing their gum, or trying out their new inch long comb, laughing about how they got the better of the “Expert Guesser.” Women, being much smarter, were another situation.
Uncle Art was at his best with the ladies. In the face of all reality and sanity, despite incredibly contrary evidence he told every single woman the same thing. “My dear, you are twenty eight years of age, weigh precisely one hundred and sixteen pounds. Your family has its roots in south of France, and dare I say… you have a hint of royal blood. That might not have been exactly what you or I would have guessed, but that’s what “Swami Savior-fare” or whoever Uncle Art was at the time told’em. And you know what? They all agreed. “Yes” they said, “Francis O’Fourtune was right on all counts….incredibly so! It was absolutely amazing,” they declared. “How anyone, anyone could be so completely, totally, one hundred percent correct in every detail.”
And since Uncle Art was “Right”, he kept the whole three bucks. Sometimes a particularly happy client would slip him a few extra dollars. He would bend to kiss her hand and whisper “Thank you, your Majesty.” That put a smile on a few faces.
Women got the joke, and men just didn’t. Uncle Art might “Guess” for six or seven hundred people on a good day in the summer. He’d have given away some gum, a few factory second pocket protectors. He’d come back tired, with a smile on his face, and couple of grand in singles and fives stuffed in his pockets.
Years later, when he and Aunt Vera finally retired to Florida, people would ask “So Artie, tell me, what did you do before your retired?” Aunt Vera would jump in and say, “My husband was in the information business.”
Doug Mathewson creates short fiction and prose images. He is the editor of Blink-Ink,
and works with Full of Crow Press and Distribution as well as Pandemonium Press.
His works have appeared in magazines, journals, anthologies, around the world as well
as numerous ephemeral web publications. Most recently in The Boston Literary Magazine,
MiCrow, Riverbabble, and Jeanette Cheezum’s Cavalcade of Stars. Currently he is working
with The Mambo Academy for a summer release of work by East Coast Metro NYC writers.
More of his continuing project “True Stories From Imaginary Lives” can be found at “little2say.”