Ben drops in (again). February 18, 2009Posted by ourfriendben in Ben Franklin, wit and wisdom.
Tags: Ben Franklin, Franklin stamps
Our friend Ben was in the process of watching the snow fall and nodding off—I mean, busily editing a freelance assignment—when a sharp rapping at the front door snapped me back to consciousness. “Make haste, won’t you, Ben, lad?” a distinctly male voice boomed. “This snow is ruining my stockings!”
Dreading to think what awaited me on the other side of the door, I gingerly pulled back the curtain to reveal none other than our hero and blog mentor, Benjamin Franklin. “Uh, Doctor Franklin, an unexpected pleasure! Please come in!” I stepped back hastily as the portly form burst into the room, festooning me with snow-covered frock coat, coonskin cap (an affectation that had endeared him to the French), and walking stick. “High time, dear boy! Who were you expecting, brigands?! Brrrr!!! Toss a few more logs in the woodstove, won’t you? And I don’t suppose you have any hot spiced rum punch in the house, by any chance?”
Disposing of the cane and outerwear and positioning a rocking chair and footstool in front of the fireplace, our friend Ben stoked the stove and went to see what could be stirred up in the way of rum punch. (Unfortunately, Silence was once again out shopping, as she had been the first time Dr. Franklin chose to favor our friend Ben with a visit.) Recalling old Ben’s appetite, I scrambled together a huge plate of assorted cheeses, crackers, and dried fruit, as well as some freshly sliced apples, while the spiced rum was heating up.
Staggering in with a groaning tray of treats and a large mug of hot rum punch, I found Dr. Franklin with his hands and feet extended towards the flames, looking much like a contented cat. However, his eyes snapped open at the sight of food.
“Ah, thank you, dear boy—I don’t mind admitting that I was feeling in need of a bite. But, um, don’t you have any hot bread or rolls to enjoy with this cheese? And butter? And perhaps a bit of chutney?!”
“Er, there’s a half-pan of Silence’s wonderful cornbread from last night. But surely cornbread isn’t really suitable?” I said, thinking sadly of my long-anticipated lunch.
“Nonsense, dear boy! A bit rustic, perhaps, but I’d not turn my nose up at some hot buttered cornbread. A half pan, I think you said?! And don’t forget the chutney!”
Aaaarrgghhh!!! No rest for the wicked, or in this case, the sleepy and starving. By the time I’d popped the cornbread in the toaster oven, extracted the butter and chutney from the fridge, and returned to the living room, Dr. Franklin had roused himself and was standing by the coffeetable perusing an album of stamps I’d left lying there.
“What’s this, Ben lad? The Postage Stamp Life of Benjamin Franklin?!! I trust this isn’t a reference to that unfortunate Stamp Act incident. Dear, dear, it still brings on the megrims just to think of it!”
“Oh, no sir!” I hastened to reassure the suddenly red-faced patriot. “And please recall that you were in fact the hero of the Stamp Act business. It’s thanks to your efforts that Britain decided to repeal the Stamp Act. If memory serves, that incident established your reputation as a diplomat, isn’t that true?”
“Well, I suppose, if you put it that way. Still, it was a damned unpleasant business from first to last. A very close call, if you ask me! But if this isn’t about the Stamp Act, then what do they mean by ‘Postage Stamp Life’?!”
“Uh, sir, this is an album of all the postage stamps that have been issued in America to honor you as the founder of our postal system, and to celebrate the life of the Colonists and the Revolution. In your day, I believe they franked letters, but now we stamp them to pay for their delivery. The stamps are supposed to honor the subjects they depict.”
“Hmmmm… ” (perusing the album) “Washington, yes of course… Jefferson… Adams—a bit unstable, Adams… Madison (oh, dear)… Marshall… ah, John Hancock, fine fellow, Hancock!… Lafayette… not as well regarded in France as here… and yes, Franklin this, Franklin that, Franklin the other, hmmm–hmmm–hmmm…
“You know, dear boy, some of these depictions of me aren’t exactly flattering! Surely I never looked so wooden and dour! You’d have thought they’d mistook me for George Washington, God rest him! A great man, but not much for affect, if you take my meaning.”
“Uh, quite right. But did you notice the envelope just there?” I pushed a first-day-of-issue envelope in front of old Ben’s specs. “What’s odd about this?”
“Hmmm, well, it says ‘Presidential Series, First Day of Issue,’ but instead of showing General Washington or another of our presidents, it shows me, Benjamin Franklin! Whatever could it mean?”
“Well, sir, the very first issue of the Presidential Series, a half-cent stamp from back in 1938, honors you as founder of our postal system. If it weren’t for you, we’d have no stamps at all!” I gave this a minute to sink in, then added, “And by the way, you’re the only non-president in the Presidential Series, as well as the first. I guess the folks at the top were trying to endorse what many historians have said, that you’re the greatest president who never served in that office.”
“Ah—ahem!—too kind, dear boy. But sadly, I was too old, and even had that not been the case, I would never have wanted to take the honor from the noble Washington. I am fortunate to have enjoyed so many honors in life that there was no need to take them all.”
Fastidiously dusting the last butter-encrusted crumbs of cornbread from his fingers, Dr. Franklin rose laboriously from the rocking chair. “Hat, cane, coat, dear boy! I really must be off now! Much to do before my evening engagement with the Philosophical Society. They’ve asked me to give a presentation on my findings about the benefits of swimming on the brain! I, ah, don’t suppose you have another mug of that rum punch to warm me on my way?!”
Staggering back to the kitchen with a pile of crumbs, crusts, peels, and cheese wrappers, I hastily refilled the mug with the last of the hot rum and brought it to the door. Downing it in one gulp, old Ben clapped his fur hat on his head, brandished his walking stick, bellowed “Heigh-ho, dear boy! See you anon!” And he vanished into the drifting snow.
Completely exhausted, our friend Ben sought the consolation of the couch, but had barely closed my eyes before I was confronted by a raging fiend, I mean, by an outraged Silence Dogood.
“BEEEENNNNN!!! What are you doing there?! I thought you were supposed to be working! And what happened to all the cheese in the refrigerator? And the cornbread that I’d planned to reheat for our dinner? And our butter? And all the dried fruit? And why is there an empty bottle of rum on the counter? What on earth have you been doing?!!”
“Uh, urk, I didn’t eat it! Really, Silence! It wasn’t me! It was, ah…”
“Please. PLEASE don’t tell me you’ve been entertaining Benjamin Franklin again. Don’t even try to pull that off again! Unless, of course, you’d like to make an appointment to see a nice psychiatrist. I’m sure there are dozens around here!”
“Right.” (Poking OFB in the belly.) “It wasn’t you, was it?! But of course you’re going to get in the car and get us more butter and cheese and crackers and fruit and, hmmm, rum, anyway, aren’t you? Because you’re just so sweet.”
Somehow, our friend Ben recalls a similarly unfortunate outcome the last time Dr. Franklin decided to drop in. Frankly, I’m wondering if it’s too late to change our address, unlist our number, or even sell up and move to an undisclosed location. But I have a terrible feeling that, no matter what I do, like Ah-nold Schwarzenegger, Dr. F. will be baaaaack…