Eddie from Indiana travels alone, is ready to
sell his motorcycle business back home and move
to Belize. We've just met. We sit at adjacent
tables in an otherwise empty restaurant. Funny
thing is, we seated ourselves. Former military,
he asks what I think of the US economy. "The fix
is in," I say, "Washington DC bought and sold."
We talk a good long while, alternating mouthfuls
of food with conversation. When he gets up to
leave he hands me this thing. "You've seen these
before, haven't you? You know what it is?" I
look it over closely: a dull point and the pink
eraser looks chewed down, but otherwise
unexceptional--just another yellow #2 pencil.
"What's the catch?" I ask as I hand it back.
"It's for protection," he says, "you go for the
throat and eyes. Don't use it against someone
with a gun; that's just gonna get you shot. But
if someone with a knife is after your wallet or
wife you can give 'em a surprise." He makes
convincing quick stabbing motions, then slips it
into thigh pocket where it's always in easy
reach. I nod knowingly and thank him for the