So I am at Fritzie's to get back my shirt, which I lent to him because he was going to the casino and he thought it might be lucky. It was not.
Still, I am having trouble getting it back. Fritzie says it's in his Honda, which has been borrowed by his mother-in-law. She still lives with Fritzie, even though her daughter does not. They curse her with equal ferocity.
I should mention here that Fritzie was once my very own brother-in-law and still claims me, at least when there are cool red shirts with dogs playing poker on them involved. So his ex-brother-in-law is waiting for his ex-mother-in-law to get home with the Honda.
Waiting with me is The Professor, who knows Fritzie, and my bookkeeper Dennis, who does not. We are all just sitting there watching him sway in his hammock. "If you are thirsty, there's water in the box. Just help yourselves."
Polite as usual, I ask what Fritzie has been doing. It is a question that forever lacks an answer.
"Nothing. I can't think of anything to think about."
Dennis almost smiles; like I said, he's a bookkeeper. He thinks we're kidding around. "No, really, Fritz. What do you do? A guy has got to do something, right?"
The Professor throws in a quote. "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread."
"Jehovah worked for six days and rested for the rest of eternity," Fritzie quotes back. "And what about the Sermon on the Mount? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they toil not, neither do they spin! And yet I say unto you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.' I'll settle for this: to be arrayed like one of the Solomon family."
Dennis is still deciding whether Fritzie is the biggest bum in North America or if we are all just pulling his leg. "Well, it's not very healthy to sit around idle," he finally says.
"Sitting's overrated," agrees Fritzie.
"Try standing in a hammock," advises The Professor.
"You hear of the dangers to health from overwork, not underwork," Fritzie continues. "Know how many people die at work? And what can their final thought be? Say, cap, would mind handing me that jar of cashews?"
Mechanically, Dennis gets up to fetch the cashews for Fritz. "Now it may seem that there is much too much work in the world," Fritzie says, "but work is disappearing. Man, I love these nuts.
"People once worked 15 hours a day. Now they produce as much in half the time. Maybe in another century, it'll be down to four hours. I'm just getting a jump. If the workers would share their hours with the unemployed, we'd all have four hours. I'm just waiting for someone to offer me four hours."
"But you must work to have a certain dignity about yourself," persists Dennis.
"The people who preach the dignity of labor usually affect a surplus of dignity and very little labor," says Fritzie. "Hey, brother-in-law, would you get that phone?"
It is a telephone poll about the political dynasty of the Jefferson family. "I'm a Federalist myself. Alexander Hamilton's my guy," I say and hang up.
When I get back, Fritzie is quoting Xenophon or some other quotable Athenian. "Work takes all the time and with it one has no leisure for the republic and his friends."
"You don't have many friends," points out Prof.
"And you're no friend of the republic," says Dennis. "Why, it's people like you screwing up the employment figures."
"Look, I'm providing a job opportunity for someone who really wants one," argues Fritzie. "And I encourage others not to follow my example. Many must work so that others won't have to."
"There are limits to leisure," says Dennis.
"I hope someday to learn what they are," says Fritzie. "I like to fish. And I'm pretty good at it. Though it's not necessary to be good at something. What we need are more dilettantes."
"You must have been good in school," guesses Dennis. "You talk like powdered sugar on top of a dough ball."
"The only thing on my report card got checked every time between third grade and eighth was the box that said Wastes Time -- Annoys Others.' I'm proud of that. I see myself as a loving oak, standing alone in a peaceful meadow while the delight of life plays around me, wrapping me like a vine ."
"That's pretty," I say getting up, "though not as pretty as this shirt I once had with dogs playing cards on the front."
"I been thinking up this prayer," says Fritz. "To laziness. O Laziness, mother of the arts, set us finally free from our long toil. I'll finish the prayer later. I'm feeling sort of lazy."
"We'll pick it up another time," says Professor. "Shirt, too," I say and give the hammock a strong push on my way out the door.