The day that Mr. MacGregor lost the locomotive was a confusing
one for our accountants. They didn't know whom to charge it to.
"We have an account here called 'Alterations,'" said the head
accountant (Mr. MacGregor). "We might charge it to that. Losing a
locomotive is certainly an alteration in something."
"I am afraid that you are whistling in the dark, Mr. MacGregor,"
I said quietly.
"The point is not what account we are going to charge the lost
locomotive to," I continued. "It is how you happened to lose it."
"I have already told you," he replied, with a touch of asperity,
"that I haven't the slightest idea. I was tired and nervous
and--well--I lost it, that's all!"
"As a matter of fact," he snapped, "I am not at all sure that the
locomotive is lost. And, if it is, I am not at all sure that I
* * * * *
"I don't think that we need go into that point," I replied. "When
a man takes a locomotive out and comes back without it, and is
unable to explain what has become of it, the presumption is that
he, personally, has lost it. How did you like those tangerines we
had for lunch?"
"Only fair," MacGregor answered.
"You see?" I said. "You are getting cynical."
We have had a great deal of trouble about Mr. MacGregor's growing
cynical. He looks at things with a bilious eye. It is bringing
down the morale of the office force, and there are whole days at
a time when we don't sell a thing.
* * * * *
"How often do you take that medicine I gave you?" I asked him.
MacGregor winced slightly. "Hot-diggidy!" he replied.
"That is not an answer to my question," I said, sternly.
"What were we just talking about?" he asked.
"You mean the tangerines?" I said, his cynicism still rankling in
"No," he replied. "Before that."
We both thought for a minute.
"Well, it couldn't have been very important," I said, laughing.
This got him in good humor and we swung forward, double-time,
along the road to work.
"Take the Witness!"
Newspaper accounts of trial cross-examinations always bring out
the cleverest in me. They induce day dreams in which I am the
witness on the stand, and if you don't know some of my imaginary
comebacks to an imaginary cross-examiner (Doe vs. Benchley:
482-U.S.-367-398), you have missed some of the most stimulating
reading in the history of American jurisprudence.
These little reveries usually take place shortly after I have
read the transcript of a trial, while I am on a long taxi ride or
seated at a desk with plenty of other work to to. I like them
best when I have work to to, as they deplete me mentally so that
I am forced to go and lie down after a particularly sharp verbal
rally. The knowledge that I have completely floored my adversary,
and the imaginary congratulations of my friends (also imaginary),
seem more worth while than any amount of fiddling work done.
During these cross-questionings I am always very calm. Calm in a
nice way, that is--never cocky. However frantic my inquisitor may
wax (and you should see his face at times--it's purple!), I just
sit there, burning him up with each answer, winning the
admiration of the courtroom, and, at times, even a smile from the
judge himself. At the end of my examination, the judge is crazy
Just what the trial is about, I never get quite clear in my mind.
Sometimes the subject changes in the middle of the questioning,
to allow for the insertion of an especially good crack on my
part. I don't think that I am ever actually the defendant,
although I don't know why I should feel that I am immune from
trial by a jury of my peers--if such exist.