Fiction - The Grey Area, Absinthe Literary Review

Richard Fein

Diogenes by Any Other Name

The most honest man I ever met was neither

a man of God nor high priest of Satan,

for both deal in the same denomination of coin.

They just rub opposite sides for luck.


No man holds a candle to the one I met in a Third Avenue bar.

He answered all my nosy questions with complete honesty.

He replied that he was a retired prestidigitator

now turned wandering con artist,

the best on the East Coast.

I then asked the obvious question.

He answered that the very best in the U.S.A.

worked the West Coast,

but was a pathological liar.


I laughed, and he knew that I’d laugh,

then he laughed.

Soon we were backslapping buddies.

He bought me drinks saying it was his treat.

Later, he excused himself and left for the john,

then excused himself from the rest of my life.

My pocket, of course, had been picked.

He had been treating me with my own money,

which must have been quite a treat for him,

especially with about fifty bucks left in my wallet.

Before he left he said his favorite movie was

“Take the Money and Run.”


There never was a man more honest,

for who could describe himself so truthfully,

and part company with a better bathroom joke?

The rest of us fill our conversations

with euphemisms and pretentious pieties—

including me,

for that night I called my self-pitying self a victim

rather than the frank name of sucker.


© 2002 Richard Fein

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