Excerpts From

The Cult of the Buffalo (originally written around 1978)

by Mitchell Zucker

Any resemblance of the characters in this story to actual characters is not only unintentional and coincidental but also reprehensible.

The Royal vacuum sucked up the night’s leavings each morning between 1:30 and 2:30 without a flicker of disturbance to me.  We were one.  My touch was light, my movements economical, smooth, natural.  The secret was careful preparation:  setting chairs on tables, picking up cloth napkins, large bones, lost objects and such before energizing.  I began in the main dining room by the toilets then on to the front nook around the bay windows, past the stuffed deer head and the coffee dripper, then along the cash register aisle past the stuffed water buffalo head.  The trail ended in the coffee shop behind the far counter by the short-order window under the set of old Coca-Cola trays and the stuffed swordfish.  Twenty-nine tables piled with sixty chairs, two counters, four booths and two rows of benches – night after night, all night, four nights a week, year after year, Louie and me.

We scrubbed the grills, emptied the grease traps, soaked the filters, dumped the garbage, swept the kitchen, mopped the kitchen, vacuumed the dining rooms, cleaned the toilets, swept the bar.  I did it three nights, Louie did it three nights, and we shared Saturday nights when the place was too filthy for one person to complete before dawn.  On Saturdays, I gladly did the vacuuming while Louie preferred sweeping and mopping.

With the noise of the vacuum cutting off all thoughts of the outside world, a great calm descended upon me, freeing my mind to crawl or speed as it saw fit.  I was able to relax, scrub the cobwebs from my mind – vacuum my neuroses till they were all sucked up, in the bag, out the door and into the dumpster.

But then, one weeknight while I was alone with the Royal, the buck spoke to me and everything changed.  Actually, one would have thought the water buffalo would have talked first.  It was so much more interesting and exotic than the buck, a beautifully stuffed bullock head, complete with a brass ring through its nose.  No cheap marbles for its eyes; the bullock stared at the cash register through irises and pupils complete with blood vessels and sties – very high quality work indeed.  It looked like it had sloshed out of India  last week; but it had actually come with the restaurant and bar when Marlene and Martin took over twenty years ago.  Marlene felt it lent the place a certain cachet, balancing the hodgepodge of local stuff, everything from buzz saw blades from the old mill, to rusty license plates to cheap prints from old books crowding the walls.  Marlene dusted it every day, polished the ring and combed its forelock so you couldn’t tell if it had a forehead – and the forehead, or rather the lack of one, was the whole point of the encounter.



The buck was ridiculous, the puniest buck I’d ever seen.  It hung over the coffee station in the darkest corner of the restaurant, except for a little table lamp by the dripper.  I’m sure Marlene had forgotten it was even there.  A thick coating of dust made it look like cardboard flocked with gray felt.  Its tiny antlers, sticking out like chopsticks, only added to the illusion of pretend deer.  But it was real all right; all you had to do was get up close and see that the dust was clinging to tiny hairs and that the ears were too well convoluted to be hand made.  No one else saw this because I was the only one who ever bothered to switch on the nearby reflector lamp, to better track the crumbs missed by the Royal’s headlamp.

The buck would probably have never spoken if I hadn’t chanced upon a Swiss army knife in back of the coffee table, probably dropped by a customer and kicked under the table by a waitress.  I moved the table aside, picked up the knife, stood up, bumped my forehead against the buck and found myself face to face, nose to snout, bleary eye to marble eye.  Then I inhaled a cloud of liberated motes and sneezed.

“Gesundheit,” said the buck.  “Thank you,” I replied automatically.  “Gesundheit” was the only word it ever spoke to me.  But this wasn’t new.  Things like this often happened early in the morning when I was tired and the noise of the vacuum changed pitch as the dirt was sucked into the bag.  The sneeze, however, made me stop everything and consider the buck’s dusty snout inches from mine, leading my eyes in a direct line straight to the back of its head.  The thing had no forehead!

And then the realization hit.  Self-awareness must be centered in the front of the brain.  I had discovered the principal difference between being human and being a deer, perhaps between being human and any other animal.  I ran to the buffalo and parted its hair.  Sure enough, no forehead, nor on the swordfish, nor on the cats who hung out by the dumpster.

Of course it’s probably the most obvious thing in the world to a psychologist or physiologist, but not so obvious to a janitor cum writer experiencing his third year of a colossal writer’s block.  For the next three nights I made my rounds imagining a line from my nose to the back of my head, bypassing my forehead, with the objective of eliminating all traces of self-awareness.  This behavior struck me as being profoundly significant, especially when I returned to the frontal thinking.  But how do I throw the switch?  Whatever caused it to go from one to the other seemed to have a mind of its own.

Finally, on the third night, I began having deer sensations.  Standing in front of the buck staring into its glass eyes, my mind suddenly became nimble, my thoughts leaped about playing tag with my consciousness.  The tips of my ears tingled.  Had I a tail, it would have twitched with anticipation.

At dawn I cut through the woods to the old trailer park, moving easily along the narrowest deer trails, avoiding brambles by subtle twists and shudders of my body, or walking slowly and gracefully directly through the thick growth without being bothered by nicks and scratches, passing critters without startling them.

With my deer consciousness I felt refreshed after only a few hours sleep.  I still didn’t feel like writing, but screw it!  I had faith that if I kept this new practice going, the experience would somehow lead to the very finest writing.

By Saturday night I was bursting to share my discovery.  When we finished mopping, I told Louie to close his eyes then positioned him directly in front of the buck.  I turned on the reflector lamp and told him to open his eyes and describe the experience.  There was a moment of silence, then he stifled a sneeze and said, “Dusting the displays isn’t part of our deal.”

“Shhh,” I whispered.  “Just experience it.”  We stood there for several more moments while I told him all that had happened.  “What do you think?”  I concluded.

“Follow me,” he said, flatly; “I’ll show you my deer head,” and we walked into the main dining room to inspect a lithograph, crowded on the wall with several others, beside the swinging doors to the kitchen.  I had never before noticed it.

“La Dernière Cartouche,” salvaged from an old book of prints, depicted three French legionnaires someplace in North Africa, in the bombed out ruin of a building filled with rubble and smothered with clouds of smoke and dust, facing an enemy attack at the very moment they realized they were down to their last bullet and about to die.  One soldier was looking in dismay into his cartridge case, another was staring wide-eyed through the broken window, leaning backwards against the bullet-torn wall of the room, holding his rifle by the barrel preparing to use it as a club.  The third soldier was mortally wounded, crouched in the corner, staring out the window in a state of panic and pain.  Just beyond the window, a native, stripped to his waist, wearing a bandanna and carrying a dagger in his mouth, was about to leap through the window, his eyes bulging with a murderous expression.  In back of him, hidden in the dust so all you saw were faint outlines and a few more crazed expressions matching the leader’s, were dozens of his  compatriots.

“See, pure animal nature!”  I cried.  “The man about to enter; he’s all animal.  The artist rendered him with almost no forehead.  The artist knew.  Isn’t it amazing?  I’m on to something, Louie; I really am.”

“Maybe,” he replied drily; “but I’m down to my last bullet.  I can’t do it any more.  If I haul any more trash out of this place, or clean another toilet bowl, I’ll shoot myself.  So I’ve decided to try for the community college job.  I wanted to tell you next week, but this seems as good a time as any.  I’m quitting in three weeks.”

I grabbed my broom the way the soldier grabbed the barrel of his gun preparing for the final assault.  A sudden feeling of panic began in the pit of my belly and was steadily rising.  My deer consciousness had vanished to Alpha Centuri.  “But you can’t make a living.  How can you survive with only one class?”

“Two classes if I market it right.  If twenty students sign up in each, the classes are mine:  Philosophy 1, Logic.  And Paul said I could fill in at the coffee company, roasting when they’re busy.  It’s actually a second profession I can take anywhere.  Philosophy instructor and professional coffee roaster.  Not bad.  With any luck I’ll still free up three days a week to write.”

The panic had now risen to a lump in my throat. Louie was the only friend I had in the world.  We had run into each other by chance one day and discovered a mutual interest in writing and in eating.  This led to our friendship, then to the job, replacing a gay couple who were busy working on some theater projects and had decided to try their luck in the city.  When we took over we all joked that we worked for the only restaurant where employment ads were listed in the NY Review of Books.

“I’ll really miss you, Louie.  We’ve been doing this together now for years.  Do you think there’ll be trouble finding a replacement?”

“I ran into Phil Lancaster last week.  He’s looking for a job.  He likes to work nights.”

“Phil the musician?  Isn’t he a little weird?  Are you sure he’s reliable?”

“Of course he is.  So he’s also a little odd; just so long as he cleans the damn place that’s all that matters.”

And so, following a lovely little party where everyone sang old songs, Louie left and Phil appeared.

Phil had all of the physical characteristics of a first rate janitor:  short, stocky, muscular, quick on his feet and nimble; but that’s as far as the resemblance went.  As a rule, janitors blend into the background appearing to be invisible.  Not Phil.  His perfectly round head was shaved bald and he sported a full red Santa beard which framed a beet-red face and dull bloodshot eyes covered day and night, except when working, by mirrored sunglasses so your first view of him was yourself.  His jazzy appearance was heightened by outlandish thrift shop clothes.  The costume he wore most often, with various themes and variations, included a green plaid sport jacket, chocolate brown polyester pants with a crease that appeared to be glued in place, yellow dress shirt, red silk ascot and black dress oxfords.  While working he wore overalls embroidered with musical notes and a head cloth tied in the manner of a Japanese day laborer.  I suspected from the start that there would be difficulties.

Only when I was alone vacuuming and practicing my deer mind was I able to get a slight measure of relief from the uncontrollable anxiety attacks which began shortly after Louie left.  These came unpredictably, with the force of a slap of a damp mop against my face.  Suddenly, and for no apparent reason, my animal equanimity was shattered by an overpowering all too human angst, manifesting in a cold sweat breaking out on my face and a single question fixed in my mind:  what in hell am I doing with my life?

When this question arose, the sensation was that it had always been there, that I had been born with a mid-life crisis.  When the question was submerged it was replaced by the realization that I was becoming a schizophrenic mathematical freak:  half deer half janitor half failed writer and if I didn’t do something soon I would end up as a full-fledged lunatic.  For the first time in my life the thought of suicide reached my consciousness particularly while lying in my stuffy, moldy trailer staring at the water-stained ceiling feeling the mildew in my gut looking through the broken porthole window at twenty other broken trailers and the dour lonely old people with no where else to go.

Phil’s arrival was accompanied by an immediate change in the bar.  Before a month had passed he had convinced Martin to have live jazz, and this resulted in an immediate doubling of late night business.  The place was suddenly filthier and harder to clean and it was impossible to predict which nights would be filthiest without keeping up with the local jazz scene.

Napkin Art, Sea Gull Cellar Bar, Linn Kiesling

Napkin Art, Sea Gull Cellar Bar, Linn Kiesling

To a janitor, routine and predictability are the qualities that most recommend the job.  Without these, the janitor is forced to continually contemplate and evaluate the dirt and how to deal with it, leading to the anguish of confronting a lifetime of unpredictable filth.  Without my deer practice providing moments of equanimity, life would have been totally unbearable.

When he wasn’t working, Phil hung out at the bar, managing the gigs, playing sax, filling in on piano and drums when necessary.  On Saturday nights he would vanish for hours, which meant that I not only did the brunt of the work but we would finish cleaning only minutes before the morning crew came in, leaving me worn out and dispirited, while Phil looked like he could go for another three sets.

Those nights that I worked alone, following Phil’s solo nights, I would find that he had not bothered to maintain the stock of supplies and that the janitor’s closet was a mess.  Damp mops dripped on the floor, cleaning cloths spilled out of the laundry bag, the cord from the vacuum  knotted and heaped in a bundle instead of being wrapped on the handle.  I tried talking to him several times and left notes in the janitor’s closet, but it never did any good.

The musicians were also a pain.  During their breaks they hung out in and around the restaurant to get away from the bar crowd, score some leftovers or share a joint by the dumpster.  After Saturday night closings they sometimes jammed for an hour or two, with Phil sitting in of course, while I had to work around them.

Napkin Art, Sea Gull Cellar Bar, Bob Avery artist

Napkin Art, Sea Gull Cellar Bar, Bob Avery artist

Then there were the jazz lovers.  They, at least, offered some temporary relief from my angst.  Bernice the evening waitress was a particularly well-developed jazz lover who hung out in the bar after the restaurant closed, nursing drinks, quietly listening and unwinding before going home.  Between sets she sometimes came into the kitchen and we would make light conversation about business, or the latest group playing in the bar.  Sometimes, if the vacuuming was completed and my deer mind was turned off, we would sit at the front counter for a few minutes drinking coffee and sharing a Danish.  Before returning to the bar, she would give me a friendly hug.

One night, she came in when I had just finished vacuuming under the buck’s head and had just begun my deer practice with my attention focused at the back of my head.  I was fully withdrawn – gone, about to intuitively advance with the Royal into the front room, when Bernice came up behind me and cupped her hands over my eyes.  I knew it was her because I could smell the calamari special still clinging to her uniform.  She had come to me at the very instant of my sharpest animal concentration and I responded like an animal.  I turned, grabbed her and ground my lips against hers, then moved on to licking her neck and ears, pawing her body.  Her surprise lasted only an instant and we were soon rolling under the buck’s head, with the roar from the vacuum like the crash of a waterfall, like a freight train barreling through a tunnel, with growls and licks dissolving into the roar.  Our work-hardened bodies smelled sweaty, steamy, slimy, calamari.  We knocked over the vacuum and upset three chairs balanced on the edge of a table.  As  we rolled around the floor banging into the wall by the coffee maker down crashed the buck’s head, nearly impaling us with his antlers.

And when we were through and panting, scratched and bleeding, our tongues hanging out, our bodies glistening, I once again found myself eye to eye with the buck, and winked.

Before returning to the bar she wanted to know where I had been hiding my inner animal, but remembering Louie’s reaction and fearing she would think me more of a lunatic than I already was, I decided to keep it to myself.

Rather than lessening my anxiety attacks, Bernice, who enjoyed a rather loose reputation around the restaurant and bar, only added the anxiety of deadly disease that I felt certain I would be getting imminently.  Thoughts of death soon became the overriding obsession with my normal thinking mind, while there was no controlling my animal mind once it took possession.

“Sounds pretty normal to me,” said Louie one night when he stopped by for some coffee and I told him of my distress.  “Your trouble is that you don’t believe in yourself.  The trouble’s not with Phil.  You’re the one who’s trapped.  You don’t know how to sell yourself to yourself, let alone to others, except when you’re horny.  He told me of the success of his marketing scheme, distributing flyers to senior centers stating that basic introductory logic would make you feel younger, invest more intelligently, optimize your savings and improve your love life.  “I made it sound better than Geritol, IRAs and bingo, and sixty people signed up.  I’m also on part-time at the coffee company.  I couldn’t be happier.”

Louie’s analysis of my troubles made no sense since he had no insight as to what I had been experiencing with my deer mind.  But he was right that I was trapped without the foggiest notion of how to free myself.

One Saturday night, after Bernice came in for a romp while Phil was busy cleaning the bar, we didn’t get done before the Sunday morning church crowd came for breakfast.  Marlene was furious and insisted that we keep the restaurant off-limits to everyone from the bar, and she complained about the quality of cleaning, blaming me because I was the senior and should take more responsibility.  She was right of course and I decided to try to be more friendly to Phil to see if I could correct his behavior without a scene.  It worked for some six months before things were back to the usual disgusting mess, Until one night while in front of the buck  in deep mediation experiencing my animal brain, Phil surprised me .  I have no idea how long he had been staring at me before I saw him.  He was respectful when he came over.

“Hey man, you into self-hypnosis or something?”

“No, nothing like that Phil; absolutely nothing.  I’m just calming myself.  I’m fine. Just leave me alone, okay?”

“You really dig the janitor’s gig, don’t you?”

“Yeah, I adore it.  It’s the best thing that ever happened to me.  Let’s clean the toilets.”

“Sure thing, Mr. Natural,” he said then bowed.

“Mr. Natural?”

“Yeah  You’re Mr. Natural, only you don’t even know it.  You’ve done what every musician dreams of doing?”

“You mean become an animal?”

“Not an animal, man.  You know how to do what you’re doing so deeply that you become concentration.  I’ve seen you.  You’re the most natural janitor in the world.  You’ve accomplished the dream of every musician.  Man, if I could play the way you vacuum, I’d be in paradise.  But you don’t even know that you got it.”

“Got what?”

“It, man.  IT!  I can’t believe it.  You’re remarkable, absolutely remarkable,” and he wandered off to the bar shaking his head.

Phil’s  explanation of my life hardly alleviated my angst but it did enable me to consider some fresh new disgusting possibilities with which to nourish it.  Could I have totally deceived myself about raising my deer consciousness, that the only thing I learned from the buck was how to concentrate?  If so, how come I still can’t write?

These existential deliberations were soon overshadowed by an even more magnificent anxiety, when one evening Marlene and Martin announced to the staff that they were selling the restaurant.

Carl, the new owner, turned out to be every bit as annoying as Phil – more so because he spent so much time after hours trying to be friendly with me.  I sensed he was spying all the time, covering it with his small town banter.  He had been a junior college economics instructor in a small town and inherited the money for the purchase from his father who ran a successful country  inn during most of Carl’s childhood.  Carl would finally have the opportunity to indulge his fantasy of playing jazz.  He had played cornet in his high school marching band and hadn’t touched a musical instrument since.  When he told me he was divorced and was lonely and looking for companionship, I had to chuckle to myself imagining what lay in store for him as soon as Phil introduced him to the jazz lovers.

Almost overnight Carl lost his small town ways.  He grew a mustache slicked back his hair and began to assume a laid back cool look – all ridiculously mannered and stiff.  During these weeks he was extremely polite and deferential to me as was everyone else around the bar.  It was obvious that Phil had spread the word about my Mr. Natural accomplishments.  When he stopped by during my shift one night and I confronted him about his loose mouth, he said that he had a lot of respect for me because I had been doing this for almost six years.  Carl had looked it up in the payroll records one night when he asked.

After he left I nearly had a heart attack.  Six years!  I’ve been doing this for six years?  I pissed away all the free time I had hoped to gain with the job, accomplishing absolutely nothing, as broke as the day I arrived, with nothing to show for it!  Six lousy, wasted, fallow shallow years!

That did it!  I stood in front of “La Dernière Cartouche” crying like an abandoned child, down to my last bullet.  My deer mind and my normal mind began chasing each other in circles with a meat cleaver. I walked the three steps through the swinging door and reached under the kitchen sink for the gallon of bleach.  If I drank enough of the stuff, by the time they found me I would be all erased.

Holding the bleach bottle in my hand, looking at the soldier grabbing his empty gun by the barrel, my mind returned to Louie’s last stand – marketing himself.  It worked. Marketing himself!

“Market Myself!  Market Myself?  Market Myself!”  The words kept repeating, becoming louder:  “Market … Market Mr. Natural!”


It was exactly the way you read about in spiritual books.  I had an experience, an illumination having to do with the fact that others thought I had had an illumination.  Only they were wrong; they had no idea what real wattage was.  My deer mind glowed like a burning lump of coal

“They ain’t seen nothing yet!”  I yelled to the buck, then ran to the store room for some electricians tape to cover one of his eyes so he winked at the world.

I shall market myself and get my ass out of here.  If Louie could write his way out of the place with a flyer, so could I.  My only competition would be from the crowd of meditation gurus, swamis, sufis and zenoids operating in the neighborhood.  But they worked the middle class.  Screw them; there was still plenty of room in the marketplace.  I’ll work the artists and boozers.  I’ll give them just what they want.

It took me only an hour to get the message right and set the foundation stones in place.







The free part was a stroke of genius.

On my night off I posted the message on the bulletin board by the public telephone in the bar.  I found Phil and apologized for being so mean-spirited.  “I just can’t help myself,” I explained in all candor.  “It hurts me and upsets me to be with people who are not living up to their potential, and I have finally made up my mind to do something about it for the good of the world as well as for my own peace of mind.  Phil, will you help me spread my teaching?”

By Sunday morning five musicians, one artist, plus Carl, Phil and Bernice had signed up for instructions.  Carl felt that I should charge a fee for the service, but I was affronted that such a matter should even be discussed.  I insisted that this must be a free offering, that I did not wish to gain a penny, that in fact learning to tap into one’s intuitive nature did not require money, only commitment and dedication.  Of course, if anyone wished to contribute to the establishment of the Mr. Natural Institute they could leave a little donation; but I insisted that the service as unconditionally free, that there was no way this would become some rip-off meditation cult scam.

I scheduled my first class for the following Sunday afternoon in the bar when only locals would be there, and spent the week designing the curriculum.  Carl was only too happy to lend me the bullock head and with Phil’s help I was able to fasten it to a speaker cabinet and give it a haircut.  I asked Bernice to dress for some serious dancing, that this would be better than any tantric yoga trip, and asked her to bring her cat.  I told the musicians to bring their instruments, and the sketch artist to bring a large drawing pad and charcoals.

The participants sat on the floor in a semicircle around the buffalo head and I gave a little talk about how animals think, pointing out that without a developed frontal area animals rely entirely on their ability to concentrate in order to achieve their goals.  By way of illustration, I walked over to Bernice’s cat who was seated in her lap.  I told her to hold the cat tightly and then took some leftover chicken livers from a jar and set them in a dish on the floor in front of her.  The cat locked onto the livers.  Everyone locked onto the cat.  For awhile it struggled to free itself; but soon it just sat there at full attention, riveted on the livers, muscles taut, ready to pounce as soon as its owner’s mind wandered.  I maintained silence for maybe five minutes, until I knew the point was made about animal concentration.  Everyone was suitably impressed. Next, I taught them the basics of concentration by having them focus on the brass ring in the buffalo’s nostril, which I had fixed in an upright position so it created a line of sight along its snout to the back of its skull, like looking through a gun sight.  “The ring,” I explained, “is an ancient symbol for the passage of the soul.  Visualize a continuous flow from your nostrils to the front of your head through then out through the ring up the buffalo’s snout, on to the back of its head, then circling back to the back of your head, repeating the cycle over and over until you experience a mass of energy.  Then concentrate on this mass until you become concentration, whatever that means to you.”


Napkin Art, Sea Gull Cellar Bar, unsigned

I got all that stuff from library books by the gurus and swamis.  But my teaching was going to go the next step – proof positive, results guaranteed or your donations returned. A few minutes into the meditation, I positioned myself in back of Bernice and began to rub her back and neck.  “Relax,” I whispered into her ear.  Let your mind become whatever you wish.”  She immediately let go of the cat who pounced on the livers.  “My fingers strayed from her back to play around her ears, then slowly drifted down her throat to the front of her blouse.    “Just concentrate on watever’s in your mind until you become it,” and she began to moan.  I left her as she began rubbing her thighs.  “Don’t lose your concentration,” I whispered, “stay with whatever’s in your mind until you become it.”

Phil had begun playing a melody with his fingers on an imaginary piano.  I encouraged him to go to the piano and, with his eyes closed, make the sensation real, but not to lose the concentration.  He did and began playing  lovely riffs.  He was soon joined by the others, including Carl, who had his old high school cornet.  I encouraged Carl by telling him to forget everything, to just be natural and feel the notes, but only when the time was right.  When he finally made a few sounds that were in tune, he became ecstatic.  I admonished him to persevere with his concentration and to forget the results.  “Be Natural,” I commanded.


Napkin Art, Sea Gull Cellar Bar, unsigned


Bernice removed her blouse and began grinding against Carl in time with the music, which inspired him to greater lengths than he had ever imagined possible in high school.  She began to wriggle and bump as he improvised on very funky hoochie-koochie music he had once learned from his band teacher as a way to master minor keys.  Her encouragement inspired him to extend himself, which inspired her to wriggle more, wearing less and less; which inspired Phil and the others to embroider the music, keeping it lively and hot.

“Eyes closed,” I shouted.  “Don’t let your concentration drift.  Feel it!”  While this was happening I whispered to the artist to open her eyes, gently, so as not to break her concentration, and to sketch the scene in front of her eyes.

I walked to the bar, ordered a double Scotch and checked the other patrons.  They were very impressed, indeed, with how quickly and naturally my students had taken to their practice.  Six immediately signed up for the following week and everyone in the place treated me with tremendous respect.

Napkin Art, Sea Gull Cellar Bar, Sandra Lindstrom artist

Napkin Art, Sea Gull Cellar Bar, Sandra Lindstrom artist

The class ended after an hour-and-a-half, with breaks at the bar.  The artist couldn’t believe it.  She had sold five sketches of Bernice and Carl in less than five minutes, when she hadn’t sold a drawing in years.  The musicians were all playing their far out sounds in a state of smoky bliss.  The cat was in back of the piano licking its chops.

I had a tremendous break when Phil got a job from the artist’s father  who owned a recording studio and The Buffalo Romp took off to the top of the jazz charts.  In interviews he attributed his success entirely and unequivocally to his studies with Mr. Natural.  Within two months the Mr. Natural Institute had enough donations to enable its founder to retire from the janitorial profession and devote full attention to teaching others, free of charge, for the good of the world.

At my going away party, Carl presented the Institute with a check for five thousand dollars towards the furtherance of basic research, plus a gold plated broom handle.  And why shouldn’t he be so generous?  Sunday afternoon business was better than Saturday night plus he was now engaged to Bernice who was put in charge of entertainment in the bar.

Louie was at the party and I thanked him for inspiring me.  “It was all because of you, Louie, that I decided to market myself.  I can’t tell you how helpful your words were to me.  I only hope I can be of service to you someday.”

“Perhaps you can.  I’ve been offered another course next semester: Philosophy 2 – Metaphysics.  You seem to have some appreciation of the subject and I was wondering if you could suggest how I get students to sign up.”

“Metaphysics and sex,” I replied without a pause. “That’s the key; they go together like peanut butter and jelly, sweet and nutty. It’s that simple.

“Good advice,” said Louie. “I’ll work on it. But how about you? Where’s all this taking you? It’s quite a leap from janitor to guru. You’ve got to be careful it doesn’t mess up your head.”

That really made me laugh. “Are you kidding. The guru stuff’s just the tip of the iceberg. The next step is to knock out a wisdom book, explaining how I’m not selling anything, that I give wisdom free and clear; like Google gives you its stuff free and clear. Then, in the very last chapter I expose the entire spiritual marketplace as a hype and scam. I do it for no other reason than to create controversy. And once I get the controversy going, I’ll steer the whole thing towards Hollywood and the real bucks. That’s the plan.”

Louie nodded and I could see he was impressed. “I like it. I can see it now ‘Discover Your Animal Nature While Making Metaphysical Millions.’”

“No no no, Louie; that’s not a metaphysical title, that’s a critical thinking title. I need something that catches the heart.”

“How about “Milking the Masses”

“No no. Something to do with Buffaloes, something to do with cults… Yeah, Cult of the Buffalo. That’s it! Sounds like dancing with wolves. That was good for mil­lions.