FISHTRAP HOLLOW, Miss. - I had Thanksgiving a day early, when my best buddy Whiskey Gray brought cheeseburgers, earache medicine and a winter's worth of kindling to my front porch and we made a toast to friendship in the sunshine.

Whiskey - who doesn't drink the stuff, by the way - is the friend you'd call for bail money.

Most of what he says makes me wish I could needlepoint. Whiskey has this capacity for storytelling that those of us in the newspaper trade always admire. I've seen him hold spellbound a group of Memphis swells with tall tales from Route One, Burnsville.

Only problem is, most of his stories cannot be contained in the family newspaper; they are far larger than that.

This day, sitting with our mouths greasy from burgers and backs warm from November sunshine, he said, "You know what wish I'd make if I could only be granted one to straighten out the world's problems?"

I kid you not. Whiskey talks like that. In profound pronouncements.

"What?" I asked.

"I'd wish that stupidity was painful," he said.

That should about do it. That would eliminate war and famine and talk radio and tailgating and littering. It would do away with reality television shows and NASCAR and movies with the word "Ninja" in the title. There would be no meth labs, school bullies or charity drives held in the middle of the street. People talking on their cell phones would stop walking into one another in discount stores; they'd be in too much pain.

There's almost not a problem not directly related to stupidity.

We went on to talk about other things, Whiskey and I, then he split some firewood for me. But I spent the rest of the afternoon after he left thinking about what he'd said, and it made infinite sense.

They can manufacture drugs that make you sick when you drink alcohol and those that reduce your cravings for nicotine. They can curb your appetite with a pill, or put a rubber band around your intestine and staple your stomach.

Why couldn't someone develop a potion that made stupidity painful? Wouldn't it be interesting to see who was doubled over in pain from reaction to the Whiskey wonder drug? Probably about half the people on the street would be gripping their heads and mumbling to themselves. There'd be a run on emergency rooms on most election days.

And, if a brain-pain drug were ruled impossible, why not just a stiff tax on stupidity? Every time some politician pandered to stupidity, he'd raise taxes on his own constituency. That way, we'd at least have the money to fix the things that stupid people destroy.

Now, you may be thinking: "This is fanciful nonsense. If stupidity were painful, half the world would die a cruel and lingering death." But, in the World According to Whiskey, you'd get a headache just thinking about it.

Rheta Grimsley Johnson is a syndicated columnist. She lives in the Iuka vicinity. Contact her at Iuka, MS 38852.

Rheta Grimsley Johnson

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