Breakfast at Freddy’s with Plato and Mark Twain
It was an unusually warm spring morning in Pennsylvania, sometime in the 1950s. A glowing flash was peering through the trees as if someone was toying with the light switch. Something strange has just occurred without anyone noticing a thing.
Business was going on as expected at Freddy’s Diner, the only joint within earshot of everything. It was a cozy place.
Inside was the usual lot enjoying the best mediocre cup of coffee in this part of town.
The only thing out of place was a very old man sitting by himself at the counter, enjoying his breakfast of eggs and bacon. The atmosphere was calm and sleepy, as things tend to be in the early hours.
The bell rang as the door was swung open. A newcomer, dressed in white, greets the owner, then sits at the counter next to the elderly gentleman. He lights his pipe and glances over the menu with a scrutinizing look. A few moments later, he hails the waitress, in a manner which could only be described as self-centered charm, and orders a stack of hash browns and a bottle of ice cold beer.
The senior glances over to the adjacent patron. ‘He was a wise man who invented beer,’ said Plato in a wizened tone.
‘Never refuse to do a kindness unless the act would work great injury to yourself, and never refuse to take a drink– under any circumstances.’ said Mark Twain and offered the old man a bottle.
Plato accepts his offer with gratitude and invitingly retorts: ‘Come then, and let us pass a leisure hour in storytelling, and our story shall be the education of our heroes.’
Mark Twain takes a hearty sip of his refreshing beverage, then unexpectedly says, ‘The more I learn about people, the more I like my dog.’
Plato considered the statement carefully. ‘A dog has the soul of a philosopher.’ he said approvingly, taking a sip of his beer and pursing his lips.
Mark Twain was blowing a few circles of smoke, pleased with his companion’s answer. He furrowed his brow and continued, ‘Imagine, if you will, that I am an idiot. Then, imagine that I am also a Congressman. But, alas, I repeat myself.’
‘States will never be happy until rulers become philosophers or philosophers become rulers,’ said Plato.
Bemused, Mark Twain retorts: ‘There are basically two types of people. People who accomplish things, and people who claim to have accomplished things. The first group is less crowded,’ he said cutting into his hash browns and taking a bite.
Plato grins knowingly. ‘There are some whom the applause of the multitude has deluded into the belief that they are really statesmen.’
To which Twain quickly replies: ‘It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled. Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.’
Shaking his head in agreement, Plato makes a dismissing gesture and says, ‘The passionate are like men standing on their heads, they see all things the wrong way.’
The two gentlemen raise their beers and salute, silently complimenting each other with a nod. Mark Twain takes another ardent drag of his pipe, smoke swirling upwards in a sort of enchanting dance.
‘In politics we presume that everyone who knows how to get votes knows how to administer a city or a state. When we are ill… we do not ask for the handsomest physician, or the most eloquent one. […] In good speaking, should not the mind of the speaker know the truth of the matter about which he is to speak,’ stated Plato knowingly.
Mark Twain raised his eyebrows and tilts his head slightly backward, then slyly he says, ‘A little lie can travel halfway ’round the world while Truth is still lacing up her boots.’
With a disappointed expression on his face, Plato replies, ‘No one is more hated than he who speaks the truth.’
‘Just because you’re taught that something’s right and everyone believes it’s right, it don’t make it right,’ said Mark Twain with a sage look.
With a stern voice, Plato asserted, ‘The State which we have founded must possess the four cardinal virtues of wisdom, courage, discipline and justice [but] there are three classes of men; lovers of wisdom, lovers of honor, and lovers of gain.’
‘We have the best government that money can buy,’ replied Twain with a chuckle.
Plato smiles, appreciating his companion’s humor, though he is not quite so amused of the truth in his words. ‘Justice in the life and conduct of the State is possible only as first it resides in the hearts and souls of the citizens,’ he said scrupulously, peeling the label off the bottle.
Twain picks up a piece of his meal and shakes it in an emphasizing gesture. ‘Our lives, our liberty, and our property are never in greater danger than when Congress is in session,’ he said taking the last piece of hash brown.
Plato acknowledges the statement. ‘Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws,’ he said matter-of-factly.
‘If voting made any difference they wouldn’t let us do it,’ declared Mark Twain indifferently. ‘The nation is divided, half patriots and half traitors, and no man can tell which from which.’
Plato frowned and shook his head. ‘If you do not take an interest in the affairs of your government, then you are doomed to live under the rule of fools.’ Then gravely, in a tone that sounded like a warning, he said, ‘Democracy passes into despotism.’
Twain ponders his fellow’s remark, brushing his magnificent mustache. He takes a final sip of his beer and brandishes a clever smirk, as if quite pleased with himself. ‘Politicians and diapers must be changed often, and for the same reason.’
The two of them laugh heartily and shake hands with mutual respect and admiration. They pay the tab, compliment the waitress and the meal, and exit the establishment.
As the doorbell rings, signaling their departure, a bright white light flashed for a split second, enveloping them, and they both vanish into thin air.