tagRomanceThe Medicine Show

The Medicine Show

bySilverstag©

"Gentlemen and ladies. I hold in my hand the greatest elixir ever invented. I call it Doctor Washburn's Miracle Elixir because Washburn is my name. I must confess that I did not invent it. I discovered it on one of my journeys to the holy land. It's powers acknowledge no limitations. It's secret ingredients come to us from the mysterious regions of the far east and then they are mixed with water from Israel. Yea even water from the River Jordan, the same sanctified stream where John the Baptist placed his loving, baptizing hands on our dear saviour."

I was just getting warmed up.

" Is this elixir blessed? In all honesty I can make no such claim but I have witnessed its blessing, healing attributes with my very own eyes. You suffer from excess bile? Drink of this and suffer no more. Your joints ache and your muscles cry out? Drink of this and ache and cry no more. Sleep eludes you? Drink of this and sleep like a babe in its mother's arms. You lack vigor? Vigor is in this bottle. You lack inspiration? Find it here. Your marital relationship has lost it's uh spark? The fire starts here."

I paused and surveyed the crowd standing in front my brightly painted wagon.

"I see the skeptical look on some of your faces. I know that some of you doubt. You would say to me Doctor Washburn how can this be and I say to you, try one bottle of this magic brew and if you are not completely satisfied you will have your money cheerfully refunded. One dollar, one small thin greenback can open the doors to a whole new way of life. Supplies are limited but for a short time you can purchase a dozen bottles for ten dollars. Such a bargain, such a blessing."

I was interrupted by a voice from the crowd. "What kind of doctor are you?" a man said with a midwestern drawl.

"I am a doctor of medicine and a doctor of theology. I studied medicine at Rutgers University and theology at the Boston Seminary," I said sternly.

"Humph, doctor of bullshit if you ask me," the man said.

I ignored him and resumed my spiel.

"Alright, who will be first. What brave soul, what progressive thinker will step up and step into a new life of renewed vigor and vitality."

"Aw, I reckon I'll try some," a man said, holding out a dollar bill. He walked up to me with a pronounced limp, bending over and clutching his back with a look of pain on his face.

I took the greenback, handed him a bottle and said, "You made a wise decision, stranger."

Actually he was no stranger. He worked for me, driving the wagon, tending to the horses and helping me set up at each new town. He was a shill as it were, my partner in dishonesty. My name was not Washburn and I was a doctor of nothing, except bullshit, as you may have surmised.

I had begun my show business career in New England as a carnival barker and then moved up to advance man for a wild west show called Washburn's Last Sensation - The Moral Show of the Age. In my odd moments I frequented medicine shows and revivals and sensed the possibilty of combining alcohol with religion to good advantage. I liked the name Washburn, adapted it when I began my own enterprise and heeded Horace Greeley's advice to go west.

Washburn's MIracle Elixir was nothing more than herbs, spices, sugar, water and lots of rum. Most of my customers were tee-totalers and the rum usually provided the needed effect, usually in short order.

Needless to say - but I'll say it anyway - I moved around a lot. This fine fall day I was in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I had parked my wagon near a regional fair to take advantage of the crowds, a practical thing to do since taking advantage was what I did.


My associate took one big drink of the miracle elixir, waited for a pregnant moment and then straightened his bent back and began to dance a little jig, shouting "Hallelujah, hallelujah, bless my stars it works!"

His performance was impeccable and showed the result of many hours of patient coaching and practicing and it produced the desired effect. Men began to reach into their overalls and women into their purses and business was, as they say, brisk. I made a mental note to cook up a new batch as soon as possible.

Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a tall man and a women approaching my wagon. The man was dressed in black, wearing a string tie and clutching a bible. He looked to be in his 60s. The woman looked to be about 20 years younger. She had a lean face, dark hair, piercing blue eyes and a handsome figure from what I could see of it under a stark black dress. Several people in the crowd noticed them and began to back away from the wagon.

Oh goody goody I thought to myself, just when business is booming the local preacher man show ups.

I turned to the man, held out a bottle of the elixir and said, "Welcome Reverend it's always nice to meet a fellow man of the cloth. Please take a sample of my wares as a professional courtesy."

He ignored my offer and said, "You may call it the balm of Gilead but I call it the devil's brew."

"But Sir, you haven't even tried it. Take but one taste and then decide its merits."

"I know your ilk, Doctor," he said, with a sneer. "The only thing your potion will merit is intoxication followed by fornication followed by eternal damnation."

I smiled and said, "I have paid a fee for the privilege of being here and have a signed and very legal permit from the County Fair Board. I have just as much right to be here as you do."

"Yes," he said, "that may be true but in a day or two you will be gone to purvey your pernicious potion elsewhere and I will still be here dealing with damaged souls."

"You left out pleasing and providential in your description," I said.

"Jest with me if you will, sir, but be advised that I and certain members of my congregation will be keeping close tabs on you." With that he grabbed the woman by her arm and said, "Come along, Sarah, we've done all we can do here today."

The woman smiled at me, nervously and then turned to follow her husband. I wondered about the smile and I wondered about her. She had seemed uncomfortable during his diatribe and somewhat reluctant to be there. I had had some experience with the wives of preachers and made a mental note to drop by the parsonage if the opportunity presented itself.

Business resumed when the preacher and his companion departed. One of my customers said, "I noticed you looking at the preacher's wife."

"A handsome woman," I said, "what do you know about her."

"Not much," he said. "Hear tell it was an arranged marriage. They say she's the daughter of a preacher who went to seminary with the Reverend Hobart."

"And what pulpit would the good Reverend Hobart fill?," I asked, making another mental note of the preacher's name.

"First Baptist. It's the biggest church in town, catty corner from City Hall. You can't miss it."

"Thanks for the information," I said, "here's a second bottle, on the house."

The crowd began to dwindle as evening approached and the shadows lengthened and I decided to shut down for the night. It had been a good day, except for the visit from the parson and that had not necessarily been a bad thing if I played my cards right and my intuition was correct.

My assistant, who had noticed the eye contact between me and the Preacher's wife, came up to me and said, "Are you quittin' early, boss?"

"I think so," I said. "I think I'll take a stroll down town."

"Well, I'll see you in church." he said, with a laugh.

I walked into town and easily found the First Baptist Church. The door was unlocked, as most churches were in that day and time, but the building was empty. A brief bit of moseying around yielded some useful information - the address of the parsonage and the fact that a deacon's meeting was scheduled for 7 p.m. that very evening. Timing is everything.

I found a mirror and checked to see if my tie was straight and my hair combed and felt my pockets to make sure that I had brought along a bottle or two of Dr. Washburn's Miracle Elixir. I rarely went anywhere without some of my product because a good salesman never knows where or when his next customer may appear.

I stopped someone on the street and got directions to the parsonage. It was, not surprisingly, close to the church. It was a small but apparently well maintained bungalow, white with brown shutters and a well kept yard. I saw no sign of children's toys or playthings. It was about half past six, about time for the Reverend to leave for the Deacon's meeting, so I put myself in a strategic position across the street where I could see the house without being seen.

Sure enough, after a few minutes the door to the house opened and the Reverend Hobart scurried down the street, carrying a small valise. I waited for a few minutes, straightened my tie, slapped a smile on my face and walked across the street to the parsonage. I knocked on the door and Mrs. Hobart opened it.

"Reverend Hobart is," she stopped what she was saying as she recognized me. "Oh, it's you, the man from the medicine show. If you're looking for Reverend Hobart he's at the church for a deacon's meeting." She smiled and continued, "He won't be home for an hour or two."

I tipped my hat and said, "Ezra Washburn at your service ma'am. I came by to try to make amends with your husband and to offer you that free sample of my wares."

She laughed and said, "Good luck with the making amends part but thank you for the sample." She took a hasty look around the neighborhood to see if anyone was about and said, "Would you like to come in for a bit?"

"I would be delighted."

She led me into a modest living room. There was a bookcase full of bibles and various theological tracts and text books. On the wall was the obligatory picture of Jesus and a framed reproduction of Da Vinci's The Last Supper.

She motioned toward a simple horsehair covered sofa and said, "Please make yourself comfortable. Can I offer you something to drink? We have tea and lemonade."

"I thought you might like to sample some of my elixer. You can partake of it as it is or it can be mixed with most any other beverage."

"Reverend Hobart contends that what you call elixir is probably little more than demon rum,"

I interrupted her to say, "The ingredients are a trade secret."

She laughed and said, "As I was about to say before you interrupted me I wouldn't mind a dance with the demon, as it were, although drinking and dancing are strictly prohibited by the Baptists."

I raised my eyebrows and said, "Madame you are a total and enchanting surprise."

"Well, I was certainly a surprise to the Reverend Hobart although I'm not sure he was or is enchanted."

"I see," I said and then paused for a moment. She smiled at me again and nodded her head. Seeing a seizing an opportunity which begged taking advantage of I continued. "Perhaps you'd like to talk about whatever problems you might be having. I've found that it's often easier to discuss certain matters with an impartial observer and I have had some counseling experience as part of my infrequent ministerial duties."

She laughed and said, "If you're a real minister I'm a monkey's uncle, or aunt, as it were."

I smiled back at her and said, "What do you take me for?"

"I take you for what you probably are," she said, "a charming man, glib with his tongue, fast on his feet, but inherently good and caring and a possible ticket out of this dreadful, boring place."

"You get right to the point don't you, Mrs. Hobart."

"Necessity is the mother of invention and you can call me Sarah."

"Alright, Sarah, what are you proposing?"

"A way out of this two-bit town, this arranged marriage, this dull un-fulfilling life. I realize that I know very little about you but I sense, I hope, that underneath the showman's exterior is a good and caring man who might consider helping a woman who is in much need of help. If I sound desperate please believe that I am. Desperate times inspire desperate deeds."

I smiled reassuringly and nodded at her. Our conversation had taken a very quick and very surprising turn. I had anticipated a quick dalliance but she obviously had other things in mind.

"Whoa, Sarah," I said, "this conversation is moving pretty fast. I'm not entirely sure what you're proposing. I tend to travel light and unencumbered. I didn't come here looking for a wife."

"I'm not looking for a husband, Doctor Washburn."

"Call me Jack."

"Alright, Jack, I already have a husband and if he's an example of husbandry I'd sooner move into a nunnery."

"Go on," I said, my mind racing.

"I realize that what I'm proposing is far from what you came for. I think I know what you came for and perhaps you can have it but that will have to wait. Let me tell you a bit about me. I don't want you to think that I'm silly or stupid. I am considerably younger than my husband as you no doubt observed. I spent a good number of years helping my father care for my mother. When she died my father took a new wife and convinced me to come here and marry an old friend of his from seminary. I am educated - at least as much as my father would allow and although I am not versed in the ways of the world I am well-read and I realized almost as soon as I came to this town that it, this house and this marriage were a trap, sucking the life out of me. I've been desparately looking for a way out."

"Your family can't help you?" I asked.

"Family?," she snorted, "my family is of no use to me. As I just told you my mother is dead, God rest her soul. I have two sisters, both Bible believing Baptists, married to ministers and living far from here and my father, damn his soul, put me in this impossible situation."

"You have no children?"

"Not yet and none on the way although the good reverend would like to change that. I've been trying to limit our conjugal relations to safe times of the month and the use of vinegar douches."

"You are very well informed."

"I told you that I read a lot. But let's get to the point. Will you help me get out of my predicament? Will you take me with you when you leave Cedar Rapids?"

I paused and thought and then said, "Sarah as much as I would like to help a fellow human being in their time of need I am a business man, ever mindful of the bottom line, of profit and loss. In so many words, what's in it for me?"

"I'm not proposing a long-term commitment. I would be with you only long enough to get my feet on the ground and that ground being a fair distance from here. In the meantime I could help you with your enterprise - I'm a fast learner - I could cook your meals, I could entertain you."

"Explain the entertainment part."

She stood up and said, "Let me show you."

I started to stand up and she said, "Don't get up. Just sit there and please don't say a word."

I nodded and watched as she put a hesitant hand on the top button of her stark black dress. She slowly began the unbuttoning process and I watched with the eagerness of a little boy watching someone unwrap a Christmas present. When she was through unbuttoning her dress she took if off her body, carefully folded it and laid it on her chair. She was wearing a white slip or chemise or whatever women call those things. She smiled at me, a bit uncertainly and pulled the garment over her head and off of her body. She was now wearing a serviceable white bra and what appeared to be plain cotton underpants.

She looked at me and said, "Should I continue?"

"Yes please do,"

She interrupted with a shush and said, "I asked you not to talk. Just nod your head."

I did so, vigorously.

She reached behind her back, unsnapped her bra and let it drop to the floor. Her breasts were gorgeous. Milky white with rosy red nipples. Not too big, not too small, just right.

I caught my breath and said, "Beautiful."

"Shush."

Then she reached down and pulled down her underpants, letting them drop to the floor and stepping out of them. Her waist was slim, her legs well-shaped and her crotch was covered by a thick thatch of black hair. She was perhaps as good looking a woman as I had ever laid eyes upon.

My cock was now at full stature, straining the confines of my trousers. She dropped her gaze to my crotch, smiled and brought her gaze back to my face.

"I take it you approve," she said with a little laugh.

"Heartily and completely, if I may be allowed to talk now."

"You may, but first let me finish" she said, spreading her arms wide and displaying herself to me. "Look at me as a blank canvas awaiting a master's touch. I am a very passionate woman, Jack, and I am eager to learn all there is to know about living and loving and I think you would be an excellent teacher. You can have me but only if and when we are safely away from Reverend Hobart and Cedar Rapids."

I looked her up and down and said, "Sarah that is a very tempting offer but you are asking a lot. Your charms appear to be considerable and my life of constant travel is sometimes lonely yet I somehow manage to find a willing woman often enough to satisfy my desires."

"I grant you that," she said "but look upon me as a challenge and a rare opportunity and I believe you are a man who likes a challenge and recognizes a rare opportunity."

I looked at her and then at my steepled fingers and said, "I'll have to think about it."

"When will you be leaving Cedar Rapids?"

"Bright and early Monday morning," I said.

"Then that gives you three days to think about it. How will you let me know what you've decided? It's probably not a good idea for you to come back here to the house."

I thought for a moment and then said, "Will you be at church on Sunday?"

"Certainly."

"I go to church occasionally if only to watch the show. If you see me in church on Sunday I will expect to see you Monday morning."

She started to get dressed and I said, "I don't suppose I could have a free sample."

"There's a price for everything and sometimes the higher the price the better the value."

"Alright, Sarah, enjoy your weekend."

"You enjoy your weekend too, Jack and I hope to see you in church."

With that I left the parsonage. I walked back to my campsite, deeply absorbed in thought, weighing the pluses and minuses of her proposal. On the asset side - a very attractive woman offering herself to me for enjoyment and education. On the debit side, another mouth to feed, a lot of baggage to carry along (literally if not figuratively) and the prospect of pursuit from an angry husband - possibly a posse. What to do. What to do.

When I got back to camp my assistant greeted me with a smile and a question, "How was church?"

"Didn't stay long but I had an interesting visit to the parsonage. I"ll tell you about it later, maybe."

The next day, Friday, business started slowly but by the afternoon it began to pick up. A large group of women showed up en masse and began to buy. One of them, apparently a spokes-woman said, "We just came from the Baptist Women's Sewing Circle. Sarah, the preacher's wife, raved about your elixir and even shared some with us. It had a marvelous effect on all the ladies," she said, with a giggle.

"Madame, I am honored and I appreciate your business."

"Now don't you tell our husbands we were here and for sure don't tell the preacher. Sarah made a point of that."

"I am the soul of discretion."

They departed, having severely de-plenished my stock, leaving me with a smile on my face and my mind racing. Perhaps the sweet and lovely Sarah could be useful, in more ways than one.

Saturday brought more brisk business and more than the usual amount of female customers. Apparently the women of the sewing circle were talking up my product with their friends and neighbors of the female persuasion. Nothing beats word of mouth advertising.

On Saturday night as I shared supper by the campfire with my assistant he said, "I reckon we sold more goods the last two days then we ever have."

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