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A fitter and generally a more effectual punishment.

We were at a restaurant somewhere in Shaker Heights and laughing over this absurd remark or that when he leaned back in his chair and jumped the conversational tracks. “I’ve got one,” he said, an evil glint in his eye. “How does every joke about black people begin?”

Which pretty much stopped the laughter dead. Thing was, see, he wasn’t known for this sort of joke. At all. Thing is, though, how well do you ever really know someone? —Final scheme, and all that.

“Okay,” said someone, after a bit too long. “How?”

And he rested his elbows on the table, looked ostentatiously over his left shoulder, ostentatiously over his right, and then leaned forward, mouth open as if he were about to speak.

We got it.

Would that some guardians of our discourse had the shrunken, shriveled enlightenment of the butts of that particular joke.

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