two parts truth, one part inflection

“You take two parts truth.” He’s holding a cigarette outside the window with an uneasy hand. “Cause you have to start with truth or else it’s all a house of cards.”

I nod, slowly.

“And then you get creative. But no more than a 2 to 3 ratio.” I could tell this was his math background speaking. Perhaps in another dimension he was doing theoretical calculus, deriving everything down to 2 to 3 ratios in a messy office. In this one his office was impecable, cleaned daily by Amanda with a dumb smile. In this one, 2 to 3 ratios were an afterthought; something used to explain to me how to write effective speeches.

“It’s not enough to tell people they’re saved. You have to start with an example. Pick Harold out of the crowd, he was crossing the street drunk one day when a semi’s brake lines failed. Instant death. Had he not tripped over himself first.”

He took another drag of the cigarette, making cross eyes as he stared at the amber. “So you pick Harold out. Say, ‘I know at least one of you here’s been saved.’ You take Harold’s hand, give it a solid grip, and then you tell Amanda’s story. Or Richard’s. Harold’s story doesn’t test well.”

“But won’t people wonder why you chose Harold?”

“Exactly. They’ll invent the story themselves. They’ll shape it from their own lives. And suddenly,” he flicked the cigarette and closed the window, “the story has real meaning to them.”