Some years ago, I applied for a job selling suits. The manager hired me because I am not a good-looking man but I look good in a suit. A customer, seeing a salesman like me who is elevated by wearing a well-cut suit, can gain the hope of elevating himself with the purchase of a well-cut suit, and speaking with a customer I always deflected praise from myself to my suit, which did all the work.

Later I found a better job recruiting for the Army. Even at the height of the insurgency I never failed to reach my monthly recruiting quotas, whereas my colleagues in the recruiting office invariably failed to meet their quotas, for they are in the sermon business while I am in the retail business. When I visit a high school and I see a young man scraping together nickels to buy his lunch, I sell him the brass buttons off my uniform and the high polish on my shoes: in Fort Hood there is a vault with ten million brass buttons and there are eight such buttons with your name on them, young man. Why do my colleagues sell valor? Valor happens naturally, when you and your friends are all wearing the same suit.

This story was featured in issue 8.2. Pick up your copy today!

Ben Merriman’s fiction and essays have been published widely. Read more at