Jack stared at his picture caught like a fly in the Ragbrai conspiracy web and shivered. The candles provided light but little warmth. Mr. Karras sat down in a chair behind the desk and was quiet while the winter storm continued outside.
Finally, Mr. Karras leaned back in his chair and said, “I worked at the Des Moines Register for a long time. It’s basically a good paper, and I don’t believe that the Register is behind all of this. But things have changed since I retired. Ragbray started out as an innocent little adventure
and has grown into a huge event.
These days, a lot of people see Ragbray as the goose that lays golden eggs every July.”
Mr. Karras leaned forward and stared at the tangled web spread across the bed sheet. “I know that conspiracy theories are a dime a dozen anymore, so I don’t expect you to buy into this one, but here is my best guess as to what is going on behind the scenes.”
“It took the beer companies several years to notice Ragbray, but once they did,
[gratuitous tit shot]
it became an opportunity to maximize profits and advertising. It was easy to increase sales at first, but gradually the market was tapped out, and they had to get more creative. We started to see snow fences, tents, and three-dollar beers in little plastic cups.”
“Speaking of little plastic cups,” Mr. Karras reached into a desk drawer and pulled out a typical beer garden cup. He held it toward Jack and said, “Do you notice anything odd about this cup? What is printed on the side?”
“It says Budweiser,” noted Jack.
“Now turn the cup and look at the logo on the other side,” invited Mr. Karras.
“Hmmm,” said Jack. “It says Miller Lite on this side.”
“Exactly,” said Mr. Karras, nodding his head. “I found this cup in the back of a Ryder truck when I was getting my bags one afternoon last year on Ragbray. There must have been a misunderstanding at the printers, and not many of these probably made it out to the public before they caught the mistake. And who would notice? Nobody in the beer gardens reads their beer cups and checks to make sure both sides match.”
“I’m guessing that no one can even tell the difference between Budweiser and Miller beers.[guess which is served on ragby?]
They are both pale, watery, flatlander products that claim to be the best beers in the world.”
“But I believe the plastic cup with both their logos also shows that the two brewing companies joined forces at some point and have systematically been trying to take over Ragbray little by little.”
“I’ve heard through friends I still have at the Register that the new computer auditing system the newspaper is using
was actually on loan from one of the brewing companies. While the news stories talk about how the system will help the Register clean up its books, the brewing companies have actually gained control of the money in and the money out for everything the paper does.”
“Of course, all they care about is getting control of the Ragbray portion of the budget,
the goose that lays the golden eggs every July. When the brewing companies discovered that you had made off with $120,000 worth of golden eggs, they were understandably upset.”
Jack cut in, “But I didn’t take the money! And they came after me with a raccoon army? What is that all about?”
Mr. Karras seemed to have an answer for everything.
“Raccoons work for less than people, they don’t talk, and they are expendable. I suspect that they are trained on an addicting mix of barley, hops, and newspaper ink. Sinister, isn’t it?”
At that moment, the lamps flickered back on as power was restored to the house, leaving Jack and Mr. Karras squinting until their eyes adjusted. Mr. Karras blew out the candles and said, “That is enough for tonight. Let’s find Mrs. Karras and see about fixing up the spare bed for you.”
As they left the study, Jack took one last look at his picture amid the hundreds of items connected with strings that made up the Ragbrai conspiracy web, and he shivered.
to be continued... [a serial by little orphan dbax]