There lived an imposter. He began by pretending to be a taxman,
then a fireman, then a policeman. Then he tried being a taxwoman,
a firewoman and a policewoman. And then he turned to the animals.
He became so good at impostering that when he pretended to be
a raven, people actually thought he could fly.
With this skill set, he could become anything he chose: an actor,
a politician, even a criminal. But he didn't want any of that.
He just enjoyed pretending.
He didn't need to earn any money because if he was hungry he
could simply go to a restaurant and pretend to be rich. He certainly
had no need to climb the corporate ladderif he wanted to
run a company he could simply turn up at work and pretend to be
in charge. And as for fame, well.
Actually, he did quite want to be famous.
That was the rub, see. He could pretend to be a movie star, which
would dupe most people into falling at his feet to lick the sweat
off his ankles (and dupe the remainder into raising their eyebrows,
nudging the person next to them and commenting, "Not every
day you see someone that famous, not in these parts."). He
had found himself on movie sets several times, in fact, and appeared
in various television specials, pretending to be someone that
everybody knew. He had even stood in for Sting at a rock concert
in Copenhagen, leaving the poor washed-up little man duct-taped
to his guitar
backstage. (When Sting later complained, of course, nobody would
All of this was all very well. But the imposter could not be
"I'm so good at what I do," he whined, "that nobody
knows I'm doing it!" At this realization, he buckled down
on the kitchen tiles and pretended to cry. (The child seated at
the dinner table looked alarmedly at this man who purported to
be his father. Here was strange behaviour indeed!)
"Cheer up, dad," said the child, sending the imposter
into further paroxysms of feigned grief. "I find that if
I just pretend to be happy, pretty soon I am." Now the imposter
began rolling around on the floor. His tears mixed with the grime
on the tiles he had forgotten to pretend to clean up
and slippery grey streaks spread out all around him. "What's
wrong, dad?" persisted the child, upset that his attempts
at consolation were going so awry. The imposter gazed up at the
young life that purported to love him.
"Nothing," said the imposter. "Nothing's wrong.
I feel much better now, thank you." And the tragedy was that
the child took him at his word.
The next day, the imposter pretended to be an influential pollster,
and called a sudden press conference.
"I have a confession," he told the media. "I am
not who I appear to be. And I can prove it." He clicked his
fingers and produced a very authentic-looking bar chart. "These
figures are based on a larger-than-possible (LTP) sample in order
to eliminate any doubt or overlap," said the imposter. "As
you can see, they are accurate nineteen times out of twenty."
The media started muttering. Several talking heads conferred,
and agreed unanimously that these odds were greatly in the man's
"Even if you are telling the truth," hummed and hawed
one old interviewer, rising to his feet, "why should we believe
The room fell hushed.
"I am a simple man," replied the imposter. "All
I want is to be noticed for who I am. And you should believe that
because, if you do, you will believe anything."
Anything? The deal was just too good to refuse. The next morning,
the imposter's face was all over the newspapers-it had been so
before, of course, but this time was different.
"World's Greatest Imposter Speaks Out!" read one headline.
"Statistics Prove Imposter's True Identity," read another.
Soon the talk shows came calling, and soon after that, the feature-length
movie. (It was actually a few minutes shy of feature-length, but
nobody noticed so the marketing people got away with it.) The
imposter sat at home, surrounded by newspaper clippings, a video
of his movie playing in the VCR,
the DVD director's cut playing in the DVD player (which he had
long pretended to own) and he wondered if he was happy now.
The child wandered in from the garden with a rake, which he had
used to clean up the dead leaves.
"I know you're not my father," said the child. "I've
tidied the garden and now I'm going to go." The door clicked
Several minutes later, the landlord showed up, brandishing a
copy of The Sun.
"It says here that you haven't paid rent in, er," the
landlord looked further down the news article, and then turned
to page five. "Ever!" he gasped. "And you're not
even my tenant. You'll have to move on, sir." The landlord
stood aside to let the imposter out. "The keys, sir,"
said the landlord.
"Oh, right-o," said the imposter. He reached into his
back pocket and produced the keys.
"One more thing," said the landlord. "Could I
have your autograph?" The imposter wrote his name down on
the back of a rental agreement and added a nice message for the
landlord's wife. Then he walked down the street to the store.
He was hungry but he couldn't go to a restaurant because they
would recognize him and know he wasn't rich. He couldn't go to
work because the people would know he wasn't really in charge.
All he had was his fame, and one cannot live on that alone.
He tried pretending not to be hungry but his stomach wasn't fooled,
not this time. He sat down on a street corner, but nobody would
lend him a quarter because they figured he was only pretending
to be poor. Some people even laughed at him, glad to be in on
the joke at last.
"But I'm really down and out," cried the imposter.
"I'm a nobody, I'm starving, and I'm miserable!"
But nobody would believe him. And so he died.