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THE CAMEL

    Once a camel called its agent in a panic.
    It had just watched, on the 11 o’clock news in a crowded bar, the latest hearings into the tobacco companies.
    “Heard what the big shots are saying now?” the camel blurted into its cell phone.
    “Ooo, let me guess. There are worse things than death from lung cancer?”
    “Not at all. They’re saying there’s no such thing as a ‘safe cigarette.’”
    “So what?”
    “They practically admitted tobacco kills, that’s what! There go all those grand I make in endorsements and movie appearances! Hasta la vista, baby!”
    “Relax and take a deep breath. I saw this whole thing coming.”
    “You did?” the camel asked, eyeing a leggy model who’d just strolled into the bar.
    “That’s my job, remember. Yours is just to stand there in front of the cameras with that look of the cool life written all over you.”
    “So, this thing’s no biggie, then?” The camel picked up its drink and smokes and started to sidle along the bar to where the model now sat.
    “Nothing we can’t handle. Though there’ll have to be a few adjustments, I’m afraid.”
    “You come here often, babe?”
    “What?” the agent asked.
    “Sorry. ‘A few adjustments,’ you said? Can I buy you a drink?”
    “Who are you talking to?” 
    “Just the most fabulous thing I’ve ever laid eyes on,” the camel said while winking at the fabulous thing.
    “Wonderful. Well, corporate wants a change in image,” the agent continued. “The old devil-may-care indifference to cancer and emphysema and heart disease and all that no longer sells, they say. The new campaign will feature up-tempo jingles and lots of jogging instead.”
    “How do you jog with a fag in your mouth and still look cool, I’d like to know?” 
    “That’s just it, they don’t want any cigarettes at all in the picture. They’re even planning to change their logo.”
    “They can’t just cut me off like this!” the camel exclaimed. “With my single-product identification, I’ll never get work again.”
    “Not to worry. They want you to appear a little more life-affirming is all. Maybe wear a fuzzy rabbit suit or something nonthreatening to the young and young at heart.”
    “A rabbit suit?!”
    “They say the computer animation guys can pull it off without you even being there.”
    “That’s the future for me?”
    “There’s always the developing world, of course. The old campaigns are being cranked up all over the place, so we’re still talkin’ years of big bucks if you go that way.”
    “Sounds better than a fuzzy rabbit suit.”
    “Okay, I’ll let ’em know and get back to you with their answer.”
    “Go for it,” the camel said, clicking shut its cell phone with a flourish and turning again to the fabulous thing at the bar.
    “Recognize me, doll?”