Speckled Toad Beer

by on May 4, 2024 :: 0 comments

photo "Beer Dreams" by Tyler Malone

I hate to admit it, but I never knew that the inspiration for the character of Uncle Sam in the WWI recruitment poster was the artist himself. He’d dilly-dallied on doing the painting until it was almost too late. At the last minute, he did the initial drawing based on his reflection in the mirror. He liked what he saw and from that first draft, he completed the work, adding the bushy eyebrows, craggy features, and the pointed somewhat threatening finger that to this day is an American Icon. The rest, as they say, was history.

My wife and I had been watching a special on PBS when the story behind the poster was explained. It gave me an idea. Why not do the same thing using myself as a model for the Speckle Toad Beer ad campaign I was working on? And, if I did, what kind of image would I come up with?

I floated the idea past Michelle. It didn’t take her long to express herself. “You’re nuts, Troy,” she said and popped a kernel of popcorn into her mouth from the bowl we’d been sharing to emphasize her observation. “Completely out of your mind,” she added, grabbing a handful to further her point.

“Why? What’s wrong? I think it’s a great idea.”

She let out a soft belch and looked me right in the eye. Michelle has been teaching third grade at the Orchard Lake Elementary School for fifteen years. She’s good at it. She has a firm but loving hand with the kids, and that makes her popular with both the students and their parents. She also tells it like it is and doesn’t pussy foot around with the truth. “Who would care to see an image of you in an advertisement for beer, Troy? I mean, seriously.”

She chuckled to herself and went back to the popcorn, figuring the argument had been made. Well, in her mind, maybe, but not for this guy. Turns out I should have listened to my smarter-than-me wife.

I’m in my mid-forties and work in the art department for Lavender Hill Design, a well-known upper Midwest firm specializing in advertising work for small businesses. We’ve recently hit it big with the local craft beer industry, and I’ve been one of the leads on the campaign. I’ve been with the company for twenty-two years. Maybe longevity and success had gone to my head, but I proceeded with my plan of using my own image in my ad campaign. In World War I it was I Want You. Now, for my beer ad, I was hoping to come up with something like Speckled Toad Beer Wants You or something like that, for our newest client, with my face serving as the spokesperson.

I took selfies and used them to make some preliminary sketches. Then I used my oil paints to create the perfect image. After a couple of weeks of work, I had my character, The Face of Speckled Beer. It looked great, and the next week I presented it to my design team.

During the entire presentation, I can honestly say that I never heard people laugh so hard. Or so long.

That night I dragged myself home and plunked down on the couch, the same couch a month earlier we’d watched that ill-fated PBS special.

“Bad day at the office, dear?” Michelle asked, sitting next to me and handing me a gin and tonic.

“You might say,” I said, gratefully sipping my drink.

She grinned. “I told you so. Want to tell me what happened?”

I did. I told her I had used my enhanced face and painted myself in a coonskin cap and buckskins like that Davy Crockett character my dad used to watch back in the fifties. Bad move. Hysterical laughter was the order of the day from my team. I had completely blown it.

“When my supervisor could catch her breath and quit laughing, she told me that some goofy-looking guy dressed up in buckskins wasn’t going to cut it. It went downhill from there. The rugged character I’d hoped to portray ended up looking like a toad dressed like a mountain man. I don’t know what was worse, the fact that I’d blown the presentation, or that everyone thought my face looked like an amphibian.” I sighed and leaned back on the couch, “The consensus was that instead of selling beer, it would more likely scare people away.” I looked sheepishly at Michelle. “Back, as they say, to the drawing board.”

Michelle snuggled next to me, “See, you should have listened to me. I really do know what I’m talking about, you know.”

She was right. I don’t know what I’d been thinking. “Yeah, I hear you. I guess I let my ego get in the way,” I sighed a disappointed sigh and sipped my drink, starting to come to grips with the fact that I wasn’t nearly as smart as I thought I was.

“You want to watch some television?” Michelle asked, scanning the channels. Then she stopped and looked at me. “Can we risk it? You’re not going to let some TV show give you any more crazy ideas?

I laughed, “No. I think I’ve learned my lesson. I think I’ll just stick with what I know; art and advertising.”

“Good idea.” It took her less than a second to agree.

She found a program she liked and we watched. It was something to do with a baking show in England. The contestants were trying to win, but they were also actually nice to each other.

Maybe they were on to something. I wondered how the Speckled Toad folks would go for something like: “Speckled Toad beer, a beer that treats you and your friends with kindness.” It had a nice ring to it.

I’ll start working on it tomorrow. This time, though, I’ll keep my face out of it.

editors note:

Everything is derivative: just look in the mirror. ~ Tyler Malone

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