My dad used to get a catalog from Miles Kimball. Quarter-page size full of miscellaneous things, a grown-up version of the last page in a comic book, the one with the x-ray specs. I think my dad got it because he'd had something for sale in there once.
Here's a real item from the Miles Kimball catalog. It was called the "Vibrating Tingle Bullet," your own personal massager. Relaxing, it said, for those hard-to-reach places, like the back of your neck. There was a line-drawing of a smiling woman holding the Vibrating Tingle Bullet up next to her face. You could buy the regular 8-inch model, or the deluxe 10-inch model. For those really hard-to-reach places.
I saw the same thing once, honest to God and no fooling, on a display table at Montgomery Ward's. Different name, but it was a whole table full of Vibrating Tingle Bullets in boxes. I don't know whether the Ward's people were in on the joke, or so completely clueless that they ordered them as personal massagers. They only had one size, though.
Here are some things that would be for sale in my catalog:
A holy relic necklace. It's a chip of porcelain in a filigreed box, gold or silver, glass front. On a chain so you can wear it around your neck. This is a piece of the True Toilet. The one Elvis died on after eating one of those football-sized peanut butter and bacon sandwiches. At great expense the True Toilet was smuggled out of Graceland by descendants of the Knights of Malta. There was a forklift accident while they were loading it onto the truck, and the holy relic tipped over, dropped four feet to the sidewalk, and smashed into tiny shards.
It's lucky for you, though, because that means we can bring you your very own personal piece at a very reasonable price. It's said that just touching a piece of the True Toilet will cure the tone-deaf, chill the uncool, and put a swivel in the hips of the most hopeless brown-shoed square.
Later there was a big scandal. First, because there were enough pieces of the True Toilet sold that the porcelain could have filled a hotel with full-sized bathtubs. And second, because the experts knew that Elvis didn't die on the actual toilet, but in a big easy chair that he kept in the bathroom.
"But what about the miracles?" people asked.
"Placebo effect," said the scientists and theologians. "Of course it's all ruined now, since the secret is out."
In the next edition of the catalog you can buy a small square of Naugahyde, a piece of the True Easy Chair Elvis died on. It's a little lucky patch you can carry in your wallet or sew onto the elbow of a sweater.
Here's another item from the catalog:
An accordion possessed by the devil. There was a young kid in a lumber camp in Minnesota who challenged the devil to an accordion contest, just like in the song. The devil made a crucial mistake in the da capo in "Lady of Spain," took all the repeats when the rules clearly state that repeats are not to be taken on the D.C.
The devil was disqualified, and the kid got the accordion. But the devil had the last laugh and left it possessed. Now when you play the buttons on the left hand side, you get nothing but diminished chords and tritones, the Interval of the Devil. Whatever melody you try to play in the right hand comes out as "Tubular Bells," "Danse Macabre," and sometimes "A Night on Bald Mountain."
The kid gave it up and devoted the rest of his life to timber-cutting. The accordion sat in the Accordion Museum in Baraboo, Wisconsin, but the night watchman swore that it played tunes all by itself in the middle of the night. Earworms, repetitive things that get stuck in your head—"It's a Small, Small World," "Happy Together," or "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald." The hall always smelled like sulfur in the morning. After a couple of unexplained fires, the museum de-accessioned the possessed accordion into the dumpster, and now we're offering it to the discriminating collector at a very reasonable price.