It's simple enough. Twenty-five times one is 25. And half of 25 is 12 1/2. So 25 pounds of sausage at $1.50 a pound should fetch $37.50. This is our annual purchase for our ceremonial flag raising and patriotic breakfast on the Fourth of July when our friends come to assist, and the man selling sausage had said, ''Twenty-five pounds at one-fifty - that's thirty-six-fifty.''
''You're cheating yourself by a dollar,'' I said, and he excused himself to step into the office and bring out his hand-size electronic doohickey which he punched and then said, ''My gorries, you're right!'' Then he said, ''You know - nobody does that nowadays. We just punch this jigger.''
Then it was the next day I paused at the hardware store to philanthropize about a sheet of sandpaper, and the man excused himself in mid-haggle to answer his telephone. I stood there and couldn't help hearing, and he said, ''207636 - 10; 235908 - 18; 307493 - 12 . . . . '' and he ran on with the equivalent of the national debt. He put down the telephone and said, ''My wholesale order - talking to a computer!''
''What did it say?'' I said, and he shrugged. None of which should remind me of the time Everett Towle went down to Long Island Sound, but something must have, because here it is:
Everett was from New Vineyard, and for years was a registered Maine guide in the Rangeley Lakes region. When he took his ''sports'' out to fish, he used the lap-strake, double-ender boat of the region, known as a Rangeley Boat. This had been originated soon after the Civil War by Rufus Crosby, and was ideal for the Rangeley Lakes. Rufus made hundreds of them, and other boat builders made hundreds more, and 'tis said Rufus sold them for $1 a pound. New from his shop with dry lumber and one coat of paint, they ran about $75, and after soaking water and getting new paint summer after summer they would go to a hundredweight or so. The little round seats on the thwarts were sort of a trademark, and there were two rowing stations - one for when a boat had two aboard, and another for three. The Rangeley Boat rowed and handled easily, seldom shipped water, and was as seaworthy as any Grand Banks dory.
Now it was customary after being on the lake for the guide to draw the boat up onto the float or beach, and if it rained during the night a boat would have water in it next morning. One could bail it or tip it to drain, but each Rangeley boat also had a drain hole in the keel at the stern sheets, with a wooden plug - much easier. This plug was inserted from inside the boat, and would be tunked snug with a rock. Sometimes, out on the lake, a plug would work loose, and the sport fishing from the stern would have to put it back, slamming it home with his heel. True anglers concentrate on angling, and a smallish thing like a geyser and a filling boat arouses only momentary concern.
So there was one enthusiastic sport that Everett had guided summer after summer, and when he went home after a happy vacation he would say, ''Now, Everett, if you're down my way - look me up!'' And it happened one year that Everett was down that way, and he did look the man up, and to entertain him the man took him to sail on his splendid yacht out on Long Island Sound.
It was a keen September afternoon, high sky and suitable breeze. Soon, though , Everett noticed a drain plug below deck, and it was leaking. Not critical, but some. Everett looked about, found a hammer, and tunked the plug home.
Nobody had ever told Everett that in saltwater boats it is customary to drive the drain-plug up from below, when the boat is on a cradle ready to be launched. Everett, hammer in hand, watched the plug disappear, and then he saw the Atlantic Ocean come surging at him. Everett bellowed and blatted, and did the good little Dutch boy act with his heel, and when the owner came to see he prudently ran his yacht ashore. On the following low tide a new plug was inserted, and Everett went home to Maine.
It was not Everett, but one of his colleague guides, who went to New York one time and hunted up one of his sports and thus became acquainted with hors d'oeuvres, which he explained to the folks back in Rangeley is French for ''eating between meals.''