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Two thirtyish men are sitting side by side on the northbound Ravenswood el.

"I'm ready to put money on this," one says. "I'll buy you a plane ticket to Switzerland if you paint a painting of a bear and a carrot."

"A bear and a carrot, huh. I could do that."

"It's no risk to you--just give me the painting, and I'll buy you the ticket. I know I can sell a picture of a bear and a carrot. I bet I'll even make a profit."

"Just so I know what you think my work's worth, how much is a ticket to Switzerland?"

"In the off-season, around $600."

"How big a painting?"

"About that big." He points to a poster.

"That's about 20-by-20. But it will be really detailed, OK?"

"Yes, detailed is good. Maybe more than one carrot."

"I don't really know bears. I'll have to get an encyclopedia with a picture. What color should the bear be? Like coffee or maple syrup?"

"Oh, maple syrup, definitely."

"Hey, how about a painting of a whole bunch of bears, and a huge pile of carrots? I mean lots of 'em!"

"Oh, man, that'd be great!"

--Ann Wiens

Reader to Reader welcomes (and pays for) anecdotes, overheard conversations, and slices of city life from 20 to 200 words in length. Send yours to Reader to Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611, or E-mail to R2R@chireader.com.

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