Only in Army barracks do they speak the way Bud Brugh spoke to himself on July 7.

That morning, in a supermarket parking lot near his home in Landover, Bud accidentally dropped his wallet. It contained $82 in cash and a few items identifying him, but nothing else of any value.

Brugh discovered the loss only a few minutes after it occurred. He returned to the parking lot and searched the pavement, but no luck. A few wails, a few curses, and Bud decided to bid "farewell to my $82 with as much grace as possible."

Next morning, the phone rang.

A male voice asked if Bud had lost a wallet. Indeed he had, Bud replied.

Describe the contents, the voice demanded. Reasonable request, Bud thought. He complied.

The voice wanted to know where and when the wallet had been lost. Bud described his July 7 scouring of the parking lot.

Finally, the caller asked if Bud would give him a reward for returning the wallet and contents. Sure, said Bud. How about $20?

Sorry, said Mr. Finder. It would cost Bud half the money in the wallet -- $41.

"What could I do but agree to his terms?" Bud asks. "He kept his bargain and I kept mine. He would not identify himself, and, after all, the loss of $41 is only half as serious as the loss of $82."

Should Bud have agreed to the man's outrageous $41 demand?

If he had a chance to relive the incident, Bud says he would tell the guy to keep all $82. Even though Bud ended up $41 better off than he might have, who needs to feel like an extortion victim?

But to me, the real question is why the guy bothered to return any of the money if he was going to be so rotten about it all.

Did he have to get his kicks by rubbing Bud's face in the episode? Sure sounds like it. What a world.