(While on vacation Art Buchwald received limited immunity, and the special prosecutor has allowed him to reprint some of his favorite columns.)

When the president said we all have to bite the bullet on the economy, I immediately went down to my local sporting goods store.

"I would like a bullet, please," I said to the clerk.

"You mean a box of bullets," he corrected me.

"No, just one would be enough."

He looked at me suspiciously. "What kind of bullet do you want?"

"I don't know. Are there different kinds?"

"Of course. What kind of gun do you have?" he asked.

"I don't have a gun," I said.

"Then what do you want a bullet for?"

"I want to bite it," I admitted sheepishly.

The clerk backed away from me, trying to reach a buzzer which I assumed turned on some kind of alarm.

"Don't get frightened," I said. "You see, the president, as part of his economic message, said that every one of us has to bite the bullet or we'll never lick it."

"The bullet?" he asked.

"No, inflation, dummy," I said.

"And he didn't say what caliber bullet he wanted Americans to bite?"

"Not that I know of," I replied. "Does it make a difference?"

"I would think so," the clerk said. "I mean people have different size mouths, and what might be comfortable for you might not necessarily be comfortable for your grocer. Here, try this .22 bullet."

He placed it in my mouth. I bit on it.

"How does that feel?" he asked.

"Not too bad. How does it look?"

"You have the shell casing sticking out. Did the president indicate what part of the bullet he wanted you to bite?"

"Come to think of it, he didn't," I said. "The least he could have done is tell us which end of the bullet we should get our teeth into."

"Maybe he thought everyone in the United States had bitten a bullet before," the clerk suggested.

"He shouldn't take those things for granted," I said.

"Listen, my teeth are starting to hurt. You don't have another kind, do you?"

"We have a soft-nosed lead .38 dumdum, but they're illegal to shoot."

"Are they illegal to bite?"

"I'll have to check that out." The clerk telephoned his superior upstairs. Then he hung up. "My boss said to the best of his knowledge, there is no law against biting a lead bullet, as long as you don't spit it at somebody afterward."

I put it in my mouth.

"It's more comfortable than the .22," I said. "And it has a nice taste to it."

"Would you like to try a .45?" the clerk asked. "It's thicker than a .38 and lasts twice as long."

"No, I think the .38 bullet will do nicely. How much is it?"

"Let's see," the clerk said. "On the box it says the bullets are 4 cents each. But we just got a notice from the manufacturer telling us they now cost 8 cents. Since this was mailed out last week, we have to assume the cost went up another 2 cents. But we don't know what will happen next week, do we?"

I admitted we didn't.

"We'd better add another 4 cents on the bullet just to be safe. Therefore, it will cost you 14 cents."

"That's outrageous!" I said.

The clerk shrugged as he wrote out the sales slip. "Maybe if you bite on it long enough, the price will go down."