There were no figs left
in the parlor. Not a single one.
Trentwiler walked through
the entire rectory, trying to find but a single fig, but he came up
empty-handed. “Just my luck,” he said aloud, “just my rotten
He made his way out of
doors and found his sedan parked where he had left it the night
before, although it had changed color from coal-black to a rather
cornflower blue shade with white trim and running boards. Trentwiler
paused a moment. “Damned vandals,” he muttered as he opened the
door and slid in behind the wheel.
Out of the driveway of
the rectory and then down the road he raced, speeding toward the
village. His only thoughts were of figs, which he knew were available
at the greengrocer in Oneonta. Surprises abounded this morning,
however, for as he rounded a bend in the road near the edge of a
trout stream, a young woman appeared, standing ankle-deep in the
water. Her hair was raven, interlaced with a small garland of
flowers, and her eyes wept great drops of crimson, which traced lines
down the milk-white skin of her cheeks.
Trentwiler slowed the
sedan and came to a stop at the edge of the stream. He got out and
walked to the edge of the water. The young woman looked as though
she might have some information regarding figs, but he was
scared to ask. He looked closely at her and suddenly recognized the
mark upon her upper arm.
we, in fact, butterflies?" he asked, "In a dream?”
young woman looked at him deeply. The shadows of oak leaves played
upon the both of them. “Rather,” she said, in a voice so soft,
“ask yourself, my love, 'whether you are not very cruel to have so
entrammelled me, so destroyed my freedom'.”
held up a hand mirror to her face. The both of them turned into
gossamer-winged monarchs, and the hand mirror splashed into the
I looked down into the
little hidey-hole and strained to see if the earlobe-shaped nugget of
glass was still there. Every now and again you find nuggets such as
this in a hidey-hole. I have every reason to believe you know
exactly what I am talking about – don't try to tell me you don't.
Hidey-holes come in all
shapes and sizes. Hidey-holes are often found on the side of small
outcroppings of earth, specifically designed to harbor a hidey-hole.
This one was no different.
I looked in, but I could
not spy the earlobe-shaped nugget of glass. It was a nugget given to
me by my boyhood hero, Great Uncle Adolf. Great Uncle Adolf
collected glass nuggets, and he only rarely shared them with friends,
family, and loved ones. I was apparently quite special, and as a
favored great-nephew, I merited (it seemed) to be given a
particularly heinous nugget. That is what Great Uncle Adolf called
it, anyway – a “heinous nugget.”
I never figured that part
Sometimes, when you are
given a “heinous nugget,” you go about and tell all the world of
your windfall. Other times you are content to keep it to yourself,
take large doses of painkillers, and dance a merry jig in the privacy
of your own home. This had been my habit in the reception of every
other heinous nugget I had been bequeathed – until this
one. When I received the particularly heinous nugget from Great
Uncle Adolf, I immediately went out to the small outcropping of earth
near the truss factory behind my house, located the little
hidey-hole, and placed the nugget there. I pressed my ear to the
soil and listened to the “thrum-thrum-thrum” of the machinery
deep within the bowels of earth mother.
But that was many, many
years ago. And now, lo, these many, many years have passed, and the
machinery deep within her bowels no longer makes the thrumming sound.
My eyes are dim, and my own bowels make powerful churning noises.
The meadowlark has flown well beyond the field of grey and oily corn.
And I cannot locate the
earlobe-shaped nugget of glass. Not a single one of us could, who
had ever been given a “heinous nugget”, and who did not keep it
pressed within our sweaty little palm. When the machinery ceases to
thrum, the hidey-holes no longer give up their treasure.
Now, I would have liked
to think that the old miser, when he died, would have stopped
muttering, but it just wasn't in the cards. Do you know how it is?
An old miser gives up the ghost and just keeps muttering on and on
about whatever it was that he was talking about just before he died.
Yes, that is exactly what happened. I was there. I heard it.
We were taking down the
Kwanzaa bush and Clinton's Comet had just finished streaking across
the sky. Clinton's Comet is not nearly as well known as Halley's
Comet, but it is really well-loved. Clinton's Comet is said to have
a southern accent and a penchant for cigars, blue dresses, and plump
interns (whatever that means). We watched as the comet disappeared
in the western sky, just behind an In-N-Out Burger. People put down
their double-doubles and wept as Clinton went down on the horizon.
We got the Kwanzaa bush
packed into Larry's Pinto and just then this old miser shuffled up to
us, muttering something about textured vegetable protein (we knew he
was a miser by the miser's union identification badge that he wore on
his lanyard. Everyone wears a lanyard these days, don't they?).
Larry offered to buy him a double-double (which contains absolutely
NO textured vegetable protein, incidentally), but the old man shook
his head and just kept muttering. Mutter, mutter, mutter. He
muttered to the left. He muttered to the right. He muttered into
the lapel of his second-hand Brooks Brothers suit. He removed his
set of false teeth for a minute so that he would have an unobstructed
path for swallowing his pride, and when he set the teeth down on the
pavement they kept right on muttering by themselves. Larry expected
them to chatter, he told me later, but they muttered – believe it
Larry and I offered to
give the man a ride somewhere in the Pinto, but he never answered.
He went on to mutter something about the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Larry
looked frustrated and a little perturbed. I was hungry, and got to
thinking about the In-N-Out Burger. The old man was muttering about
the advantages of pomade over hair oil. Then he muttered about
Lyndon Baines Johnson. Then he muttered about Lady Bird Johnson.
Then he muttered about Little Billy Johnson, Lithe Buttercup Johnson,
Lisping Brony Johnson, and the 1963 New York Yankees. It was crazy.
I had said that the old
miser gave up the ghost, and that is true. I made it sound as though
it were a natural death, however. In reality, as the old miser
continued to hold forth and began muttering about commemorative
collectible porcelains, Larry blew a gasket and beat the old man
senseless with a limb that had broken off of the Kwanzaa bush, had
fallen into the gutter, and had gone unnoticed until now.
The bush-limb was made of
light wire, interwoven with prickly plastic threads. It took Larry
nearly a day and a half to beat the old miser to death with such a
soft, light weapon.
Larry stood over the
corpse, breathless. The old miser's teeth went right on muttering
away about the low quality of Kwanzaa bushes these days.
“Come on, Larry,” I
said, motioning to the Pinto. “Let's go get us a double-double.”
Larry just muttered
something about the Battle of Leyte Gulf.