I was rooting around in my file cabinet, looking for some piece of prose about Wendy that I had written during the Pliocene or the Pleistocene, and I came across this crease pattern. I remember drawing it — it was probably for Imagiro, an APA I belonged to, once upon a time. The model itself took a bit more remembering.
It was early spring in 1986 and I was hitching back to the valley from Pittsfield, where I had been visiting the not-yet missus oschene. Someone had dropped me off on Route 9 in Cummington and I was getting nowhere very quickly. It wasn’t especially cold, but the shoulder I was standing on was at the foot of an abandoned ski trail and banks of ice fog kept rolling down over me. Miserable. Moreover, I was reading the Pardoner’s Prologue and Tale, a story not calculated to warm the cockles of your heart. The Pardoner kept making references to a dice game called hasard. Checking the notes in my ancient Riverside Chaucer, I realized the rules that the editor described so minutely were for a game I knew quite well — craps.
This got me to remembering how I had once taught craps to the kids at a reform school where I had been working. My idea had been to teach them how to count and add numbers in their heads, something they were pretty bad at. It worked well — once they got the counting and adding, I started teaching them the odds for the combinations. But soon, the little monsters were gambling away their allowances and the resulting economic disturbance led to swearing and fighting and all manner of bad things. Got me in some serious Dutch with the administration. Gambling is not a vice that I have ever found the least bit tempting and I have difficulty remembering that other people are not built the same way. It’s not that I’m at all averse to taking stupid chances — I just never do so for money.
So, I’m on the shoulder, thinking about the dicing urchins at the reform school and hasarding rioters in the Pardoner’s Tale, shivering like a mad thing in the ice fog, and this red muscle car pulls up. Guy says, jump in, I’m in a rush. So, I do. He’s wearing red jeans and a red shirt and a red scarf. Long blond hair and mirrored sunglasses. He’s got the stereo turned up to eleven and he’s pounding out the bassline on the dashboard. He’s doing ninety in places where you can’t do forty and passing cars on both sides. He yells over the music, Sorry, man, I’m really running late.
I asked him what he did for a living — always good policy to make nice chat when you’re riding with maniacs. Lead singer for Molly Hatchet — you like our stuff? Um, I said, Flirtin’ with Disaster? That was the only song of theirs I knew — never was much of a metalhead. And I realized that Flirtin’ with Disaster was the song on the stereo. That’s right! he yelled, Got to beef this mother up! Can’t tour with it like this!
I was after thinking, if I’m fated to die in such a grotesquely clichéd manner, why with this guy? Why not with Bruce or Graham Parker or Joe Strummer? The lead singer of Molly friggin’ Hatchet, so banal.
It’s twenty miles from Cummington to Northampton and should take you about forty minutes, the road being more than a little twisty. Took us seventeen. My feelings on getting out of the car were those of surprise at being alive and disgust, both at my manifest lack of judgment and at this eejit’s reason for speeding — he was late for a hair appointment. I got on a B43 bus for school, put some Stones on my Walkman® and finished my reading. Then, I folded this model.
It’s all an illusion, of course — adrenalin breakdown products in the blood can give you a very profound sense of thematic connectedness. It is best to have a quiet beer and to ignore such mystical atmospherics. Still and all, no sin, no death; no death, no art.
Rock and roll!