What is This?

About six months ago, the tunnel courier delivered to me a series of "comedies" written by Ephraim P. Noble from 1968-1974. Maybe there is an older meaning to the word "comedies" that I'm not familiar with, because they seem nothing like comedies to me. In any case, I have scanned the covers of each of these very short stories, and hope to post them here on a regular basis.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Bad Year

"A Bad Year"

1970 was a bad year. Very bad.

I had been fired by Penn State, and lost my bird.

In a complete act of madness and revenge at everybody, I decided to dress up as an old hunchback with a vulture on his shoulder. The vulture part was easy: the Chair of the Department of English at Penn State had a thing for stuffed birds and rodents, and on the day I was “released” I took it upon myself to steal his stuffed vulture.

It sat right there on his desk, like some sort of cruel warning, and it was easy to take. At home that night, I made the hunchback out of several loosely filled water balloons that the old lady across the hall who always went bare-foot duck-taped to my back. The balloons sort of moved and grooved as I walked. I put on a big overcoat, and for a bottle of vodka the old lady then sewed the vulture onto the shoulder. She sewed it really well, so even in a gust of wind the bird wouldn’t fly off.

This was September, or October. Late at night, you could almost hear the bombing over in Vietnam.

I was a regular Quasimodo, except I had the vulture.

I went out at dusk, in my disguise, and headed up toward the University president’s house. I developed a limp, or a gait. I kept my head down. People stopped and looked, and some cars honked their horns. Some kid threw a bottle at me. But mostly people steered clear.

As I approached the president’s house near the center of campus—I believe his name was Dr. Tremone Atkinson—the security guards walked nonchalantly down the gothic front steps, as if they had seen something like this every day, and without a word, began frisk me.

The thing was: it wasn’t my coat. It had hung in the apartment closet, left over from the previous tenant, ever since I moved in. I had never touched it before. It wasn’t my size.

The bald one padded me down, and then stopped suddenly, locking his eyes onto mine, reaching into the inside pocket, and removing a gun. It looked fake to me, but how was I to know?

I immediately turned and ran, the water balloons shaking like mad, the vulture on my shoulder bobbing back and forth, but hanging on. The old lady had done a good job. I ducked down one alley, and then another, then bolted through a fraternity house, then through an open door in an abandoned glass-blowing warehouse, where I waited.

They never caught me.

In a sense, I’m still waiting.

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