Issue 54, Summer 1972
The tail of the cat
Fell into the vat
The tail of the man
Fell into the can
Do these lines perplex? So did your letter. What kind of explanation is this—your “trip to the country”! Doubt may be a good spur to the imagination, but you have abused and me.
You are perhaps weary of my groans; there has, however, been a special disappointment. Yesterday at noon Mr. Hood invited me into his office. He seated me in front of bis vast desk to address me in fatherly, adamantine style. I copped bad news. Sure enough: “...reports from the field...speed-up... expedition advanced to early March....” After these words had burned into my marrow, be added, “You’re the L to be warned, so you can muster your resources. Others who shall be nameless might want to force you out. By the way, I gather you and Dex are friendly again. Ten days ago ’ saw him outside your place. He was talking to a cute little lady in a sari, or whatever it’s called in Siam.”
The office was aglitter with white suits and shoes, and papers flashing among his glamorous male staff. The tumult seemed to enhance the light and perfectness of his eyes.
It shocks me that your letter doesn’t contain one word of apology. (Or mention meeting Hodge.)
When I left, I made the mistake of walking a few blocks to let my blood subside, and so wandered into the cross-city dog race. This event is probably unique in the history of carnivals, and for good reason. It is open not only to greyhounds and other speedy breeds hut to all dogs—the prizes allow for size, age, and weight. The result is twelve hours of pandemonium, aggravated by the many owners who, lest their entries weaken in the way, follow them from Coral Gables to the far side of Venetian Causeway.
I was so preoccupied that not until I was upended by a low flying basset did I realize where I was. Getting up, I was consoled by an unwelcome Samaritan—an affectionate wetsnouted boxer bitch. When I tried to shoo her away, I was accosted by her wroth owner, who yelled at me, turning redder with each stubborn word, “Wh-why are you b-bhothering B-b-b-beya?” (Bayer? Bear? Baby Bear?) At this moment enthusiasts on either side began shouting—“Come on, Apollo 20!” “Get with it, Gabritius!”—thoroughy deafening me. During six volatile seconds I expected Beya’s master to strike me; but he kicked her instead.
The rest of the day was better. There was nobody at the office, and I wrote off a few more maps. The evening stint at the patch passed quickly. I had Chinese ’tweeners across the way, then drove to Haulover Beach Park for the evening show. I arrived well ahead of time. The stage was hare, nearly all the seats empty. A noisy speck appeared in the sky, flickering in the sunset light: a helicopter carrying the set for the performance.
Tobacco, the ballet of the day, was part of a festival series about local products. It was worth the price of admission (actually I had a free ticket.) The scene was the island of Tobago, from which the plant was once thought to derive its name. We saw two Indians perform a pas de deux extolling the magic virtues of the leaf; four priests scatter tobacco shreds to calm wild storms; and seven witches conduct rituals of worship with fumes from wetted clay pipes. Then the corps de ballet, as a crowd of snuff addicts, did an energetic sneezing number, and finally a patriarch gathered young men from all the nations of the earth into a brotherly Smoking Academy. This was unexpectedly moving. A timely Havana- colored moon rose over the beclouded dancers
Diana, my sister, is here on business. She had asked me to ,111 after-dinner party in her hotel suite, to which I went out of politeness, and had a marvelous time. I was the only man there. Although tough as a tank, Diana was almost motherly. She steered me clear of the virginal twists for whom I naturally yearn to a riper triad of sisters named Asham—Marcia, Molly, and Aline, of whom I decided that the first two were sufficient unto the hour. (Aline seemed lion-toothed as well as haired.) Diana somehow depicted me to those girls in irresistible lineaments, and I enjoyed a moment’s adoration. This even helped cure an intolerable boil—but I shall not irritate you with details.
Which reminds me—I haven’t deciphered your Pan phrases. When I first saw them, without translation, I admit I clenched my fits in annoyance. I shall look through your letters for the explanations. Did you really think I would remember all these words?