Issue 52, Summer 1971
They have caught the sulfuric acid fiend, whose last target was our drinking fountains.
There is, for me, even better news. (“Black oxen cannot tread on my feet forever.”) Mr. Hodge has proposed me for the Knights of the Spindle.
The Knights are the most exclusive club in Florida, with an unvarying membership of sixty-six. It is extraordinary proof of Mr. Hodge’s influence to have secured my nomination. When he told me of it, I protested that I did not deserve it; he refused to listen. “You can’t knock me. You’re a good man.” My protests weren’t entirely honest—he might have been playing a painful joke. But he confirmed my eligibility by presenting me with an angel-noble of ruddy luster, suggesting that I cure my stye in time for the initiation. Did you see that a new six-pointed star was discovered at die Miami observatory? Appropriately, it lies within the confines of Moses’ Basket.
Today, as I walked along a street in the faubourgs, a van came squealing round the corner, the sun blazing on its windshield and I suppose in the driver’s eyes. It was an apple van, full of “manducation apples.” Have I told you about them? They are a fruit of resilient texture, specially developed to teach infants how to chew, and they’ve boomed. One cannot visit the supermarket without hearing a number of mothers, any number of grandmothers, and innumerable greatgrandmothers raving about them. But no one remembers that the practice was originally Pannamese. I’ve forgotten your fruit—doesn’t it mean “bone mango?
This happened around noon. It must be noon in Florence —no, midnight. Twang, when shall we once again watch chameleons puffing on a sunny tree? Dan is throwing a party here this evening. He wasn’t able to use his own place because he’s in flight from his next-to-last twist (I never met her.) There is no peace for me here. My walls are gauze-thin, the roar of wassail penetrates them as if they were imaginary. Perhaps my last sentences give the impression that the part}has already begun. It’s a pleasant idea. I would like to he writing you in solitude while my friends and others wildly celebrate a room-and-a-half away. And when the party does start I may not actively participate. My recent high life has exacted its price, diarrhea, so tonight perhaps I’ll withdraw to this desk, and gazing under my bright little lamp at your last, tender, undated letter, commune with you over rice and tea. My loveliest one, let us always be shrines to each other, consecrated to faith and confidence! Thanks to you, I count myself among the “little remainder” of the saved. Damn this party and this life of waiting! Cleaning up will be the worst. I remember that after one of Dan’s revels the scraps filled seven garbage baskets, bodies excluded. Speaking of which, Grace has a date with “someone new” tonight and plans to bring him. She’ll go on carping about you nonetheless.
I can’t send you money with this letter because my checkbook is all stubs, but Monday I’ll get a new one. Oops—the debit and credit columns are exactly even. But that’s all right. Mr. Hodge today gave me some tips on the hounds, and since bookmakers know no Sundays, I’ll collect tomorrow.
I forgot about the apple van. Not that it was interesting, only scary. I had gone out to Dalmanutha to see the green lion, famous to readers of “Believe it or not.” As I said, the fellow was dazzled as he rounded the comer, and he veered onto the sidewalk, missing me by one micro-inch. Limp with shock, I sat down on the pavement. The anxious driver jumped from the cab. It was the long-haired right fielder of the Cannon team. I assured him between wheezes that I was unharmed. He trembled silently, then declared, laboring each syllable, “My name is Hyperion Scarparo,” and gave me an apple.