Maps in a mirror, p.103

Maps in a Mirror, page 103

 

Maps in a Mirror
 



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  Up comes young Verily Cooper, shy and smilin.

  “Are you the one that they call by the name of Alvin?”

  “There’s many who’s called that name. And who are you?”

  “I’m a man who wants to learn what you know of makin.

  They call me Verily Cooper, I work in staves,

  I join them watertight, each edge so true,

  But never a keg I made that was proof from leakin

  Or safe from breakin.”

  Alvin answers, “What do I know of barrels?”

  Verily says, “And what did you know of plows?”

  And Alvin laughs, and he says, “Ain’t you a marvel,”

  And up he hops and gives his hand a shake.

  “Verily Cooper, there’s things in a man that shows,

  And here at the river’s edge we’ll plow the earth

  And together make whatever we fix to make

  And be the midwives at the barley’s birth

  And weigh our worth.”

  So they cut an oak and together hewed the wood

  To make the plowframe strong and slow of flex,

  And they set the plow in place and bound it good

  And never mind a halter for an ox,

  For this was a livin plow, of tremblin gold.

  And when the work was done, they marked their field,

  And side by side they reached and took ahold,

  And the plow, it leaped, it plunged, it played like a child

  So free and wild.

  Verily and Alvin, they hung on;

  There wasn’t a hope of guidin the plow along.

  It was all they could do to keep it to the land;

  Other than that they couldn’t do a thing.

  And at last, with bleedin blisters on their hands,

  With arms gone weak and legs too beat to run,

  They tripped and fell together on the dirt.

  Aside from the blisters, the only thing much hurt

  Was Alvin’s shirt.

  They look, and there’s the plow, still as you please,

  Gleamin in the sunlight. “How’d it stop?”

  Asks Alvin. Verily, he thinks he sees

  The truth. He touches the plow, it gives a hop;

  He takes his hand away, and it sets right down.

  “It’s us that makes it go,” he says, and he grins.

  Now Alvin laughs, a-settin on the ground:

  “Maybe it goes a little widdershins,

  But it gets around!”

  And as they sat there, hollerin and whoopin,

  Out come the farmer folk who lived nearby,

  To find out what had caused the fog to fly—

  And at the same time do a little snoopin.

  They saw that the furrow went all anyhow,

  And they said, “If you think that’s plowin, boys, you’re daft!

  Straight as an arrow, that’s how a plow should go!”

  And the farmers mocked—oh, how the farmers laughed

  At that no-good plow.

  That sobered Alvin up, and Verily frowned.

  “Don’t you see that the plow, it cut the earth alone?

  We got no ox, we got no horse around!

  The plow’s alive, and we’ll tell you how it’s done!”

  But the farmers went their way, still mirthful merry,

  For they had nothin to learn from any fellow

  As young and ignorant as Al or Verry.

  And the plow just sat at the head of its crooked furrow,

  Hot and yellow.

  The rest of the tale—how they looked for the crystal city,

  How they crept to the dangerous heart of the holy hill,

  How they broke the cage of the girl who sang for rain,

  How they built the city of light from water and blood—

  Others have told that tale, and told it good.

  And besides, the girl you’re with is cruel and pretty,

  And the boy you’re settin by has a mischievous will.

  There’s better things to do than hear me again,

  So go on home.

  MALPRACTICE

  Went to Doc today for checkup and got the ole kickinthepants routine about losing weight but theres more. My chest was flabby like normal but he found a scar where there shouldnt be one. I couldn’t remember having anything done there. Only operation in last six months was in Tulsa, Okl, where I was supposed to have my arm set. (Broke it riding a stupid horse, never get me on one of those things again.) So Doc made me lie down and go to sleep, did an exploratory on the spot (miracles of modern medicine) and he asked me when I came out of it why the hell did I have a heart transplant?

  So who had a heart transplant?

  Somebodys been mucking around in my body and when I find out who hes going to eat that horse that crammed me into the tree and hes going to eat everything that horse has produced in the last six years. Doc says its obviously somebody elses tissue and even though the operation was neat it looked hurried, some of the laser sutures look as bad as if theyd been done with catgut like a few hundred years ago. Nothing wrong, he says, but pretty ragged. As if it mattered how ragged it is with somebody elses stupid heart pumping my blood.

  Consolation prize: Doc says its an OK heart, except for a murmur, which he says wont cause me any trouble but if it stops murmuring and starts yelling I should drink nitroglycerin or something.

  Why would somebody stick a different heart in me? My old one may have skipped a beat now and then (Ah, Marilyn!) but it ticked OK and it was mine and I was kind of attached to it (Ha ho).

  So I thought back to when since my last checkup I had been out anywhere near a loose scalpel and the only time I’ve been gassed that I know of was in Tulsa with my arm. I asked Doc, he said maybe it could have been done then but the guy wouldve had to be pretty fast. And the spare pieces wouldve had to be pretty handy.

  So tomorrow Im flying to Tulsa and Im madder than hades (once every third profanity I use a euphemism to keep in practice for the Daily Noose, which is “a family paper”) the hospital there had better be on there toes since I plan to do some onthespot transplants of heads and arms and other appendages when I find out what and who did what was done and why. Goodnight, dear diary.

  AUGUST 3

  As long as Im writing this thing might as well be accurate and put in the good old 5Ws. Im in a plane and Tulsa is sliding forward to meet me and I thought Id fill in some details.

  I read yesterday’s stuff and it sure looks like a rough draft. But thats what it is. For the Noose they pay a guy who can spell to fix my stuff and they pay him half what they pay me, for the very good reason that he may know how to spell but I know how to write, which is worth more.

  Name: (love those little colons) Frank Mabey as in perhaps but the ys at the end.

  Ocction: Journalist which means I can write better than the president but not as good as Van Clapper which is fine because what the hell would I do with all that excess money the old man’s got.

  Temperament: Mad as heck.

  Reason for writing this stupid diary: Every boy should keep a journal. I somehow dont feel like telling anybody that Ive got the wrong pump. Might suspect something else is transplanted, too, and Id just as soon avoid speculation. Id tell my sweet loving X only X doesn’t give a damn which is fine, because I dont want any of her lousy used damns anyway. Darns. Got to keep up those euphs.

  August 3 cont. (tune in next week, same time, ect.)

  Went to Tulsa Center for Medical Treatment (everythings a center. someday Im going to build a building and call it the Indianapolis Edge for Journalistic Somethin-gorother) the guy who did my arm has retired. In fact, the day he did my arm was the last day he worked at the hospital, which is lucky on the next days patients but pretty tough on me. He put in a hard day that last day. Got a list of 12 opers the guy did (his name is Hyman Maier—he must be a Baptist. Ha ho).

  :(love those colons)

  Amos N. Ditweiler


  Ronald Smith

  Joann Capel

  Morris Major

  Scott Peterson

  Valery Van Vleet (geez, the things some parents do to there kids)

  R.R. Trane (I hope to hell his name isnt Rail Road)

  Bartholomew (Ha ho) Biscuit (actually Bascom, but the name biscuit occurred to me and Im compulsive)

  Wanda Bath (Im not making this up, folks)

  John Jorgenson (back to the relms of the ordinary)

  William E. Jagger

  Mark Muse

  The reason for this list, dear diary, is that I dont want the names left around on any scraps of paper and you, dear diary, never leave my side. These people who were operated on were all in for relatively minor operations but for some reason which the hospital people do not pretend to fathom he used total anaesthetic on everybody. The guy I talked to looked at the records and said, (I quote) “Why did he put you under total for an arm?” Im supposed to know this? Im the doctor? What do I tell him, he put me under total because he had a spare heart he wanted to find a home for. And I looked warm and loving and not the romantic type—heart unlikely to get broken. So much for you, X.

  So heres my whole sweet lead on the guy. Hes a doctor, pretty good, only he retired (he wasn’t all that old) and left no address, didnt even pick up his last check and his lawyer paid his bills. Ordinary guy, no wife (died, I should have been so lucky, widowers dont pay alimony) one kid, works in an ad agency in NY nobody knows where nobody knows his name. And Maier (the doctor who retreaded my radial) was a GD. Which I think is appropriate.

  GD, dear stupid diary (must assume diary is stupid for the sake of clarity) stands for Gods Deliverance, the church that believes god is reincarnated every twenty years or something, there prophet got zapped in Denver by a pervert with a laser meatcleaver (some tight security there, folks, those things weight thirty pounds and you just dont stick em under your jacket), and the girls all wear long hair or short hair or something so they look alike. This is Frank Mabey, journalist, speaking. You can tell by the preceision of my data.

  In other words, I have a choice to find Maier. I can look through the whole GD church.

  Oh, theres another choice. I can forget it and just take my pulse a lot.

  AUGUST 4

  Whee. Its back to the whole world. The GD church keeps no membership records, on purpose because then somebody might try to do them harm. Not a bad idea, because the guy looked like he was going to be helpful till I said Hyman Maiers name and then suddenly Im a communist and he gets slanty eyes just looking at me. My heart feels funny. Not the murmur, its kind of a pleasant lullaby at night. I just feel it, thats all, and Ive never felt my heart before. Come to think of it, Im not feeling my heart now!

  AUGUST 11

  I mustve decided to forget it because I havent done anything for a few days now, only Doc called today and theres something more and now Ive gotta find that bastard Maier and find out what the hells going on. Found thee, dear diary, because we are back on the trail. The boss asked me what I was investigating today. Told him “heart throbs” (ha ho, laughaminute).

  News from Doc—pictures show something funny about the heart, he wants to open me up again. Good thing my insurance covers everything. I think Im becoming Docs hobby.

  AUGUST 13

  My heart is growing. Good news, huh? The ragged edges were not all sloppy surgery, they were heart tissue overgrowing the sutures, which means that the new heart is taking over (welcome to Latin America, heart, time for a coup). My aorta is two inches new tissue, with a whole new genetic pattern. And the veins to my lungs are completely new tissue. What scares Doc most, besides the fact that hes never seen this happen before, is that the new tissue is moving into the lungs. Why would heart tissue take over the lungs? Only its changing from heart tissue into lung tissue, and Doc says it seems to be progressing faster.

  Whatever kind of heart this Maier stuck into me, it thinks that it got a body transplant. I wish to persuade it otherwise, but Doc says what is he supposed to do, give me a third heart? Generally frowned on, and the new thingamajobby (more than a heart now) isn’t doing any harm. Replacing it would be cosmetic surgery. Which my wonderful policy dont cover, mine friend.

  Why oh why did I ride that horse? Why did I go to the Tulsa Center for Medical Treatment? Why was I born? (This last, dear diary, is mock despair, lest you think Im becoming desperate. I am, but think it not.)

  AUGUST 17

  The GD church doesn’t like me, which is mutual. Not only that, but Im pretty sure theyve got a tail on me, in the form of a very nice looking girl who could probably kill me with one hand (she looks mean) and who isnt very good at hiding. In fact, I think maybe there not worried about whether I know their tailing me or not. Maybe they want me to know. Maybe she isnt tailing me. Maybe she thinks Im a male prostitute. Here the speculation is more fun than finding the facts, because there jes ain no facks to fine.

  AUGUST 18

  Visiting my fellow operatees, the ones on my list. Amos N. Ditweiler is on a business trip, Ronald Smith was killed in a car accident (waste of good operation, there, Maier, what did you give him an elbow?), Joann Capel was home but refuses to show me her scar (and slammed the door when I told her I really had to see it) which is understandable considering the operation she was in the hospital to get, Morris Major wants me to go to hell. Thos are all the ones who live right in Tulsa that I was able to talk to. Good days work. Morris looks like Maier gave him a new nose. Without removing the old one.

  AUGUST 19

  Id rather be selling fuller brushes. These people are more than rude. There nasty. Scott Peterson is a fag with a fat giant for a girlfriend, and even though Peterson didnt scare me, when his girlfriend told me to scram, I scrum. Valery Van Vleets mother thought I was a child molester (shes 11) and so I cant see her. R. R. Tranes name is not Rail Road, its Robin Rex, and Id go by R. R. too. But Trane did admit that he had an operation, which was for gall bladder, but thereve been no complications and no extra scars. Heres my guess—he got a new gall bladder and doesn’t know it. Or was I the only lucky transplantee?

  But, dear diary, we hit paydirt with Bartholomew Biscuit (nee bascom) who viewed me with suspicion but when I told him my sad story got a worried look and told me that hes been really worried because he had his lungs cleaned out (a smoker, filthy habit) only there are scars on both sides of his chest and the anticancer operation is supposed to be done through the throat. What is more (and this interests me a lot) he has noticed that his scars are actually getting wider, and the skin of his scars is white (he is black), which makes him suspicious that somethings a little bit wrong. He promises to call me. Oh, he also said the new skin is hairy. I inspected my scars for hair today. None, so far, that werent already mine. I hope.

  August 20 in the wee small hours

  Met my tailer from the GDs tonight, we had dinner. She is a tailer from the GDs, admits it cheerfully, but she says shes only there to protect me. Sweet. I offered her five hundred dollars to protect somebody else, but she only smiled and told me to go to hell. I asked her if shed follow me there and she said “anywhere” so I went to my apartment. No dice, GDs believe in virginity for single women, she has the apartment next to mine and told me that she is bugging my room for sound. Nice of her to be so frank. Im Frank too (ha ho) and I told her that she was bugging me too. She said sorry. I said a word that the Noose would replace with a euphemism. She slapped me (do women still slap men for being obscene? X slapped, but it was for kind of the opposite reason) and we went to bed, in different rooms thank heaven, except that heaven is on the GDs side.

  Maier was a GD. This girl (Myrel Merle Murl Mirl Mural who knows how anybody spells a weird name like that?) is also a GD. My heart seems to be on their side too. And one (just one, but hes the only one who really talked) of the other operees has weird things happening to him too. I think Im onto something and it aint peaknuckle.

  August 20 in the evening after four hours of sleep and a hard
days work.

  Wanda Bath doesn’t.

  John Jorgenson is an ad executive and his operation was a very personal one because he is middle-aged and middle-aged people tend to think such operations are very personal. But he, too, for reasons he refuses to describe, is also worried. I urged him to see his doctor, he said he would, and said he would tell me if there was anything unusual. William E. Jagger lives in Sacramento. Mark Muse is a talking aardvark, Ive never seen such a repulsive person, why didn’t Maier transplant his head? His operation was to remove a bunion—total anaesthetic, for petes sake, Im going to sue the hospital, they let any nut stick any patient under anaesthetic and nobody even asks questions. His bunion is all better. He also has a scar on his throat and when I asked about it he said “what scar” got a mirror and by gum, he had a scar, hed have to check into that, by gum, by gum. So by gum he says hell call me if theres anything to call me about.

  Ditweilers back from his trip, I have an appointment tomorrow, but I think I wont bother. Hes the kind who strings investigative reporters on for months without a word, probably thinks Im going to pry into his affairs. Who gives a darn (euph) about his affairs?

  August 21 at four a.m. which is grounds for murdering Doc for his phonecall this morning but hes scared and so am I. There is no medical way that what is happening to me could be happening to me. He checked the genetic type, says that with our limited knowledge of genetics exact identification is impossible but the person whose heart I have was male (thank you), had brown hair, white skin, blue or green eyes, and is of medium height barring pituitary problems. That narrows it down to a fifth of the world. Whee.

  At least its proof that the heart isnt mine, since Im tall, blond, have brown eyes, though I am male and white, excluding me from any of the attractive minorities. I always wanted to be an indian when I was a kid only I couldn’t get into a tribe without a reservation (Ha ho).

  August 21 in the evening dear diary, why am I even bothering to write to you, when there is a communist plot to take over my body?

 

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