Tuesday, August 21, 2012
A Memory Better Forgotten ... Or Maybe Not?
But it's not always thus, is it?
To illustrate, I take you back to the spring of 1965 (or so). I was attending Hiram College, living in Whitcomb Hall. And while I'm at it--let's not forget how meanly we all lived in college dorms in the 1960s! Our room (307) had two beds, two (cheap) desks, two (hard) chairs, two (small) closets. That was it. Once a week--if we remembered--we could trade one bedsheet for a freshly laundered one. Anything else in the rooms came from home. We added a record player and two manual portable typewriters. A couple of clock radios. That was it for technology.
So, perhaps, the meanness of my living conditions caused me to behave the way I did. Environment trumping all.
We also had another living thing in the room. A little painted turtle. I cannot remember where it came from, honestly (and this posting is redolent of nothing but honesty). But it lived in a little fishbowl cum terrarium that sat atop my dresser. (So does this mean he/she was mine? I honestly do not remember.)
My roommate (notice I haven't named him--for two reasons: one, I want to protect his rights; two, I don't want him to contradict any of the truths herein) and I had settled upon a name--not a nice name. The sort of name that two adolescent males could summon from the fetid swamp of their imaginations. It is a name I cannot actually tell you, not in a Family Blog like this one. But I can sort of suggest it with another, vaguely similar name. We called him Little Feather-Merchant. (Actually, this substitute name is not all that good a hint, is it? Let's just say that "Little" was actually part of his name and that what followed was another compound word, the latter of which ended in -er ... nuff said?)
Well, one dull evening--an evening after the girls were back in their dorms (9:30 for frosh, 11 for upperclasswomen)--I was not yet "ready" to commence reading and writing and studying. You know ... But the hot-pot was bubbling away and would soon be ready to pour its boiling contents into our cups to animate the brown crystals of caffeine that would motivate us for the rest of the night.
So how did it start? Were we for some reason talking about lobsters? How quickly they cook when dropped into boiling water? (At that point in my life, I'd not yet eaten any lobster.) And do they feel pain? You know, the sorts of conversation that occasionally arise during lulls in the otherwise unrelieved cerebral colloquy characteristic of a college men's dorm room.
Well someone--surely not I!--wondered what would happen if we were to drop Little Feather-Merchant (LFM henceforward) in the hot-pot.
Feeling scientifically curious, I said I would do it.
Others suggested--in the ways familiar to those knowledgeable about male adolescent intercourse--that I would not do it. (Chicken is among the gentler terms hurled at me.)
I announced that I would do it precisely at midnight.
Word flew around the floor--indeed, the whole dorm. And by 11:55 our room was packed with the curious and the sadistic. Among them was Denny, a mesomorphic lineman on the mighty Terrier football team.
Midnight ... when churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out contagion to this world ... you know. Not willing to drink hot blood, I instead picked up LFM and held him over the pot now boiling like, oh, the witches' cauldron in Macbeth.
There may have been some chanting. Drop him! Drop him! Drop him!
I heard the midnight chiming from the college clock.
And then ...
Do I dare make you wait till tomorrow to find out? No, I'll tell you now ...
I couldn't do it. Couldn't drop him.
I put him back in his bowl while disappointed undergrads filed out, many leaving behind them some unhappy words about my virility, my family history, my resemblance to certain of my own body parts. You know ...
The last to leave ... Denny, the mesomorphic lineman on the mighty Terrier football team.
Dyer, it's a good thing you didn't drop that turtle in that water.
Why's that? I asked.
I woulda beat the shit out of you, right in your own dorm room. He was smiling, but it was the sort of smile you see on a tiger in a zoo--the sort of smile that says, Yes, you're safe right now, out there, but ...
I don't remember what happened to LFM. I hope I took him down to Matty's Pond nearby and released him into the warmth of some childless painted turtle family; I hope he grew into a solid, responsible, moral adult who would never even consider dropping a human into a vat of boiling oil.