Object lesson

John McKay, where are you? Some names are kind of hard to Google, you know.

John was my roommate in my last semester at Penn State; we’d studied abroad in Japan at the same time, though I didn’t get to know him too well then. He was always chasing after one redhead or another. Must be an Irish thing.

Anyway, it was John who first introduced me to the blues –

“Good morning blues, blues how do you do?
Good morning blues, blues how do you do?”
“I’m doin’ all right, baby, how ’bout you?”

– for which I remain eternally grateful.

I was thinking about John yesterday. He was an English major, and for a fiction class he had embroidered a bit on a real character he had met during a summer job at the morgue, a guy named Shorty. I can’t remember whether Shorty starred in a short story, a novella or a full-length novel. Whatever John was working on, it seemed always to take a back seat to the parade of redheads in and out of his bedroom. But I do know that I got into the act myself a couple years later:

Shorty’s Ballad of Unrequited Love

I want to love you slowly sweetly
One spoonful at a time
I want you holy & completely
For no good reason or rhyme

I want your love to refine me
Like sugar from sugarcane
I want you to seal & sign me
Over to a home for the insane

I want to feel your teeth your nails
Your hands around my throat
I want the blues when passion fails
In each pocket of my overcoat

I’ll stand outside convenience stores
In the middle of July
I’ll wave my sleeves like semaphores
Until I learn to fly

And then my sweet I’ll change my name
Bus drivers will call me Bill
I’ll put your face in a pretty frame
Beside my windowsill

So don’t call me unromantic dear
Because I don’t talk nice
It’s really been a frantic year
Since they laid you out on ice

I was reminded of all this yesterday, when some of our hunter friends were giving us an update on the progress of the 2004 deer season. There’s a general paucity of bucks this year, they said, and what few are around are still in full rut, possibly because the weather has stayed so warm.

“You don’t want to get in the way of a buck when he’s chasing a doe,” said Troy. “Ray, down here in Sinking Valley? He shot a doe from his tree stand last week, and when he got over to it there was a big buck working her over. It’s like he didn’t even notice that she was dead! And he would not go away.

“Ray got a friend to help chase him off, then stand by with a loaded rifle while he gutted her out. The whole time, they said that buck was just a few yards away, acting like he was gonna charge. I said to Paula, if that buck had made up his mind to charge, that rifle wouldn’t’a done no good whatsoever. He shoulda just left it alone and come back later. You don’t want to mess with a buck when they’re like that.”

Words to live by.

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