Sunday, June 10, 2012

A Brief Museum Tale

Sundays are long and boring, especially when the weather is so unreasonable. The current political scene is even more boring, what with the endless stream of lies and utter nonsense that keeps us from doing anything positive to solve the truly serious problems that confront us. So to bide some time here is another short story for my unfinished, unwanted, unedited, unread, and uncollected volume, "Encounters."

I have found quite remarkable what people will reveal in relaxed or unguarded moments: confessions, stories, admissions, embarrassing moments, pleasant or unpleasant truths, whether meaningful or trivial, shocking or mundane, even criminal. This is especially true, I have found, in the wee hours of morning after all night conversations. Such is this incident related to me when my friend and I shared a motel room because of an unexpected unseasonal blizzard. We had been graduate students together for several years and were now about to complete our degrees. On our way to a convention where we hoped to find employment, we found ourselves temporarily delayed by this unfriendly act of nature. Happily we also shared a bottle of inexpensive but decent Scotch whiskey. I repeat this tale exactly as it was told to me.

“Remember that decrepit old Museum building that housed the Department of Anthropology when we first started graduate school?” my friend began. “It was originally built for the centennial celebration and was never meant to become a permanent part of the campus.”

“Of course I remember it,” I replied. “I remember it very well. It was a terrible old two- story building, flimsy, freezing cold in the winter and unbearably hot in summer. Thank God they finally tore it down.”

“Do you remember the second floor? There was that one huge room where artifacts were displayed, including that gigantic old war canoe.” He poured himself another scotch and water and continued without waiting for me to reply. “A really strange thing happened to me there one day. Something I’ve never told anyone before. You may not believe me, but I swear this is a true story, every word.” He paused for a moment. “I was there by myself studying for an exam one afternoon. You remember there was a table with some chairs where you could sit and read near the window. It was quiet and hardly anyone else was ever there. I remember I was reading Kroeber’s Anthroplogy, a book so boring I sometimes used it as a soporific.” He added, “But that has nothing to do with what happened. Anyway, a girl I had never seen before came in with her books and sat at the table. She wasn’t terribly pretty but kind of cute, more attractive than not. She had a nice body and long blond hair. She opened a book, looked at me, smiled, and said ‘hello.’ I smiled and said hello. We both began to read. I couldn’t resist looking at her from time to time, and I soon noticed she was doing the same. After a short time she came and sat closer to me. She asked if I was a grad student and I allowed as to how I was. It was a warm day. She was wearing one of those flimsy cotton summer dresses and sandals. She leaned over closer to me as if to see what I was reading. It was obvious she wasn’t wearing a bra, and equally obvious she wasn’t interested in Kroeber.” He paused again and smiled. “Well…to make a long story short, one thing led to another. Before I knew it, believe it or not, I was making love with her! In the canoe! It was insane! The doors were not locked, anyone could have come in and found us. It would have been excruciatingly embarrassing, to say the least, probably even the end of my career. But it happened just as I am telling you. Somehow, at the time, it seemed a perfectly natural thing to do. I didn’t know her name and I never saw her again. It was by far the strangest thing that ever happened to me.”

He looked at me expectantly. I said nothing, studying him carefully with newfound interest. He wasn’t very tall, not even of average height. He was slender, slightly round-shouldered, near-sighted, with dark horn-rimmed glasses, and a decidedly asymmetrical face. He had short wavy dark hair and widely spaced bluish-gray eyes. Although far from handsome, yet with a nice complexion and a pleasant smile he was not unattractive. The only word that came to mind as I examined him was “bookish.” He was so obviously an academic, I hesitate to say it, almost a classic “nerd,” he could not have been mistaken for anything else. He was certainly not someone you would expect to have had such an adventure. As he recounted this tale, I am certain it was true, he was not being boastful. He appeared to be both amused and somewhat perplexed by it, with perhaps the slightest hint of pride. We resumed our journey in the morning.

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