20 Whoopee – the Cushion

In normal circumstances, such as a coronation in Monaco or a gilded yet graceful bow at The Cotillion or, less promisingly but quite fateful, Armageddon, baby Drew would be noticed. But as he approached the counter in the San Anselmo coffee shop, hand in hand with Aunt Kar, he was nary a blip. Monsignor Quinn took note, of course, but his peculiar alertness was induced by guilt. Yet instead of an act of contrition for forgetfulness – Sloth, perhaps, was the subsuming sin – he said, “Oops” and hid behind The Sporting Green. He plotted a way out the side door, by which he would slip over the wood bridge to take the wrong, long route to the Guss house, to appear there in fifteen minutes or so, able to say truthfully that he’d gone the wrong way and was late. As prolegomena to administering the sacrament of baptism, they would be, indeed, facts, if he could sneak by a few tables without the glint of purple silk and the mass of his black robe attracting attention.
For everyone else except the counter person and the barrista, the prevailing attitude made manifest was self-absorption.
Then a lazy fly circled a bicyclist who sat splay-legged at the table nearest baby Drew. The cyclist’s cling-top rivaled the sheen on any number of insects, and while little Andrew took a swing and missed the fly, it would be hard to judge the attempt as inaccurate because to the toddler the images before him were simply fly upon fly. He hit the cyclist in the dawdling posture. The lazy horsefly buzzed away with an aura of complacency. The bicyclist hit the floor.
Baby Drew hopped and, in something of a grace note upon The Madison, bopped, glad to fulfill Granny Guss’s exhortation to “Send ’em a message.”
The sound of the stricken body, the violent sudden contact with the floor, wasn’t Thud or even Oomph; it seemed more like Oomph spelled backwards and enunciated as though at least four syllables; the closest palpable example, air leaking slowly from a flaccid Whoopee Cushion.
“You killed him,” Aunt Kar thought, but didn’t say.
“He’s dead,” stated a laptop peruser, and one of the Plip Plop Coffe Shop’s greybearded habitues. Inconsistency with life somehow had made him look up.
“He’s dead, all right,” Sheriff Keene, off-duty, affirmed.
“Oh! Oh!” were some not incongruous remarks beginning to be heard.
But the Sheriff calmed things down, “That’s okay . . . no harm done.”
It was, in fact, an opportunity for some chat to ensue between tables, that is, between single adults sitting at those tables who might otherwise be chary of conversation.
San Anselmo, while not providing statistics accordingly, is a community of degrees. The meaninglessness of that statement takes a distant second place to the pun pertinent to the percentage of residents with college educations, baccalaureates, masters, and doctors of philosophy, medicine, et al. It’s not far-fetched, then, to imagine that someone would say, “‘He Swung And He Missed’.” “Oh!” from a table within earshot. “Nelson Algren! I love that story!” Then from the prompter, “Oh! I thought I was the only person in San Anselmo who still read him.” “Oh! By no means! At Stanford, I . . .” And on it could go, all the way to the altar, or, if atheists, some ceremony of commitment sans the accoutrements of the opium of the people, to cite Karl again.
In fact, such a conversation did take place over the dead body of the bicyclist, and Monsignor Quinn, proving the adage about taking the boy out the seminary but not the seminary out of the boy, butted in.
“But he didn’t miss!” Oh for those days of disputation! he marveled, sighed, and pined.
He’d put down the newspaper to take up the debate, and so doing made his face plain to Aunt Kar.
She steamed. Another villain vis-a-vis baby Drew’s baptism day. She supposed, with rancor, with cynicism, that welcoming her nephew’s soul into the communion of saints had slipped his mind.
He wasn’t a naughty Monsignor, as Granny Guss dependably called some of his counterparts, but he didn’t have a right to be stacking sacraments. She steamed when she saw a pretty teenage student donating a few squibs of Hawaiian Tropic Suntan #4 Lotion in lieu of consecrated oil for the last rites, and Monsignor accepting with an unctuous, slightly guilty smile.


One Response to “20 Whoopee – the Cushion”

  1. Peter Smith Says:

    All the while the cyclist is just slumped there dead? We must be in the Yew Ess of Ay. No doubt about it.

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