The Fragile Wings of a Legacy – a brief tale of historical integrity
Peaches En Randalia #13
I met Mr. Watson at the diner near the school. He chose a booth in the back so we could chat. He had offered a casual get together after Tuesdays class. Apparently, everyone in the class was being advised on how to complete the impending Final. It was due in little over a month. Our discussion, however, would take place outside of the classroom.
We hadnt spoken much to each other. Truth be told, Mr. Watson has said very little to me verbally, but there is present the instinctual common understanding that sometimes passes between two people. I think it helps that Im in my mid-thirties and I had somehow tread the same path, read the same books, listened to the same music…either that or the man is just plain bored if he has succumbed to talking to me. Anyway, he felt that we should slide The Final Essay Discussion into perhaps an outside, more relaxed location. I was eager at first as I always seem to be about new experiences but then near panic set in as the day drew near and I feared that perhaps, quite contrarily, we didnt have much to say to each other. He could just be feigning politeness or even worse, he was going to get back at me for a few of my smart ass comments that I had made during one of his Zen-freeform-mondo obscuro lectures.
There did seem to be a vibe to him that made me feel that I could get away with murder in his class from day one. I guess Im too humble to simply speculate that Mr. Watson believed that I was a kindred soul. He had been teaching for quite a while. Maybe, just maybe, I had touched a nerve. A young, pseudo-beatnik like me had slipped into his literary lions den. I would just have to feel comfortable that when he spoke I truly understood the point or the subtle lack of a point that he was trying to conjure up. At the very least, I felt that I had been incredibly stimulated in his classroom. I wasnt alone in my search for meaning in past events and my quest for a promising future. The lectures in Mr. Watsons class tended to lean towards literature that I had read. Any new things? Yes, of course. However, Mr. Watson expected us to bring some intellectual baggage to his English Composition-Critical Thinking class. He certainly wasnt going to supply knowledge that one hadnt tried to find on ones own. Its the chicken or the egg story: Does he educate us or are we teaching ourselves?
A TRILLION FUCKING LIGHT YEARS AGO>
_ Yes, my child. _
What came firstthe chicken or the egg?
_ Egg. To tell you the truth, I was a little peeved that a chicken came out of it. That’s not what happened in rehearsal. _
I met Mr. Watson at the diner near the school. He chose a booth in the back.
Trouble getting here?
No, I replied.
A booth in the back alright with you?
You live in the City?
Yes, I do. You?
Oh, Mr. Jefferson (laughs), you should know the answer to that one!
Come on. What am…What? Am I on Jeopardy or something?
Where would Mr. Watson live, son?
Uh…the City? A cardboard box in someones backyard? In a dumpster outside the school?
Berkeley, wise guy.
That was my eleventh choice.
Sorry…Im a little slow right now. The bus took forever to get crosstown and Im a little frazzled because I thought Id be late.
Indeed. Good choice: the bus. Try to rely on public transport, my good-natured friend, it is the future.
Ill remember that, Professor.
My names Carl. Carl Watson.
Robert Jefferson. Call me Bob.
I extended my hand for him to shake and he firmly gripped it as the waitress slid two coffees on our table and we picked up our menus and told her to give us a few minutes.
You are the smart ass, arent you?
Yes, I chuckled as I responded. That I am, sir. I sit and daydream as usual
SPOCK: Captain. Jim. Weve altered history by bringing Dr. McCoy.
KIRK: How so, Mr. Spock? Explain.
SPOCK: He got a bit, I believe you humans would call it,tipsy, and started a barroom brawl killing Jesse Ventura.
KIRK: The twentieth century wrestler?
SPOCK: Indeed. He was also the President of the United States.
KIRK: We survived this?
SPOCK: Your species did. Im Vulcan. It didnt impact me.
KIRK: Was he significant? Was he? Spock, I must know. Was he significant?!
SPOCK: Affirmative. He wasat that timesignificant.
KIRK: Then its done.
KIRK: Spock, this is science fiction television. Im the captain of the greatest starship in human history. I get babes throughout the galaxy. I defy death on a weekly basis. Lets see any other mythical hero claim that.
SPOCK: Our options, Captain?
KIRK: Well just go back in time and change the past. Well change it back to the way it was and should be. Fuck it, Spock. Im Captain James T. Kirk.
SPOCK: You go, boy.
KIRK: Beg your pardon, Spock. I didnt quite catch that last comment.
SPOCK: Nothing, sir.
I sat across from Mr. Watson. He ordered some spaghetti with meatballs, a Caesar salad, and a glass of Chianti. The man was predictable but cool. I ordered meatless lasagna, the house salad, and a glass of ice water.
We small talked and suddenly
all the music kicked into my head.
Alright. Lets get some order here.
Mr. Watson eased into his weekly three-hour discussion r.e. life, love of literature, poems, everything under the sun cosmological survey. The class was a microcosm of the differing layers of adulthood: (a) elderly, (b) just-out-of-high school, (c) stoned pseudo-intellectuals who discovered Umberto Eco and didnt know what to make of the belovedly obscure Italian author, and, of course, (d) those that have recently departed from the armed forces, marriages, kitchen, boredom, parental units, employment, society, Panic tour, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
Why was I there? (e).
Two reasons: I didnt want to be a bean counter and I didnt want to work for The Man.
Who is The Man? The bastard that runs the Big Show.
What is The Big Show? The mad dash for currency.
Why is currency important? Because it insures that power stays in ones hands.
What is power? That which controls ones thoughts, actions and environment via conscious elevation of the subconscious intellect to initiate direct acts of disciplined will. Dont go looking that definition up in The New Websters Dictionary of the English Language. Its mine and Im not giving The Man the power any longer to suffocate me.
Alright. Lets get some order here.
Is the Final still due the second to the last week? asked a middle-aged female classmate.
Funny, you should ask that replied our amusingly smug Professor.
Its been cancelled, I cut in. Replaced with a stripper? A film? A night off?
Hardly. Actually, thats not a bad idea. I wouldnt have to read pages and pages of drivel from you would-be philosophers.
Its what you live for, Mr. Watson, I concluded.
That it is, son. Youve got me there. That it is. It is both appropriate and heartening that the infamous Final was brought up in an ill-advisedly courageous attempt to get it postponed ornever going to happencancelled. After a month of careful consideration, Im going to give a very simple yet potent assignment.
There was an unnecessary and typically ballsy pause from the man.
Which is? a young hipster dude pondered.
Your grades on the mid-term should offer the first clue, said Mr. Mysterio Watson.
Look, I said in an attempt at levity, youre taking the moniker Watson too seriously. Were not junior Sherlock Holmes types here. If we have to guess what the Final is going to be, sheesh, I think wed just as soon not do it. Havent we given enough? If you prick us, do we not bleed?
Alright, Mr. Shakespeare. Ill give you another clue: the grades were average at best on the mid-term. I asked all of you to answer the question: The Health of the Nation? I believe the answers were incomplete.
You want us to re-write the mid-terms, said an aging chap, and turn them in for the Final?
We wrote half of a thought on the mid-term. We must now complete that thought or idea, I said in a rare moment of dawning clarity.
Mr. Jefferson, again, you seek the truth and you somehow blunder upon it.
I smirked at such humorous indolence from this bookish shyster, Watson.
Lets get one thing straight. All of you are playing The Scales right now, began Watsons latest lecture to his shining beacons of literary ivory tinklers. When one starts at the piano, one plays what one is taught. Eventually, one must lock the door and play without thinking. Some of the sounds will be out-and-out noise and rubbish. Some of the sounds will be tone-deaf yet humorous asides. But, some of it will be inspired. How does one get inspired? Find an idea, define ones purpose regarding an idea, explore it, nurture it, feed it, clean it, bathe it, live in it, wallow in it, breathe in it, smother it, leave it, abandon it, go in the desert pondering the allegedly betrayed idea, and finally, only after deep deep thought about all interiors, exteriorssubterranean and interstellarfinally, finally, return from the desert. For example, Im trudging along in my life. My parents provide sustenance. My friends offer laughs and mischief. My siblings render equal measures of guidance and insults. I excel in high school. I do intellectual somersaults in collegeso-called higher education. I meet a lady at school. We date. We find common ground. We graduate. We wed. We drop acid. We explore life. We love each other and all living creatures. At that point, I swim in the waters of peaceful contentment. I believe in the Dream. I believe in the American Dream, although, goddamnit, I dont know what that Dream is or what it offers or how much it costs and who paid the price or where it came from or where it is going. But, what the hell? Im happy. I get shipped off to Nam. America is perhaps mortally wounded in this warthis
goddamn war to keep communism from continuing its contamination of our national ideals. We fail. We fail miserably, people. I come back aged twenty-six chronologically, but sixty-six spiritually, and, thirty years later, I learn that some young adults cant even find the fucking place on a map. Why is that? Watson took a long breath before continuing. Thats an inspired idea. I am ready to start the paper.
A dramatic pause ensued that seemed to span three millennia. He mercifully ended the break in communication.
Ill meet with each of you for five minutes tonight to discuss what idea you might want to complete from your mid-term. Mr. Jefferson?
Ill talk with you last.
Heads turned as they zeroed in on me, the anti-hero, the bewildered teachers pet, and the morally reclusive spiritual stepson of the legendary Watson.
I expected no less, I said short-circuiting the silence that hovered over the class like a cloud. What shape was the cloud? How the hell would I know?
Good. Lets begin with Ms. Sanders. Obviously, a brief lecture tonight, my sons and daughters. I hope youre all gratified about that fact.
We all cheered in politeness; although, little did he know that we actually enjoyed his verbal dissertations, but he had a point to be made with each of us on this night. He would illuminate me outside of class on Thursday. Oh, the burden of being the chosen one: the one the teacher wants to carry because the student is inept or confused or troubled or misguided or just too darned pretentious.
You know why I asked you here, Bob. Statement of fact; bold assumption.
I think I do, Mr. Watson, uh, Carl. My paper_The Slobs Inferno_. Incomplete, huh?
An interesting incompletion, however: very interesting beginnings of an idea.
What did you thinkspecifically, Carl?
My lecture on Tuesday should have been clear.
I gathered that you were just trying to generalize about inspiration. Were you referring to my paper in your lecture? That bit about the Vietnam Vet?
That bit about the Vietnam Vet.
Think about that.
I covered it. I said Americans had, uh, something like this: gone around the planet kicking ass for two hundred odd years and we were eventually bound to get our heads handed back to us on a platter.
Is that how you see it?
Whats your point? Im not a goddamn mind reader.
My point, you skinny little shit, is dont write the Vietnam War off as some sort of payback for past ass-whoopings. I lost friends and relatives in that conflict. I was in Nam. _I SAW THE TRUTH, MOTHERFUCKER. _
The entire time Mr. Watson had delivered his diatribe he had sustained a low, firm tone. When he got to I SAW THE TRUTH, MOTHERFUCKER, he had reached an even lower level. In its verbal presentation, those five words had somehow subconsciously been spoken louder than any use of language I ever remember. My senses seem to be very heightened these days. Im not sure how or why, they just are. There was a resonance to his low tone on I SAW THE TRUTH, MOTHERFUCKER that made me shudder for a full four or five seconds; however, the lasting impression lingered for God knows how long.
_I SAW THE TRUTH, MOTHERFUCKER. _
Are you saying that if I wasnt there, I cant relate? Whats the deal with any sort of critical analysis of anything?
He didnt respond after those duel questions. In his silence, Watson spoke volumes from his depth of despair at my inability to get to the truth of his reason for sitting across on a Thursday eve talking to a modern man who missed Vietnam, its point, its impact on the Health of a Nation, and all of what that period of time meant to our societal well-being.
I think that I should do a little more research, I pitched into the black hole of non-communication coming from Watson. That bastard wasnt going to let me up. He had his boot on my mind and he was going to cut all the oxygen off to it if I didnt come up with the right answer. Like I cared. Id been divorced for nearly two years at this point.
That was important to me. Did he know anything about the loss of a mate? Probably.
He was in his fifties. He could have been divorced three or four times by now. A bad defensive tactic on my part. I must think. I should try to parry that I cared deeply about the vet but facts were facts. The deck of cards was stacked against the American soldier long before he got off the plane into Southeast Asia. Bullshit. Fuck Carl Watson. I had a right to my opinion. He SAW THE TRUTH but Im here experiencing my own brand of hell. Im sorry my buddys head aint exploding next to me, too. Ill arrange for that to happen soon. I sound like Thompson now.
Thompson! Thats it. Why did Hunter S. Thompson feel the Death of the American Dream was upon us? I began my litany to hose down Watsons fire. Is that the idea I need to explore? Is that what you want me to say? Explore Vietnam and frame his writings around my opinions? Could that crazy, drug-induced, liquor-reeking madman have hit upon something? Was he the right writer at the right time?
Watson finally broke his code of silence.
You tell me. But, it had better be good.
Alright. Here goes
The contemptible oak tree of a man cut me off.
No. Not here. On your paperthe Final. But, like I said, it had better be good or I will track you down and tear your limbs from that waste of a frame you call a body.
Why? Why go after me? Do you threaten all of your students, you psychotic asshole?
He laughed. I guess after the divorce, I had lost all pretense of fear. It was there, dont get me wrong. I just didnt care about a lot of iggly-niggly details anymore like calling a Vietnam Vet, a trained killer in his heyday, someone I should respect, a psychotic asshole.
He laughed. It reverberated through the diner until our waitress came over and served us more coffee.
Is everything alright? she asked in amusement, although, for all she knew, she probably thought that I had just told some bawdy, foul-mouthed joke.
Yes, said Watson to our waitress as he continued his return to pleasant restrained interplay. Either that or he was waiting until my guard was down so he could stick in the knife. Great. Ive gotten a divorce, almost killed an ex-friend in a car accident, written a critical essay attacking the Church which could deeply offend my poor mother who unconditionally loved both my sister and I, a beautiful, intelligent woman goes out with mealthough, Ive been distant with her perhaps ending her patience with me and now:
Ive pissed off my teacher, a violent homicidal maniac who has his right hand resting gently albeit solidly on his dinner knife. This instrument could terminate my pathetic existence. Good riddance, Bob Jefferson, ungrateful wretch.
Son. Think about what youre writing about. Write it with all the truth in your being. Finally, muster up the courage to stand behind your conviction. I believe in you.
Forget his earlier phrase: _ I SAW THE TRUTH, MOTHERFUCKER_.
I believe in you.
Those are the most profound words I have heard.
Blind faith, eh? I offered to him breaking the awkward bit of closeness between an aging gentleman and a dickweed like me trying to get my act together. Men dont bond in verbal passages. Its the events that cement their relationships. Unfortunately, I clung to this philosophy, an eternal one at that, with my tension-breaking Blind faith, eh? God forbid that a warm moment is exchanged.
Youve written a couple of sentences that ring true, stated Watson with a smile.
Just a couple? I concluded.
Make the Final breathe, son. Hell, do it whenever you feel the vibe. Write what I havent written yet. I experienced those times, but maybe you can shed some light on Thompsons dilemma: Were the sixties the beginning of the beginning for the people in this country or was it the end? Where do you (he pointed at my chest)who follow those eventsfit in?
Ill do my best, sir.
Oh, the fucking pressure. Goddamn class will kill me yet.
_Randy Ray, who is not a fictional character, is in the middle of a third novel and sometimes wishes he was back in the wave of time, in a classroom, tracing the outlines of historical integrity. He stores his work atwww.rmrcompany.blogspot.com. _