Last year I cajoled Emily Dickinson out of the house for Take Your Poet to Work Day. I
forgot failed to tell her I wasn’t really going to work that day but that we were going on vacation, and she was going to meet a lot of new people and have a boatload of fun.
The whole deal pretty much traumatized her, I’m afraid, and as far as I know, she’s still in hiding. I can’t find her anywhere.
This year the day, July 16, fell again during Alpenfest–the 50th celebration, in fact. And since T.S. Eliot and I have been having this affair as the result of a double-dog dare, I figured he was the best choice to come along with me. We found costumes for him and Griddlebone and made a list of who we might see and what we might do.
We had to leave the day before in order to attend the queen’s pageant where we
old well-seasoned past queens had been invited to wear our crowns (if we still had them) and say a few words.
Tom did enjoy watching all the girls perform and seeing our friend, Lauren, crowned. He laughed at Herr Gessler and his demand that everyone bow down to his hat and how he was chased away by the singing of Edelweiss.
But when the Boog, tummy tucked with all our troubles, went up in flames, and when the smoke licked its tongue into the corners of the [cold] evening, and when firemen sprayed the sky’s ash before it fell on an old man’s sleeve (or mine), he went and got all serious on us and started mumbling stuff about fire.
The chill ascends from feet to knees,
The fever sings in mental wires
If to be warmed, then I must freeze
And quake in frigid purgatorial fires
Of which the flame is roses, and the smoke is briars.
The only hope, or else despair
Lies in the choice of pyre or pyre–
To be redeemed from fire by fire.
“And all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well,” he went on.
Oh, just find a still point, Tom.
We dragged him away from that place, stopped on the way to the car for an elephant ear and a cup of coffee–except that set him to measuring out more of his life.
Clearly, he needed to lighten up.
We took him home and tucked him to sleep between the pages of the program so he could dream of the next day’s fun–the world’s largest coffee break, the ladies ankle and men’s knee contests, goldfish, Pontresina soup, and restless hearts.
The next morning we had a serious conversation about having fun. “I’ll try,” he promised. (My mother hated that statement. In fact, those were fighting words. But that’s a story for another time.)
Tom got into the swing of things with the Young Americans and even tried to bust some YMCA moves.
Then we took him over to hang out for awhile with Roscoe the clown where he learned to make balloon dogs and shout random things like “Everybody in the pool!” I had to run to the restroom, and when I got back I heard him tease, “Want a free shake?” When a crowd rushed him, he simply stood there and shook his hips.
Griddlebone gave a screech as the people pressed in, for she was badly skeered. She leaped out of Tom’s arms, and we had to chase her down the ethnic food alley. We finally found her hiding behind the trash can in Albie’s tent nibbling on dropped beef pasty crumbs.
Tom scooped her up. He adjusted her blumen kranz that had fallen sideways and dangled from her left ear.
We were all hot and sweaty after that, and I was a bit embarrassed.
“Come in under the shadow of this red rock,” he suggested, “where we can cool off a bit.”
Instead, we savored some Chocolat Haus chip ice cream (salted caramel with chocolate-covered potato chips) under the pavilion while we watched the new queen and her court reign over the bubblegum blowing contest. Tom wanted to meet Queen Lauren, but we thought it best to bypass that opportunity for the moment.
So we took him for a little
quiet quieter and serious job shadow time. Grace was helping the puppet man in his craft booth on the Alpenstrausse, so we took Tom over over there to meet him and his boy, Freddie. Kids who had adopted fluffy friends in years past brought them back for their checkups and hugs and fresh bottles of puppet milk. Tom learned how to give the wee ones shots to protect them from the “dreaded puppet pox” as they lay unetherized on little felt pillows.
After that we stopped by the radio and TV station broadcast booths to say hi. Tom wanted to head on to the book store to see if he could find himself and pick up a fresh copy of the Four Quartets. He was more than slightly miffed to find poetry way down on a bottom shelf, and his words weren’t there at all. We brought the problem to the owner’s attention and told her about how we belonged to this online group called Tweetspeak Poetry that promotes fun in the world of words and explained a little about Take Your Poet to Work Day. She seemed interested and properly repentant about not having TSE in stock. But we did enjoy a little Billy Collins together, and then Grace took Tom on a tour of the store.
Later that afternoon, he ate a little pulled pork barbecue and watched Grace dance her heart out under the pavilion to the country music of Restless Heart.
Tom was exhausted by the end of the evening. He had no heart or desire left for a ride on the ferris wheel or the swings of the Vertigo. Griddlebone was hungry and grumpy and acting catty, and they both just wanted to call it a night. And so we went home.
He asked for a slice of lemon and a bite of a macaroon. Then he put his shoes by the door, hung his toothbrush on the wall, crawled between the pages of Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, and fell fast asleep.
In the silliness,