Chez Shaffner

Monday, September 24, 2007

Across the Car

[[An experimental thing…]]

He nestles a stuffed raccoon under his arm like a sacred game ball. I lose interest in Grammaire Progressive du Français Avec 600 Exercises. But don’t let me mislead you quite yet: there was no taxidermy involved. Just a man and his plush raccoon. Just another day aboard the red line.

The strange man balances on his lap a yellow tackle box identical to the one at home wherein I keep the haphazard tool collection necessary for assembling deliveries from IKEA I haven’t yet ordered. (The catalog arrived today in my cramped aluminum box; hope remains Daddy’ll have a new end table by Christmas). This man’s chest houses not tools but something valued enough to warrant combination locks. Two, in fact, jury-rigged to secure a latch not designed with security in mind. But what could be so important? Packets of jam stolen from restaurants? Airplane bottles of Jim Beam? A lifetime’s nail clippings? I’ve read of stranger things in magazines.

I ponder the scrutiny with which they inspect flip-flops at the Rochester airport. Through my brain rumble the words of an overworked TSA thug at IAD two years back, when I balked at removing my sweatshirt: “This is America, bucko.” I won’t repeat my unspoken retort or I’ll end up on the no-fly list before the honeymoon. Yet this man carries his mystery tackle on the train without a second look. Hmm.

My fingers itch to write how he stroked the soft hairs behind the raccoon’s ears and moaned low. That didn’t happen, but it sounds right. I’m glad it did not happen, though I can’t say for sure that it wasn’t the first thing he did upon reaching his destination.

He solved both locks and opened the top. Like the mystery briefcase in Pulp Fiction a yellow glow illuminated his face, reflected off the so-stereotypical-the-author-must-be-making-it-up horn-rimmed spectacles.

That’s a lie. Instead, he pulled out a stack of baseball cards and yanked a thick elastic band free before leafing through the cards. He smiled. When the automated voice announced the upcoming train stop he hastily packed his things and secured the locks.

I wanted to tell him the rubber band would compromise the value of the cards, but he stepped onto the platform before I had the chance.


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