On the drive to the post office, I shared with The Boomer the latest batch of The Grail’s stories. Having just read the gospels, it was easy to see how closely they followed the Gospel accounts, and yet how delicately twisted. The Boomer was pretty quiet, but on the way home he looked over with a deadpan expression and speculated, in apparent seriousness, “I wonder if she’s pulling your leg.”
That he could think such a thing was proof enough that I hadn’t managed to communicate the full breadth of my experience s to him. And that thought made me realize just how much he and I both were missing by his sharing this happening only vicariously. It was time to suck it up and bend a little.
“Boomer, my best friend and guide through the dangers of Hades, I think it’s high time that you met The Grail. Would you do us the kindness of coming over for dinner tonight to make her acquaintance?”
I’m sure he’d thought a thousand times, “I wonder if this guy is ever going to let me see his new toy,” but he had been completely gracious in accepting my timetable. The abruptness of my invitation must have flabbergasted him—sort of like the girl sitting beside you in Freshman Physics turning to whisper, “So, you wanna screw?” But he recovered nicely.”Mr. Schuster, I would be honored. Shall I bring pizza?”
“That would be most suitable, my good fellow. And don’t forget, the guest of honor drinks wine.”
“I shan’t forget.”
A couple of hours later he showed up bearing a giant pizza with the works, including anchovies.
(Mild Tangent for all you featherweights who think that “hold those smelly little fishies” goes without saying when you order the works. Why do you suppose pizza places all offer anchovies if no one ever eats them? Is it an Italian tradition dating back to Caesar, who even put anchovies on the salad he named? Whoever started it, it’s a pretty good joke; I’m sorry your name had gotten lost through the years.)
The Boomer also had a bottle of Chianti in its cute little grass skirt, and didn’t even bring along a six pack for backup. Even more surprisingly, he was wearing a clean shirt and—get this—a necktie.
He was also a little bit bashful, although only I (and perhaps his six-year-old girlfriend) could have discerned it past the front that he was using.
“Monsieur Boomer, how dashing we look this evening,” I said as I took the pizza.”Would you like a seat near the window? Let me take just a moment to finish dressing for dinner, and we shall commence.”
“Oui, bien sûr,” he replied.
So I threw on a tie, not bothering to retie it when the back part ended up longer than the front. Considering that it already looked plenty ridiculous with my T-shirt, which changing would have been too much of a concession for a mere joke. Then we dove into the pizza.
The Boomer opened the Chianti with a flourish and poured The Grail a sample (giving me another opportunity to remark on how much life had changed in the last few weeks. When I had brought back that first bottle of wine from Cobweb Liquors, it had taken me half an hour to find a corkscrew. Now it had a special place of its own in the silverware drawer). Then he fiddled, waiting to see if she approved.
Now, doesn’t that bring back wonderful memories, she replied to my query. To the untutored palate, that could easily pass for Atlantian table wine. Tell your friend that I wholeheartedly applaud his selection.
The Boomer practically simpered when I passed on The Grail’s comments. In the entire time I’d known him, under the widest variety of circumstances and conditions, I had never seen him behave in such a fawning manner. Well, I could remember not too many weeks before having been as tentative as a virgin in a whorehouse about making a good impression on a cup, so it was hard to throw stones (particularly since I wasn’t Jewish).
What with the pungent, appeteasing odor of the anchovies and our basic bent as starving college students, notwithstanding our playing at gentility, the pizza was soon gone. With a flourish and a gulp I emptied The Grail, then handed her over. “Boomer, I would like for you to meet The Holy Grail.”
The Boomer took the artifact as gently as if it had been made of 2500-year-old eggshells rather than sturdy-if-battered metal. I watched his face pass through wonder to astonishment to something else that looked like peace. But it was hard to tell for sure, because after a minute or two he closed his eyes and his lips stopped moving.
I was left with The Marquis for company which wasn’t so good because just then he was pretty busy dealing with a resurgence of the anxiety I thought I’d dispelled. What were they talking about? In the face of the powerful allure of immeasurable intelligent magic, how could mere friendship stand up? If The Boomer grabbed The Grail and ran, to what extremes was I willing to go to get her back? That sort of stuff.
Then he did a remarkable thing. Opening his eyes, he reached over and took my hand with his, the same one that was holding The Grail so that the two of us were touching each other and the metal of the cup at the same time.
Suddenly I could hear his voice reverberating in my brain. Don’t be disquieted on my account, old friend. It is a wondrous gift that you are sharing with me, this unique intellect from the past. But we both acknowledge without reservation that you are more than just her owner. You are her companion for the next stage of her journey, and neither of us would do anything to endanger that.
Had I been any less astonished I might not have blurted my reply out loud, but I did. Which was particularly embarrassing since I’d been practicing telepathing for a couple of weeks now, whereas The Boomer had only been doing it for five minutes or so.”Boomer, we’re telepathing!”
Amazing, isn’t it? Let me show you something else.
Suddenly I caught a glimpse directly into The Boomer’s mind. Nothing that would qualify as the ‘rummaging around’ that The Grail often referred to—more a super awareness of his emotional state. And it was obvious there was no subterfuge there. A little jealousy, it’s true, but wistful and without rancor. And definitely no malevolence.
Now, if you will excuse us for a little while, The Grail and I are exploring a particular preoccupation of mine. About twenty more minutes or so, I would think.
So I cleaned up the kitchen, found myself a jelly glass, poured it full of Chianti, and drained the bottle into The Grail. I moved about softly so as not to disturb them, but from all appearances I need not have bothered. The Boomer was off in some other world, and if somehow I managed to set the apartment on fire I would have to drag him out or let him barbecue.
Finally he opened his eyes and handed the cup back to me. Many thanks, old friend, for a remarkable experience, he sent before letting go of The Cup. Then he continued out loud as naturally as if he had been doing this all his life, “Now I think I shall go. I have much to think about.”
“Wait a minute,” I complained. “Aren’t you going to tell me what all that was about?”
“I’ll give you some idea, but no, I’m not going to tell. Not yet. The Grail and I have possibly unlocked a scientific mystery that neither of us could have done alone. But the knowledge was collectively there, and our collective reasoning processes were able to dig it out. Now I have to go and see if it was all some kind of dream, a metaphor out of my own subconscious, or the real thing.”
I should have been angry, or put out, or something, but I discovered that I really wasn’t. It could have been the lingering after-effects of the peek at The Boomer’s feelings. But more likely it was that, long before, I had come to grips with his genius and made a commitment never to stand in its way. The only negative emotion I could find was a mild pique that he had been able not only to telepath the first time out, but he could even switch back and forth with facility.
Uncovering that, all I could do was laugh at myself. “OK, Einstein. Go rewrite the Theory of General Relativity to encompass a non-Euclidean universe. Thanks for the pizza and the wine.”
He turned and left. Well, if he doesn’t say goodbye on the telephone, how could you expect him to do so in person? Particularly since, unlike on the phone, you could actually see him going. Boomer, you’re an institution. You own the claim sought by many but attained by few: the world is a better place because you passed through.
The Cup wouldn’t share what they had ‘talked’ about, either.
* * *
Just before I went to bed, Judy Blue Eyes called to tell me that Sergeant Jenny Slade and the Privates were playing at Bilo’s on Saturday night, and did I want to take a break from my new addiction to scholarship to come along? Slade and the Privates was our band. We’d first heard them more than a year before, both of us falling head over heels for the raunchy charm of Sgt. Jenny Slade, backed up by the solid licks of serious musicians a cut or two above the Indigo Poets.
“Sorry, Miss Blue Eyes. I already have a hot date. Can’t we make it another time?”
“Actually, I was hoping you’d say that. You’ve become such a hermit, I figured if I was going it would have to be by myself. But then I’ve always had a secret thing for the bass player. And who knows? Maybe Sergeant Jenny will be free and we can make it a threesome.”
“Sleeping with the bass player I can live with. But if you manage to wrangle your way into a ménage à trois with Jenny Slade, the trois had better be me. Otherwise, I’m calling your daddy and telling him that his daughter is not the rebellious, bleeding-heart liberal she claims to be, but a closet conservative who I knew for a fact voted for Nixon. Twice.”
After a few more rounds of the spirited banter that was the real reason I’d been dating her for over a year now—well, that and the great sex—we made the date.