On Wednesday afternoon, having not seen The Boomer for over a week, I called him up and bummed a ride to the post office to see what treasures we’d garnered from my latest radio appeal. On the ride down he was cordial enough—drank the beer I handed him when I got in, made multisyllabic responses to my conversational gambits, and so forth—but I could tell his mind was elsewhere.
I sent a tempting fly floating out over the pond. “Weatherman says that it’s going to snow later this afternoon.”
But The Boomer was the daddy bass, and he wasn’t going to get caught by such amateurish bait. “If you intend that as a disparaging comment on my state of preoccupation, I refuse to be disparaged.”
“Aren’t you ready to give me a little hint about the glorious time machine that you are building in your basement?”
“Actually, very soon I’ll be ready to discuss it to your heart’s content. Maybe a week, possibly less. But since you ask, I’ll give you this tiny hint to further bedevil your imagination: you’re closer than you might think.”
Bullshit. Even The Boomer and The Holy Grail (too bad his girlfriend didn’t give him The Cup. Think how many more copies a title like that would have sold) couldn’t build a time machine. Or could they? A month ago I would have bet the farm that there was no such thing as magic. But try and pry as I would, I couldn’t wheedle another clue out of him.
Guess how many letters my new post office box contained. No, don’t look ahead. You’re not one of those readers who peek at the last page first to make sure the book has a happy ending, are you? This is a test of what you believe about the powers of The Grail. There were 194 replies to my first scientifically-imperfect appeal. How do you think we did this time?
Three. I looked twice to see if there was a little note stuck in the box telling me to see the postmaster to get the rest of my mail, but there wasn’t any. Well, maybe it had fallen out. So I wasted more time by standing in line to ask, but no, there’s nothing else here for you, Mr. Schuster, were you expecting something?
In the car I looked at the three return addresses. Bob Fletcher, Fred E. Mahooney, and V. Herman. Those names seemed awful familiar.
I got Bob Fletcher first: the program director at KTRU. His word choices were a straightforward “Shit fuck piss.” Probably an engineering student. That brought the Fred into context, particularly when he signed his opus “Freddy.” And since I’m sure your prurient curiosity has been aroused, his opus was ‘pseudo-consumer of erect penile tissue, aroma of anus sampler, fornicator of grasping digits.’
Great. Two of the three replies had come from people who had been sitting in the same room with me. They had probably been the twenty-dollar contributors the first time.
That left V. Herman. “ABOMINATION, SODOMY, and PERVERSION” were his all-caps contributions. Victor J. Herman. Herman, Herman. Faintly familiar, at least the Herman part. My brain, rendered soggy by long abuse, struggled to quarry the answer from the piles of rubble and mine tailings.
And then I had it. Victor Herman was Jimbo Bond’s real name. Out of the entire on-air audience for my persuasive if not particularly attractive appeal, I had managed to get a one-dollar contribution and three Old Testament words out of Jimbo Bond.
That irony even broke through The Boomer’s obsession with weighty matters. We laughed all the way to the Seven-Eleven, where he reminded me that I owed him a six pack “better than Bud” for my foolish wager.