Monday, December 31, 2007

Exit, Pursued by a Bear

I want my place, my own place, my true place in the world, my proper sphere, my thing which Nature intended me to perform when she fashioned me thus awry and which I have vainly sought all my lifetime.

The Intelligence Office, by Nathaniel Hawthorne

A savage clamor!
Well may I get abroad! This is my chase!
I am gone forever. Exit, pursued by a bear.

The Winter's Tale Act 3, Scene 3
William Shakespeare.

Chapter One

Neither of us has faith in disguises. For all the good they've done us, we don't have much patience with them, either. People in stress situations see what they want to see, disguise or not. Once, out of curiosity, I grew a beard for a time, being described as clean shaven for my pains. Rae had a flirtation with blondness and short hair. This lasted nearly six months, during which she was described as a redhead and once as a brownette with Pre-Raphaelite curls.

Now I have no beard. My sideburns are trimmed at mid-ear. A number of persons from different cultures and social levels have used the word bony when referring to me. Rae has returned to her natural black, worn at shin-length. Our appearances are essentially the same as they were when we first met.

Another variable over which we have no control is the chance appearance of someone from Rae's former life or from mine who will recognize one of us and try to follow us. Some time ago, we began keeping score of recognitions from the past. I lead by a margin of about two-to-one but while many of these recognitions are passive, Rae's almost invariably aren't.

The most recent event was mine. Rae likes the produce at the Corti Brothers market on Folsom Street. We'd driven over there from our house in Oak Park, done our shopping for the week, and were loading the bags into the back of the Camry when I caught the momentary flash of a face in a passing Land Cruiser.

Rae saw me make an abrupt turn away from the driving lane. "Get in," she said. "I'll finish." By the time the Lad Cruiser shifted into reverse and was moving back toward us, all the groceries were loaded and we were ready to go.

"Howard?" a familiar voice called as the Land Cruiser moved behind us. "Howard Camden?"

With a practiced acceleration, Rae moved ahead, eased into the driving lane, and got us out of the Corti Brothers parking lot. As she turned right on Sixty-fifty Street, I caught a glimpse of the Land Cruiser trying to follow, but Rae had already put enough distance between us and them to convince the other drier of the improbability of catching us.

A few blocks later, heading down toward Alhambra and the freeway, Rae checked the rear view mirror. "The bogey is no longer with us," she assured. "You still interested in a cappuccino or you want me to mess around in traffic some more to be sure?"

Even if he'd bee more persistent, Daniel Binford, the man who'd recognized me,was no threat. At worst, he'd want to pry from me some explanation for why I'd done what I did in the past, giving him something to dine out on for a few weeks until rumor and speculation about me abated once again, and Binford assumed his role as a world-class bore. "Cappuccino sounds good," I said.

Rae avoided the freeway on-ramp, heading east toward a coffee shop she favored in Carmichael. "This guy who saw you?"

I nodded.

"He's a professor of something?"

"You didn't even see him. How could you know that?"

She patted my knee. "Most of the people who recognize you, they're professors." When we pulled into the small lot next to the coffee house, she snickered to herself, but when she saw I'd noticed and cast a questioning glance, she mused aloud. "Most of the people who recognize me, they're either cops or ex-husbands."

1 comment:

R.L. Bourges said...

Since Fate against our better dispositions has made of us all the throwers or the thrown, My Best Wishes go to Antigonus, to the child, to the mariner, the shepherd, the clown, the bear
and to the time needed to get it all

In french we do not wish people a happy new year. We wish them a "Bonne Année". And so I wish to you and all that you hold dear.