A story of higher educationOops. It just slipped in he grinned. It was about time, they both knew, just as it was soon to be time for other penetrating changes in their lives and in the world they inhabited.
Changes; transitions, seemed to Michael and perhaps to Mary Ann, as smooth and slippery as the sudden switch from sliding over it to slipping it in. There was newness, but it was wrapped in sufficient sameness that no shock ensued. It was time for an unknowing search for the new. They had found one another, though both would need to search further.
She was a pleasing, plump freckled curly redhead, mischievous in nature, sensually awakened, playful yet serious. He was skinny, horny, and shy. He was long-haired and bearded ahead of his time and place.
The setting was Warrensburg, Missouri in the winter of 1966. Warrensburg was years behind New York or San Francisco. It probably still is. Radical acts involved painting Old Drum's testicles red. Old Drum's statue stands in the town square, commemorating a sheep-killing dog, the town's only famous citizen: man's best friend.
At Central Missouri State College there was perhaps a glimmer of a doubt about a certain Southeast Asian conflict, igniting no more than an occasional discussion among thinking friends. Conclusions were seldom drawn, nor excitement generated.
Religion was a more engrossing subject for debate and serious thought than politics. To free one's mind and body, one must first banish the witch doctor; the shaman. The sweeping away of mystical cobwebs from Michael's mind was accomplished with the ease of curing the clap with pennecillin. He was not bred into a mold.
He read and was briefly enchanted by Ayn Rand, but it became obvious upon reflection that her ideals were out of touch with reality. To work, they required capitalists to behave with virtue that they have never possessed.
Hair and beard, soon to be common, were then rare. Michael followed no trend. His growth said nothing but that it was part of himself. The college said nothing, but glowered silently, wishing it had thought of a rule on that subject. Sex and sexism were far older than nonconforming hirstuity, so the college rules locked women in their dorms at night, forbade them from smoking while walking, and allowed them to wear shorts or slacks only on Sunday afternoons.
Men were forced to live in dorms or approved housing, either of which were intended to prevent heterosexual activity in one's bed. Michael chose approved housing his second year at the college, a room in the home of a 90-year-old deaf lady. It was cheaper, and he hoped that a deaf lady might be unconcious of loud music and groans of passion in his room.
In the days of sliding over it, of the passionate almost-sex that Michael and Mary Ann invented as a close compromise, there came a night when she seemed nervous and moody, prompting our unsuspecting hero to ask, What's the matter?
That classic question can induce any number of responses. The classic reply it elicited on this occasion was, I'm afraid I'm pregnant.
Silence followed. Thoughts of a super-sperm crawling off the mattress, up her leg and to her egg, stood before the court of his mind. Case dismissed. Too improbable. Bu how?
Her high school sweetheart, home from Vietnam. They were just talking over old times. It was an accident.
An accidental fuck? Michael began to chuckle at the concept, but he did not pursue the matter further. It was not important. What was important was that Mary Ann's period was late. Every writer knows the importance of punctual punctuation. Don't worry, he said.
In a few days she was blessed with the curse.
The deaf lady became ill and ceased renting the room in mid-year, leaving our hero out in the proverbial cold. Mid-year rooms were hard to come by. He checked in at the local hotel, telling no one, and obtained a post office box and a false approved address. The hotel was the scene of several pleasurable nights for Michael and Mary Ann, but a van was to become their garden of Eden. He traded his 1959 Triumph TR-3 for a Corvair Greenbrier, which became home as well as transportation.
On their way to a dark country road on the outskirts of Warrensburg. Michael and Mary Ann approached a gas station. Stop here, she said. He did, and waited for her to head for the ladies' room. Instead, she pressed a quarter into his hand. He looked at her, puzzled, while she looked slightly embarrassed.
Oh, he said, grinning, understanding. He went to the mens' room for a vending-machine condom.
One day Michael drove Mary Ann to work, to a small building on the edge of campus where she had a part-time job. He pulled into the driveway; they kissed goodbye. Suddenly a fatnecked burrheaded man appeared at the driver's window, screaming incoherently at the driver. He seemed irrational, someone best avoided. Mary Ann got out on the other side, and quickly walked into the building. Michael rolled up his window and locked the door.
Michael had no idea what this strange person's problem was, who had then gone to the back of the van and tried to open the rear door. Fortunately, it was locked. The man then stood further back, appearing to be writing something on a note pad. The license number? That didn't seem to make sense. The best course was clearly to leave. Michael began very slowly to back out of the driveway, watching the man walk backwards at first, then step out of the way. Once clear of the driveway, Michael drove away.
Three days later, Michael was to meet Hollis L. Chalquist, who held the incongrous title of Dean of Men. While over 6 feet tall, Chalquist appeared to way about 120 pounds. His short hair was parted in the middle and greased to his pointed head. He wore a baggy tweed suit with pants four times the circumference of his spindly legs. He was an anachronism, and a caricature of himself.
Michael wore jeans, an ordinary shirt, and his beard. The first question of the inquisition was Why the strange costume? Michael's only possible answer was What are you talking about?
This Dean was a veteran of the Marines and of a German POW camp, one or both of which had irreparably damaged his mind. He had been known to chase a student's car on foot to try to make a 'citizen's arrest' for some traffic infraction, real or imagined.
Chalquist finally revealed what this meeting was about. It seems that the irrational antagonist of three days ago was actually a professor at the college, and a friend of Chalquist's, whose complaint was that, according to him, he had to walk around the back of the van while Michael was dropping Mary Ann off. Angry at being unable to assault the offending driver, he had made the accusation that Michael attempted to run over him.
Michael pointed out as calmly as possible that this was totally false, and explained what really happened. As might have been expected, Chalquist had already decided to believe his friend, or at least that the truth was irrelevant when it came from a bearded student. The verdict was suspension.
It was one thing to read about injustice, and about the prejudices that led to it, but quite another to experience both first-hand.
Work was hard to find in the small college town. Michael had a job at a hamburger shop for a few evening hours, but it was not enough to live on. With no money and no school, he needed to find full-time work. Kansas City, 60 miles away, seemed to be the best option. He called his stepmother, who refused to even send him money for gas. He pawned his portable radio for ten dollars and set off to seek his fortune.
The first available job was picking mushrooms in an unheated shed for $1.40 per hour. It was February. The cold work might not have been so hard to endure if he'd had a warm place to sleep. The van, even with the electric heater plugged in at a small friendly trailer park, was not an ideal winter home.
A few weeks later, Mary Ann also got suspended from Central Missouri State College. The charge: throwing a pair of panties out the window during a panty raid. She might have escaped her fate if she hadn't admitted doing it.
Michael saw Mary Ann a few times after leaving Warrensburg, but the distance was a hindrance. She took a job in the office of the state highway patrol. In time, they lost contact. They had learned a great deal from one another. They experienced important transitions together, changes that would affect the rest of their lives.
Their love affair may not have been destined to last, but they had shared good times; passionate times; times to remember.
--by Cosmic Rat
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