THE TRUE BUT OFTEN APOCRYPHAL STORY OF THE METAMORPHOSIS OF THOMAS VELLUM’S BEARD, PART I:7

I:7 He stripped. Cass was right. He was on the verge of a long-awaited creative spell, he was sure of it. He put on his bathrobe. This time the influential agents of his creativity were all around him here in his own time. He walked down the hall to the bathroom. He turned on the hot water, lathered his face with soap, and with his razor took the blade to his skin, soft as a shorn lamb’s underbelly, and pink with the heat of warm water rinse. Cass was already asleep when he returned to the bedroom. He climbed into bed, having decided that sleep was essential in maintaining his new youthful appearance.
“Seems like years ago. . .” said Cass next morning, eyeing him over a cup of tea as she sat at the kitchen table eating a toasted bagel with apricot jam.
“You mean since you last saw me clean-shaven like this? In other words, you meant to flatter me, that is, you are looking back in time at this quasar of youth, if I may
borrow. . .”
“Whatever.”
“No, tell me what you mean by ‘years ago.’
“It seems like ages since I saw you clean-shaven.”
“Ages. . ?” he asked meditatively, leaning back in his chair.
“A figure of speech,” responded Cass growing impatient again. “Anyway, does this mean you will be hanging out in your own neighborhood?”
“Hadn’t thought about it. Clio and her friend. . .”
“Atah.”
“Yeah, they told me about the fruit heads.”
“Fruit heads?”
“Magritte. You know the fruit wearing the bowler hat?”
The expression on Cassandra’s face grew slack, though she was chewing a bagel.
“The fruit heads are like clones, but they call themselves Pawns, all of them being pieces of a chess…”
“Yeah,” intersected Cass, cutting him off.
“So you know about the Pawns?” asked Thomas with budding enthusiasm.
“Is this where you and she meet up in the future?” asked Cass, resuming her methodical chewing of bagel and jam. “Just seems that the last time you were talking like this, in acronyms and metaphors, we were in for a wild ride.”
TV could see the green mountain fast of Machu Picchu rising from his memory – he’d never been there, only seen it in a figurative sense during the connection when his contact had revealed to him the struggle against greed unfolding in the first half of the 21st century. He wondered if that struggle was beginning. Of course the struggle against greed has been enacted over and over again over the centuries. The great prophets have been calling out against greed’s various manifestations since the beginning of human history.
“Clio told me,” added Cass, looking meditatively at her husband, “the incident at St. Clare’s stirred up this reactionary organization which her student group has been fighting, but she doesn’t understand why.”
“I had no idea how deeply involved she is.”
Cass nodded.
“Anyway. . ,” her voice filled with resignation, “don’t you think they will recognize you now that you’ve shaven?”
“They’re looking for the bearded Vellum. Besides, I look younger now, maybe thirty years younger.”
“That’s pushing it, don’t you think?”
“I suppose, but I figure every thirty years a generational amnesia sets in. The dogma dealers rise up with their bottles of snake oil. . .”
“You’ve told me this a thousand times,” she said exasperated. “Thom, did you ever think that this was just a midlife crisis?”
She set her dish in the sink with rattle and clangor.
Were his motives so transparent? He didn’t deny it; shaving had been an act of vanity. But like so many small events it had started the ball rolling toward greater insights. So yes, he admitted this human foible. She was right, he was no different than anyone else? But had he unwittingly uncovered a grand design behind all vanity?
“You know, Thom,” she said, turning toward him and holding him, “most of us just work for a living, plain ordinary work, mundane lives, and we don’t have time, yes, Time with a big T, for these grand thoughts. Time is time for us and all we want is a little bit of it left over at the end of a work day to relax and forget all the difficulties of the day. I’m one of the lucky ones. I teach so I feel I have a purpose even if it is underrated in our culture. But so many don’t possess that purpose, they just do the work because they need the money.”
“But I’m like you.”
“You used to be.”
“But you’re not just anybody. You’re my Cass.”
“Well, I’m lucky there,” she said pausing with a smile. “But I feel closer to the others, all the others, whose names I will never know. Most of us don’t like the limelight. We just want to live and let live. These struggles don’t begin with us. But we always finish them. I believe in you, in what you stand for, but please, have mercy on all of us.” And she kissed him.
“And if I forget them, you will remind me.”
“Yeah, and Clio.”
“And Clio,” he affirmed.

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