"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Sons of the Pioneers song from TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper column, cross-breeding metaphors and journalism and art, for readers in 150 countries.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Booth is a verb, chapter 9--The Heart of the department

Chapter 9--revised

As the semesters rolled by, so did the gatherings at The Booth, much as pegs moving sporatically around the cribbage board, the tales multiplied. But so did the woes of The Illidge.

"I think I'm having a heart attack," he told The Clark one spring morning. The Clark thought he was kidding because of his low key, dry wit. He was not.

When the Queen Bee arrived, he commented that his left arm was bothering him, and she told him that was a classic sign of a heart attack. She ordered him to go to the hospital. Instead, he taught his first class, and returned to her nest, saying the arm still hurt and he was feeling worse. Then, instead of calling an ambulance, he drove himself to a nearby hospital where he lay for hours essentially unattended before being transferred to a healthy hospital. “Heart attack” turned into a requirement for heart bypass surgery, and it was accomplished, with much worry and prayer from his family and his colleagues. Sweet Pea, Elizabeth the Strong, was there throughout. When the The Clark and faculty did gather in The Booth, it was somber, and initiated with toasts, “To Bob.”

It seemed as though the heart and humor of the department was in jeopardy. He convalesced through the summer, and returned in fall to his classes and more joviality in The Booth. But that joviality was soon tempered with yet more health problems. The effect on his colleagues was of wonder and admiration and disbelief and a desire to enjoy each day, for yea, they had nothing to complain about in comparison. And The Illidge did not complain.

To be continued…

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