Hawkeye, Frankenpants, and Fate.
It’s almost a pagan thought that somehow fate will always poke you back, especially when you poke it in the eye. The hawk eye.
Pagan and Catholic are like oil and water, at least on the surface, and toss in a backwash of fate and there go your pants, and at the worst time. Am I getting ahead of myself? Slow down–breathe: fate takes it’s own damn time.
I can explain. Hawkeye was a nun from the order of St. Francis sent to earth to torment my junior high school. They were The Sisters of Perpetual Violence because the smack hand could come out of nowhere and at any time, since the hawkeye missed nothing.
Between academics and vigilance against the all-seeing, punitive Hawkeye, life in the school was like the daily challenge of the nine-banded armadillo: see the road, see the traffic–but you gotta go, smashed shell or no. You just have to, and what a headrush when you live through it.
And granted this was the era of “you’ll put your eye out” and other mom-isms it was important to refute, as well as to disprove the dire prediction that we couldn’t be the heathens we were and ever expect to amount to anything, much less what we wanted to be, as adults.
Which, in the case of my small band of heretics, was to be Air Force pilots first–then airline pilots afterward. We lived and breathed it: the talk, the model planes, the gas powered planes–all of it. It’s all we could do then, but certainly not all we’d do eventually. Shiny faced like a new penny, what are you going to do? Run across that highway: time the traffic, get a little closer each time, but cross. What a rush, on the other side.
But nuns don’t care for games of chicken. You’ll be in jail by the time you’re 18, Hawkeye promised me, and in the electric chair by 21. And yet the pagan gods of defiance held me in good stead: seldom caught in the act, never busted outright. Those tires came close to my rubbery shell, but the worst of it was little more than a promise from Hawkeye: you boldbrazenimpudentdisgrace–it was all one word when she said it–having your fun at other’s expense. But some day, it will be at yours.
A lot of shells got crushed on the highway of time. Bob G. forgot about the pilot dreams and enlisted in the Navy. Terry became a mailman and a pothead; Kenny a priest, Larry sold life insurance and Mike “Pick-a-Butt” took over his dad’s heating and air business. I’m the only one who didn’t turn away from the master plan. God knows why.
The years stretched mile after mile smooth out and the rolling hills flatten as you go. Next thing you know, you’re living the dream as an everyday day-to-day.
It’s different on the inside of the dream–better, actually–and eventually the worldly difference becomes the norm. You make it up as you go. Too smart for your own good, can’t follow rules still rings true if hollow: what’s the point of the uniform, the inside track, if we need some kind of stinking badges?
No lines: duck under the rope and go . . . rip.
Felt it more than heard it, but there was no mistaking reality: a thousand miles from home, pants split open on the ass wide as the Grand Canyon and just as drafty. Hawkeye. Somewhere, she was nodding: I warned you. Rules are made for everyone, including you, Mister Duck Under The Ropes Like You Own The Place. Like my grandmother, Hawkeye labelled you with whatever transgression she’d discovered.
Think. Back up slowly, slowly, toward the agents, away from the boarding crowd. The agents are too busy to notice you driving around in reverse, but they see the hand right away.
Don’t ask, my look says. Just don’t ask. They go back to the furious clacking on keyboards that is required for even the simplest transaction. Move away, backing up like a tall truck backing into a giant garage, drafty as a cabriolet with the top down, ease in reverse toward the Men’s room . . . safe. Now what?
Frankenpants: grab the loose ends, crumple a seam, then suture with about two dozen staples. Then another dozen for good measure. They look like hell–and feel even worse: all the metal is on the inside; from the outside, my butt looks like two horse’s lips chewing my pants right up like hay.
My ass is a monster. Worse: no way to get through security. “Uh, yes, there’s metal . . . I have a bunch of staples holding the seat of my pants together. Hawkeye warned me this would happen.” True, I’m on the secure side of the airport, which is where I’ll stay for the rest of the day.
Sitting on the pants version of a Hair Shirt, the Bed of Nails, medieval devices of atonement: the staples bite, but what are you going to say? Can’t fly this approach, I’m sitting on pointy metal. Make it three approaches, and three legs. I warned you, but you never listen.
Of course, the last leg was the worst.
No better way to ensure a smooth touchdown; so maybe we should always fly in Frankenpants. And probably we should keep that hawkeye in mind. Truly, she never meant anything but good for all of us, hoped for the best, feared the worst, and prayed for us constantly in between. Because look at you, Mister My Ass Is Stapled to the Hilt and These Pants are Going into the Dumpster in the Employee Lot and You’re Driving Home in Jeans From Your Suitcase, In The Lot In Your Underwear Changing, past is prologue.
And the hawkeye misses nothing, so you’ just better watch your step.