“Oh, harken, oh harken the South wind is chanting
I’m sure ‘t was the piping of Pan that I heard.”
Springtime in the town of Weeder’s Clump is always a season of great beauty. Mother Nature has on her new gown, the birds are singing sweetly in the morning to serenade the sunrise, and the women students at Heliotrope University are sunbathing in the afternoons on the greensward by the tennis courts, making one think of the Pribilof Islands. The air is fragrant with nature’s own perfume, and the sky is filled with white, puffy clouds.
On a particularly mild, mild day in early May of 2012, Marvin Gardens, who lives at 1015 Park Place, was in no mood to appreciate the fine weather. He did not feel the refreshing breeze or smell the rain-cleansed air. Marvin was worried, so worried that he could not sleep at night. When by chance he would happen to drift off to the land of Morpheus, he would find himself in a nightmare attempting to fight off monsters whose names were Jason Vorhees, Michael Meyers, or Freddy Kruger.
The problem was that Marvin’s daughter Floral had just turned 15 and had suddenly developed an interest in boys. This development might be considered typical by most fathers, but Marvin Gardens was terrified. His daughter was intelligent, kind, courteous, modest, talented, sweet, hard working, charming, compassionate, resourceful, energetic, fair-minded, well-adjusted, and beautiful. For two years the boys at Weeder’s Clump High School had noticed Floral. All of them would agree that she was the most perfect female specimen they had ever seen. As far as Marvin knew, Floral had not as yet focused her attention on any one boy. She seemed to love everyone and was kind even to those misguided adolescents who behaved like the Clown Prince of the Prepubescent Libido.
Marvin had become painfully aware of the interest his daughter had generated. Phone calls came at all hours of the night, and Floral’s cell phone was constantly demanding attention. In addition, Marvin had never seen so many young men walk by his house and drive by in a wide variety of vehicles. There was one car that seemed to be parked for hours, its driver hoping to catch a glimpse of Floral. The young man’s name was Troy Hart, the most handsome lad at the high school.
Late one night, when Danger, the family dog, aroused everyone with his barking, Marvin peered out the window and saw a shadowy figure, its arms uplifted, standing beneath Floral’s second story bedroom window. Marvin thought to surprise the unwelcome visitor, but when he rounded the corner of the house brandishing his son’s plastic baseball bat, the figure rushed off with alacrity. Marvin discovered the love letter that had been left behind. It was full of sappy romantic gibberish and impossible declarations, and it was signed Troy Hart. The letter made Marvin think of the nights during his youth when he would howl at the moon and beg God to give him a girl to love.
Marvin tore the love letter into tiny bits and then burned them.
From that evening onward, Marvin became obsessed with Troy Hart. Night and day he thought of plans to discourage the handsome youth from ever daring to approach Floral. He would beat him over the head and flatten him like the squirrels killed on the pavement that had been mashed by the traffic. Marvin would shoot him, stab him, poison him, draw and quarter him, and then he would kill the heartless Don Juan.
One afternoon Marvin was so tired that he sat down to watch Dr. Phil, hoping to get some rest, but Dr. Phil’s program was devoted to men who stalk women. Marvin dreamed of going after Troy like Joe Don Baker in “Walking Tall.”
Marvin’s reverie was interrupted by the doorbell. “It’s that villain Troy Hart, and I’m ready for him,” Marvin said to himself, glad to have the showdown.
Marvin opened the door, and there stood Quasimodo. He was clutching a bouquet of wilted weeds and holding a shabby box of candy under his arm.
Quasimodo peered up at Marvin Gardens and said, “I have come to call on your daughter. She has rung my bell, so to speak.”
Marvin Gardens looked off into the middle distance, cleared his throat, and said, “”I’m sorry, but you’re a day late and a dollar short, as the famous Peoria lawyer is fond of saying. She has gone for a drive with Troy Hart. They are practically engaged, you know.”
Not at all discouraged, Quasimodo said, “That’s ok. Do you mind if I come in and wait, Dad?”
Before Marvin could answer, he was awakened by Floral’s voice, saying, “Dad, Dad, please wake up. I need you to drive me to Provender’s Market for some milk so I can bake some cookies for the church social.”
Marvin Gardens shook his head and sighed in relief. As he was reaching into his pocket for his car keys, he was visited by a divine inspiration. To Floral’s surprise, Marvin said, “By the way, Floral, I think you should invite Troy Hart over for dinner some evening. I hear that he is a nice young man.”
Dr. Logsdon is the much-loved English professor who has inspired students at Western Illinois University and Eureka College for many years. He lives in Eureka with his wife, Mary, and writes a weekly story for the Woodford County News Bulletin.