Sunday, June 13, 2010
The Miraculous Golf Cart
Swallowed by time and turned to stone like a trilobite.
Angel Duran, Dr. Finnington's student assistant, painstakingly brushes away debris from the find.
Everyone calls Angel "El Gordo" and they waddle behind him like overinflated ducks, making fun of him.
A drop of sweat rolls into Angel's eye and makes it sting, but he maintains focus on his delicate and important task.
Someone walks by and goes, "Aflac!" This is followed by snickering and laughter.
Taco Bell bags are left in Angel's locker in the staff area. No one admits to having put them there.
In the evenings, Angel reads Neruda or sits on the little balcony of his apartment, smoking a good cigar and listening to Telemann.
Morning comes and he is back at his task, though his back aches from the awkward positions he must sustain in order to reveal the golf cart, bit by precious bit, without damaging it.
Jennifer, who is supposed to help him, is talking on her cell phone instead.
She has a face an Italian master would sell his soul to paint.
"I got so fucked up last night!" she is exclaiming to someone.
The work goes on.
Sometimes Angel wonders why he was given that name. In school he was called "Chico." He was the only Hispanic.
Once, he told the other boys his real name. They called him "An-hole" after that.
It was years ago.
The golf cart begins to be recognizable as such.
What is it doing there?
How can it exist?
What previous assumptions will have to be discarded?
Angel likes good wine, though never to excess.
And yes, he likes his food.
Is this a sin?
The crucified Savior on the wall of his living room has never objected,
Never climbed down and rebuked him.
Instead, He gazes sadly,
Feet crossed like a ballerina.
Perhaps he would like some dinner, too, after all the centuries of quiet endurance.
Angel considers this.
Dr. Finnington comes around about noon the next day.
He examines the work and puffs on his cigar as if he were somehow scuba diving on dry ground.
He makes guttural sounds which might mean "good job",
Or, "this won't do",
Or, "I have an unhealthy obsession with young Asian women."
No one can tell.
Angel labors on.
The sun is punishing, and the little paper mask he wears to keep dust out of his lungs makes the heat even more unpleasant.
He knows, though, that the work is blessed, and is something larger than his own desires or comfort.
He knows, too,
That there is nobility in both knowledge itself and in the seeking after it.
Angel's fingers ache,
But his soul is radiant.
One day, filthy and disheveled from his sacred work,
He summons his courage and asks Jennifer out.
She declines, and her careful courtesy in doing so only makes him feel worse.
That evening, there is no Neruda, no Telemann.
He sits on his balcony and watches the sun set into the smog.
On the wall in the living room behind him,
Jesus spreads His arms as if to say,
"What can one do, when women are so desirable, and yet so hard?"
Midnight arrives, and Angel has not yet come back in.
Finally, the ancient golf cart is fully revealed, and then loaded, piece by piece, into carefully labeled crates,
And transferred to the University for study.
Dr. Finnington thanks Jennifer and hugs her, perhaps for a beat too long, but she may need a reference and so she lets him.
Dr. Finnington makes a guttural sound in Angel's general direction,
But who knows what the fuck it may mean.
Angel goes home.
His mother says she is glad he is no longer digging for a living.
"I was an intern," he explains gently. "I wasn't paid."
"Dios mio," she says, and crosses herself at the idea of such evil.
Months later, they are watching the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams. Dr. Finnington has been honored by some lofty body and given a prestigious award.
There are clips of Dr. Finnington accepting this award, with a pretty young Asian woman at his side. They also show the golf cart from the tar pits,
Gleaming now, and on permanent display in a Los Angeles museum.
Angel walks outside and looks up at the sky.
It is late in the year, and dark, even though it is barely dinner time.
There are a million stars.
Angel, despite his scientific bent, makes a wish on one of them,
Then goes back in the house where his mother is watching Wheel Of Fortune,
And starts to make a sandwich.
He finds, however, that like the saints, he isn't hungry anymore.
"Why do you test me so much?" he asks Jesus, who now hangs over the stove.
Wounded and sorrowful,
Was a scientist too.
That one must always consider every possibility.