A good friend is heading back to our college for his fiftieth reunion, and, in a misguided attempt to gather stories which might animate conversation around the beer tent, asked me to recall one of the more unlikely decisions I reached somewhere in the middle of my sophomore or junior year. As might be inferred by the uncertainty with which I date this classic tale, many of my decisions were far more regrettable than unlikely, and in the spirit of bonhomie, I figured this one was probably not going to cause my children to divorce me. After all, they have a pretty good grasp of my decision-making skills.
So, whenever this took place, I had established a thriving enterprise, selling my typing “skills” for cash back in the days in which my stereo, camera, and guitar had all been pawned; I had probably been over generous in supporting charities or may have sent funds to a child in Uzbekistan. In any case, I could type reasonably well and was willing to work at any hour with short notice. Clients lined up, usually around ten thirty in the evening. Did I make mistakes? Sure, but I had a jug of White Out and perfection was rarely demanded. Just get the thing done, they’d say, shoving a yellow legal pad or wad of lined paper under my door.
In the year in question, I had contracted with a the captain of the football team, a behemoth who may have had but one eye, to transcribe his handwritten essay on “The Mating Habits of the Bering Seal”. The singularity of eye is not central to the story, but the more I think about who I was dealing with, the more unlikely my decision seems in hindsight. To be fair,there were so many errors of judgment made before I even got my paws on the paper; Bering Seals? Delivering the paper into my hands?
I started the job sometime after the general hubbub died down, and the fraternity lounge had emptied. The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson had ended, and I had the peace and quiet I needed to give the task my complete attention. The first two pages were a snap, done quickly. Somewhere in the middle of the third, right after the description of the flora and fauna of the Pribilof Islands and its unique position as seal rookery (“The Galapagos of the North”), somewhere after the endless factoids about Callorhinus ursinus ( their fur contains approximately 46,500 hairs per centimeter. The male weighs in at about 600 pounds, the svelte female a trim 160 pounds), that fancy kicked in.
How, I wondered did that sleek female entice the bull from the sea? What configurations of fur and fin could allow, much less enhance, their romance? To be clear, these were speculations outside the range of the author’s intent, but the hour was late, brain cells were dying, the avalanche of facts allowed no clear narrative, and besides, Prof Burns was unlikely to read beyond the first two pages and the last. I had a slew of Pribilof Island facts to dish out at the end, and I just could not go on without allowing myself a slight diversion from the text.
And so, rhapsody began.
“The aroused female bathes in the pounding surf, tendrils of foam cover her tingling whiskers. She slides to a flat rock near the water’s edge, knowing that the bull of her choice will surface momentarily. She curls one flipper behind what would have been her ear had she been a Sea Lion, waving slowly in time with ocean’s tidal roar. Her tail, ordinarily flat against the stone is raised and tilted. It too moves with measured allure. She allows a husky bark to welcome the bull as his massive head breaks the surface. The bark of the Bering Seal can alert to danger or signal distress, but deep in the heaving bosom of this female, the cry was clearly, “Come to me, take me, make me your slave!”
Or something pretty close to that.
Paper delivered, payment rendered, happy days.
Prof. Burns, however, was apparently unaware of the skim-the-paper convention, finding my superbly crafted prose a detriment to the student’s work. My memory of those days is hazy at best, so I can’t tell you why I am alive. I probably retyped the dreadful thing and sent an apology to Burns. I hope that was the resolution of the ugly affair.
The open market, is a cruel mistress; it was this essay that ended my career as a round-the-clock typist. Word traveled quickly when the professor read the offending paragraph to the Animal Biology class, failing to credit the author, but suggesting that some typists were not to be trusted with Bering Seals.
What has taunted me over the decades is the knowledge that I could knock out seal porn by the carload, but could never find a voice as an author of Romance novels, the market that never shrinks, the only sort of publishing with the exception of the Young Adult novel, still in demand. I’ve tried, simply substituting the name Ramona for the seal, but it gets tangled somewhere between the foam and the tilted tail. The mind boggles. Or, more unfortunately, my mind boggles.
Should a market for Romance humor emerge,I might have a shot, but until I am contracted to write Fifty Shades of Seal Fur, my best work is behind me.