His name was Stephen J. Rose. And had he lived in India, he would have been an untouchable. But, now that I think about it, he was just exactly that from the minute he entered primary school in Green Bay, Wisconsin until he discovered Dungeons and Dragons in Grade 9. But from that moment on, his fantasy world and reality merged and he found true happiness.
Stephen J. Rose’s annual climactic moment began when he drove up in his lime green Pontiac Sedan to the entrance of Goldfinger Hall to register as an Independant Scholar for the international medieval studies conference. From there, he walked to the souvenir stand to purchase the two tags he would wear over his somewhat blossoming left bosom which, and I kid you not, read as follows:
Everytime I saw those red labels on the chest of Stephen J., I saw porn magazines. There was absolutely nothing I could do about this vision. Inevitably, Stephen J would make his way to our booth and proceed to buy one of my books. This time, it was a book on medieval gardens.
“I want to plant one at my house”
“What makes a garden medieval?”
He leaned onto my stand, his feet in what we former figure skaters call a spread eagle and starts talking, but I am easily distracted by the the uber perky blonde at the Pearson booth who has started to giggle. As did the uber perky blonde at the Brill booth and the uber perky blonde at the Brepols booth.
OK. I have to digress here. I know its a bit early, but it has to be this way. I suffer from this weird syndrome that Rob has diagnosed as Echoalia. If one suffers from echoalia, they will hear a word and then repeat it constantly often accompanied by hysterical laughter.
Let me give you a few of my favourites:
“Ness” (a street in Winnipeg)
“Lagimodier” (another street in Winnipeg)
“Niedermeyer (as in Joe and if you don’t know who that is, you should feel shame)
“Fufaika” (Russian word meaning warm coat mentioned in a book I read as a child called The Endless Steppe)
“Brepols” is another one. I echoaliad all over that one while I was breastfeeding my daughter because it seemed like the perfect combination of breast and nipples. Whenever I hear Brepols, I see a breast pump. Again, there is nothing I can do about this visual.
I’m not sure why the Perkies are all laughing at Stephen J. Rose. I actually think they are rude. I take Stephen J’s money which, because we are in America is all the same colour and therefore terribly confusing, and bid him a good conference. He tells me he will send me pictures of his garden and I am very gracious. I do wipe my hands with one of Olivia’s baby wipes. I can’t help it.
“Can I get a copy of your book on Snorri Snorelson and his Edda?”
“I’m sorry, what are you looking for?”
“Can I please get a copy of your book on Snorri Snorelson and his Edda?”
There is a mass of grey bangs in my face that smells like Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific and large blue glasses with a tint in them that keeps shifting.
Snorri Snorelson. The manic laughter begins at the base of my throat. I need to leave. Michelle knows I need a time out. She tells me to go take a break. I dash out the back door and run up the hill behind the Exhibits Hall like Jamie Somers on crack and collapse on the grass, tears pouring out of my eyes.
Snorri Snorelson. Snorri Snorelson. Snorri Snorelson.
After about 2 hours, I can finally think of something other than Snorri Snorelson. I collect myself and go back down the hill. Tess and Michelle are tidying up the booth.
“Are you OK?”
“Yeah, are you OK?” Tess asks. She’s never been in Hell with me and looks a little concerned.
“I have to tell you guys something really important. I was just reading in the Kalamazoo Gazette that there is a serial killer on the loose.”
Michelle rolls her eyes. She knows exactly what’s coming.
“Seriously, a serial killer.” Tess is concerned. “And it’s so deserted around here.”
“You know what his name is?”
“SNORRI SNORELSON!!!!!” Michelle just points to the door again.
I take a long walk and wonder yet again if I need to be put on some sort of medication. I type this exact question into the Notes application of my iPhone so that I can bring it up with my shrink when I get home.
“Can I fix your hair?”
“I’m sorry. Can you do what?”
“Can I please fix your hair.”
The Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific medievalist is back in my face. She is a short medievalist and she needs to stand on her turquoise painted toes to reach my head.
“You have such beautiful long red hair and its a little wild. I would like to tame it with an Alice.”
My hockey stick reappears magically into my left hand. I proceed to slash her gracefully like Hannibal Lecter did to the Brandenburg Concertos when he sliced open a prison guard. However, I must confess that I do prefer Brahms Requiem at such times.
She proceeds to take out one of those fuzzy pink elastic band type things and starts to wind the first quarters of my hair on either side.
“Oh, you want to pull it back into a Woogy”
“Yes, I want to tame it with an Alice.”
“Oh, you want to pull it back into a Woogy.” I say a little more forcefully.
“Yes, I want to tame it with an Alice.” She says a little louder.
“Do you know what a gogoplata is? I ask sweetly.
“Yes, its a mixed martial art chokehold that was invented in 13th century Gaul.”
“No shit. Are you serious.”
“Totally serious. Do you watch MMA?”
“Nah, I’m old-school. I watch WWF.”
“WWF is for pussies and panty waists. Let me show you on my iPhone.”
Me and my Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific medievalist grab a Starbucks and go hang out by the fountains and the Canadian storks, I mean pelicans, I mean geese. She proceeds to show me some MMA on You Tube. I counter by showing her how The Undertaker took down 5000 lb Big Daddy V with the gogoplata. She is smitten. We watch a bunch of Undertaker matches and then I show her the greatest 5 minutes in Sports Entertainment History: the entrance of the Undertaker. Actually, I don’t show her in as much as I perform it for her since I have been practicing it daily when I walk Raffi into his Jewish day school every morning.
“Natalie. You need to come back to the booth. Stephen J. is looking for you.” Michelle is motioning to me.
My medievalist looks at me with a touch of melancholy. “Come back soon.” I think I’m in love.
Stephen J. Rose is indeed back at my booth.
“Did you know that your name means Thimble in German?”
Yes, you dipshit. Of course I know that. It was one of the more polite terms of reference that I heard growing up-the others being the obvious Pizza Hut, Fingerslut, Fingernut and the highly creative but kind of gross Finger Up Her Butt.
“I had no idea. You learn something new every day.”
“Oh yes. Well. It’s because..well, you know. A house on a finger is what a seamstress might have used in Carolingian times when she was sewing. A thimble if you will.”
I won’t actually...and who the fuck is Caroline. Michelle kicks the back of my knee.
“Would you mind selling me your last copy of....Snorri Snorelson and his Edda?”
I have grown up in the last half a day and I calmly procure the last copy and hand it to him. I bid Stephen J. Rose goodbye as he leaves the booth. But the Perkies are giggling again and even though I am not perky and will never be so, I am tired of being left out of this joke.
“Whazzup?” I go over to the Brepols booth.
“Oh my God,” says the representative who bears a wonderful resemblance to my favourite of all my gay male loves, the late Douglas Laird Robinson. “Have you not seen it?”
“Seen what exactly?”
“It. Look, he is leaning over the Palgrave counter. See it now? On his...his....derriere, his hindquarters, his...”
“Plumber Butt....oh Dear God. I am looking at the barest skin, a portion of nakedness, on the lower side of Stephen J. Rose. His Wrangler jeans having deserted him by 5 cm. And there it was in red for all eternity:
OK. That’s it. I have had absolutely enough. Nowhere does it say in my contract that I need to bear witness to this madness. I start to hyperventilate. Michelle grabs the EpiPen and there before 3500 medievalists, she expertly jabs me into the fleshy side of my left thigh.
“I’ll be back.” She sighs to Tess whose mouth is wide open. She won’t be accompanying us next year. This I already know for certain.
“Michelle bundles me into the backseat of the white car, and drives me back to the spaceship. The epinephran turns the world into double vision and instead of 10 medievalists crossing the street into Goldfinger on a red light, there are 20. Instead of 1 Happy Spa, there are 2. Instead of 90 Starbucks, there are 180. You get the idea. But maybe you do not. Maybe you need me to sing you the song that I sang to Michelle on the way home. Maybe only then, you can start to appreciate my pain.
“On the first day of K-zoo, my Michelle gave to me: a book about Snorri Snorelson.”
“On the second day of K-zoo, my Michelle gave to me: two purple Alices, and book about Snorri Snorelson.”
“On the third day of K-zoo, my Michelle gave to me: 3 pairs of Wrangler jeans, two purple Alices, and a book about Snorri Snorelson.
“On the fourth day of K-zoo, my Michelle gave to me...”
Michelle has cranked up the music. Her husband and she have this radio program called the Mich Vish Interracial Morning show. You should listen to it. CFRU 93.3—Wednesday at 7:00 am. They play music that I have never heard of because it was created post 1991. Neither have ever heard of Carole Pope. But I have, and now I am singing High School Confidential. And the windows are all open. And I’m just about to get to that line...you know the line I’m talking about, when we arrive at the spaceship.
“Go up to the room and relax. I’ll be back later.”
I do what I’m told. I’ve exhausted her and more importantly, myself.
I go up to our room, pull out the emergency stash of Absolute that I keep in a little pink girl flask that Rob gave me for such occasions and take a delicate sip because that is all one can with such a device. I take 422 such sips and then pass out to everyone’s great relief.