Reasons to thank the Quarantine

Since I came back from Ireland on the last day you could do such a thing without mayhem, I have been writing, writing, writing. I want to introduce these projects, beginning with ones I think are “finished,” and then venturing into works-in-progress. This excerpt is from JASON OF THE APES, about a college professor who goes green by emulating Tarzan and charging through the wilderness during summer break. He also is instrumental to the beginning of a revolution, but we’ll let the book appear before we reveal that. Wherein several well-known academic characters are revealed. . . . .

From Jason of the Apes:

In summer, when he didn’t need to keep up appearances, his black hair flowed down his shoulders. Wild and dirty he was beautiful. He knew this from regarding himself the quiet pools, which he did over extended periods of time, as though he’d met an alien in the wilderness and was trying to get to know him. Jason contemplated his own beauty as one would ability at woodworking or skill at mathematics, to test how far it would take him, to test its power, its limits, who would be impressed and who not. Jason practiced the slight upturn of the lip that made him look rakish and dangerous. That was a good one. He should remember that. Narrowing his eyes made him look impatient and ready for action. When put to the test, beauty usually served him. Or, to put it another way, he had not yet found the boundary where beauty failed him. His woods were ringed with homes, and girls lived in these homes, and if he chose right, merely standing in a backyard would elicit an invitation. While they prepared for him, he’d stand at the bathroom mirror, regarding, maybe plucking twigs out of his hair. If a panther had become a man. . . it all made sense. He had chosen right. There was time to cultivate other virtues when beauty failed him. Who had, after all, made beauty but God? Sometimes the women asked him to shower. Sometimes they did not. He never asked their names, though sometimes he already knew. It wasn’t a big town. Anonymity worked better for all parties.

The very first conquest, though, he knew her: Tilly.Tilly lay sunbathing in her father’s side yard, which rolled down to a boggy vacant lot, the far edge of which touched the forest. He watched her for a long time. He had not attached the word “beautiful” to her before, but once he did, she was. She rolled onto her side, then she rolled onto the other, toward him, where he saw her bra was undone and her back bare. She shielded her eyes with her hand. Mostly she swatted at mosquitos. Jason had been naked, but he reached into his satchel for the pair of shorts he slipped on when naked simply would not do. He couldn’t see Tilly well enough from where he was, so he crossed the boggy lot. The muck made little sucking sounds around his feet, and that might have been what alerted her, for she was staring straight at him when he got close enough to see her eyes.
“You.” she said. “I thought you were away at camp or something.”
“Yeah. I am. I just. . . “

Tilly smiled as if she knew it was a ruse. “Whatever it is, it’s working for you. Look at those pecs.”
Without meaning to, Jason did.
“You were spying on me.”
“Sort of.”
“Where were you just now? Unless you fell out of the sky.“
Jason motioned to the line of trees. Tilly said, “Clayton said you’d gone Tarzan-happy. I didn’t know what he meant. Do you swing on vines?”
“Yes.”
“Do you wrestle crocodiles?”
“When I come upon one.”

Tilly’s suavity impressed in recollection still many years later. Without his suspecting she was going to do it, she shrugged out of her bra and let fall onto the grass. The bra was blue with tiny, colorful flowers on it. She leaned back, and the glory of her first bloom shone white in the harsh summer sun, like a beach, like the summit of an Alp. She said, “Daddy gets home at 5:30.”


Maybe she’d been dreaming about exactly this as she sunbathed; she seemed ready and prepared. She directed the operation. Whatever she said to do, Jason did. Put your hand there a minute: the hand went there. He realized he liked that. He liked for a woman to tell him what she wanted. And, no question, Tilly was a woman. His first. He’d left the girls behind. Take to the forest and become a man. The Lord of the Wilderness does not do girls. She was strong, and lifted and righted him if he happened to miss the spot. Daddy’s tires were grinding on the driveway gravel when Jason sprinted over the bog and back into the trees. He looked behind a couple of times. Tilly was sitting on the rumpled blanket, watching him.

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