The Form of Travel

The Vagabond

It was only the evening before they were due that Vag started filling out his fellowship applications. Everybody he was acquainted with was going to Europe; attending a domestic graduate school, he reflected, would only produce ennui. He had to go abroad.

Vag thumbed through the stack of forms. "Bureaucracy," he sighed, "bureaucracy." First there was the Fulbright, a green form to be filled out in quadruplicate: Vag was applying for one to Australia--little competition. Then, of course, there was a white Fulbright to be filled out in triplicate; not a real Fulbright at all, he corrected himself, but a Foreign Government Grant. Vag flipped a dime to determine whether it would be the French or German government that would be honored by his request; Franklin Roosevelt came up on top, and France won. "La douce France," he murmured, "nation de destinee, patrie do mon ame."

With the Foreign Government Grant application he had folded another green Fulbright application. This he was to mark "Fulbright Travel application" (quadruplicate). It was for money to supplement his Foreign Government grant. Filed underneath these were the sextuplicate Marshall and the triplicate Rhodes.

Vag leafed through the Fulbright; he needed a study project, recommendations, and four copies of a Curriculum Vitae. He paused over the study project: "I would like," he wrote finally, "to study the effect of the fear of Asian immigration on Australian poetry of the twentieth century. There has been no satisfactory work yet done in this field." He wrote his project twice, each time with a carbon copy and then spent an hour composing a Curriculum Vitae. The Curriculum Vitae, he told himself, I can use on the Fulbright and the French Government Grant Application and the Fulbright Travel Grant. For the French Government Grant though I need a study project. Something recondite," he calculated. "The influence of Provence on French symbolist poetry," he decided. "Il pleure dans mon coeur com-me il pleut sur le village," he recalled from an old course in French literature, "but of course it doesn't rain in Provence." Vag remembered he would need a language recommendation for his French fellowship. He thought of M. Plombier, his French A section man. He had gotten a C- in the course, "mais alors, M. Plombier etait une ame sympathique."

Vag decided to cross the channel; he looked at the Rhodes: three copies of a thousand-word statement on general interest. "Don't forget the House volleyball," he told himself, "the Rhodes people like jocks." The Marshall needed six thousand-word statements. Same as the Rhoes, he calculated; less sportsy and more on intellectual interests. He would write those in a minute, now back to the outside of the Fulbright forms. Then to the white Foreign Government Grants. St. Paul's rang eleven. Back to the Australian study projects... four Travel Grants; back to the Marshall essays....


St. Paul's rang twelve. Vag counted them: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve. He began to hum: "Twelve study transcripts, eleven Curricula Vitae, ten photos more, nine English biographies; eight green forms; seven French projects sheets, six Marshall sheets, five Rhodes references, four Fulbright Projects, three French government applications, two... two study projects and one... one... one...