Fried Shoes

The Vagabond

It was little more than a week since Vag had returned from the City and already he was growing unhappy with Cambridge. The weather no longer depressed him, for that had improved, but something that he could not pin down bothered him, something about the atmosphere of the University itself. Looking ahead of him, Vag could see his future stretching like a straight railroad track, the parallel rails appearing to come closer together as they ran across his mental landscape.

Vag shuddered and suddenly resolved to visit a member of his house whom he had often in the past noticed with curiousity and slight revulsion, a local representative of the poetry-with-beards group.

A few minutes later Vag was outside Gorce's room, and a few seconds after that he was within. His resolve had carried him thus far but now he began to falter. He introduced himself and then, at a slight loss, remarked "Interesting decor you have in here."

"I don't think so," Gorce replied.

"Well, I mean, all kinds of interest-objects. Is that a paperweight on the mantel?" Vag said, as he advanced toward it.


"A paperweight?" Gorce echoed, increduously. "I never thought of it as such. I always considered it the meanings of life."

Vag had been prepared for eccentric remarks--after all, the chap wrote poetry--but to claim that the meaning of life sat on the mantel in a Harvard room! Shaken, he reached for the object which he now saw to be a corked bottle containing a crumpled piece of dark cloth.

"What is this inside?" he demanded after a moment's examination.

"The meaning of life," Gorce repeated wearily.

Vag looked more closely, peering through the thick and irregular sides of what he now realized to be a Pernod bottle. "But it's only a black sock!"

Gorce leaned forward on his chair and with deep feeling corrected Vag: "A dirty black sock. With a hole in it. Some of my friends say life is nothing but a big laughing-bowl but I tell you"--and here he leaped to his feet--"life is a very dirty sock with..."

Vag shut the door behind himself and fled down the stairs, across the courtyard, and up the stairs to his own room. He at for a moment in an armchair and then went to the bathroom.

Vag removed his shoes, then his socks, and washed first his left foot, then his right foot. He found a fresh pair of brown socks, with cream clocks up the sides, and carefully drew them on. He replaced his shoes and started moving again along the slowly converging rails.